The Business Coach with Laura Murphy: “Elderly parents and work…”

Question: I’ve been approached by a manager whose mother has become very poorly and needs support at home. She’s in a real spin about it and talking about reducing her hours or even changing jobs, even though she doesn’t want to do either. What can I do to help her? Susan

Answer: This is a very difficult time for your employee and one that an increasing number of the workforce will face as parents age, their needs increase and services are cut. It’s also a time when emotion can take over, clouding our decision making process so it’s a good thing that she’s come to you for advice.

First get her to take a step back and look at this from a project management perspective. She may find it difficult to put the emotional tug to one side but a good technique is to imagine that it’s one of her team who has come to her with the problem, which will help her disassociate. As with project planning, get her to determine the resources she already has in place (family, friends), and where can she can get additional information/resources (Age Concern, CAB) to meet the outcomes her mother wants.

Find out your company‘s policy in relation to caring for dependents and if they haven’t got one then they need to get HR advice in drawing one up. I’m assuming that you want her to remain with you, working full-time if possible, so you and she should also discuss what adjustments can be made within her role or working conditions to enable her to continue.

Ultimately though, it’s her decision. Your role is to help her make the best decision she can in the circumstances and to plan for a smooth transition if she reduces her hours, changes her working conditions or leaves.


Laura Murphy is the founder of mtc2 ltd, a management consultancy, training and coaching company.  Laura is an organisation development specialist and business coach.  If you have a problem then contact her at

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Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.