Handling Personal Woes at the Office


Personal woes are part of life, especially with today’s technology. People deal with everything from losing buttons to losing loved ones. The question that’s been coming up more often is: “How should a person handle those woes when they surprise you at work?” In essence, what is the protocol and what should you do?

Any of the following could be a woe that taps you on the shoulder at work:

  • You get an email from your significant other that he/she has lost his/her job.
  • You get a call and learn that your child has been suspended from school (again).
  • You get a call informing you that a loved one passed away.

These are the types of woes that throw many people off their pins regardless of when or where they learn of the news.  However, the news becomes more difficult to bear and manage when one is in a professional setting. The protocol for handling personal woes at work can be divided into two parts: Managing Shock and Pulling Yourself Together.

Below is the protocol for how to manage the shock of unexpected news at work. This requires a moderate degree of emotional regulation for about 30-90 seconds.

  • Pause.
  • Look at a fixed object; not a person.
  • Do not reply to ANYONE – yet.
  • Take three deep breaths in through your nose and exhale out of your mouth.
    • Think about whether or not you need to process immediately and break from the group. If you do then do the following:
      • Say to yourself, “Okay, you need to take a break right now. You need to go somewhere to be alone for a few minutes.”
      • Say to others – if you are in a meeting or surrounded by people, “I apologize. Please excuse me. I will be back in a moment.”

Next are some steps for how to organize yourself around the news and either rejoin or excuse yourself from the group for the rest of the day/meeting.

  • Once you’re alone, breathe deeply several times alternating between your lower abdomen and your chest. Taking in air through your nose and then exhaling out of your mouth. This is very important as it allows you to release the shock and reach a state of control faster.
  • Allow yourself to consciously have your thoughts and feelings. Try to limit the amount of control your emotions and thoughts have over you at that moment.  You want to still maintain control. Tell yourself, you will have time to fully express yourself and feelings later.
    • However, if your news is life changing (only you can know what that truly is), you may be unable to hold it together at this point.
    • Identify if you have enough control to rejoin the group.  If not, then stay by yourself until you do or, if appropriate, go home.
      • If you cannot leave just yet because you need to finish up, go over each thing you need to accomplish like a laser. This is equivalent to creating a to-do list in your head. Once the to-do list is completed, you may be able to leave the office.
      • Rejoin the group and thank them for excusing you.  Inform them that you received some unfortunate news.  This is the time you will let them know if you will rejoin them or leave.

Here is the slippery slope: You cannot leave the group every time you receive disturbing news. Learning how to manage the shock of the news is important because it allows you to increase your emotional regulation and think more objectively.


About Jinnie Cristerna

Jinnie Cristerna specializes in psychotherapy, mind-body work, hypnotherapy, Reiki, vibrational energy and leadership development services at International & Chicago’s High Achievers. She's one of the best in the business for executive mental health maintenance and emotional wellness. "The High Achievers Edge" provides readers with effective ways to develop their self-awareness and ability to self-correct. Click here to subscribe and connect with Ms. Cristerna today!