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employee mental health

30
Dec

Domestic Violence: The Secret in Your Workplace

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A co-worker stays late every day even where this nothing to do, a sales associate appears tired and distracted, a manager offers to travel frequently to get out of town.  These employees may all be experiencing domestic violence- which is physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse by an intimate partner. While domestic violence is a criminal issue- we know that almost one in 3 homicide victims is killed by an intimate partner; it is also a social, health and business issue.  Domestic violence leads to reduced productivity, increases absenteeism and increases health care costs.  Unless employers are trained to understand it and look for it, domestic violence in the workplace will generally go unnoticed. Some employers are also reluctant to get involved. They may think it is a personal issue, fear retaliation from the offender, or feel ill equipped to handle the situation.

Nearly a quarter of employed women have reported that domestic violence has impacted their work performance at some point in their lives. This is a staggering statistic! This means that chances are right now, in your workplace, there are people who are experiencing violence in their intimate relationships and you are probably not aware of it. In the U.S. 24 percent of adult women and 14 percent of adult men have been assaulted buy a partner at some point in their lives. It is the most common cause of injury in women ages 18-44.  Domestic violence leads to chronic disease. Abused women are 70 percent more likely to have heart disease, 80 percent are more likely to experience a stroke and 60 percent are more likely to develop asthma.

Domestic violence costs $8.3 billion in annual expenses- a combination of higher medical costs ($5.8 billion) and lost productivity ($2.5 billion).  Addressing this issue could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars.  As long as the symptoms and consequences of domestic abuse go undetected, nothing changes.

Since employees spend the majority of their waking hours at work, employers are ideally suited to recognize the symptoms of domestic violence and intervene.  Providing assistance and support  should be a requirement of the responsibility of all employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace.   In addition, employers need to ensure that domestic violence doesn’t spill into the workplace where a violent partner could seek to harm the victim or co-workers at work.  Employers can take action by raising awareness, training managers and supervisors to recognize symptoms and behaviors in victims.  They can provide resources and support as part of the company’s requirement to maintain a safe work environment.  Information about domestic violence and resources for help should be posted in common areas and shared at every employee orientation.  Domestic violence is a complex issue. Many times a victim will reconcile with the abuser many times, despite the help of others.  It can be very difficult to leave an abusive relationship for many reasons including financial, fear of being killed, lack of support or resources or self esteem issues. Oftentimes, a victim is most at risk for harm after he or she leaves the relationship.  Employers need to address this issue with respect and compassion, without judgment or the threat of job loss for coming forward.

The EAP can  offer trainings about domestic violence awareness.  Employers can assist employees with restraining orders, changing their work locations or schedule and a safety plan, as well as alerting co-workers if a victim’s partner should come to the workplace. Feel free to consult with the EAP about ways we can assist you with awareness, education and assistance for all employees who may be facing violence in their intimate relationships.

For more information visit nomore.org

Information for this blog was taken from the article “Domestic Violence the Secret Killer that Costs $8.3 Billion Annually” by Dr. Robert Pearl from Forbes.com Dec. 5, 2013

 

19
Dec

Reasons to Have an Employee Assistance Program

The primary purpose of an Employee Assistance Program is to maximize employee productivity while helping employees face life obstacles that can interfere with your business.  j0405586

An EAP helps increase your bottom line while building morale, and support for employees and their managers.

According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, anxiety and depression rank among the top five reasons for absenteeism. The National Mental Health Association reports this problem costs American companies more than $200 billion each year. Stressors such as family problems and financial crises are often at the very core of these concerns.  A high quality EAP can provide a multifaceted approach to improving the life of employees and by doing so, employers can save significant amounts of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, turnover and poor performance.

Fully Effective Employees provides the following employee assistance services:

  • Comprehensive assessment of an employee or family’s member’s presenting problem
  • A referrals to reputable mental health and substance abuse resources
  • Brief, short term assistance with problem resolution
  • 24/7 telephone access to professional counselors
  • Legal assistance and referrals
  • Financial counseling and resources for debt management and financial concerns
  • Wellness coaching and programs for disease prevention and management, smoking cessation, exercise, weight loss, nutrition and stress management
  • Worklife services including referrals for eldercare, childcare, dependent care and pet care and referrals to community resources for social services
  • Extensive website with self-assessments, resources, articles and more
  • Webinars on a variety of social/emotional topics
  • Online interactive trainings with printable certificates of completion
  • Onsite brown bag trainings
  • Assistance with drug free workplaces
  • Employer assistance program- coaching and training on dealing with problem employees
  • Critical incident debriefing
  • HR consulting services and small business HR programs

There are a lot of companies that offer Employee Assistance services, so why choose Fully Effective Employees?

  • We have been providing EAP services to a variety of businesses since 1976.
  • In-house EAP trained professional counselors have been with the company an average of 13 years.
  • Expertise with small businesses, drug testing programs, training and HR issue
  • Personalized services tailored to meet the unique needs of your company.
  • Available for very small businesses
  • A local, Puget Sound based company with the capacity to work with national and international clients with an affiliate network of over 50,000 counselors.
  • Personalized, professional services tailored to meet your company’s unique needs.

An Employee Assistance Program offers an excellent return on your investment.

Contact us for more information!

17
Jun

Preventing & Coping With Employee Suicide

Stressed BusinesswomanFor every two homicides in the U.S there are three suicides and the majority occur within the working population, yet few employers address this public health issue.  When an employee has a mental health crisis at work, it affects the financial and social functioning of the workplace.

The Carson J Spencer Foundation has created a model for suicide prevention to help workplaces develop strategies that address prevention, intervention and postvention.

These key strategies involve:

  • Vocal and visible leadership that can emphasize the importance of suicide prevention while modeling mental wellness and self-care;
  • Policies and procedures that promote a mentally healthy workforce- including fair and compassionate reintegration policies, life skills promotion, and a culture of belonging.
  •  Suicide prevention training for the workforce that help employers  to identify warning signs and risk factors; to know how to ask about suicide; and to confidently refer high risk people to the appropriate resources.
  • Screening the workforce for early signs of depression and other mental health conditions, so that these illnesses do not become life threatening.
  • Access to quality mental health services to ensure that those who need help receive appropriate highly qualified care with few obstacles.
  • Means restriction that place barriers between high risk people and lethal means of suicide (e.g restricting high roof access on tall office buildings, securing lethal chemicals, etc)
  • Crisis response and longterm postvention that seeks to stabilize a grieving and traumatized workforce and to honor bereavement needs.

If you are concerned about an employee, call Fully Effective Employees for confidential assistance.  If an employee makes a suicidal threat, it should be taken very seriously and a family member should be contacted or the employee should be taken to the nearest emergency room for an assessment.

For more information about these strategies, visit:

www.carsonjspencer.org

www.suicidepreventionhotline.org

www.save.org

Source:  Journal of Employee Assistance 3rd Qtr 2011

If an employee does commit suicide, it can have a profound impact on the workplace and it can be very helpful to utilize the EAP for consultation and support.  We can provide a critical incident debriefing onsite to assist co-workers who were directly involved with the employee.  The debriefing can help co-workers process their feelings and reactions to the news and to educate them about the normal symptoms they may be experiencing as part of their reaction to an abnormal event (trauma).  There may be feelings of guilt for those that may have known the individual was suicidal. For others, it may surface unresolved loss or trauma in their own lives and even their own suicidal feelings.

Sometimes family members may not want the cause of death discussed at the workplace even though co-workers may be suspicious or know the cause.    Employers may wish to set up a memorial fund, have a brief memorial or send a card to family members. This provides some closure to the surviving co-workers and reinforces the support of the employer.

It is extremely important that employers encourage employees to seek professional help for emotional problems without stigma or judgment and if they are approached by an employee who may be depressed or suicidal,  that they maintain the utmost confidentiality. If you have questions about how the EAP can help with potentially suicidal employees or with the aftermath of a suicide at your workplace, please contact us.

17
Mar

“Free” Employee Assistance Programs

“Free” employee assistance programs have become more and more prevalent.  EAPs are often included as part of other core services such as health insurance, disability carriers and even payroll companies. These providers and the employers and benefit brokers they market to rationalize “why not throw in a free EAP?”  However, as a consumer of employee benefits, employers must understand what they are getting.  First of all, nothing is really free- the cost of the EAP services are covered by the carrier and as a result, often the cost is embedded and passed onto the purchaser of these services. Second, do you know who your provider is and just what you are getting?

Ron Holman wrote an article titled “Free Employee Assistance Programs, You Get What You Pay For”  in the California Broker back in 2003 as free EAP’s were just emerging.  It appears as though “free” is here to stay.  However, many of these providers offer very little.  Holman wrote “When a company chooses to offer its employees a “Free” EAP, they may not be invested in who utilizes the plan since they are not paying for the EAP.  However, one very important quality of the EAP is the ability to detect any patterns within the employee population regarding drug and alcohol use, personal problems, legal or financial problems and issues with childcare and eldercare and  to identify any necessary assistance…. Because many “free EAPs” do not provide employers with utilization reports, company executives are not able to understand their employee’s needs.”

The more employees use the EAP, the more it costs the provider.  Therefore most  free EAPs are not motivated to promote and provide awareness of the program because it costs them.  As a result, some employers don’t even know the name of their EAP company and rarely use it.  Usually on site services, critical incident debriefing, management consultation and management referrals and case management are either not provided or rarely used.  All of these services are essential elements of a high quallity EAP which are also required under the “Standards and Guidelines for EAPs” according to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association.

Employee assistance programs that are offered as stand alone services are far more beneficial to employers.  Many companies change their insurance providers frequently based on the most favorable rates they can obtain.  If the EAP is included, it too will have to change which can be confusing and may discourage use by employees.  If cases are managed for a long time then they will need to be transferred mid-stream to another provider that is unfamiliar with the case, which can be especially problematic for positive drug tests,  management referrals and complex cases.

As an employer, you should be looking for a locally based EAP provider;Business Team one that knows the treatment facilities, the community resources and the nuances of your company.  Your EAP provider should be able to assist you with the specific needs of your company and have regular contact with you.  It should be able to provide trainings, management consultation, critical incident debriefings, assist with management referrals and drug testing policies.  It should provide yearly utilization reports and assist you in promoting and increasing, rather than avoiding utilization of the program.

If you have a free EAP or one that is not meeting your needs, it may be time to evaluate what you need now.  For more information contact Fully Effective Employees at 425-557-0907.

 

 

9
Mar

EAP and HR for Small Businesses

Business HandshakeEmployee assistance services are available for small businesses through our EAP and HR Partnership Program. 

It is very difficult for small employers to obtain quality, personalized EAP services because the majority of Employee Assistance Programs cater to the larger employer.
We have developed a program to assist very small employers (10-25 employees). For one low flat rate, we will provide one (1) face to face counseling session for clients who reside within the Puget Sound, WA area.  If clients are outside our local area, we will provide a comprehensive telephone assessment with one of our in-house professionally trained EAP staff members.  We also provide unlimited management consultations, telephone counseling and support to employees and their dependents and access to our password protected website.  Our comprehensive website includes self-assessment tests, articles, resources, newsletters and much more.

The cost of this program is very minimal and can provide peace of mind to employers who have concerns about how to handle difficult employees or situations. It is always more cost effective to help current employees than to replace, recruit and retrain a new one.

If you have employees with:

  • Performance issues
  • Attitude problems
  • Absenteeism, tardiness
  • Poor moral
  • Personal problems
  • Drug or alcohol issues  and more…

We can help! The EAP can increase employee loyalty and performance.  It will improve your company’s bottom line with reduced health care costs, workers’ compensation claims and reduced absenteeism and turnover.

Because we do all the EAP work ourselves, we get to know the key players within our clients companies and we understand the company culture.  If you are a small business owner, you have may have questions about how to handle difficult employees and may need a professional to consult with about a certain employee or problematic employment situations.  We can advise you on assisting employees with personal and or performance related issues.

 If your company is too small for your own HR staff,  we can refer you to our Human Resource partner who can provide you with some of the following:

  • Creation or revision of your employee handbook
  • Assistance with forms, procedures and compliance issues. 
  • Assessment of your company’s needs
  • Assistance with recruitment, difficult terminations

If warranted, we can also refer you to employment attorneys and we will provide ongoing case management with difficult situations.

Examples if situations where we can help small business are:

1.  A long term employee died over the weekend.  Since the group of 12 co-workers had worked with this individual for many years, they were all very upset and had a tough time getting their work done.  In addition, this employee had a specialized position that no one else could do.  Our EAP provided a critical incident debriefing to the whole company to help them process their reactions and grief.  We met with the company owner to allow her to process her grief, to help her plan a memorial for the employee and to make plans to replace the position that was difficult to fill.

2. An employee tested positive for drugs after a pretty serious workplace accident.  We were able to provide an initial drug and aclohol assessment and then referred him to a treatment agency where he was able and willing to enroll in so that he could keep his job.  We assisted the employer with a return to work agreement and monitored the employee’s progress in treatment. We have been following up with him for the past year and he has remained clean and sober and is thankful that his employer offered the EAP for help.

3.  A long-term highly skilled supervisor had been accused of harassing and intimidating a subordinate.  The subordinate employee complained to management. In the course of the investigation, the employee informed management that two previous employees had left because of this supervisor. The supervisor was very hesistant to reprimand the supervisor because his position was so difficult to replace.  We consulted with management, helped them document the issues and they  referred the employee to the EAP as a management referral.  We  referred the employer to our HR partner for one on one harassment training with the supervisor and she assisted the employee and employer with a performance improvement plan.  We also provided support to the subordinate employee.

For more information about how we can help your small business, contact us at audreyr@fee-eap.com

 

 

6
Feb

Retirement Coaching- Is it Time to Retire?

seniors coupleRetirement coaching is an important employee benefit. Making the decision to retire can be very difficult for many employees.   Sometimes life doesn’t give us much choice about when to retire.  An injury at work or a serious illness might force some to leave work early.  While these people may not be able to perform the same job, they may need to continue to make money or keep busy.   These troubled economic times have forced many to work longer than they had planned just so they can continue to make contributions to their dwindling retirement accounts.  Others have lost considerable value in their homes or other investments and consider extending their working years, a necessity.  These workers may be just “doing time”, feeling burnt out or resentful that they cannot leave work as early as they had planned.  You may not be getting the same productivity or enthusiasm from these employees as you had in the past. 

As an employer, you  may be facing the need to downsize or encourage employees to take an early retirement. These employees may not be ready to stop working or to leave their jobs, either financially or emotionally. As an employer, how can you help them make a transition to retirement?

For a large number of employees, work is a big part of their identity. Who someone is may often be a relection of what they do. Work provides social interaction, a sense of community and creates structure and routine in our lives. Many of us have worked with those who have little else in their lives besides work. For these people, retirement can be downright scary. These individuals may be able to retire financially but not emotionally. They need to replace the function that work plays in their lives with new hobbies, interests or a different kind of work.

What happens for people when they retire before they are ready or prepared?  For men, the number one malady in retirement is depression.  When leisure activities are always available, they may be less pleasurable and most people need more in their lives to keep them happy and busy. Couples may face a difficult adjustment to spending more time together and they may not agree on how and where they want to spend their retirement years.

The people who retire “successfully” tend to share the following characteristics:

  • Being socially engaged and active in their community
  • Volunteering or assisting others
  • Participating in a new hobby, interest or activity
  • Working part time or in a new career
  • Financially prepared for retirement
  • Physically active and working on wellness

We can help you prepare your employees for retirement. We offer group sessions for small groups of employees as well as individual coaching. Our progam includes a retirement readiness assessment and then we work with clients on the areas that may need some focus.  Retirement coaching is a great return on investment. When employees can feel positive about entering the next phase of their lives, they will be more productive during their last few months or years as an employee.

For more information contact Audrey at audreyr@fee-eap.com

 

 

22
Dec

Anger Management at Work

angermanagement2Anger is a normal human emotion.  However, when it is expressed inappropriately or when it involves threats, intimidation or acts of verbal or physical aggression, it is a significant workplace and societal issue. Often the first response an employer may take with an angry employee is to refer him or her for anger management counseling.  However, each situation should be assessed individually to determine how an employer should proceed. An employer must determine if the individual is prone to outbursts of anger at work or if, believe it or not, the person may have significant anger issues that may be protected by various laws, if the anger is caused by or related to a medical condition.

Some employees may have angry outbursts that are not directed at anyone but they are still intimidating and inappropriate. Others may be harassing or bullying co-workers. This behavior may have been occuring for a long time because co-workers are afraid to come forward for fear of retaliation.

Workplace bullying as defined by the Workplace Bullying Institute is …”repeated, health harming mistreatment of one or more persons… one or more perpetrators… in the form of verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating or work interference-sabotage- which prevents work from getting done.”  Obviously, this definition covers someone who behaves badly at work but also may describe someone with a serious psychological problem.

So, what should an employer do?

First of all, someone who has an inappropriate or unpleasant demeanor at work should be confronted as soon as possible to prevent escalation in the future.  The longer an employee is permitted to get away with negative behavior, the harder it will be to confront.  It is crucial that employers have zero tolerance policies for harassment, bullying, threats, or acts of physical or verbal aggression toward anyone at work.  Clear expectations should be given about interpersonal interactions and behavior at work. Consequences for failing to improve negative behavior should also be addressed.  If an employee makes threats of violence, these threats should always be taken seriously and investigated immediately.  It may be necessary to call law enforcement or remove the individual from the workplace until the investigation or assessment has been completed.

It is also not advisable to refer an employee for specific treatment, anger management or counseling because creating a diagnosis or the inference of one, could trigger certain issues and protections with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).  According to Sara J. Fagnilli, an attorney with Walter & Haverfield LLP in Cleveland,OH,  requiring an employee to obtain counseling could be found to be equivalent to requiring a medical exam.  In order for an employer to avoid a violations of the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAA), it must demonstrate that such an exam (or counseling) is job related and a business necessity.

We are always available to consult with you about angry employees and to assist you with a management referral to the EAP based on performance. In certain situations, we may advise you to consult with legal counsel early in the process.

Stay tuned for our in-person harassment training in early February!

 

 

10
May

Do Your Employees Have Financial Problems?

While there are signs the economy is improving, people continue to experience unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy and credit card debt. Many Americans live well beyond their means and survive from paycheck to paycheck.  Financial problems create stress, anxiety, relationship issues and depression. As a result, employees may have a difficult time keeping their financial problems separate from their work lives.  Stress and emotional difficulties can lead to absenteeism, accidents and performance issues which will affect an employer’s bottom line.

Although the economy has been the primary source, there are other reasons employees may be experiencing financial difficulties.

These include:

  • Gambling
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Shopping addiction
  • Depression
  • Poor money management
  • Divorce

The following are some signs that employees may be experiencing financial difficulties:

  • Requesting paycheck advances
  • Requesting an employer loan
  • Often volunteering to work overtime
  • Taking out 401K loans or discontinuing contributions
  • Calls to verify employment or wages by lenders
  • Garnishment of wages
  • Change in work peformance, attitude or behavior
  • Frequent phone calls
  • Overly emotional behavior

Employers can take a proactive approach to help employees with personal and financial problems by providing a good employee assistance program.  You can actively encourage the confidential use of  the program for employees and their families by distributing promotional materials, linking the EAP website to the company’s Intranet, and reminding workers about the EAP in meetings, company newsletters and emails.  Fully Effective Employees provides an optional legal and financial assistance program which allows employees the opportunity to speak with an attorney or CPA about their financial situation.  We can also arrange to have financial planners provide financial seminars at no additional cost.

If personal problems have begun to affect performance, you should refer the employee to the EAP for the performance issue and if you suspect financial issues may be the reason,  you can share that information with the EAP counselor.  Investing in your most important asset- your employees makes good business sense.

 

 

12
Apr

Ten Reasons to Have an Employee Assistance Program

Most employers retain the services of an Employee Assistance Program to help employees and their families with personal and work related problems. If employees function well at work, they contribute to the well being of an organization as a whole.  Most EAP’s help with a wide range of problems including stress, depression, anxiety, family or relationship difficulties, work issues, financial, legal, worklife, work problems and more.  An EAP can be highly effective at reducing employee problems and increasing the bottom line.  However, there are many choices in the EAP market and like all services, it is important to understand what you need and what you are receiving from your current or potential vendor. The following is a list of the top ten reasons to have an EAP:

1. Increase productivity

When employees are faced with personal problems, their concentration, focus and motivation are all negatively impacted so an EAP can help them deal with these issues which will improve productivity. An EAP reduces absenteeism, accidents and turnover, thereby making employees more productive.

2. Reduce Company Costs

Employee problems are costly.  Troubled employees take more sick days, have more accidents, and make more health insurance claims. When employees suffer emotionally, their work and productivity also suffer.  An EAP will improve work peformance and help increase the bottom line.

3. Confidentiality

When a third party company provides EAP services,  employees are more likely to seek help, when they know their employer is not privy to their confidential personal information. Employers are not put in the position of assisting employees with personal problems when they are not trained or equipped to do so. They are able to manage people but not their problems.

4. Aids in the Recruitment and Rentention of Valued Employees

An EAP is a value-added benefit for employees and their families which provides confidential access to counseling and resources they might not otherwise have. It builds morale and loyalty when employees know their employer supports their physical and emotional well being.

5. Resolution of Work Related Problems

EAP’s help employees deal with personal problems that have begun to affect work peformance which will hopefully prevent termination and get the employee back on track. The EAP can also help the employee  to develop skills to deal with work related stress and problematic work relationships.

6. Assistance in Getting the Right Help

When left to their own devices, employees may be confused or overwhelmed about how to access services, treatment or counseling in their own community or may not even know where to turn.  The EAP counselors sort out the issues and assist with appropriate referrals and resources for ongoing support and problem resolution.

7.  Management Assistance

Managers and supervisors may need help confronting and dealing with problematic employees or workplace situations. The EAP provides management training, coaching and consultation. The EAP can also assist with drug testing, harassment and potential workplace violence.

8. Drug Testing Programs

The EAP can assist employers with their drug testing programs by providing assessments, referrals, case management and assistance with Return to Work Agreements when employees test positive for drugs at work. Drug testing prevents serious accidents, injuries and fatalities and the EAP can help employees get back on track without losing their jobs.

9. Training

The EAP can provide online and onsite training to employees and supervisors on a range of topics. Training also increases awareness of the EAP. Most EAP’s also provide critical incident debriefings after a traumatic event has occured at the worksite.

10. Resourcs and Referrals

The EAP can be a wealth of information for employers, employees and their families. Not only can the EAP counselors assist with the pyschological well being of employees, they can also assist with legal issues, childcare and eldercare referrals, treatment programs, community resources, human resource assistance and much more.

For information on how Fully Effective Employees can help your company, contact us at audreyr@fee-eap.com

 

 

 

1
Mar

Managing the Workplace After the Death of an Employee

As a manager, one of the most difficult situations you may face in your career is managing the aftermath of the death of an employee and the multiple repercussions that may affect your work group or department. Because a critical incident of this nature may be traumatic for co-workers of the employee, it is recommended that you, or your Human Resources support person contact your Employee Assistance Program to assist you. It is helpful to schedule a debriefing session after news of the employee’s death has been received. Your EAP specialist will be available to facilitate the session once it can be arranged. Research has shown that early intervention with the affected work group, within 24 to 72 hours after the word of a death arrives, reduces the stressful impact of the news. Co-workers have the opportunity to volunteer expressions of grief and time to share thoughts in remembrance of the person. Plans for gestures of condolence to family members can be completed and satisfy the general need to do something to commemorate the loss. Effectively managing what may be an extremely emotional situation for you and your work group may mean delegating certain duties associated with the death to those who are more detached from the situation.

Because an incident of this nature can result in a traumatic stress response, it is recommended that you or Human Resources contact the EAP to facilitate a debriefing session for all affected employees within 24 to 48 hours after learning of the death. Research has found that early intervention with a work group reduces the possibility of delayed stress responses and enables the work group to return to their normal level of productivity sooner. Another benefit of the debriefing is that the organization and its management staff are viewed by employees as responsive and caring people.

Since each member of the work group may grieve the loss of their co-worker in individual ways, it makes sense to recognize that need. Provide ways for these emotions to be channeled and recognized. There is a wide range of normal and appropriate reactions to grief and loss.

When you contact the EAP, you will be asked to provide whatever relevant information is available regarding the death of the employee and your assessment of the work group’s reaction to the situation. A one to two hour debriefing session or meeting for employees should be scheduled as soon as possible. This meeting should be voluntary; interested employees are encouraged to attend. Individuals may choose to speak or not speak. There may be individual employees, identified by you or by the EAP counselors, who may need one-on-one attention, due to the severity of their grief reaction.

Listed below are subject areas to be considered when trying to effectively manage this kind of workplace situation. You will not be able to think of everything or meet every need – this is an unusual work situation where there are few protocols. You will, however, want to thoughtfully consider the following steps:

First Things First

Get all of the assistance you feel you will need to effectively manage the situation. Assess your own reaction to the news in order to anticipate the need to involve other resources within the organization.

Staff Notification

There is no way to anticipate how you will learn of the death of one of your employees. You may be the first to know from the family, but often the news will travel a more circuitous route and another employee may alert you. No matter how you learn of the incident, react quickly by notifying immediate staff and close work friends directly, and the rest of the company through written communications, such as an email or memorandum. Remember to contact staff who are away or on leave. Share whatever information you have and explain that more details will be forthcoming.

Attending the Funeral or Memorial Service

Arrange time for your staff to attend the funeral or memorial service if they would like to do so. You may need to hire a temporary worker to answer phones for a few hours so that everyone can attend. Attending the memorial service is an important part of the grieving process.

Remembering the Deceased Employee

The relationship the employee had with co-workers will often determine how the workplace decides to remember the deceased. Examples of work group responses include: creating a memorial bulletin board with photos and other meaningful images, holding a workplace event such as a luncheon or reception to honor the deceased employee. Invite family members and close friends outside of work to share their memories with the group. You might also: create a memory book filled with stories and sentiments from co-workers to give to the family, have a fundraiser to give a financial donation to a chosen charity organization, or write an article about the employee for the in-house newsletter.

Other Workplace Issues

Some of the more concrete issues which you, as the manager, will need to address are:

Desk and personal belongings.

Family members or a close work friend may want to handle the task of boxing up the in dividual’s personal belongings.

Changing the voice mail message, retrieving messages (voice mail and email), handling inquires intended for the deceased employee.

These tasks could be shared or rotated among staff to ease the emotional burden of having to tell callers that the employee has died. Prepare a brief statement to assist those who reply to calls.

Staff coverage for unfinished or future work assignments.

A temporary, short-term plan can be put into place until a more permanent decision can be made. It is best to put a temporary plan into action as soon as possible to lessen the level of anxiety that is already present among the staff. Make it clear what is needed and who is responsible.

Office space.

It is best not to make any abrupt moves in regard to space changes; people need time to grieve the loss of their co- worker before seeing his or her workstation dismantled. In a month or so, there will be more acceptance of the changes which come from the loss of the co-worker.

The replacement employee.

Under the best of circumstances, a new employee needs to be prepared for possible negative comparisons with the deceased employee. If the deceased was particularly well-liked, the transition will be even more difficult. It is advisable to give staff notice of the new employee’s start date, relevant work background and to prepare them for the change. It is a normal part of accepting a loss to welcome someone new.

Loss of work productivity and motivation.

As the manager, expect the death of an employee to result in lower productivity and motivation for a brief time. The debriefing held soon after the announcement will ease the impact of loss, but it cannot be avoided entirely. Eventually, the work unit will return to its normal level of functioning.

Referring to the EAP.

If one to two months pass and you notice that one of your employees has not returned to his or her normal level of functioning and appears to still be grieving, talk to that employee, give them feedback on what you have observed and share your concerns about them. You may suggest that they seek counseling from your EAP. Often, a loss in one area of someone’s life, as in the loss of a co-worker, triggers unresolved feelings about previous losses or anticipated losses. This person may need extra assistance in coping with these feelings.

This article was written by Nancie Bowes Kenney, M.S.W. Edited by Mary McClain Georgevich

CopeLine is published by: COPE, Inc. 1120 G Street, NW Suite 550 Washington, DC

Additional Resources

Necessary Losses, The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow, Viorst, Judith, Fireside, 1998. Section IV, Chapters 16 through 20 are particularly significant in regards to loss and grief.

Death and Dying, Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, Scribner, 1997.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Kushner, Harold, Avon, 1997.