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Your role in dealing with employee personal issues

Attitudes toward dealing with employee personal issues have definitely changed over the past ten years. There was definitely a time when it was fairly common to see companies with policies that in essence said that you should leave your personal life at the door when you came to work. That is certainly not the most common case anymore but be warned that you may come across companies that are still very hesitant to get mixed up with an employees personal life.

The main reason for the change in attitude regarding employee personal issues can be largely attributed to the fact that studies have found (and experience has added to the fact that) when an employee is assisted with their personal problems, they are less likely to have those personal problems have a negative result on their work. So helping with personal problems is good, but the debate still exists for just how much personal help given by employers is appropriate.


Employers are hesitant to become too involved with an employee's personal issues for many reasons. One is that an employer does not want to overstep professional boundaries or compromise the relationship of authority that he may have with the employee. As harsh as it sounds, dealing with personal problems at work takes away from time to be productive. Although in the long run helping an employee might improve their work, you do not want to be using too much company time to resolve personal matters. This is why you will find that most companies have established terms that address how much leniency is acceptable when it comes to helping employees deal with personal issues.

Employee assistance programs are the answer to many companies' problems as they pertain to helping employees personally. An employee assistance program is run by the company but it is meant to be operated by individuals that you do not necessarily come in contact with every day, thus avoiding any breaches in confidentiality or awkward situations. An employee assistance program may even be located at a site other than the work place and staffed with individuals who are specifically trained to be able to handle personal issues and how they affect work efficiency. An employee assistance program is usually offered free of charge to employees and even to their family members in some instances. In most cases the topics discussed with an employee assistance worker remain completely confidential unless the employee decides that he would like the help of the counselor when it comes to brining up some changes that might need to take place while at work until certain personal problems can be resolved. Employee assistance programs are gaining popularity as more and more companies are being able to see the benefits of being able to help employees with their personal issues, but at a distance.

Ultimately, we want to be able to build relationships with our co-workers. Most of us will spend a great deal of time with our co-workers. In some cases we spend more time with our co-workers than with our family or friends, so it is important that we have a personal relationship with those that we surround ourselves with in order to be most comfortable and engaged while working. Employers benefit from taking an interest in an employee's personal life because in getting to know a person, you are able to better determine their strengths and talents and can use each employee to their full potential. Being genuinely interested in an individual's personal issues, regardless of whether or not company rules allow you to act in order to help, is often times re-assuring enough to help the person with issues get through their difficult time.

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