The Supervisor's Toolbox


A common pitfall for many managers is getting involved in an employee's personal problems. When supervisors act as confidantes or counselors to their troubled employees, there is confusion over roles. “Am I a friend or a supervisor?” is the question that many ask themselves. In an effort to support people in supervisory positions, we have created this Supervisor's Toolbox based upon our Managers & Supervisors Training. It will provide you with the support and tools to effectively deal with employees who are struggling with personal problems.

You can best serve the employee and yourself by doing the following:

  • Remind your employees about the EAP and the variety of ways to access it.
  • Identify problems as they occur.
  • Assess if problems are due to lack of training, interest or motivation.
  • Document what has happened and use the helping resources available.
  • Take action as soon as you notice a problem.
  • Refer the employee to the most appropriate resource (EAP, HR, community resources.)
  • Follow-up with the employee to show that you're monitoring the situation.

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As the supervisor you are in the best position to recognize the initial signs of a problem with your employees. You see them every day and become familiar with their work habits and patterns. When a change in pattern or habit is noted, it may be an early indication of a problem. By noting this change and responding quickly you diminish the employee's ability to deny that there is a problem.

Here are some common "warning signs" or behaviors, which may indicate a potential problem.


  • Tardiness
  • Leaving early
  • Excessive missed days
  • Pattern of absences (i.e. Mondays, Fridays, after paydays, after holidays)
  • Bizarre excuses for absences
  • Long lunches
  • Long breaks
  • Missing In Action (i.e. Where did he go?)
  • No calls/No shows


  • Missed deadlines
  • Diminished work quality
  • Unreliable promises or work commitments
  • Frequent, foolish mistakes
  • Wastes time
  • Wastes materials
  • Fluctuating or irregular pattern of performance
  • Requires frequent instruction or correction
  • Blames others for own mistakes


  • Increased number of accidents
  • Ignores safety protocols
  • Off-duty accidents that affect work
  • Foolish & unusual accidents
  • Accidents without explanation


  • Frequent conflict with co-workers
  • Avoids co-workers and supervisors
  • Actual physical assaults
  • Inappropriate visitors at work
  • Personal appearance or hygiene changes or becomes problematic
  • Excessive personal phone time
  • Borrowing money from colleagues or co-workers
  • Unexpected or inappropriate outburst of crying
  • Unusual sleepiness or sleeping at work
  • Rude to customers

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Toolbox Items

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