How to Deal with a Personal Crisis Professionally

Is there ever a good time for a personal crisis to rear its ugly head? When you are in an already high-stress job like nursing, the short answer is generally no.

But things happen. Your rock-solid daycare provider gets sick, your mom needs help after knee surgery, or your marriage starts to dissolve. And you still need to get to work and be on top of your game through it all.

So how can you cope with personal upheaval and be the steady, reliable worker you have always been?

The first step is to let your boss know you are having a problem, but you don’t have to spill your guts. Depending on your work environment and your relationship with your boss, you may not want anyone to know too many personal details, especially if you aren’t even sure what is going on yet. But odd behavior from you – too many personal phone calls, leaving early, coming in late, looking frazzled or even emotional – raises questions whether you realize it or not. Bosses and coworkers notice small changes and if they don’t know the cause of it, who knows what they will think?

Believe it or not, your short, not-too-detailed explanation, though necessary, isn’t nearly as important as what comes after. After you explain to your boss that you are having a few personal issues at home and that you might need to adjust your hours a little or make some calls during the day, offer your own reassurance.

Bosses want to know what you are doing about the crisis, but just the basics is fine here. They are not trying to be difficult or nosy, but they need to consider your part in the bigger picture. Let them know you are working on getting the situation under control and that you will keep them up-to-date on any changes. Try to give them advance warning if you need to take time off. Ask them how they would like you to handle the lost time or what you can do to ensure your shift is covered.

In many cases, although unfortunately not all, your boss will understand. Everyone has some kind of crisis pop up and because you spend so much time at work, the lines can’t help but get blurred. But showing professionalism in being upfront and in trying to keep your home issues from interfering with work will go a long way towards managing the crisis professionally.


Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.