Employee Assistance Program

EAP Basics

Understanding EAPs

An EAP is a work-site-based program to assist: (1) the work organization in addressing productivity issues, and; (2) employee clients in identifying and resolving personal concerns that may affect job performance. (International Employee Assistance Professionals Association, 1998)

  • EAPs are confidential… The identities of EAP participants are protected by confidentiality laws. Confidentiality is also assured by the organization’s EAP policy.
  • EAPs are without cost to employees and family members. Employees are responsible for the cost of services to which they might be referred by the EAP. EAPs help employees find affordable services to match their circumstances and ability to pay.
  • EAPs do not interfere with administrative or supervisory practices. The EAP will not interfere with your job as a supervisor. The EAP may offer consulting and coaching help on managing a troubled employee, but it will not tell you what type of discipline to use nor direct your managerial decisions.
  • EAPs are not "benefit programs" in the typical sense. They are pro-employee and pro-organization management tools that benefit everyone.
  • EAPs are not a “safe harbor”… Participation in an EAP does not excuse unsatisfactory job performance. Your hands are not “tied” and you are not prohibited from taking action in response to an employee’s continuing job performance problems.
  • EAPs are non-disciplinary… EAPs cannot dispense, recommend, or recommend against disciplinary action. An employee cannot have job security, promotional opportunities, or position status jeopardized solely for participating in an EAP.
  • There are two types of referrals to an EAP.
    1. Self-referral: An employee volunteers to participate in the EAP without being referred by the supervisor.
    2. Supervisor Referral: The employee agrees to participate in the EAP after being referred by the supervisor based on job performance problems (attendance, quality of work, behavior/conduct, availability issues, etc.).
  • With an EAP, a supervisor can focus on performance, and not feel compelled to get "involved" in the personal problems of employees. Supervisors should take advantage of this and expect employees to take personal responsibility for using resources and accepting help offered by the EAP.

EAPs Benefit the Entire Organization

  • EAPs help retain employees and reduce turnover… Employees who have been your most troublesome may become your most responsible and most valued employees with the resolution of their personal problems.
  • EAPs reduce risk of lawsuits… Terminating employees, although sometimes necessary, can be legally risky. EAPs make it less likely that employees with performance problems will have to be terminated, thereby reducing the likelihood of legal challenges.
  • EAPs help supervisors remain focused on performance… You are an expert on performance, not personal problems. An EAP makes it easier for you to do your job. EAPs also give you an alternative to tolerating poor performance, pleading with your employee to change, or figuring out how to terminate or transfer an employee.
  • EAPs help supervisors troubleshoot difficult employee management situations… Employee assistance professionals have more experience than any other profession in consulting with supervisors on managing difficult employees. This experience builds into an extensive base of practical knowledge available within the EAP field.

How EAPs fit into Supervision

A Formal Management Referral is appropriate when your employee’s performance problems continue despite your attempts to correct them in the normal process of supervision. Your employee may or may not have a personal problem, but the criteria for a supervisor referral exists — a continuing performance problem.

A troubled employee is an employee whose personal problems interfere with job performance — attendance, quality of work, behavior, attitude, or availability.

Refer employees early before problems become severe and your relationship with the employee deteriorates. Don’t ignore a developing performance problem. Don’t fear that your employee will be insulted by a supervisor referral to the EAP.

  • A formal referral is based upon job performance issues. It is not based upon the supervisor’s belief in the existence of a personal problem. A personal problem may exist, and symptoms of it may appear obvious, but the rationale for supervisor referral to the EAP is always based upon legitimate concerns of the employer — performance problems.
  • Some employee problems and experiences at work may meet the criteria for immediate referral to the EAP (inappropriate behavior, violation of the drug and alcohol policy, violence, sexual harassment). Others may warrant a strong suggestion of self-referral — (being affected by a critical incident, death of a coworker, etc.).
  • It is reasonable for a supervisor to encourage an employee to use the EAP as a self-referral if the employee discloses personal problems. This is not a supervisor referral.
  • A formal management referral is not a casual conversation. It is a formal step in attempting to correct performance. It includes:
    1. Telling your employee you are making a supervisor referral to the EAP and why
    2. Communicating the nature of the performance issues to the EAP, preferably in writing
    3. Asking the employee to sign a release at the EAP appointment so you will have information about participation and follow-through

Next: Observing Performance