When employees’ personal problems bleed into their work lives, performance and productivity plummet. In a small business or a close-knit working group, the situation can have a ripple effect that destabilizes the entire organization.
Personal problems can distract others
Typical situations that spill over into employees’ work lives include divorce, legal and family problems, financial stress, alcoholism, and drug use. These issues can require people to take excessive time off work. Plus, they are distractions that sap energy and attention, and generally weigh on other people’s physical, financial, psychological, and emotional well-being.
When should you get involved, and just how far should you go in helping your workers deal with their personal problems? Generally speaking, the best policy is to stay out of employees’ personal affairs, but if the situation is putting their job in jeopardy, affecting other employees or customers, or impacting the business in any way, it may be necessary to intervene.
Before getting involved, consider whether the issue is temporary and fixable or deep-rooted and complex. Be realistic about the kind of help you are capable of giving. If a worker has chronic financial, substance abuse, or serious psychological problems, your involvement is not likely to change the outcome.
Be supportive but …
However, if a person is hurting, you may be able to help him or her by listening sympathetically and connecting him with resources to assist in dealing with the situation he’s experiencing. If one of your employees is having a problem that’s affecting his job performance or otherwise affecting your business, you should have a conversation with him early on before loss of his job adds to his existing woes.