We in the talent management world are acutely aware of the internal
workplace impact of the current economic mess, and perhaps even more
painfully aware of the personal impact of same on our own career plans.
But consider how economic pain experienced outside of work might bleed
over into the workplace.
You may count your people lucky to have
jobs, but it is likely someone they know, love and count on for support
has had a disruption in his or her work situation that has upset
expected quality of life and work-life balance. This bleed-over effect
is somewhat different from the direct trauma induced from difficult
decisions many talent managers are making these days to keep the doors
Any distraction can stoke up a cauldron of psychological
stress. This stress can lead to behavior that may have significant and
dire long-term consequences such as chemical dependency, divorce,
hospitalization or even criminal behavior. According to Shelisa
Gautreaux, director of human resources for Yum Brands, "External factors
can create stress and anxiety on our employees, even when things are
going well for them on the job. We're currently conducting in-depth,
cross-functional focus groups throughout the organization to help us
identify opportunities to strengthen our results-oriented culture, and
to minimize the trickle-over effect of the macroeconomic environment,
since our culture continues to be a competitive point of difference."
inability to function effectively when faced with distractions, while
understandable, does not create "air cover" for employees from a
performance management standpoint. In fact, managers are coached not to
play the role of amateur psychologists to find out why a perfectly
capable employee's performance has suddenly turned south. Instead, a
manager's focus and feedback typically is about performance, analyzing
job-related variables only.
Potential sources of distraction include:
- Issues related to care of nuclear/extended family:
Changes to work schedules, loss of income required to support child or
elder care or a spouse undergoing severe stress due to loss of
- Ability to sustain achieved quality of life: Ability
to attend to parenting duties or provide comfort during
foreclosure/loss of home due to ballooning mortgage payments, forcing
unstable housing situations, longer commutes or homelessness.
- Disruption of life planning:
Putting off retirement or seeing career/promotional opportunities dry
up as ladders get truncated or eliminated. Children who have their own
life plans may have to move back home to make ends meet.
are opportunities to help your management team learn how to recognize
when the bleed-over is taking a toll on people in your organization. A
manager's role in circumstances such as these is to motivate employees
to seek out resources to get the help they need to deal with these
issues. It is not the role of managers to take on the responsibility
directly as they are not qualified. A good place to start is to revisit
programs that may be in place but may need a boost in visibility.