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Damaged Personal Relationships Cost Businesses Money


12Jun 2011

Businesses are primarily focused on selling their products or services to customers and making the profit (or creating value in the business to be captured when the business sells).  That is the essence of business.  And that can be done in lots of ways — by treating your employees well or “using” them,  by providing quality products or by scamming people to make a “quick buck”, by being a responsible community member or not.

But one point that we have known intuitively is becoming increasingly clear — what happens in an employee’s personal life affects their performance on the job.  The line between one’s personal life and one’s life at work (if it ever truly existed) is fading quickly.

Research is demonstrating in more and more clear terms that the quality of one’s personal relationships can have a significant impact on your work performance.  As is common in much social science research, the findings are pretty consistent with common sense.

Think about the following scenarios:

*One of your mid-level managers is going through a nasty divorce. Some initial research (not yet published) suggests that a company will lose two years of this manager’s full productivity while he goes through, and recovers from, the divorce.

*A young female bank teller is involved in a series of unhealthy dating relationships that creates ongoing drama in her life. Her relationship difficulties impact her work performance by contributing to her coming late to work, being mentally distracted and making errors, and her moodiness spills over into her customer interactions.

*A single mother is having increasing difficulty with her teenage son who is not doing well in school, staying out late at night, and beginning to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Not only is she not fully “present” at work because she is worrying about her son and what is going on at school, but she gets numerous telephone calls from the school during the week, has to go in and talk to the principal, and misses time at work to go to a probation hearing for her son.

*A middle aged couple in their early fifties is having a lot of conflict with their twentysomething son who lives at home with them. While he is trying to find a career direction, and move from a low-paying part-time job, the tension at home is rising.  He often is out late at night, sleeps late in the morning, and seems to be putting forth minimal effort in finding a full-time job.  His parents, both of whom work, are losing sleep, getting more agitated and starting to have medical issues.

As a result of these common scenarios, more and more companies are realizing that helping their employees manage their personal relationships provides economic benefit to the business.  There is a growing movement of providing a variety of relationship training resources to employees (and sometimes, their spouse) in communication skills, conflict resolution, characteristics of healthy marriages, and parenting courses.  Other training related to living a healthy life is also being given — personal financial management,  healthy dating relationships, healthy cooking, and teaching positive thinking patterns.  Some companies are even sponsoring “date nights” and giving free marriage assessments to couples.

It will be interesting to follow this movement.  I’ll keep you informed as I find out more.

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