Magazine article Work & Family Life

Talking to Your Boss about a Personal Problem

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Talking to 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 employer's counseling service and made the initial appointment herself. Although the circumstances are still painful months later, Kate is doing as well as can be expected.

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

Debby says, "Kate's openness, humor and positive attitude have made it easier for her and for us. A couple of times a week, she stops working, gets up from her desk and says, 'I'm 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 speak out

We all have personal problems from time to time 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 should we 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 the following:

r How well do I really know the people I work for and with? Are we generally aware of the day-today happenings in each other's lives?

r Is my work likely to be affected in a major way by this personal issue?

r Does my supervisor seem like the kind of person who would be comfortable hearing about my problem?

r If I reveal something personal, will my information be treated confidentially? Will it be treated with disapproval?

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

Approaching the supervisor

Once you decide to say something to your boss, 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. …

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