What to Do When a Personal Problem Is Affecting Your Work
How to talk to your boss when you need to deal with a health issue or unexpected crisis
No matter how good you are at your job, when your mom breaks her hip and needs around-the-clock care, you’re going to have to admit that you’re not just a great employee — you’re also a human being living a complicated life.
You’re not invincible. It’s something that can feel hard to remember right now when the world is buzzing with can-do energy, and everyone you know is posting on social media about all the ways they intend to thrive in the year ahead. But the universe has a habit of throwing curveballs, and there’s always the chance that at some point — this year, next year, five or 10 years from now — you’re going to get hit with one of them, smack in the middle of your personal life. A health problem. A breakup. A financial hurdle. A family member who needs to be cared for. And when it happens, whatever it is, your work will likely be affected.
But work, unfortunately, doesn’t stop for a personal crisis. This means that at some point, you might need to talk to your manager about what’s going on, whether it’s to explain why you’ve been so distracted lately or to ask for some time off. Here’s how to professionally, effectively, and honestly tackle that conversation.
Do some research
Before you say anything, it couldn’t hurt to do some fact-finding about your company’s policies for extended health-related or family leave. Start by unearthing the onboarding materials you got when you were hired. An employee handbook, or something similar, will likely contain the information you’re looking for.
You might also consider reading up on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to figure out whether your specific situation is covered and learn more about what you’d be entitled to under those laws.
Define your expectations
Carley Childress, CEO of the employee-engagement firm Macorva, emphasizes the importance of being solutions-oriented: Instead of explaining the problem to your employer and then waiting to see what they offer you, do the…