How to cope with a seriously ill employee: 4 steps — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

It’s sad enough when an employee becomes seriously ill. What makes it tougher is that work doesn’t stop. Deadlines remain, customers need service and paperwork piles up.

That means you have to deal with two major management challenges at once: understanding and appreciating the emotions of the employee and other co-workers, while making sure the necessary work gets done. Responding to these challenges requires tact, sensitivity and flexibility.

Mistakes can mean not only hurt feelings but also potential legal liability problems. The key is balance: Consider the sick employee’s needs and wishes while devising strategies to maintain the work routine.

Supervisors should handle such situations in four steps:

1. Avoid hands-off management

Now is not the time to withdraw and play a hands-off role. Instead, turn up your listening skills when talking with the ill employee. Serve as a sensitive, patient sounding board.

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