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Submitted by hemalamin on


Hi fellow Managers,

I manage a team of 5 front desk agents at a hotel. The front desk staff is the face of the hotel and all of them have been well trained. One of the agent who is a good team member. Always is particular about his job and has so far until a couple months ago not goofed up or made a mistake. He's always enthusiastic and is fantastic with guests (customers). To say in short, he is a team member that is valuable to the team.

Recently he started to goof up on very silly things which is not like him. He also messed up in a few rather important matters like not getting required signatures while closing deal with a potential steady client. When I mentioned about these he did not say anything or argue. He rather just listened and said he will pay attention. 

Now a day ago, as he was leaving his shift, I was coming in and wanted to print a few reports for the day. So, I accessed the front desk computer which had his email opened and he had left without logging out. As much I wanted to log out, I cannot stop seeing the open email conversation that was about a nasty divorce matter with his wife and a child custody. I signed off. But now I know what is causing all the goofy mistakes at work. 

If he asks for any kind of help or just be an ear to listen, I can gladly do so. He hasn't and that is most probably because I am his manager and he does not want to discuss personal issues. I don't blame him. 

So, my question is whether I should tell him that he left his email open and I saw it and try to help in any way I can or should I just keep quiet as if I dnon't know anything. I would like to somehow help, partly for him being my team member and also like to stop him from making such goofs in the first place. 

But, since he has not mentioned anything about it, I don't feel very confident of saying anything. I also to a certain extent question myself if I am an effective manager. One of my team member is going thru rough time and he does not feel comfortable talking to me.

Please advise.

Thank You,

Bobby Amin

jrb3's picture
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Welcome, Bobby!  Part of being effective is being effective when things get tough -- getting results *and* keeping relationships strong.

I suggest you do a bit of research, then talk with him privately.

Research what your company can do to help support him through this time.  Many companies provide counsellors or other professional "ears to vent to" that employees can confidentially access.  Perhaps your boss can point you to some resources  -- only mention one of your directs is going through a rough time, and you want to know what you can provide in support.

Then talk with him privately, where you can't be overheard and where the territory is neutral (or more "his" than "yours") for his comfort.  Open with feedback or comment on leaving open email (without mentioning you saw its contents).  Once that issue is dealt with, say yes you saw the contents and know what he's going through.  Say you will not mention this to any coworkers until after he says it's okay, and that it is visibly affecting him and his work.  Then brainstorm together how the two of you want to handle the work quality issues and adjusting for the extra stress from outside work.  Some of those might be special dispensations, and some of those might be simple human support.  Then follow through, agreeing weekly (in your one-on-ones) how to adjust to continue supporting him.

Do what you can to support him, as a fellow human being, and listen to him better than usual.  You want it clear to him that work will be as stable as practical during the chaos of the family changes.

Good luck!

tlhausmann's picture
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There are two series of podcasts you may find helpful:

First, from the manager's perspective...

Second, from the direct's perspective...

Recognize the situation will take time for your direct.  Also, the counsel in the podcasts indicates that "personal problems that affect work" are no longer merely personal.

JustHere's picture

Find out of your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and reach out to them.  They can do two things for you:  

1) Advise you as to how to speak to the employee, or how to get them information about the company EAP

2) Send you links and printed material that you can share with ALL staff

I've used EAP many times, and have provided it to staff and ti always works.  We all have lives outside of work and we are still humans after all.