Supervisor Newsletter - October 2021

If a PAS referral is not a punitive program, why do employees become resistant to formal supervisor referral for job performance issues?

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.”

I have two very smart employees who are constantly in conflict with each other. I hesitate to refer them to PAS to resolve their issues because I think they will manipulate the PAS counselor, who may not be a match for their ability to manipulate. Should I refer anyway?

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.

Can supervisors consult with PAS about other things related to our role as a supervisor, even if the subject has nothing to do with managing a troubled employee?

Like any employee, PAS is available to discuss and resolve problems you experience. This includes issues of supervision, your role, management principles, etc. If PAS can’t assist you because of a lack of its direct experience with the issue you bring to the program, it can still research and examine what resources can assist you. Note that all of us have manifest problems that appear in our lives. These roadblocks to other goals may be difficult to surmount because of our psychological issues, scripts, self-esteem problems, etc. These are the less visible but latent issues that the PAS counselor may help you spot and troubleshoot in your pursuit of the ultimate goal.