Hosting Safe Holiday Parties at Work

As the holiday season quickly approaches, many businesses are starting to plan their holiday social events.  Many employers use the holidays as a time to reward their employees, to socialize and to provide a positive experience for everyone.  The majority of companies serve alcohol at holiday parties and events.  Individuals who drink too much during a company event can do things to jeopardize their health, safety and their careers.  When people drink, their inhibitions decrease and they may do and say things they would never dream of during a regular work day when not under the influence of alcohol.  Employers should also consider that not everyone drinks; some choose not to drink, some are under age,and others may be in recovery from addictions and be particularly vulnerable to temptation during the holidays.  Employers should be aware of the issues that can arise as a result of office parties where alcohol is served.

The U.S Department of Labor Working Partners for an Alcohol and Drug Free Workplace offers the following tips to minimize the negative consequences of alcohol consumption at your holiday party.

1. Be honest with employees.  Make sure employees know your workplace substance abuse policy and that the policy addresses the use of alcoholic beverages in any work related function.

2. Post the policy. Use every communication vehicle to be sure your employees know the policy. Before an office party, use break room posters, payroll stuffers and email to communicate your policy and concerns.

3. Reinvent the office party concept.  Try something like an indoor carnival, volunteer opportunity or group outing to a sporting event or amusement park.

4. Make sure employees know when to say “when”.  If you do serve alcohol, make sure all employee know they are welcome to attend and have a good time but that they are expected to behave responsibly.

5. Make it the office party of choice. Be sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages.

6. Eat.. and be merry!  Avoid serving lots of salty, greasy or sweet food, which tend to make people thirsty. Serve foods rich in starch and protein- that stay in the stomach longer and slow down the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream.

7. Designate party managers.  Remind managers that even at the office party, they may need to implement the company’s alcohol and substance abuse policy.

8. Arrange alternative transportation. Anticipate that some partygoers may drink too much to drive safely.  Make special transportation arrangements in advance (ie shuttles or taxis to public transportation). Encourage all employees to make use of this service.

9. Serve none for the road. Stop serving alcohol before the party officially ends.  Employers should review their policies regarding alcohol consumption and enforce these policies at all company celebrations.

 

By |2011-12-06T00:44:54-08:00December 5th, 2011|Alcoholism, Employee Assistance, healthy balance, Human Resources, Small Business, work|Comments Off on Hosting Safe Holiday Parties at Work

Critical Incident Debriefing

This week we were asked to conduct critical incident debriefings for two different companies, after both had an armed robbery in the same week. The event reminded me how important a message it is to employees that their employer cares enough to give them time and resources (the EAP counselor) to process their feelings about these traumatic events.
A critical incident can be defined as a situation beyond a person’s usual realm of experience that overwhlems his or her vulnerability and lack of control. This event can cause changes in a person’s emotional, behavioral and cognitive functioning. In general, most people feel that work is predictable and safe but when that sense of security is shattered by a violent act, serious accident or even a fatality, it can have a significant emotional impact on the lives of employees.

A critical incident debriefing allows individuals impacted by a critical incident to process their thoughts and feelings with others who have experienced the same thing. We remind individuals that their reactions are a NORMAL reaction to an ABNORMAL event. The critical incident debriefing also provides education about the signs of cognitive, behavioral and emotional symptoms commonly experienced after a traumatic event. The EAP counselor will also discuss self-care techniques and when to determine if professional help is necessary.
Some people have unresolved personal losses or traumas that can surface at the time of a critical incident which can make their reactions to the new event even more intense. The EAP counselor can also provide individual counseling if needed.  Allowing employees the opportunity to share their feelings and reactions in a confidential environment which is supported by the employer, can prevent individuals from experiencing post traumatic stress disorder and allows employees to feel validated, supported and loyal towards their employer.

Critical incident debriefing is an important part of the employee assistance program. The EAP counselor can help the employer determine if it is appropriate to conduct a debriefing or if other forms of intervention may be more beneficial.

By |2011-11-03T22:55:39-07:00November 3rd, 2011|critical incident debriefing, disaster preparedness, Employee Assistance, employee engagement, Human Resources, Small Business, trauma at work|Comments Off on Critical Incident Debriefing

Six Bomb Proof Workplace Relationship Skills for Employees

Are you a master at managing workplace relationships so they become valuable resources rather than sources of irritation, frequent conflicts or personality clashes that derail a good day?

Practice the following six relationship skills and you’ll be a happier, healthier and more productive employee: investment skills, receptivity skills, connective skills, impression skills, empathy skills and repair skills.

1. Investment skills build up or nurture workplace relationships.  These can include telling others they did a good job, praising your co-workers, or including them in social events.

2. Receptivity skills include being a good listener; maintaining eye contact;asking for opinions;thanking coworkers for feedback;acknowledging that a co-worker helped save you time, energy, embarrassment, etc.

3. Connection skills include telling coworkers you appreciate them, encouraging coworkers, or hooring others; choices or deferring to that they want or would like to do.

4. Impression skills get you rememebered. They are positive behaviors others don’t particularly practice. These can include sending a hand written thank you note; taking the lead to a birthday; or sharing a skill or resource to elevate the effectivementss of a co-worker, even if you create your own competition.

5. Empathy skills include the ability to recognize others’ emotions and identify unmet needs- need for a break, need for recognition, need for validation, need to be heard, or even a need for a helping hand.

6. Repair skills include the willingness to discuss your relationship, cear the air or :check in” to address misunderstandings and obstacles that prevent feeling good about the relationship.

Source: Frontline Employee reprinted with permission

By |2011-10-10T23:25:41-07:00October 10th, 2011|Employee Assistance, healthy balance, Human Resources, Small Business, work relationships|Comments Off on Six Bomb Proof Workplace Relationship Skills for Employees

Employee Engagement and Retention

I attended an HR Roundtable sponsored by Resourcefulhr in Seattle today.  A group of HR professionals met to discuss challenges and ideas for enagaging and retaining employees.

The major topics that we discussed included:

  • Finding certain specialized talent in the high tech fields where the larger companies are able to entice employees with large salaries, benefits and the prestige of the big name corporations.
  • Retaining employees in companies where the hourly salary is very low due to economic constraints.
  • Engaging employees and keeping them loyal and happy.
  • Dealing with generational differences including things like social media, work ethic, expectations and more.
  • Work life balance.

Research has shown that unless the salary is very low, financial incentives are not always the way to reach the hearts and minds of employees.  Appreciation, acknowledgement, and recognition will go a long way towards keeping employees motivated to perform. A sense of belonging to the community in which they work, feeling valued and supported by their employer are important to keep employees loyal to. Low- cost benefits like health club membership discounts, wellness and worklife programs and employee assistance programs can be implemented for a great return on investment.

The members of the roundtable discussion offered some great ideas that worked for their workplaces. Some of these included:

  • Hosting a community garden which provided a place for employees to plant, tend, weed and water flowers and vegetables and then reap the rewards of the garden by picking flowers for the workplace or making a salad with the fresh picked vegetables.
  • A monthly theme such as wellness or “stress less”, where speakers, massage therapists and other professionals were brought in to assist with the theme and provide benefits for employees.
  • A “Rock Star” program where decorated rocks with positive sayings would be passed to deserving employees who were nominated for certain acts of kindness, good performance or when they were going through a tough time.
  • A book club meeting weekly to read and discuss books relevant to the workplace or personal interests.
  • Webinar trainings or onsite trainings on new technologies such as Linked in, Facebook and Twitter, for the older generations to help bridge the generational gap.
  • Social media policies to clarify the use and time spent on social media in the workplace.
  • Nominating employees for exceeding performance, helping others, etc and then entering the nomination into a monthly drawing for a prize.
  • Host meetings to listen and hear employee concerns and to solicit ideas for improvement, change, etc.

All of these are fabulous ideas for keeping employees engaged. We all know the cost of recruitng and retraining new employees, so we need to be sure we keep our current employees happy.

Do you have any other ideas to contribute to this list?  We would love to hear from you!

 

Medical Marijuana and the Workplace

A couple of months ago, Fully Effctive Employees  held a free one hour seminar on Medical Marijuana and the Workplace in Bellevue, Washington.  We invited guest speaker, Laurie Johnston, an employment attorney and partner at Gordon and Rees, P.S. to speak about the State law which was passed by the Supreme Court of Washington in June 2011, referring to the Medical Use of Marijuana Act (“MUMA”).  MUMA does not require private employers to accommodate an employee’s off site use of medical marijuana.  The Court further held that MUMA does not create a public policy that would support a claim for wrongful discharge.  What this means is that employers CAN terminate an employee who tests positive for marijuana even if it is used for medical purposes.

What this means is that employers CAN terminate an employee who tests positive for marijuana even if it is used for medical purposes. While medical marijuana is readily available and many
employees are using this option to argue the cause for a positive drug test, it is still an illegal drug according to Federal law and if an employer does have a drug testing policy, the employer is not required to accommodate for this drug.  There is no legal prescription for medical marijuana- a letter from a doctor or what is commonly referred to as a “green card” just states that an individual can use a certain amount for a particular diagnosis which can range from chronic, severe pain to minor skin ailments or anxiety.  Marijuana is not approved by the FDA because it cannot be regulated and the carcinogens from the smoke and other additives cannot be evaluated as medically safe.

Laurie Johnston advises that it is wise to treat all employees the same, regardless of whether or not they work in a safety sensitive position.  If an employee who works in a “safety sensitive position” tests positive for marijuana due to “medical reasons” refuses to cease use, an employer should treat him that same as someone in a desk job, even though safety may not be an issue.  Ms. Johnston pointed out that if the employer asks the employee in the desk job to run an errand during company time and that person gets into an accident and it can be proved he has marijuana in his system, there could be liability for the employer.  In addition, there may be other protected class or discrimination claims.  Ms. Johnston recommends that if an employer chooses to keep an individual who uses medical marijuana solely because the position he works in is not a safety risk, there should be clear policy and documentation to that effect.  The employer may be subjecting itself to increased risk and the potential for lawsuits by other employees.

It should be noted that marijuana stays in a person’s system for a long time and someone who has been using it for a while may have to be off of work for up to thirty days until it no longer shows on a drug test.  Due to the cut-off levels that the lab uses, trace amounts of the drug can show up but not be considered a positive drug test, therefore “passive inhalation” or second hand smoke would not create a positive drug test.  In addition, if the employer is using a SAMSHA certified lab (which they should use) rather than instant tests purchased on line or at a drug store, any substance that one ingests to “pass the test” will result in an “adulterated” sample which would be considered a positive.  This is no way to “beat” a drug test if the test is done properly.
While there may be legitimate situations in which medical marijuana is an appropriate option for a physically ill person such as someone who is suffering from a terminal disease or severe pain. In these situations, the person would not be in the workforce or causing a safety risk to himself or others.  If employers choose to drug test, they should be aware that they will eventually have an employee who tests positive for medical marijuana and a clear policy and training of all personnel is vital.

We will disucss how the EAP works with employees who test positive for drugs in another post. Stay tuned!

If you have questions about drug testing in your workplace, feel free to contact us.

 

 

By |2011-09-15T21:59:10-07:00September 15th, 2011|Drug Testing, Employee Assistance, Human Resources, medical marijuana, positive drug test, Pre-employment, Small Business|Comments Off on Medical Marijuana and the Workplace

Prepare Your Employees and Your Workplace for a Disaster

Since it is hurricane season, we thought this article might be timely.
Barely a day goes by when the news isn’t covering a horrific national or local disaster. Survivors are interviewed looking for loved ones, possessions and shelter. Some things can be learned from their experiences, such as a disaster can strike suddenly and without warning and what a person can do to prepare in advance. Below are some steps you can follow to prepare your company for a disaster:

Determine what kind of disasters are common to your area from the local Red Cross. For example if you live in Alaska, you don’t have to worry about hurricanes but you should be ready for an earthquake. In the Northwest, we should all be prepared for an earthquake, especially after seeing the devasting and catastrophic effects of the earthquake in Japan.
Designate an out of state partner or branch company you can use to deseminate information to family members, clients or customers about your status.
Be sure employees know where fire extingushers are and how to use them if you don’t have an overhead sprinkler system.
Have an evacuation plan and assign a company individual to bereponsible for the plan and it’s a good idea to conduct a drill ocassionally so everyone is aware of the plan and procedures.
Stock emergency supplies, water and a first aid kit; enough for all employees for at least two days. Replace these items before the expiration date.
Have employees bring in extra medications, foods they eat, eye glasses or extra contact lenses and and a warm sweater and pair of gloves.
Have members of your company learn first aid and CPR.
Be aware that some individuals may be very traumatized especially if they have experienced a previous traumatic event or if they lose their homes or loved ones.
After a disaster, employers can provide critical incident debriefings conducted by the EAP. Some companies will provide meals and other services to employees in the short term to help them recover and get back on their feet.
The EAP can be a helpful resource both before and after a disaster. Preparation is key!

 

By |2011-08-25T16:57:11-07:00August 25th, 2011|balanced life, disaster preparedness, Employee Assistance, employee mental health, Human Resources, Small Business, Worklife|Comments Off on Prepare Your Employees and Your Workplace for a Disaster

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,  www.workexcel.com, 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 audreyr@fee-eap.com

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?

Personal Skills for Professional Success

Sometimes employees are promoted and thrust into a management or senior role without the prepartion or information they need to feel comfortable hosting clients or networking.  I atttended a business etiquette presentation last week. The tips that were shared can be useful to employees, managers and sales professionals.   The presenter, Arden Clise, presented the following 10 Personal Skills for Personal Success:

1. Host suggests – The host is responsible for suggesting a restaurant, time and date that is convenient for the guest.

2. Check matters – The host pays and should take care of the bill before the guests arrive.

3. Guest is king – The host gives the guest the best seat and indicates to the guest where to sit.

4. That’s my bread – Navigating the place setting is as simple as “b” and “d” -( Bread plate on the left and drink on the right.)

5. Big talk before small talk – Business discussions start after pleasantries have been exchanged and the order has been placed.

6. Shake hands with confidence – Have a firm handshake, where your hand is fully in the other person’s hand, web to web.

7. Name authority first -When making business introductions, say the name of the person with more authorityfirst and introduce the person of less authority to them (“Mary, CEO, this is George Manager”)

8. One alone or in groups of three+ – When networking, approach someone alone or in groups of three or more. Two people may be in an intimate conversation,

9. Build relationships – Social media is meant to be dialogue, not a broadcast opportunity

10. Don’t default – always presonalize your social media connection, recommendation and referral requests. Don’t use default messages.

 

For more information, visit     clliseetiquette.com

 

 

By |2011-08-11T20:39:33-07:00August 11th, 2011|Employee Assistance, Executives, Human Resources, Small Business|Comments Off on Personal Skills for Professional Success

Employee Assistance Frequently Asked Questions

In addition to providing a service to assist employees and their families with personal and work problems, we are also an employer assistance program. We offer coaching and assistance to employers when they are faced with difficult employee situations.  I will be posting some of the questions we are asked most frequently and invite our readers to post their thoughts, questions and discussions on this blog.

 

Q: I am a supervisor myself, but am having difficulty trusting
management.  Can the EAP Program assist
me? I feel like I have nowhere to turn
.

A: Our EAP makes your confidentiality our utmost
priority.  We offer professional, non judgmental short-term assistance for employers and employees alike.
We will never disclose our conversations with you to any outside source without
your written permission, unless it is an emergency situation, or if you are at
risk to harm yourself, or someone else.
Whether you are contacting us for a personal problem or a work related issue, we can help.

Even if you have referred employees to us in the past, be assured that we can help you as well.

Our company specializes in offering both an employer and employee assistance program, enabling supervisors and managers alike to get the much
needed support that they deserve, when dealing with the complexities and
challenges that a leadership role can demand. Your EAP counselor can assist you
in trouble-shooting and role-playing certain scenarios that may be perplexing,
offer education and guidance, as well as find useful and current resources for
you, that are available to you in your geographic area. The EAP is in place so that you, as someone
in a leadership role, never has to feel like there is nowhere to turn!

Q: What is the proper  criteria for referring an employee for  a “reasonable suspicion”
drug test?

A: There are five
fundamental elements to consider when requiring a “reasonable suspicion” drug
test. First, it is always important to keep your observational
skills keen, sharp, and well educated. Second, it is imperative to take an
immediate, proactive role in making the referral, because employee SAFETY is an
employer’s primary concern. Third, ALWAYS document any suspicious activity or
behavior on the part of any employee in question. Fourth, review your company’s
drug and alcohol policy, to determine your company’s specific guidelines and
protocol, then act accordingly. Finally, after reviewing all of the information
and documentation available, consult as needed with administration, and Human
Resources, and contact your EAP program. It is important to communicate
your suspicion to the employee in a private and confidential manner.  NEVER
allow the employee to drive himself to the drug testing site, because his judgment may be impaired, casuing a serious safety risk.

Company follow through is vital, and remember: your job is NOT to diagnose substance abuse problems.  Instead, refer the employee to the EAP
Program, as part of a Last Chance Agreement so the employee can find the resources and the proper help that he or
she may need.

 

 

By |2011-08-01T15:30:47-07:00August 1st, 2011|Drug Testing, Employee Assistance, Executives, Human Resources, Small Business|Comments Off on Employee Assistance Frequently Asked Questions

What To Do When an Employee Appears Impaired at Work

Many managers have had an employee or supervisor come to them to share that they suspect a co-worker may be “under the influence” or report that a co-worker smells of alcohol.  When this happens, the manager must act immediately by documenting the observations of the reporting employee.  Specifics such as what the person saw, smelled or heard.  Only facts should be recorded suchs as ” Sally smelled like alcohol and was slurring her words” rather than “Sally was drunk as a skunk”.

The manager should observe the employee right away and preferably with another party.  If the manager is not in the same location, then he or she should make arrangements to have one or two other managers observe the employee and document what they saw.  If the manager also observes the employee to appear to be impaired or smelling of alcohol, the employee should be met with immediately.  If your company has an HR department, your HR manager should also be involved in the meeting.

It is important during this meeting to stick to the facts and remember that if someone is under the influence of a mood altering substance, their judgement and mood will be impaired.  This is not the time to get into discipline or consequences but to ensure the safety of the employee and fellow co-workers as well as to dertermine if there is a violation of company policy.  Whether the employee admits or denies being under the influence, the employer should send the employee for a drug test or breath test for documentation purposes.   A manager should drive the employee to the testing facility and make arrangements for him or her to arrive home safely from the testing facility after the test and for the remainder of the work shift.  When you receive the test results, you shoudl review them with the employee, discuss discplinary action and make a referral to the employee assistance program. If you have a drug testing policy, you can provide the employee with a Last Chance Agreement which will require an assessment by the EAP, and follow through with EAP recommendations.

If you do not have a drug testing policy, you can still refer the employee to the EAP, remove him or her from work and require a medical assessment or drug test but it would be wise to consult with your attorney if you have concerns.

Remember, it is very important to never diagnose or assume.  We once had an employee who arrived at work smelling like alcohol and behaving irraticaly.  After being referred for a drug test and then a medical evaluation, it was determined that he had undiagnosed, severe diabetes and he was on his way to a diabetic coma . The test and referral to the EAP actually saved his life.

The EAP counselors cannot reveal any personal information without the employee’s written consent but the counselor will let you know if the employee is compliant.

Reasonable suspicion drug testing can be a very stressful experience for a manager.  If you are unsure how to proceed, call the EAP for guidance.

By |2011-07-20T18:08:58-07:00July 20th, 2011|Alcoholism, Drug Testing, Employee Assistance, Human Resources, Small Business|Comments Off on What To Do When an Employee Appears Impaired at Work