Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When the Supervisor Is Holding the Hot Potato

Q. One of my employees came to me and I promised her confidentiality in exchange for her telling me about her troubles at home. I should have referred her to our organization's counseling office, but now I feel I have information about her life at home that I should not keep confidential. What should I do?

A. Talk to the EAP about your difficult situation. Depending on the type of information that has been shared, the EAP will advise you on what to do. Some things learned in discourse with others should not be kept secret. For example, you should not promise to keep secret information you have about an intended suicide or a child being abused. There are other examples as well. You are not a professional counselor, so you’re stuck with the problem of making a judgment call. Privileged information, and information governed by privacy laws or confidentiality laws that prohibit or require disclosure, are linked to who we are and what we do. Your experience demonstrates the importance of remaining in the role of supervisor versus counselor. The EAP is better equipped, with its experience and skills, and the confidentiality laws that govern it, to manage confidential information, just as you are better equipped to correct performance.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Which comes first, employees or the company?

Q. Dan, I have discovered since being a supervisor that it’s sometimes difficult to meet my employees’ and my employer’s needs equally. I try to draw a balance, but it is clearly not always possible. How do I straddle the fence of loyalty between these two groups better?

A. This is a question many managers ask. I will try to be short and sweat about it. Being a good supervisor should not be an issue of straddling the fence between competing groups. Every great supervisor knows that the first responsibility is to develop a productive relationship with employees so they can get the work done. A productive relationship means fairness, clear and good communication, recognition, and reward for productivity. This is how the needs of the employer are best met. The workplace must not be a "them versus us" game. Some supervisors do not understand this point. Because their employees are directly in front of them all the time, and their need to please is great, it's easy to hear employee complaints, be sympathetic, and feel as though they are the "main thing." Some managers may view themselves as "champions for the people." This is a role fraught with stress. There is nothing wrong with looking out for your employees, but if the needs of the organization are pushed to second place in the process, you will not serve either.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Welcome to Supervisor Skills and Tips

Q. Don't employees with alcoholism or drug problems have to want treatment before it will work?

A. Most troubled employees with alcoholism or a drug addiction avoid the awareness of their health problem by avoiding responsibility for the indirect or direct consequences of the drug's use. Therefore, few will want treatment before treatment actually begins. Willingness to enter treatment by whatever means is considered far more important than wanting treatment. Treatment, which includes intensive education, helps alcoholics or drug addicts self-diagnose their illness. This means they come to acknowledge the existence of the illness and can identify their symptoms. Motivation to maintain abstinence and achieve sobriety in recovery follows, never beforehand. This is why it is considered a myth to think that alcoholics and drug addicts have to "want" treatment before it can work. Most alcoholics or drug addicts enter treatment under some sort of duress. Family pressure, medical problems, and pressure from employers are the most common reasons for admissions.

Since 1994, we have written nearly 800 questions and answers on the supervisor’s role in managing people using the FrontLine Supervisor newsletter. My goal has been to help supervisors feel better about what they do and enjoy their jobs more by supporting a pro-people, pro-organization workplace. FrontLine Supervisor newsletter one of the most widely read monthly publications on supervision in history. Thousands of companies get it, and in turn re-distribute the newsletter internally. My guess is over 200,000 supervisors read it. You can get a free trial subscription at http://eaptools.com/fsorderpage.html