Magazine article Work & Family Life

Telling Your Boss about a Personal Problem

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Telling Your Boss about a Personal Problem

Article excerpt

One Sunday afternoon Kate learned from her husband that he had met someone else and wanted out of their marriage of 27 years. The next morning, Kate approached Debby, her boss. "Let's go outside for a walk," she said. "I need to tell you something."

Debby offered a sympathetic ear, urged Kate to take advantage of their employers counseling service and made the initial appointment herself. And although the circumstances are still painful, Kate is doing as well as can be expected.

"Sometimes I get the blues," she said. "I get angry at myself for not picking up some of the signals. But actually having a busy work life helps me. I don't have time to feel sorry for myself, and the people I work with have shown me they care."

Says Debby: "Kate's openness, humor and positive attitude have made it easier for her and for us. At least a couple of times a week, she stops working, gets up from her desk and says, Tm going for a walk' It's her 10-minute stressbreaker, and we all say, 'Go Kate!' The other day I did it myself and everyone laughed."

How and when to say something

From time to time we all have personal problems that affect our ability to make it through the work day. It may be a temporary crisis: a sick child, a teenager who got into trouble at school or agonizing over the decision to end the life of a beloved pet. Sometimes it's a longer-term matter, like the breakup of a marriage or the illness of an elderly parent.

How and when we should tell our boss and coworkers about a personal problem? There's no easy answer to that question. Your decision might depend on a number of factors such as:

* How well do I really know the people I work far and with? Are we aware of the day-to-day happenings in each other's lives?

* Is my work likely to he affected by this personal issue?

* Is my supervisor the kind of person who will he comfortable hearing about my problem?

* If I reveal something personal, will my information be treated confidentially? With disapproval?

* Do I expect to resolve the problem within the near future?

Approaching your supervisor

Once you decide to say something to your supervisor, here are some ideas that should increase the likelihood that he or she will be receptive to helping you continue doing your job while you're dealing with the problem.

Pick an appropriate time and place. …

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