A butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, wind currents change just slightly and trigger natural disasters or unforeseen events in far-away lands. It’s not a new theory, but there’s something to it.
Put another way, in a connected system, actions cause reactions. And, as the number and complexity of the relationships increase, actions increasingly cause unforeseen reactions.
Business is about people. And, people are with few exceptions wired into complex social systems. Family, friends, acquaintances and colleagues all bounce around like pinballs through their collective experience. What’s important to understand about this as a manager is that personal life and work life are not independent systems. What happens in one affects the other, despite all of our failed attempts to create boundaries through words like professionalism.
Our social spheres are integrated into one system.
Why this matters: Things that happen at home affect people at work. And things that happen at work affect people at home. If someone is in a bad mood, getting divorced or sick, it will affect the culture, morale and productivity of a company. As a result, a manager is forced to contemplate, understand and “manage” more than the network of people they interact with in the office.
This realization brings responsibilities that managers aren’t well suited to address. Despite having a lack of information about non-work dynamics, managers need to somehow keep on eye on employee happiness, health and overall well-being. And there isn’t a good mechanism for this in modern work environments as employees are encouraged to shelter colleagues from personal issues, transforming into robots during the work day.
The best approach I’ve seen managers leverage in order to engage and enable the personal lives of employees is the development of strong personal relationships. If managers can transcend the professional structure and have personal relationships with employees they may gain some needed insight into personal issues and be able to offer coaching in dimensions that extend beyond work-related duties.
While there aren’t great answers for this dynamic, simply having an understanding that people’s personal and work lives are intertwined in ways that affect organizations in unforseen ways can help managers address dynamics by considering a broader set of questions and leveraging a broader set of solutions.