18 January 2006

The signs of personal problems in the workplace

Only one disgruntled and unbalanced employee in a office can poison an entire work force. Volatile behaviour unsettles other employees and can impact work productivity.

Only one disgruntled and unbalanced employee can poison an entire work force. Emotionally volatile behaviour unsettles other employees and endless discussion of personal problems impacts on work productivity.

If someone has an undisclosed health problem and is constantly off sick, it can be demoralising for the other employees who have to fill in on a constant basis. While people don’t need to know details, it might be a good idea to give colleagues a broad outline of the problem. They might be more sympathetic.

Temporary problems should be treated differently to permanent problems. An employee whose work performance is failing because his marriage has just fallen apart, should be treated differently to someone who has a history of getting involved in volatile or abusive relationships. Someone who has just had a bad case of mumps cannot be treated in the same way as someone whose substance abuse is affecting his performance.

People are appointed and paid to work. Their contribution to the company should be of a greater value than their cost to the company. If, over a long period of time, this is not the case, a manager should initiate the correct procedures for dismissal. This should obviously only be done in extreme cases when all other avenues of intervention have failed.

Look out for these signs

According to the University of Minnesota’s Staff Assistance Programme, employers should look out for the following: Physical appearance

  • Shaking and nervous twitching
  • Reduced interest in appearance
  • Personal hygiene ignored
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Alcohol on breath

Interpersonal Interactions:

  • Overreaction to criticism
  • Isolation from colleagues
  • Sudden emotional outbursts
  • Considerable mood swings
  • Forgetfulness
  • Inappropriate behaviour at work
  • Absenteeism and Tardiness
  • Arriving late and leaving early
  • Unexplained absences
  • Friday and Monday absences
  • Accidents both in the workplace and outside

Job performance

  • Wasted materials
  • Increased operating errors
  • Increasingly unsatisfactory work quality
  • Faulty decision making

It is not the duty of a manager to sort out the personal problems of employees, but good communication is required. Employers or managers must be kept in the picture, possibly intervene by means of a good referral, or be a little more sympathetic if the employee’s job performance is not entirely up to its usual standard.

Sometimes early intervention can prevent a problem from taking on gigantic proportions.


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