The Supervisor's Toolbox: Help

Common Pitfalls

Supervisors too often come to believe that they must handle problems with their employees on their own and by themselves. This approach isolates the supervisor at a time when he or she is most in need of support and consultation.

Best Approach

Explain the problem you're experiencing to your immediate supervisor, Human Resources, or the Employee Assistance Program. The resources you use will depend upon you, your situation and perhaps your department. Get a fresh perspective. You may be offered suggestions you hadn't previously considered. You may be reminded of procedures that protect you from taking a wrong step.

By using the available resources, both you and your employee benefit. If you consult with one of the HR professionals you will be gaining an ally that may be useful, particularly if there is no improvement. If the situation continues to worsen and you must take further corrective action or terminate an employee, that HR professional will already be involved, and aware of your previous attempts to coach the troubled employee. If you consult with the EAP and eventually make a Job Performance Referral, the EAP counselor may discover a significant personal problem that, when treated, frees your employee to return to his or her previous acceptable levels of performance.

Key Resource

The EAP is a helping resource. Managers and supervisors can encourage an employee to contact the EAP for confidential assistance. In such cases, job performance is not an issue. Employees who make their difficulties known to management are reminded that the EAP is a benefit they may wish to use.

Management Consultation is a process that provides managers and supervisors with an opportunity to consult with the EAP about a decline in an employee's performance. The manager and the EAP will discuss the situation and explore options to address the problem. The employee may be encouraged to contact the EAP. In other cases, the EAP will help management define clear and measurable performance standards and will suggest ways to communicate these to the employee, using constructive confrontation.

When standard supervisory attention fails to correct performance problems, an employee can be referred to the EAP as a Job Performance Referral (JPR). JPR's are most successful when they are communicated to the employee in a concerned, supportive fashion. The EAP will meet with the employee to explore work-related difficulties and to evaluate the extent to which personal problems are involved. Employees will be linked with appropriate resources as needed. Supervisors and managers will be notified whether the employee made contact and cooperated with the EAP recommendations. An employee's personal concerns remain confidential.