Personal problems? Get the monkey off your back

Personal problems? Get the monkey off your back

Debt, relationship problems, illness--it can be hard to cope with the issues life throws at you. And sometimes pesky problems cling so tightly that they follow you to work. Here's how to shake loose.
Apr 01, 2006

Let's get real for a moment. Bad things happen to all of us. The people and pets we love get sick and sometimes die. We fight with the people we care most about. And unexpected emergencies occur, which can cause a whole heap of money troubles. Yet, you need to learn to cope with these challenges and work effectively, despite the curve balls life throws your way.

You may have heard that it's not professional to bring your personal problems to work, and there's some truth to this. You don't need to share every little bit of your personal drama. But there may be times when you find your back against the wall, and the need to share and seek support is too great to ignore. Here's a look at strategies that keep your team informed—and disruption to a minimum.

When do I tell the boss?

Dump your distraction
While there's no simple answer to this question, consider this guideline. Are your personal problems affecting your work performance? If the answer's yes, and your distraction continues for more than a few days, talk to your boss.

And you may need to come clean with your co-workers, too. If others are noticing that you seem off in some way (and especially if they're making comments to you or other co-workers) it's probably a good idea to fess up. Or maybe you just need a little more support. That's a fine reason, too, to let others in on your secret.

In all of these situations, good communication is key. It's your choice. You can communicate responsibly or you can complain, whine, and act like a victim. Which would you prefer if you were the boss?

Responsible communication might sound something like this:

"Dr. Wells, you may have noticed that my work performance has been off this past week."

Are you asking too much?
"Yes, Alice, I have noticed. I've been wondering what's going on."

"Jerry and I have been having some money problems. I'm afraid we haven't been responsible with our credit cards, and our balances have mounted up. We're not seeing eye-to-eye about this and it's putting a real strain on our relationship. I thought I could deal with the problem myself and that it would blow over, but since it hasn't, I wanted to let you know."

"I see. Is there anything that I can do to help?"

"I'm not sure, but thanks for asking. I really appreciate the support. I'll do my best to keep my problems from interfering with my work."