Corporate Culture: Getting Personal

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Businesses are people and more often than not, people are affected by personal challenges which in turn have a direct impact on their production levels at work. In determining the corporate culture of the organisation, companies should anticipate scenarios where employees’ may need company intervention in order to assist, not only with helping the employee, but to benefiting the company by increasing productivity through resolution and employee support.

According to recent research done @Bensinger DuPont & Associates, 24 000 employees were asked by means of an employee assistance program, on how personal issues impact productivity. More than 16% of the respondents reported that their personal challenges caused absenteeism; an additional 50% admitted a lack of concentration at work. Working with limited or no concentration makes a simple task feel like an impossible mission and employees may slip into possible depression or experience illness related to the stress.

Traditionally, the interview process excludes evaluating personal problems levels, whilst it focuses on the academic and corporate background of the candidate. In essence everyone, from time to time is affected by personal problems. This cannot be predicted when employing them.  If an employee is then found to be distracted by personal problems, should the company be moved to help? If yes, then what would companies and team leaders need to do to ensure that both the company and the employee benefits from the said help offered?

Larger companies have well-established Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) which creates a safe personal environment for employees to consult and gain assistance. When an employee is showing decreasing productivity and increasing absenteeism, team leaders should then approach the employees in a safe, secure and private environment using the following suggestions based on guidelines set out by Marie Apke, COO of Bensinger, DuPont & Associates:

  1. Make sure you aren’t part of the problem.

Ask what the company itself is doing to contribute to stress on that employee, and see what steps you can take to alleviate it.

  1. Don’t be a therapist.

You may be sorely tempted to act as therapist for your troubled employee. Resist that temptation. Don’t analyse the employee’s personal problems.  Resist judgement and allow the employee to have the freedom of choice on when and what to share.

Suggested script: Instead, focus on the facts and specifics of the employees work performance such as increased absenteeism or if the employee appears to have trouble concentrating. Say something like – You need to improve on the job, that’s why you’re here. If something in your personal life is affecting you, I recommend you seek assistance provided.

  1. Be compassionate but fair.

If you know your employee is in a tough situation, such as having to care for an ailing family member, you may want to be as helpful as possible. If your company may be exempted from provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act that requires you to give time off in this situation, but you may want to extend that offer anyhow.

Just remember, though, that other employees will take note of how you treat their struggling colleague and will likely expect similar consideration if they too run into hard times. “Taking a compassionate approach is a good thing to do, but it has to be applied evenly across the work force. Otherwise it’s not fair,” Apke says.

  1. Use the resources you have.

If the employee needs counselling or drug or alcohol services, you almost certainly have some resources provided by your medical insurance and/or disability carrier. (@MarieApke)

It is important that companies have the ability to anticipate problems and set up systems that will deal with these efficiently. Businesses are made up of people, people are employees. Every employee is an individual with their own personal strengths and issues. You cannot expect to take advantage of an employee’s strengths without occasionally running up against some of the issues. Management is about achieving business results by focusing resources, and to properly focus human resources you’ll need to deal with employee personal problems. (@makingitclear)

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