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Family stress at home may jeopardize promotion

DEAR J.T. & DALE: I just got a big promotion at work that will require a lot of extra time and focus. Unfortunately, my son is going through some marital problems, and it’s causing a lot of stress at home. He has moved in with me, and my granddaughter stays with us when he has custody. My family is important to me, but so is this job. I love my work, and I worked hard to get this promotion. I don’t want to blow it. Any suggestions on how to handle both? – Jenna

J.T.: I’d start with an open and honest conversation with your son. Explain to him what you’ve worked for and how the stress of the situation is affecting you. As his mom, I know you want to do all you can for him, but he is an adult; you don’t have to give up what you worked for to help him. Instead, do what you can, but make it clear that the job is a priority.

Dale: Yes, I’d make it clear that the job is a priority, but not the priority. No one who’s been through an emotionally draining experience wants to move home and hear Mom say anything that smacks of, “I’ve got more important things to worry about.” However, Jenna, you must take care of yourself, too. Maybe in that conversation with your son, you two can declare your home to be a refuge, where you have limits on negative talk. Or, with or without your boy, you can work on becoming more skilled at dealing with stress. I have a marvelous tool to suggest, an app called Insight Timer. (You’ll know you’ve found the right one when you see a hammered-brass bowl, which is the logo.) The app is free and has thousands of guided meditations. You just put in how much time you have and what type of inspiration you need, and it gives you options. (Try starting with Andrew Johnson of Edinburgh.) I should add that I’m a guy who hates meditating, and still, this works for me. Approach this time with a searcher’s mind, and you can increase your love for your job and for your family.

Dear J.T. & Dale: I just resigned from my job after almost 10 years. I’m relocating to another state and want to continue working in this industry. The application asks for my supervisor’s name. This person was one of three supervisors on our team, but he was my primary. We did not have a good relationship. Can I list another supervisor as long as I have his or her permission? – Matt

J.T.: Yes. Most definitely.

Dale: Agreed. And I’m glad the issue came up early in your search, because now you can think through your strategy on references. Not only would I line up both of the pro-Matt supervisors, I’d also think back over managers at other assignments, and perhaps former co-workers who’ve gone on to become managers. Reconnect with the supportive ones, and ask how they’d feel about being a reference. If they seem eager to help, add them to your list. But don’t give out that list – use the old “References upon request” line. You can select the best fit for each job possibility and let those specific references know what that employer is looking for. Be sure to keep all referrers updated on your search – you want to let them feel like they are your allies.

J.T.: And, for those stuck with having to give the name of someone who didn’t like you, get someone you know to do a fake reference check so you can hear what a former manager says about you. That way, when you give their name to a potential employer, you can at least go on the offensive and say: “This is my former supervisor, but I want you to know I’ve been aware that he doesn’t give the best references. So, I’d love to also give you contact information for a couple of people I worked with so you can have a balanced perspective.”

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm jtodonnell. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with Please visit them at, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St., 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.