Foreword: Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting Susan Hosage, who was a fellow presenter at BLR's Workplace Violence Prevention Symposium.
I found her presentation on Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to be excellent. Susan outlined EAPs as part of a workplace violence prevention strategy and she spoke in common sense terms.
We kept in contact and in November Susan conducted a telephonic presentation for the Workplace Violence Prevention Institute.
We asked Susan if she would follow-up and write a guest blog on this topic and she agreed.
Here's what Susan has to say:
Employee Assistance Programs and Workplace Violence Prevention: New Attitude for a New Year
It’s that time of year when most companies spend a lot of resources and money promoting their comprehensive benefit packages to their employees.
They provide a virtual or hard-copy summary of all of the programs offered as a reminder of what total compensation really means. Sadly, buried somewhere at the end, is one of the most important, underpublicized, and misunderstood benefits – the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
EAPs offer confidential services through third-party experts. EAPs provide assistance with marital and behavioral issues, substance abuse, loss and grief, family violence, separation or divorce, financial counseling, and legal resources to name a few areas of support. The employer pays a small fee for their entire employee population rather than a fee for service; so there aren’t individual claims or reports. It is a truly confidential program.
Unfortunately, managers are rarely educated about the value of the Employee Assistance Program offered by their companies and, therefore, fail to realize it can be one of their most effective tools in addressing the challenges of today’s workforce.
Employees are bombarded with stressful situations in and out of work every day. While many are equipped to handle their daily trials and tribulations on their own, others are not. Left unaddressed, the burdens can become so overwhelming that these employees can fail to see logical options for resolution of their issues.
In addition, this overload can make employees act in ways that may be uncharacteristic of their normal temperaments and workplace behaviors. Reactions can vary widely in scope and severity. Employees may become withdrawn or aggressive. Other signs that trouble may be brewing include decline in performance, exhaustion or sleeping on the job, frequent personal calls or text messages, tardiness or absenteeism, avoidance of social activities, or even physical injuries. Managers and coworkers are best positioned to notice these changes as they interact with these individuals every day.
When we retrospectively evaluate acts of workplace violence, we often see historical signs that indicated an employee was having one or more problems. We definitively know that heightening awareness to tension in the work environment is part of identifying potential risk. It’s also important to note, the mix of employees, vendors, and customers continuously affect the dynamics of the workplace, so constant vigilance is mandatory.
Many people remain unaware that any of these individuals can be the initiator of a violent act.
Employers can take the following steps to ensure that they are making their EAP programs accessible and user-friendly.
Communicate the benefits of the program, multiple times and multiple ways. EAPs generally offer pamphlets and posters to keep the program top of mind. These materials should be put in conspicuous places throughout the workplace.
Destigmatize the use of EAP services. Reinforce the positive attributes and the confidentiality of the program.
Be sure employees know that benefits are available to family members. Most EAPs extend the coverage to spouses and children. Sometimes the source of an employee’s stress is related to a family member’s situation. Much of the bullying and violence we’re seeing in schools may have been prevented by an astute parent who recognized their child’s need for EAP services.
Offer EAP services during performance and termination discussions. These can be especially difficult circumstances and EAP assistance can be even more valuable and relevant during these times.
Workplace violence isn’t simply a threat in someone else’s company. We can learn from tragedies of the past that violence can happen anytime and anywhere.
We can similarly learn that violence can potentially be prevented by offering resources, like EAP, that are prepared to assist troubled individuals before their actions escalate to acts of aggression.
It’s a new year and time for a new attitude about communicating, educating, and offering EAP services.
Although, we will never be able to calculate the ultimate value of this benefit, there is inherent reward in providing expert EAP resources to employees during times when they really need it.
About our guest blogger
Susan Hosage, MS, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is an HR strategist, consultant, educator, and executive coach. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Master of Science degree in Organizational Management from Misericordia University. Susan also earned a graduate certificate from the University of Texas at Dallas’ Naveen Jindal School of Management in Executive and Professional Coaching. She is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) from the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) and holds a Senior Certified Professional (SCP) designation from the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM).
Susan’s career includes management, strategic planning, and human resources assignments with local, national, and international companies. Susan also served a member of Misericordia University’s graduate faculty, has instructed national SHRM classes through the University of Scranton’s Professional Development Center, and was a featured speaker at BLR’s National Workplace Violence Symposium in 2017.
Susan currently serves as a Sr. Consultant with OneSource HR Solutions in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.