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The Bleed-over Effect

Monday, June 01, 2009 | Category :
    • In the News

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 open.

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."

The 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 income/disrupted career.
  • 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.

There 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.


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