Friday, February 27, 2009

When It's a Good Idea to Tell Your Boss About Your Personal Life

Let's face it, as much as we may love our job and truly enjoy coming to the office every day, we do have lives beyond our cubicles. (At least I hope we do!). We try our hardest to keep our personal lives separate from work, but what do we do when we're dealing with something tough in our personal lives? Is it okay to tell our boss what's going on? How do we do this without crossing a line? And how do we make sure it doesn't effect our working relationship?

There are certain things that happen that make us sad, like breaking up with a significant other or fighting with a friend or family member. Horrible though they may seem at the time, the hurt and anger will pass. Sometimes though, we're dealing with tougher issues like sickness, death, or divorce...what do we do then? Of course, it depends on the environment of your office and the way people relate to each other, as well as the relationships that you have with your co-workers and superiors. But, here's a general rule of thumb: if whatever you're dealing with may at some point interfere with your work or affect your mood in a way that people would notice, tell your boss.

It doesn't have the be the higher ups of the company, in fact it probably shouldn't be, but make a point of taking your direct supervisor aside. Tell them that you just wanted to make them aware of something that's going on in your life and then tell them only the basics. It might be an awkward conversation, but believe me, it'll make you feel better afterwards.

I've done this twice, and both times were totally worth it. Because when you're emotionally drained, it shows, and then you might end up trying to explain on the spot, and it probably won't go the way you want it to. If you've read my earlier blog entries, you know that my grandma suffered from dementia. While I was interning in D.C., we found out that she also had ovarian cancer. At the time, we didn't know how bad it was or how quickly it would affect her, so I was worried all the time. I took my supervisor aside and told her what was going on, and later, when I thought I might have to take an emergency trip to Ohio to see my grandma, my boss was totally supportive.

Obviously, what you share with your boss is your choice, but don't just assume that you have to keep it all inside. Here's another piece of advice: work can be a great distraction from the tough stuff. Although it's nice to stop thinking about sad things for a while, make sure you still make time for yourself to be sad. Otherwise, it'll keep building up inside you and eventually fall down like an avalanche without warning.

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