Support, Don’t Reject

It’s normal for leaders to become frustrated by employee performance when employees disappoint. Obviously, you need to be judicious in how you handle these situations and to evaluate the root cause of the less than stellar performance.

You need to look behind the obvious to determine what’s going on with the disappointing employees, especially if their performance is normally positive.

It isn’t the responsibility of managers to be psychologists and figure out what’s bothering employees. It is their responsibility, however, to be compassionate and determine how they can support colleagues who are going through challenging times.

Often, the challenging times relate to personal situations, but not always. Consider these examples:

+ Too much work. Growing companies fall into this trap where they keep piling on the work and employees start to flounder. You’ll see late nights followed by sick days followed by sullen behavior followed by more sick days.

Solution: Ease up on deadlines and do some judicious hiring. If your company is indeed growing, it will be able to handle the additional payroll.

+ Personal challenges. Children, elderly parents, spouses with high-pressure jobs, close family members with major illnesses…all of these put additional pressure on employees. Top performers continue to get the work done but start to fray around the edges. They need to be mindful of caretaker syndrome, which will create burnout faster than you can imagine.

Solution: Provide these employees with flexible hours and the opportunity to work at home one or two days/week. If this isn’t your policy, it’s time to reconsider the policy. If you value these employees, work with them to take away some of the stress. Send them home early on days where you see the stress at especially high levels.

+ Not enough vacation. When you see an increase in employees who ask for exceptions to carry over vacation into the next year, you’re probably seeing people who haven’t had enough time off to recharge.

Solution: Insist that they take vacation. This may be a huge inconvenience to your company, but it is essential for employees to reboot and recharge.

You see the pattern. Leaders need to support, not punish. One size doesn’t fit all, so take the time to thoughtfully figure out what will work best for your employees who are going through tough times.

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