How prepared are companies for the reality of employee performance breakdown during personal trauma?

There is a drive in modern business management to implement soft skills in an attempt to retain employee attention, maintain output levels and performance, and drive productivity outcomes. These are just some of the mechanisms that a forward-thinking company uses to ensure that they have open communication channels and stronger employee and management team engagement.

Now my question is, “What happens when an employee is faced with a personal trauma that envelopes their entire head-space rendering them unwittingly disengaged from their work?”. Is the company ready for this eventuality? 

Does your company find itself disengaging from such individuals, purely because the pressures of operational and financial performance drive this reaction?

Such disengagement undermines all potential to retain talent and create highly effective workforces and management teams.

These are questions demanding answers, insight and people leadership skills that many managers are not equipped to deal with.  Management of companies seek performance levels commensurate with the remuneration of the employee and are under pressure to deliver returns higher up the stakeholder channel.

There are three factors to consider here, that companies often choose to dismiss at their peril:

1.  How creatively prepared are managers and executives to navigate these waters with a colleague coping with personal trauma? What are the long-term effects for both parties of either positive or negative outcomes in this scenario?

2. How far can the company and its management be extended and what are the business and talent risk profiles of the situation?, and simultaneously,

3. How capable is the employee in being creatively part of a process that can be filled with fear, but that will ultimately guide them out of dark personal days?

My own story arose three years ago, when I found myself in the midst of a divorce that I neither wanted nor expected. It tore me to pieces, and induced an extreme downturn in my own creativity, leadership ability and productivity at a time when I was really needed to be a visionary leader at the peak of my game.

Having had this personal insight and hindsight, I wondered how many other companies are faced daily with trauma induced nosedives in productivity and performance expectations of executives and managers. How are companies and its talented resources prepared to cope with these realities of life that come along without warning and pose business risk and personal risk profiles that are daunting?

To create an analogy, let me state the case as follows:
Companies are required by law to provide fire-fighting equipment in factories and offices to deal with real fires. Evacuation drills are put into place so that in the event that a fire breaks out, the staff has a planned practiced exit strategy. What now if we liken such a fire to the wipe-out of the leadership capacity and performance levels of an executive member facing personal trauma? Has your company creatively developed and implemented a strategic “fire-extinguisher” to douse the flames of this kind of fall-out?

A forward thinking company and executive team plans for reality. This is a reality. The management of talent is truly about the management of people. The short-term guidance and strategic steadfastness of a company and its management alongside an embattled talented colleague has exponential benefits in terms of medium-term and long-term buy in by that individual to the company vision. Planning for reality is intricately linked to talent management. How pro-active is your company in the management of its talented resources?

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People are your competitive edge

The greatest asset you have is people. Whether at a personal level or at a business level we simply have to nurture people to see the successes of our individual and corporate lives unfold.

A scenario will help obviate my thinking here. Imagine the scenario of your family and friends. Review the level of successes and happiness that you enjoy with them. Any lack of commitment to those people around you generates consequential failures in the communication system of the relationships. Notice that I specifically state: “commitment to the PEOPLE”. It is not the relationship that you commit to, it is the person. The relationship and its state of health are merely symptomatic of the level of your commitment to another human being.

The same is evident when looking at ourselves and, as I will shortly explain, the insight into the dynamics of companies.

Failure to bond with yourself, as a person, ultimately leaves you mechanical, robotic, hardened, emotionless and internalized fears creep in as a result of your own disengagement. These fears are the consequences of the lack of internal understanding, acknowledgement and self-belief, manifesting as subtle or overt aggression and diversionary behaviours. Take the time to observe this in people around you. This is the polarity of human behavior….if one takes away the happiness, the only next available space to occupy is fear.

By extrapolation, the same exists in companies. Very often we see middle and senior management, including stakeholders, demonstrating that they are interested in managing and developing their staff. However, upon deeper analysis it becomes very evident that they are, to all good intentions, simply managing and nurturing the relationship phenomena. This is as a result of the teachings that relationship management is imperative. However, it’s the PEOPLE that require personal development and growth and from that develops the illuminated relationship as a positive consequence. Understanding your people and what they are about at a personal level is critical to your success. Let the brilliant relationship unfold from that.

This application of energy to the person, applies to both the internal customer (your staff) and the external customer (your client). Management’s dedication and commitment to these people as your most vital assets is where ultimately the dividends are seen in business.

Let me give an example that I , as a “Joe Public” consumer, see in the differences between two of South Africa’s leading retail giants.

The first company (Company A), has staff who engage with me at their checkout points, no matter the branch, no matter the time of day, with smiles and every effort to communicate with me at a personalized level. Clearly Company A’s staff have been developed and enlightened about their importance as front-liners in a manner that has led them to personal buy-in to this activity.  They are stimulating my level of importance, I know that at a rational level, but as a consequence I shop there all the time. They have got me also to a level of buy-in. A job well done by Company A!

The second company (Company B), is the contra. I am aware of the efforts that Company B has made historically with its numerous staff benefits and many etceteras. Company B has clearly worked hard at these internal relationships with their staff. However, there is no buy-in evident to me as Joe Public, which I explained exists at their competitor. Company B has checkout staff who are miserable, no matter the branch, no matter the time of day, and to be quite honest their misery manifests as apathetic and manner-less dispositions towards clientele. The people have become negative assets, and simply, negative assets = liabilities.

I gave Company B many shopping days, many banknotes, and much patience until the osmosis of their staff attitude eventually made me understand that I, as a person, was not valuable to them. Company B made me feel like they were only after the content of my wallet. As a person, I felt somewhat differently. I no longer ever step foot inside the doors of Company B. I am a customer lost to them.

Is this scenario of Company B one that your company is facing or potentially will be facing unless the people dynamic I have explained is given due consideration?

In conclusion, by improving the way that internal and external people are engaged with and grown, companies see the following results: reduced overheads and costs, improved team interaction, creative solutions forthcoming to solve problems, and vision buy-in from all levels in the organisation, including their clients. This is truly when talent is being developed, retained and provides the competitive edge.

Contact us for an insightful talk to your business about the power of people in your company.

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