Gary Skaleski, FEI EAP Counselor

Since the recent election, the country seems to have undergone a massive shift in thinking; in relationships; in polarity of thought, feelings and actions. It is not surprising that in the past few months, calls to the employee assistance program (EAP) have often focused on increased anxiety about the news, what’s going on and how it will affect employees and their loved ones.

One caller stated she was very upset over all the news streaming out on a daily basis. Another had concerns about his daughter, who was now being teased and shouted at for her background, skin color and beliefs. Various news outlets have reported on the use of similar bullying tactics throughout the country.

Some groups have felt more “free” to say things and express viewpoints that, not long ago, would have been considered offensive. Some of these utterances and expressions may have lasting negative consequences not only on victims, but on the victims’ families and loved ones.

Managers need to begin looking at the effect these situations might have on the workforce and how individual members may be impacted. Are you noticing more anxiety, or some employees now keeping to themselves? Are there reports of incidents or complaints surrounding increased harassment/bullying? Are employees expressing concern about how their family members are doing?

The fears of many are real and palpable. One may find that companies are initiating trainings or focusing more on tolerance in the workplace. Others may be promoting helplines for employees to report harassment or stressful work conditions as a result of negative interactions between co-workers.

Be aware that real-life events can have real-life impacts on employees and their families—sometimes to the point where it influences not only individual work performance levels, but the atmosphere of the entire workplace. Besides official company regulations, processes and education on worker interactions and safety, managers can remind employees of their EAP benefit as a way of accessing counseling.

EAP offers those affected by current events an opportunity to begin the process of dealing with anxiety, stress and other concerns. This will help provide them and their loved ones a place to safely vent feelings and concerns, as well as learn ways to develop more effective coping styles for the days ahead.