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When workers need outside help

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Employees having chronic personal problems can see their productivity diminish at an alarming rate, with profound consequences for their teams. It used to be that these workers had to deal with their problems on their own, without much support from employers. But over the past 20 years, employers have seen the benefits of getting involved to resolve these issues directly, helping their people restore their health and happiness while turning around performance problems.

When you as the manager do see performance problems that can be traced to personal issues, you should point employees in the direction of help. This could be an employee assistance program (EAP), or there could be other resources available in your workplace and your community.

Here are the steps you should take:

  • Observe. Managers frequently overlook serious performance problems because they hope the problems will resolve on their own, or because they're too busy to handle the issue. The first step to dealing with a problem is to recognize it. While your focus needs to be on performance, you need to understand the various things that might be going on behind a worker's on-the-job struggles.
  • Document. The next step is to document the performance problems, as specifically as you can. This information is what will help you help the employee. It is his or her responsibility to take stock of the personal issues behind the performance problems, and then to commit to getting the assistance needed to turn the situation around. So you're not trying to document that the employee has a personal problem--just that performance is unacceptable and needs to change.
  • Confront. In a private meeting, review the performance issues involved, express your concerns, and offer your support, while making clear the consequences that will come if things don't improve. Again, your job is not to diagnose the employee's personal issues, but if there is no obvious other reason that performance may be slipping, you should acknowledge that you understand that personal challenges could be present. However, make absolutely clear that job performance must improve regardless of what the causes of the problems are or how the employee chooses to deal with them.
  • Referral. Provide the information the employee will need to take advantage of the services of an EAP or other resources in your workplace and community. Again, express your support and your confidence that, with the proper help, the employee can turn things around. Remember that, as the manager, you often have more influence in convincing an employee to seek help than family or friends do. Your getting involved may be exactly what employees need to get their work and their lives back on track.

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