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I am in my mid 20s and was in emergency room due to lethally high blood pressure. As they found no physiological/common reason for it, they said it must be due to work stress and lifestyle. The doctors recommended I neutralize all stress in work and life - or I will have to take lifelong medications.

I am a newly promoted manager (ca 5 months) and can agree that it has been stressful, however I enjoy the role, the responsibilities and the career path.

I know though there are times in which it really gets bad - periods in which I sleep less than 4 hours a day and eat bad. Especially more recently. And there is always conflict. But I try to learn, and I believe most of it is due to this being my first management experience and all the pressure coming in from every direction.

So, I believe that if I put my mind off the stressfull stuff for a while, I will be able to recover and return to work.

How should I approach this with my boss? Ideally, I would like to take something like a few month-sabbatical, or completely re-focus my work on something else.

In any case, I ultimately don't want to end up ruining my career.

So how can I ask my boss for some extended "downtime" for my health, without affecting my new role?

  • Welcome to the work place - just a quick question, are you USA or UK based? – Marriott81 Feb 25 '14 at 12:59
  • I am UK based, though the company HQ is in USA, so culturally it has a bit of a Silicon Valley mindset I think. – EnduringHealth88 Feb 25 '14 at 13:01
  • @EnduringHealth88 You'll struggle with "months", but if genuine your doctor will be able to provide you with a doctors note for a length of time. The company can not refuse you this, and it may be just what you need. It does sound deeper to me, though. – Dan Feb 25 '14 at 13:11
  • with my company, you could ask for a sick leave, but you would need to be signed off by a dr, could go to a dr and ask for sick note and then give it in, might have to pre discuss first tho – Marriott81 Feb 25 '14 at 14:01
  • Do you have disability leave with your company? With a dr's letter, this could qualify for a short term disability leave, and depending on your benefits (and UK), this could mean partial pay while on leave. Generally companies will accept these if they are well defined periods for medical reason. – Miro Feb 25 '14 at 14:47
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The answer depends on the extent to which this is a medical need. If your doctor advised this time off (or would do so, if you didn't already discuss this), then this is in the category of medical leave, same as if you were in a car accident and in the hospital. Ask your doctor for documentation, including his estimate of when you can return to work, and then approach your boss with that. The opening of the conversation can go roughly like this:

"Boss, I've had a medical issue come up that requires me to take some time away from work. My doctor thinks it will be about $time weeks before I can return. I'm sorry about this, as I'm loving the new job and don't want to have to take this time off. Can we talk about the best way to proceed?" You then hand over the letter sometime before ending the conversation.

If this is not a medical need, however -- if it's something you want to do (for what you see as sound reasons) but it's not something your doctor would say you need, then you are asking your employer for a favor. This is basically the "asking for a sabbatical" case, which is subject to more variation -- some companies have the concept and some don't, some bosses are sympathetic and some aren't, etc. You will have to play this one by ear much more than the case of a documented medical need.

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I think the best solution is to get a doctor's note (to prove that you're not just trying to get some free time off) and then speak to your boss about it.

Make sure that you frame the request as being good for the company AND good for you. A well rested, non-stressed manager will be able to manage their employees more effectively, creating more value for the company.

I wouldn't look at the doctor's note as leverage, but rather as proof of the problem. If you have an understanding boss, he won't question your reasons, but will look to minimize the impact to the company. Remember, if you take leave, he'll likely have to take over some of your responsibilities for a time.

You might even be able to talk about a temporary reduction of responsibilities, or something that will keep you at work.

As far as career impact - if you are miserable, not sleeping, AND your boss isn't willing to give you leave to correct this work-life imbalance, is that really a job/career worth having? If your boss doesn't cooperate, maybe it would be wise to take some time off of work (assuming you have savings and the ability to get a job when you're done) and reset.

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If your boss is approachable, I would approach your boss in a straightforward manner, and tell it to him/her like it is: you are literally dying from stress, and need to figure out a way to manage it. You may be able to switch to a less peak-stress career path (ie, where the peaks and valleys are less substantial) in the company; you may be able to take some time off, perhaps even paid as ST disability; or your boss may recommend you look into a different career or company - but don't take that as a negative, that might well be the right answer.

If not, then you may consider talking to someone in HR to see what options you have first. HR managers should be able to help you navigate issues like this - that's part of what they're paid to do.

  • HR is there primarily to provide service to the company. It is a bad idea to assume that HR will be your friend in this issue. This answer does not really address minimizing the damage to the OP's job and career. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 25 '14 at 20:43

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