Employee Assistance Programs & Reducing Organizational Stress

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

Employee Assistance Programs reduce organizational stress by providing employees and supervisors a resource in difficult situations. This lesson explores how EAPs can reduce organizational stress.

Everybody Needs a Hand Sometimes

In the last 50 years, the nature of employment has undergone a radical transformation. The average time that an employee spends with a single company has plummeted, and benefits like pensions are now dinosaurs of a bygone era. Employers are also now forced to deal with employment concerns that would have been unthinkable 50 years ago.

Workplace violence, sexual harassment, employee financial instability, and substance abuse now touch virtually every major employer in America and other developed nations. To help employees deal with these issues, many employers now offer an employee assistance program or EAP.

EAPs: Reducing Stress Through Early Intervention

In a tragedy of epic proportions, U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous was impeached and removed from office in 2010 after being convicted on several articles including conspiracy, corruption, and abuse of power. Porteous had a taste for expensive luxury items, and he was a compulsive high-stakes gambler. While sitting as a judge, Porteous descended further and further into debt. To satiate his appetite for the lavish, he was engaged in a number of ''quid pro quo'' arrangements with attorneys and bail bondsman.

Judge Thomas Porteous (seated in background) was removed from office after personal problems spiraled out of control.
Fig 1

The truth caught up with Porteous when, despite his schemes, he was unable to pay his gambling and credit card debts. The judge was eventually forced to declare bankruptcy. However, to conceal his assets and protect them from liquidation, Porteous filed under a false name and gave other false information under penalty of perjury. When he could run away no longer, Porteous was discovered, impeached, convicted, and removed from office. At the time of his removal, the judge had hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling and other debt.

Employee assistance programs are designed for employees facing challenges like the ones that faced Judge Porteous. Many employers offer EAPs as a benefit that contributes to employee well-being. Reducing personnel costs is also a motivating factor in many cases. Imagine the staggering costs associated with removing a federal judge from the bench and appointing a replacement; the costs could potentially exceed one million dollars.

How EAPs Help Employees

Although there are some slight differences, most EAPs offer a basic set of employee resources. Some of the most common services provided by an EAP include:

  • Access to professional counselors 24/7 via phone, video conference, live chat, and in-person consultations
  • Access to financial coaching professionals who can help employees with things like budget creation and debt management
  • Peer coaching, and tailored to managers who can reach out after terminating employees or facilitating layoffs
  • Critical incident teams that assist on-campus following a major incident such as a workplace death, suicide, or act of criminal violence
  • Customized health services including diet planning, healthy living advice, smoking cessation tools, and weight loss assistance

Many of these EAP services, such as addiction counselors or financial coaches, would have benefited Porteous. After his high-profile demise, many of his employees and colleagues also would have benefited from several of these core EAP services as they sought to make sense of the aftermath.

Reduce Employee Stress, Reduce Organizational Stress

Helping an employee like Judge Porteous recover from a gambling problem is a win-win scenario for everyone. Although EAPs offer services directed toward individual employees, these programs have a profound impact on the organizations a whole. Imagine for a moment what life was probably like around Judge Porteous' courtroom while he was struggling. It's quite likely that the entire organization suffered to some extent, and it's also clear that even external parties were under tremendous stress as well. When the individuals who make up an organization are healthier as individuals, the organization is healthier as a whole.

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