Handling Problems - Human Resources - Carnegie Mellon University

Handling Employee Relations Problems

There are many resources that you can access if you are having a performance or employee relations problem with one of your staff.

  • Open, frequent communication with your staff is vital.  Have regular one-on-one meetings with your staff - not just a once-a-year performance review.  Bring up problems immediately, and discuss potential remedies.  Be sure to document problems in case disciplinary action should be required later.
  • Your HR Manager is an excellent source of guidance, advice, and consultation.
  • Develop a Performance Improvement Plan (.doc) so that your staff know exactly what is expected of them, you can track performance improvement through specific performance goals, resources for performance improvement can be identified, and specific timelines for improvement can be identified.

Dealing with Sensitive Workplace Issues:
LifeWorks Management Line

LifeWorks, our employee assistance program, has a service called the Management Line that can assist you when dealing with sensitive and difficult workplace issues. When you call the Management Line at 1-800-608-7515, you can obtain:
  • Consultation: They will work with you to identify key problems, determine desired outcomes, and identify and evaluate options for problem resolution.
  • Referral: You can refer your staff to the LifeWorks EAP if they experience performance problems or if they confide in you regarding a personal, family, or work problem. Management Line consultants can help you determine sensitive, non-confrontational, legal approaches to addressing your concerns.

Tips on Referring Employees to LifeWorks

One of the concerns most managers have when dealing with employees is how to approach an employee when some problem is affecting his/her work performance. Some good rules of thumb include:

  • Address the workplace impact, not your theory of the underlying cause
    Example: "In the past month, I have noticed that you have become habitually late, coming in over 30 minutes tardy nearly every day." -NOT- “I think that your drinking has become a problem; you've been tardy nearly every day lately.”
  • Mention LifeWorks in general, but refrain from discussing specific services
    Example: I want to be sure you are aware of LifeWorks, our EAP. They can help people with a really wide range of issues." -NOT- “You can get psychological counseling through LifeWorks, our EAP.
  • Try to eliminate any stigmas by stating a way that you have used LifeWorks
    Example: I’ve contacted them in the past for resources on balancing work and home responsibilities.
  • Offer your personal assistance in resolving workplace problems
    Example: If there is something happening here in the office that is causing a problem, I’d really like to know about it so I can address it. Is there anything you would like to talk about?