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Managing employees dealing with major life changes

Published by: LifeWorks,

Coping with change

As a manager, you’re the one people look to for leadership, focus and guidance. Whether an employee is going through a personal tragedy or your workplace is experiencing a period of change, the tips below can help you lead effectively when life feels stressful or overwhelming.

If an employee is facing a health challenge. 

When you first learn that a member of your team has a serious illness, ask how you can help, and consult HR about relevant policies and procedures. But don’t let the conversation end there. Check in with the employee regularly to see how things are doing, and be quick to address any changing needs. Be sure to ask your employee what he or she prefers in terms of check-ins and support. This will help the them regain some control they may feel they’ve lost and broach the topic on their own terms.

When someone on your team is going through a separation or divorce

Your compassionate side may want to try solving an employee’s personal problems. But it’s important to temper compassion with professionalism. Instead, focus on helping with work issues, for example, arranging time off so the employee can deal with personal or legal matters.

If someone on your team has lost a loved one

The death of a close family member or friend can be an intensely painful experience. It’s only natural to want to take away a grief-stricken employee’s pain. Unfortunately, time needs to play its part. Avoid statements such as, “You’re going to be fine,” or “Everything happens for a reason,” which may seem to dismiss the magnitude of the loss or expect that the grieving employee cheer up. Instead, say things such as, “We’re here for you,” and “How can I help?”

When your team is dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event

An experience such as a death in the workplace or natural disaster in your community can affect individuals and the team long after the event occurred. Think of recovery as a journey with potential turbulence rather than a destination.

If a major change is impacting an individual or your team

Change comes in many forms. It may be personal, such as suddenly needing to care for an ageing parent who is no longer safe living alone, or it may be work-related such as a major reorganisation. Along with offering your support, urge employees facing a major change to reach out to their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or work-life service for information, resources, and support. Remember that you can use these services as well.

Make your employees feel loved