The Personal Life Clashes with Productivity

For the last 12 months, I have been trying to buy my first home.  My wife and I decided it was time to find a place we could truly call “home.”  10 months ago, I entered into a sales agreement to purchase a property.  It was a dreaded short sale, and I knew going into the agreement that I would be spending a lot of time waiting on the bank to approve or deny the sale of the property.  However, if we could get it approved, we’d be purchasing a home at a great price while interest rates were at historical lows.
To date, I’m still working on this sale.  Ever since I entered into that contract agreement, I’ve felt less productive.  Part of my drive to complete work is lacking.  Don’t get me wrong, as I still finish all of my duties and tasks because it’s what I was hired to do, but a lot of the enthusiasm that I used to have is missing.  I still love what I do, but the stresses of this real estate deal have been a major distraction.
I’m using this example because for a lot of us newer leaders, we don’t always think about what is happening with our direct reports outside of the workplace.  Too often, we assume that because someone under our management isn’t performing, it’s because they “have a bad attitude” or “they don’t care.”  It’s time to step back and ask this question: What does the big picture look like?
Does this individual have a personal problem they may be dealing with?  Are they behind on their mortgage payment?  Did someone they cared about pass away recently?  Did they leave the coffee pot on at home?  As leaders, we need to be understanding in these situations.  It is our duty to accommodate, but also help the individual refocus at the same time.  We may be in a position of power, but we also serve those who report to us.  
The lines between the career and the personal life are blurred.  Our personal issues follow us to the workplace, and our work issues are a main topic for the dinner discussions at home.  Remember this the next time you’re presented with a challenge from a direct report.  You’ll have a better outcome, and it should happen much more quickly instead of reprimanding the individual. 
I want to hear your comments.  Did you have someone with a personal issue that affected their productivity?  Did you personally have a situation that affected those around you in the workplace?  How did you overcome it?

4 thoughts on “The Personal Life Clashes with Productivity

  1. When I was a bookkeeper for a CPA firm, my brother was having surgery on his back. He would be in surgery and post-op a good part of the day so I went to work and planned to see him that evening. Although I thought of him through the day I thought I was doing fine. I went to see him at the hospital that evening and he was in great shape, we even shared some brotherly-sisterly joking around. The next day I re-checked the work I had done the day before and was shocked at how many errors I had made. I was totally unaware of how much my performance was affected by another person’s illness.

    • Thank you for your story, JoAnn! That was an excellent example of the personal distractions we face on a regular basis. If you don’t mind me asking, did your manager/supervisor comment on the errors you had made? If so, how did they react?

  2. I am a very compassionate person, but there has to be a time and place for those kinds of situations. It is not fair for the employee who can contain their personal lives or issues to have to be brought down by the employee who cannot. I have had an employee who thought that since he spent so much of his life (40hrs weekly), at work that it was okay to bring all his baggage. I find that unacceptable. The way I handled it was to give the employee an opportunity to re-group and to discuss after work. I do challenge the team to think how under performing can make that personal situation even worse, because now there are two issues at home and at work. One of those places has to be under control. Considering that those are the two places we spend most of our time, we need to find some balance. I think a good work ethic and realizing that being employed is not an obligation, but rather a privilege especially in current conditions. I care too much, so much that if I ask I want to know it all, and I as a leader also have an obligation to my company. I am charged with balancing what is good for my organization, my clients, my team and lastly.. me. It has worked well for me. We all have issues, and need to remember that we still have a business to run.

    • Your approach, Matt (“It’s time to step back and ask this question: What does the big picture look like?…You’ll have a better outcome, and it should happen much more quickly instead of reprimanding the individual”), will result in loyalty from those you lead. You are choosing to believe that the employee wants to perform well on the job and by giving them room during a tough season, they will more than repay your patience. In fact, if the time comes later when you must speak directly to the employee’s lack of performance, they will respond much more positively & quickly out of their gratitude for your prior deference toward them.

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