It can be tough at the top. Brian Taylor, head of EAP, clinical and wellbeing, for leading UK broker Health Matters, explains why CEOs and senior managers should embrace employee assistance programmes to help relieve the pressures that come with being boss
It’s a common misconception that Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are simply a benefit for employees. Yes, they might be called ‘Employee Assistance Programmes’ but CEOs, directors and senior management shouldn’t forget that they are entitled to the same levels of help and support their EAP can offer. It’s as much an employer’s assistance programme as it is an employee’s.
No doubt that in some businesses, particularly those with a large workforce, there can still exist an ‘us and them’ mentality between the shop-floor and management. EAPs are not just aimed at the ‘masses’ and management should not discount themselves as being a part of that same workforce.
Work and home pressures can affect anyone regardless of job title and it’s important to remember those at the top can be in most need of help and support.
There are particular, and sometimes unique, stresses that come with being at a senior level. Senior management are expected to be on top of their game at all times and be a constant pillar of strength. For those senior managers struggling for whatever reason and possibly putting on a positive front for the employees, or even for other senior managers, unfortunately adopting the ‘fake it till you make it’ stance just won’t cut it. Without a support-structure that goes all the way to the top, the organisation could find itself with unhappy and unproductive senior managers.
Leaders out on a limb
It’s no wonder the phrase ‘it’s lonely at the top’ gets bandied around so much. CEOs, managing director’s and other senior management figures can often feel that they need to be somewhat guarded in talking to colleagues about any problems or concerns they might have, whether that’s in work-life or home-life. There can be a sense of having to show strength at all times, and guard your stresses and anxieties so as not to jeopardise your position.
The EAP can be used as a management tool in these cases, either for support or simply as a sounding board. They help the person, not the job title. No matter what our job role, none of us is immune to life.
CEOs and senior managers are just as likely, if not more so, to face certain ‘big struggles’ as their junior staff especially when it comes to heightened stress and a strained work-life balance. There’s less chance of working a standard 9-5, and what’s a lunch break? Work can often consume the ever-ready, constantly on-the-go CEO, even on weekends and this is not only time-consuming, but energy consuming too, with a possible risk to marriages and other personal relationships. EAPs can help you find the right balance before relationships are affected and get you on track so that work is a section of your life, not all of your life.
None of us are bulletproof – we are all human beings and we are all going to have something happen at some time, maybe even at multiple times in our lives, where we’re going to need that extra support, some confidential advice or a helpful hand to point in the right direction.
Stopping stress though EAPs
Sometimes those in senior positions can become stressed which can have a ripple effect on those working closely with them. Stress and mood swings can manipulate the atmosphere, disturbing the dynamics, and making individuals either retreat into themselves, or mirror the non-productive behaviour.
A key quality of a leader is self-awareness, and those leaders who can take a step back and realise they need a helping hand and go on to make use of the EAP are going to be in a far better position to effectively manage employees and maintain a healthy working atmosphere than those who don’t.
It’s time for senior staff members to lead by example. After all, people don’t leave companies, they leave management. By making sure your senior management team is working to the best of its capability thanks to continued support in their work and home lives they can be those constant pillars of strength you and the rest of your workforce can depend on. By encouraging your employees and fellow senior colleagues to use your EAP you’ll go a long way to promoting a happier and healthier workforce.