DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my employees has been acting differently at work. I manage a boutique -- including the employees -- and while his change has not been negative, it has been perplexing. He used to be somewhat social with customers, but now he fluctuates between being social and closed off. I do not know if this change is a good thing or a bad thing for him personally, but it is odd for the store. I want to ask him about it, but I do not know what to say. How should I approach this situation? -- Perplexed Boss
DEAR PERPLEXED BOSS: Your powers of observation are revealing to you that something is going on in this man’s life. Be gentle as you approach him. Let him know that you want to check in with him. Tell him that you have noticed that he is acting a bit differently. Be specific when you point out moments when he has been engaging with customers and other times when he has been closed off. Point out what you would consider his baseline behavior to be and how his recent behavior differs. Ask him if he has noticed what you are mentioning. Also inquire as to whether everything is OK in his world, or if something different is happening.
Choose your words carefully. Don’t suggest that something is wrong. Saying that you notice that he is acting differently is less charged. If he reveals what’s going on with him, do your best to help him if he needs it. If he does not, make it clear to him how you need him to engage customers, and let him know you will support him as best you can. If he continues to demonstrate mood swings, you will have to decide if there is something else he can do that involves less interaction with the public.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)