Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) are the human behavior and/or psychological experts who provide strategic analysis, guidance, and consultation throughout the organization. The principles of human behavior are applied to enhance organizational performance, culture and business success. EAP services are a benefit offered typically by larger organizations, which is typically at no cost to the employee, and not frequently used.
The Top 5
Here are five main areas in which EAP’s are most commonly used:
- Work-Related Stress and Anxiety. This is a safe zone for employees to vent their frustrations about a boss who has misplaced anger, passive-aggressive colleagues, clients in arrested development, etc. It is important for employees to release anxiety instead of keeping them pent up; mounting anxiety that leads to burn-out and resignation. EAP services assist in handling conflict constructively and in teaching stress management.
- Balancing Family Responsibilities. Caring for a child or an elderly relative accumulatively builds stress onto the caregiver, especially when coupled with a full-time position. EAP services assist in alleviating the sense of guilt, stress, and obligation by helping the employee articulate his/her values and priorities, and coping with stress.
- Financial Pressures. Credit card implosion, gambling addiction, foreclosure, children in college, hospital bills, etc, can chip away at an employee’s wellbeing. Financial wellbeing can be achieved by eliminating debt with slight modifications to behavior.
- Weight Management. America’s #1 New Year’s resolution tends to be to lose weight. Yet, with the advent of technology, ubiquitous fast/processed food, and the constant celebrations of colleague birthdays, baby/wedding showers, work anniversaries, and happy hours – not to mention long working hours and long commutes – it’s no wonder the corporate waistline is the widest it’s ever been. One call center reported that they had to purchase a floor-based toilet because the kind affixed to the wall kept getting ripped out by the sheer weight of its call center operators.
- Depression. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention cites that 1 out of 10 adults suffers from depression. Naturally, any of the above topics can trigger a depression, which will lower productivity and increase absenteeism and short-term disability. At one organization, two separate colleagues were terminated because they could not keep their depressive moods out of the workplace, due to an impending divorce.* Depression can lead to chronic conditions such as arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
When EAP Therapists Fail
As a Cross-Cultural and Executive Coach, I have frequently had clients who share the advice they’ve received from their EAP providers. While many have performed wonderfully supportive and instrumental services for employees and are accredited, there have been several over the years who seem to working their own agenda. Here are some examples and pitfalls you can avoid:
- Co-Dependency. One client received counseling from a therapist for a prolonged period because his family did not accept his sexual orientation. He and his therapist seemed to have developed a co-dependency. This may be for the therapist’s personal or financial gain, but if you don’t feel like you are getting the tools you need to be self-sufficient after several months or years, then you may wish to try another therapist. Double-digit years of counseling, such as he received, is questionable. RECOMMENDATION: Switch to another counselor who actively works on your self-sufficiency.
- Triangulation. One client took his wife to a Fortune 50 EAP provider, and the therapist’s own baggage got involved. When the wife admitted she had contacted her lover, the therapist exclaimed, “How could you lie to us?!” A counselor is there to facilitate communication; not intensify situations, make accusations, reprimand, and get involved. RECOMMENDATION: Switch to another counselor who remains neutral and supportive by listening.
- Unconscious Shrink. One client suffered from childhood abuse, yet managed to rise to the top echelons of her firm. Her aggressive manner in the workplace, “victim speak,” and chronic conditions were all signs of an underlying issue. Her psychologist was somehow unable to pinpoint that my client’s work struggles were directly related to the triggering of self-imposed expectations stemming from the childhood traumas. RECOMMENDATION: Switch to another counselor who is focused on identifying how to break out of dysfunctional patterns and on how to form functional/effective patterns.
- Niche Specialty. One client lost her mom suddenly to an unknown and unidentified heart condition. She decided to use her free EAP services for grief counseling. She got someone who specialized in Marriage and Family therapy. My client felt that after two sessions all she got was the therapist picking apart at her marriage. The therapist had not addressed the stages of grief. RECOMMENDATION: Switch to another counselor who specializes in your particular situation (for this example: grief).
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Ian Maclaren (or Plato or Socrates)
Stress does not do a body, nor an organization, good.
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and the founder of a virtual consultancy of OD experts, CLG. Visit us at CorporateLookingGlass.com.
©Rossina Gil, 2014
*How do I know? Their bosses told me.
National Business Group on Health
Posted on June 10, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged Corporate Shrink, Employee Assistance Programs, Industrial Psychology, Work Benefits, Workplace Wellbeing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.