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, 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.



By |2017-06-05T13:19:08-07:00May 16th, 2013|Employee Assistance, employee engagement, harrassment, Human Resources, Small Business, Uncategorized, work, work relationships|Comments Off on Combating Workplace Negativity

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!



By |2012-12-22T04:27:56-08:00December 22nd, 2012|Employee Assistance, employee mental health, harrassment, mental health, Small Business, work, work relationships|Comments Off on Anger Management at Work

Why Should a Small Business Have an EAP?

While smaller companies have fewer employers and therefore lower utilization of an EAP program, small employers with employee problems may suffer the effects   of  those problems more. Decreased performance and productivity will hurt a smaller employer’s bottom line faster.  Workplace negativity can spread like wildfire in small company and if employees leave on masse, a small company could be damaged beyond repair.  As a result, an employer that provides a high quality, personalized, full service EAP (Core-Technology EAP)  can help both the employer and employee by decreasing liability and risk, reducing accidents and improving employee morale and loyalty.  Employees who feels supported by their employer will be far more enagaged. The EAP helps a small employer decrease the stress small business owners encounter when managing a lot of responsibilities with little support.  Small businesses with a high quality EAP will find the EAP is a partner in helping them with issues such as change, lay-offs,  employee personal and work problems and potential serious employee problems such as intoxication on the job, recipients of domestic violence, threats of workplace violence, allegations of sexual harassment, death or serious injury at work and more.  No business is immune from human problems, regardless of their size.

The Core-Technology EAP that deals with employee problems, (and those employees who may have problems with management), is often the first to learn of an employee’s intent to sue their employer.  They may tell the EAP counselor, “I am upset with my supervisor because…and I am thinking of suing”.  If handled properly, the EAP can be a front line defense against employment claims and related lawsuits.  Professional EAP counselors help employees to seek alternate solutions to personal problems and more constructive alternatives to meet their needs.  Some options would be to refer them to human resources, provide mediation or conflict resolution services or other dispute resolution channels.   When employees have a safe, confidential place to process their anger or feelings they can be defused enough to work toward a resolution or in some cases, the employee can be coached to pursue employment elsewhere which may be the best course to avoid the pursuit of a lawsuit, while making the employee happier.

EAP’s can help save employers money by preventing lawsuits including harassment, wrongful termination and hostile workplace allegations. When the EAP is well promoted and troubled employees are encouraged to contact the EAP in order to get their needs met in appropriate ways, they are less likely to sue.  In addition, managers should be taught to consult with the EAP as soon as they are aware that an employees is disgruntled or troubled.

Employee assistance programs that prevent Employment Practices Liability and loss prevention may far exceed health insurance cost containment.  According to  Dan Fuerst,, the average jury award for wrongful termination is $500,000 with out of court settlements averaging $100,000.  The low cost of a fee per employee based program is so minimal compared to the potential risk employers face by being sued by their employers.

The Core-Technology EAP is one that is not a “free” program that is embedded in an insurance or disability program but one that not only provides assessement, referrals, counseling and case management, but also provides training, management coaching and consultation and ongoing support to both the employer and employee.

For more information about how we can work with small businesses, contact us at

By |2011-08-16T21:58:16-07:00August 16th, 2011|Employee Assistance, employee mental health, Executives, harrassment, Human Resources, mental health, Small Business|Comments Off on Why Should a Small Business Have an EAP?

Does Your Company Have a Social Media Policy?

Social media has been a topic of growing concern for employers. We have had managers calling us because their employees are using company time and equipment to update their Facebook accounts, to check email, and to tweet at their workstations repeatedly throughout the day. More and more, employees feel the need to constantly update their “friends” and to be in touch all day.

Social Media has exploded and will continue to be in the forefront of most of our lives. There are more than 500 million active users of Facebook and with more than 50 million active users logging in everyday. Other popular social networking sites include Linkedin, Youtube, Twitter and more are being developed every day.

I attended a recent seminar presented by the employment attorneys at Foster Pepper, a large Seattle law firm. Here is a summary of what I learned:
Most employers are now using social media for advertising, public relations, customer relations, market research, to investigate vendors and service providers, and to investigate candidates for employment. While all of these uses are important and valid, there are risks that employers should be aware of when it comes to employer-sponsored social media. Employers have to deal with a lack of control, employee misconduct, violation of confidentiality, exposure to securities laws and more. Employers must draft a clear policy, designate eligible staff to engage in the company sponsored media, discipline employees for unapproved or improper use and be sure to review and revise posts. Employees must be aware that when engaging in company sponsored social media, they have no privacy rights.
Off duty social media can be very problematic. When does an employee cross the line by talking about their employer on their own Facebook site? Are they disclosing confidential information? Complaining publicly about their boss or co-workers? Disparaging their employer? Is one of your employees cyber stalking a co-working or harassing someone? As an employer, you might want to consider updating your harassment policy to reflect social media issues beause an employer has a legal obligation to investigate if he should have known about harassment issues. The employer could be directly liable and vicariously liable.
People forget or don’t realize that social media is viral, what is said to one person can reach millions. When work issues are posted or tweeted, it goes way beyond office gossip or water cooler talk. Once it is posted, it is very hard to remove. If an employee’s friend posts pictures of her on a beach in Mexico when she was supposed to be on Family Medical Leave or short term disability, all kinds of employment issues may arise.
All employers should have a social media policy which addresses the  following issues:
* Address business use
* Warn that social media is not private
* Suggest care and discretion
* Require compliance with the law and rights of others
* Protect confidential information
* Prohibit false information
* Warn employees that misuse of social media may result in discipline
* Address business use
* Warn that employer controls access and content
* Address personal use and limit to off duty time and own equipment

* Restrict employees to using personal email accounts for personal business
* Prohibit negative conduct that might damage an employer’s reputation, business or mission

In addition to having the policy, it needs to be implemented properly. Train all staff, supervisors and HR staff, distribute to all employees with a signed acknowledgement, enforce the policy in a uniform manner and update the policy with advances in social media.

For a sample social media policy, courtesy of Foster, Pepper, PLLC., please email me at

By |2011-06-29T21:23:53-07:00June 29th, 2011|Employee Assistance, harrassment, Human Resources, Small Business, Social media|Comments Off on Does Your Company Have a Social Media Policy?

Drinking at Work

During the boom of the mid-90’s, companies were growing so quickly, they couldn’t hire enough people fast enough. In order to recruit and retain good employees who were required to work long hours, they would provide as many perks as they could. The most popular perk was free alcohol provided on company time. Many companies would host happy hour Fridays or allow employees to drink at work after 4 pm. Some employers provided kegs and beer fridges and allowed employees free access to alcohol while at work. As the boom became a bust, most companies began to tighten their wallets which resulted in the bar being closed at most workplaces.
While the economy is still very slow to recover and recruiters can take their pick of candidates, there appears to be a resurgance of alcohol being provided freely in the workplace. An article in the Seattle Times last month, featured tech companies like Yelp, providing beer kegs and beer fridges. These employers rationalize that they are growing, vibrant companies with a young workforce. Their employees are required to work long hours, sometimes well into the evening so they want them to feel at home at work. While they don’t actively monitor how much an individual drinks, some companies use an ipad app that logs every ounce they drink.

As an employee assistance counselor, I see serious problems when employers provide alcohol to their employees on company time on company property, for a number of reasons. The first concern is employer liability. If an employee drives from their place of employment while intoxicated, the employer may be liable. When employees drink, their inhibitions are reduced, so they will say and do things they may never do while not under the influence. These behaviors may lead to sexual harassment or discrimination claims from other co-workers and again, the employer may be liable. Women are at greater risk for sexual harassment at offices where heavy drinking is the norm, according to a 2004 Cornell University study. The report, sponsored by the National Institute on Alcoholism, found harassment incidents increased more than twofold for each additional alcoholic beverage consumed by male co-workers.

The second liability concern for employers is underage drinking. Some employers hire individuals who are under the legal drinking age but if others are drinking, it can be hard on the under age employee to fit in with the company culture. Unless employers are carding all employees before allowing them to drink at work, they cannot be sure they are not serving alcohol to minors.
The third concern is that when a person drinks alcohol, their judgment and productivity will be impaired. An employer cannot determine impairment based on how many drinks a person has had. Women and men metabolize alcohol differently and other factors include a person’s size and body weight and how much they have eaten. How productive can someone be if they have had two or three beers?
Finally, alcoholism is a major social and health concern in our society. Some employees cannot drink in moderation or control themselves after drinking. 10 percent of American adults are alcoholics. For these people, it is a struggle to face every day without alcohol and often the 8 hours a day they spend at work is the easiest part of their day to get though. If alcohol is served at work too, then they are constantly faced with the temptation to drink at work as well. Before employers decide to provide alcohol to their employees, they should consider the legal and social ramifications.
There are many other perks that make better business sense. Examples are concierge services that make things easier on employees who work long hours, wellness and worklife services to help employees balance work and family and employee assistance services.

For information on how you can provide personalized, professional EAP services, call Fully Effective Employees at 425-454-3003 or 1-800-648-5834.

By |2011-04-12T20:56:08-07:00April 12th, 2011|Alcoholism, balanced life, Employee Assistance, harrassment, wellness, Worklife|Comments Off on Drinking at Work

Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is more prevalent that we might think. Despite all of the anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws, bullying still exists. Workplace bullying is a silent epidemic that creates significant risk management for employees, management and company owners. Employers who fail to adopt policies and practices related to buyllying, may be facing potential litigation when behavior crosses the line and employees become targets. However, it is even more shocking when harassment occurs within Human Resources, the one department that most employers expect to act as an example for other departments. In Washington State, an example of this hit home this week when the of Washington State Department of Transportation HR Director was fired for workplace bullying. Evidence showed that there were previous allegations, lawsuites and settlements against this Human Resource Director.
To watch a short video, click the link below to see the details of this story.
State WSDOT HR Director fired for being a bully.
For assistance with policies, consultation about situations and learning more about how your company can erradicate workplace bullying, contact the Workplace Bullying Institute at

By |2010-12-15T21:49:10-08:00December 15th, 2010|Employee Assistance, Executives, harrassment, Human Resources, Small Business|Comments Off on Workplace Bullying
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