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Staff supervisor has become ‘staff therapist’

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in Your Office Coach

Question:  "A supervisor who reports to me spends too much time talking with employees about their personal problems. Many of her staff members are young parents who carry a lot of ‘baggage.’ I understand that it can be hard to separate personal from professional, and I don’t want to seem unsympathetic. However, we don’t need an atmosphere where managers are viewed as counselors. I am struggling with the best way to tell this supervisor that she needs to focus on her management responsibilities. Any suggestions?"  —Not Dear Abby

Answer:  Any strength carried too far becomes a weakness.  When talking to your overly compassionate supervisor, help her understand that excessive empathy will actually hamper her management effectiveness.  

For example: "One of your strengths as a supervisor is that you really care about your employees.  But that can also make it easy to get too involved in their private lives. Lately, you and your staff seem to be spending a lot of work time discussing personal issues, so I need for you to limit these conversations in the future.”

Tell her that you know this may be a hard habit to break, so if you notice any lengthy “counseling sessions,” you will gently interrupt. Then schedule a meeting for the following week to assess her progress. If you continue to observe and provide ongoing feedback, the personal chats should taper off fairly quickly.

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