Communicating With Challenging Employees
By Jenny Haykin, Leaves and Accommodations Program Manager, Puget Sound Energy
Assisting employees who are going through difficult times is the nature of integrated absence and disability management work. Each employee in need of assistance is an opportunity for professionals to connect with compassion and raise awareness of the company supports available.
How this interaction begins can set the stage for future communications. After an initial contact, some employees may require additional assistance, and many will be challenging to work with during the process. Here are some recommendations for handling interactions with these employees.
After greeting the employee, demonstrate that you want to assist by asking how you can help. Listen carefully and consider what the employee is going through before launching into next steps. Use the opportunity to connect with compassion and acknowledge the challenge the employee is experiencing. These are a few phrases that I have found especially effective in letting employee know I am listening and understand:
- “It sounds like you have a lot of difficult things happening at once.”
- “That sounds upsetting. How are you doing?”
- “I am sorry to hear you are going through this.”
From there, it becomes a teachable moment. Educate the employee about the benefits, steps, options, and services available. Carefully answer all questions or refer the employee to someone who can provide answers.
Finally, ask if you can assist with any other concerns. This connection can act as a springboard to help the employee get the assistance needed.
You may have many more interactions with this employee. During difficult times, the employee may present in one of the following ways.
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