When Your Employees’ Personal Lives Interfere with Their Work

When Your Employees’ Personal Lives Interfere with Their Work

There are times in everyone’s life that events outside of the workplace require our immediate attention. You may need to help your employees understand that the personal phone calls, text messages and emails they are receiving are appropriate for your work place and when they are too disruptive and are having a negative impact on their work. You may need to remind them of the impact on your clients/customers as well as their co-workers directly, and the bottom line, mission, vision and values indirectly.  They are on company time and they are being paid for their time and talents.

Of course you are going to permit your employee to attend to these matters…but only up to a point while at work. If attending to these issues while at work is inappropriate because of the work environment, or if the external events are commanding too much time and attention from their work, the employee will have to find other ways to deal with the issue.

Realistically there are at least four choices;

  1. The employee must either postpone dealing with the issue until they leave work at the regularly scheduled time.
  2. They must postpone dealing with it until they go on an official break.
  3. They must hand the problem/issue over to another person – family or friend.
  4. They must leave their workplace immediately so they can attend to the situation. Their absence from the workplace would be an unpaid leave, or they would have to use banked time such as vacation or time off in lieu.

Some employees will be surprised that you will not permit them to deal with this personal issue on company time, anytime, every time.  There is a continuum of responses. On one end of the continuum there is “Yes, you can because this happens so seldom or it is so urgent or you are the only person who can address the issue, and /or it will only take a few minutes.” And then the employee can go back to being fully productive. On the other end of the continuum is “No. This is the Xth time this week/month/year. Or, no, dealing with it here at work is too disruptive to co-workers/customers/clients, and I’m sorry, it cannot be permitted. You will have to leave work to deal with it or pass it over to another family member/friend.”

Some employees will need help with the guidelines in the moment or a reminder of the guidelines. That’s a simple conversation where you refer to the guidelines and the valid business reasons for them. This is the most difficult aspect of being a supervisor – monitoring employees’ performance and enforcing the guidelines, procedures and policies. It is fairly straightforward. You state the guideline; you hold up the mirror and describe their behaviour; you ask them to do something differently; you offer your encouragement and assistance. And the next time when they make the right choice with their cell phone, you take the time and effort to congratulate them on their good choice.

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