Be flexible with personal issues at work.

If an employee comes to you for help with a personal issue (a death in the family, time off for having a baby, a sick kid, needing an advance, etc), consider the following before you react:

  • Dealing with personal issues boils down to conflict resolution 101. If there isn’t a clash in helping, don’t fabricate a problem. Just help out, there’s no better way to build mutual loyalty. People won’t forget how gracious you were when their mother passed away.
  • There aren’t personal issues and work issues. there are just issues. Don’t ignore or avoid the problem. If you ignore personal issues they’ll spill over into work issues.
  • Conflict resolution hinges on aligning objectives. Don’t let rules arbitrarily tie your hands by setting unreasonable objectives. For example, if a person is out of vacation time, find a way for them to work partial days, take unpaid leave, work remotely, or give them additional days off. If you work together on how to make sure things don’t slip through the cracks, you’ll often find many creative ways to afford the flexibility an individual needs to deal with just about any personal problem.
  • Don’t let one bad apple ruin it for everyone else. If someone routinely takes advantage of your generosity then get rid of them. Don’t let a bad apple lead you to manufacture a hostile work environment.
  • If you see business as exploiting individuals–the idea that everyone is replaceable–then I have nothing to tell you other than deal with the fact that employees will despise you for being callous. Once you see how destructive this is for your business, then you can look at the rest of the advice I provide.