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How personal issues can affect work performance


Many people deal with poor self-esteem and anxiety. Learn why reaching out for help is an important first step.

Dear Carmen*, I appreciate you giving permission for me to share your story. You said that you hoped it would not only help you but perhaps other readers dealing with this same issue.

Carmen is a 28-year-old single mother of two delightful hellions ages 5 and 7. With a chaotic homelife, she also has the fortune of dealing with a “tyrant” of an office manager, Marylee. Marylee has been on the job for two years and doesn’t think much of Carmen. Carmen is the receptionist for a busy practice. She loved her job until Marylee started working there. Unfortunately, she’s a direct report to Marylee and feels incredibly uncomfortable around her.

Without a strong support system, Carmen is exhausted and panicky about money. She lives with her kids at her mother’s house, but that isn’t a good situation. Her mother puts her down constantly and the kids have been mimicking this. As a result, the kids are acting more and more disrespectful toward her. Carmen feels that she’s sinking downward in a pool of depression and doesn’t know how to pull herself out of it. As a result, she has been late to work, making mistakes because she’s distracted and feeling like she’ll never catch a break. What she really wants is to run away and just start over, but that isn’t realistic. She’s reaching out as she doesn’t know what to do.

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Carmen, these are difficult issues you’re facing. You’re doing the most important thing, which is asking for help. Being a single mother can be very difficult, yet you’re doing it. Hopefully you have help with babysitting and involvement with the father. Working, parenting and living with family can be overwhelming.

Things will get better! You’re taking the first step. Look first at whom you call family. (This doesn’t have to be your family of choice or creation. It might be your girlfriends, a mentor, or your clergy. To me, a family is whoever your support system is.) Who do you talk to about your problems? Once you identify this person or group of people, I recommend that you tell them about what’s going on. You’re not alone. It may feel like it, but there are so many people who understand what you’re going through. When I feel overwhelmed or alone, I reach out to others. If it’s not my “family,” it might be to help someone else who needs help. That gets me out of being stuck and solely focused on my situation. That’s where I would start.

For those without a “family of choice,” give some thought to whom you would like to be close to. Develop those connections. In many cases, this can be done simply by reaching out and letting people know what’s going on.

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Another idea is to check out meetup.com and go explore activities that might interest you. If you don’t like it, then don’t go back. Consider volunteering somewhere like at an elementary school so that you can meet new people. Go to a library class with your kids; many are free or low cost. Hang out at the playground or in places where other parents go. Invite other kids over for playdates and have their parents come with them. This is the start to feeling connected. If these aren’t options for you due to your depression, then please consider finding a counselor or talking to your clergy or doctor. There’s help out there for you. You don’t have to be alone. It takes hard work, but the rewards are tremendous. Give this some thought.

Readers, I know that this article started as a problem in a dental practice with Marylee, but, stress, depression, poor self-confidence and problems at home sometimes need to be addressed before tackling a work situation. What do you think?

Email me your advice for Carmen’s situation at diana2@discussdirectives.com.

*The reader’s name, job title and other identifying information have been changed to protect her privacy.

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