Supervisory Referrals

“Directions is responsive to our supervisory referrals and they keep us updated on the employee’s progress.”    Cindy Mefford, Director of Human Resources, Eastmont Towers

There are two types of “supervisory referrals” to the EAP.  One can be referred to as a supervisory recommended referral, or  “friendly referral” to the EAP.  This is appropriate when the employee discloses to the supervisor about a personal problem or in the early stages of job performance problems.  This type of referral is to assist the employee with their personal problem. It is important for the supervisor to emphasize the complete confidentiality of using the EAP and that it is a free resource.  The more “friendly referrals” a supervisor makes, the less likely it will be necessary to make a “formal referral”.

A “formal supervisory referral” is appropriate when am employee’s job performance problems continue despite attempts to correct them in the process of supervision.  The employee may or may not have a personal problem, but the continuing performance problem makes a referral to the EAP advisable.  When making a formal referral, it is important for the supervisor to focus on job performance.  The EAP is described as a resource for helping the employee resolve any issues that may be contributing to the job performance issue.

With a formal supervisory referral, it is important for the supervisor to contact the EAP prior, to provide information about the performance issues and that a formal referral is being made.  The supervisor should inform the employee that a release form will be obtained by the EAP for the purposes of verifying attendance and to discuss work performance issues only.  The EAP will clarify that any personal issues discussed will not be shared with the supervisor.

Referring employees to the EAP before performance problems become severe or your relationship with the employee deteriorates is critical.  The earlier that the employee is referred to the EAP, the better chance of a successful outcome. Hopefully, the supervisor will look at a referral to the EAP as offering a helpful resource, not as a punishment.

Starting the conversation with an employee about a performance issue is often the most difficult step.  Before the conversation begins, the supervisor should have necessary documentation ready so that they can give as specific information as possible.  Supervisors are encouraged to utilize their Human Resources personnel and their EAP to aide them in these processes.

Some Do’s and Don’t for Managers and Supervisors for meetings with employees:


  • Have your meeting in private.  Try to arrange for no interruptions.
  • Focus on job performance and conduct, not on suspected personal problems.
  • Present specific documentation.
  • Ask for the employee’s perceptions of the situation(s).  There may be some information you are not aware of.
  • Use formal but tactful communication.  Be respectful.
  • State your expectations for improved performance as clearly as possible.
  • State a specific time period for the expectations.
  • Arrange for a second meeting to evaluate progress.
  • Maintain appropriate confidentiality


  • Try to diagnose the cause of the employee’s job performance problem.
  • Be distracted by tears or anger.  Or get sidetracked.
  • Be disrespectful, rude, or judgmental.
  • Back down (get a commitment for improved job performance).
  • Threaten further disciplinary action unless you plan to follow through.
  • Cover up or enable the employee’s job performance problems.

For more information on our Supervisor Training CLICK HERE.