- Managers who help employees with their personal problems tend to pay for it in the form of increased distress, sadness and nervousness, according to new research discussed in the Harvard Business Review (HBR).
- Leaders in certain industries spend as much as two and a half hours per week responding to requests for help with personal problems, and many employees believe it's a leader's responsibility to do so, researchers Klodiana Lanaj and Remy E. Jennings said in presenting their work. These problems span a wide range of issues, including marriage, mental health and child care. Additionally, while leaders' helping with work-related issues tends to improve their work engagement, as perceived by their teams, helping with personal issues has the opposite effect.
- The researchers concluded that it can be emotionally taxing for leaders, particularly less experienced leaders, to help their reports with personal issues. For this reason, managers "can help but it’s important to strategically choose when and how [they] do."
Insensitive or indifferent management can have many negative consequences for employers, including bad PR, lawsuits, and high turnover.
As the research shows, though, managers who care too much may bring a different set of problems to the workplace. In addition to being less engaged on the job, managers who get too involved in personal issues can suffer negative emotional consequences.
What's the answer? A supportive company culture can include various non-manager resources employees can turn to for help with personal issues, such as counseling services or EAPs. Additionally, HR can monitor employees and managers for signs of burnout, which can include lack of engagement, increased turnover and absenteeism. Burnout at work has become so prevalent that the World Health Organization has declared it an official "occupational phenomenon."
Toxic environments, which are also an underlying cause of stress and burnout, can be remedied by reducing workloads that are too high (possibly with the assistance of temps) and placing a strong focus on ethical leadership.