Frontline Supervisor

This is an ongoing content series on the current EAN website. We have set it up again here so you can continue to use it (if you like.)

March 2024

March 4, 2024

Q. How do I motivate an employee to give more to the work unit? He has been with us 17 years, and I think he has gotten used to a simple satisfactory level of performance. However, I think it is below his true potential. He’d probably put up a lot of resistance to change.

A. Encouraging an employee to demonstrate more motivation and initiative can b a delicate task, but it is the primary role for any supervisor, so knowing what works and what’s “state of the art” is essential. In other words, don’t reinvent the wheel. Start with a candid conversation. Failing to help employees improve usually starts when you miss this step. Discuss performance and potential and rely on your observations and belief in his capabilities. Dive into this topic. Link these things to his aspirations and goals. He almost assuredly has some, or at least imagines a few despite his non-action; this is true for almost everyone, despite their non-action. Draw these out. State your expectations in a positive way and what you believe success for him looks like, but also point out opportunities for growth and advancement. Get agreement on a few changes and begin. Offer feedback frequently, recognize improvements, and offer training and new learning experiences to complement his development of new skills and knowledge.

Q. After a small truck accident, my employee admitted to smoking pot before I asked. He also shared a bunch of personal problems affecting him, so I made an EAP referral instead of testing him. I felt we were past the need for a test because of his honesty. Was this a mistake?

A. You should act on the requirements of the drug testing policy, which would necessarily include a referral to the EAP or other appropriate administrative action. Many safety and risk issues come with your decision, which include not knowing if other substances are involved, the inability to do follow-up testing, risk of public and associated legal jeopardy, and lack of leverage linked to job security that naturally creates greater urgency to remain inappropriate treatment if recommended by the EAP. The most common reasons supervisors ignore drug testing policies are to avoid straining the relationship with the employee, losing a worker and downtime, related scheduling problems, administrative/HR requirements, a fear that the supervisor will be perceived as hostile, and conflicts with labor representatives.

Q. I’ve been working in the restaurant industry for 35 years. It has a late-night “after-work drinks ”culture, but after one employee’s auto accident on the way home, I have decided not to attend these sessions. Should I encourage others to stop this practice, despite negative effects on morale?

A. It would be appropriate not to attend these after-work drinking sessions. Perhaps ironically, an after-work drinks culture can create social pressure to participate in drinking activities, potentially excluding individuals who choose not to drink or even those in recovery from alcohol addiction. As a result, these drinking occasions can contribute to feel employers and held them liable for alcohol-related incidents or accidents that occur during or after work-related gatherings. Meet with your on employers and held them liable for alcohol-related incidents or accidents that occur during or after work-related gatherings. Meet with your employees to see if there is another venue for after-work socializing with less risk to you and the organization. You’ll find hundreds of ideas with a simple Google search.


Q. Is it appropriate for a supervisor to tell an employee “You must go to the EAP because of your job problems, issue, or circumstances”?

A. One of the core tenets of EAPs is that they are voluntary. You risk reducing the attractiveness of an EAP to the work population when this wording is used and then misinterpreted by the employee to mean that it is involuntary. Many employees under duress may describe their experience in unfavorable terms if they feel coerced to participate in the EAP. An EAP functions as a “program of attraction.” To protect this dynamic, reduce risk, and safeguard its value, it is better to say “I [or we] are required to make a formal referral to the EAP because of the circumstances...” Your referral in this context is more likely to be viewed as voluntary or as an accommodation in the event a personal problem is affecting work performance or conduct. Doing so will not preclude any necessary action if the employee decides not to accept an offer of help. In the same regard, always view referral to the EAP as a positive and constructive opportunity, not a punishment, along with an attitude that reflects this fact.

Q. I’ve noticed over the years that employees who are more likeable as people tend to get more positive performance evaluations. I think many supervisors are not aware of their lack of objectivity in evaluating the performance of people they like. Why does this happen?

A. a person in one area (i.e., liked for being charismatic and jovial) leads to an overall positive perception of that person. In the workplace, an employee who fits the above description might get a higher performance evaluation than they deserve because the halo effect influences how the supervisor perceive sand evaluates the employee. The risk of being unaware of this dynamic is that the supervisor will be accused of playing favorites, not giving enough feedback, or overlooking errors. Even worse, this can affect performance and pay raises that appear discriminatory. The solution is to use objective criteria for evaluations and, more importantly, to conduct them regularly because not doing so can lead to biases and potentially to risks of the halo effect.

FrontLineSupervisor is for general informational purposes only and is notintended to be specific guidance for any particular supervisor or humanresource management concern. For specific guidance on handling individualemployee problems, consult with your EA professional.  ©2024 DFA Publishing & Consulting, LLC.Gender use in Frontline Supervisor content is strictly random.

February 2024

February 8, 2024

Q. I’m excited about my new role as supervisor. I’d like some valuable and practical tips to enhance my career growth and build a positive reputation. What suggestions can you offer?

A. Here are some practical tips: 1) Know where your job fits into the purpose of the organization. This will enhance your motivation and commitment, and you rpersonal goals will align with those of the organization. 2) Invest your energy in activities your supervisor considers valuable. 3) Ask questions; never bethinking, “I am not sure what the organization wants me to do.” 4) Develop an instinct for knowing when to communicate to get answers, clarify issues, and double-check what’s expected of you. 5) Share credit with others. When mistakes happen, own them without spreading blame. 6) Learn to finesse how to inform upper management about successes by highlighting positive outcomes, impact, and measurable results of your work. 7) Be sensitive to workplace politics. They are a reality of human interaction. 8) Develop reliable stress management strategies that work for you. 9) Learn the art of staying calm when others are emotional during a crisis. 10) Build a network of individuals who can offer support, share insights, and add to your continuous development.

Q. I am making a formal referral of my employee to the EAP, but I don’t think the counselor can be of much help. This employee has been under my supervision for over ten years. The issues with him remain disorganization and not caring about satisfactory performance. How can the EAP help?

A. Given the length of time you have known your employee, have a consult with the EAP and examine the history of his performance issues and how they have been managed. Do this prior to referral. Discuss issues in correcting his performance and patterns of behavior, and how you have responded to his conduct issues or failure to perform the job satisfactorily. Helping employees resolve long-term performance issues is sometimes best accomplished through this discovery process in a meeting with the supervisor so important insights can be gathered by the EAP prior to an assessment. Your employee may have problems that remain hidden and must be addressed, but improving performance may also require the EAP offering guidance to you on improving your supervision.

Q. My employee is involved in a divorce, and it has been very disruptive to his performance. There are legal and parental issues. I have suggested the EAP, but he hasn’t reached out yet. How can the EAP help?

A. Here’s what you might want to share: 1) Emotional support: Taking advantage of the fact that the EAP is a safe and confidential space toexpress feelings and emotions related to the divorce. 2) Coping strategies: Learning effective coping strategies to manage stress, anxiety, and turmoil. 3)Time management: Organizing time to balance work responsibilities and persona l needs during this challenging period, which includes learning how not to get overwhelmed. 4) Communication skills: Improving communication skills to help navigate difficult conversations, both at work and in personal relationships, including knowing how important it is to communicate with you and maintain transparency about the situation without oversharing. 5) Conflict resolution: Receiving guidance on resolving conflicts at the office or in personal relationships. 6) Self-care practices: Exploring activities to promote physical and mental well-being to counterbalance the stress of the divorce. 7)Goal setting: Helping the employee maintain a sense of direction and purpose.8) Referrals: Directing to additional resources or support services, such as legal assistance, financial counseling, or support groups.

Q. I’m reluctant to utilize the EAP for supervisory consultation because I’m concerned that it could be perceived as a reflection on my skills and abilities, despite reassurances from management that it won’t have a negative impact. How can I feel more comfortable?

A. Feeling reluctant to use the EAP for supervisory consultation is not unusual. Realize, however, that consultative help may be the key to resolving a serious behavioral issue with a high-risk employee someday. Keep in mind that EAP consultations are confidential and that they can be conducted over the phone. View seeking EAP assistance as a proactive step for personal and professional growth. It demonstrates a commitment to improvement and learning. If you still feel uneasy, have an open conversation with your supervisor about their thoughts concerning an EAP consultation. Realize that your company culture and values are in line with helping employees and preserving human resources, s demonstrated by their investment in an EAP.

Q. I understand how supervisors should focus on performance and not attempt to diagnose employees. I do think it is natural to consider and figure out what’s causing problems with an employee. So how are supervisors supposed to over come this tendency?

A. It is natural for supervisors to consider what personal problems might be contributing to an employee’s performance issues. This much is true. The real problem is what often follows: giving consideration, time, discussion, attention, or even inappropriate accommodations to help the employee, even while the unsatisfactory performance continues. Historically, this has occurred within companies that did not have an EAP. The caution against directly diagnosing employees is tied to the potential consequences of allowing an employee to persist in their illness, encountering ongoing challenges, and making unfulfillable promises regarding treatment or seeking assistance. The recommended alternative involves referring the employee to the EAP, minimizing the risk of losing the worker and mitigating the various costs associated with retaining a troubled employee on the payroll.    


FrontLineSupervisor is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be specific guidance for any particular supervisor or human resource management concern. For specific guidance on handling individual employee problems, consult with your EA professional.  ©2024 DFA Publishing & Consulting, LLC. Gender use in Frontline Supervisor content is strictly random.