Is your workplace an adult day care?

by Miklos Bolza19 Aug 2016
Today’s workplaces are being turned into what is being phrased as a “staff day care” with an increasing number of managers having to fix employees’ personal problems to keep them focused.
“Many workers are bringing issues at home to work – unloading to their colleagues about relationship breakdowns, financial debt and family fights, interrupting work and forcing the boss to intervene,” said business mentor Mike Irving of Advanced Business Abilities.
“It’s a common theme I’m hearing among frustrated employers who find staff are focused on their own problems and therefore not being supportive of the team.”
This trend stems from those who lack self-leadership skills, Irving said, such as the ability to keep agreements with yourself.
“That is the number one biggest self-leadership skill because if you are not able to do what you say you are going to do, you’re not actually able to lead yourself.”
Other skills, such as clear communication and having a good relationship with yourself will impact this primary skill, he said.
Taking control
The best way to create an efficient workplace is to weed out people lacking these self-leadership skills during the recruitment process. However, this can be tough to do with the plethora of resume writing services or interview skills courses available.
“You know what they do when they teach you how to be interviewed? They teach you how to ask questions and take control of the interview so you look more intelligent than you are,” Irving said.
It’s up to the interviewer to be aware of these tactics and take control back by asking the right questions in the right way. One mistake however is asking questions that telegraph the desired answer onto the interviewee. As an example, Irving compared the following two questions:
  • Tell me about a time when you had a problem at work and what you did to deal with it
  • Tell me about a time you had a problem at work
“It’s a far better question if you dropped the second half and just leave it up to them to reveal information about themselves. But the moment that you add that extra bit, that’s it. They now know exactly what to tell you. In fact, they’ve probably rehearsed it.”
While asking these questions, there are five traits to look out for that hint at a lack of self-leadership skills, Irving said.
  1. Overly critical: quick to find fault in others and be vocal about it
  2. Negative: seeing problems rather than solutions
  3. Laying the blame: never admitting fault, instead pointing fingers at others
  4. Dishonest: happily lying to cover their tracks
  5. Unsupportive: looking after themselves instead of the group
Related stories:
Transformational leadership traits: do you have these?
Leaders can inspire passion without unleashing hate
Employers failing to provide challenge, leadership


  • by Mary 19/08/2016 12:13:06 PM

    Wouldn't life be less complicated if workers were robots! Unforeseen and unfavourable situations occur and that's a fact of life - no one wants to go through a relationship breakdowns, financial debt, family fights etc (I certainly wouldn't), but sometimes these things do happen and it can affect work life. The key thing here is to show support, empathy and compassion - invite the staff member to connect with you and to provide support/assistance if possible. The best of people can fall into hard times too and employers should not view their personal matter as a burden.

  • by Leanne Faraday-Brash 25/08/2016 11:47:11 AM

    I agree the reality of employing people means some of their foibles, struggles and mental health challenges come with them. The article pushes the recruitment process as the way to weed out potentially “high maintenance” employees with self-leadership deficiencies. And I agree that negativity, blame, lack of self-accountability aren't attractive attributes and might mean a poor fit for good culture and therefore a bad hire.
    But what about those loyal devoted employees who long since justified the recruitment decision and then fall on hard times or succumb to reactive depression through illness or relationship breakdown? Surely they deserve empathy, flexibility and attention without letting them languish indefinitely and put pressure on other members of the team unreasonably.
    As an organisational psychologist, I find the single biggest challenge for managers when confronted with such issues (apart from their lack of confidence in knowing how to approach such conversations) is that if they have allowed themselves to become friends and confidantes more than respected up line leaders who need to ensure staff are able to perform, it is harder for them to negotiate what's best for company and team member without being seen as uncaring or abandoning. If they model care for staff and foster an accountability culture, employees who struggle are more willing to see the manager’s concern for company and employee as reasonable, not as a betrayal.
    The article references pre-occupation with personal life and burdensome conversations with colleagues. Other staff can also be coached to say empathically to someone who wants to talk about their divorce settlement all day that they understand and accept their colleague is going through a hard time but that they are not professionally equipped to help, that they're not comfortable discussing such a deeply personal matter and need to ensure they are managing their time. I realise some will resist this because they will fear appearing uncaring yet others won’t admit they love the drama and intrigue yet will be very unlikely to actually make a positive difference.

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