In a perfect world, human beings would be able to perfectly compartmentalize their lives and never experience any sort of bleed through. Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect and the brain simply doesn’t work that way. No matter how hard they may try, eventually all employees will experience something in their personal life that makes its way into their professional life.
What’s the worst that could happen?
When a staffer’s worlds collide in the office, it could have a number of effects both to the individual employee and across the business. The total reach will likely vary from person to person and situation to situation. For example; a manager could find an employee crying at their desk one day and note a drop off in their productivity for the week, but no other ill effect. In another scenario, an employee could arrive to work several hours late, missing important meetings and team project work, while turning in mediocre work themselves.
What’s an employer to do?
This gets a bit more complicated as the appropriate responses are dependent upon the employee and the circumstances. The first thing to consider is compassion. While good employees are a valuable commodity to a business, they are also human beings; someone’s daughter, someone’s father. Always attempt to respond with compassion, particularly the first time an employee experiences an issue.
From there, everything changes. Most employees will likely work through their problems on their own time while attempting to suppress any interference with their work. Simply allowing that employee some space to deal with their dilemma, if that means more frequent trips to the restroom or simply fewer interruptions, give it. Be prepared for a slight change in the quality of their work, but know that it will likely pass quickly.
When is it time to get serious?
Most employees will be like those mentioned above. They will likely be embarrassed that something is affecting their work and will take a variety of steps to mitigate the potential damage. Every so often, however, mangers will find themselves dealing with an employee who always has a problem, whose work is regularly suffering because of outside influences. In that circumstance, the best thing to do is treat the issue like a disciplinary offense, but compassionately. Counsel the employee about the regularity with which their work suffers and offer resources for assistance. Make sure he or she is aware that their behavior is unsustainable. From there the employee should understand that they are now dealing with disciplinary action.
It can be frustrating when an employee’s work suffers as a result of something from the outside world, but it is important to remember that everyone experiences tragedies, distractions and just the occasional bad day. Maintaining a compassionate attitude will be encouraging to staffers and may just help them out of their malaise a little bit sooner.