How do you help a divorcing co-worker with job performance issues? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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How do you help a divorcing co-worker with job performance issues?

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Question: “We have an employee who has been going through a difficult divorce for the past year and a half. Lately, she has been making more and more mistakes and it seems she needs training on things we all should know and that she once knew. She seems overly sensitive to basic constructive criticism and is beginning to play a bit of the blame game. I think she needs a vacation, but she refuses to take one. Any suggestions on how to get her through this divorce without sacrificing job performance? Or is there such thing as a “mandatory” vacation?” Jocelyn


How about a memo from her boss or from HR letting her know that they understand she is going through a difficult period in her life but life goes on and that she needs to move on. Trust me, once she feels she can be "fired" or her job performance is in jeopardy, she'll shake herself up a little bit and will come back to reality. If your team does not do anything she'll continue playing the poor me attitude. I hope this helps a little bit. Good luck! Sharon

Does your company have an employee assistance program? Most insurance plans offer some sort of free assistance for employees. If her work is declining then assistance would be a better alternative that losing her job.

I have to disagree with Sharon to a certain extent. Adding the stress of potentially being terminated from a position because you're dealing with a personal stressful situation is just mean and cruel - especially if this person has done a great job in her position before the personal stress started. I do, however, think it would be a great time to have your HR person talk to her about what is going on & how it is affecting her work. If your employer has an employee assistance program that provides counseling services - now would be a perfect time to reminder her of this. Trust me - the loyalty and understanding your employee is shown right now will result in an amazing results once this unfortunate time in her life has resolved itself.

I totally agree with Kristie. We are all human and all go through difficult periods in our lives. Being sensitive and sympathetic to the employee's situation will go a long way.

I agree with Kristie. I too went through a very difficult divorce. If this employee's company can offer her FMLA, then she should by all means take it to recover her emotional state. Divorce is traumatic enough without the stress of a job that you need in order to survive and the loss of a life you once knew. This goes for both women and men in divorce.

Your co-worker may be going through depression, and may need to seek medical help. I don't agree threatening someone with the loss of their job, it will only add more stress. Can't her boss mandate some time off FMLA can also be looked into.

Been there, done that! Fortunately I worked for a very supportive company during my divorce. They let me know that I was a valued employee and they understood the stress a divorce can place on both parties. It is a grieving process and you can't just "get over it." If your company has an employee assistance program, direct her to the appropriate parties. The support and encouragement I received fostered a great deal of company loyalty and ended in a win/win situation for me and my employer.

I was the divorcee in your story, and luckily I had a wonderful boss at that time. He was gentle in letting me know that my performance was starting to show signs of strain and that my personality wasn't as congenial as it had been. He told me what he was looking for and helped me build steps to get there again.

He also did something unexpected that won my trust in him completely. He pulled me into his office, shut the door, and explained that he, too, had gone through a divorce. While he did not get into the grizzly details, he let me know he understood my pain and asked if there was anything he could do to help.

That act alone made me reach out to others, and I wound up in a "class" if you will, that worked on and talked about rebuilding yourself after a love relationship dies. I found others who experienced and were experiencing what I was!

It wasn't too long after that that I started to turn my performance around. When the "class" was finished and I had made some more friends, I was myself again--only stronger.

I hope my shortened story helps.

I am going to agree with Sharon on this one. My opinion is that the point needs to get across to her that a certain level of understanding is extended to her, but it is not going to last forever. Performance needs to eventually pick up. We have had a similar situation that then rolled into another problem, and then another problem. It seemed to be one crisis after another, and she never did get back to normal, and ended up almost being asked to leave. (She ended up leaving on her own after finding out everyone was fed up with her constant excuses.) What I am saying is that a certain level of allowance needs to be made, but then the person needs to start becoming as productive as they were before.

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