How does an employer know when their staff are genuinely struggling – or are taking advantage of your kindness?
It is one of the most fundamental questions if you are trying to run a business. As an employer, it’s your job to make sure that your staff are fit and well. Unless you want a reputation as a boss from hell, you should recognize that sometimes, staff go through a rough time. This can mean they need more time off or that their efficiency has decreased. Most bosses know that this is not the time to shout, scream and demand a return to form. You have to remember that these are human beings; they are not difficult on purpose, they are struggling. Here’s some things to look forward to determine if your letting employees take advantage of you.
It’s your role to support them. You can’t expect employees to be mindless autobots who do as you say and never perform below 99%. There are so many outside factors that can influence the way that we behave at work, sometimes without us even knowing. In these circumstances, you as an employer have to show care and consideration. Cracking down and demanding a return to form is not going to work for either party. Doing so could mean you lose an employee, not to mention your reputation.
The Nightmare Scenario
In a perfect world, employers and their employees would live in harmony. Employees would appreciate the way that their boss goes out of their way to be understanding during delicate times. This, in turn, would lead to giving their all when they had it to give.
Ideally, employers would be able to trust that a bad patch is temporary. That no one is going to slack off or exaggerate their circumstances so as to be given a break in the workplace.
The only problem is… this isn’t a perfect world. Employees, sensing a weakness where you are trying to show compassion, can be tempted to take advantage of it.
Laying The Groundwork
Show a good example. If someone does come to you with an issue, don’t dismiss it. This happens far too often; employers that talk a good game but are dismayed when it actually happens. You have to really mean it and go through with it. When it does happen, don’t just consider the situation at hand – think how it is going to look to everyone else. This is your chance to demonstrate your words of compassion are not all talk, and you really are the kind of boss who can handle these situations.
Warn employees that not informing you of an issue and then subsequently using it as an excuse will not be acceptable. This does not need to be a case of “laying down the law”, but a gentle reminder. If they want to say they missed doing a project as their child has been ill, they need to warn you beforehand, not rely on it after the fact.
Keep a general dossier on each employee, filled with your own observations. This should be separate from their HR file. This is where you can note down lateness or poor work ethic. It’s good to have anyway, but it also helps in cases where an issue presents itself.
You have to be available to be talked to. If you’re not always in the office or going on a business trip, ensure that staff at all levels have a way to contact you to discuss any issues. An email address will suffice.
Walking The Walk: What To Do When Genuine Issues Arise
If an issue is presented to you, it’s up to you to try and handle it. It depends on the nitty gritty details of what is influencing a member of staff, but a good rule of thumb is to CARE.
C – Compassion. Try and put yourself in their position and think of how you would act and what you might need to get through it.
A – Allowances. Do they need to leave work earlier? More time off? Pulling back from heavy responsibilities for something less taxing?
R – Remedy. You might want to look into the services of the likes of Occupational Health Providers, Health Assured, and others in the same vein. They can help when problems are too large to be dealt with internally.
E – Encourage. Show your support and keep showing it. Make a note to check back in with the staff member in a week or so to see how they are coping, so you can take further steps if they need more assistance.
Suspicious Minds: When Something Isn’t Genuine
The biggest flag for issues such as this is a repeat offender. Every one of us will go through some sort of work influencing calamity at some point, but it’s a numbers game. If this happens for different reasons two or three times a year, you have a reason to be suspicious.
Just suspicious, though; not immediately damning. Sometimes, people just have really bad years. It’s worth looking at their general demeanor and the type of help they need. If each different “case” requires the same remedy – such as being able to leave work earlier – then you have reason for doubts.
You also have to think about your business. If someone’s personal life is always causing issues in their employment, where do you draw the line? There is no firm answer to this, but eventually, even if genuine, you might need to consider letting them go. If you reach this stage, first consult an employment lawyer to make sure you have a fair case. The file mentioned earlier will help with this; it will contribute to show a consistent pattern of behavior, so keep it up to date.
Hopefully, though, you will never reach this point. Your employees are your lifeblood, so do what it takes to keep them pumping.