5 attributes for employee assistance program

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a program that an organization implements to ease some of the personal problems faced by its employees. An employee assistance program is largely voluntary, in that it is not mandatory either for organizations to implement it, or for very employee to avail it.

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According to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, here’s what to look for:

  1. 24/7 phone response. Seek out providers that have trained counselors on duty answering a toll-free phone line at all times. Avoid EAPs that require users to navigate an elaborate phone tree before reaching a counselor.
  2. Confidential services. Licensed, professional counselors should deliver assessments and face-to-face counseling sessions in safe, private and confidential offices. Make sure there are enough counselors in your area to deliver timely services in both urgent and nonurgent cases.
  3. Referral support and follow-up. The EAP should assist employees by providing referrals for long-term or specialized care based on assessed needs, recommended treatment and employees’ financial resources. The EAP should provide follow-up and ongoing support for employees.
  4. Crisis intervention. Will EAP counselors come to your facility if there’s an emergency, such as an incident of workplace violence? Good EAPs can provide counseling for traumatized employees. They can also help management coordinate emergency-response plans.
  5. Substance abuse expertise. Given their disproportionately great impact on the workplace, drug and alcohol abuse problems often represent the bulk of EAP cases.

Workplace negativity has to be negated

In any workplace, it is natural for negativity of one or another kind to creep in. This could be because of the work environment, the nature of work, the way colleagues interact, or due to the way an employee is treated in the organization. Whatever the reason for it, HR has to ensure that it works towards minimizing workplace negativity, because if this goes unchecked, its results will be negative, too: poor productivity, employees that suffer low morale, poor teamwork and coordination and the like.

Ways of minimizing workplace negativity

If an organization has to work towards minimizing workplace negativity; it has to ensure a positive working environment. An environment where there are tiffs over trivial issues, politics at the workplace, favoritism, gossip, backstabbing and such other negativities is the ideal breeding ground for negativity. One of the most important tasks for HR is to take care of these elements if it has to work at minimizing workplace negativity.

Team should be helpful

A colleague who is beset by personal problems can also be a negative influence in the organization. Although it is true that employees need to behave like mature adults and not bring their personal grievances into the workplace; it is human nature after all, to have the need for being comforted. An understanding team that is responsive to the problems of a team member will be a factor in minimizing workplace negativity.

The boss has an important role

There are some important factors that can contribute towards minimizing workplace negativity. The manager and the team have to be transparent in their dealings with each other. The superior should lead by example and should be a role model, instead of being someone who keeps his team members apart from each other by politicking. It is often remarked that one of the prime reasons for which employees leave organizations is their boss. It is the boss who is primarily responsible for negativity in the team. One who sets the example is a great factor at minimizing workplace negativity.

HR should stop nitpicking

When HR is entrusted with the task of minimizing workplace negativity; it should start by avoiding nitpicking. A work environment in which people enjoy freedom is a positive one. On the other hand, if HR fastidiously keeps raising silly issues; it will be seen as meddling and irksome and contributing to negativity.

References:

http://humanresource-tips.blogspot.in/2012/01/how-to-reduce-workplace-negativity.html

http://toostep.com/idea/how-can-workplace-negativity-be-minimized-in-an-organisation

http://www.acloche.com/blog/positives-of-a-positive-work-environment-tips-for-minimizing-negativity-in-the-workplace/

 

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Mental disorders and the workplace

Mental disorders are varied and complex. Symptoms of several kinds of mental disorder don’t usually show up easily. Many others are more overt. A person with a mental disorder may have the care and affection of the family; but when it comes to the workplace, it is a difficult luxury to get, because the workplace is not the family! It has invested on that person to get tangible and definite results from him. To discover that the person they found was perfect at the time of the interview and the selection process has a mental disorder can be galling for everyone.

Finger usually points to HR

The HR of the organization would feel doubly embarrassed, because it is the one that is the prime mover of the selection process. It is one thing for a person to develop a mental condition after taking up a job and being in it for many years. This means that at least at the time of the selection, he was fine. Now that the mental disorder would have developed due to some situations at work or at home; it is some kind of consolation for HR. But what kind of consolation is this! Irrespective of the time at which the mental disorder set in; the person needs attending to, and this is one of the prime responsibilities an organization’s HR needs to discharge.

They need support, not sympathy

While this is true largely, we don’t have to worry too much about fixing the blame. A mental disorder can be something that the person hides at the time of the selection process. This being the case; it is difficult to say whether it is HR or other managers that need to be blamed for selecting such a person. First of all, we need to understand that people having mental disorders are not scary. Most of them are people like you and me, it is just that there are a few who get disturbed and behave irrationally or erratically during times. People with this condition need support, and everyone in the organization has a role in making a person come to grips with his condition.

What is the result of having people with mental disorders?

First, let us get an understanding of what can happen at the workplace that has people with mental disorder.

There are many kinds of mental disorders that people suffer from. Many have conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and the like. It is highly unlikely that a person could have more than one of these at the same time.

One of the most common behaviors of these people is that they find it difficult to concentrate at work for long hours; they are restless, nervous or irritable; they can sometimes be short tempered or eccentric. Some people have sleeping difficulties, because of which they find it difficult to concentrate at work. These result in loss of productivity.

Behaviors are different at different times

People with such conditions and disorders behave differently at home and at the workplace. They are usually subdued at the workplace, but are more vocal and sometimes aggressive at home and other places other than the workplace. Many people with mental disorders would be under treatment at the time of taking up their jobs. When they come out openly about their illness at the time of selection; it becomes easier for HR to deal with the problem. But most people hold this information back; for fear that it could come in the way of their selection, or the fear that they could lose their jobs once they are diagnosed with it after taking up their jobs.

How are people with mental disorders identified?

Every person has symptoms that are strongly rooted and displayed in people with mental disorders. How many of us do not exhibit traits like restlessness, shouting out loudly at colleagues, feeling listless and down, and restless and hyperactive? The difference though, is that people with mental disorders do this very often during their working time, and many times are obsessed with this kind of behavior.

Ways of dealing with them

HR has a very important role to play in dealing with people with mental disorders. It is true that everyone, especially teammates, have to help in identifying the problem, but it is HR that plays the role of facilitator in resolving the issue.

The simplest and most effective of remedies HR can bring about is to seek medical attention for the employee with a mental disorder. If the employee has been showing signs for the first time; he needs to be counseled to seek medical advice.

Take colleagues into confidence

Once the problem has been diagnosed, HR has to take such an employee’s colleagues into confidence and apprise them of the situation. It should ideally speak to the doctor and get tips on how to educate colleagues who work with that employee about ways of dealing with such a person. It should first of all make sure that colleagues cooperate with such an employee and not deride or stigmatize him.

Mental disorders are neither wished for, nor do they appear in people who will it. A mental disorder is a complex phenomenon that happens due to factors that science is yet to fully understand. HR has to approach it in a sensible and sane manner, without hurting the diagnosed employee further. It should make sure it handles these cases with utmost dedication, just as if it were a caregiver. If it could help put the person back on track; it is some kind of justified triumph for those in HR.

References:

http://www.reintegration.com/reint/employment/workplace.asp

http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/mental-illness-in-the-workplace/#.URsImme2pDI

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2010/February/mental-health-problems-in-the-workplace

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Understand the Gen X employee to manage her

Managing Gen X could be the next big challenge for organizations. It is estimated that by around 2019; Gen X will be in charge of the workplace. What does managing Gen X entail? What is the generation like? Will managements be stretched to their limits in managing Gen X? Will they earn the same loyalty and respect they got from this generation that they got from the previous one/s?

What is Gen X?

After the baby boom generation, which relates roughly to those born in the post war period; the stage is set for the advent of the generation after that, or what is called Gen X, meaning those born from about the late 1970’s to the early 1990’s. Employment analysts surmise that these people will start to attain their highest productivity in around 2019, when they take up their professions or will be some years into it.

Why is managing Gen X considered challenging?

Managing Gen X is challenging for a simple reason: this is the first generation born after the Net took over our lives, so to speak. This generation is the first to be in this position, and sets the trend for being the generation that relies almost entirely on IT for almost anything it does.

In is out, out is in

Since gadgets are here to stay; we can expect that managing Gen X will be akin to managing these gadgets: here today, gone tomorrow. What implications does this trend have for the future of organizations? Employers will now have to come round to the fact that employees are no longer here to stay in the long run. This is the first principle governing the rules of managing Gen X.

Give up micromanaging

It is highly unlikely that Gen X will tolerate any bossing around or micromanaging from its employers. This is a generation that has grown up more independently than perhaps any previous one; so, for people of this generation, the most irritating trait is likely to be micromanaging from employers. They like to be left to themselves, because there are those many more opportunities for them to experiment with anything, be it gadgetry, work, or life itself. The best method in managing Gen X is to give them as much creativity and scope for improvement and experimentation as possible.

Forget loyalty

Another very important element of managing Gen X will be their tendency for job-hopping. It is next to impossible to expect this sprightly generation to stick around for years in the same organization or even in the same profession. For it, it is growth and job satisfaction that comes above everything else, including loyalty. Given that they form the typical global employee gang and the fact of being of very high ethnic diffusion; it is next to impossible to expect them to stay around.

References:

http://blog.dalecarnegie.com/leadership/talent-management-4-ways-to-motivate-gen-x-employees/

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1898024_1898023_1898086,00.html

 

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Employee Assistance Programs

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s), as the term suggests, are programs or initiatives undertaken by the employer to assist an employee in bettering her work. This is why Employee Assistance Programs are important for an organization to put in place. Employee Assistance Programs are helpful for both the employee and the organization.

How are Employee Assistance Programs helpful?

Let us examine how Employee Assistance Programs are a very useful tool towards improving productivity. Say, the employer allows an employee flexible working hours. This will mean less stress for the employee who now longer has to battle her way through the traffic leaving home at a time when her kid needs her attention. Isn’t this a great benefit to the employee? When employees are offered benefits like this, they are certain to be star performers. This is simple again, because the ball is now in their court.

When the employer has provided them the benefit or convenience they were seeking, they have no reason not to perform. In fact, it is a double edged sword for the employer, because it can now get the best out of the employee. It can even dangle the stick of blackmail! Employees will treasure their relationship with the organization and will have very remote thoughts of leaving for another employment. This way, Employee Assistance Programs are very powerful tools in facilitating a high degree of loyalty and productivity.

The dynamics of Employee Assistance Programs

A few things need to be understood when an organization decides to implement Employee Assistance Programs.

  1. Employee Assistance Programs are not for everyone: Firstly, these are not suited for everyone and for every kind of work. They are good for some kinds of work in the New Economy. Let us say a retail salesman wants to telecommute. How is this ever possible?
  2. A high degree of trust is required: Many a time, many organizations entrust confidential work to some of their employees. When employees who are given such work want to work remotely, organizations will need to put some checks and surveillances in place, which could defeat the purpose of the concept of Employee Assistance Programs.
  3. No program lasts forever: Another important element of Employee Assistance Programs is that these keep changing over time. A program that is good for implementation at one point of time may not be so a few years down the line. HR has to be discrete in deciding on this from time to time. Overall, Employee Assistance Programs need to be exercised with tact and have to be reviewed from time to time.

References:

http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/employee-assistance-program

http://www.dhrm.virginia.gov/genlbenefits/employeeassistance.html

 

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Discrimination in recruitment – A cardinal sin

Discrimination in recruitment is major malaise in many organizations. Despite a slew or legislation banning it, discrimination in recruitment is a fact of life. It is something that happens at a very subtle layer, and is very difficult to establish and prove. This makes prosecution for discrimination in recruitment all the more difficult.

What is termed as discrimination?

In the broadest sense, any recruitment that puts unreasonable and unrelated filters on the parameters for selection is said to be discriminatory. It is understandable if the organization’s management decides that only people with some years of experience may apply. But if it requires the candidate to have passed a particular examination from only a particular educational board, it effectively puts out other candidates who may be just as good, but may not have passed that particular board exam at a disadvantage.

This is an indirect form of discrimination in recruitment, because passing only from a particular board could be possible only in some countries or some educational streams. This kind of filter qualifies for discrimination in recruitment, because the employer is indirectly asking only for particular candidates.

What is the way out?

Discrimination in recruitment is illegal.  No employer can discriminate against someone simply out of prejudice. Most nations have legislations that make it illegal for an employer to practice discrimination against someone belonging to a particular race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.

If an organization has to show that it is free of discrimination in recruitment; it should take some active steps. It can think of:

  • Setting out the recruitment policy in writing and implementing it
  • Keeping the same selection criteria such as qualification uniform throughout the recruitment process and not change it for candidates belonging to different groups
  • Keeping the recruitment policy transparent and open for all employees and governmental agencies to access
  • Training HR staff and other employees about discrimination in recruitment.

An experiment

Sending out an anonymous CV is one of the steps some employment seekers have tried. Many organizations have ways of determining the race or color or religion of a person by the name. Some candidates have sent out more employer-related names at times to neutralize this factor, and have often met with considerable success. This works fine with organizations that are known to practice discrimination in recruitment, but could also lead to potential difficulties if there are laws that prohibit candidates from applying in aliases.

References:

http://bookboon.com/blog/2012/09/avoid-discrimination-when-recruiting/

http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/personnel/recruit/background/equality/avoid/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/work-blog/2013/apr/11/can-anonymous-cvs-help-beat-job-discrimination

 

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Dealing with rumor and gossip in the workplace

Rumor and gossip are two very common occurrences in any workplace. There is perhaps no workplace that is exempt from gossips and rumors. Before going on to understand how to deal with these two; a word about what these mean:

Rumor is some information that someone in an organization spreads about a person. This may or not be true, but will sometimes needs verification. Of course, saying something like “John is wearing black dress today” could be a fact whose veracity can be checked easily by seeing whether John is actually wearing black dress. But saying something like “John is coming straight from a funeral” could be a rumor because it needs to be verified. The thin edge between truth and untruth and the scope for personal and subjective interpretation is what makes rumor what it is, and is perhaps what makes it spread so fast in many areas of life, not excluding the workplace.

Gossip, on the other hand, is talking behind a person’s back about something that may or not be right. To stretch the first example, whether some employees disapprove or have reservations about John coming to office from the funeral is a matter of one’s opinion. But when employees other than John talk about his coming from a funeral without consulting him or asking him whether it is true or not, it is gossip. Since John has not been asked; each person is free to understand and interpret the rumor according to one’s wish.

Gossip and rumor are almost certain in any workplace. In fact, so strong is the influence that gossip and rumor wield that they have been major contributors to stunting and even ending many careers. So long as gossip or rumors are innocuous; they seem fine enough to live with. But when they become instruments with which many people ruin other people’s reputation or lives, there is need for some serious rethink on how to deal with it.

These are some of the ways by which rumor and gossip can be contained in the workplace:

Manager should facilitate open and frank communication

Much of the responsibility for containing rumor and gossip at the workplace lies with the manager. The manager, whenever he hears about a rumor or gossip, must first size up what it means to the organization. If the gossip or rumor is innocent and is not likely to harm the organization to a great extent; this can be somewhat manageable. But if it is of such gravity that it could bring harm to a person’s reputation or mean something of importance for the organization; this kind of rumor or gossip has to be counted.

Call the employee and talk

The manager has to first decide what to do with such an employee. Is the employee in the habit of telling lies, as a result of which this rumor has spread? Or is it just a prank? Either case requires some serious handling, because spreading rumors deliberately is bad enough; but doing it for fun is dangerous. It can have deleterious effects on the morale of the team. The management, along with HR, should discuss this threadbare. The management should quell the rumor by clarifying on it. It should sort matters out by going to the root of the problem. If the rumor is concerning something as major as a company policy; it has to be discussed and laid out in detail.

Clarify matters

Gossips and rumors are all the more common during economic downturns, when employee downsizing is the order of the day. Rumors and gossips spread faster than in normal times during such situations. Someone could have just ignited the rumor that the company is going to be overtaken soon. All these have to be clarified in front of the entire team. The person who spread the rumor should be identified and probed about where he got the wind of that rumor. If it becomes known that a competitor has spread the rumor; it has to be handled sternly.

Deal with patience

It is important for HR and for management to have patience in dealing with rumors and gossip at the workplace. If something that is plain nonsensical is being spread, it has to take actions that neutralize these. It has to understand why these rumors are spreading. Normally, rumors and gossips take place when there is a communication gap or when there is ambiguity in the management’s important decisions. Gossips and rumors also spread when the management is seen as being too aloof and reticent about company matters.

Management cannot always take every employee into confidence and sort out matters because there are more important things to do. However, it has to do some plain talking when the situation demands it. If it discovers that some rumors doing the rounds are plausible, it has to put things in perspective. For example, if there is a buzz going round the workplace of a major event that could impact everyone and management is also a little uncertain about the impending action or result, it has to take people into confidence and explain things patiently.

Doing so will ensure that it employees get the feeling that they are taken into confidence and are updated about important events. Secondly, it will also mean that                                                                                                                                                      the scope for such rumors and gossip are considerably cut. Losing patience and reacting aggressively is sure to exacerbate matters. It is for this reason that a cool approach is needed.

Reference:

http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-gossip-and-rumor/

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/deal-rumors-workplace-10064.html

 

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