3 Ways Small Business Owners Can Help an Employee in Crisis

As a small business owner, you undoubtedly want to support your people through life’s stressful and often unexpected events — from deaths in the family to medical issues to sick children or tense divorces.

Without an HR department trained in dealing with these types of situations, you’ll have to come up with your own process to make sure your business doesn’t suffer. When every employee is critical, here’s how you can manage.

1. Understand Your Role

It’s not uncommon for small business owners to be close with their employees — you work together all the time and they’re likely just as vested in your company’s success. So during times of trouble, it’s understandable that you want to be compassionate. Expressing your sympathy is appropriate, but avoid becoming your employee’s chief problem solver or counselor.

Instead, human resource experts advise that employers remember their role and keep conversations centered on the work-related aspects of the crisis. That might mean coordinating with other staff to support key duties while the employee is out of the office, or determining how to lighten an employee’s workload for a short period of time.

2. Provide Support Where You Can

Chances are you already offer benefits that your employees can use during times of crisis. For example, a few days of paid time off may be just what an employee needs to handle stress and help him or her get through it. Offering a temporary flexible schedule can also be useful. Remind employees that they may also be eligible for short-term disability benefits or family medical leave if they need extensive time away from work.

If your employees have access to an Employee Assistance Program as part of your benefits or through your state, be sure they understand what it is and how they can use it.

3. Discuss a Timeline and Expectations

Check in with your employee regularly. Send an email or schedule a quick meeting to see how he or she is doing. While professional boundaries are important, you still want to show your employees you care. Also, you’ll likely need to establish a timeline and clear expectations for the support you’re offering. This ensures that you and your employee are on the same page. For example, if an employee is taking time off, set a date for when he or she will return to work. This conversation may not be possible in the first few days of a crisis, but find an appropriate time to check in and discuss.

It’s understandable that it may take some time to get back into the swing of a normal work routine. But you’ll want to address any lasting changes or performance issues that arise as soon as seems reasonable — and provide a plan for getting the employee back on track.

The key to successful crisis management is to provide support in a way that not only works for your employees and company, but also sets a standard that you can rely on if and when another employee faces a difficult time.

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