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Back at work - being ignored

(58 Posts)
pinktransit Tue 06-Oct-15 14:05:32

I came back to work yesterday, 2 1/2 weeks after my partner died 6 weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
I spent the 2 weeks after he died sorting out his cottage/clothes/belongings, along with his sons. This was time that had been booked as annual leave, as my partner and I had planned to be biking in Scotland. Then it was the funeral, I get 3 days compassionate leave so took that along with another 2 days annual leave.
I got back to work, I had a short meeting with my line manager and then started to catch up on 3 weeks worth of emails.
One person (another of the 3 of the management team I'm part of) has been lovely. Nobody else in a team of 14 has said a thing.
My managers bosses haven't said anything - I don't even know whether they know or not.
It just feels like I'm expected to come back and pretend that nothing has happened. Even down to the fact that I have an appraisal booked for tomorrow, with plans to discuss where I want to be in 6 and 12 months time. I don't even know where I want to be in an hour, let alone a month or a year - and to be honest, from a work point of view I don't actually care. We are an office with 3 smallish teams, working very closely together. I know the manager of one of the other teams hadn't been told, as she came up to me on my first morning back to ask how my partner was doing.

Am I being a bit precious here?
I don't want to sit at my desk and cry all day, but I think I would like some acknowledgement, and for my boss to realise that it's probably not the best time for an appraisal. I'm a bit sad that there wasn't even a sympathy card from my team.
Should I just be pretending that nothing happened?

Sorry, this is long and ranty, but today isn't a good day. sad

CocktailQueen Tue 06-Oct-15 14:09:18

Wow. I'm very sorry for your loss, OP, that sounds horrendous for you. flowers

I think - if I had the bottle -I'd go to my appraisal tomorrow and see what they said. If they said sorry, asked how I was doing. And then ask them about it. Shocking behaviour.

In such a small company I'd have thought the manager should have emailed everyone to make sure they all knew the sad news, so they didn't upset you by asking how your partner was, and maybe got you flowers, and certainly a card. Could you tell your manager how upset you are at how they have handled this, and how they are making a bad situation worse? What do you want them to do?

cariadisnaehappy Tue 06-Oct-15 14:09:24

I'm so sorry for your loss and no you're not in anyway being precious. I lost my husband suddenly 2 years ago, and although I tried to go back to work within a couple of weeks I ended up being off for three months.
You've had one of the worst shocks you're ever likely to have and you need time to heal. In your shoes I'd go and see your GP, and get signed off for a wee while - you don't want to sit at home with just the walls for company, but equally you're mind is not going to be on work either.
Take care of yourself, work can wait xx

LimitedSedition Tue 06-Oct-15 14:10:56

People become really uncomfortable when faced with the grief of another. They don't know what to say, so say nothing. It hurts, but they think they're doing the best thing by not 'reminding' you of it (as if you're in danger of forgetting). I have been in this position and it is truly awful. Stick with the colleague who is being lovely, hopefully they will guide you through. I am truly sorry for your loss flowers

BrucieTheShark Tue 06-Oct-15 14:12:55

This is awful, I am so very sorry for your loss.

They are behaving atrociously, really they are. Do you have an HR department?

I have no experience but in your shoes I would be getting myself signed off by my GP for stress/depression/whatever asap.

How can they expect you to sit there and get back to work as if nothing has happened - they hadn't even the decency to tell your colleagues. How can they expect you to have an appraisal on day 3 of your return? You have had minimal time off as it is.

If you have an HR department or a nice manager, I would be speaking to them as a matter of urgency and explaining why you are about to head to your GP as a direct consequence of their treatment of you following such a devastating, life-altering and traumatic event. Put the onus on them - what are they going to do about it?

You are absolutely not being precious.

BrucieTheShark Tue 06-Oct-15 14:14:18

I can't believe they let you use your annual leave for the weeks after he died. I am so angry for you!

KathyBeale Tue 06-Oct-15 14:17:19

Really sorry to hear about your husband, OP.

I agree with going to HR. Hopefully they can help you and advise their colleagues.

My husband lost his dad years ago (before we met) and he says the worst thing about going back to work was that no one mentioned it. He's still hurt by it, all these years later.

SirChenjin Tue 06-Oct-15 14:18:49

My sincere condolences - I am so sorry for your loss flowers

What you're going through is absolutely awful. I know people often don't know what to say, but my goodness, a card and some flowers isn't beyond the ability of most offices. You're not being precious at all, and your line manager sounds absolutely awful for not arranging proper time off for you, proper communication within the office and a slow return to work. Could you to to your GP and get signed off to give you more time to come to terms with your loss? I think a word with your manager along the lines of 'I'm really not ready to think about appraisals right now, I'm sure you understand' might not be a bad thing either.

SirChenjin Tue 06-Oct-15 14:20:06

And YY to HR.

PolishRemoverOfNail Tue 06-Oct-15 14:21:20

I'd discuss the appalling way they've dealt with your bereavement in your appraisal and say that you don't feel that it is appropriate given what you've recently been through.

I remember your last thread, and had thought of you since he died. flowers

pinktransit Tue 06-Oct-15 14:29:08

Thank you all - it's good to hear that I'm not being a bit precious or unreasonable.

I've asked for my appraisal to be put back until next month, and am waiting for a response. Truthfully though, my manager is a bit of a dick at the best of times, so I'll see what he says.

I don't know how to find out who's been told or not - it's a bit crass to ask I think, but my bosses line manager was just in the kitchen with me and apologised for being in my way, moved his coffee cup so I could get to the tea bags, and off he went.

Apparently my direct team have been told, but I still had one of our new starters ask me how my holiday was today. It's all just so bloody awkward.

My daughter bought me a HUGE bunch of flowers today, to sit on my desk and remind colleagues that there could be something that they could say.
Not one person has said anything.

I'll see what's said about the appraisal and then take it from there. If I'm pressured at all into doing it then I'll see about taking more time off.

SirChenjin Tue 06-Oct-15 14:31:53

Bloody hell - I thought my boss was a bit of a dick, but yours sounds as if they are missing the compassion gene completely. Do you have an HR dept you could go to?

pinktransit Tue 06-Oct-15 14:39:52

Our HR team is based in our Stratford office, so not on site.
We do have a part time HR person here, who is also the office manager, but she's more of a contact TO HR rather than actually being IN HR.

I have been told to tell my boss if I need him to do anything - followed by him saying that he doesn't know what can be done, and I've used most of my leave already this year. If I don't ask, then he'll just carry on as normal and expect me to as well. I just don't know what is 'normal' in any other company though - obviously they can't give unlimited time off, and the work still needs to be done.

SirChenjin Tue 06-Oct-15 14:55:58

In our organisation it's 2 weeks compassionate leave for a close family member, with up to 6 months full time pay for sick leave, and 6 months half pay. There is also other leave which can be given (we're in the NHS, so it's very good). Most people just tend to use sick leave and compassionate leave, and then there are options to return to work p/t and work up to full time.

Could you make a phone call to your HR dept in Stratford to check that he's following bereavement procedure properly? You really should not be using A/L at a time like this. At least, I would hope not sad

pinktransit Tue 06-Oct-15 16:48:45

We only get 3 days compassionate leave, I did check our company procedures.
I do get a reasonable amount of paid sick leave, so I think that will have to be used if I need more time.
My appraisal has been postponed, which is good. My lovely colleague also checked with my boss who he had notified, he said that it had been all of our team, and also the wider management team. I know that at least one of the wider team didn't know, as she told me. And the rest of the management team (one of whom I've worked with for nearly 9 years) hasn't said anything. I don't feel that I can bring it up at all, and because nobody is saying anything at all, word isn't 'getting round' the way it usually does about things.
So I'm left pretending that all is well, when actually, it's not.
Only another 45 minutes of today to get through, thank heavens.

SirChenjin Tue 06-Oct-15 16:58:53

It sounds awful - just what you don't need at this time. Could your lovely colleague have a word with everyone on the quiet to let them know how upset you are?

chairmeoh Tue 06-Oct-15 17:42:38

Could you phone or email HR? Say to them that you are struggling being back at work so soon after the sudden loss of your Partner, and that you don't feel supported.

Explain that you've used up annual leave as much as possible and have tried to fit back in without disrupting the team, but have found it difficult to know who has been told of the reason for your recent absence, and outline (without naming) the manager who obviously had not been made aware, and the new staff member who had asked how your holiday was.

Anyone with a heart will understand how this is causing you additional hurt and confusion.

Tell HR that you are surprised at the lack of compassion from your work colleagues, but that you expected senior managers at the very least to acknowledge your recent bereavement. To expect you to attend an appraisal is unbelievable, as are the comments from your line manager. And not to have received a card or flowers seems pretty unfeeling.

tribpot Tue 06-Oct-15 17:44:00

I think I would be sending an email to everyone, as it really isn't clear that people have been told. If it embarrasses a few people, so be it. I would say something like 'As you're aware [despite the fact they clearly aren't], my partner recently died after a very short battle with pancreatic cancer. This has been an incredibly difficult time for me and I wanted to thank you all for welcoming me back to the office. As much as possible I would like to keep things 'business as usual' [not that you seem to have a lot of choice with this bunch of unfeeling bastards] but I hope you'll understand if I sometimes don't seem to be my usual self. Please don't feel you have to avoid saying anything about it to me - my partner is still very much a part of my life and I will miss him greatly'.

You might want to use a pretext like raising money for Pancreatic Cancer UK - I fully understand this isn't uppermost in your mind right now but it would at least give you an 'excuse' to broach the subject with the office as a whole.

What an unnecessary extra burden this is on you at such a difficult time. I'm very sorry for your loss.

ExitPursuedByABear Tue 06-Oct-15 17:51:54

Sorry for your loss flowers

And sorry your colleagues are being so horrendously unsympathetic.

I would have thought the three days compassionate leave would be for a death of a family member, not for a partner for whom you were responsible. Who on earth can get stuff sorted in three days?

I think they should give you your annual leave back as you did not take it. If you were sick then it would be given back to you.

whatisforteamum Tue 06-Oct-15 20:45:54

So sorry for your loss.they have behaved appallingly.I was told i would get 2/3 days when df dies of terminal cancer.My colleagues were unsympathetic and said trivial things while df was v ill.I have left and not told my new colleagues how ill he is.I cant believe they didnt organise a card how awful and you can get a phased return through your GP where your working day is reduced so you can work without the full burden of full time hrs.

RNBrie Tue 06-Oct-15 20:51:48

Have you read Sheryl Sandbergs letter to her colleagues at Facebook after her husband died suddenly?? Its really long but there is a paragraph about returning to work and her colleagues not being able to look her in the eye.

Sheryl Sandberg

Maybe you can send this link to your colleagues.

Thoughts are with you OP flowers

pinktransit Tue 06-Oct-15 21:20:04

I love that email tribpot - my daughters, friends and their lads are going sober for October for Macmillan, so I can add that to the email too.
Sheryl Sandbergs letter is just amazing.
I may also email HR, and point out that I don't know who's been told, that I shouldn't have to ask to have my appraisal postponed, and that I'm not feeling supported at all.

I'm just so tired that I can't think straight, so it's really hard to know whether I'm being unreasonable or not.

I love mumsnet for the sanity checks, hugs and flowers that are so needed sometimes. Thank you all for your kind words, thoughts, ideas - very much appreciated.

tribpot Tue 06-Oct-15 21:49:21

Hope the email helps, pinktransit - although for god's sake do take out my sarcastic asides about what a bunch of gits your co-workers are, I don't think that will quite have the effect you're hoping for smile

I think you should email HR and say you are feeling unsupported and that perhaps your boss is unsupported too, since he clearly doesn't know how to help a grieving colleague. Perhaps he simply meant to use the time set aside for your appraisal to have a quiet chat with you about how to lessen your work load over the coming weeks. Perhaps he thought that you would want to get back to normal and take your mind off things. However, what he needs to do is NOT speculate but simply ask you what you need.

SirChenjin Thu 08-Oct-15 07:33:45

How have things been pink?

pinktransit Thu 08-Oct-15 17:37:01

I sent the following email to my direct manager on Wednesday.

Hi [dickhead boss]

I have taken the decision that I am probably not ready to be back at work following the death of my partner. This is due to a number of reasons which are listed below:

I am currently feeling very unsupported by both yourself and the wider company during this difficult time.

Your approach appears to be that I should be straight back to normal, and that you will just leave me to it, as you stated in our original short meeting on Monday. You also booked an appraisal for today - it should surely be obvious that any process involving a discussion of where I want to be in 6/12 months would be difficult following bereavement.

The wider company approach is equally unsupportive - I know that [other team manager] hadn't been informed, as she asked me how Pete was when I first saw her on Monday morning. This, as I'm sure you can imagine wasn't an easy question to answer. Others have also enquired as to how my 'holiday' was.

Having worked with and for [department manager] for almost 9 years, it is difficult to accept that he has said absolutely nothing - is this a company policy? Neither has [bosses line manager], and as part of his overall team I would expect at least a short word or email offering condolences or similar.

As it is, our team are not speaking to me, and I do understand that it's difficult to know what to say, but a briefing from yourself might have given them some direction and that it's ok to talk to me.

So far, [nice colleague] is the only person who has offered condolences within the team, and [other team manager] outside the team.

I feel as though I'm supposed to just pretend that nothing has happened, which is clearly absurd.

I'm not sure that I'm emotionally ready to be back at work, and will be leaving shortly to get an appointment with my gp.

Kind Regards


I have now been signed off for 2 weeks, have a telephone appointment with my GP in another 2 weeks with a view to being signed off for longer if required, and offered bereavement counselling.

I am so bloody angry - in response I got:

Dear pinktransit

I totally understand that you are not ready to return to work.

Please do take as much time off work as you need, and let me know when is a suitable time to get in touch. This does not have to be me, it can be [manager/HR/office manager] or anyone who you wish to speak with. Please do take as long as you need, the team have very much spoken of their support for you as have the company. We did have a briefing within the team, and the managers were informed. I am sorry if this could have been better reflected.

Take care and i am obviously not expecting you in until you feel able to return.


dickhead boss

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