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 was about to make a supervisor referral of my employee to BJC EAP, but before I could, he went to the program as a self-referral. This is great, but I don’t have a release signed, as I would if this was a formal referral. Should I ask him to sign one now?
A. Unless a serious work rule violation occurred, where a formal referral would be included, you can monitor your employee’s performance for now as you normally would. You should expect resolution of performance issues. You will feel in the dark about what the status of your employee’s participation in BJC EAP might be, but such is the case with any self-referral. That’s okay. If your employee continues to struggle, then initiate a formal referral and request a release as usual. Note: If your employee was aware of a pending supervisor referral, and decided to self-refer to prevent your communication with BJC EAP, this will have no effect on your ability to monitor performance and act as needed. The key is to focus on performance.
Q. I have attempted to refer my employee to BJC EAP four times. Each time, the employee gave me good reasons not to refer him. These included how he was addressing his problems. Now I am on attempt number five! Where am I going wrong?
A. Consult with BJC EAP to better understand what makes for an effective referral. Some troubled employees provide compelling reasons for the supervisor to postpone corrective action for performance issues. Referring an employee to BJC EAP or taking any job action is not a pleasurable thing. Naturally, any rationale to postpone these actions is welcome. This is what leads many supervisors to experience your circumstances. Be decisive, however, because the chronic nature of problems may be associated with greater risk. Chronic problems often culminate in larger crises, and these can have significant consequences for the organization. Reducing this risk by combining proper administrative decisions with use of BJC EAP is what makes the program an effective partner in loss prevention.
Q. In a few cases when I have referred employees to BJC EAP, they’ve refused to go after I’ve mentioned that I need them to sign a release of information. It’s a catch-22. I need to know if they actually go, but asking for a release loses the referral. What’s the fix?
A. Although an employee must sign a release of information if you are to learn of his or her participation in BJC EAP, you admittedly are not equipped to explain confidentiality laws, the purpose of a release, its restrictions and why it is a good idea. Any of these concerns may surface at its mention. Unless you are authoring a last-chance or firm-choice agreement where obligations are spelled out, the solution is to say, “Can you please give permission to BJC EAP to let me know that you kept the appointment?” This approach is less threatening. It also better protects confidentiality. BJC EAP consultants are experienced at explaining the purpose of a release so employees see its value as a way for them to effectively communicate appropriate information to the supervisor. This reduces anxiety, which keeps clients focused on getting help.