How to manage employee personal problems…
Managing your employees personal problems is scary for a new manager, who are we kidding it’s scary for seasoned managers too, especially if you are a manager that balances caring for the employee’s needs against the companies needs. Either way I have had multiple years of experience in everything from an employee cutting herself in the bathroom to a mother who just miscarried her baby to someone who got into a fight with their significant other and is homeless. It doesn’t matter the problem the key is in how you handle this problem.
First, you need to show you care, understand, empathize more than sympathize. This is a big challenge for most managers. You are the boss and you have to leverage yourself at a different level to avoid getting taken advantage of. It is a very tricky balancing act. But when an employee comes to you with a personal issue the first thing you should do is bring them to a place where their privacy is secure and once they feel comfortable let them tell you the situation. React to keys like tears by getting a box of Kleenex. A little compassion can go a long way.
Listen to the situation and show them active listening, most employees think that because of the position you are in you don’t care, that is the farthest thing from the truth and you want them to see that by letting your actions speak louder than words.
While listening identify if this personal problem has any connection to work. Does the person they had a conflict with work with them? Are they on the same team? Did someone from the office steal their lunch? You need to make sure you understand the problem fully. If work is any way involved you will want to get your employee relations or human resource representative involved as quickly as possible. Their job is to dig into the work issues like harassment, your ultimate job is to make your employee feel comfortable so they can be productive. Work closely with your human resource representative to get the issue resolved.
If the problem is related to something completely outside of work you have different options. First, most larger companies these days have invested in a program called EAP (employee assistance program). EAP is there specifically to assist you with these types of issues. They offer other services as well, financial assistance, day care options, school help along with the emotional issues that you may be helping your employee deal with.
Whatever you do avoid giving direct advice about anything personal. This can lead to major problems. One of my managers quit after seeing results of her advice giving to one of her employees. The employee was being beaten up by her fiancé. The manager told her she needed to leave him. The employee did but within a couple of weeks the fiancé found the employee and put her in the hospital. The employee never blamed the manager but the manager blamed herself and decided management wasn’t for her. She wasn’t a counselor.
Which is a very true statement managers don’t get paid $150 an hour to dish out advice. They didn’t go to school to be a psychologist (unless like me, your degree was psychological management, but you won’t see me giving personal advice). And lastly managers have their own personal problems which don’t need to be compounded by 15 – 20 other employees personal problems.
The tips here are simple, listen, get the right people involved (human resources/EAP/or suggest they find help outside of work), and get them back on track to be successful at work. At least of one area of the employees life is good they have a light at the end of the tunnel to convince them the rest of the areas could be just as good.