Sunday, January 13, 2013

Working and Caregiving: Emotions in the Workplace

As a Legal Administrator (manager of a mid-size law firm), I have had many situations in which I’ve had to keep a cool head: firm closures, office moves and lay-offs as well as the routine tasks of preparing the annual budget, conducting reviews and hiring or terminating employees. 

Panic, freaking out, emotional breakdowns (by me) cannot happen during any of these situations and I have done a very good job of keeping my emotions in check during any and all of these stressful situations.  (I usually have a meltdown once the situation has passed but that’s another story.)

One instance stands out where I did not keep it together – at all.

It was our annual budget time which occurs each January (guess what I’m doing this month at work . . .).  It’s a stressful time because, for one reason, expenses have to be kept to a minimum.   Since I do a pretty decent job of this, it’s a personal goal to do even better the following year.  Which means hours of review, analysis and decisions. The budget process is intense, stressful and exhausting.  In fact, I joke that I’ve had exploding body parts because of it (one January, I developed Appendicitis and had to have my appendix removed.  I asked the surgeon just before going in for surgery if I’d be able to return to work in time for my budget meeting). 

Budget time is a stressful time.

I became involved in Robert’s care in late 2008.  In January 2009, he was in the hospital with a life-threatening infection needing surgery and looking at weeks of intravenous antibiotic treatment.  I was simultaneously managing Robert’s care and involved in one of my most stressful projects at work (the budget). 

Upon handing a draft of the budget to the Managing Partner, he asked a simple question.  I don’t even remember what it was but I became defensive and angry and burst into tears. How embarrassing!  Poor guy didn’t know what hit him.  I managed to extricate myself from the conversation and get back to my office as my tears wouldn’t listen to my brain screaming, “STOP!” 

The Managing Partner later called me (so brave of him!) and asked why in the world I was so upset about the question he asked. 

It was then that I explained what was going on in my life as a new caregiver.  I had only briefly mentioned that my brother was ill but, after my out of character meltdown at the drop of a hat, felt I owed him an explanation.  Thankfully, he was understanding and compassionate.  The budget eventually was completed without any other meltdowns from me (in front of the managing partner, anyway).

Are emotions like this okay in the workplace?  Working caregivers can be stressed out or exhausted (or both) yet come in day in, day out to do their job.  Saturday, on “Table Talk, Your Caregiving Journey,” Denise Brown of asked the question, “How do you keep it together at work?” 

Denise and I talked about emotions in the workplace during our chat and explored possible solutions for the caregiver to manage these inevitable bad days (and, sometimes even, the meltdowns). 

Denise and I came up with five tips to manage the emotions:
  • Talk to a trusted friend at work;
  • Share the situation with your boss (if you are comfortable doing so);
  • Use the Employee Assistance Program at work;
  • Channel those emotions into projects;
  • Take a day off or consider if it might be time for a longer-term solution such as flex-time or job sharing;
Click on the player below to hear the entire program and please join me and Denise on the 2nd Saturday of each month as we discuss issues facing the working caregiver. 

I promise not to have a meltdown during the show! 

Please share your Working Caregiver stories in the comment section.  I'd love to know how others handle the emotions in the workplace. 

Listen to internet radio with Denise Brown on Blog Talk Radio

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