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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:

    • In an emergency or if immediate safety is a concern, call 911
    • For non-emergency concerns, consult with the UFHR Employee Relations Office for your area to develop a plan to address the behaviors
    • Consult with your supervisor.
    • In situations where the employee is receptive to help, provide information about the the Employee Assistance Program (833-306-0103).

    Dangerous Employee


    Safety IS an immediate concern; Verbal or physical threats to harm others or active threats of suicide.

    CALL 911 If employee is dangerous or threatening harm to self or others, then seek a Human Resources Consultation – UFHR Employee Relations


    CALL 911

    Warning Signs:

    • Verbal or written threats to harm others
    • Physically intimidating or threatening actions
    • Possessing or displaying a weapon in the workplace

    CALL 911

    Warning Signs:

    • Suicidal thoughts and/or threats to harm self (may be communicated orally or in written formats through e-mail or on social network or academic sites)
    • If the person’s conversation or behaviors suggest self-harm may be a concern
    • Physical signs of self-harm or injury

    *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


    Safety IS NOT an immediate concern; Demonstrates inappropriate behavior that negatively impacts employees and the work environment.

    Consult with the UFHR Employee Relations Office for your area.

    Provide information about the EAP including the following phone number: 833-306-0103

    Warning Signs:

    Disruptive or distressed employees exhibit behaviors that signify an obvious crisis and necessitate more immediate intervention. Examples include:

    • Highly disruptive behavior (ex. Verbal hostility, aggression, subversion of teamwork, disregard for workplace decorum and expected conduct)
    • Insubordinate responses and failure to comply with corrective feedback
    • Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, pressured speech, disorganized, confused, or rambling thoughts)
    • Loss of contact with reality (seeing or hearing things which others cannot see or hear; irrational beliefs or fears that others may be conspiring against them)
    • Stalking behaviors and inappropriate communications (including threatening letters, e-mail messages, harassment)
    Response to a Disruptive Employee:
    • When personal safety and/or the safety of others is a concern, or the person acts in a highly irrational or disruptive way, call 911
    • If immediate safety is not a concern: attempt to deescalate the situation; offer to find someone to assist in problem-solving; meet with appropriate parties and work on a solution
    • Notify your supervisor and HR Liaison, then consult with the UFHR Employee Relations Office for your area
    • Work with your supervisor, HR Liaison, and Employee Relations to develop a plan of action
    • Implement the plan and follow up with recommended resources
    • Document your actions and conversations


    Refer to campus and community mental health resources:
    Employee Assistance Program (833-306-0103) or Alachua County Crisis Center (352-264-6789)

    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)