Some of the hardest times that I had as an employer were trying to understand the incomprehensible hardship that an employee encounters when they just learnt their child had committed suicide….. or, that their partner was diagnosed with an untreatable terminal disease and they had 4 young children to look after, raise and educate…..
These events will send shock waves through any organisation.
But the real tragedy was unfolding in front of all of us. They weren’t just an employee, they were our mates, our friends, or colleagues and the people that we stand beside at work. We watch them loose focus when a team meeting is being briefed and we talk to them about problems during the midday break.
Because our people were all affected whenever there was any sort of hardship.
Being a First Time Employer
Employing people can be a struggle, from the moment a business employs its first person there is a sense of ‘no turning back’ and then the added feeling of responsibility kicks in a short while later.
Because being an employer is not simple, it is a high level responsibility that the employer has to maintain. Regular wages, promised work, ensuring employee engagement etc. and as the business grows to employ more people, those employment responsibilities become a 24/7 spontaneously dependant task.
Employing people can be rewarding. The cycle of employment can grow a business from strength to strength. However the hardest function of employing a person is capturing an employees personal issues and how they are affecting their work, then trying to address the situation to both comfort the employee and ensure they are not going to hurt themselves at work:
- How does an employer identify the issues?
- How does the employer raise problems with an employee?
- How does the employer know when they have overstepped the mark and pushed an employee too far?
- How does the employer attend to comforting hardship issues?
Too often employers glaze over the finer detail and completely miss the events that are unfolding in front of them. (related article)
Is work really that important that we can just ‘turn off’ when we finish work for the day. I mean, how is it truly possible for an employer not to feel some sort of compassion when one of their employees is facing a life changing issue that is much more technical then the day at work.
Sharing the Stories within the team is important, it raises core issues and lets people relate to each others situation.
Hardship and Handling a Devastating Situation
As an employer, when a situation is devastating to an employee, there is NO excuse for the business to warrant their undivided focus.
I have always believed in ‘treating people how I would like to be treated’, and to that point, when an employee were being faced with a devastating situation then I would try and fathom how it would be best to comfort them and give them the certainty that ‘work is merely work’ and that they had more important things to attend to.
I remember receiving a call from an employee who was faced with a potential crisis, emergency surgery on a critical bodily organ had uncovered other implications and this could be life threatening to their partner. They had 5 young children and depended on the single wage that our business provided. The situation was incredibly difficult.
After taking that call and understanding the hardship that our team member were faced with. I immediately contacted the site management to discuss our work program. Once resolved I made a return call to our employee, I reassured them that we had everything under control. I sent them home with their family until they were ready to return.
For the next 4-6 weeks I maintained constant contact with the family, I had flowers sent to the hospital and I made regular wage payments in lieu of them returning safely to work. Fortunately, the surgery was a complete success and these events bring a family together in a stronger bond then before.
Each situation is different, and there is no recipe to making the situation any easier then the time before.
As an employer, the true merit in providing comfort and support will be admired by your employees. They know that if something was to happen to them that you would look after them. This is much more valuable to a workforce then a simple wage earning.
Being a compassionate employer is extremely rewarding, there is a strong bond formed between work colleagues and people are more likely to engage in their employment responsibilities.
I found the best approach was always having a ‘1 on 1’ conversation with each person, get to know what issues people are faced with and then try and accommodate their work rosters or work cycles around the most important times of their lives such as birthdays, their children’s first day at school and children’s birthdays. This didn’t always work, but by the greater part we built a strong sense of business ownership with our employees by doing these simple things.
Written by Geoff Pike, Entrepreneur, Speaker & Business Mentor
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Geoff founded a sole trader plumbing business in a remotely located and vastly underpopulated location in outback Australia. Starting business with only enough money to pay 4 weeks wages, Geoff persisted by growing the business into a multi-disciplined trade services company. Over a period of 12 years, the company Geoff established grew to employ a workforce of over 300 personnel covering an area almost half the size of Europe, receiving international award recognition with an annual revenue of over $30mil. Geoff knows what it takes to overcome adversity.