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Making Space for Hard Days

Is your employee having a bad day? That’s ok, let them.

Arela Simerson
3 min readJan 18, 2021


Last week I had a friend tell me she was feeling really low, feeling like it was all a lot to deal with in these last twelve months. When I suggested she take the day off for self care, she said she couldn’t, a presentation was due. Work waits for no humans…but if we are working when we’re down, how effective or successful will our results really be?

There are many studies showing that happiness produces more and facilitates more ideation then sadness, but we can’t be happy all the time, life doesn’t work this way. An important and over looked part of being happy is also being able to process and move through our feelings, rather than pushing them away.

Accepting and acknowledging our feelings in non-judgement offers us a healthier and more effective way to manage them and allows us to return to a state which is better for work.

To be our best for ourselves and at work we need to have both high energy up days, and also allow room for the inevitable down days. In a world obsessed with happiness, productivity and financial growth, we haven’t created enough room to feel all the feelings we need to in order to do so.

In addition to all the outside pressure, it’s hard to internally allow ourselves to feel those hard emotions we judge as bad, like sadness, disappointment and shame.

We do as much as we can to try to avoid the “bad” feelings. The common response is to try to alleviate the hard feeling, by giving it a silver lining, covering it up, ignoring it or punishing it. However, doing so only makes the feelings worse, creating outcomes which are far more damaging. Such as chronic health issues, depression, burnout, anger and unhealthy coping mechanisms. All which limit our executive functioning and make us not as capable in life and work.

All feelings are valid. They do not need to be approved, understood or rationalized in any way. They simply exist and we need to address them, even in the face of a looming work deadline.

Rather than judge feelings, we can work towards seeing them as neither bad or good, and instead acknowledge them as important learning lessons. Allowing the time and space to let them work through and pass.

As a manager, if we are truly trying to do what’s in the best interest of our employees, and want them to produce quality work, then we must create the space for the complexities and realities of the human self.

You don’t need to be a trained psychology professional, or offer couch sessions. It’s important also to note that every manager is a person too, with their own comfort level on sharing and TMI. Fortunately, there are still many ways you can support your employee’s down days. Such as:

Understand and accept that some people feel more deeply and more often than others

Offer compassion, even when you don’t understand

Foster a culture which understands that all people have feelings and hold space for this

Communicate clearly to your team that they have the room and safety for this to happen

Set reasonable expectations and goals, planning for some employee down days

Practice strong documentation and collaboration where employees can support each other

Set an example; don’t push yourself through feelings, allow yourself these work breaks when needed

Do succession planning for the important or singular roles so no one feels too beholden

Offer mental health services as a perk to your employees

These steps are small, but make a large impact. I invite both managers and employees to investigate for themselves which steps they can start with for growth that works for them.

If you would like to learn more, or are interested in more resources, I’d love to hear from you. Email me at: