When personal business becomes your business

By Tom Davidson

In a litigious world, new managers and experienced leaders alike can become overly cautious about addressing performance problems, but that should not be an excuse for letting performance problems slide. Here are two examples:

1. A disabled worker is falling behind on productivity or not accomplishing his or her work to needed standards, but you are afraid to confront the problem because of their challenging situation.

Your differently abled personnel were hired because they were able to do the job to certain standard, but if the role has changed, they may need reasonable workplace accommodations, like lifting equipment, computer accessories, or other resources. But it’s still your job to hold them accountable as long as it’s to the same degree and in the same manner as others. It’s also your job to get them the resources they need to overcome their challenge in a reasonable way. This is part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it’s more than the right thing. It’s the law.

2. An employee with a good track record suddenly starts underperforming, arriving late and unprepared for meetings, leaving early, and spending an inordinate amount of time on the phone with what seems to be personal business.

Life happens for all of us, but there is no reason to skirt the issue of underperformance because you suspect something has happened in one’s personal life. Whatever the cause might be, the leader still must address the shortcomings; if not, you may be letting this person fail and will certainly be letting down the other members of your team.

Be specific in your feedback on the job performance, and ask what is getting in the way of successful performance. If it’s a personal matter, you can refer people to your organization’s employee assistance program for help, but focus on the need for the on-the-job performance to change. The employee still needs to make a plan to get back on track. Your job is to provide them resources to solve those problems while focusing on the needs of the business.

Always consult with your on-site human resource partner for advice and ideas about what can be made available for each situation. You’ll find more options than you thought possible, but one option you don’t have is to avoid the problem or let it slide longer than you should.

It’s your job, and it’s the nature of leadership.

Share this article