It’s always a good idea to ask yourself how much of your personal life do you feel comfortable sharing at work? Sometimes the better question to ask is, how much of your personal life do your co-workers want to hear? With increasing work hours and information sharing on social media, the line between your personal life and your work life gets thinner every day.
However, managing how your personal life bleeds into your work life can benefit your career by relieving some of the anxiety and stress you have at balancing your two worlds. Having healthy relationships at work can help you stay focused and excited about work, and can also be a strong support system for you when your personal life is challenging. Here is some advice on how to best handle personal situations with your circle at work.
While you may want to keep a personal struggle secret from your manager, informing them on some level clears up any suspicions about why you are out of the office or seem distracted, and may make it easier to work out a solution if you need time away from the office. You don’t need to go into detail, but it’s best to give a general statement about the type of struggle you are going through and the amount of time you think it will take to resolve it. For example, if you are going through a divorce, you don’t need to divulge relationship details, financial situations, or living arrangements, but you can say that you are going through a divorce and you expect it to be resolved within the next six months. Be honest that you may be taking scheduled time off for appointments with lawyers and court dates. While you may not want to share this with your manager, it’s best to be upfront about a situation that may result in needing time away from work so that your manager can help make that run smoothly for you. Sometimes keeping things too private can create more stress in your life, so when possible, share a very general bit of information to take away any assumptions.
Hopefully, you’ve got at least one person at work that you consider a true friend, someone you spend time with outside of work and have developed trust with. If you feel comfortable, ask that person to go to lunch or meet up outside of work hours to share your situation. It can help to know you have a confidant at work that understands where you are coming from. For example, if you are struggling with caring for an aging parent it may be nice for you to have someone you see regularly that can lend you support and encouragement.
While your co-workers may enjoy working with you, they are typically not on board for serving as your support system nor are they interested in all the details of your life. It can make things awkward for others if you share too much personal information. People like boundaries. Co-workers may notice you are distracted or taking extra time away from work, if you want to squelch natural curiosity and the rumor mill, share a general statement like, “I’ve got some health screenings I need to have done in the next month.” Or say “I am working on solving challenges with my son’s learning abilities; I’ll be out for a few appointments.” You shouldn’t feel any pressure to give away any details, but if you are under personal stress, you may need to share something to give people some perspective on what you are managing.
In closing, make sure you consider your social media profile and how that information may get shared with co-workers. With privacy settings changing and comments being shared among multiple lines of connections, it’s possible something you’ve tried to keep private from work could be shared inadvertently. If you want to keep something private, its best to keep it off social networks, no matter how private you think your account settings are.