The Walk of Life

It’s no secret that personal problems can affect work. Here’s how you can handle them without being a bosshole.


The Walk of Life

Personal problems are numerous: Personal debt, relationship problems, divorce, legal battles, health issues, insecurities, the list goes on. While it’s understandable that personal issues will find their way into work life and affect performance, Benjy Porter talks to Franchise Zone about some common issues that can arise and how they impact performance.

How aware of employees’ personal lives should an employer be? Should employees leave personal lives at home?

Over time, we’ve noted a large change in the behavioural patterns of many employees facing personal challenges in their lives. This is seen through their disengagement from their work, resulting in lower productivity and performance, as well as the failure to reach targets and objectives.

These behavioural patterns are seen to create a rift on the work floor often indirectly impacting the attitude and mind-set of fellow employees. Employees often lack the skills to deal with personal problems and this is where we believe an employer could lend a hand.

The employer should most definitely expect some level of cross-over of personal into work life, but have the knowledge and guidance of when and where to draw the line.

What are acceptable or unacceptable levels of cross-over of personal lives into work?

Making employees aware of a change in performance is a standard operational procedure in day-to-day business relations. Many employees don’t understand their change in performance and productivity before being presented with it. Once an employee has an understanding of their decrease in performance, the question of why becomes central.

At this point an employee may show correlation between their personal issues and their performance. The key is to let this come from them. Listening is very different to action. Your employee needs to feel supported, but must also understand they are still responsible for output.

Once you have an understanding of the situation, use an educational means to assist with their problem, like referring them to the necessary aid, whether financial, legal or family related, or an appropriate counselling professional. You may also choose to offer this service yourself.

How can successful leaders pay attention to employees’ lives? 

Listening is the start to understanding. Employees often don’t know where to go or who to turn to for assistance, so guidance and education can often be the most valuable resource. Successful leaders are able to lead employees to the correct source of guidance.

Apathy toward them often results in emotional overflow onto the work floor, usually involving co-workers. This reduces productivity levels of both the employee experiencing issues as well as co-workers who find themselves assisting by offering support.

If an employee is in court, are they obligated to tell their employer?

Unless stated within the employee’s contract, employees are under no obligation to divulge this information. Obligation may exist within certain industries wherein a charge laid against an employee may change the status of their qualification for their job. For example, a doctor may need to be suspended for the duration in which he is under investigation.

Apart from obvious benefits, what soft benefits could an owner consider to improve productivity and the work environment?

Education is the most important benefit to equip an employee with. An employer can furnish their employees with many additional services and benefits, but without the knowledge on how to utilise these benefits to their maximum, many benefits would sit as redundant text within an employee’s contract.

Soft benefits may include financial guidance and advisory services, flexible work times for excellent performers, as well as access to psychological guidance during times of insecurity and stress.

What are the guidelines associated with assisting employees with loans?

After showing a significant period of loyalty to the company, benefits such as loans and advances are a definite perk. Some companies choose to offer this service internally, while many outsource solutions.

Those who offer an internal solution must consider the affordability of the loan to the employee based on a repayment period before allocating higher amounts. A great management tool is to offer to pay debtors directly on the employees’ behalf.

This ensures that loans are allocated to the right cause. But loans and advances must be limited and stipulated within employment contracts and only permanent employees should be offered this benefit.

Tracy Lee Nicol
About the Author
Tracy-Lee Nicol is the managing editor of Franchise Zone Magazine and deputy editor of Entrepreneur Magazine. She studied her Masters degree in Art History and Visual Culture at Rhodes University and spent the next two years working and travelling in Asia. Her love of people, business and teaching is reflected in telling the stories of entrepreneurs, franchisees and franchisors, inspiring others to take the leap to being their own boss and bringing about positive change in South Africa.

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