As a manager, it can be hard to decide when you should get involved with an employee's personal life and when you should let things be. This article will give examples of situations when you should and when you should not.
Inevitably, personal lives seep into our work lives, for better or worse. During tough times, it can be difficult to perform to the best of one’s ability. So, how do you know when to help someone you manage or a colleague if you think there may be a problem?
Get Involved If You See an Alcohol Problem That’s Directly Affecting Work
Someone struggling with alcohol probably isn’t going to come right out and tell their boss they are drinking too much lately because they’re stressed over a failing relationship or coping with a dying parent, for example. It’s just too personal or embarrassing to talk about the underlying causes of alcohol abuse.
But if you have a hunch that an employee may be struggling with alcohol, for whatever reason, you should be able to identify the signs, know how to address the employee, and when to involve a third party.
Simply recognizing that an employee or colleague needs help with alcohol addiction is a first step. However, unless you’ve witnessed someone drinking or exhibiting intoxication at work firsthand, you wouldn’t run straight to your human resources department. You’d want to talk to the person first from a place of empathy and concern. They may not embrace your same concern, however.
You’d need have examples or facts that indicate there’s a problem, such as “I smelled alcohol on your breath after lunch the other day,” or “You’ve missed five days of work this month.” There are a lot of nuances though, so it’s best to talk to your HR department who is well versed in how to deal with these types of situations. Speculation alone isn’t enough to accuse someone of having a drinking problem. Warning signs that someone is going through a tough time are usually present, though. Here are some more tips on what to do if you suspect an employee has an alcohol problem.
Get Involved if an Employee Is Contributing to a Toxic Work Environment
In a business with good workplace culture, you can feel it. Employees are nice, happy and productive. If the workplace culture is toxic, you’ll see high turnover, drama, gossip, and a decline in overall business.
Every workplace has stress. It just goes with the territory. And everyone has a bad day or two. We are all human. The problem is when the place of business becomes a toxic environment “wherein dysfunction and drama reign, whether it’s the result of a narcissistic boss, vindictive co-workers, absence of order, etc,” writes Monster contributor Daniel Bortz.
As a manager, you have to nip toxic behaviors in the bud before they spread throughout the company. The person causing problems needs to know what negative consequences their actions are having on other people and the office as a whole. The conversation doesn’t need to be a reprimand, but it needs to be made clear that certain actions won’t be tolerated. If a one-on-one doesn’t work, you may have to pull in upper management and HR.
Also, restore peace by making sure employees aren’t chronically stressed out and that they have good work-life balance. Make sure your actions are transparent and your expectations are clear. Meanwhile, ensure feedback is valued. Be sincere.
Get Involved to Simply Get to Know Someone Better
Interacting with employees on a personal basis is an important part of healthy company culture. The employees at Freak’n Genius start out each day talking about what’s been accomplished over the last 24 hours and get a quick emotional status update of each employee.
“It might sound like, ‘Last night my dog got really sick, and I was up all night with him, so today I’m pretty tired and also a bit worried about his recovery, but I’m in,’” says CEO Kyle Kesterson. “Having context to how someone is feeling is going to help you understand their responses throughout the day.”
If you can’t do daily check-ins, at least aim for once a week, so employees don’t feel like they always need to leave their baggage at the door.
If you’re talking to an employee about their current struggles make sure you are there to listen without jumping in to offer an immediate solution, says Linda Hill, author of Being the Boss and professor at Harvard Business School. Maybe the employee just wants to vent about why things are difficult right now at home or why their divorce is affecting their ability to concentrate at work.
“If you immediately suggest they take a leave of absence or adjust their schedule, they may be put off if that’s not what they were thinking,” Hill says. “Instead, ask what both of you can do together to address the issue of performance during the difficult period.”
Unless it’s a clear-cut situation, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly when to step in or step back, and what to say or do in a given work circumstance. What are your thoughts about getting involved in a worker’s personal life?