The bit about not waiting til you have ALL the information reminds me of an incident many moons ago when I was an executive secretary to a co-owner of the company.

One of my co-workers got killed in a car accident on the way to work... but the bosses just ran around secretly 2/3 of the day. At one point someone came to me asking, "Is B dead?" I didn't know... in fact, that was the first I heard that she might be. I don't remember how I finally found out... I think it was when my boss told me to call the insurance company to get the wheels rolling on the life insurance.

I didn't think that was handled right. What do you all think?


juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

Did the family know? That would be the only thing that would really place a hold on my telling friends and coworkers in that instance. I'm assuming they did (or how did your bosses know?). If so...well I go back to Mark's example feedback of the consequence of being late to work 'we worry about you'. We worry because we care. Our co-workers are important to us for so many reasons.

My team is so incredibly close - one member recently had a heart attack. Since then, if he isn't at work for some reason (even if it's scheduled) his teammates are very persistent at making sure it isn't his heart keeping him away!

terrih's picture

Her son was driving, and wasn't really injured. (they got T-boned)

But there still might have been those kind of considerations -- the other son, the ex, the extended family...

It can't be easy to decide how to handle that kind of situation... you can't exactly script it ahead of time. But at least we have some guidance now.


tcomeau's picture
Training Badge

I found the "Managing Through a Personal Crisis" 'cast useful, despite having had lots of practice dealing with these kinds of events.

The one thing I still struggle with is what to do when someone is trying to manage through their own personal crisis. Particularly me!

I've had to deal with my own family crisis while still trying to manage my branch. I had the perverse experience of my bosses saying they were willing to help with the personal stuff, but not spending any effort to get me help with the professional stuff. Fortunately I had peers and people in my branch who were willing to step up and keep things running.

We're currently struggling with another manager who was seriously injured several weeks ago, and is still several weeks from coming back to work. While his boss is good about communicating the state of his recovery, trying to accomplish work in that area meets with "Well, that will have to wait until he gets back...." And Mike and Mark have pointed out before, you can break your heart trying to manage up.

Asking people to be sensitive to personal needs is appropriate, and it is even more important to ask them to keep things running while the person with the crisis is away.


terrih's picture

Seems to me that would be best prepared for through succession planning. (That doesn't help you today, of course.)

My former manager would turn over the department to me when he took a day off and such. So, when he found out he had to have surgery for a stomach tumor (turned out to be benign), and would have to be out for 4-6 weeks, at least there was only a minimal amount of "that'll have to wait until he gets back."

Glad you brought it up. I need to teach some more stuff to other ppl in my dept. Just in case. :wink:


terrih's picture

P.S. My husband had to have emergency open heart surgery at the age of 25 for an aneurysm. (This was before I met him.)

His supervisor came to visit him in the hospital, and said, "When are you coming back to work?" :shock:

After he left, my husband's sister said, "Who was that jerk?"

Nevertheless, he felt pressured to go back to work, and only took 2 weeks off. He says it was the worst mistake of his life.

I just felt I had to share, even though no one who listens to Manager Tools would ever be a jerk supervisor like that. :D

I might say, don't even JOKE that way. It might be misconstrued.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

This thread ought to be required reading for newer managers in the area of succession planning and delegation.

and, it is part of a larger, international trend towards event versus systems thinking, and the reduction of planning in favor of action, and the lack of preparation in favor of vigor. These are all good concepts, but they rarely can be routinely substituted for one another.

Lots of Americans, for example, will retire with nothing but social security, and a television and cell phone that were cool five years before.


tcomeau's picture
Training Badge

[quote="mahorstman"]... it is part of a larger, international trend towards event versus systems thinking, and the reduction of planning in favor of action, and the lack of preparation in favor of vigor. These are all good concepts, but they rarely can be routinely substituted for one another.

What I find truly bizarre is that I see expert systems engineers who apply their skills and discipline to a information system of great complexity and great risks, but have nothing but scorn for applying the same principles to managing people and organizations.

I see people willing to spend weeks or months defining an observing plan or validating a command load, but can't be bothered to define a reasonable performance appraisal schedule, or setting up a process for knowledge capture and transfer.

It's not that people don't know how to do systems analysis, or plan, or prepare. But somehow management is viewed as a "soft skill" and thus is either too difficult or not worthy of our attention. Besides, all managers are pointy-headed bosses, so management isn't valued. We prefer to rely on heroic efforts by people who want to "prove their value" to the Mission.

My wife works in an entirely different environment, in an entirely different discipline, but sees similar things from her managers. The common experience we have is that our deepest management wounds are often self-inflicted.


Todd G's picture

In November last year (2006), I had an employee call me crying. She was involved in a jet-skiing accident on vacation with her family. She was so worried about not being to work as she fractured her scapula.

I immediately reassured her that things would be taken care and I immediately started the LOA paperwork and notified our Employee health. Although this wasn't an on-the-job injury it did fall into short term disability. I also had to start looking for staffing for her position for the 12 weeks she was off.

I immediately had my scheduler working on staffing patterns so that we had enough nursing staff to cover the shifts. She worked the night shift 7p - 7a, so there were 36 hours/week that needed to be covered.

My unit has been through some difficulty prior to me joining the team 8 months ago. We are now very close and work as a team. Staff pulled together and covered shifts.

This was a true personal crisis that worked out perfectly. As a manager, all I had to do was put out the data and provide the resources, the staff did the rest.