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Submitted by BrianT on


Second-guessing myself…Did I handle this right? 

I need to communicate a message to my management & the business.  I don’t want to place blame or even give the appearance of placing blame.  I do want to be transparent about what’s happening.  And I want to be respectful and supportive of my direct who is involved.   

Here’s the situation.  One of my directs received news that a sibling (who was injured earlier in the year) has taken a turn for the worse, and likely won’t survive long.  I told him to go and take care of his family, and I stand by that decision. 

The direct is on the critical path for a major product release.  The rest of the team is trying to pick up the extra work.  He is a team leader though, and it’s likely this will impact our release. 

I am obligated to report this schedule risk to my upper management.   I notified (pre-wired) my manager about what’s happening, and told him I support my direct.  I’m remote from him and haven’t received a reply yet.  I don’t think I’ll be criticized for my decision to support my direct.  I do expect to take some heat for the likely schedule slip. 

Strangely, this is the fourth family emergency I’ve had with this team this year.  This is historically a high performing team.  It’s been a rough year personally for some people. 

Thanks.  I appreciate this community.  

FritzB's picture

Totally the right call from my perspective.

My house burned down last year. The flexibility and support that my manager gave me was incredibly helpful. I certainly didn't deliver all of the results that I had planned to during that time period. And my boss helping me to manage that has strengthened our relationship for the future.

Don't second guess.


Kevin1's picture


I am also in agreement.  You did the right thing.  Family comes first, always.

The whole team would hope that you would do the same for them, and thus they would understand the decision even if it meant a little more work for them and a tougher challenge in meeting the deadline.  You also advised the boss - i.e. no surprises  :-)

You are building a team that are going to be more committed and more likely to give you their discretionary effort because they know you respect and value them. 

Good decision.





svibanez's picture

You absolutely did the right thing.  Your actions demonstrate to your team that you are dedicated to their well-being as well as to productivity.  The long-term benefits of building that trust among your team will far outweigh the short-term consequences of being late.

Informing your boss early on should help get you some relief from being a little late with the deliverable.


GlennR's picture

I agree with everyone above. I had a similar situation happen to me early in my career. Our COO actually made an accommodation for me that demonstrated that he was as loyal to his workforce as I was to the organization.

One thing I don't see here. In a similar situation, I would step in and pick up as much of the load as I was capable of doing. If you can do that, you will not only really be showing leadership but you may be able to eliminate or reduce any delay in the deliverable.

lar12's picture
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Like the others stated, you did the right thing.  One question, are you capable of picking up any of the load for the direct?  The impact to the schedule might me minimized and the relationship impact will be well worth it. 

SteveAnderson's picture
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I presently manage a team which is also known to be very effective and in the course of a critical year-long project, the following has happened:

  • Family deaths
  • Major car accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • One divorce
  • Several threatened divorces
  • Major employee health issues
  • Employee pregnancy leading to extended maternity leave (happy, and still impactful)

In addition to this, my own spouse has been undergoing prolonged medical treatment for significant issues during this time.  And you know what? I stood by my employees during all of this and my boss stood by me. And we were two months late and over budget.

At the end of all of it, the organization and the client scratched their head at the series of unfortunate events that hit my team and recognized that despite not meeting deadline or budget, we continued to be professionals by being transparent about what was going on and the impact and that we continued to push forward and think of new ways to do things with limited resources.

I hope your work is as kind to you with what sounds like a difficult situation.  Even if they're not, you can still take comfort in the fact that you did the right thing for your people.  Good luck out there.

tplummer's picture

You made the right decision. Family always comes first.

You should go through a risk analysis of the situation. Can people pitch in more? Is it enough? Can you borrow another team member to keep on track? You have the risk, now what can you do to mitigate it? And how successful do you think you can be? Something like this:

Jerry is out due to a family emergency issue. Our product deadline could slip by a month. I've asked the team to work an extra 10% to help cover. This should minimize the slip to 2 weeks. I have talked to Bob about borrowing Sally for the next month. If I can get approval on that we are very confident we can meet our deadlines. Bob is making sure moving Sally over won't impact his deadlines. But I may need a priority call from upper management as I believe my deadline is in the critical path and Bob's is not...

Put together the story on how you hope to minimize or eliminate the slip, and what actions you need from your management to make it happen.





mclaire4leaders's picture

You made the right call on this. Leadership is first and foremost seeking the welfare of the people we lead. It is not always the bottomline that matters, sometimes we have to sacrifice the business side of things to be able to manage the people side of things. You gained more respect by putting the interets of your people first before the business. I am sure upper management will understand your decision.

But to be an effective leader, you must be able to rally your team that the work continues, and they may even render additional work just to keep deliverables on time. What is important is to make the members of your team realize that you would do the same for them in case they go through the same situation.


"You are never too old to set another goal, or dream a new dream" -C.S. Lewis

Claire Farnell

LeadershipSkillsHQ where leaders stay sharp


timrutter's picture

Short and brief:

1. Great call in forthrightly supporting your people. They will pay you back in loyalty and commitment for so much longer than the period they will be away

2. Now work out with the team how to hit the schedule dates. That's were the other team members get to pay you back for the times you have supported them

Most of all, keep being the compassionate, ethical manager!

Dave75's picture
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 Timrutter great post.


1. This shows great leadership.

2. This shows great management.



timrutter's picture

 Thank you Sir, I learnt it all here