I have recently been working with a business where one of the employees is struggling with his life outside of the workplace, and as a result is not performing well in his job. The consequences of this can be considerable, and in this case, not only is it having an effect on the turnover of the business, but it is also causing stress and extra work for his colleagues. So how should this be handled?
I find this a particularly difficult topic, because like most people, I can find it hard to be brutally honest, and tell it exactly how it is. However, avoiding or skirting the issue, whilst easier to say, and in the short term less painful to the recipient, may not necessarily be helping. If you think that by making things sound better than they are you are being kind to someone, perhaps it is worth thinking again. In fact more often than not, by trying to soften the blow, or by re-enforcing their excuses or self pity, you are actually preventing them from dealing with a crucial issue, and potentially allowing it to build up, until it becomes explosive, and all hell lets loose.
From a selfish point of view, we worry that we may lose friends, or be seen as callous. Whereas in reality, we should face up to the issue and tell them, because in this way we are being genuine friends or colleagues.
Going back to the business I cited earlier. They have all offered a sympathetic ear, avoided the issue, and tried to carry him through the tough time. It hasn’t worked, and now there are potential fireworks ahead. Perhaps they should have just said “Stop being a victim, face up to your issues, change your ways and things will soon start to improve”.