Sometimes it's better to chill for a bit

...and you must be able to notice when you shouldn't push work harder. An advice that I repeat often.

Imagine the situation: something quite bad happened to you, and you would need to work. At this point, I think you should stop for a second to consider a few thoughts.

  • Because of emotional distress, you won’t be able to work well. In such situations you can’t fully utilize your skills. Most likely, your work will not have the same quality as usually; collaborating with your colleagues is going to be harder; it’s more likely that you might miss something and make mistakes.
  • The best would be if you could take some time off to organize yourself. I know this is not always possible, but then you need to be aware of the risks and manage those.
  • If you absolutely must continue to work, at least slow down a bit. I don’t think it’s a great idea to use work as an escape from a psychological point of view. I understand that you might want to get your mind off from your problem temporarily, and to some degree, that can be OK. But you will need to face the issue at some point anyway.
  • If you know that you’re feeling crap, and this is impacting your work, signalling this to your team is a very mature and professional move. Decent people will be able to understand it, and doing this gives them a chance to take some burden off from your shoulders while you’re regenerating.
    • It’s not required to open up too much. It’s fair to just say “I have some serious personal troubles going on that I don’t want to talk about, but you have to know that I’m not on the top of my game now.”
    • If you work at a very performance-oriented place, this can be frightening. But think about it for a sec, what are the options? You can be honest and tell people that your performance is going to be worse for some time, and give them an warning so they can prepare. Or you can stay silent, and risk that you will cause some problems down the line - at that point, explaining what’s wrong won’t really help. What’s worse?
    • A workplace where you can’t talk about such things is likely toxic, by the way. It’s completely natural that from time to time, something bad happens to people. If they can’t talk about that, it means that everyone needs to wear masks all the time.
    • On the other hand, if you can muster the energy to handle such things transparently, it shows a great example for others, and your whole team can benefit from that.

Let’s take a look from another angle: what’s up when someone else in your team had something bad happen to them?

The cohesion of a team is a responsibility of every single team member, so yours too. This is the perfect opportunity to show that you can be an emphatetic person. It’s not necessary to get touchy-feely, but it would be still important to make the other realize that you know what has happened to them. Anyway, be there for the other.

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