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Consult with your organization's human resources representative regarding sick leave issues and how to manage these absences and record the leave status. PAS can accept formal referrals from supervisors when employees have job performance issues, quality of work problems, conduct and behavioral issues, and attendance problems. So, consider referring your employee. Make it a formal referral. Is the employee unable to adequately perform his duties because of the absenteeism? If so, make note of it. It makes no difference whether the employee is being seen by a psychiatrist. This fact does not preclude a referral to PAS. Many issues could exist in this situation, including improper treatment, a problematic relationship with the doctor, poor medication compliance, sudden loss of medication effectiveness, and a host of other factors. PAS will obtain a release to communicate directly with the psychiatrist and assess what's going on. If the employee is reluctant to accept a referral, discuss next steps with PAS.

Speak to your employee in private to inquire about this situation. Employees are your most valuable resource. Their safety is paramount, and your concern stems from this principle. Your suspicion is based on what you can see is a disheveled appearance, so you have enough to justify your concern. Sleeping in a car can be dangerous for many reasons, but it's important to help your employee feel comfortable enough to visit the PAS for help and assistance. According to one survey, one out of 10 employees has experienced homelessness due to a wide variety of financial problems. A referral to the PAS program can assist the employee with the emotional issues connected with this situation.

You are reporting that your employee's performance is acceptable and that you have no concerns after so many years. You should monitor his performance as you always have, and if problems return, engage PAS and follow the supervisor referral process recommended to you. There is no other action for you to take unless there is an active contract with Employee Occupational Health and Wellness (EOHW). If so, it would be appropriate to inform EOHW. Performance and ability to perform the position's essential functions are the dominant concerns of the employer. His potential relapse would be his personal medical concern for the moment. It is possible that the relapse will not affect his performance again, or problems could return. Your vigilance as a supervisor will help you intervene early if needed to provide support.

In this case, you could make a formal referral or wait to see if the attendance issues clear up. Since a release has been signed, consider letting the PAS counselor know about the attendance issues, but do not expect follow-up reports, due to the limitations of the release. Without making a formal release, the employees' release may be rescinded at any time, leaving the PAS counselor without the ability to communicate with you. The counselor will not be able to acknowledge follow-through with recommendations or share status of participation. That said, none of this will interfere with your ability to manage performance. A formal supervisor referral allows you to request more structured (but not clinical) communication.

You may want to start by talking with someone at PAS to review the specifics of your circumstance. You may also find the following tips helpful:

  1. focus on job performance,
  2. be specific in describing behavior and examples,
  3. ask the employee if he/she understands the situation clearly,
  4. ask the employee to paraphrase what the supervisor has said,
  5. ask the employee for a commitment to change,
  6. set a specific time for follow-up and review,
  7. explain that the employee must decide whether he/she should seek help for any personal issue that may be contributing to the performance issue,
  8. explain clearly how PAS works, and discuss confidentiality,
  9. fully assure the worker that use of PAS does not affect job security or promotional opportunities, and it is not punitive in any way.

Personal assistance programs are in the business of helping employees resolve personal problems that may affect job performance, so it would never be advisable to encourage an employee to quit as a solution to his or her personal issues if PAS has not been given the opportunity to help the employee. It would be improper for PAS to endorse or discourage disciplinary or administrative actions, but a referral to PAS should be attempted early in the process of this situation you describe. If you have not done so, refer now. PAS can then help the employee make the best decision based upon all the issues discovered in the assessment interview.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) become relevant when your discussion centers on the existence of a medical problem. If your employee has not stated he or she is depressed or suffers with a condition that needs some sort of help to overcome, then it is better to focus just on the performance-related matters. You’re right; most people know a few or more symptoms of depression, but missing work, coming in late, staring off in a daze, or not engaging with fellow workers effectively enough to manage the work does not necessarily mean major depression. What’s more, these behaviors do not demonstrate that you know or should have known the worker is depressed. Acting as if the worker is depressed would also be relevant to employment laws. The behaviors listed above alone are enough for a supervisor referral. At PAS, the issue of depression or some other condition with similar symptoms will be explored.

PAS helps managers with personal stress, and PAS helps remove the stress of managing the problematic behaviors of employees that may be linked to their personal problems. There is one part of the process that many managers forget, however. Any performance issue that is not improving is a potential referral to PAS. This step is a de-stressor because PAS can share the burden of helping an employee correct a performance problem. When supervisors refer employees to PAS, they are, in fact, referring them to correct performance issues, not mental health issues or other personal problems. Frequently, it is determined that some personal issue impedes performance (but not always). In those cases, PAS has been known to then refer employees to every sort of help imaginable -- even language classes, retirement planners, public speaking courses, and reading improvement programs to name a few.

Although education and awareness about PAS reduces the stigma associated with seeking help, understanding how employees react to constructive confrontations and referrals can help supervisors better manage resistance. When you confront an employee about job performance issues, a natural reaction is to deny or minimize the validity of your complaint. The complaint is viewed as criticism, and defensiveness is the response. Accepting a referral to PAS is tantamount to agreeing with your complaint. Hence, the resistance. Employees may be defensive for other reasons, of course. These include fear that the program won’t be confidential, fear of a permanent record of their participation, stigma, and experiencing anxiety over anticipated disclosure of a personal problem that the employee feels he or she can still resolve (alcoholism, etc.). To reduce defensiveness, discuss these issues early in your meeting. Like a salesperson, address the resistance issues up front in order to make the “sale.”

Beyond following up later and affirming the positive changes in her attendance, the situation with this employee seems to have been handled well. This is a self-referral and a great example of how PAS performs, but there are a couple of tips worth considering. Depending on the seriousness of this attendance issue, offering the employee the opportunity to use your phone or to call PAS "now" from your office might be effective in helping ensure she does in fact use PAS. It's the employee's choice, of course. The second is to be firm and supportive but clear that if the attendance problem does not change, then you will be considering the next steps in correcting the problem. This will also facilitate follow-through because a disciplinary step is implied without it being committed to it yet. 

The term "constructive confrontation" has many definitions and applications in human interaction, but in the work setting it typically refers to a purposeful and planned meeting with an employee experiencing performance or conduct issues to motivate the worker to make improvements or desired changes. Although a constructive confrontation may utilize mention of disciplinary action, this is not a required element. Most employees perceive the supervisor to be a legitimate authority figure who has control or influence over the disciplinary processes. This is a dynamic of authority, and it is not overlooked by employees when confronted by supervisors. This dynamic is also helpful to instill motivation. Supervisors who socialize frequently with subordinates or are viewed by them as a friend may experience more difficulty in succeeding with constructive confrontations. This is because the dynamic of authority has eroded. Reasserting this authority can be tough because it requires choices that stress the friendship.

The counselors at PAS have extensive experience helping employees with problems, many of which are associated with different absenteeism patterns. The more information you provide about the history of the employee's attendance issue and your attempts to resolve it, the more effective the PAS interview will be. This means a faster resolution to the problem. Problematic employee absenteeism may be ongoing and consistent, cyclical, or sudden and unexpected. Each includes different degrees and forms of communication (or lack of it) with the employer concerning the absences. This history gives PAS clues about the nature of any personal problem that may be associated with the absences, even when an employee is not completely forthcoming in an interview. For example, an employee who suddenly does not show up for work and does not phone in, and whom you can't reach, will have a personal problem far different than that of an employee who phoned you the night before with notice that they were taking unapproved leave without pay.

To be completely unaware of the signs and symptoms of depression or any health problem that could lead to behavioral signs and symptoms in the workplace would not be a good thing, so it is appropriate to help supervisors be generally aware of observable signs or symptoms common among troubled employees with health or mental health conditions. This could lead to more supervisor-prompted self-referrals influenced by concern for the employee. This is a key reason for educating supervisors about the signs and symptoms of substance abuse. No matter what the health concern underlying the performance issues, the overriding principle that should be kept in mind is that focusing on the performance issues of quality of work, conduct, and attendance is more likely to lead to referrals of employees to PAS, where treatable health and mental health problems can be identified. The recovery from these problems is what will lead to improved performance, reduced turnover, and a healthier workforce. Check out the signs and symptoms of work depression.