Everyone goes through difficult times in their lives, and although we might not want these personal crises to affect our work, it is inevitable that they will in some way. Therefore, all bosses will have to face the challenge of dealing with an employee who is going through some kind of personal crisis, and whether that is a failing relationship, poor health, a drug problem, or the death of a loved one, it is important for employers to understand what they should do to help.
Not everyone is going to feel completely comfortable telling their boss that there is a problem in their lives, especially if it is a highly personal one. This means that the problem can become worse and the worry over it can build up over time, affecting that person’s life a lot more in a negative way. Making sure that, as an employer, you are available to your employees and that you are able to listen to them (and that they know you will listen if they want to talk) is essential. Investing the time in building up a good, solid relationship with your employees and having a working open door policy means they will be much more likely to come to you when their problems first arise, making them much easier to deal with.
Being available and compassionate is one thing, but prying into someone’s personal life is quite another, and not something that a good boss should do, even if you are doing it so that you can help your employee more. Unless the employee specifically wants to talk through their problem, a good boss won’t ask questions about it – they will wait to be told and then carry out whatever next steps and action are necessary. If you continue to pry and ask personal questions, no matter how good your intentions, you may drive that employee away from your help.
The most important thing to do when an employee is going through a personal crisis is to listen. Once you fully listened, only then should you make any suggestions about what to do next because only then will you have all the facts you need to make any kind of decision. It might be that your employee needs some time off to grieve, to think, or to attend a drug treatment center, for example, in which case you will be in the perfect position to arrange this. It could be that simply talking was enough, and they already feel better and they want to go back to work. Until you have the information, you can’t make any decisions, so listening is vital.
No matter what comes of your conversation with your employee about their personal crisis, it is important that you check in with them regularly to ensure that they are okay. This is true whether they are taking some time off, working from home, or continuing in the work that they were doing. As a good boss, you should always be aware of how your employees are feeling, especially if they have told you there is a problem.