Support Employees' Wellbeing
You can enhance the effectiveness and productivity of your employees' by making proactive efforts to support their emotional and physical wellbeing. These efforts may involve assessing threats to campus safety, monitoring employees' fitness for duty, and referring employees to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Assessing Threats in the Workplace
You should oversee campus safety and initiate appropriate interventions if you notice unsafe situations. You may use the following resources to learn how to assess and respond to threats in the workplace, and refer to the university's Prohibition of Campus Violence Policy for more information about your role in keeping the campus safe.
The Range of Aggressive and Threatening Behaviors
As you assess the safety of personal interactions in the workplace, keep an eye out for the following behavior patterns:
- Avoiding, ignoring
- Grimacing, eye-rolling
- Belligerent posture
- Excessive fault-finding and complaining
- Verbal put-downs, sarcasm
- Hostile gestures
- Verbal outburst, profanity
- Name-calling, verbal attack
- Indirect verbal threat
- Direct verbal threat
- Threat with imminent danger
- Physical violence
Behavioral Red Flags for Potential Violence
The following behaviors are red flags of a potential for violence:
- Dramatic change in work habits
- Argumentative and/or overly suspicious; talking about revenge or vengeance; comes across as gloomy and/or angry
- Deterioration in social relationships, "loner"
- Emotional expression that doesn't fit the context
- Noticeable decline in personal grooming
- Delusional—believes outlandish conspiracy theories, makes wildly improbable statements, views the accidents and mistakes of others as intentional and aimed at him/her
- Grandiose—always has to be right and overestimates their value as a worker and the quality of their work
- Extremist opinions; intolerant of other points of view
- Recent significant stress or loss (for example, divorce, termination from job, failed exams)
Initiating a Threat Assessment
A threat assessment can be initiated by anyone who has a concern about aggressive, threatening, intimidating, bullying, or other inappropriate and possibly unsafe behavior on campus. You may begin the threat assessment process by consulting with an EAP counselor who can then assist with initial threat assessment, work with you or your department head in any subsequent investigations, and coordinate any necessary efforts with the university's legal department or police department. To initiate the threat assessment process, contact the EAP at 512-471-3366. In the event of an immediate, life-threatening crisis, call 911. For non-crisis urgent matters after-hours, call 512-471-3399.
Assessing Fitness for Duty
In order to provide a safe workplace, employees must be able to perform the essential duties of their jobs in a safe, secure, productive, and effective manner, without presenting a safety hazard to themselves, other employees, the university, the public. If employees are impaired in some way that affects their work, they may be unfit for duty. Use the following resources to learn how to assess your employees' fitness for duty and initiate any needed interventions.
Signs that an Employee may be Unfit for Duty
Depending on employees' job duties, the things that make them impaired and unable to work safely may vary. For example, diminished motor skills would make it unsafe for someone to operate heavy machinery but wouldn't make it unsafe for someone to do clerical work, and increasingly inappropriate interactions with people would make someone's customer service job ineffective whereas it would have less effect on the productivity of someone who works alone in an office all day. Taking this into consideration, the following signs may be indicators that an employee is not fit for duty:
- Uncontrollable crying
- Severe trembling
- Notable problems with coordination
- Markedly diminished memory or concentration
- Very inappropriate interactions with coworkers
- Suicidal or threatening statements
Initiating a Fitness for Duty Intervention
If you observe a situation in which employees are impaired in some way that may pose a safety hazard in the workplace, you may contact the EAP for assistance in initiating a fitness for duty intervention. The EAP can then assist you in completing the following two forms:
- Request for Employee Evaluation Form
- Certification of Fitness for Duty Form
You should fill out the above forms with a description of the problematic behavior and give the two forms to troubled employees. You'll then want to instruct employees to take the certification of fitness for duty form to a health care provider. The health care providers will fax the form back to the EAP, who will then communicate with you regarding employees’ returns to work. To initiate a fitness for duty intervention, contact the EAP at 512-471-3366. In the event of an immediate, life-threatening crisis, call 911. For non-crisis urgent matters after-hours, call 512-471-3399.
Referring Employees to the Employee Assistance Program
Employees may occasionally be less productive than usual or may disclose that they are stressed or are going through a difficult time in their lives. As their manager, you may suggest that they visit with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselor to assist them in meeting their challenges. Use the following resources to guide you through the process of referring troubled employees to the EAP.
Step 1: Observe employee behavior
Observe employees' behavior or recall recent behavior and look for a pattern, not a single event. You are observing for changes—behaviors that deviate from the norm for that particular employee. It could be absenteeism, confusion, tearfulness, lowered job efficiency, or deterioration of relationships. When you notice a pattern of changes, take steps to gather your thoughts.
Step 2: Gather your thoughts
Organize your thoughts. Your goal is to eventually provide objective feedback to the employee, so you want to identify things you can see with your eyes or hear with your ears. You should never diagnose or interpret any observable behavior—simply gather your thoughts about what specific changes you have seen or heard.
Step 3: Approach
Once you gather your thoughts, approach the employee and provide feedback based on the changes you have observed. This step could be referred to as "holding up a mirror" because you're allowing the employee to see his or her behavior as others do. For this step, the EAP recommends saying something like the following:
"I'm concerned about you. I'm concerned about you as a person because I do care that you seem to be having some difficulties. I'm also concerned as a manager because there is work that needs to be done. Here are some things I've noticed over the past couple of weeks (days)."
As you state the examples of things you've noticed, you may want to give this feedback similarly to the following statement:
"You've been returning late from lunch for the past three days. Over the past week, you've been tearful on four separate occasions that I've observed. You've had lengthy and sometimes loud personal telephone conversations. When you've been asked to perform routine tasks in a timely manner, you became upset and ran out of the office slamming the door behind you."
Step 4: Refer
In this step, you are referring the employee to the EAP for help with personal concerns so that you can remain focused on work-related issues. An example of how you might say this is:
"These sorts of behaviors are not like your usual behavior. I'm concerned there may be personal issues that are affecting your ability to stay focused on your work. I'd like you to know about the Employee Assistance Program on campus. Their phone number is 512-471-3366. It's confidential, you can speak with them during work hours, and you'll be talking with people who have the training and skills to help. They can help you with any personal concerns, and you and I can work together to make sure the work gets done."
Give the employee an EAP brochure and a link to the EAP counseling information on this Web site. If you'd like, you can ask employees to bring you a letter documenting that they've visited or spoken with the EAP office on the phone. The EAP won't share any of the information they discussed with employees due to confidentiality, but you'll be sure that employees have seen or spoken with the EAP and can use the letter for time-keeping purposes if necessary. Remember: it is university practice that employees are permitted to visit the EAP on work time when they receive your permission to do so.
Handling Health-related Problems
If employees tell you that they have an illness that is affecting them at work, you should refer them to the Equal Opportunity Services office at 512-471-1849 to discuss possible accommodations through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Step 5: Follow Through
Now that you've done the hard part, remember to follow through with your employees' status and progress. If you refer people to the EAP but don't follow through with clarification of performance expectations, employees will deduce that you aren't serious about work-performance issues. By providing clarity of expectations and increasing structure or face time during a difficult period, you can support employees in their work responsibilities while the the EAP assists them with their personal concerns. You can consult HRS' Employee and Management Services for help monitoring work performance and workplace conduct by calling 512-475-7200.