The 2016 Presidential election continues to be a topic of great debate whether it is at home, in the community or at work. Sometimes differing opinions can create conflict, tensions and downright hostility. These issues can arise when discussing politics in the workplace and can affect productivity, morale and performance.
The American Psychological Association recently published the results of their 2017
Work and Well-Being Survey with a special focus on politics. Here are some of the key findings:
According to the survey, 26 percent of full-time and part-time employed American adults said they felt tense or stressed out as a result of political discussions at work since the election, an increase from 17 percent in September 2016 when they were asked about political discussions at work during the election season. More than one in five (21 percent) said they have felt more cynical and negative during the workday because of discussing politics in the workplace, compared with 15 percent before the election.
Half of the post-election survey respondents (54 percent) said they have discussed politics at work since the election, and for 40 percent of American workers, it has caused at least one negative outcome, such as reduced productivity, poorer work quality, difficulty getting work done, a more negative view of coworkers, feeling tense or stressed out, or increased workplace hostility. This is a significant increase from the pre-election survey data, when 27 percent reported at least one negative outcome.
Nearly one-third (31 percent) said they had witnessed coworkers arguing about politics, and 15 percent said they have gotten into an argument themselves. More than 24 percent said they avoided some coworkers because of their political views. About one in six experienced strained relationships as a result of political discussions at work since the election: 16 percent said they have a more negative view of coworkers; 16 percent felt more isolated from coworkers; 17 percent said team cohesiveness suffered; and 18 percent reported an increase in workplace hostility.
If your employees are experiencing conflict at work and political debates are affecting work performance, the EAP can provide confidential assistance.
From the American Psychological Association.
For 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:
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:
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.
Anger 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!
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.
The following are some signs that employees may be experiencing financial difficulties:
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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
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.
All employers know that employee absenteeism is a big problem. It reduces productivity, morale and the company bottom line. The ever present challenge is how employers can prevent and reduce absenteeism. CCH, a leading provider of human resources and employment law information (hr.cch.com) conducted an unscheduled absence survey in 2005 and found that the average per employee cost of absenteeism is $660 with some larger companies losing more than $1 million per year. What is of great concern to employers is that almost two out of three employees who call in sick are not physically sick. Personal illness accounted for only 35 percent of unscheduled absences and 65% were due to other reasons including family issues (21 percent), personal needs (18 percent) entitlement mentality (14 percent) and stress (12 percent).
Companies with low morale saw higher rates and costs of unscheduled absences. 78% of human resource managers feel that the main cause of absenteeism is the belief that those who skip out of work believe they are entitled to time off. The other reason cited by human resource managers is a lack of supervisor involvement as a catalyst to discourage employee absenteeism. When managers understand the causes of absenteeism and use the EAP as a resource for assisting employees, they can play a big role in reducing absenteeism.
When employees are faced with stressful everyday life situations, it has an impact on their ability to be present in their jobs. Stressful situations include family and relationship problems, physical illness, addictions, financial difficulties including foreclosure, bankruptcy, identity theft, debt and unemployment by a spouse. If employees have a confidential, employer sponsored way (the EAP) to obtain assistance with these difficulties, they are more likely to address their problems earlier and resolve them quicker. Additional worklife and wellness programs as part of the EAP can be very helpful for employees trying to manage the stress of balancing work and family issues.
The EAP can also train managers on how to recognize and identify personal problems before they have begun to effect performance. When managers can coach employees on how to use the EAP, they stay out of the middle of their personal problems, while still offering a way to get help. Once personal problems have begun to effect performance or absenteeism, they can refer the employee to the EAP as a supervisor referral for peformance based issues. In addition, when employees know they are valued and given a free, confidential resource to address their personal problems, they feel appreciated by and more loyal to their employer.
Employers should also create incentive programs that can improve both attitude and attendance rates. This works for several reasons. Some employees may lack the internal motivation necessary to keep their spirits up and give them the drive and desire to show up to work every day. These people may need the external motivation that incentives provide.
Additionally, incentives tend to promote certain goals, which can be beneficial for employees with attendance problems. The company can create an incentive program that is specifically linked to attendance. Examples of this type of program include:
1) The ability to cash-in unused sick days at the end of a specific period
2) Allowing employees to leave early one Friday per month of perfect attendance
3) Bonus pay for periods of perfect attendance
4) Gifts such as savings bonds or gift cards for periods of perfect attendance
5) Paid time off programs which allow for personal issues, vacation and sick time all in one bank of hours so employees can use what they need when needed.
Of course employers do need to be clear with employees that if they are legitimately sick, they should stay home so that no one else at work gets sick and so they can take the time they need to get better. When the workplace culture is one that does not allow people to be ill, then it will create resentment and poor morale.
Do you have any good suggestions for preventing absenteeism? If so, we would love to hear your ideas.
Fully Effective Employees offers assistance with drug testing, management training and consultation, and confidential assistance to employees and their families with personal and work related problems.
Many employers may see their Workers’ Compensation premiums increase for 2012. Fully Effective Employees, employee assistance program can help employers reduce their liability while preventing expensive claims and reducing the amount of time an employee is off work. Prevention is key- offering support to employees and awareness for employers of the causes of increased WC claims will go a long way to reduce costs. Behavioral risk factors including, attendance, performance issues, depression and drug and alcohol abuse are all known to be associated with workplace accidents, injuries and even fatalities.
The first step employers can take is to provide a drug testing program. Research shows that employees who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in on the job accidents and 5 times more likely to injure themselves or someone else. They are also five times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim.
When employees are impaired, their judgment, response time and reflexes are also impaired. Letting all employees know that your company will be conducting pre-employment, random and post-accident drug testing will discourage drug users from working for you. Over the years, we have found that the companies with the highest compensation rates are the ones that don’t drug test. Obviously, more drug users work for companies that don’t drug test.
Next, employers should use their EAP to help all employees who test positive for drugs. The EAP can assess the client, refer him for treatment if indicated, and monitor his progress in treatment. The EAP will continue to provide support once treatment has been completed when he is at the greatest risk for relapse.
Employers could also refer all employees to the EAP when they are injured. The client can choose to confidentially discuss issues related to the injury, including relationship and communication issues with co-workers and family members. The EAP counselor can assess whether there are pre-existing issues or if the employee is at risk for malingering, depression, or drug abuse due to prescription medication or untreated substance abuse issues that occured prior to the claim. The EAP counselor can assist the employee with a return to work plan, preparing him or her for a change in job function or an adjustment to work as soon as possible. The result of working with the EAP is that injured employees may be more likely to return to work sooner and be less likely to abuse the WC benefits. The EAP would also provide follow up and support to the worker after he has returned to work.
The back to work plan is essential. Supervisors should be encouraged to avoid conflicts with employees via telephone or by email with injured workers. Research has shown that supervisor and co-worker conflicts figure prominently in increased injury recovery times and protracted absenteeism of injured workers. In addition, a zero tolerance policy should be implemented for harassing employees on light duty. If a medical doctor has approved an employee to return to work on light duty, co-workers should not be permitted to guilt, influence or intimidate a recovering worker to participate in unapproved work activities. (www.workexcel.net)
Our staff at Fully Effective Employees will meet with your company safety or human resources manager to discuss the role the EAP can play in helping you to prevent and reduce your WC claims. We can discuss your risk exposure, safety plans, training, and assist with a drug testing program. These services are all part of our program to provide both an employee and employer assistance program. Once you have implemented this plan, you should be able to provide evidence of your program to prevent and reduce WC claims ,which should result in lower rates for the following year. The added bonus is a safer workplace and healthier, happier or more loyal employees.
While most of our blog posts are geared toward Human Resource Managers and company owners, we feel this blog has tips that can be useful for employees as well. While the holiday season can be a time of joy and celebration, it can also be an extremely stressful time of year for others. While some people can celebrate and engage in parties and family get togethers, others struggle with depression, addiction, financial difficulties or family problems that can be intensified over the holidays. Some employees may have suffered a loss of a loved one or gone through a divorce during the year which can make the holidays very difficult. Employers should be sensitive to theses issues and ensure that employees are aware of the Employee Assistance Program which can offer them resources, brief counseling and support during tough times. If you feel stressed out by the thought of holiday chores, obligations, and the clan dropping in for a spell—or if this year’s circumstances make the holiday season difficult for whatever reason—start preparations now to manage your holiday stress.
The following tips were written by Dan Feerst, LICSW-CP of WorkExcel.com .
Holiday Myth Busters —Along with good tidings come high expectations based on the commercialization of the holiday season, past childhood memories we may long to duplicate, and the expectations of others.
If family members count on your “holiday magic” to make every year special—the cooking, cleaning, baking, decorating, and gift-wrapping—you face a bigger challenge letting go or finding balance.
Here’s how to cope better with expectations, demands, and added pressure during the holidays.
We wish all of our clients and their families a very Happy Holiday Season.If you are interested in learo
Decision Time —Make a decision to take charge and tackle holiday stress. This mentally prepares you to enjoy the time while facing demands of the season with better endurance.
Your Priorities —Decide on your priorities to make the season meaningful. Did you miss the tour of homes last year because the Waltons next door had their open house on the same day? The idea here is to plan a few “non-negotiable” events for yourself.
Now the Rest —What activities are important to your brood this year? Seek to trim the “idea tree” to reduce stress from trying to fit it all in. A family meeting to gather ideas can work, and chances are activities you thought everyone still wanted are no longer of interest.
Avoid the Rush —Are holiday lights on the house critical? If yes, go for it, but if it seems more like a “chore” than a pleasurable task, that’s a clue about its priority and importance to you. Activities that feel like chores get delayed. Pay attention to procrastination. It is insight to help you decide whether it’s thumbs up or down on something that seems desirable.
Fight the Blues —If the holidays are a sad time of year because of difficult memories or because a loved one can’t be there, then develop a personal intervention strategy. Volunteering for a local charity is an interactive experience, and those who’ve tried it claim it works to lift one’s mood. You’ll feel empowered and more positive, and the experience of helping others anchors you to a memory that lasts.
Navigating Family Conflict —If you can’t avoid holiday gatherings with family members who experience feuds and conflicts, try discussing with kin your desire to avoid conflict. Be up front and ask that differences be set aside. Older adults criticizing teenagers is a famous trigger. So are statements from in-laws that appear critical, interfering, or meddlesome. Self-awareness is power, so you stand a good chance of at least minimizing this behavior.
Take Care of Yourself —What improves your mood—exercise, positive affirmations, alone time? During the year, have you been promising to do something for yourself, but keep putting it off? Do it. The holiday season is a perfect time to reaffirm your love, not only for those you care about but also for yourself.
EAP Can Help —Holiday stress affects everyone differently, so suggestions here may not match what’s unique for you. Don’t face the stress alone. Instead, call Fully Effective Employees, assistance program. The EA professional will help you find the resilience and strength you need to face any challenge the holidays may bring.
We wish all of our clients and their families a very happy holiday season and all the best for the coming year.
If you would like to learn more about how Fully Effective Employees can help your business and your employees, please contact us at email@example.com or 425-557-0907
Copyright 2011 WorkExcel.com
PTSD stands for post traumatic stress disorder. According to the National Center for PTSD, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that one witnesses or is involved with. During this type of event, the individual may think that his life or others’ lives are in danger. He may feel afraid or feel that he has no control over what is happening.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, symptoms are grouped into three main categories.
2. Avoidance symptoms
3. Hyperarousal symptoms
While many mililtary vets have PTSD, it can occur in non-military employees as well. They may have been in an accident, witnessed a fatality or serious injury at work, or been a victim of a natural disaster or war. Due to the nature of the profession, PTSD tends to occur more in the medical field, fire fighters, police officers, and the construction industry.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employees are not required to disclose a diagnosis of PTSD, however they are required to disclose their condition, if or when they need accomodation to perform the essential duties of the job. PTSD can negatively impact memory, concentration, time management and organizational skills and more.
The Job Accomodation Network is a great resource that provides suggestions for employers to consider when accomodating employees.
While some employees have been diagnosed and are being treated for PTSD, others may not be aware they have it. If you are concerned about an employee who may be displaying or experiencing some of the above symptoms, it is a good idea to refer them to the EAP. If there are no performance issues, you can suggest they contact the EAP and emphasize that all contact with the EAP is confidential. If however, there are performance issues, you should refer the employee to the EAP for the performance problem and you can certainly share your concerns about the possiblity of PTSD or emotional issues with the EAP counselor who will conduct a thorough assessment.
If a traumatic event such as a sudden death, injury or serious accident occurs at work, you should contact the EAP about the possiblility of conducting a critical incident debriefing. Allowing employees the opportunity to discuss what they saw and their reactions to the event, can help them process their feelings and prevent PTSD. The EAP also offers education about the symptoms of trauma and helps normalize their reactions to an abnormal event.