What happened: I work in a big company. I left my daily standup meeting and returned to my desk before the meeting ended, without no apparent reason and with all the people wondering why.

Why: I come from a period of very serious personal matters (losses and other stuff), so stress is up to the roof and I'm very tired. I was almost dissociated and thought the meeting ended.

I've chosen to notify my team leader saying I'm having a terrible time personally and that I apologize and am embarassed about what happened. Do you think it's a correct reaction, also in terms of what I discolsed, or should I share the reasons why?

Edit: I also think that self-monitoring my state and my ability to work should be a viable solution, to avoid repeating this.

Update: I decided to go like described above, with just minimal disclosure and no detail. The TL brushed it off with a laugh saying "don't mind"; I'm obviously working, nonetheless, to get out of this situation, took also some days off.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user44108
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 19:15

6 Answers 6


Tell your team lead.

If you’re in a place where you can get so disassociated that you think a meeting is over when it isn’t, odds are that self-monitoring isn’t going to work, because the very mental mechanisms that you’d use for self-monitoring are the ones that are impaired.

If you’ve got a good boss, they’ll work out a plan to help you cope if you start disassociating again. If you don’t, then you should go to a psychologist to get a formal diagnosis that you can take back to your boss so that you can force him to make reasonable accommodations under the ADA (or your country’s equivalent).

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    I think it's also worthwhile making the TL aware of an overview of the situation and that you're not firing on all cylinders currently due to events outside of work. Any good boss would be happy to cut you some slack and make any adjustments you (both) deemed appropriate. If you have a good relationship with the TL, it's worth being (relatively) open about things.
    – AdzzzUK
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 9:15
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    It's what I did, TL was cool about it and said "no worries, forget about it". Now I guess that the issue becomes avoiding that it happens again and caring for my well-being in general.
    – Czar
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 12:07
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    "If you don't [have a good boss], then you should go to a psychologist" I disagree, OP definitely needs to get external help whatever their boss.
    – Kyll
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 17:46
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    Honestly I would've +1'ed this if before going into "odds are that self-monitoring isn't going to work" you also pointed out that even perfectly mentally healthy people sometimes misread situations, especially if they are focused on other things, and so the once-in-a-blue-moon "oh, I thought we were done, my bad" is actually normal. We have to be mindful that internalities like "dissociating" are highly vulnerable to meaning relativity, and not just jump exclusively into the most serious possible interpretation that internality words like that might imply.
    – mtraceur
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 21:38
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    @Kyll et al.: I am already under therapy.
    – Czar
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 9:17

Do you think it's a correct reaction, also in terms of what I disclosed, or should I share the reasons why?

As far as work is concerned, the situation is far from critical. Disclose as much as you are comfortable to. But nothing is required or necessary. You are perfectly fine just apologizing and giving very evasive reasons "I'm tired / I was thinking about something else".

I can see from comments people might think I advice you not to share the details. It's not the case. I believe only you can take such decisions, based on many factors that are completely personal. Read my answer as, right now, you're still free to do however you like, from a professional standpoint it's acceptable.

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    If you have a good relationship with the lead and don't think they're looking for any excuse to cause you a problem, it's perfectly fine to admit that you weren't feeling well and reacted badly. You can apologize and, most likely, nobody will care about it. Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 11:32
  • While this "reason" would work once or maybe a few times, this won't work if it continues to happen. Being up front with the situation and not making any "evasive reasons" will help your situation with a good TL and boss. Being tired and "thinking about something else" all the time begs the question of why. Unless it's a good and actual reason, your job reliability might eventually become questionable, especially if the boss begins to think it's unreasonable. A loss in the family is reasonable, if the boss knows about it. Partying all night isn't and what the boss will likely assume. Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 17:43
  • @computercarguy I made a clarification. I can relate to OP in the fact I can behave oddly because of very personal reasons. In my case, I would not disclose if I had any doubt about my employer integrity and professionalism. Many times, I wasn't sure.
    – Diane M
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 18:01
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    This is a case where the golden rule can be applied in reverse. Imagine that a colleague, with whom you have a generally good working relationship, left a meeting early -- and then apologized, saying something like "I had a lot on my mind and thought the meeting was over, sorry." Would you forgive them? If so, there's a good chance they'll forgive you.
    – yshavit
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 21:16

I see two options.

  1. One is the advice as given by @nick012000 - if you believe you can share these things with your lead. Only you can estimate whether this is the case or if it is not. Some people will see you as a valuable resource and even more so - person, but some others will label you and talk to colleagues about "that guy" behind your back. This is sometimes hard to figure out.

  2. The other one is to talk to your lead and tell them that you simply didn't feel well and did not wish to disturb the meeting, maybe you had to run to the bathroom - usually this is where further questions end. This has pros and cons. Technically, if you do not feel well, then you should excuse yourself and go to a doctor. Everyone will understand if you felt so bad that you decided there is no time to notify a superior (maybe you felt embarassed by the situation), but it may be questioned why you kept on working afterwards. On the other hand this option does not disclose potentially private personal issues to someone in your office.

As described, it really depends on whether you think your lead is trustworthy enough to talk about this issue or not, this is not a guess than can be made from afar.

Ideally you work in a company that cares about their employees and helps in such moments and if not, then maybe you should move on. However experience teaches, sometimes companies are managed badly and sometimes the situation doesn't allow leaving.

Finally, maybe this is not even that big a deal. If it is not, then claiming that you misunderstood and assumed the meeting was over may be sufficient.

  • "there is no time to notify a superior" ... some meeting cultures actually encourage leaving silently and unobtrusively if it is for bathroom and similar reasons, unless you are already speaking. Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 21:00

I recommend:

  1. If you do provide reasons, keep them succinct and understandable (e.g. "my so and so has died and I've been really stressed out"), unless they ask about it and you're comfortable sharing more.
  2. Don't beat yourself up about things, nor force yourself to try to work really hard. People will understand, and if they don't, you shouldn't care.
  3. Take some time off, and/or consider asking your boss if you can work a little less. It's better to embrace that you're not feeling up to your usual full potential than to try to mask it.

Apart from people who are close to you, the truth is that nobody really cares about your personal matters.

The rules of information say that you need to communicate what others need to know. They are wondering why you left the meeting. Let them know (chat, email to all, at lunch, whatever the common method of sending non-critical information to everyone is in your team) that you thought the meeting is over, what a silly mistake, sorry guys.

That is all everyone needs to know. A few people might need to know more or may ask more. You can simply say "I was lost in thoughts" if someone wonders how you could be so confused.

But your team lead and maybe a few people who rely on your work should know that you're dealing with something. Tell them in private, leaving out non-essential details. If you say a person close to you died or whatever the matter is, almost everyone will understand.

  • I would not go around telling everyone on your team about it, drawing attention to it and likely wasting peoples' time about it. It's not that significant.
    – Andrew
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 15:24

Unfortunately you do not say which country you are in and this is important information in determining your best course of action. My background is that I have lead many Software development teams in the US and Europe and also lead hybrid onshore-offshore teams in Eastern Europe and Asia.

When suffering from stress, it can be difficult to deal with situations that would otherwise not cause you to skip a beat. It is also easy to give too much importance to events that have happened and to make it worse by over-reacting after the fact.

My experience is that in a large team/organization these kinds of things happen frequently enough. There will always be some team-member that is struggling either professionally or from challenges in their personal life.

My advice is as follows:

1) Don't make it worse by over-reacting. It's really not that big a thing to leave a standup.

2a) If you have a good relationship with your manager then you should communicate with him/her. Give them some insight into the challenges that you are coping with. You do not need to share every detail of your life but enough so that the manager can understand that you need a bit of support to get back on track. A good manager will give you reasonable accommodation. Every employee needs this at some time in their career and no manager wants to lose someone from the team because of temporary problems.

2b) If you do not have a good relationship with your manager and you feel that you can not share the struggles that you are dealing with, then you should simply say that you felt ill and needed to leave the enclosed space of the standup. Dealing with extreme stress and becoming overwhelmed is no less of a health issue than being overcome by nausea for example.

3) Do not feel the obligation to explain yourself to every team member. This will only draw attention to something that while it was a significant event for you personally, was probably not much more than a blip to the other team members.

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