Life can sometimes be tough. We sometimes get sick. We sometimes get frustrated. And we sometimes experience losses and life changes that can make us feel sad, stressed, exhausted, or overwhelmed.

These types of things can have an impact on a person’s work. It can be hard to focus and be productive when you’re not feeling well, or when you’re having personal problems that are weighing on you.

So should you tell your boss when you’re going through a difficult time? Or is it better to keep it to yourself, and try to carry on as usual? According to author Nell Wulfhart, it depends on certain things:

  1. Your need for change – Does something need to change at work because of the personal problems you’re experiencing? Maybe you need to shift your work hours, take time off, or make adjustments to a few of your deadlines? If so, this would be a good reason to talk to your boss. But you should wait until you’re really certain about the changes that need to be made.
  2. Your boss’s ability to help – Does your boss actually have the ability to make changes? Can your boss adjust your deadlines or lighten your workload? Or is this beyond the scope of his or her power? If your boss can’t actually help you, it’s probably not necessary to talk to him or her about what you’re going through. It might be better to get some support from a sympathetic coworker instead.
  3. The quality of your work – Are your personal problems having an effect on the quality of your work? If so, you should definitely talk to your boss about it and explain why it has been happening. But if the quality of your work is unchanged, there may be no need to have a discussion.
  4. The nature of your relationship – What kind of relationship do you have with your boss? Do you talk to each other about your lives outside of work? Do you know anything about your boss’s family members, pets, or hobbies? If so, then you have the kind of boss who would probably be open to hearing about your problems. If not, then it might be kind of difficult and awkward to have a discussion about personal issues. You might feel more comfortable talking to an HR representative or a different departmental leader.     

Wulhart, N. (n.d.). Should you tell your boss about your personal problem? Ask yourself these 5 questions first. The Muse. Retrieved from: