At some point, each of us will experience a personal or professional event that will have an impact on behavior and performance at work. As a manager, you will eventually find yourself in a position of looking after an employee who is going through a difficult time, whether that is due to a death of a person close to them, the ending of a relationship, a personal financial crisis, or some other form of loss or instability. This can be one of the most challenging tasks to navigate, but with the right attitude and appropriate corporate support, you can identify solutions that work for both you and the employee. Using a top-rated HR solutions company, such as StaffScapes, will make this process easier and more efficient for you and your company.
The first thing to understand is that people react to negative life events in different ways, and that grief, worry, or sadness can appear differently in different people. The solutions that work for one person may not work for another. Some people may prefer to be at work and welcome the distraction it provides; others may need extended time off. That’s why it’s important to have open and ongoing communication, providing emotional support to employees throughout this period. This will ensure that you are kept in the loop, and will help the employee feel that their feelings are being acknowledged. However, while you offer an ear or a shoulder to your employee, you must also be cognizant that you are in a professional setting and you cannot offer the same support as that of the employee’s friends or relatives.
By being aware of and attentive to these situations, managers can help ensure that the situation does not escalate or cause problems for other staff members. It is important to clearly communicate these changes to their colleagues, to minimize misunderstandings or resentment. Understand that for a short period, your other employees may feel burdened by a higher workload; work with them to minimize this as much as possible. Try to keep the relationship with your employee under duress as professional as possible while lending a helping hand. Sometimes the best assistance given is having an open door, so that any employee will feel comforted just by being able to talk and be listened to.
Being aware of when an employee is going through a tough time will also help you better understand changes in work performance. For example, if a usually high-performing staff member suddenly starts underperforming, missing work, being late, or neglecting their appearance, it may be due to a personal life event. By knowing about the event, you can better understand their working behavior and identify short-term solutions.
Often the most important thing to do in a situation is to simply acknowledge that the employee is experiencing a hard time. A feeling of awkwardness or uncertainty on the part of the manager is not an excuse for not addressing the situation. What’s most important is to be patient, non-judgmental, and compassionate.
At the same time, it’s best not to pry too deeply into the situation. Your role is their manager, not their friend or psychologist. You can work with your employee while also maintaining professional boundaries. Listen to your employee’s dilemma and ask how you can help, and then assess what you can do to actually provide assistance to your employee.
Working with HR
Escalating the situation to human resources will help you make decisions surrounding flexible working arrangements and leave periods. Managers should work with the employee to identify what arrangements they need. Remember, what works for one employee may not be optimal for another. Further, HR can best advise you on company policies and procedures, such as how much leave is available or whether it is paid or unpaid.
Other accommodations that don’t include time off are changing break times, working from home, a phased return-to-work, or weekly catch-ups between the employee and their line manager.
If the employee stays at work, consider readjusting their targets, goals, or objectives for a temporary period. Work with other members on the employee’s team to ensure that interruptions to workflow are minimized.
At the end of the day, everyone will go through tough times. By approaching the situation with empathy and understanding, you will help foster a better working environment for yourself, the employee, and the rest of the staff as well. Maintaining a professional relationship with your employees will also help everything run smoothly and keep morale high.
Nothing in your business is as important as your people, but building and leading a team brings challenges. StaffScapes can help you meet the challenges in HR by helping you provide excellent (and affordable) benefits, manage risk, and by handling workers comp and complete payroll processing. That lets you increase profitability, maximize productivity, reduce time spent on transactional HR activities, reduce employment-related liability, and ultimately lower labor costs, while boosting morale at work, and improving employee satisfaction and retention.