How To Manage Your Career During A Personal Crisis


I was always that person who prioritized my job over everything else.

I’d stay at work after everyone else had gone home, just to make that presentation perfect. I would come into the office during the craziest of snowstorms, just to attend that important meeting in person. There were times when I felt stressed, but I prided myself on going above and beyond.

In today’s competitive workplace, there’s a lot of pressure to be the best. Unfortunately, life sometimes throws you a curveball that makes it difficult to perform at your usual level. Perhaps you’ve just been diagnosed with a serious illness, or one of your parents is in the hospital. For even the strongest of us, there are certain situations that are too much to handle on top of a demanding job.

If you’re ever in this kind of situation, here are some things you can do.

Think about your needs

6R7KCXBEEE When a crisis first hits, it can involve intense emotion – whether it’s denial, loss, anger, sadness, grief, or confusion. Whatever you’re experiencing, be assured that it is normal. Never think to yourself, “I should be tougher than this, I shouldn’t feel this way.”

Once you’ve processed the crisis, think about what you need. What employer accommodations would improve your situation? Maybe you need to take longer lunch breaks to go to doctor’s appointments. Maybe you want to work longer hours during the week to get Friday off to visit the family member in the hospital. This is your time to be selfish – as tough as it may be to believe, your company can function without you! They’ll find someone else to cover your projects or fill in for you.

Bring it up with your manager

Y2H9R8U1HUThere’s no rule that forces you to tell your manager what you’re experiencing. But if you’re looking for workplace flexibility (i.e. time off, a work-from-home arrangement, etc.), it’s in your best interests to share the reason why you’re asking for it.

Of course, you only have to share what you’re comfortable with. If you’re a private person, you can just stick to the details required for your manager to understand the magnitude of the situation. Remember to be specific in your accommodation request, as your manager may not be familiar with the type of situation you’re going through.

Before you talk to your employer, you should also be aware of a few policies that allow employees to take time off in certain situations:

Personal Emergency Leave

In the case of illness, injury, or a medical emergency affecting yourself or an immediate family member, you may be entitled to up to 10 days of unpaid job-protected leave. This only applies to workplaces with 50 or more employees.

Family Medical Leave

If an immediate family member has a serious medical condition with significant risk of death within a 26-week period, you may be entitled to unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 8 weeks.

Short-term disability

Many employers offer short-term disability benefits. If your personal crisis is affecting your job performance, you could take advantage of this. These plans typically offer a certain period of paid leave, with a doctor’s note.

Sick days

Most employers offer a certain number of days to their employees. These sick days are not just for bronchitis and strep throat. If your personal crisis is making you feel physically or emotionally unwell, take a sick day. You’ll come back to work more productive and refreshed. Your employer may also have a “sick leave” policy that allows you to go past your allotted number of sick days with a doctor’s note.

Restore normalcy in your life

Whether you’re going through the crisis now, or whether the crisis is over, it’s important to maintain normalcy in your life. You may be tempted to bury yourself in your work as a distraction, but this is a temporary solution that will likely lead to burnout.

Sticking to your previous routine can be a great way to feel normal again. If you and your friends meet for trivia every Tuesday, try to go to the next one. If you had a favourite Wednesday night yoga class, don’t stop going. Socializing with friends and keeping physically fit are great ways to reduce stress and anxiety. On top of this, try to eat healthy and get enough sleep – a lack of energy can be a major cause of stress.

If the recent events have resulted in extra commitments (i.e. visiting a family member in the hospital every day), try to allocate a small period of time to do little things for yourself. For example, you could make time to watch your favourite TV show every Sunday night, or grab a quick coffee with a friend before heading to the hospital.

Use your support system

1CB98C9DF8Think about the people around you. You have family members, friends, and trusted coworkers – all who have likely gone through their fair share of personal crises. They can be an invaluable source of advice, help, and motivation.

As difficult as it can be, don’t be shy to reach out. If a friend says, “Please text me if you need anything”, take them up on their offer. People don’t say these things to be polite; they say them because they mean it.

Don’t forget about other community resources available, like your doctor, a counselor, or your employer’s Employee Assistance Program. These are trained professionals who can support you in the journey to feeling normal again.

After going through my own personal crises, my views have drastically changed. I’m still one of those people that cares about my job. However, I’ve learned that the best thing you can do for your career is to prioritize your well-being above everything. You need to be your best self at home in order to be your best self at work.!

About the author

Allison Tse is a marketing professional with three years of experience in the credit card industry. She currently works at CIBC, but started her career at American Express after graduating from the Queen’s Commerce program. Outside of work, Allison loves to cook and is currently pursuing a Culinary Arts Certificate at George Brown College in Toronto. Check out her profile on LinkedIn