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LeadingEdition: E-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors

Employee Assistance Program: A valuable supervisor resource

Purdue's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) exists to help University employees. It is a helpful tool for supervisors to use to assist their employees with a variety of situations.

What is an EAP?

First, let's define an EAP. In general, an EAP is a comprehensive program offering free, confidential assessments and short-term counseling to employees and their families. Areas of counseling include family and marital issues, emotional difficulties, alcohol and drug problems, and work-related stress issues. EAPs also perform crisis intervention, program development, referrals, follow-up, and educational workshops.

How can EAP help?

One often-overlooked function of an EAP is the ability to enhance a supervisor's skill in handling an employee whose job performance is impaired due to personal problems. It is not uncommon for employees to voluntarily seek help from an EAP. This is usually the best method, as the assumption is that clients are motivated for early intervention.

When an employee's performance is faltering, a different set of management skills must be utilized. Supervisory intervention can be key in targeting people who will not seek help without confrontation and the implicit threat to job security. A supervisor can act as a bridge between the employee and the EAP. Conversely, the EAP can be a channel between the employee and the supervisor. The quality of the referral is determined by when the problem has been recognized, how the employee has been confronted with the facts of his or her declining job performance, and the manner in which the EAP has been offered to the employee.

A central component is recognizing the difference between problem employees and employees with problems. Teamwork between supervisors, managers, and EAP staff is the key to effective problem resolution. When approaching an employee who is experiencing difficulties, EAP counselors encourage supervisors to use motivational phrases is encouraged. Some examples:


"We're here to solve the problem together."


"I'm concerned about what happens to you."


"We're not in this meeting to terminate or suspend you. We are here to provide you with tools for improving your performance."

The role of a supervisor can be instrumental in influencing employees to seek EAP assistance. They are in a unique role to be gatekeepers for initiating action in respect to problems that create dysfunction for both the employee and the employer.

For more information on how the EAP can be of assistance to supervisors, call 49-47707.

- Jolene Robertson
Employee Assistance Program

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LeadingEdition is an electronic newsletter for Purdue University supervisors.  It is produced and distributed by Purdue University Human Resources four times annually.  If you have questions, comments or suggestions relating to the newsletter, please call 49-41679 or email us.  Thank you.