I once answered a question on a small business community website about dealing with an employee whose personal issues were affecting their job performance. The owner wanted to know how they should handle the situation because the once-valued employee was quickly falling behind in all areas of their work. They were allowing trouble at home to become trouble at work and, suddenly, nothing was going right for them.
Here is my response: For most people, the biggest fear in life is fear of the unknown. When things start to go badly, at work and at home, a person’s mind can start to wander. They then lose focus on priorities in both places..and that’s when the real trouble begins. Suddenly, a molehill of a problem becomes a mountain. They can’t remember how their problems started, and they certainly don’t know how they are going to remedy the situation.
As an employer, you walk a fine line when trying to help them. But, if the matter is affecting a key employee and your team’s morale, it’s important that you deal with the issue. The best advice you can offer is to suggest they put together a plan of action with three steps. This should be for their eyes only.
First – have them write down ALL of their problems and when/how they began.
Second – write down the current status of the problems–putting them in priority order, from most important to least important.
Third – have them write down possible solutions to their problems. There should be more than one solution to each problem because, as we know, things don’t always go according to plan. Additionally, make sure each solution has a deadline. Some of the bigger problems will take longer to fix. Those problems should have milestones so the person can see the progress they are making in resolving their issues.
Once the plan is done, they are ready to confront their problems. Hopefully, some of their fear of the unknown has been removed. Take the negative energy of stress, anxiety and fear and turn it into a positive force that will help them overcome some of their problems. They may not be able to change or remove all of their issues, but at least they can start to deal with them. Be prepared to give them time off to implement solutions if it requires personal time.
This investment of time will make them appreciate you as a leader, and the company’s morale will improve because you demonstrated that you can handle an employee’s personal issue in a neutral, fair and helpful manner.