Solution – Address the work issue (i.e. how do we minimise/overcome the work impact) and also try to help with the personal issue.
Principles for handling personal problems that impact work
Our approach to these situations recognises:
- We have an obligation to be aware of the circumstances of individual employees and ensure a safe, sustainable working environment is provided.
- Any pronounced behaviour change can signal an employee has a personal problem.
- We use a ‘two problems’ model recognising that;
- the employee has a personal problem to resolve and
- there is a work impact that we have responsibility to get resolved.
- If a person’s personal problems DON’T impact their work they are not strictly our business and employees are not obliged to share their issues.
- Having a personal problem does not diminish an employee’s obligations to us – it may be a mitigating factor in our deciding what response we make to poor performance or unacceptable behaviour.
- We are not counsellors and providing ‘solutions’ (“if that’s what’s going on think you should leave your husband”) is not only outside our professional training but is potentially a conflict of interest (if we need to take action against an employee who has taken our advice).
- Our goal is to resolve any workplace impact and also to help employees solve their problems themselves if possible.
- If we can get the employee moving forward with their personal issue and connect them with the right expertise that’s good progress.
- We provide a range of assistance to employees in these situations.
Resources available to help the employee
Help available includes:
- The HR team who can help you and the employee develop alternatives and a strategy.
- All employees have access to confidential AP services.
- Support structures outside of work e.g. Budget Advisory Service, various government departments, church etc
The employee’s responsibilities
We want to see (and help) our employees get through their personal problems but meanwhile, they have continuing obligations.
Employee responsibilities include:
- Using the services of AP (or other assistance) does not negate the employee’s responsibility for adhering to Company policies and procedures.
- AP will provide assistance for personal problems affecting work performance but will not necessarily prevent disciplinary action for serious offences.
- It is expected that an employee will make every effort to successfully complete coaching (or other remedial initiatives) within a reasonable time period and that the work performance or behaviour will improve to the standard agreed with their manager.
- Normal employment conditions will apply for all those participating in the program.
Talking to employees in these situations
Study the guidelines for discussing personal problems with employees before undertaking these conversations. Use the conversation plan to prepare for and hold the conversation.
Tips for a successful conversation:
- Use the conversation plan.
- Your initial statement of the impact the problem is having on the workplace and on the individual needs to be full and persuasive.
- Be non-judgemental – everyone has personal problems. It’s not our job to judge how they live their lives. It IS our job to sort the problem out as it impacts the workplace we are responsible for.
- Allow a little time. People have a lot to deal with and there are often big decisions to make.
- Be firm that progress must be made. People often resist decisions and taking steps over personal problems. There’s a lot at stake.
- Listen. With anger, frustration, sadness, depression and other emotions potentially involved, we need to be particularly careful to listen actively and build an accurate picture of what’s going on.
- You must convey that you have a responsibility to solve the impact of their personal problem on the business – this does not make you unsympathetic to their problem it’s just “Doing your job”.
- The risk of an argument is high. You will need to take firm but fair control of the meeting from the outset.
- You must be firm that they need to be find options and solutions (AP, coaching, asking for time off etc, etc) and take responsibility for getting themselves back on track.
- You must be firm around deadlines for progress and evidence of progress. Procrastination is a real risk with these kinds of problems.
Continued poor performance should result in a formal PIP or Disciplinary Action.