Supervisor Newsletter - December 2018

Dealing with Stress in the Workplace

As we approach the end of the year and the busyness of the holiday season, you and your staff may feel increased stress. Personal Assistance Service can help with coping strategies and physical skills to help you and your team manage and mitigate stress.

I think my employee is sleeping in his car. He has a disheveled appearance-as if he has slept in his clothes. His performance is fine, but should I ask what's going on? If he says yes, [he is sleeping in his car,] I will refer him to the PAS, but what's my performance justification?

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.

What role should supervisors play in helping employees deal with their emotions and cope with stress? I don't want to take a "hands-off, not my problem" approach, nor do I want to refer everyone to PAS for everyday stress issues.

Today's workplace has changed. Employees are much more desirous of positive, nurturing, and socially connected environments. This is especially true of younger workers, who also appreciate supervisors who are willing to be more vulnerable and open about their feelings with them. Given these new expectations and to help retain employees longer, offering guidance on coping with work stress is appropriate for supervisors. This can include, for example, counseling employees about taking risks, managing fear and work stress, coping with mistakes, not regretting missed opportunities, and overcoming fear of taking chances, as well as supervisors sharing information about their personal failures and successes. These things help employees build "emotional resilience" to better cope with errors, mistakes, work crises, coworker conflicts, disappointments, missed promotions, upsetting performance reviews, and more. All organizations want lower turnover, and helping employees build emotional resilience clearly has a business rationale. (NOTE: It is important to distinguish between the examples above from acute issues, which would dictate a referral to PAS.)

My employee had severe performance issues eight or nine years ago. We almost terminated him, but he was referred to PAS and entered treatment for alcoholism. Things have been great since his recovery, but unfortunately, I was told he was drinking at a holiday party recently. Should I be concerned?

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.