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Improving EAP Utilization
Study Missteps in Supervisor Referrals

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If you are using a supervisor referral form, are you resolving problems in its use as issues with it surface? If you pay attention, you will spot common supervisor "missteps" in referrals to your EAP that reduce or seriously inhibit high supervisory utilization. You want supervisor referrals. More at-risk employees are associated with supervisor referrals.

One common problem with supervisor referral forms is the failure of the supervisor to provide adequate information to the EA professional about the type of performance problem(s) being documented. Not getting specific behaviors and/or specific work problems, and not getting enough information about them can lead to a referral "misfire". Of course, if things go wrong, the EAP is often blamed.

When you train supervisors, you must include proper referral steps and education about missteps. A supervisor who motivates an employee to get as far as your front door does not guarantee that the interview will be effective and productive.

This type of communication problem is more likely if you do not use a supervisor referral form with clear instructions on it. These problems are also likely if you have not consulted with the supervisor prior to the referral. Supervisors need to be trained as to what "specific" means. When supervisors are not specific, you will be forced to rely upon the employee explaining to you why the supervisor made the referral. This is a recipe for disaster. Such an interview will usually go nowhere fast.

A supervisor may report that a troubled employee "fails to return daily sales reports on time." This is a visible and measurable report of problems. It is far more effective than a supervisor referral form that states, "problems with timeliness of work." The latter requires the employee to tell you what the supervisor means. With this situation, true personal problems of the employee will remain untreated.

Moral of the story: When employees control the purpose of interview, they control its outcome. This is assured with what I call a "blind supervisor referral.") If this happens to you, here's some advice. Do a cursory assessment, but schedule another appointment. Get a release signed and get a better supervisor referral form before the next interview. Help your supervisors learn the importance of properly completing a supervisor referral form.

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Daniel Feerst, LISW-CP

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