Dear boss, I’m pregnant, bankrupt, divorcing

Part of being pregnant is sharing the news. However, telling friends and family is not always the same as telling your employer and, for many, that is a task they feel uncomfortable about. This article gives some good guidance and suggestions on how to approach it and what it would be best to avoid (e.g. spilling the beans on Facebook!).  For UK readers, the Government produces a leaflet outlining your rights and obligations – click here Maternity & Paternity (opens in new window)

By Geoff Williams Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:26pm EDT (Reuters) – You may be sitting at your desk right now, appearing normal to all your coworkers. But at home, your life is like a country song — breakups, babies, debts, disease, your truck broke down and your dog is sick. Assuming your job isn’t at the Grand Ole Opry, how much do you spill? Sharing personal details at work can be a difficult terrain to navigate. Tell all early and you can inoculate yourself against criticism later if your personal life affects your work. But overshare and you can marginalize yourself at the one place where things are calm and quiet.

“Having to disclose personal information in the workplace can be one of the most anxiety-provoking decisions an employee has to make. Particularly in this economy, where many employees are worried that any sign of weakness may adversely affect their continued employment or personnel review,” says Wendy Patrick, a management and ethics lecturer at San Diego State University.

Of course, some personal details like pregnancy or that whole body cast from your weekend skiing injury may be difficult to hide. But for everything else, here is a quick primer for what, how and when to share at the office.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO TELL?

Distinguish what you need to tell versus what you don’t. As a general rule, you should share information that could affect your work and keep private the personal news that won’t have an impact on your performance.

Legally, you’re usually on solid ground if you keep your mouth shut, says Nigel Telman, an employee attorney at law firm Proskauer Rose in Chicago. You aren’t even required to mention pregnancy, though of course you would have to if you wanted to take maternity leave.

“The one exception is if you have an illness that could potentially put your co-workers at risk of contracting the illness. For example, tuberculosis. Then you must advise your employer of the situation,” says Telman.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO TELL?

If you have a soft fuzzy workplace and consider your boss your friend, you may feel like telling more. Interestingly, workers’ views on sharing may be affected by their age, says Amy Lynch, a Minneapolis consultant, who offers corporate seminars on managing multiple generations in the workforce.

“Competitive baby boomers consider it unprofessional to share private info, even if it impacts performance,” she says. Generation X tends to share personal dramas since, “withholding it might be unethical because it affects team performance.”

Millennials, says Lynch, “have always shared that kind of info with everybody. They Facebook it.”

And speaking of Facebook, don’t post personal items on social networking sites if you aren’t going to disclose them at work. Your colleagues will find out. And they will talk. […]

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