People are not robots, so it is inevitable there will be times when an employee’s personal life comes crashing into their work life and a business suffers because of it. Often, crises are short-lived but sometimes a crisis can have a more long-term and damaging effect on a business.
Personal Crises are Common
Everyone encounters problems in their life and there are several that can be considered common personal crises. The first is money. A person may find they have to pay out for an unexpected repair on their home or car that makes money a bit tight, or that their partner loses their job, which makes paying the mortgage incredibly difficult. Large or small, financial problems can cause a great deal of stress. Another common crisis is a problem in a person’s relationship with their partner or family. Perhaps they are going through a break-up, or a parent or child is seriously ill, which means they are worried and unable to focus on their work.
Then there is the possibility of illness, whether physical or mental. Any person suffering from a serious medical condition, such as cancer, or from depression, can have a significant impact on the work environment. They could become irritable or even irrational, which will cause resentment and discomfort in their work colleagues. This could result in a fragmented workforce that no longer works as a team.
Then there are other personal problems that perhaps can be avoided and so are not likely to engender sympathy from others. Here, we are talking about substance abuse and this does not just mean alcohol. Substance abuse is also about drugs, both prescribed and illegal. An employee who is involved in substance abuse can be highly disruptive to a business, affecting productivity and possibly even damaging relations with customers and suppliers because their behaviour has been compromised. As an employer, you need to know if any of your staff are abusing substances, so it can be a good idea to implement a policy of drug testing. Most drug testing methods are simple to perform and often involve only an oral fluid lab test, so staff need not be alarmed or intimidated by such a policy. A drug policy is a good way to protect your business from affected staff and provide you with the legal means of either helping them to beat their abuse or removing them from your workforce so they are no longer causing a problem.
Of course, most people do not want to be suffering from personal crises and deserve your support in getting through them. So how can you help them and resolve any problems a staff member may be having? It is most important to act early if you see that an employee is having a personal crisis. There is little point in intervening only when things have gone too far and you have no alternative but to fire them. This can cause you other problems, such as being thought of as a heartless so-and-so by your other employees, which could lead to a diminishing of their loyalty to you. The first step is to sit your employee down and have a chat. It could be that all they need is someone to listen to them and empathise with their situation, but if not, you may be able to help in other ways. Perhaps they need a few days off work or need to leave early to sort out their problem. If it is a money-related problem, then maybe you could advance their salary. Steer clear of making loans, however, as this will muddy the waters of your employer-employee relationship.
As an employer, you have to establish from the outset how involved you want or intend to be in your employee’s problems. This will depend on the relationship you have with them, of course, but you could be making a rod for your own back if you try to help out too much. On the whole, it is best to keep a professional distance from your employees, so they understand their boundaries and do not try to take advantage of your good nature.
It can be tricky for an employer to deal with a staff member who is going through a personal crisis, but preventative measures laid out in a contract of employment, an attentive ear and a little bit of empathy should be enough to see you through such times.