As an employer, you often find yourself in a difficult situation with an employee who is clearly struggling.

If you’re smart about these things, you’ll spot problems developing before they reach full meltdown mode. The person in question might begin to be late having previously always been five minutes early. You might see a drop in quality in their work, or a lack of involvement during meetings when they were before never shy to speak up. Or perhaps it’s a physical health problem; they seem unwell, red eyes, generally under the weather. They may have let their appearance slip, or constantly seem to be drifting off into their own thoughts when they should be focusing on the business.

As their boss, you can see these signs developing - but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with.

On one hand, you’re the boss, and your company is on the line. If they’re not performing as they should, then your company, your reputation, and potentially your profit is on the line. So the first flare of emotion might be one of anger. You can feel resentful to a chink in the usually smooth-running cog of your workforce - and no one is going to blame you for feeling that.

On the other hand, you likely have a human emotion. A person - not just an employee - is hurting, or struggling with something. It’s human to want to help, to empathize, to see in their plight all the times you have struggled to balance a bad situation in your life with the needs of your working environment.

So what can you do?

Give It Time

The first step is to give the person a chance to recover themselves. We all go through blips where our home life begins to bleed over into our work life, so give them a few days and see if they are naturally going to bounce back to form. Intervening too soon can seem irrational, like you are jumping to conclusions or harassing them at a time they really don’t need it. In fact...

Don’t Jump To Conclusions

If you see someone unwell or appearing washed out there is probably an innocent solution, but your mind may jump to the fact you know substance abuse in the workplace is quite dangerous and you are therefore on your guard to identify any signs of it. While it’s good to be vigilant, it’s far more likely they have the flu - jumping to conclusions is not going to help matters.

Instead, keep your thoughts open while you are seeing if they sort themselves out in the first few days.

Escalate If Needed

If after a week you don’t see any improvement, then for the sake of your business and the person in question, you need to intervene. Keep it light; a discreet conversation, asking if they need some time off as you have noticed they’re not quite themselves. If they offer more information or an explanation, hear them out, and also listen if they have a solution in mind.

If they need time off, then it might be difficult to cope with on a business level - but your business is going to suffer more if you have a struggling employee. An employee who is more liable to making mistakes. Give them time and a fair chance to remedy it as they see fit, and fingers crossed, they’ll be back to normal in no time.