Wednesday, April 12, 2006

If an employee starts to act postal, what do you do?

…Everyone seems to be a little cracked these days. HA is a psychiatrist’s kid (like you couldn’t tell), so she gets to use words like that.

…But what if an employee seems to be losing it? Really losing it?

…According to the National Mental Health Association (, it’s good to establish a mentally pleasant working environment This means removing the stigma of mental instability, educating people at all levels about what it is and isn’t.

…Avoid words like crazy or nuts (HA is sorry for saying “cracked”).

…Talking openly about mental problems is good—let employees talk about stress and family probs.

…Companies need to pay for mental health benefits and make sure people are comfortable getting help without stigma.

…Some signs of a problem: working slowly, missing deadlines, calling in sick a lot, staying home, irritability or anger, difficulty making decisions, appearing emotionless, overworking, forgetting—and to this HA would add drinking or drugging.

…Do not diagnose, though. Discuss changes in performance and maybe suggest the person go to the Employee Assistance Program.

…Be prepared for anger, disagreement or verbal attacks (“You’re no bargain yourself, with all due respect!”).

…Maintain your own control. Focus on work., not personal defects.

…Make reasonable accommodations to help the person perform the job. If they need to go to therapy, let them. (This is also required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.)

…The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) may be able to help. Go to

…If dealing with this person is making you, er, wacky, maybe the EAP can help you, too.

…Aw, just being facetious. Dealing with these delicate problems is not easy—emotionally or legally.

...And what if it's your boss? Let's hope his or her boss is holding it together.


Star said...

A reader had fits trying to sign up to comment (what's up with that system?), so I am posting this at his request.

Dear HA,
Reading your post on Hot Plants, I'm feeling tingly all over. Many thanks for the "contact high" (bet you haven't heard that term since the 60s). I'm gonna run, not walk, to my local Whole Foods and buy a bottle of Hot Plants for Him and Hot Plants for Her (for my wife). Will let you know what becomes of the tingle.


Star said...

This response should be one story down...maybe I need some zippy pills today.