Managing Your Work During Personal Crisis

Death. Divorce. Illness of a parent or a partner or a loved one. These are life’s most stressful situations.  If you are going through one of these trying times, or have already experienced it, you understand that there is more to these situations than “crisis.”  The world continues to spin. The sun still rises. And work still happens. Just when it seems the world should stop for you, it seems to move faster.

At Centennial, we are privileged to walk alongside many executives as they deal with personal crisis. How does one manage their work life during such a trying time? Here are four tips that we have seen help.

4 Tips to Manage Work During Personal Crisis

Compartmentalize.  Some people are naturally good at compartmentalizing their lives—others are not.  If this is a new concept, it is basically the practice of dividing your life into “sections,” or compartments, and working only on one compartment at a time.  Compartmentalizing requires discipline and laser focus.  When personal crisis is surrounding you, compartmentalizing is perhaps the only way to get anything done.

Making lists can help compartmentalize during crisis.  Before you leave work, jot yourself a note or a list that makes it easy for you to pick up where you left off.  Also, don’t trash completed centennial talent strategychecklists.  Keep them as a reference point.  During crisis, you may not remember what you did or didn’t do. Hanging on to completed checklists will remind you of what got accomplished. Reviewing the list can also serve as a bit of an ego boost when you need it most.

Clue in your co-workers. Everyone has their own privacy-tolerance, and each situation is unique. However, at some point, you will need to tell someone at work what is happening in your life. If you are not comfortable sharing the news with a co-worker, minimally consult with one of your trusted advisors. Personal crisis is a yoke around your neck.  Sharing the burden with someone can be quite a relief. Sometimes you will find that others have survived what you are going through and can share insights that helped them.  Or, they may put you in touch with a helpful resource.

If you need to spend considerable time away from the office, it is a good idea to tell at least one co-worker.  That person can keep you apprised of all things happening around the office in your absence – big and little.

Ask for help.  Many executives mistakenly think of asking for help as a sign of weakness. Asking for help is actually a sign of strength! During crisis, you will need to rely on your team more than ever.  Others will want to help you. Let them.  It will make them feel good and frankly, you need the help! Since the law of the universe seems to be, “What goes around comes around,” you will get the chance to pay it forward yourself someday.

Crisis is also a time when you might need a professional counselor to help you handle the emotions you are experiencing. Once again, seeking out good counsel is a sign of strength. If a faulty sink pipe was gushing water into your kitchen, you wouldn’t think twice about calling in a professional plumber. If your copier at work kept jamming with paper, you would ring up the copier repair service immediately. The same thought process is applied to crisis.  There are professionals out there dedicated to people just like you. They can help you design a template to manage your situation. Just like you want to help your organization advance, professional counselors want to help you advance.   Sometimes you need a pro to initiate that “moving forward.”

Practice gratitude.  Lastly, practice gratitude.  Begin and end each day writing down three things for which you are grateful.  They don’t have to be big things. They can be little things – like a pillow beneath your head, a short line at the grocery store, or the sounds of birds chirping.  Practicing gratitude has proven benefits, including mitigating negative emotions, improving sleep, and increasing mental strength.

Interestingly, during crisis, work can be a solace.  It is a somewhat predictable environment, which can be very reassuring when a lot is happening around you that you cannot control.  There are people there who care about you, and want to see you succeed. It’s an arena where you can accomplish small “wins” that can make you feel good when all heck is breaking loose elsewhere.

Perhaps you have heard the adage, “Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.” We have witnessed that first hand in some of the executives we serve.  If you are in the midst of a bad time now, write down that phrase, believe in it, and be open to the possibilities that even crisis brings.

What has helped you work during tough times? Please let us know, so we can share your tips with our clients’ executives and those we serve.


Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.