Sometimes, an employee’s personal life affects how he or she performs at work. The employee may have a newborn or toddler at home, be caring for an aging parent, or be dealing with a severe illness or disability in the family. While not every personal situation is up for company scrutiny, understanding personal matters can improve a manager’s ability to guide employees.

Why Personal Factors Matter When it Comes to Employee Engagement

Some companies prefer to have a strict at-work policy when it comes to performance reviews. They focus on what happens at the workplace and assume it is the individual’s responsibility to leave personal problems at the door when in the office. However, humans don’t work that way. Outside lives affect energy levels, how a person thinks, and productivity levels. It is not something a company can just separate when it comes to reviews.

Often, the problems with performance have nothing to do with the work environment, but arise from an employee’s personal life. A breakup or a death of a family member or friend can cause occasional blips in performance, and managers who fail to recognize an employee as a whole person may earn employee resentment instead of loyalty and respect.

A Company’s Obligation to Show Concern and Respect

Just as understanding an employee’s outside life can help management offer better guidance, it can also alert a company to important considerations. For instance, if an employee is chronically or terminally ill, it may affect performance, but an organization also has an obligation to provide a reasonable duty of care to those employees. They must consider privacy concerns, work arrangements, and other factors to maintain legal responsibilities to employees going through a difficult time. For some companies, this may mean setting up counseling for other employees or further measures.

How to Handle Personal Matters in the Workplace

Workplace behaviors are important and should be the mainstay of the data a company keeps on an employee’s performance. However, once a manager has collected the information, he or she should understand the reasons for the behaviors may lie outside of work. Managers should consider employee relationships, values, and motivations, and external factors such as where an employee spends time outside of work. These often serve as the catalysts for employee behaviors and may provide the answer management needs to provide the right type of motivation.

Don’t be afraid to ask employees if they need to talk or if they’re going through difficult times. Employees can decide on their own to share with management, but many want and need someone to confide in at the workplace.

A manager or supervisor can go to HR for training on handling sensitive information. Use the information you learn about an individual to guide your performance reviews and to give employees the tools they need to succeed, regardless of their personal situations.

People often spend more waking time at work than they do at home, so providing a supportive environment can go a long way to improve employee performance. Create a helpful and productive performance review process with a comprehensive performance review template.