Dealing with an employee going through a rough time takes compassion and fairness


As an employer, you don’t always know what your team members are dealing with in their private lives. When there is a problem at home, though, you’ll probably have some sense of it, as it can’t help but impact workplace demeanor and performance.

The problem in question could be almost anything. It could be a health care crisis or a struggle with addiction. It could be marital strife or difficulty in parenting. It could be a financial matter. Regardless of the nature of the problem, it’s important that you know what you should and shouldn’t do to help.

Are you part of the problem?
First and foremost, employers should ask themselves if they might actually be part of the problem. If your employee is dealing with an intensely stressful situation at home, and you’re also assigning an unusually high workload, those problems can feed into each other.

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Take a step back and ask if there’s anything you can do to lighten the burden, at least temporarily. Do what you can to not worsen your employee’s struggle.

Don’t overstep your bounds
You may be tempted to ask your employee what’s going on — to step into the role of therapist or confidant. Resist this temptation. Frankly, a lot of employees probably don’t want their boss to know about their struggle with alcoholism, or to ask nosy questions about their marriage or their home life.

This doesn’t mean you can’t broach the subject, though. Consider saying something like this: “I’ve noticed some issues with your performance here lately, and you need to take steps to improve. If you need help with anything, I’m here for you. I encourage you to seek assistance, or ask me for resources if you need them.”

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Balance compassion and fairness
You’ll want to extend support and compassion to your employee, and you should. If it’s possible to provide some extra time off or flexible hours, do so.

Just remember that other team members will take notice — and they may ask for the same level of understanding one day. Make sure you don’t start any precedents that you’re unwilling to continue. Fairness is key.

Make use of your resources
Finally, you might jog your own memory about the different resources you have at your disposal. For example, did you know that most employer health plans will provide assistance for addiction rehab, to say nothing of other key medical services? It’s worth knowing what resources you have available to help employees in times of need.

Related: How To Be a Great Employer

On a related note, make sure you know what the law says. For example, if your team encompasses 50 employees or more, you may have legal obligations to provide family leave to employees in certain situations.

Be there for your employees
The people you work with can become a kind of family, and you’ll want to help them through trials and tribulations. Do so, but make sure you do it wisely, upholding compassion and fairness in equal measure.

About the author
Amanda E. Clark is the president and editor-in-chief of Grammar Chic Inc., a full-service professional writing company. She is a published ghostwriter and editor, and currently under contract with literary agencies in Malibu, California, and Dublin, Ireland. Since founding Grammar Chic in 2008, Clark, along with her team of skilled professional writers, has offered expertise to clients in the creative, business and academic fields. The company accepts a wide range of projects and often engages in content and social media marketing, drafts resumes, press releases, web content, marketing materials and ghostwritten creative pieces. Contact Clark at www.grammarchic.net.

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