She was trying very hard not to meet my eyes, but something within me knew that all was not right with her. She smiled the brightest and laughed the loudest as we sat in the break room, but I sensed that there was more beneath her outward showing, but I couldn’t exactly place it. But my instincts told me that all wasn’t right with her, and I knew that I needed to confront her.
I had become more concerned about Abigail in the weeks that led up to that day because she had suddenly started performing below expectations at her job. She also seemed forgetful of tiny details regarding the projects we worked on, something that was completely alien to her prior. When I first noticed the change in her performance, I called her into the office to find out what the problem was. But she was quickly dismissive, promising that she would put in her best to do better with her job.
Some of her peers whom she worked with had complained several times about how she was making mistakes during her shifts, and not being able to complete simple tasks. The bottom line was that Abigail’s change in job performance was affecting the productivity of the team, and there were already calls being made to fire her. We were actually considering going that route after countless calls for her to improve came to no avail, until that afternoon in the break room.
I normally would have lunch in the lounge with other colleagues of mine, but that afternoon I decided to hang out with the girls. And despite Abigail’s efforts to conceal what was going on with her with all the boisterous laughter and bright smiles, I knew within minutes of sitting in with them that she needed help. And so, after lunch, I asked her to come see me in my office. And she did.
Although we worked on the same floor and probably crossed paths a couple of times while going about our duties, I had never really taken the time to observe her critically. But that afternoon, as she walked into my office, I saw something I hadn’t taken the time to notice before. Abigail had lost a lot of weight, and that was when I knew something really serious was going on with her.
After offering her a seat, I gently asked her, “Abigail what is going on with you?” and like a wave of flash flooding, she burst into uncontrollable tears. I did my best comforting her, and also waited for her to pull herself together to tell me what the problem was.
Abigail shared with me that her mother who had raised she and her 5 other siblings following the death of their father while they were still little, was in the hospital battling with cancer, and had been given 3 months to live. The pressure from taking care of her younger ones, while still trying to look after her mother in the hospital, had overtaken her, and that was responsible for her recent sub-optimal work performance. I felt touched and also felt very bad.
I felt very bad because, I realized that she had dealt with all that pain alone for that long, and hadn’t been able to confide in anyone at work. That realization hit me like a rock and made me realize that we weren’t doing something right at that organization. And that encounter with Abigail led to an overhaul of the organization’s culture.
Abigail was immediately assigned to lighter duties, and as an organization, we did all we could to render her the support she needed to go through that very difficult period of her life. And although her mother eventually passed, I am certain that we didn’t make her trying period worse, if anything we tried to make it better.
So, what is the Moral of this Story?
Not all that glitters is gold. Wherever you are, take the time to observe those around you especially those with whom you have one form of relationship with or the other. Look out for your family members, friends, co-workers or neighbors. Take the time to ensure that those whom you hold dear are doing alright.
So many people pretend that all is well, when in fact all is not well. But, if we are more open, more trusting and more concerned about the welfare of others, they may be more willing to open up to us. Never underestimate the impact you could have on someone else’s life, just by asking about their welfare. A simple “how are you doing?” or “Is there any way I could be of help to you?” can go a long way in making a difference.
If you are a leader in your organization, check to make sure that your organization’s culture is healthy and trusting enough to recognize just that one face in the crowd that may not be having the best of life. We can all do this!
To your continued success. Cheers!!!