wikiHow to Share a Personal Problem With Your Boss

Two Methods:Deciding What is Work AppropriateHandling the Conversation

It can be difficult to bring up personal problems to your boss. It's generally expected to keep personal and work life separate, but sometimes problems from one area of your life can bleed into the other. If your personal problems are directly affecting your ability to be a good employee and to work, it may be a good idea to make your boss aware. Bringing up problems to your boss can be intimidating, but if done properly can help find a solution to juggle the difficulties you're facing.

Method 1
Deciding What is Work Appropriate

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    Decide whether it's an issue worth sharing. It's natural to want to vent, but work is not the place for this. Don't share simply because you are having a hard time personally. Sharing personal information should be reserved for when the problem is going to affect your work. Sometimes this sort of sharing can even help build better work relationships. Some examples of things appropriate to share include:[1]
    • Pregnancy.
    • An illness that will affect your ability to work.
    • A family problem involving children, parents, or spouse, that might affect your work schedule or ability to work.
    • If it's something you're not comfortable talking about, like a health issue, be vague but offer verification for your problem from a doctor.
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    Avoid discussing personal problems that are not related to work. This can change how your boss looks at you and make for an awkward relationship moving forward. Also, remember that your boss is your employer and not your friend. [2]
    • Leave problems with partners or significant others at home.
    • Don't talk about financial problems.
    • Don't talk about parenting problems, like a kid who keeps getting in trouble with the law.
    • Troubles with your car or house.
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    Ask for a leave of absence if necessary. If your problems are of a serious medical nature (whether physical or emotional), you could discuss temporary disability or a temporary leave of absence if your company allows for it. Sometimes, it is better to ask for leave than it is to tell your boss your entire life story and all your assorted dramas.
    • Find out if working from home is a possible temporary solution.
    • Know your rights. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act, a variety of experiences like a sick spouse, child-birth, and illness entitle you to a period of unpaid, job protected leave.[3]
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    Discuss any issues hurting your work relationship or environment. Sometimes your work place or personal problem can be due to something happening at work. There can be tension and misunderstandings, or outright inappropriate behavior that is hurting your relationship. Some issues can include:
    • Your boss being mean or rude to you.
    • Someone in the workplace making unwanted physical contact.
    • Unfair work expectations that are causing emotional problems.
    • If your company has an HR department, you can discuss with them issues that might make you nervous to discuss with boss.

Method 2
Handling the Conversation

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    Find the right time. Timing can be sensitive in issues like this. You don't want to let it fester and linger, particularly if it's a looming problem. However, you also don't want to just bust into your boss's office first thing in the morning to pour your heart out. Choose a time when you know your boss will be less busy and when they are sure to be alone.
    • Choose a time when you think your boss might be a in good and talkative mood. It's tough to really know what sort of mood they are in. But, an obvious time to avoid would be with deadlines looming and a stack of pile work on their desk.[4]
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    Choose a suitable location. You don't want to have this talk at the water cooler, or on the way into the building in the morning. Do it in your boss's office and not your cubicle where other people may hear it. Even better, try to get out of the office completely. Choose a neutral location like a coffee shop, or a small diner down the road.This can help you avoid office gossip and keep things professional at a public lunch meeting. Being in public also might stop you from gushing or crying if the impulse strikes you.[5]
    • When possible, always do a talk like this in person. Don't do it over e-mail or over the phone, even if this makes you feel more comfortable.
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    Prepare what you want to say. Since the talk may be hard and full of emotion, you don't want to find yourself stumbling for words. Know what you're going to say before you go into the meeting.[6]
    • Treat it like a work presentation. Rehearse what you're going to say, and prepare for possible responses and questions.
    • Give them ideas for how to make the problem better. Don't make your boss be the only one that has to come up with a solution on the spot. Show your boss that you've thought about the issue hard and you've already brainstormed potential solutions.
    • Know your objective. If you need time off, make sure this is clear in your talk. If you are just giving your boss a heads up for your performance issues, make this clear as well without making it sound like an excuse.
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    Control your emotions and be cautious in what you say. When you make the decision to share a personal problem with your boss, you need to be sure that you refrain from causing a scene or displaying unnecessary emotions. Word travels fast around an office, so if you want to keep your private issues private, you need to be calm when discussing the problem.
    • Talk slowly and breathe deeply. Try to not feel embarrassed and be confident about you're saying.
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    Avoid asking your boss for advice. It is perfectly okay to express yourself and your problems, but you don't need to put the boss in the unfortunate position of advising you about what to do in a personal matter. Remember, this person is your boss, not your closest friend. Keep your professionalism in check.
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    Limit yourself to 30 minutes of conversation. Keep a close eye on your watch and be sure to stop yourself short if you get close to the 30-minute mark. You don't need to express the history of your life. Just express the issues you're confronting.
    • Be honest and brief with the talk. Ask if they need anymore information about what you're talking about.
    • After talking, let the matter rest. After discussing your problem with the boss, you should not discuss it again for a while. Give yourself and your employer time to digest the matter. Do not expect an immediate response, unless you need one. If you need to know an answer, kindly follow up in a couple days and ask if they've given it any thought.
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    Anticipate a possible response. It's tough to know exactly how your boss will respond, but it is helpful to prepare for likely outcomes, both negative or positive.
    • If your boss acts calloused toward your problem, prepare how you'll react. You do not want to say something you might regret or act in a way that threatens your job stability. In this situation it may be best to tell your boss you understand their reaction and walk away until you can come back a well-thought out response. You can reiterate the sort of help you were looking for at a later time when both you and your boss have had time to think about it.
    • Don't turn it into an argument. If you feel yourself getting emotional, you may say something you regret. If your boss responds in a combative way, try to quell the situation and walk away until cooler heads can prevail.
    • Don't be too set on an expected response. If you go in thinking your boss will immediately offer you time off or try to accommodate your problem, you may react in a way that affects your future relationship. Understand that you're having a conversation and it may take some time for both sides to fully understand one another.


  • Stay poised and do not ask for special treatment from your boss.
  • Be gracious and thank your boss in advance for taking the time to discuss the problem with you.

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Categories: Interacting with Bosses