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Frontline Supervisor: Employees’ Health Problems

Frontline Supervisor: Employees’ Health Problems

On 17 Nov 2014, in Management, coaching, Workplace

Q. I suspect that an employee has an eating disorder, but it’s not affecting her performance. Still, I’m concerned about her well-being. Is my suspicion sufficient to make a supervisor referral to BJC EAP?

A. Your suspicion alone would not be enough to support a supervisor referral to BJC EAP. If you mentioned your concern about how thin your employee looks in a non-threatening manner, and if this elicited her disclosure of an eating disorder, you could then suggest the use of BJC EAP. You are simply sharing your observations and are not making a judgment. If the employee insists everything's fine and her performance, attendance and behavior meet the required standards, then there's nothing else you can do. Pressing for more information can prove counter-productive; many employees prefer not to confide in their supervisor and it's important that you respect that.

Q. An employee seems unusually tired lately. She says she has trouble sleeping. Can a referral to BJC EAP help her, or are sleeping problems more of a medical issue? I could simply recommend she speak with her doctor. There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

A. Your employee says she is not sleeping, but to say it is a “sleeping problem” with a medical solution is a diagnostic conclusion better left to BJC EAP, following an interview with your employee. Sleeping problems could be caused by many things -- even drug or alcohol use. Telling someone to see a doctor for a health care problem sounds like a no-brainer. However, in the workplace you must consider other factors and your role. This makes BJC EAP your best bet. From this gateway, the employee can access all options. For a simple case of insomnia, BJC EAP might probe to determine the cause, and suggest practical steps that promote deep sleep. For more complex sleep problems -- from anxiety disorders to nagging physical pain to disrupted circadian rhythm patterns -- BJC EAP can provide a referral to the appropriate health expert. BJC EAP will also distinguish between physiological and psychological factors that disturb sleep.

Q. One of my employees has returned to work following a heart attack. Is there anything I can do to help him not have another one? This is a pretty high-stress environment. Should I talk him into reducing his hours?

A. Your employee should let you know if he needs any help from the organization to support his recovery, but you can also ask how best to support him. Almost all jobs include stress. Beyond stress is something called "job strain." Job strain is high psychological demand from work pressure combined with little ability to control it. (Feeling trapped like a rat is a good way to describe it.) Some research has shown job strain as a factor in the recurrence of heart attacks. To reduce job strain on employees, try reducing psychological pressure of work demands. If possible, increase the employee's control and decision making over those work demands. What about the long hours? In some studies, long work hours alone were not associated with recurrent cardiovascular events, only job strain. (Journal of Occupational Health)

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