Last week we looked at the disciplinary side of reporting late for duty. This week we look at the more difficult issues and how to apply a process that will help the employer and employee through this dry desert of continuous problems and seemingly never-ending hardship.
Personal problems and issues
We all experience problems in our lives. Sometimes at the least expected time a death of a child or parent or even spouse can be devastating for the person left behind. Divorce, serious long term health issues such as cancer, HIV & aids could be the reason for a perfectly normal functioning person to change to that of a seemingly dysfunctional person. It is in the afore-mentioned cases that one has to act with empathy and trust to allow an employee to go through the process in order to heal and to get back to solid ground.
It will always be a difficult process that employers face when their employees are faced with the issues as mentioned above. Business has to continue because there might be other employees who depend on their monthly income to sustain themselves. At the same time the employees not directly affected by this process will look to the owner/manager in how he is trying to solve the problem. Some employees base their assumption of whether or not they want to be related to a specific employer on how that employer treats his employees. All eyes are thus on the employer/manager to treat everybody with respect and dignity as it may have a far wider consequence than most employers anticipate.
Showing of empathy
To have empathy with a person or his situation you first have to understand what the problem is, what issues that person has to deal with and what the person’s current situation is with regards to finances, family/friends support, and medical help available etcetera. Somebody once said that you do not really know a person unless you have walked a mile in his shoes. It is thus advisable to have an open and honest relationship with your employees from day one as it could have a great effect in the long run.
The second important factor is your listening skills and how you apply them. People do not always need advice so much as they need an ear that listens to what they say instead of hearing what they say. The difference is that the person that listens does so with the exclusive goal to allow the other party to voice his views or feelings without trying to give advice or interrupting the person. This allows the employee to communicate freely without interruption. The odd employee might not want to communicate at all as it is either too hurtful for him or the fact that he is just not that type of person. Employers must therefore be aware that such employees might need external help or assistance from a more professional person than you.
The third important factor is the asking of questions to establish what is wrong in order to find a proper solution. You might not want to start with the asking of to many questions in your very first session with the employee as this might create the impression that you are in a hurry to finish the job instead of assisting where you can. Questions are to be well thought through before they are put to the employee to avoid silly or unnecessary questions.
Fourthly the employer is to make notes of each discussion. This will help you to list your duties and responsibilities towards the solving of the problem as well as to have a proper record of each discussion. The afore-mentioned will become evident when the process runs over into a possible re-deployment of the employee or a possible termination of contract. The latter is extreme but business owners/managers have to be aware that the company cannot, in the long run, continue to support one employee to the detriment of the other employees or the business as a whole. The Labour Relations Act under the Code of Good Practice, Item 11, deals with incapacity: ill health and therefore recognises the fact that companies cannot be expected to support an employee indefinitely in certain circumstances.
The above are just some of the factors that business owners/managers have to keep in mind when dealing with the issues as mentioned in the first paragraph. NJC will be glad to assist if you have any questions.