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Andi Gray: Personal issues on business time

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We have been struggling with personal issues at work. For me, it’s a family illness. For one of my key employees, it’s a relationship that’s not going so well. Another employee is facing financial difficulties. And a third has her head in the clouds planning a wedding. It all seems to be ganging up on us. As the owner, I know I’m responsible for keeping things at work on track. I’m looking for advice on the right approach. I know this is how life goes sometimes, but I’m worried about the toll it might take on the business. Where do I draw the line?

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Life intrudes, often at the most inconvenient times. Realistically assess what each employee needs in the way of relief or support. Be careful to only set precedents you can live with. Invite people to participate in groups. Know when you have to step in and do something.

It’s impossible to control what life throws our way. You can’t ignore the problems – they walk in the door each morning and stick around through the day or pop up at the most inconvenient times. Deal productively with what’s going on by trying to limit the disruptions at work. 

First, check your own situation. You’re probably hurting because of the family illness. Give yourself space to process what’s happening. Take time off to be with your family. Get counseling if necessary. Find confidants who will help you get through this. 

With respect to employees, assess how each personal situation is impacting the business. Pitch work as a therapeutic distraction. Ask people to curb the inclination to dwell on problems during work hours. 

Set reasonable expectations. If someone has a broken leg you wouldn’t expect them to be at work pulling full weight. Just because the problem is more emotional than physical, you can still lighten workloads temporarily. 

Pick interim managers to be on top of deadlines. Make a plan for interruptions. Allow for time during the day to address issues or attend to outside appointments. See if changing the time of meetings makes it easier to balance work and personal demands. Does anyone need to shift from full time to part time?

Be careful about setting precedents you can live with. For example, for each year of service, employees gain an extra day of emergency time off, which they can store up in case of need. Remind people that personal days are for emergencies, and should be used as such. 

People who need financial support may come to you for help, either personally or through the company. Set up rules that keep things in check. Limit the potential financial risk to something you’ll be able to live with in case things don’t go as planned. 

You can be proactive about guiding employees to build emergency financial funds. Set up a relationship with a credit union. Encourage employees to open an account when they’re hired, and to put aside a few dollars a week for emergencies. 

If you intend to lend money from company coffers, make sure all shareholders are OK with that. Put boundaries around how much, and how it gets paid back. Have employees sign a note agreeing to the terms. 

Even though people are struggling with different problems, techniques for coping are often the same. Walks, good diet, meditation, fresh air are recommended for all kinds of stressful situations. Take the lead on encouraging everyone around you to join in. 

There are gestures that can help create a positive atmosphere. Fresh fruit at the coffee table. Platter of veggies in the refrigerator that you bring out at lunch for everyone to partake. Group meditation for 20 minutes mid-afternoon. Brisk walk around the building at mid-morning. Just by being together, people gather strength and encouragement. Make the conditions right for that to happen. 

Looking for a good book? Try “Invisible Power: Insight Principles at Work” by Dr. Ken Manning, Robin Charbit. 

Andi Gray is president of Strategy Leaders Inc., StrategyLeaders.com, a business-consulting firm that teaches companies how to double revenue and triple profits in repetitive growth cycles. Have a question for AskAndi? Wondering how Strategy Leaders can help your business thrive? Call or email for a free consultation and diagnostics: 877-238-3535, AskAndi@StrategyLeaders.com. Check out our library of business advice articles: AskAndi.com.

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