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What to do when personal problems are effecting work?

A former colleague and friend asked for my advice recently, and I have to say I wasn't sure what to tell her. I'm hoping this community can help. Her situation is this:

One of her team members is having a personal issue that is effecting her work. This team member has never been a top performer, but recently her results have been really sub-standard and the trouble in her personal life is making it hard for her to motivate. This is not only effecting her, but her whole team is at risk for missing targets as a result. This employee is also making a lot of excuses as to why she is not performing, such as blaming her leaders for not supporting her.

My friend would like to work with her colleague to find a way to coach her back to and above her past levels. In addition, this is in the UK so letting her go is not an easy option and her personal situation makes that option even more complex.

Yes, that's a hairy ball of wax - but I'm hoping we might help her unwind it.


  • Wow - talk about a tough situation.

    While I haven't encountered this specific situation, one thing that does come to mind is to assess what role the company itself is doing to contribute the situation that employee is facing? In hyper growth environments its common for workloads to increase and have that aggravate a personal situation unintentionally. If that is the case, perhaps temporarily decreasing that work volume could help.

    Also read this great post on the topic (even though its likely US focused, aspects could apply to other geographies as well).

  • It is always tough to find the balance between personal and professional, but because we all bring our whole human self to work, at some point we all bring our life into the work-life balance equation. I agree with Anuj above who mentions trying to keep the individual's workload reasonable. I've used GROW coaching conversations to re-focus the employee on their goals - whether it's just making it through the day or even a single meeting. Coaching questions can also be used to hone in (let's say, on a 1 to 10 scale) on how they are feeling today or what level of support they need or want, and avoid assumptions. Finally, coaching questions can be used to help the employee articulate their options and the way forward. It's important to offer support without becoming a therapist. I've had a lot of success with employees who have tumultuous lives outside of work, when they realize that work can be their place to be confident, successful and free from drama. When you do it right, you'll earn their loyalty and often have an employee for life!

  • Thanks Anuj & Kelly! This is great feedback. I particularly like the reference to the GROW framework, because I'm not familiar with it and I like to learn about ways to have better conversations. For anyone reading here, I found this simple article on the framework with some tips and sample questions to use:

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