The trick is getting your employee, who may be incline to process personal problems until the cows come home, to turn to other resources available to them that are more effective than you. (I hope that didn't sound insulting, but only like a rat tail snap in the butt!)
If you are good listener, you have a double-edged sword working for and against you. It's difficult to turn away an employee who approaches you to discuss a personal problem. However, if your employees do come to share, it may be difficult to ask them to go somewhere else.
Appearing as though you are disinterested or too busy to care may be your biggest concern. Still, a counselor, doctor, mental health pro, or EAP is the better choice. To make your referral task easier, while minimizing the likelihood that your employee will feel rejected and stomp off, try the following:
- Appear interested and listen to the problem presented by your employee. (No problem with that.)
- Demonstrate empathy by acknowledging your employee's stress or anxiety. This helps the employee feel accepted and increases motivation for further problem solving.
- Tell the employee that you are glad he or she feels comfortable approaching you with an important personal problem.
- State that although you are concerned, you believe a better source of help would be_______. Hopefully your company has provided service or recommended statement to use when employees bring personal problems. Even if a company does not have an EAP, there should be some policy that essentially offers an officially sanctioned statement of referral to some community resource.
- Assist the employee in making contact with the recognized source of help by providing the phone number or inviting the employee to call from your office for an appointment. (Very effective.)