Issue: How deeply do you want to get involved with employees' personal lives?
Risk: Becoming a sounding board for every personal problem will eat up your workday (and drain you emotionally).
Action: Use these four tips to show concern for employees' well-being while staying within your professional role.
All HR professionals must decide how deeply they want to let themselves be-come involved in employees' personal lives.
The best strategy: Show concern for employees' personal lives; just don't get too enmeshed in their drama. To walk that fine line, follow these four tips when employees want to get personal:
1. Determine employees' purpose for bringing up problems. This sounds easy, but people often only reluctantly admit what they want from you, if they even know.
Example: An employee rambles on about his teenage son's run-ins with the law. You ask, "Is there anything I can do?" That's when the clerk finally requests that telecommuting might help him keep a better eye on his son after school. Don't guess at employees' needs. Ask them.
2. Set a time limit on the chat if you're too busy or unwilling to get wrapped into the employee's story. Alert the employee that you only have "a few minutes" right now. You can also refer him or her to a more appropriate resource, such as the EAP.
3. Beware of making "If I were you" statements. When you tell employees how to handle their personal affairs, you risk becoming embroiled in a saga, or even risking legal action.
4. Don't get too personal. If you start confessing your own stories and sins, you'll commiserate together. But you may regret what you've said later as word spreads and the whole organization learns about your foibles.