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16
Sep

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

suicide prevention awareness ribbonSeptember is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Every year, approximately 44,000 people die by suicide, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. According to a newly released study published in JAMA Psychiatry, suicide attempts among U.S. adults are on the rise. Middle-aged adults (aged 45-64 years) had the highest suicide rate and young adults (aged 21-34 years) had the biggest increase in suicide attempts. And, while suicide attempts were higher among women than men, more men completed suicide.

While suicide is preventable, it is a topic that many feel uncomfortable talking about, even with family and friends. It is important to know that family members, friends, coworkers and others can play an important role in recognizing when someone is at risk or in crisis and connect that person with the most appropriate sources of care. Here are the major warning signs to be aware of:

Signs of Acute Risk:

– Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and or,

– Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,

– Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary.

Expanded Warning Signs:

– Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use

– No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life

Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time

– Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out

Hopelessness

Withdrawal from friends, family and society

– Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge

– Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking

– Dramatic mood changes

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month reminds us that suicide deaths can be prevented. According to the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, for every one person who dies by suicide in the U.S., there are approximately 278 people who move past serious thoughts of suicide and nearly 60 who have survived a suicide attempt. The overwhelming majority of these people will go on to live out their lives.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, help is available 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or go to your nearest emergency room.

For more information about counseling and resources contact the EAP at 425-454-3003 or 1-800-648-5834.

8
Sep

Employer Resources for Coping with Forest Fires and Other Natural Disasters

When natural disasters strike, employees often look to Human Resources for answers to their questions. Disasters can create havoc, uncertainty and logistical problems within a company if there are not procedures already in place.

With forest fires raging in the West and hurricanes simultaneously lashing the Gulf and East Coasts, emergency management and disaster response are front and center on many people’s minds right now. To help employers cope with whatever disaster strikes next, here are some valuable resources we found on the HRHero.com website and are sharing with their permission:

If any of your employees are experiencing trauma from the current forest fires or other natural disasters, the EAP can help. Contact us at 1-800-648-5834 or locally at 425-454-3003.

27
Apr

Rude Behavior in Workplace is Contagious

Rude behavior at work tends to have a contagious effect and spread from one employee to another, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Incivility can leave employees feeling mentally fatigued, thus reducing their self-control and leading them to act in a similar uncivil manner.

Researchers also found that rude behavior is more common in workplaces that are perceived as political, defined as employees doing what is best for themselves and not the organization. In highly political environments, motives and actions are less clear so employees have to try and figure out why they are being targeted and how to respond. This mental fatigue saps energy and makes it difficult to control negative impulses. Other situations may also contribute to rude behavior such as workload, industry competitiveness, and whether employees have enough time to do their work. Even when employees want to be civil with their co-workers, rude behavior can make these employees lash out, as well.

Rude behavior qualifies as a performance problem. To help stop condescending behavior, the study’s authors suggest offering staff clear feedback on acceptable behavior in either a formal or informal manner. For more information about dealing with this issue at your workplace, please contact us.

14
Nov

An Employee Tested Positive for Drugs- Now What?

banner_22If your company does drug testing and one of your employees tests positive, it is important to know how to proceed.

First, you should follow your drug testing policy. Do you have a pre-employment policy? Do you have a “zero tolerance” policy, which means you would terminate the employee immediately? Do you offer a “last chance agreement”? Does your policy allow you to rehire the employee after a period of time once he has been terminated under zero tolerance? There are many things to consider when deciding how to handle drug use in your workplace.

As an employee assistance provider with over 20 years of experience working with employers, employees and drug testing programs, we strongly recommend the following:

  1. If you have a pre-employment policy, it is designed to rule out anyone who cannot stay off drugs long enough to test clean before they are hired. It does not ensure your new employee does not use drugs. It does however, tend to reduce the number of serious drug users or long –term marijuana users. This is why you definitely should use pre-employment drug testing and just don’t hire someone who tests positive! If someone knows they are being tested for drugs and tests positive anyway, why would you ever want to hire that person? Believe it or not, many companies still hire these people and then refer them to the employee assistance program under a Last Chance Agreement. We recommend that you NEVER hire someone who tests positive under a pre-employment test. Time and again, we have seen multiple problems arise with these folks.
  2. If you do have a zero tolerance policy, meaning you terminate if the employee tests positive, we do not believe you should rehire the employee after any period of time. Without proof that the employee has been abstaining from drugs, he may be able to test clean on a pre-employment test but will likely not remain clean through his employment at your company. It is just too much of a risk.
  3. If you do have a Last Chance Agreement, suspend the employee until he tests clean and has been assessed for chemical dependency and the need for treatment, and has followed through with that treatment. Once he has returned to work he needs to sign an agreement that he understands that if he tests positive again, he will be terminated. We recommend that you employ the services of an employee assistance program with expertise in working with drug testing programs. The EAP can help with a drug and alcohol screening, refer employees for an assessment to determine the need for treatment, and ensure the employee is following through with all recommendations. The involvement of the EAP keeps you out of the employee’s personal life and treatment process. It saves time and resources so you can be left to run the company while leaving the alcohol and drug treatment to the professionals. It also keeps things cut and dry- the employee knows the expectations and makes a choice as to whether to follow them or no longer be employed with your company. The EAP can help ensure long term compliance and sobriety by providing regular follow up and support to your employee. This creates a win-win for everyone. You retain a good employee which saves your company money, prevents accidents, and increases safety, thereby increasing your bottom line. The employee gets the help he needs to return to maximum productivity, keeps his job, and has the ability to live his life free from the grip of drugs.

If you are thinking about starting a drug testing program or engaging the services of an EAP, we can offer affordable, professional services for companies of any size. Contact us for more information. at 425-557-0907.

 

16
May

Combating Workplace Negativity

Businessman Looking Suspiciously Over His ShoulderNegativity is a habit. It is contagious and quite common in many workplaces and can easily become part of a company’s culture. Negativity can include gossiping, poor morale, badmouthing management or the company, lack of enthusisasm, bullying, harassment, and lack of loyalty to the employer.  Restructuring a negative workplace can take years.  Therefore, it is better to prevent negativity from occuring in the first place and when it does arise, recognize it and nip it in the bud.

According to Cheryl DeMarco http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Cheryl_DeMarco, some business consequences of workplace negativity can be:

Customer complaints

Errors and poor work quality

Increased employee turnover

Absence and tardiness

Pesonality conflicts

Poor morale

Loss of loyalty to the organization

Decreased creativity

Negativity has a tremendous impact on a company’s bottom line. It will also affect the worker, emotionally and physically and when employees work in a negative environment, it is hard not to take it home with them.

As a manager, be consciously aware of someone’s attitude when determining if you wish to hire them.  Look for hints of negativity and if you pick it up, listen to your gut and don’t hire that person.  Also, carefully listen  for negativity when requesting references.  If you have an employee who has become negative, react quickly. Meet with the employee and discuss your observations and concerns. Sometimes the reasons may be justifiied and you should acknowledge that and help find ways to resolve the cause, if possible.  Help this person take responsibility for their negativity.  Even if there are valid concerns for one’s feelings it is not appropriate to express them negatively at work. You may not be able to change someone’s point of view but you can influence behavior during work hours.  Describe exactly what you expect.  Tell the employee exactly what you have observed and how if has affected the company and co-workers.  Help the employee replace negative behaviors with more positive ones.  Negative behavior is a performance issue and it may be very approprate to refer the individual to the EAP as a management referral.  When you use the EAP as a partner with management, you can monitor an employee’s motivation to improve and their progress, while staying out of the personal issues or details.

If the behavior has been ocurring within a group of employees, it would be advisable to consult with the EAP about how to handle the situation. Depending on what is happening and the causes for the negativity, it may be appropriate to meet with the group together or to meet with individuals separately.

Unfortunately, sometimes you will have no choice but to fire a really negative person.  As a leader, you model by example and if you allow a negative or inappropriate employee to remain, it sets a bad tone.  Be the change you want to see.

For information on preventing or dealing with negativity in your workplace and how the EAP can help, contact us at 425-557-0907.

 

 

24
Mar

Coaching Your Employees

workingCoaching your employees can be a very worthwhile venture.  As company owners, managers and supervisors, we are often looking for ways to increase revenue and manage costs.  Sometimes we overlook our greatest assets- our employees.  In order to build loyalty and morale, employees must feel they are a valuable and important member of the organization in which they work.   When employees and supervisors communicate well  and work together towards the common goals of their organization, productivity and morale will improve and employees will be happier. Keeping long term, loyal employees is far more cost-effective than recruiting and retraining new employees who have replaced burnt out, unmotivated, unproductive employees.  Well coached employees are creative forces who can be counted on to provide solutions their supervisors may not have considered.  As an employer, you may want to consider training supervisors to coach their employees.

Supervisors can become good employee coaches by learning and engaging in the following:

1. Learn your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. This helps the coaching relationship create positive results.

2. Identify barriers to success.  These barriers can be limitations such as a lack of resources or education, information, training, a positive attitude or more.

3. Determine what motivates your employees. There are many types of motivators and different things work for different people. Once understood, motivators become powerful tools for helping employees remain enthusiastic about learning and coping with chage. One of the the most important and overlooked motivator is good communication between the supervisor and employee.  Employees appreciate knowing what is going on in their organization and having an open door policy with their supervisors.

4.  Communicate your organization’s strategic direction and the company’s goals.  Helping employees to understand the “bigger picture” is very beneficial to the coaching process.

5.  Learn when it is appropriate to intervene with an employee when an error could create substantially negative consequences to the employee or the company as a whole. The supervisor must learn when to avoid a pattern of rescuing or jumping in too early which can undermine the employee but also when to step in.

Successful employee coaching helps employees understand goals and expectatons to that they may act instead of waiting for instruction.  Because coached employees don’t have every solution dictated to them from above, they tend to take greater ownership of their work and demonstrate greater responsibility than employees who are not coached.

Coached employees are also better prepared to maximize their potential. With that, everyone wins.

This blog article was written  from excerpts of an article written by Daniel Feerst, LiCSW,-CP   www.workexcel.net

If you would like more information about how we coach managers and supervisors, please contact us at audreyr@fee-eap.com

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

 

 

 

25
Oct

Dealing With Breast Cancer at Work

A cancer diagnosis can be terrifying and overwhelming on many levels.  The employee must determine her medical benefits and treatment options as well as define how her treatment may affect her work.  It can be very difficult to share the news with one’s  boss and co-workers.  There is no correct way to disclose the diagnosis of breast cancer and it is important for employees to choose the way that feels best for them. Remember that while supervisors have a legal obligation not to disclose confidential employee information, co-workers do not.  Employees may wish to inform management first, while other times, they are the last to know. While telling co-workers is not necessary, they can be a source of support both emotionally and with personal assistance.  Some colleagues organize meal prepartion, asisstance with chores, fundraising or donating their sick days to the individual who has breast cancer.

Employers are required by Federal law to provide “reasonable accomodations” for anyone with a disability.  According to the Americans wth Disabilities Act (ADA) cancer qualifies as a disability when the disease or its effects of treatment hinder an individual’s “major life activities”.  These accomodations can vary greatly, depending upon a person’s need.  According to the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), examples of accomodations include:

  • Time off for physician appointments and to recover from treatment
  • Short breaks during the work day to recover
  • An altered work schedule
  • Temporarily assigning some job tasks to another employee
  • Changes to the workplace environment, such as temperature changes or workstation changes to insure comfort
  • A work-from home arangement

According to the EEOC, the word REASONABLE is key. Employees with breast cancer can’t make requests of their employer that would cause them “undue hardship”. The term “undue hardship” is different for every company. Smaller companies who have more difficulty operating without a key individual for a period of time and someone with unique or very specific skills who is not able to be at work regularly could pose a problem for some employers.  However, most employers are willing to provide accomodations as much as possible.

Under the ADA, cancer qualifies on a case by case basis.  The act protects individuals from losing their jobs due to disability and sets guidelines for employers regarding required accomodations.  The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also protects the jobs of people with a cancer diagnosis, however not everyone qualifies under FMLA.  An employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months prior to the FMLA request and have worked more than 1250 hours in that calendar year. In addition, employers who have fewer than 50 employees do not have to follow FMLA regulations.

Source: About.com

If you have an employee with breast cancer, it may be very helpful to ask her what she needs or wants. Does she want her colleagues to know? Does she want to take time or off or work reduced hours? What kind of accomodations does she need? As treatment progresses, she may have a better idea of how she feels or if she is responding to treatment. Employers need to be flexible with the plan whenever possible as the employee’s needs may change. The EAP can also be a great resource for the employee both by providing emotional support and brief counseling and also locating other resources to help her.

Sometimes an employee does not respond to treatment and the disease spreads or becomes very aggressive. Some employees choose to work until they are very ill, others do not. At this point, co-workers may be very upset about a friend and colleague’s deteriorating condition and may begin anticipatory grieving if she is terminally ill.  While it can be very helpful and healing to meet as a staff group to process feelings, employers should be careful how this is handled.  A group meeting could either be very helpful to the ill employee or perceived by her as inappropriate and make her very uncomfortable.  It may be helpful to consult with the employee assistance program about the best course of action depending upon the situation.  If an employee does pass away, the EAP can be very helfpful by assisting with a grief group and helping employees process their feelings in a confidential and safe environment.  The EAP can also help the employer reach out to the family and plan a memorial at work if desired and appropriate.

 

9
Jul

Employee Assistance Programs Lead to Healthier, More Productive Employees

EmployeesMorneau Shepell, the largest Employee Assistance firm in Canada, released a new study that said that intervention through employee assistance programs leads to improved employee mental health and higher productivity, as well as a reduction of 25 percent in costs due to lost productivity.

The study collected data to measure four specific outcomes: general health status, mental health status, productivity, and absenteeism.  Here are some of its findings:

  • Employees rated their mental status 15 percent higher after receiving EAP support.
  • EAP intervention resulted in a 34 percent reduction in costs related to lost productivity.
  • Before EAP intervention, decreased productivity and absence was costing organizations almost $20,000 per employee per year.

75 percent of North American businesses have an employee assistance program and they are a key component of employee benefit plans.  The Morneau Shepell study made two key recommendations:

1. Organizations should develop a more strategic partnership with their EAP provider as a first step in reallizing the return on investment.  The provider can recommend strategies to optimize the use of the EAP as a preventative measure with the objective of saving costs on the bottom line and using the EAP to support the organization’s health priorities.

2. Organizations should consider a strategic approach to absence management, cost management and strategies related to employee engagement and retention.

For more information about this study go to http://bit.ly/kZ2Xx1

While 75 percent of employers may have an EAP, all programs are not alike.  Employers should investigate their vendors to be sure they are meeting the needs of their company. The company contact or HR representative should have a good relationship with their EAP provider, with the ability to consult or to seek management assistance on a range of personnel issues.

Your EAP should be your partner in assisting with your employees’ emotional health.  The more the employee assistance program is supported by management and  promoted and marketed to employees, the more it will be used.

Healthy, happy and engaged employees will save their employers thousands in lost productivity,  morale issues, performance problems and health insurance claims.   Employees who feel supported by their employer will be loyal in both good and bad economic times.

4
May

Another Reason to Drug Test

Legal pictureEmployers who don’t drug or alcohol test cannot prove that an employee’s injury was caused by his intoxication if a drug test is not offered.
In the case of McKinley v. Klein Steel, Inc., No. 09-CA-930 (La.Ct. App. 03.23.10), the Louisiana Court of Appeal upheld the award of temporary total disability benefits, attorney’s fees and penalties.

The summary: while carrying a stair railing at work, the employee stumbled and hit his head. The employer sent him to a nearby hospital where he was treated for a scalp laceration and released without a drug test and the employer made no effort to have him tested. He later underwent two spinal surgeries as a result of the accident. The employer’s insurer refused to pay workers’ compensation benefits, claiming the employee was intoxicated at the time of the accident, that he refused a drug test and provided false information to the hospital. The Court of Appeals upheld the award of benefits, finding that the employer failed to reasonably controvert the claim. It also awarded the employee penalties and attorney’s fees.

The court explained that a presumtion of intoxication arises when an employee affirmatively refuses a drug test. But because the hospital never offered a drug test, and one was never required by the employer, there was no opportunity for the employee to refuse one, nor was any other evidence of intoxication presented. The court also rejected the contention that the employee gave false information to the hospital to prevent them from verifying his workers’ compensation status. The employee correctly identified his employer to hospital staff but gave the incorrect contact name and number for the employer, being unaware that the individual no longer worked for the employer. Source: www.riskandinsurance.com

This court case emphasizes how important it is to have a drug testing policy which also includes post accident testing. If the employer could prove the employee was in fact intoxicated, they would have saved a lot of money.