We spend a lot of time at work and with that said, when something personal happens outside of work, it can be hard not to bring the issue to work with you. Your mood, ability to focus or even your performance at work might be affected. There are plenty of factors to take into consideration before sharing something personal with your manager—including whether the issue is taking a toll on your work, what kind of personality your boss has, and whether they can help you. Not all problems should be brought to the workplace, but there are times when being open can benefit you—and your manager. Here’s what you should ask yourself to help you decide whether and when to tell them:
Will your work need to change temporarily or permanently?
If the problem you are facing is affecting your ability to perform at work, complete all the tasks on hand or work with others you will need to open up to your boss so they can understand why. They may be able to accommodate changes to your role temporarily or discuss long term options if the problem will not be solved in the short-term. It’s a good idea to consider what you will need as a result before having the conversation so you can make a clear request and work from there with it.
Can your manager do something to help?
After deciding what you may need as a result of your personal issue, you have to figure out if it’s something your boss can actually help you with. Does your boss have the power to give you more time off, cut you some slack on a project, or temporarily reassign some of your work to someone else? If so, then bring up your problem to them.
What’s your manager like, and your relationship?
If you have a trusted working relationship with your manager, its more than often the case that having a chat about your personal problem can ensure your work relationship continues to be strong and you are both on the same page. If you know your manager is understanding, non-judgemental and you feel comfortable speaking to them about your life outside of work regularly they are more likely willing to chat when you need to talk about something personal.
If you’re unsure of your relationship you might ask yourself, ‘How much do you know about them and their life outside of work?’ If your manager doesn’t talk about their life outside of work much, it might be a sign they don’t want to discuss intimate issues in so much detail. In this case, keep your request and conversation brief. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your manager but feel the issue needs to be disclosed, there are other avenues which you can take such as speaking to another leader in the business, colleague or HR.
How Much Detail Should You Share?
So you’ve decided to talk to your boss. How much detail should you go into? In general, you’ll want to let them know that you’re dealing with something and may need to work out some accommodations. Whatever else you provide will depend on what you’re comfortable with and what kind of boss-employee relationship you have. If your issue is health related you might consider divulging this, especially if you will need to undergo treatment (more time away from work), or your energy and wellbeing will be different at work. Remember, it’s not necessary (or legally obligatory) to share the details of your health and treatments as long as they’re not relevant to your work performance.
However, if your issue is something that will be overcome and is only affecting you in the short term you might be like be transparent with what is happening whilst noting you are dealing with it. For example, “My boyfriend just broke up with me, so I’m a little distracted today. But I’m dealing with it and I’ll have that project to you by the end of the week.”
Telling your boss about your personal problem can often make you feel better—after all, it helps to get it out in the open. But unless the circumstances are right, that effect can be short-lived. It’s essential to consider the effects both short-term and long-term before you confide in them.