Each month, "The Balance Sheet" provides questions and answers from experts on a topic that's important to you as a manager. Please feel free to share this information with other colleagues who also manage people.
Q. I am in favor of employees using BJC EAP to help them manage stress, and I encourage them to do so, especially during these stressful times. What can I say to increase their motivation to consider the program?
A. When encouraging use of BJC EAP, go beyond merely mentioning the program as a helpful resource. Increase motivation to use the program by reinforcing important aspects of BJC EAP's unique approach, particularly its confidential nature. Also disavow and renounce the stigma of seeking professional help for a personal problem. State that you will not allow harm to come to the employee's job or career situation simply for using BJC EAP. This position is consistent with any organization's policy establishing the EAP. It can be helpful to mention specific types of problems many employees experience and that are appropriate for taking to BJC EAP. These include family problems, struggles with teenagers or communication conflicts in couples' relationships. Repetition of a positive message is one key to improve utilization, but nothing is more powerful than a supervisor who encourages use of the program.
Q. I am experiencing ongoing stress. Recently I have felt a little detached from conversations and events. It is difficult to describe, but sometimes it's like I am only "half there," not really involved. It also feels like I am just going through the motions. Is this burnout?
A. A professional assessment is recommended to determine the cause of this symptom. Many people under stress and experiencing burnout complain of feeling "detached" from their surroundings. Things seem less real, even a little dream-like. This is known as depersonalization. It is a defense mechanism, but it is less commonly experienced as compared to others like denial, externalizing and projection. Its purpose is to taper your response to stress in your environment, but this is not the way you should continue to function. You need be aware of your surroundings, especially when driving a car or operating machinery. You know something is not quite right, so with that information, turn to BJC EAP for an assessment. They can help you determine if you are experiencing burnout, evaluate you for other symptoms and get you to the right help.
Q. I hear a lot about stress management techniques, but frankly, none of them work for me. What can a supervisor in my position do? I feel I am about one inch away from burnout. I could call BJC EAP, but doesn't that just mean more stress management techniques?
A. Managing stress is not just about practicing exercises to reduce its effect. Working with BJC EAP will allow you to develop a plan or approach to address the unique issues you face. You'll examine specific behaviors that impede your ability to manage stress or that make it worse, and be introduced to other behaviors designed to intervene. Anyone who faces stress copes with it somehow. These coping strategies are not necessarily conscious choices. They may simply be harmful or maladaptive reactions to circumstances. These behaviors may include overwork, denial of the stress, increased multitasking or avoiding discussing problems, to name a few. With BJC EAP, you'll pull back the issues like peeling an onion, and discover new, healthier and adaptive behaviors that will help you to manage stress effectively.