Watching an employee suffer due to a personal problem can be difficult, especially when it affects job performance. This leads to the question of how to get the individual on track without causing any harm. While you probably can’t fix the issue yourself, you may be able to improve the situation through care and finesse. For anyone who may experience this, here are ten tips for handling an employee that’s going through personal problems.
The first and best thing you can do in this situation is to, quite simply, listen. Invite the employee to meet with you and discuss the intricacies of the issue at hand. Be sure the individual knows that your office is a safe space. The worker may be worried that you’ll be judgmental or share personal information. Next, stop talking and let your employee direct the conversation. Unless a question is asked or a response is clearly wanted, don’t interject. For instance, if an employee describes housing problems and then asks for advice, you can reply with information on, say, mortgage refinance rates. However, you shouldn’t offer this advice the minute your subordinate mentions housing issues. You are there primarily to understand the problem, thus allowing you and your worker to move forward.
2. Communicate With Others
If this problem has either become apparent to the office or concerns your workers, you should be sure to address your other employees. Start off by reminding everyone that discretion and care should be taken in this matter. Most importantly, don’t tell your staff anything that the struggling worker didn’t approve. Consent in all matters is essential, especially during times of difficulty. Just remember that this conversation, while important, doesn’t need to answer every question put to you. Simply tell everyone the necessary information and firmly end the discussion.
3. Ask if you’re a Factor
It may not be the easiest question to ask, but this process requires you to know how deeply you’re involved. Assuming that your employee’s issue only exists outside of work is unwise. During your first meeting with the individual, ask if you’re part of the problem. Predictably, your employee may have difficulty admitting this to you. In order to combat this, encourage open communication. If what you hear is insulting or hurtful, try to retain your composure and avoid becoming combative. Doing so will only confirm your worker’s negative feelings. Stay calm and discuss the issue in a professional manner.
4. Give Space
While providing support to your staff is important, becoming too entrenched in anyone’s personal life can be damaging. Therefore, maintaining set boundaries is vital during this process. One major reason for this is the power dynamic. Your therapist doesn’t have any control over you. This creates an equal space where you don’t feel pressured into revealing information. On the other hand, speaking with a superior creates a greater need to answer questions, even if your subordinate doesn’t want to. Let the individual confide in you and direct how closely you’ll be involved.
5. Decide What You Can Allow
As the superior, it’s your job to decide what compromises you can offer. Ideally, you’ll be able to give the worker some time off to work things out. This is especially important if your employee is handling parenthood or a recent death. However, for several different reasons, you may not be able to offer this. As a compromise, find ways to lessen the stress on your worker. If you can lighten the person’s workload, do so. You might even be able to allow remote work.
6. Provide a Support System
Even though you shouldn’t provide too much support yourself, you can set up a helpful system. This system could consist of multiple initiatives. One is setting up an easy transition to remote work for those in need of it. Another is providing access to a company therapist, provided your insurance will cover it. If you don’t have the funds, send your employee information on local groups and therapists that could be beneficial. You can also work on the company culture as a whole. Encourage your staff to avoid harmful gossip and provide empathetic support. A great way to do this is by holding interactive meetings, a strategy that trains your staff on how to act around a struggling person.
7. Make Difficult Plans
No matter how hard you try, you may not be able to salvage your employee’s work performance. Certain problems can end up requiring months or years to recover from, which is time that not all companies can offer. If your hands are tied, you’ll need to have plans in place. The most important thing to remember in this eventuality is to stay discrete. If it comes to the point that you may need to hire a replacement, search for this person without advertising it to the whole office. However, it may be wise to let your employee know about this eventuality, thus allowing the worker a last chance to adapt. No matter what, remain empathetic during this time. If you have to replace the worker, make the process as smooth and painless as possible.
8. Avoid Favoritism
While your worker may need extra attention during this time, try to ensure that you aren’t engaging in favoritism. Be certain that you’re only tending to the problem in a professional manner. If you offer the individual anything, make sure it’s commensurate to the issue at hand. Other than avoiding the act of favoritism, it’s also important that your employees know it isn’t happening. Offices can become toxic spaces if favoritism is suspected. Make it clear that you are doing your job and nothing more.
9. Have Regular Check-Ins
In order for any change to be permanent, you must nurture it regularly. This isn’t merely in regard to your employee’s personal growth. As a superior, you can assist both parties by checking in on a regular basis. If you ignore the problem after it appears to go away, it may return with a vengeance. This could result in an even tougher issue. Set up meetings on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on the severity of the issue. Make them casual and non-confrontation. Just make sure that your employee is continuing on a positive path and knows you’re there to help.
10. Stay Transparent
The last thing you want in this situation is any miscommunication. Your employee may be in a fragile mental state, so creating further stress by lying or withholding information may be harmful. Even if a piece of information is of a negative nature, try to reveal it to any relevant parties at the right time. This isn’t to say that you should make everyone in the office aware of every detail. However, it’s smart to keep your employee up to date on the steps that will be taken. For instance, if the worker can’t take any more time off, don’t wait until the last second to disclose this.
Handling an employee that’s going through a rough period is never pleasant. It’s extremely difficult to remain insistent on performance when your worker is suffering. Despite this, a balance can be reached between the two. As long as you remain empathetic and professional, you may do your part in brightening your employee’s life.