So a manager you lead approaches you to say they need time off to deal with significant family issues. You can hear the tension in their voice. What do you do?
- Listen to them. Hear their emotion. Accept that emotion.
- Ask appropriate questions. “Are you worried about work?” “What can I do to help you and your family during this time?” Connect with your team member.
- Feel. Feel what they are feeling. If you are not an emotional person, that’s ok. Work hard to empathize with them. They need to know you understand (even in part) what they are going through.
- Think. Think of actionable things YOU can do to make them feel less guilty about work, take the load off of their shoulders and place the work load on you and their team members. It’s not a forever thing, but you can communicate and demonstrate “we are here for you” during this difficult time.
- Act. Set up a time to meet prior to their leave of absence to plan the course of action.
- Follow-up/Follow-through. Keep the communication going for the entire team. Touch base with this team member.
This is a crucial time to communicate how much you value your team member. Difficult times come – that’s life. But with some intention, care and concern, as well as humanity, you help your team member navigate through their current stormy waters.
If you have built trust within your team, this is a critical time to put that to the test. Allow vulnerability. Allow tears. Encourage communication and promise it. Be human.