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I’m Your Employee, Working 9 to 5…and Worrying 24/7

Roberta is your employee. She is a single mother of three and lives with her mom and sister’s family. She drives to work, and recently her car broke down. Roberta doesn’t have the money or the resources to call a tow truck or get the repairs done. This means Roberta couldn’t take her three children to preschool, kindergarten, and middle school. By the time she found rides for them, she was going to be late for work. She just didn’t show.

Last week, you told her if she were late one more time, she would be fired. Roberta is thinking: Okay, I’m late, why call? She is pretty sure she can’t stop bad things from happening to her and her family.

Roberta, now jobless, asks a friend to watch her children so she can get to a temp agency to find work elsewhere. She gets a job that starts the next day. When she gets home, her friend asks her to watch her kids tomorrow.

No matter where Roberta turns, she faces a dilemma. Most likely, Roberta will watch her friend’s children rather than start the new job. Why?


When you have employees who are living in daily instability, meaning that there are not enough resources for today, let alone tomorrow, your employees are living in the moment. These employees solve problems all day long, reactively, to survive. You have employees working for you 9 to 5, but they are also worrying 24/7 about housing/rent, food, healthcare, transportation, debt, COVID, etc.

If you are worrying about eviction and have nowhere to go, a car that has 200,000-plus miles on it and that needs a new engine, or a need for a “new” car because you are now taking in your sister’s four kids, what is for dinner tonight when your wallet is empty and the credit card is maxed out? Would you be giving 100% in the workplace?

So many of the listed concerns are about meeting immediate needs. It is easy to understand how instability forces people to live in “the tyranny of the moment.” This leaves little time for future planning. (Business is all about future planning.)

A future story often serves as a motivation or a coping strategy for an employee in the workplace, particularly when working relationships with supervisors or other employees, or even job duties, are not fulfilling or rewarding.

How to you help your employees create future stories? First, create relationships—true relationships based on trust and honesty—with employees. Begin working side by side with employees. Have discussions about time, possessions, money, food, destiny, language, etc. Explain to employees how the company views each of those elements and why certain policies, procedures, benefits, and training are put in place.

Building relationships is your driving force with this employee demographic. Build upon it, and you will recognize positive results in the lives of your employees.

About the Author: Ruth K. Weirich, MBA, is an author, trainer, and management professional experienced in business operations efficiency and profitability. She is also a past president of aha! Process, an education and training company specializing in economic class issues. Contact:


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