How to Manage an Employee Going Through a Divorce

excited male employee with name badge on lanyard and hands on his head

Personal issues directly affect an employee’s ability to perform the duties of their job. With 40 to 50 percent of all marriages ending in divorce, the likelihood of this tragedy affecting your employees is high. Naturally, you want to be proactive about this situation before your employee’s productivity starts slipping. Here’s how to manage the situation with empathy and efficiency. 

What You Can Expect

Everyone reacts to situations in their own way, which makes it hard to identify when someone is struggling with a divorce. There are, however, ways to identify when your employees are struggling in general. Workers often:

  • Breakdown or cry
  • Act embarrassed or ashamed
  • Avoid other co-workers
  • Begin performing poorly for a period of time

These reactions are symptoms of mild to severe depression and anxiety brought about from the grief and stress of the situation. While everyone handles divorce differently, knowing what signs to look for allows you to open the door to positive communication between you and your employee. 

The Talk

Handling an employee during this time is challenging. Simply firing an employee for slipping performance isn’t the way to approach this situation, according to a wrongful termination lawyer. Instead, you need to have an honest conversation with the individual in question. 

When you see the signs of an employee struggling, bring them into the office for an honest conversation. Let them know which signs you have observed, let them know you are concerned about them, and ask them what’s going on. 

Keep your tone comforting during this talk. Show compassion, let them know it’s okay to be sad, and genuinely listen to what they have to say. Avoid any sort of negative reaction and never resort to a pep talk. The goal isn’t to help them feel better or happy, it’s to address the issue. 

Finding Solutions

The next step to handling an employee going through a divorce is to find a set of solutions that work in their benefit as well as the company’s. If your business offers employees paid time off or a form of leave, allowing your employee to take that time is often the best solution. They can deal with their emotions, handle any legal responsibilities with a divorce lawyer, and come back to work with the situation behind them. 

If that isn’t an option, then you’re going to have to cut the employee some slack for a while. Keep an eye on their performance and give them gentle reminders if their performance slips too far. Instead of hammering them about it, find a way to work with them as they get their performance back on track. 

If there is no improvement over a period of time and their performance is below standards, then you need to have another talk with them. For some, gentle reminders aren’t enough. You might need to, in the nicest way possible, warn them about termination. 

It’s also essential that you set realistic expectation during this time. Your employee won’t go from subpar performance to their normal work ethic overnight. Let them know you’re not expecting perfection as they grapple with their divorce, but that you do need to see consistent improvement as time goes on. 

Paul Guerdo

Paul Guerdo