How to Support an Employee Who’s Struggling

Support an employee

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Everyone has problems that cause them to be less than focused on their work. It might be an issue regarding the job itself, it could be a personal problem, it might be health… the list goes on. Whatever it is, as a manager and/or employer, you need to support your employees as much as possible. You won’t be able to help with every problem, and it might be that your workers aren’t keen on discussing their issues with you, but it’s well worth trying – not only is it a good, moral thing to do, but it also means that you might be able to help your employee get back on track, ensuring that your business keeps being productive. 

Managing an employee who’s struggling in any way is something that all bosses will have to deal with at some point – it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to get through your entire career without having an employee who’s lost a loved one, who’s having financial issues, who’s suffering from a mental illness, and more. The only way to avoid this is not to have any employees at all, and although that can work for some businesses, it’s not going to be the right path for every organization to take.

In other words, it’s wise to have a few ideas ready to go when it comes to helping an employee who’s struggling – for whatever reason – to ensure you can help rather than hinder them and your business. With that in mind, here are a few things to think about and some plans you can put in place if you notice there’s an issue. Read on to find out more. 

Notice The Problem

You’ll have seen the worked ‘notice’ above, and that’s the first thing to think about – you have to notice the problem before you can do anything about it. That means you need to be aware of your team and of each member of that team so you can spot any time something seems off. The better you know everyone, the easier it will be to notice that they’re not themselves, helping you get a gauge on whether or not they need help because they’re struggling with some kind of issue. 

If the problem is a work-related one, it might be easier to see; the employee might not be as productive as they were, or they might not be communicating as they did – they might even be avoiding work as much as they can or maybe avoiding one person in particular. Noticing these things gives you a good idea if there’s a potential problem, and you can ensure you make time to speak to your team members about the problem and see what you might be able to do to help. 

Of course, the problem might not be a work-related one, or perhaps you have a remote team, which means it’s harder to spot when there is a problem – most of the time, everyone communicates through text-based programs, so you can’t pick up on subtle changes in their manner or tone, for example. That’s where the next idea will be useful. 

Check In With Everyone 

No matter whether the business you run is an office-based one or a remote one (or even a hybrid one), you should ensure that you check in with everyone who works for you regularly. By doing this, you’ll be in a good position to notice changes, which we’ve already established is important when you’re a boss or manager. How often you have these meetings is something you’ll need to work out for yourself (it’s usually going to depend on how busy everyone is and when it’s not going to cause any disruption to the work being done and so on), but having them is crucial. 

When you have one-to-one meetings with your team members, they’ll be able to talk openly about their issues without any fear of anyone else overhearing, and you’ll be able to make suggestions about what the business or even you in particular can do to help. Even if there isn’t anything you can do to help, just listening can be a great thing to do, and ensuring that your team members know you’re someone they can talk to is wonderful. 

Of course, you may have noticed a change in an employee, but when you ask them how they are, they say they’re fine. This can be a tricky situation to find yourself in, but there are things you can do. You might say you’ve noticed they’ve been distracted, for example, allowing them to explain, or perhaps you could talk about an issue you’re having in the hopes that they’ll respond the same way. No matter what, don’t pry – they’ll tell you as much as they’re comfortable telling you, and you’ll have to work with the information they’ve given you, whether it’s the fact that they need to find a good bail bonds company for a relative or they’re struggling with their mental health – or anything else that might be an issue. 

Offer Training 

If the issue is a work-related one, it might be that training could solve a lot of problems. Some employees take on a worker and assume or expect that they’ll know precisely what to do; they’re thrown in at the deep end, in other words. However, that might not be the case – even with plenty of experience, each new workplace is going to run things differently, and there will usually be new systems and machinery to get to grips with, let alone the other systems that are in place, including overtime schedules, breaks, or even who’s responsible to cleaning the kitchen! 

Training can make everyone feel much happier, and it’s well worth arranging for all your employees. The training can be about something specific that they need to do in terms of the job you hired them for, it can be training that will help them understand the systems in your business (as opposed to anywhere else), it can be training on something like hygiene or first aid or anything else that will ensure all employees know exactly what to do in any situation that might come up. 

The more training you can offer, the happier your team will be, and although it won’t solve personal problems, it will certainly make most, if not all, work-related issues much less of a challenge. That’s even more true if you can include some team building into the training from time to time – when you do this, keep an eye on how everyone interacts with their colleagues, as that could give you a few clues about any problems bubbling underneath that you can at least attempt to do something about. 

Set Realistic Workloads And Goals

Once you know what the issue is that’s causing your employee to feel anxious, be stressed, and otherwise not work as productively as they once did – as productively as you know they can – it’s a good idea to talk about their workloads with them. Of course, the entire issue could be the workload in the first place; it might be that you miscalculated how much the person can handle, and you’ve simply given them too much to do. This is easily dealt with once everyone starts communicating, and the solution is to reduce their workload to a more manageable level. You can slowly increase it over time as they become more and more proficient in their tasks or if they find the workload has been reduced too much, for example. 

Yet even if the problem is how much work someone has to do at all, it’s still not a bad idea to look at that workload and reduce it if you can – if it makes sense to. Sometimes, a problem at home that’s causing stress can lead to a lack of productivity in all other areas of life, including work. If an employee needs to sort out a personal problem, having lots of work to do isn’t going to help – it might just make things worse. As a manager, reducing (and eventually increasing) workloads and setting new, realistic goals for your employees to work towards is essential. Not only will it make everything work more smoothly, but it will ensure your employee has a chance to deal with their issues without feeling overburdened. They’ll fix things more quickly and can come back to their usual tasks faster. 

Final Thoughts

When you have employees, you need to take care of them. That doesn’t mean you have to be a therapist to them, and it doesn’t mean you have to do everything for them (that could end up being disastrous and exhausting for you), but it does mean trying to get to know them, checking in with them, and offering them help and flexibility if and when they need it – when you can, of course. 

By being a caring and sensitive boss, your team will be loyal and happier in their work, keeping your business running smoothly and ensuring your reputation is second to none.