Rules For Avoiding Armchair Diagnosis

Download PDF

Addressing employee performance concerns can become challenging when personal or medical issues are raised by the employee. As a supervisor, your role is to encourage your employee to correct performance problems and seek help with other issues that may be impacting performance. Your role is NOT to diagnose. You are operating outside your area of expertise by attempting to diagnose or make recommendations to resolve personal concerns. Doing so puts both you and your company at risk.

  1. Avoid discussions with employees about the nature of their personal problems. A listening ear is okay, but use it as a precursor to recommending use of the EAP.
  2. Avoid the temptation to give advice about what to do with regard to the employee’s personal problem. Follow the “80/20” rule – you’ll never know more than 80% of the nature of the true problem.
  3. Never assume the employee has diagnosed their own problem accurately when it is offered as an explanation to explain job performance deficiencies. Still recommend the EAP.
  4. Never assume that evidence of seeking help for a personal problem means the personal problem is being properly treated, particularly if performance problems persist.
  5. Never assume that because an employee is experiencing a personal problem similar to a problem you once experienced that you can provide guidance and advice to the employee.
  6. Avoid trying to determine the nature of a personal problem. Do not believe that you must determine whether a personal problem exists before you can refer an employee to the EAP. Supervisor referrals are based upon job performance problems, not personal problems—even if known, or believed known.
  7. Always base supervisor referrals on documentation of job performance problems or incidents. Do not base a supervisor referral on your judgment that the employee will benefit from it. If the employee has expressed personal concerns to you but is not currently experiencing performance problems, suggest the use of the EAP by making an “informal referral”.
  8. Never assume an alcohol or drug problem is properly treated simply because the employee reports having quit. There is a difference between self-imposed abstinence and understanding how to treat and manage addictive disease properly.
  9. Ask your employee what is causing job performance problems. This is not a diagnostic question.  If the response is a personal problem- – refer to the EAP.  Further discussion of the personal problem, and what to do about it will usually diminish motivation to use the EAP.
  10. Do not ask employees if they have personal problems interfering with job performance. Employees will usually deny it, or give an “acceptable answer”. Instead, suggest that your employee call the EAP in the event a personal problem is interfering with job performance.

Experience how PAS can help you navigate through all of life's twists & turns
Show Me