Should You Tell Your Boss About Personal Issues?

By Beth Hering


Just because the clock reads a certain hour doesn’t mean one’s mind is always where it “should” be. There undoubtedly are nights when an employee goes home and has trouble leaving workplace concerns at the office. Likewise, personal issues may not always be able to be shelved between 9 and 5.


While most managers understand if a worker has to take an occasional call from the daycare provider, things can get trickier when there is an ongoing outside issue. Should you tell your boss about a situation such as a divorce or a terminally-ill parent?


“Consider your relationship and think about how much the issue really impacts your performance at work,” says Courtney Templin, chief operating officer of JB Training Solutions — a workplace training and employee development company based in Chicago. “If you trust your boss, absolutely tell her. Most likely, your boss wants to know if something is bothering you.”


Templin recommends a face-to-face, private meeting. “Don’t get into too many details or get overly emotional, but let the person know what is going on. Ask that your issue remain confidential, and make sure she knows you aren’t asking for pity or a fix. Also, make it clear that you don’t want the issue to affect work.”


There are, of course, possible dangers. The boss might not keep the information secret, or she may feel the need to coddle you. Perhaps the most severe consequence would be overlooking you for new projects or advancement opportunities out of fear that you’ll be too preoccupied or distracted.


However, keeping silent has its costs, too. “Not telling your boss could lead to false assumptions,” Templin notes. “For example, if your work is off because you are distracted by the personal issue, she may assume you are slacking off.”


As there is no one-size-fits-all-situations solution to this issue, each worker must weigh the pros and cons of informing vs. keeping quiet. If you find yourself in a place where you truly cannot separate work and the personal issue, Templin suggests taking a personal or vacation day to gather yourself. “Sure, you’d rather save those days to be on a beach in Maui, but sometimes you may benefit from a day or two away from the office.”


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In the News
April 26, 2014