How’s Your Workload?

Are you overworking? Do you expect your team to keep up with you? There is evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that overworking creates “a pattern of deteriorating performance on psychophysiological tests as well as possible injuries.”

In four separate studies, it was found that overwork was associated with feelings of decreased alertness, increased fatigue, lower cognitive function, and declines in vigilance on task measures.”

Ask yourself if your work schedule is setting the correct example for your team. If not, it may be time to make some of your own personal changes.

If your work hours are under control, but you are concerned about others on your team, now may be the time to approach members of your team about workload. You may have noticed excess stress, heard complaints from others, or simply observe someone who is putting in more hours than you feel is required to get the job done.

Here are some suggestions for having a productive conversation with members of your team.

  1. Express concern regarding the number of hours you see your employee working and ask how you can help him/her manage their current workload. If you are in the habit of working long hours, be clear regarding your personal work habits versus your expectations of others.
  2. Schedule a private time with the employee and ask him/her to bring their project and to-do list to the meeting so you can review it together.
  3. Acknowledge your employee’s workload concerns and state your concerns. Calibrate around the concerns and see if he/she has a solution in mind.
  4. Whether you have a ready solution or not, you need more time to investigate. Tell the employee that you will circle back in a week. Set a time on your calendars before the meeting ends.
  5. Be sure to compliment the employee on what is being accomplished and again offer your support in helping the employee establish a better work-life balance.

Once there is an adjustment to workload, it doesn’t mean that the problem is solved. Workload is an outcome of a constantly changing environment and will undoubtedly get imbalanced again.

4 Ways that Managers Can Help Employees Cope with Terrorism

A terrorist attack can affect a community in ways that undermine our sense of safety and security at home and at work. The impact of an attack can be significant and far reaching for your employees, but managers can help employees cope and manage feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

If you have employees traveling internationally, they or their families may be fearful after an event like the one in Paris. Furthermore, employees in the USA may have friends or family affected by these events as well.

A manager’s response can set the tone for the future, supporting the workplace culture in a positive way as well as helping employees tap into their resiliency skills.

What practical steps can a manager take?  Here are four actions to consider.

1. Step up and take action. Connect with your leadership to form a coordinated response. Consider both the business impact and the human response.

2. Focus on the wellbeing of employees. Think about people in your group that may be directly impacted by the event, such as people who are already struggling with difficult personal situations or individuals with direct ties to France.

3. Be visible and available with accurate and frequent communication. Keep checking in with people at risk to see how they are doing.  Most people bounce back after a crisis but some may need more support than others.

4. Remind people about the EAP and make the phone number and email address easily accessible.  Call for assistance yourself if you need consultation.

The following 3 minute video provides more information about how business leaders can help their organization respond effectively to a crisis.

6 Tips for New Managers

Are you ready for your new role of manager? Start by thinking about the people you will interact with and identify those who will have the greatest impact on you, your new role and the success of your team. The list may include a new boss, peers, colleagues, clients and members of your team.

Your initial conversation with each of these contacts is a time for sharing and listening. Getting to know people and building mutual trust will enhance your new management experience. Seek guidance from others who have made this transition before you. Listen to their advice but take responsibility for your own decisions.

What else?

1. Appear calm, even though you may feel anxious. Take some deep breaths in preparation. Exhibit an appropriate level of confidence as well as openness to learning new things.

2. “Walk the Talk.” Behave the way you expect others to behave. Communicate your expectations to avoid unpleasant surprises.

3. Know when and how to push back. People may test your limits at first, so you need to pay attention and say “no” when appropriate. Sharing your reasoning will help to create open communication and a greater level of trust.

4. Don’t wait to tackle difficult communication issues. Addressing matters early may help to diffuse the situation. Don’t be afraid to ask for support from your boss, HR, mentor, or coach.

5. You may inherit performance concerns that have not previously been addressed. It will be up to you to provide open and honest feedback and your expectations for improvement. Give yourself time to assess the individual so you can share your perceptions first-hand.

6. Pick your battles and know when to take a stand. Focus on the long-term and you will keep short-term issues in perspective.

If you feel that you’ve already made some mistakes, consider the calling your EAP as a trusted advisor. The program is strictly confidential and may be helpful in sorting out day to day challenges.

New to Management?

Moving into management from an individual contributor role can be a challenge. Most likely, your new role is broader in scope and you are now working across a larger span of responsibility than before. Your sphere of influence is wider, broader, and deeper. There are more decisions to be made more quickly and with less information.

Internal politics are more apparent and individual agendas and conflicts begin to surface. Strategies and plans can be easily derailed, and building relationships becomes critical to your success. You will need to determine what success means for you in this new role both professionally and personally.

To be successful, you need to be pay attention to many levels.

– Focus on the “big picture” and keep your eye on the goals and objectives of the business.

– Develop deliberate relationships with key people on every level.

– Evaluate your own leadership skills and acquire the skills that you don’t yet have.

– Be aware of the impact your new position and communication style may have on others. Ask people for feedback, listen carefully and ask questions.

– Keep your team engaged and communicate openly and frequently. Run interference for your team while remaining mindful of the broader goals of the organization.

– Be disciplined and focused with your time and that of your team’s time. Keep an ear to the ground as to the tenor of the team and pay attention to stress and potential burnout.

– Find a way to balance work and personal life. Keep good communication going at home as you find the right balance.

Consider a call to your EAP. An EAP consultant may provide a neutral sounding board during your transition to management.

The High Cost of Letting a Performance Problem Fester

No manager wants to admit that he or she made a poor hiring decision or that someone has become a problem over time.  It’s easy to hope that things will get better yet this may allow a problem to fester over time.  What are the costs of letting a problem fester?

People become resentful when they notice co-workers not doing their fair share and just sliding by.  Resentment can further build when a co-worker is making mistakes that impact everyone’s work.  Teamwork only works when all members of the team are carrying their weight.

Nothing negatively impacts a workgroup more than a colleague who is not contributing and adding to the workload of others. Add to this the lack of attention in addressing the situation by the supervisor or manager and soon productivity and employee engagement begin a negative spiral.

What to do?

  • Recognize a hiring mistake or a new problem quickly and take immediate action.
  • Ask the employee if there is anything you can do to help.
  • Share your observations and concerns about the employee’s performance.
  • Make sure that your expectations are clear.  Set specific behaviors and metrics which need to be achieved.
  • Remind the employee of the EAP and provide contact information.
  • Reinforce confidentiality.
  • Determine a check-in date to review progress to plan.

Do you have an employee who has historically been a poor performer and a difficult employee? Decide what level of investment to make in turning the individual around.  Don’t spend time on someone who is not interested in changing their behavior or improving their level of performance. Be clear with the individual on his or her shortcomings and work with your HR team to follow the designated performance management process.

The longer you postpone a performance discussion with an employee the more residual damage is done to the workgroup. If you are reluctant to start the process, call the EAP for a confidential consultation. This may help you to identify your own barriers and ultimately get started.

Address performance problems as soon as you notice them.  You do yourself and all of your employees a real disservice by ignoring a problem employee.

9 Steps to Take When Employees Don’t Get Along

As a manager, you know that persistent negativity between co-workers is a drain on the work environment. The longer it goes on the more difficult it is to address.

Here are 9 basic steps to use when managing conflict:

1. Don’t wait to get involved.

2. Pull each party aside and allow them to speak privately with you.

3. Be fair and consistent.

4. Recognize both sides of the conflict and assume that each individual has valid points.

5. Set clear expectations of behavior as you establish the path forward.

6. Identify what has to change from both individuals for success.

7. Push to find the common ground and clarify the points of actual disagreement.

8. Have those involved in the conflict agree on how a solution will be found.

9. Hold them accountable for their behavior and for following this agreement.

Addressing a conflict between others can make even experienced managers uncomfortable. If you are unsure how to approach a situation, call your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to discuss an approach that will meet your needs.

Is it Time to Call the EAP?

Anyone can have a bad day, but when it goes on for several days, it can be concerning to coworkers and supervisors. Sometimes the behavior may be a cry for help; other times it may be insignificant. How can you tell the difference?

A good manager or supervisor will take the lead in offering support and guidance. Anyone who observes that someone needs help can intervene. However, in the workplace, the final responsibility usually falls to the employee’s immediate supervisor or manager.

If you are unsure of how to intervene with your employee, consider calling your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP counselor has experience dealing with difficult situations and can offer you guidance, feedback and moral support. The counselor can also take an active part in the intervention process.

You do not have to pinpoint what is causing the person’s problem. That is the responsibility of the EAP counselor or another professional. You only need to recognize that someone may have a problem and take the next step.

Are you worried about someone?  Call your EAP to discuss the situation today.

When Job Performance Declines

We live in a world of stress. There is a lot of pressure on people to do more, earn more, and be more. Stress affects people differently and everyone has a unique way of coping and limits of how much they can endure. A bad winter like this one might be a last straw.

When job performance declines, there may be several contributing factors. Poor job performance can be the result of personal problems. Don’t ignore the signs. Suggest that the employee contact the EAP as soon as you suspect that a personal problem may be responsible for the job problem.

As a manager, what can you do when personal problems start to affect work performance?

1. Speak to the employee about the performance issues you are noticing.

2. Don’t worry about hurting someone’s feelings. You are in a great position to make a profound difference in someone’s life.

3. Call the EAP. You can have a confidential consultation where the EAP counselor will listen and coach you on next steps.

4. Notify HR of these activities.

We all know that personally stressful situations occur, but we may not realize the frequency or the extent to which they affect people.

Don’t wait to take a positive step by talking to an employee about your concerns. You might save someone’s life.


Getting to Know Your EAP

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is an important resource offered as a benefit by your company. Employees have help available to them on a free and confidential basis when problems arise. As a supervisor or manager, you may wish to refer one of your employees to the EAP as part of your usual disciplinary procedures.

If you are a manager or supervisor and have an EAP in place, start here:

  • Learn about the program by calling and introducing yourself as a manager or supervisor.
  • Review the process of making a referral with the EAP staff.
  • Understand how an employee takes advantage of the program.
  • Present it positively. More people will use the program if management supports it.
  • Give your opinion of the EAP when asked.

The EAP is an important management tool, but if you aren’t comfortable using your EAP, talk to Human Resources about your concerns.

Are you familiar with your EAP?