How marriage problems affect performance at work

26-04-17
What do I do about staff Marriage problems Work and Marriage Relationship Breakdown affects work Divorce and Work personal relationship Maslow in practice Behavioural shifts at work Marriage problems and work Emotional Turmoil and work personal problems and work performance home situation affects work


Marriage statistics suggest that right now, in the West, around 40% of your married staff is on the road to a divorce or relationship breakdown, so how are they performing?

Not your problem is it? Actually it is.

People with this sort of emotional turmoil often bring the negative energies from home to your workplace. When it’s a senior member of the team have you noticed how their mood [energy] affects the whole team; avoidance, conflict, pressure, cruel and snappy communications, how does that fit with a positive culture and great performance?

In larger organisations this can mean you have 100’s of people in this unhappy state at any given time, who are often ignored, pushed out, given more pressure to get themselves “sorted out” and get on with it, certainly their behaviour can be misunderstood and mismanaged by many colleagues. Their performance declines, the team’s performance declines.

I find a number of reasons this tends to happen, firstly few managers actually notice such behavioural shifts and certainly don’t go looking for more problems. Perhaps because they feel ill equipped to handle it and it’s not their job anyway, is it? Secondly those in the situation often don’t wish to share; it’s intensely personal for some. Others may feel it could be seen as a weakness and pose a threat to their job or that no one would really care anyway. For the individual it’s a time where they probably never had such a need for the job and it’s a time where they are probably least emotionally equipped to handle it.  A danger is they find someone else in the same situation happy to talk and become at risk of spiralling further downwards.

So there’s a lot of turmoil going on and many businesses don’t even notice it. If it hasn’t occurred to you yet this all has a huge impact on performance.

I have seen it happen where the person involved is perceived as tough, decisive and its felt they will handle it and push through, so they are left alone. Or perhaps the feeling is the person can’t handle it, is just a mess and we should get rid of them, or sideline them, forgetting the value they can and did bring? The dangers of avoidance!

It’s long been accepted that Maslow shows us how our behaviours change along with basic human needs. I find it rare managers think beyond we go UP the Maslow triangle searching for “self-actualisation”.

In effect we all bounce up and down the Maslow hierarchy throughout our lives. The big inevitable one we all face is the death of a loved one, which can push us way down. However I suggest that the whole marriage/relationship breakdown scenario is one of the most damaging to our sense of wellbeing and our place with Maslow. For many the social impact is significant, we suddenly lose our friends and belonging to groups as they take sides, (or we think they do) perhaps we can’t go back to the places we used to. We suddenly have new financial worries, where will I live? How do I support the kids? Will I lose the kids? Will I lose my pension? Will I be poor? I won’t be able to do the things I used to.  Suddenly a satisfied employee may become money driven and may lose sight of the bigger picture, suddenly they can’t work late anymore, kids to collect. The change creates many powerful and new drivers. For many the ego takes a huge hit and confidence can be severely knocked.

Of course in some cases when there is a happy partner in this situation, as they have found a new love and dumped the old,[ never underestimate the power this has] there can be a visible upturn in their happiness and drive. Don’t be fooled it’s not that easy, no matter how amicable it may seem we always have the lawyers to take us to the dark side and shift us around Maslow once more. No matter how tough we are there can be a lot of fear and uncertainty about our futures in this situation. It’s rare there is an easy ride and it’s not a short ride.

Rest assured this is all going on around your business and affects performance every day. To be clear then what I am suggesting is be aware of 3 M’s 

  • The state of your employee’s Marriage [or relationship] is an important factor in a successful business. In any organisation this accounts for a considerable number of people (20-40 %?) who need support and recognition, if you want performance to improve.
  • Management; look for signs that this is affecting them, don’t be invasive and interrogate, simply listen for clues, observe their behaviours, might this be an issue? And if they have told you handle it sensitively. Don’t avoid it!! A word of caution it’s unlikely you are a trained  counsellor [it’s amazing how many people are suddenly experts on others relationships] get this wrong you can do a lot of damage, it takes training to help people through this , maybe your HR team have a solution. I suggest there is great benefit in simply acknowledging the situation; making allowances and offering support for a while until things settle [watch the time on this one, don’t let it become a norm, we still have businesses to run] For some the job may become a greater focus and escape. They are probably still unsettled, perhaps too anxious and all this on top of the normal stresses of today’s world. So the extra focus on work may seem positive yet needs watching especially as to its effect on others.
  • Maslow gives us a great framework to work from. Re-visit it, understand the stages and use that to consider how it might affect us all at various times in our life.

I think marriage is great, I’ve had 2! For the last 200 years the average length of a marriage has been 15 years! [Prof Charles Handy, Bring on the Empty Raincoat] now around 60% make 20 years. Encouraging!

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About the author

Graham Wilson

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My working life has always involved working closely with people and delivering results. For nearly 30 years I have run behaviour programmes and been involved with many other methods of working with and analysing personality, performance and behaviour. Having enjoyed significant business success I believe that if we first build the people the people will build the business. Which in no way reduces the focus on clear business strategy and purpose. As a result I've already helped 11 people become Millionaires. 

So what do I do?... I inspire transformation

 A brief history 

35 years in healthcare Services. Pharma, Med devices, Med Tech and the Care sector Key player in building the worlds biggest Pharma services business Innovex/Quintiles, driving consistent growth from 30- 60% per annum. From the UK to the USA and Europe

Chaired 6 businesses and been on 11 Boards from £300m to start up. Raised funds and driven successful exits. 

Qualified as a Coach with Shirlaws the leading Global Coaching business. Still running and developing behaviour programmes. A Qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist. 

I own and run a Care business and am also a Non Exec Director of 2 companies involved in leading edge marketing support, such as Word of Mouth marketing I Coach a wide range of clients in multiple sectors. Understand the numbers, believe its strategy and people that make it all work. Have a look at my profile for full details and links


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