Refuting Myths: Suicide Awareness Month

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According to the World Health Organization, close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year. It can be a slippery slope from depression to suicide, and so while I do not know a lot about suicide, I suffer from depression and so I feel I can envision at least a little of what “might” go into the mind of an individual who ends his or her life. Since September is Suicide Awareness Month, it is a good time to discuss this all-too-common affliction.

One key, I believe is “hope.” We all need hope in life, and as a depression sufferer I know hope keeps me going a LOT at times. Hope because we have loved ones who rely on us. Hope because those of us who suffer from depression are confident things WILL get better.

But take away hope, then what? A good friend of mine took his life in 2008, and I believe it was at least partially due to his feeling he did not have any hope. He did not feel there was any hope for his gravely ill wife (sadly, turns out there was), and he did not feel he had any hope in switching careers because he needed the terrific health benefits his job required to pay for his wife’s ailments. There were likely other factors, but those seemed to be clearly among them.

I am not a clinician, as I noted, but I don’t think anyone can say for sure why a particular person chooses to die. The helplessness and hopelessness that often leads to suicide may arise from any number of factors, but I think they DID play into it in my friend’s case.

Courtesy of someone more qualified than myself – an employee assistance director in Wisconsin – let’s refute a few of the myths about suicide.

* A person who threatens suicide won’t really follow through. Not true. People who commit suicide often talk about ending their lives before they actually make an attempt.

* No one I know is the type to commit suicide. The truth is that suicide occurs among people of all types. Whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated, feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts can plague anyone. They are legitimate mental health concerns that require appropriate action.

* Only insane people commit suicide. People who commit suicide may feel hopeless and depressed, but they have not necessarily lost touch with reality.

* Talking about suicide might give the person ideas. Suicidal people already have “the idea.” Frankly, talking about it can prevent the person from acting on it. It shows that you take this person seriously and that you care.

* People who commit suicide really want to die. A small number may want to die, but the majority simply want the pain to stop. They’ve given up hope that they can stop it, or that anyone can help them. (There goes that key word, “hope” again.)

Toll free hotlines include the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at 800-950-6264, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255.

To learn more about this important topic, check out https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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Should Employers be Allowed to Read Emails?

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With the recent Labor Day holiday, this is the third in a series of posts noting recent trends and developments in the world of employment.

By Rob Wilson, Guest Blogger

The European Court of Human Rights recently overturned a previous ruling which had given employers unfettered access to their employees’ emails and workplace communications. The decision is once again sparking discussion about American privacy laws and the ways in which employers are able to freely access all of an employee’s communications.

Privacy is considered to be of great importance in Europe. Hence, there was a great outcry when the court originally decided to green-light the law, which would allow employers free reign to read their employees’ emails and messages.

The overturning of the law has reignited workplace privacy discussions in the States. This is an issue that is of growing concern as many employers are now using apps to track their remote employees’ productivity. For example, apps that take screenshots of an employee’s computer or apps that track what sites an employee visits and how long they stay are. As we enter this new world of a largely remote workforce, issues of privacy are going to be of growing concern.

For now, employers should cover all their bases by making sure to alert employees that any and all workplace communication is not considered private. Your employees should be fairly warned that any messages they send on company property are able to be accessed and viewed by you. Privacy isn’t a right afforded to employees who are using their work computer to hang out on Facebook or write personal messages to co-workers.

Rob Wilson is an employment trends expert and President of Employco USA.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Labor Day Weekend Job Survey

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With 6.2 million job openings, and 7 million unemployed it’s never been more important for job seekers to stay one step ahead of the competition. More than half of U.S. workers (55 percent) feel they have just a job, not a career, and 38 percent of these workers are likely to change jobs in the back half of 2017, according to CareerBuilder’s latest survey.

Almost three in 10 workers (28 percent) tolerate or hate their job, state respondents to the survey, released just in time for the Labor Day weekend. Of those who tolerate or hate their job, some of the top reasons for staying in a current position are the need to pay the bills (74 percent), its proximity to home (41 percent), needing the insurance (35 percent), it pays well (30 percent), or the job market is too tough (27 percent).

The national survey, which was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 24 to June 16, 2017, included representative samples of 2,369 full-time employers and 3,462 full-time U.S. workers across industries and company sizes in the private sector.

To get the right attention from a hiring manager, job seekers should stay away from crazy stunts and keep it simple. CareerBuilder chief human resources officer Rosemary Haefner shares five tips that every worker needs to remember when hunting for a new gig.

Customize your application and resume for the job. Approximately a third of employers review resumes for less than one minute (32 percent), but 49 percent of employers say they would pay more attention to job applications with a resume customized for the open position. Take the time to personalize — it might just get you to the next round.

Review your references. Think through your references – pick colleagues who can speak to your strengths. More than half of employers (51 percent) say that a candidate’s reference has not given positive feedback about the candidate, and 54 percent have changed their mind about a candidate after speaking with a reference.

Tell the truth. More than half of employers (55 percent) have caught a lie on a resume, and over a third (39 percent) have caught someone providing a fake reference. The truth is always your best bet.

Provide your profiles. Seventy percent of employers use social media to screen candidates —  and 57 percent of employers are less likely to interview a candidate they cannot find online. Do their work for them by providing handles to your online portfolio, website, and social media handles – just be sure you are presenting a professional image.

Prepare for the interview. So you got the interview — congrats, but the work does not stop there. Fifty-nine percent of employers said asking good questions in the interview is important to them when considering a candidate for a job, and 48 percent said it was important to come to an interview prepared with ideas.

CareerBuilder is a global, end-to-end human capital solutions company focused on helping employers find, hire and manage great talent. For more information, visit www.careerbuilder.com.

Judge Orders EEOC to Reevaluate Wellness Regulations

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) must revisit regulations governing employee wellness programs because the agency did not provide adequate supporting information for the rules.

In AARP v. EEOC, U.S. District Judge John Bates agreed with AARP—a lobbying group for older Americans—that the EEOC had failed to justify how it arrived at its definition of when wellness programs are “voluntary” and, therefore, valid under federal law.

Current regulations permit employers to offer workers an incentive of up to 30 percent of the cost of an employee’s individual health insurance plan if they participate in wellness programs—which often include such activities as losing weight, quitting smoking, or participating in preventive health screenings.

The EEOC concluded that any greater incentive would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which prohibit inquiries about employees’ medical histories. The EEOC said that it drew the 30 percent limit from other federal laws governing health insurance plans, and that it had garnered support from numerous stakeholders in public comments.

AARP contended that the EEOC could point only to a single comment letter—received from the American Heart Association—backing its proposal, and had failed to cite any studies or data. AARP argued that the wellness program regulations permit companies to penalize employees who opt out of participation in wellness programs because they do not wish to disclose medical information. As a result, according to AARP, the rules allow employers to violate the ADA and GINA.

In siding with AARP and denying the EEOC’s motion to dismiss the suit, Judge Bates concluded that the EEOC had failed to offer a reasoned explanation for its arrival at the 30 percent threshold—nor had it offered concrete data, studies, or analysis that supported any particular incentive level as the threshold after which an incentive becomes involuntary.

EEOC Chair Victoria A. Lipnic issued a statement that the agency is “assessing the impact of the court’s decision and order, and options with respect to these regulations going forward.”

Despite his ruling, Judge Bates declined to immediately vacate the EEOC’s regulations in order to avoid disruption and confusion for both employers and individuals—noting that to do so would call into question the legality of numerous existing wellness programs.

Attorneys in Ballard Spahr’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group help clients design and implement compensation and benefits packages that comply with today’s complex regulatory requirements, attract and retain a quality workforce, and maintain fiscal and fiduciary responsibility. Ballard Spahr’s Labor and Employment Group routinely assists employers in all aspects of employer/employee relations, including revisions to current legislation.

EAR Being Added to EA Digital Archive

Twenty years of Employee Assistance Report (EAR) newsletters are being added to the EA Digital Archive, EAR and Archive officials announced recently.

“I am thrilled that Jodi Jacobson Frey and Patricia Herlihy asked us to submit the newsletters for the Archive,” said Mike Jacquart, who has edited the monthly newsletter for EA professionals since 2004. “It’s quite an honor, and not only that but individuals who access the articles will be able to search for specific articles by author and key words. That is not something we have not been able to do, to date.”

The intent of the EA Digital Archive, housed by the University of Maryland School of Social Work, is to preserve important historical and current documents in the EA field as well as to provide a national depository for all significant articles, and more recently, multi-media, in the field.

“I have been a long-time reader of EAR and always found the articles to be interesting and always seem to have their finger on the pulse of what is going on in the EA field. As Pat and I work to balance the old with the new in the Archive, we just knew we needed to include the EAR newsletters,” said Jodi Frey.

The Employee Assistance (EA) Digital Archive is a free, publicly accessible site where EA professionals can post original works, historical documents, related papers, and EA-focused multi-media including interviews, presentations, and webinars. The EA field is interdisciplinary with experts from a myriad of fields such as social work, addiction, psychology, occupational health and wellness, work-life, peer counseling, human resources, risk management, benefits, and organizational development, among others.

“It is our hope that professionals from these diverse backgrounds will contribute to and use the archive,” Frey stated.

With a total of nearly 3,000 cover stories alone dating back to volume 1 of the EAR in 1998, the newsletter will add significantly to the total number of articles, books, white papers, and other documents housed on the EA Digital Archive – which presently has over 1,500 articles to review, when you count individual articles in the EAPA publications that were recently added.

The Archive’s top read so far in 2017 is the video interview Dr. Dale Masi conducted with Carl Tisone as part of the History of Employee Assistance Programs: A 50 Year Perspective (U.S. and Canada) grant funded by the Employee Assistance Research Foundation.

The Archive can be found at http://www.eaarchive.org. To learn more about becoming a submitter or how to best use the Archive, email Archive staff at eaarchive@ssw.umaryland.edu.

 

You Don’t Need to Change Your Corporate Culture to Attract Millennials

 

If a Millennial (or two) is the missing piece of the puzzle at your business, here is how to hire and retain them.

By Brad Deutser, Guest Blogger

Employers spend a lot of time puzzling over what they need to do to attract Millennials and how to retain those young employees once they hire them.

Many organizations even adjust their corporate culture to better appeal to the generation of young adults who are expected to make up half the global workforce by 2020, and who are said to be uncomfortable with rigid corporate structures, expect rapid progression and want constant feedback.

But could it be that companies desperate to recruit Millennials are looking at the situation all wrong?

When companies talk about how to attract and keep Millennials, they take a surface approach. They are treating Millennials uniquely, but that’s not the way they should do it. There’s not one approach you should take with your overall workforce and a separate approach to take for Millennials.

In fact, companies will enjoy more success if they remain true to themselves rather than try to be all things to all Millennials.

An organization will do fine if it’s willing to get to the core of what it believes in and then hold true to those beliefs. That’s providing a sense of organizational clarity that Millennials and others will appreciate. When companies aren’t true to who they are, they become lost. They will be disconnected from their workforce and that’s when Millennials are likely to look elsewhere for jobs.”

To attract Millennials and keep them around for the long haul, companies should be:

  • Clear about their vision. The most critical ingredient to achieving business success is clarity. That means an organization needs to be clear about its purpose and its vision, as well as clear about the roles of those who carry out that purpose and vision. This remains true whether employees are Millennials, Baby Boomers or part of another generation.
  • Willing to communicate. It’s important that a company explains to employees and job candidates how things are done at the company and what is expected of them. Once they are told how things are, people can opt in or they can opt out. And usually they will opt in. But if you are unclear about the expectations or your beliefs, they will opt out or there will be problems.”
  • Able to keep things positive. I am a proponent of positive psychology, so I believe keeping an upbeat atmosphere is essential to a company’s culture. You want your employees to be happy. If you can find a way to encourage a positive outlook and attitude, employees from every generation will be more motivated and will perform their jobs better.

Brad Deutser is president of Deutser LLC (www.deutser.com), a consulting firm that advises leaders and organizations about achieving clarity, especially in times of transition, growth or crisis. He is an expert at leveraging culture to drive business performance, and his firm has counseled organizations ranging from the Fortune 100 to nonprofits. Deutser launched his firm in 2002.

How to Make More Connections at Conferences

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Author’s note: With EAPA’s annual conference only two months away, the timing seemed right for these reminders to make the most of this event. To learn more about the conference, go to http://www.eapassn.org

By Alaina Levine, Guest Blogger

Attending important conferences in your field should be an essential element of your career because each of these gatherings represents a golden opportunity to network. But what if you’re more comfortable taking your drink and hiding behind a potted plant than circulating and chatting at conference mixers? Fear not. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your next conference:

* Don’t wing it. Study the conference program ahead of time. Also, set aside time to attend not just talks and seminars, but also special events such as meet and greets, and other networking-centered affairs.

* Take advantage of the conference app. If the conference you’re attending has an app, download it. These apps are often full of hidden treasures. For example, some apps list all attendees and their contact information, and allow you to send messages within the system.

* Make appointments ahead of time. If you know you’d like to meet with fellow attendees, request appointments with them at least two to three weeks before the conference. They are busy too, so it’s wise to get on their calendars beforehand.

* Leverage the exhibit hall. Don’t just wander around aimlessly looking for free pens and cup holders. Instead, try to learn new things and make connections that will serve you well long after those free pens have run dry. “Especially for large conferences where there may be hundreds of exhibitors, carefully study the list of exhibitors and map out where the ones you really want to visit are located,” Levine instructs.

* Don’t eat alone. At mealtimes, you can usually identify fellow conference participants because they tend to keep their name tags visible. If you see someone eating alone, don’t be afraid to ask, “Do you mind if I join you?” Most people will invite you to sit down. Don’t be tempted to spend your lunch hour reading emails or sending texts when there is networking gold to be had right next to you!

* Be an early (and friendly) bird. Arrive early to talks and sit down near someone you don’t know. This is a great opportunity to network, especially for introverts, because there is a reason to speak with the other person: You are both here to attend the same session. As soon as the speaker begins, you can whisper, ‘It was great to meet you. May I have your business card?’ Now you’re done!”

If you just go to a conference and do nothing after it, you have (almost) completely wasted your time. “After everyone has returned home, it’s up to you to make sure you stay on your new contacts’ radars.”

* Volunteer at the event. Quite frankly, very few people take advantage of this opportunity. Volunteering at a conference establishes you as a hard worker, allows others to observe your dedication to your craft and the association, gives you access to networking opportunities, and opens doors to leadership and other experiences.

* Be sure to follow up. If you just go to a conference and do nothing after it, you have (almost) completely wasted your time. “After everyone has returned home, it’s up to you to make sure you stay on your new contacts’ radars,” Levine notes. “Start by composing an email thanking each person for his or her time at the conference, recapping what you talked about, and suggesting a phone or Skype appointment to further develop your partnership.”

Alaina G. Levine is the author of “Networking for Nerds, Find, Access and Land Hidden Game-Changing Career Opportunities Everywhere” (Wiley, July 2015, ISBN: 978-1-118-66358-5, $29.95, http://www.alainalevine.com) is available at bookstores nationwide, and from major online booksellers.

Workplace Culture MATTERS

Where do you work? A bank? Factory? Doctor’s or counselor’s office? WHAT do you do? Bank teller? EA professional? Physician? Dental hygienist? Now… ask the same people what the CULTURE is like where they work, and you can expect some of the same respondents to roll their eyes at you.

You can’t blame them really, because while workplace culture is important, it tends to fly under the radar in many instances. This is a shame, because I have often found that workplace culture often has more to do than any single reason why an individual can succeed – or fail – on the job. It’s never ceased to amaze me that I have been doing the same type of work in many ways for a lot of years… that being writing, editing, and so on. And yet, it hasn’t been unusual to be fired from one job, while told I was doing great somewhere else! That’s not all.  I once had two editors that were my immediate supervisors: one thought I was doing a good job – while the other one did not!

What gives? This is where workplace culture comes to play, and along with it expectations, micro-cultures, and other factors we’ll have to save for another time. Let’s go back to the previous editors I mentioned, and their two, very different expectations. I was very happy at the time being an associate editor, and the one editor who liked my work was quite pleased with that. He could count on me to do what I was told, do my job well, and make all of the necessary deadlines.

In the case of the other editor, these sorts of tasks and responsibilities were a given. You did them, maybe even well, but so what? This editor didn’t like it if you didn’t aspire to “move up the ladder.” Different editors, different expectations.

What about the culture in general? I have worked with mostly single people when I was married, and mainly married co-workers when I was single – neither is ideal, in fact, both scenarios can be enough to drive you out the door.

Of course, there is more to culture than whether one wears a wedding band or ring. Much more. “Culture, the foundation of any workplace, is made up of individual behaviors,” explains Jennifer Sumiec, CEAP, in her article, “Is that an Elephant in the Room?” “Culture sets expectations for which behaviors are reinforced or extinguished,” she adds.

Sumiec notes that many workplace programs and benefits, including EAPs, are sometimes too focused on the individual and fail to consider the broader cultural context within which those individuals exist. After all, it’s often said that people don’t quit their companies, they quit their bosses!

What does this all mean? “In addition to addressing individual concerns, EA professionals are uniquely positioned to help organizations explore systemic issues,” Sumiec concludes.

However, Sumiec says that the bigger issue is that of MICRO-cultures that form across organizations based on norms established by individuals and leaders within a department or team. While some aspects of culture may be found throughout an organization, Sumiec states, often there are pockets of discontent OR high engagement and productivity.

Again, I completely agree – and can cite examples. At a particular daily newspaper I was a reporter at, there were several newsroom teams that took turns getting out the Saturday paper on Friday evenings. One group, the one that worked alternate Fridays from mine, got along quite well, but only did enough work to get by compared to our team, which cared a lot more about putting out a good product. This of course created animosity between the two groups – I hesitate using the word “team” because neither of us were.

These were micro-cultures at their worst, but it’s not the only example I could name. Newsrooms in general, regardless of the specific paper, tended to be “their own little world,” set apart from the rest of the newspaper departments. “You’re the one department that loses money,” I recall being told once from a publisher. Nice. Unfortunately, I doubt that this sort of toxic environment is that unusual regardless of the type of business.

What does this all mean? “In addition to addressing individual concerns, EA professionals are uniquely positioned to help organizations explore systemic issues,” Sumiec concludes.

It’s been my experience, at least, that there are WAY too many work cultures with conniving, backstabbing, and petty situations in which star employees leave – and WAY too FEW that are thriving, positive places with engaged and satisfied employees.

Workplace culture – don’t overlook it. I don’t.

 

Trying an Unplugged Lifestyle

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This is the second in a series of posts about the pros and cons of today’s technologically driven age.

Between Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and others, there is something simple and straightforward about unplugged albums. Take away the keyboards, LOUD amplifiers, and other instrumentation, and suddenly individual notes, once taken for granted since they were flying like radar under the surface, once again dominate the sounds of master musicians like these.

It’s not unlike how we deciphered the sounds of our less cluttered, unplugged lifestyles before smart phones, tablets, pads, earbuds, and Bluetooth devices came in to play to bombard the airwaves of our already busy lives.

As I’ve written before on this blog, I like to think I am not naive to the numerous advantages of today’s Information Age. But, I would point out, do we ever consider the cost?

It’s true we can “google” something in the blink of an eye, and have access to information that would have taken minutes, even hours, to research in a library decades ago. But while we have tons of knowledge, we, conversely, have little discernment about what it all means.

In terms of communication, we can talk to, listen to, and even see people anytime, anywhere on our smart phones and other digital devices. It’s not unusual for me to receive an email from San Diego in the morning, and Beijing, China later in the day. I still revel at that technical advancement. That’s clearly part of the plus side.

On the other hand, does anyone else think it odd that a family of four can be seated in a living room with four distinct conversations going on? Allyson is texting Jamie about tomorrow’s volleyball practice. Jacob is jamming away to Bruno Mars, earbuds firmly in so the volume doesn’t bother anyone else in the room. Meanwhile, Mom is using an electronic calendar to plan out tomorrow’s to-do list. Finally, Dad is relaxing, reading the newest book from his favorite author he just downloaded onto his Kindle.

So what, you might say? Just family life in the 21st century, right? Perhaps, but when these scenes play out day after day, after day after day, after… Is this a good thing? Are four separate conversations, while perhaps unavoidable at times, supposed to be a technological “advancement” over Allyson telling her folks about her big practice tomorrow with the season’s biggest volleyball match just days away?

Or what would be wrong with Jacob excitedly telling his folks what his sister, Allyson, already knows, that Bruno Mars is the best musical entertainer since, well…. (You fill in the blank). Mom and Dad might not agree, but at least they would become aware of something going on in their son’s life – that being his love of music and his favorite artist in particular – as opposed to having no clue what he is listening to on those “buds” of his.

Or, as a friend of mine once told me with a very puzzled look on his face when he found out that I emailed my work colleague, Karen….“Doesn’t she sit right across from you?”

These are just a few of the many, many examples of the disconnections going on in today’s society – both at home, school, work, and everywhere in between. Several people can be engaged at a business conference or meeting, while scores of other colleagues are too busy scrolling through their smart phones to catch the latest news, posts, and updates, to notice what anyone is saying. Is this a technological “advancement”?

I, for one, think we need to try living an unplugged lifestyle more often. We just might find some great notes again underneath all of the heavy drumbeats, and screeching guitar solos.

What are YOU doing in 10 days? Sign up for free webinar on workplace bullying!

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Workplace bullying is systematic psychological abuse aimed at degrading and humiliating others. Research from around the world indicates up to 50% of working adults report that they have been bullied.

Although OSHA and various state and federal regulations require that employers provide a safe and harassment-free work environment, it is an epidemic many employers are ill-equipped to deal with.

Employee Assistance Report and Civility Partners will present the free webinar, “How to Spot, Understand, and Solve Workplace Bullying” at 1 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, July 20.

The presentation will be led by Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, internationally recognized expert on workplace bullying, and head of Civility Partners, and Mike Jacquart, BA, editor of the Employee Assistance Report monthly newsletter.

Join Catherine and Mike as they define workplace bullying and offer tips for helping targets and organizations solve the problem. All information is based on their own experiences and academic research.

Don’t miss this great opportunity to learn how to handle this complicated issue from a true expert in the field!  But time is ticking away! For more info and to register visit

https://civilitypartners.lpages.co/eap-webinar-registration-page/