We all deal with stress at work, usually on a daily basis. Whether it’s a difficult boss who bottlenecks projects, unfriendly coworkers, or an unmanageable workload, an average day at work might leave you in tears by lunchtime.
What happens, though, when a crisis hits at home? A true crisis, such as your spouse suddenly admitting an affair, a child getting diagnosed with cancer, or a parent dying? For many of us, we can’t leave our jobs behind to deal with the shock and grief that come with our lives being turned upside down by a tragedy — especially if you don’t get PTO or are paid an hourly wage. In those cases, your family depends on you going into work to help them through the crisis.
So how the heck do you manage to do — and keep — your job while dealing with personal turmoil? The most important thing to do is tell someone. Not everyone, but someone. Human resources might be a great place to start, but HR is a gossip mill at some companies, so you may want to think about another trusted source to confide in and who understands why you might be late, miss a few days, or suddenly burst into tears.
The best person to consult is probably someone in leadership. If you have a great relationship with your boss, he or she might be the one who pushes you to take a week off, even if you’re in management yourself and are determined to not let the crisis affect your job.
But that’s OK — we’re human. A good boss will understand that your feelings are a good thing, and that you need to process them or else it will negatively affect your job later. By asking for help now, you’re actually helping your entire team — and possibly saving your job. Just be sure you use that time off in a way that helps you feel better. Go for a hike up Rattlesnake Ridge. Drive up to Snoqualmie Pass with your stereo blasting and let all the emotions loose. Indulge in a spa day at Salish. Allow yourself to feel — and feel good, if you can.
When you are at the office, ask for the space and time you need. Can’t handle the deadlines? Can’t handle the open office? It doesn’t hurt to ask your boss (or someone else you trust in leadership) to push projects back a few weeks or even hand them off until you have the mindset and motivation needed to do your job well. Asking for the physical space you need, too, can only benefit your team — especially if that’s the only way you can get your job done.
And if all else fails, have a heart-to-heart with your boss, HR, and family about being able to handle your job. If you can afford a leave of absence, there are laws that can help protect your job if you need to take extended time off due to the crisis. It’s not a decision to take lightly, but choosing to take time off might help save your career — and your sanity.