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THE QUESTION

I have been working with my employer for almost six months. On occasion, my boss has said he doesn't have confidence in my abilities. He gets frustrated and has yelled at me in front of other employees.

It has gotten to the point where I am mentally damaged and have taken a medical leave to seek counselling and get help for my depression and anxiety.

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I want to get back to work quickly. I like the job atmosphere and the people are great and friendly. However, these punishing self-esteem blows have debilitated me.

I am also dealing with some serious family matters that are draining my mental well being.

I don't want my boss to think I'm taking a leave for a "vacation." My boss is old school and I know there's a stigma around me taking a leave. I need help and time to deal with my mental well being. How should I handle this?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Kyle Couch

President, Spectrum Organizational Development, Toronto

Old school boss or not, I get the feeling that this isn't the right job for you. While you do enjoy the environment, and the people, an obvious missing element is your enjoyment and/or passion for the actual job itself. Without the passion and interest, the stress will take its toll, as it has in your case.

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Furthermore, my concern will be that upon your return to work, you will not be able to focus effectively owing to your relationship with your boss. Your productivity will suffer, and your boss will only become more frustrated. You may wish to discuss your concerns with your boss; however, I feel the relationship is already strained. You should cut your losses, regroup, and look for another job.

It also seems as though you have several other factors that are further affecting your health, and this job is doing nothing to help your personal situation. If possible, I would consider looking for a part-time job, which will allow you to have the flexibility to support your family, and ultimately yourself.

Far too often people find themselves in professional situations that have a negative impact on their self-esteem and sense of self-worth, yet they feel that moving on is a bigger loss, owing to pride and "sunk costs." Sure it's scary to face the job market, but it's not as scary as punishing yourself every day in the wrong job.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Julie Labrie

President of BlueSky Personnel Solutions, Toronto

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An employee's mental health should be equally as important as his or her physical well-being. Unfortunately, you are correct that taking a medical leave owing to stress can sometimes carry a stigma. Employers may feel such claims are exaggerated, unwarranted or that some people are abusing the system.

Here's my advice: Don't worry about what your boss thinks. If you were physically ill, you would prioritize healing. Taking care of your mental health is no different.

Then ask yourself honestly, are you qualified for this job? If not, your frustrations at work may only get worse. If you can do the job well, make sure you are clear on how you can meet your manager's expectations. Have a candid conversation with your boss upon your return to establish communications processes that can help both of you understand how to work together more successfully. If your boss treats you in an inappropriate manner, politely remove yourself from the situation and once emotions have settled, address that behavior with your boss or human resources.

If that type of open communication is not welcome, it may be time to look for other employment options.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Your confidentiality is ensured.

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