Boris Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds proved last weekend that when you are in the media eye, intimate problems can end up in public focus.
Was it right that Boris should be castigated or forced to reveal what his argument was about? Labour politician Andrew Gwynne says, “I believe it is reasonable for someone who is likely to become our next prime minister to be held accountable for all of their words, actions and behaviours,” whereas Johnson supporter, Minister Ben Wallace, tweeted, “What a non-story ‘couple have row’”.
Opinions differ for sure. Personally, I think it’s indecent to record private conversations and give them to the media; a little too ‘Stalinist show-trial’ for me, but what I do know from personal experience is that problems at home absolutely do affect your performance at work.
Most of us have experienced emotional turmoil as debilitating as a bad dose of flu; in fact, sometimes it’s easier to work with a banging headache and a high temperature than concentrate during a major emotional upheaval when all you want to do is to bury your head in your pillow and cry.
A sympathetic ear
As a clinical hypnotherapist, I help people understand and overcome personal problems, and I help many clients with mental health issues clouding their ability to function normally. Most admit work performance is affected and some know (and are worried) they are under scrutiny.
If you are a boss or manager and think what goes on in your team’s personal lives is irrelevant to their work, think again. Problems at home do crossover into work territory with absenteeism; presenteeism, difficulty concentrating; stress; anxiety and peripheral issues like drinking too much and other addictions, negatively affecting performance and your company’s bottom line.
The Emotional Eight
Emotional anxiety comes in many forms, and it can be very difficult to function. The eight most common personal problems affecting a person’s ability to do their best work are:
1. Break ups / divorce
2. Health problems of partner or close family member
3. Mourning the loss of a loved one (including family pet)
4. Conflict with a colleague at work
5. Work overload and stress
6. Uncertainty about career and future income
7. Drug, alcohol and addiction (including gambling) problems
8. Depression and anxiety (often caused by one of the above)
Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs)
Dealing with an employee facing personal problems is a challenge most bosses have to face. It’s important to have a template for Employee Assistance in place and while large companies with their in house HR Department often do, smaller companies can struggle helping a team member resolve their problems without outside assistance.
Every situation is different, but here are some guidelines worth following before trying to tackle a delicate personal matter.
1. Find out if you are part of the problem
Are the problems your employee is experiencing exacerbated by something at work; perhaps work volume; conflict with another person; uncertainty about role or responsibilities and so on. What steps can you take to help? An informal assessment can be undertaken to see how work stresses might be exacerbating personal issues.
2. Don’t get personal
You are not a trained therapist, so aside from listening sensitively, resist the temptation to offer advice. Even if you want to, the employee probably doesn’t want to have their boss involved in their divorce, or their alcohol or gambling problem.
Instead, you should highlight the person’s work performance, addressing absenteeism or a failure to deliver expected standards, insisting they must focus and improve their work and if something is preventing them from doing so, recommending they seek assistance.
3. Be caring but fair
Naturally, if you are aware a member of staff is having difficulty coping because of personal circumstances, you want to be as helpful as possible. Compassion isn’t weakness and it shows you value your employees. The approach you take with one employee must also be applied evenly across the workforce without showing favouritism.
4. Get help
You may want to look at referring a struggling and valued member of staff to an external resource to help them.
Putting an employee assistance programme in place might be worth considering. Small to medium sized employers need just as much help as large employers do in dealing with these issues.
Carol Barwick Learning and Development delivers a sympathetic and excellent range of resilience training and motivational courses that can be provided on an individual basis or company-wide.
These effective courses are designed to help people manage and overcome problems at work and at home using a range of tools and techniques as well as practical demonstrations to provide best value Personal Development and Leadership and Management to optimise personal wellbeing and performance at work. Interventions also include mediation to resolve conflict.