Personal Problems that May Affect Job Performance
In this section, we will explore the following four frequent personal problems that occur in the work place:
A manager may have to be skilled in detecting these in order to keep a valuable employee or defuse a potentially violent situation. The idea is not to tum the manager into a psychiatrist, but to provide some general guidelines for assessing the root cause of performance problems and suggestions of recommended actions to take.
Many ofthese personal problems are normal reactions to life events; however, occasionally these may be of a more serious nature. In some cases, what the manager may be seeing are symptoms of a mental illness.
A note about mental illness ...
According to the San Jose Mercury News (May 2, 1997), one fifth of the u.s. population suffers from a major mental illness in any given year. The two biggest types are depression at 9.5%, and phobias at 10.9%. It makes sense that these problems will show up in the workplace. While managers may know how to deal with physical disabilities in the workplace, they may not be comfortable or competent in dealing with mental illness.
Mental illness is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, which mandates that employers make a reasonable accommodation for disabled employees. This could mean being flexible about schedules so an employee can adjust to a medication and benefit from psychotherapy with a professional. It could also mean accommodating an employee's need for quiet space. If a worker claims a mental disability, employers can ask for medical documentation, or ask the employee to have an examination. But employers cannot ask questions about mental illness on job applications. Questions about mental illness are allowed in a pre¬employment physical only if asked of all new workers. All medical information must be kept confidential even if other employees want to know why a particular employee can have flex-time. All employees, however, are still expected to be able to do the major portions of their jobs.
For more information on the ADA, read Americans with Disabilities Act by Mary B. Dixon, Crisp Publications.