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too close for comfort


This one is for those of you own a small company (employee count: 1-20)

In such a small company, how can you separate your employees' personal lives from work and from your own life? When an employee is having problems in his/her personal life, how can you be not cruel and not listen, but still keep the distance so that their personal issues do not spill over to work? Do you find it hard to keep the business and personal side of life without appearing to be insensitive or cruel?

not cruel
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Be considerate & professional.  Call this individual into your office, tell them that you've noticed their behavior, mood change (whatever the symptoms may be) and you'd like to know if there's anything he/she would like to talk about.  Offer support.  Offer hope.  And if there's anything (reasonable) you can do to help, go for it.  That's what a good leader does.

That's just my 2 cents.

GiorgioG
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

On a related note - business is personal.  Would you prefer people to work for you or robots? (Some of you techies should NOT answer that.)

I'm not saying you should spend 3 of your 5 days a week, propping this guy/gal up if he's started being unproductive.  Tell him to take some time off.  That is, if this person is worth it as an employee.

GiorgioG
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

If the employee is worth keeping, give him/her the time off to take care of whatever the problems are.  Be flexible and supportive.  You'll lose some productivity over the short term, but it will be paid back because this employee (and all of the others) will see that this is a great place to work.

Good people won't take advantage the slack they're getting.  Great people will feel guilty about having the slack at all and will work twice as hard to make it up to you.

Boofus McGoofus
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

==>In such a small company, how can you separate your employees' personal lives from work and from your own life?

I own 50% of my shop. We're a small shop -- 6. Soon to be 8 folks.

What is this separation (?) you speak of. These folks are just as much a part of my family as my "real" family is. Is there any other way to run a successful shop? Why would you want to be impersonal, "professional".

As an owner, and a confessed work-a-holic, my business is my life. I need to be able to trust these folks (employees) with my life if need be. I do. I don't think I could get that level of commitment from being impersonal and professional.

This does not, however, mean that I let my employees get over on me. I look at our shop as a family, and my partner and I as the parents. As anyone with a family knows, sometimes you've got to step in and excersize your authority. Sometimes you've got to hand out the "tough love". Sometimes it ain't easy.

In the end, I see no separation. My employees are my family, and their personal lives are just as much my problem as any other family member's.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I can't see things working correctly in any other way. I guess that's why we'll always remain a small shop and won't be taking over the world with our globalization effort <grin>.

Sgt. Sausage
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

When will you people realize that people of all races and cultures are all equally inferior to robots?

Bender
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

I have had significant personal issues to the extent that the stress nearly got me fired because I couldn't focus and be productive.  However, I never discussed details with my boss.  I used personal resources to deal with what was a personal issue.

I did it this way because the company I work for is run by a dictator who has delusions of grandeur and tries to run a 15-person company as though it were a multi-national conglomerate with employees in every timezone.

How do you run your company?  Do you tend to mingle personal and work stuff?  If so, then maybe you're willing to discuss this person's problems in detail.  If not, it's not "cruel" to tell them you aren't there to listen to personal problems, that there is a separation between work and personal life, and they should seek out appropriate personal resources to deal with a personal problem.

Should be working
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

I've worked in a lot of small companies; one where I was recovering from serious burnout, one where things went well initially but I had personal problems interfere later on.  In either case, what ended up happening was the loose job descriptions bent where they needed to to get the job done.  That seemed to be what happened whether it was official or not, so I'd recommend talking honestly with them to design the workaround.  You know what the overall priorities are, they know what tasks are particularly suffering because of outside issues.

From being in those shoes, there was nothing I hated more than having to bring up my own limitations to the boss, wondering the whole time whether he'd think less of me, whether he'd get angry or annoyed or otherwise emotional about it.  Luckily, he didn't.  But it was a conversation I put off for a long time.  If he had initiated that conversation earlier, I would have been grateful *and* the project would have been better off.

No need to talk about anything personal.  Unless it's specific to a working relationship, my boss is about the last person I'd want to get personal with, even/especially when he's part of my circle of friends as well.  Just: "I see your work is suffering lately.  Is there anything we can do to help, maybe you could take some time off or something?  Let's talk about which projects / responsibilities we can shift around temporarily."

Mikayla
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Finally, one area my Army training gets to help.

The personal problems of people who work for you are your business problems.  So, use your problem solving skills and help this person to get their life back on track. Do whatever it takes.  If they need some time off to get themselves sorted, then give it to them.  If they need an older, wiser head to listen to them, then be that older, wiser head.  If they need to have their butt kicked, then lace up some boots.

The reason I mention the Army is that while acting as a squad leader I was expected to not only make sure that my troops had all their gear in shape and were physically fit and trained, etc., but I also knew the names and birthdays of their wives and their children and made sure they did too.  If they were single I made sure that they kept in touch with their families.  On holidays I made sure that everyone had somewhere to go, if they didn't have anyplace, then they came over to mine.

You see, you can't expect peak performance from someone who's depressed, or is worried about problems at home.  If you want your subordinates to give you 110% you need to give them 120% and make sure they have an environment that allows them to do their job.

And I don't say this to make myself sound wonderful.  That behaviour was standard for just about every NCO in the Army that I ever met.  When it all comes down to it, every business is only as good as its people.

Steve Barbour
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

"What is this separation (?) you speak of. These folks are just as much a part of my family as my "real" family is. Is there any other way to run a successful shop? Why would you want to be impersonal, "professional".

As an owner, and a confessed work-a-holic, my business is my life. I need to be able to trust these folks (employees) with my life if need be. I do. I don't think I could get that level of commitment from being impersonal and professional."

This is why I ran, screaming, from my last "mom & pop shop"

Mom & Pop needed kids, instead, they got employees.  It didn't work out.

Sassy
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Letting the problem go without mention will do nothing to help.  A couple of years ago I obtained the names and numbers of a few good counselors and always carry the list in my wallet.  When I encounter an acquaintance whom I think may benefit from meeting with a counselor (emotional issues, marriage issues, etc.), I pass along the information.  In each case it has been appreciated - and at times successful.  If you are not a counselor, trying to play counselor can be disastrous.  I am not discounting Steve's remarks at all.  You can't not be involved.  You already are, whether you like it or not.

Jim L
Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Steve B:
Having known a few people that served I can tell you that I'm sure it was sincerely appreciated by your squad.  I have only seen this type of commitment in 1 small company I know.  The COO feels very strongly that the team code together, drink together, and basically care about what's going on with the guy in the next cube.

It reflects in the amount of productivity he gets out of them and their willingness to go far beyond someone simply punching in/out on a timeclock.  Of course the reverse is also true.  I can show you 99 other places where the employees would rather step over you as you gasp for air than to acknowledge your presence in the hallway.  They can't get out of their own way since everyone is to busy posturing and marking territory.

Brick
Thursday, June 10, 2004

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