What would you do?

Published 26 Apr 2017

You supervise a group of 10 people in a manufacturing environment. One of your direct reports, Mitch, has confided in you that his wife has left him and has filed for divorce. He has seemed depressed, often a few minutes late for work, low-energy. One of Mitch’s coworkers mentioned to you that Mitch told him he `just wanted to blast everybody`, and at another time he `just wanted to close the door and turn off the lights. The coworker is concerned about Mitch. What should you do?

Today employees have several issues when they work in their organization. One of the main issues that can trouble performance at the workplace is personal and family issues which may have a terrible effect on work. Employees may often find it vey difficult to leave their personal problems back at home. This can have a devastating effect on the organization’s goals especially on targets and productivity. Some of the common problems that the personnel can face include death of a family member, divorce, loss of home, financial loss, etc (Smallwood, 2009).

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In certain circumstances, problems may have to be sorted out by the manager. The manager should discuss the issues with the personnel from the work front point of view. In case the employee is unable to put up a good performance, the HR manager should clearly mention to the employee that the work performance has not be up to the mark with recently and should ask whether there are any problems at the work front or at home. In case the employee wishes to discuss the same, a strong intention of the personnel manager should exist to solve the problem sincerely rather than make the situation worse for the employee. In certain situations, services of the counselor or psychiatrist may be required. The HR manager should clearly get all the facts of the situation out, and according develops options of solving the problem. The employee should be informed that all information discussed during such sessions would be kept confidential. It may also be required to involve other staff members, but these issues also need to be kept confidential. The manager should try to sort out the issues one by one rather than taking a measure that would worsen the entire situation. In some situations, time could be considered as a relieving factor (Fire Controlman, 2009).

In the case of Mitch, the supervisor has initially suggested a wrong option that would have lead to Mitch instinctively filing his divorce papers and causing further problems for him. Instead if the manager had to sort out problems at that stage tactfully and with an intention of solving the issues, Mitch would have been in a much better situation. However, issues have to be sorted out at the personal front currently. From the evidence provided by Mitch’s friend, it seems that Mitch is suffering from depression and grief. Psychiatric treatment in the form of counseling sessions with the psychiatrist and medications may be recommended for a short duration. If Mitch’s problem is not sorted out currently, then it could lead to further deterioration at the work and personal front. In order to solve the marital problems, Mitch should be strongly recommended to involve his ex-spouse, for which the management may have a role to play. The ex-spouse should be informed of the mental problems faced by Mitch and should be encouraged to sort out the problem through dialogue and discussion.


  • Fire Controlman (2009). Handling Personal Problems;
  • Smallwood, B. (2009). When Personal Problems Spill into Work: How HR Can Help Employees Cope.
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