An earlier post suggested that we might have better decision making if managers asked themselves what their mother would think of their actions. But what about those employees that expect you to act like their mother?
What is the right level of caring and compassion before it becomes more personal than a working relationship should be? Is there a reasonable limit? Is it appropriate to get involved with issues that are strictly personal? Do employees become part of your extended family with all the additional obligations that implies?
Some recent exposure to business owners dealing with their employees' personal issues has caused me to be more cautious about getting involved. Once they start lending a sympathic ear, then a shoulder to cry on, it soon becomes more time consuming on and off the job and creates a relationship that is difficult to steer back to business only. It also becomes a distraction for other employees and creates new concerns about favouritism.
My guideline for these situations would be to decide whether you would do what's being requested for every employee in the same situation. Personal advice? Time off? Cash advances? If not, then say no to the first request. Don't start a precedent that you're not prepared to write into the policy manual.
And don't be afraid to clarify the relationship, "I'm your boss, not your mother".