Crisis Management: How to Help Employees Going Through a Personal Issue

Crisis management isn’t always on the list of to-dos of a medical office manager. But it’s good practice to prepare for the time an employee experiences a personal issue.

Helping your employees through a crisis may seem simple. After all, you’re a great listener. You offer sage advice. Plus, you’re sympathetic and supportive. This should be easy! Unfortunately, there’s more to it than that. And if the situation is not handled properly, a personal crisis could transform into a professional disaster.

In this blog post, you’ll gain management tips that will help you do the following:

  • Establish boundaries as a manager
  • Plan around your employee’s issue
  • Keeping an open line for communication
  • How to check in without being pushy

Employee Crisis Management 101

While crisis management sounds a bit intimidating, being prepared for employee issues to arise will have you ahead of the game. Here are some crisis management tips to help you guide your employees through their personal issues while maintaining professional relationships.

Offer a listening ear.

Managers often move at the speed of light. They put fires out and keep the practice operating smoothly. So, it can be challenging to carve time into your full schedule for an employee’s personal issue. However, offering them the space to open up helps builds trust and strengthens the relationship.

Make yourself available to them. Don’t offer your opinions or suggestions (unless requested). Just listen and be there for your employee.

Consider their privacy.

It is important to remember that this conversation is between you and your employee–not with your entire team. The focus of your discussions should be on how the situation is affecting the employee’s life and how that impacts their work.

Any information your employee divulges in private should stay private. If your employee decides to share with the rest of the team, that is squarely up to them. Just keep an eye out for reduced productivity from these chats.

Set boundaries.

Don’t forget: you are a manager, not a friend. This is probably the hardest part of handling an employee crisis. But if boundaries aren’t established right away, the line between boss and confidante can become blurred.

But as a manager, your job is to enable your employees to communicate openly with you while maintaining stability for your staff. You can be a support system for your team without being a therapist.

Be flexible.

It’s important to be flexible when an employee is going through a personal crisis. If they need time off, let them take it. If they want to work from home or change their schedule, let them do so without judgement. However, it’s key to establish a plan for their return.

Assist in establishing a plan.

If your employee requires some time off, the two of you should build a plan. Meet with them and determine how much time they need to truly manage this crisis. Discuss their options, making them aware it’s ok to use the resources available to them.

Can they take paid leave? Can they work from home? Are there in-office counseling services? Once you have established a timeframe, assess workloads and make sure the assignments are realistic for the time being taken off. Be direct and clear in your discussions so there’s no confusion.

Once a plan is established, communicate it with the entire team for added transparency.

Check in.

Checking in with your employee let’s them know they’re supported. Periodically ask them how things are going. Being mindful of an employee’s personal situation after the event has passed does a lot for personal and team morale.

Lead with Empathy for Impactful Employee Crisis Management

Creating an atmosphere of empathy and professionalism isn’t always easy. But keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be on your way to helping employees through a difficult time.

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  • As a speaker at the first ad hoc meeting of rheumatology practice managers gathered in a single small room at its infancy a decade ago, I’m amazed to see how NORM has blossomed into a high energy organization of depth and professional meetings with parallel break-out symposia between plenary sessions. NORM has truly come of age. This is where the “business” of rheumatology gets learned. The ”guildmanship” for rheumatology practice management is now strong.- Paul H. Caldron, DO, FACP, FACR, MBA, Arizona Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates
  • In a time of demanding changes in the management of medical practices in the US, NORM has been a lifesaver to the community of Rheumatology practices.  NORM has allowed our practice to stay ahead of the many demands of CMS and others payors and has ensured that our practice remains cognizant of new issues that arise in HIPPA compliance, human resources and medical billing to name a few. Sending our Practice Manager to NORM's conferences has been cost-effective and beneficial to our practice because she returns to our office with an abundance of information that otherwise would have taken months to compile. Every Rheumatology practice that wishes to stay on top of emerging issues in practice management should consider sending a member of their staff to NORM's conference.- Michael S. Rosen M.D., Chester County Rheumatology PC
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