You’ve just landed your dream job and 3 weeks into your new job disaster strikes! Perhaps you have had a death in the family, a relative has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, your spouse hands you divorce papers or you are involved in an accident. Life does not always go as we plan and this can be even more challenging if you have a personal crisis while starting your new job.
The question you are left with now is, what do you need to do to ensure that you survive this personal crisis?
Be honest with your employer about the personal crisis while starting your new job
Go to your manager and/or HR representative at your new job and tell them that something has happened in your personal life and that you feel it’s important that they know as you anticipate that your work could be affected in some way. Explain the situation clearly. Be factual and respectful of personal boundaries. Limit the information to the basic details; share only what is necessary. Let’s say you and your spouse are facing a divorce – that is the fact at hand. The intimate details of his/her infidelity are not necessary for this conversation.
Know your rights in terms of legislation and the company’s policies and procedures
Familiarise yourself with your company’s leave policy – this may differ from what is offered by the BCEA. Remember that you agreed contractually to your company’s policies but you are still protected by the BCEA.
Everyone is entitled to 3 days compassionate / family responsibility leave which you are entitled to in the case of the death of a partner/spouse/parent or adoptive parent, grandparent, child or adoptive child, grandchild or sibling, or when your child or adoptive child (under the age of 18) is sick.
In the case of you being in an accident and needing time off to heal, you need to be sure you understand the company’s sick leave policy. Legislation entitles every employee to 6 weeks in a 36-month sick leave period, however, in the first 6 months of employment, the employer is entitled to give only 1 day for every 26 days worked.
Take time off
Due to your personal crisis while starting your new job you may need to take some personal time to process the event or tragedy. If this means you need to ask for unpaid leave, then do so. Make sure you take care of yourself first. Practice some self-compassion – if you can’t process the tragedy and realistically concentrate on the new role, then take a step back and decide – do you need to take a sabbatical? Staying on in a new role in which you don’t cope for any reason, including personal tragedy, will damage your career moving forward. If you are not capable, emotionally, to be fully present at work, then you are better off taking a break and coming back fully committed.
If you decide to stay or not to take a break, make sure you can get the work done. If you find you are unable to keep up with the demands or pressures on the role because of your personal crisis while starting your new job, then you need to reassess. In the workplace, make your tasks more manageable – break them down into smaller, more attainable goals. The sense of regular achievement will be a good morale booster.
On the same note, be sure to set boundaries with family and friends as well. Let them know you are in a new role and you have certain responsibilities, which mean you may not be available to assist with arrangements during office hours. Make sure you have their support to succeed in your new role despite what has happened.
Do not be afraid to seek professional help. There are various mental health professionals who are exceptionally well trained to assist people to deal with life’s tragedies and various challenges.
Know your boundaries and be respectful of others
Be sure to be cognizant of other’s personal boundaries at work – don’t over-share with random colleagues.
When all is said and done, and you have got through it all, remember to say thank you to your managers, your HR representatives and your colleagues. These small gestures tend to go a long way.
Written by Jackie Pillay and Cathy Symmonds. Contact Jackie for your Financial Services needs at firstname.lastname@example.org