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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.

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 Without making a formal release, the employees' release may be rescinded at any time, leaving the PAS counselor without the ability to communicate with you.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.

If your employee asks for a recommendation for a dentist, there certainly isn't harm in sharing the name of the one you use. However, if the employee begins to share personal reasons for the delay, a recommendation to PAS may be appropriate. Every day, employees share personal problems with coworkers and supervisors at work. There is nothing unusual about the practice. However, some issues that at first appear benign can be associated with severe problems that are suitable for bringing to PAS.

It is important for you as a supervisor to have a sense of curiosity about your employees and their well-being. The rationale is that your employees represent your most valuable resource. This curiosity does not mean involving yourself in employees' personal matters or diagnosing problems. But it does mean going a step further when an employee approaches you with something personal and considering whether a referral to PAS could be helpful. Curiosity means asking why. In your case, a delay in seeing a dentist could be associated with fear or financial hardship, among other reasons.

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.

The most difficult roadblock supervisors face in using PAS to manage troubled employees is making the switch from doing it all themselves to using a systematic approach to assess, refer, treat, and follow up on a troubled employee.

The old approach may include ignoring problems until they precipitate a crisis. Although an employee may sign a release that provides for limited feedback about PAS participation, a supervisor is, by design, removed entirely from involvement in the employee's problems. This shift can be difficult because the supervisor must give up the ability to control the helping process and its outcome. Turning these roles over to PAS frees the supervisor from the burden of being counselor and caseworker. While supervisors may feel competent in handling these roles and may experience satisfaction and meaning by involving themselves in their employees' lives, this approach carries significant risk for all parties concerned.

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.

Yes, consider recommending self-referral to PAS. The coronavirus has tremendous controversy associated with it, and misinformation abounds. Unfortunately, people who are diagnosed with the illness often suffer from anxieties in addition to their other symptoms, including an anxiety about whether the illness will be terminal for them. Victims of the disease may wonder how they got it, who they passed it on to, or whether anyone they know with medical problems or who is aged could contract the disease and die from it. This can obviously create feelings of guilt and concern. What are the long-term side effects? What information should I trust? Does this disease cause heart problems or other body organ damage? PAS will offer help or obtain the support needed to help your worker overcome these dreads.

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.”

Your employees may not be motivated to resolve their differences, at least not yet. Their sense of urgency to deal with the issues between them will not be greater than a consequence for remaining in conflict and interfering with workplace productivity. Like many supervisors, you hold significant leverage and the ability to influence them toward the goal all three of you share. The question is, how long will you continue to tolerate the problems between them? It is easy to unwittingly reinforce this sort of dysfunction between workers by asking for change, pleading, coaxing, and meeting in private to “get serious” but without truly holding workers to account. So without taking a stand and deciding on an effective consequence, you can expect the problems they are experiencing to continue indefinitely. Start by meeting with PAS alone, and decide on a plan you can live with, then refer.

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 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.