May ask bosses for 2-3 months of unpaid leave....advice requested

Long story short: Due to burnout, prolonged stress, physical weariness (often sleep-deprivation related) and years of mental-health issues, I am considering asking my company for several months of unpaid leave.

There is a risk of losing my job if I go on such leave and I really don’t want to lose it, but at the same time feel I am nearing a point where I really must give my brain a respite for a few months to breathe hard, sleep hard, and take a super long hard look at where my life stands at the moment. I am also quarter(third? mid?)-life crisis-ing hard right now.

My work performance itself has been solid and good, so that is not likely to weigh against me.

Just asking for everyone’s advice - and particular, the advice of Dopers who are or have been managers/bosses themselves (so I can know how to broach this to bosses/HR.) I realize there is going to have to be a bucketload of “it depends” and YMMV-ing , too.

I could mention to my bosses my psychiatric history and meds and whatnot but I’m not sure whether that would be likely to help or hurt me.

Do you have a good relationship with your doctor? Because qualifying for FMLA is 12 weeks unpaid leave and they can’t fire you or give your job away. FMLA docs are a lot like pill mills, basically a rubber stamp but you have to find them. I got lucky, my doc was legit and so was my medical condition but a shit ton of people at the call center I worked at all went to the same doctor and they all got reviewed and taken off FMLA. Anyway, if you go that route you don’t have to explain or justify your health conditions to your work, just have to get the doc to sign off and send the paperwork in on your behalf.

When my husband was dying I took a month of unpaid leave from work. The fact I had been open with my management about what was going on with me, and that I’m a valued and reliable worker, probably factored into getting the leave. I was cautioned that under the company rules if I was not back by X date it would be job termination.

As it happened, I didn’t not need the full month and returned after three weeks.

A LOT depends on the HR at your company. Be careful to find out all the rules involved and properly complete all required paperwork.

I don’t think it’s that easy to just say “fuck it! I need me time for three months.”

If your company has a wellness program or EA, you’re going to have to go through a whole list of steps, before they’ll give you the go ahead for three months leave.

Why do you think you need time off anyway? Can’t you just go to counseling on your days off? (Be prepared to answer those questions)

In California anyway, a psychologists note will get you mental health leave. Can that happen where you live?

If you have vacation/PTO time in the bank, I imagine they’re going to want to require you to take that before they let you take unpaid leave.

Yes, this is the case, and I will have to drain it down to zero first.

My 2 cents: check with HR and find out what is the longest period of time of that you can apply for with no hassle. Paid or unpaid. I’m guessing that you will not need as long as you think once you spend some time off the hamster wheel.

“My sleep deprivation is causing me physical problems and my stress level is through the roof.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, take the rest of the week off and recoup for the weekend, we’ll talk on Monday.”

My concern for you would be real. The concern includes the possibility that you’re out of sorts and not entirely sure what you’re doing, and also the possibility that you’re making major changes and might not return. This is an interim solution with an agreement to have a more in-depth conversation later, when both sides are more prepared.

If your workplace would require a more formal process via HR to even get to that point, ugh. I’m sorry.

FLMA only applies to businesses with 50 or more employees, so keep that in mind.

You should qualify for short term disability if that is available to you.

I am a manager but I have never had this situation with an employee. However, I also think FMLA is going to be your best bet, if you have a legitimate medical condition and have a doctor who will attest to it.

An important thing to consider is whether the form of leave you get will leave your benefits intact, specifically medical insurance if you have it with your employer. Under FMLA the employer must continue your benefits. Your company may not do this for other types of leave.

Under FMLA you cannot be terminated at the end of the leave. You might not have the same protection for other types of leave that your company may offer.

If you think it would legitimately permanently damage your health or even kill you, tell them you need the leave and don’t even give them a reason other than it’s “personal”.

It’s better to lose your job than your life.

All of this assumes you’re in the United States:

I’ve had to use FMLA once, and the amount of paperwork and red tape made me wish I was having a tax audit while visiting the DMV at the same time.

I don’t see this going well unless you’re eligible for FMLA. Even if you are, they’ll probably be some gossip behind your back. That happened at my company when someone took FMLA for seasonal affect disorder.

If I’m the manager or coworker, this is going to look like you’re taking the summer off for vacation.

Yes…my employer does have over 50 employees, however, I just found out that there have to be 49 other employees within a 75-mile radius of my workplace location, and there are not, so I am not eligible for FMLA after all.

Does your company have a policy on long-term leave? A lot of it depends on your corporate culture and level within the organization. Some places seem like they begrudge any employee not working 100 hours and every weekend. Others seem to routinely grant management types long-term leave to go climb Everest or write a book or some such bullshit.

Have you considered approaching someone at boss level, quasi explain your circumstance, then casually mention you’re contemplating taking a leave? Be sure to mention up front you haven’t made any decisions yet, but you are exploring any options.

This should open the door to them volunteering, their view, company policy, how well it might be received, etc. Then you get to ask questions like; is there a policy?, would anyone see it as problematic?, is there a length of time they’d be comfortable with?, etc, etc.

Don’t react to the answers you get, just listen, then reiterate you’re just considering it, ask them not to say anything to anyone yet.

Now you’ll have way more info to go on, and in a couple of days they may approach you with a plan that somehow serves them, and sees you get your time off.

Just a suggestion. Good Luck!

I would not mention the mental health issues. At all. Unfortunately these still have a stigma and it’s better not to even have that attached to you at work if you can avoid it.

I’d start by taking all of your vacation. If they balk at giving it to you all at one time, then you can offer them “family matter” or something else. Try to offer them a few weeks advanced notice.

At the end of your time off, you need to have a conversation with your boss about your job. You’ve done solid work and are well-regarded. What is it about the current situation that is not working for you? For example, is it work load? Then talk to them about your workload and why/how it is a problem. Is it too many meetings? Talk to them. Too much travel? Talk to them. In addition, if there is something that would help in other areas of your life, such as working from home 1 day a week, or working different hours, talk to them about that too. You won’t get everything you ask for, but you will get some things; hopefully enough to make your life easier.

To some extent, it’s going to depend on what kind of job you have. I don’t mean in terms of what you actually do , but I’ve had a couple of jobs where you could effectively take an unpaid leave of several months or several years. At one, you could officially take unpaid leave for personal reasons for up to a year and at the other, you could resign and after several months/years apply to be rehired and you would have priority over any completely new applicants. But both of those jobs had two things in common - there were many people doing the same basic job and there was sufficient turnover that if you left in January and wanted to return in May, they were likely to be hiring a new batch in May or June.* With the second job, there were no guarantees - if there was a hiring freeze when you wanted to return you were out of luck and if you were a marginal employee before you left, they might choose not to rehire you.

  • For an example of the type of job I’m talking about, think of teachers. In a school system , lots of teachers retire every June and that means lots of teachers are hired to start each September. And some number of those starting in September were on unpaid leave the year (or years) before and are returning.