Many of us work hard to keep our personal lives separate from our professional lives. That is probably a good idea in most instances. As a manager, however, you need to know that at some point, your staff’s personal lives will impact business operations. Your job as a manager is to ensure that the impact will be as unproblematic and disruptive as possible.
Most companies have policies, procedures, and protocol in place to ensure that business operations are not negatively impacted by employee vacations, childbirth or adoption, death or short-term illness. Vacation, maternity/paternity, grief, and sick leave are common place in many businesses although wages paid, and time allotted vary widely.
Good managers are prepared for emergencies – and emergencies will happen.
I have had the following crises impact my team over the years:
- Multiple employees on maternity leave at the same time
- Death of siblings and parents
- Life threatening illness of employee
- Life threatening illness of employee’s toddler
- Car collisions, including one in a work vehicle
- Flat tires
- Employee put diesel gas in work vehicle
- Broken bone after falling on ice
- Employee trying to get coworker fired
- Employees cars broken into and company property taken
- I have also fallen at work on two occasions
- Missing students and police reports
In addition, there have been life issues that I needed to address:
- Employees commuting two hours to work each day impacted their performance
- Employees experiencing trauma triggers (remember I work in human services)
- New moms returning to work after childbirth
- Employees being threatened
- Relationships Ending
- Financial crisis
I have also had to address punctuality and attendance with various employees including one who did not come to work on days that I did not come to work.
You get the picture.
A manager’s role can switch from coach to surrogate parent in a matter of minutes. Flexibility, patience, preparation, and a level head are essential to success as a manager. Helping employees through difficult personal issues is a part of the position. Be supportive and sympathetic, but do not take on the role of therapist or best friend. Listen to the issues at hand and determine whether the best course of action is to provide resources or information, allow time off to deal with crisis, temporarily adjust workload, or offer a temporary, alternate work schedule so that the employee can adequately manage their personal life and workload.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, is a travel and cupcake lover with a passion for self-discovery and career advancement. She has an extensive background in developing and managing interns and successful internship programs. She is an accomplished manager, professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has packaged her Master of Social Work degree and 20 years of diverse work experience into Packaged For Success Enterprises, a full-service training and professional development company.
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