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Helping Employees In Distress

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  • UF Human Resources has developed this informational guide to aid supervisors in assisting employees experiencing difficulties.


    When working with an employee exhibiting disruptive or troubled behaviors:

    • Call 911 immediately in an emergency or if safety is an immediate concern.
    • For non-emergency concerns,
    • In situations where the employee is receptive to help, provide information about the Employee Assistance Program (833-306-0103).

    Dangerous Employee


    CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY if safety is an immediate concern.

    Behavior such as verbal or physical threats to harm others or self, or active threats of suicide, are reasons to call.

    If the person you are talking to has expressed the intent to do self-harm, do not leave them alone.  Call 911 immediately.

    After calling 911, notify theUFHR Employee Relations Office for your area to determine next steps.

    • Verbal or written threats to harm others, including threating or harassing phone calls, text messages, emails, written notes, etc.
    • Physically intimidating, threatening, and/or aggressive actions, including stalking behaviors
    • Possessing or displaying a weapon in the workplace, or threatening to get a weapon from another place (such as car, home, etc.)
    • Loss of contact with reality, such as seeing or hearing things that others cannot see or hear
    • Paranoia and fear that others may be conspiring against them
    • Openly communicating suicidal thoughts and/or threats to harm self (may be communicated verbally or in writing through e-mail, on social media or academic sites)
    • Making statements as if they are saying goodbye or joking about suicide.  (For example, “My family would be better off without me,” or “I wish I could kill myself.”)
    • Giving away prized possessions
    • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
    • Physical signs of self-harm or injury

    Additional Resources:

    *After calling 911, communicate with your supervisor and HR Liaison, then consult with the UFHR Employee Relations Office for your area and develop a plan.


    Disruptive Employee

    A disruptive employee demonstrates inappropriate behavior that negatively impacts employees and the work environment, but safety is not an immediate concern.

    • Disruptive behavior such as hostile toward others, aggressive, interferes with teamwork, disregards expected workplace behavior and common courtesy
    • Insubordinate in responses; fails to comply with corrective feedback or is otherwise uncooperative
    • Irrational beliefs or fears that others may be conspiring against them
    Response to a Disruptive Employee:
    • Attempt to deescalate the situation.  Offer to find someone to assist in problem-solving, and meet with appropriate parties to work on a solution
    • Potential phrases to use to deescalate the situation:
        • I understand you are frustrated, and I am here to listen, but we need to remain calm and respectful.
        • My understanding of what you are saying is…
        • That sounds extremely frustrating.  What are some options to move forward?
        • What do you need right now?
        • Let’s take a break until …
    • Work with your supervisor, HR Liaison and UFHR Employee Relations to develop a plan of action
    • Implement the plan and follow up with recommended resources such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
    • Document your actions and conversations


    Troubled Employee


    Safety IS NOT an immediate concern.

    Employee Assistance Program Recommendation:
    Mental Health/Financial/Legal/Work-life Consultation: 833-306-0103

    Warning Signs:

    Employees in distress may not be disruptive to others but might exhibit behaviors that indicate something is problematic. They may also be reluctant or unable to acknowledge a need for personal help. Behaviors may include:

    • Bizarre or irrational behavior, emotionally unstable
    • Difficulty in Communicating; communicates in an erratic or delusional manner; rapid or rambling speech/thoughts
    • Personal challenges or life events impacting the workplace, or domestic violence.
    • Changes in emotional states; e.g. sadness, crying, lethargy, irritability, preoccupied, increased and more intense disagreement with peers, sense of confusion
    • Changes in physical well-being; e.g. swollen eyes from crying, increased illnesses, poor self-hygiene, rapid weight loss/ gain
    • Severe decline in Productivity or Work Quality
    • Tardiness and excessive absences inconsistent with prior history
    • Repeated requests for special consideration; ex. Deadline extensions, changes in job requirements
    Response to a Troubled Employee:
    • Consult the UFHR Employee Relations Office for your area
    • Hold a conversation with the employee somewhere that is comfortable and provides privacy. Tell the employee you are worried about them and why
    • Address the situation directly and how it relates to the position; have someone else in the meeting with the two of you
    • Depending on the situation, ask the important question- “Based on what you are saying about how things are for you, I am wondering… Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”
    • Do not make promises of confidentiality
    • Refer to campus and community mental health resources: Employee Assistance Program (833-306-0103) or Alachua County Crisis Center (352-264-6789)