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 Without making a formal release, the employees' release may be rescinded at any time, leaving the PAS counselor without the ability to communicate with you.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