5 Tips for Managing an Employee Through a Personal Crisis

Every single person will deal with a personal crisis at some point in their lives, whether it is a death in the family, a divorce, or another situation that makes the emotions run high and demands time. Employers and HR managers are tasked with figuring out how best to manage the employee through this time, while also considering the business.

The following are a few tips on handling an employee personal crisis with grace and intelligence.

Listen and Be Compassionate

If an employee comes to you with a crisis, be sure to focus your undivided attention. Listen respectfully and don’t interject with advice or resolutions until he or she is done filling you in on as much as is comfortable. Be compassionate to the situation, but be careful to stick to the facts and avoid blurring the lines between boss and confidante.

If an employee doesn’t come to you with a problem, but is suddenly behaving in a different manner than usual, it may be necessary to call a meeting. Follow the same tips for listening and remaining compassionate, but also let the employee know what it is that brought the matter to your attention so that they are aware of how it is affecting work. This may be news to the employee and may help with figuring out solutions.

Make Sure Work Isn’t the Problem

In some cases, the crisis may be the workplace or workload itself. An employee may feel overwhelmed with deadlines, bullied by a coworker, or trapped within a schedule that doesn’t work. If work is the problem, confronting it head-on may help you to avoid losing a good worker and identify a problem that could be causing your company’s turnover ratio to be higher than necessary.

Keep It Professional

Asking directly about an employee’s personal life or feeding too much into their story can be dangerous. It may cause accusations of favoritism, creating conflicts with other employees. It may also give the employee a false sense of leniency, which could lead to him or her taking advantage of the situation.

Every employee is different, so it’s important to make determinations about how much to learn about the situation and how much to let others know on a case by case basis. Keep the conversations as professional as possible and steer the employee away from divulging too much.

Offer Reasonable Assistance

In some cases, it’s clear what to do for an employee that is enduring personal trauma: give the employee a few personal days to sort it out, put in for leave time, or adjust a schedule. Avoid going overboard to accommodate an employee, however, just stick to what you can reasonably offer without seriously affecting the business.

Plan for the Worst

Even if you do your best to accommodate the employee going through a personal crisis, there always exists the possibility that he or she will quit. It’s important to plan ahead for that eventuality even if you feel like the situation has been handled well, as there may be layers that you don’t know about. Stay vigilant and be prepared to cover their shifts or entire position as needed.


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