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Should I tell my boss I am going through separation?














You may be so consumed with the chaos at home that it is starting to affect your performance at work.


Your life has been turned upside down. Your partner left, you don’t see the kids daily and they have hired a lawyer to initiate separation proceedings. Your mind is in a spin trying to process what actually happened, being bombarded with demands, whilst trying to meet deadlines at work!


It is so hard to keep the chaos of your private life concealed from your boss and work colleagues as they start to comment that you are acting out of character by not being a team player, not pulling your weight, making mistakes or worst still, clients are dissatisfied with your service. You feel the pressure building to keep up the pace of delivering work activities to the same quality as you use to, whilst struggling to focus, be motivated or prioritise to meet deadlines.


Making decisions at work may have become more difficult as self-doubt creeps in as your self-worth takes a hit from your relationship breakup. Feeling competent at your job is waning as you struggle with the challenges at home which is depleting your emotional and mental endurance.

Your boss passes by your desk and requests you attend a one-on-one meeting first thing tomorrow morning. Your heart skips a beat and your stomach is in knots.


What should you do? Tell them you aren’t coping with the challenges at home and at work too?


Suddenly, the fear of losing your job becomes very real as you reflect on the recent losses in your life such as your relationship, time with the kids, financial stability and pending legal battle.

You lay awake that night and, in your mind, play out the conversation with your boss determining the pros and cons of coming clean about what is going on at home. You worry whether you would be able to hold it together as you feel on the edge of losing control and slipping into the abyss of depression.


You picture walking in and your boss telling you there have been complaints from work colleagues and clients about your work performance. You have been late coming to work some days, you haven’t completed work that was due weeks ago, and you forgot to order supplies to fill orders resulting in customer complaints. They ask what is going on?


You imagine two different scenarios;


1. Feeling ashamed and inadequate you say “I’m really sorry, I promise I will do better”. Your boss tries to uncover what is causing this decline in performance by asking “Is there something I need to be aware of”? In your fear of losing your job, you say “No, no, everything is fine”. Your boss decides not to push any further and advises they need to see improvement as it is impacting the business. You reply “I understand, I am really sorry”


This scenario just applies more pressure on yourself to cope, to prove that you are up to the task and worth retaining as an employee. Your boss is left wondering if you have become disinterested in your job, seeking employment elsewhere or whether there is a personal issue impacting your capacity to perform.


2. Alternatively, you may imagine the realisation you need help and you say “I’m really sorry, I am going through a separation which is really impacting my ability to focus, be motivated and cope with the challenges at home and at work”. Your boss empathises with you saying “I’m sorry to hear that. That must be really hard for you. We will need to work out a plan to manage the workload across the team, to relieve some pressure on you. Let’s write down everything you are working on and who we might be able to reassign some work activities to temporarily. Do you need to take some leave to gain support with what you are going through at home? i.e., your doctor?”. You feel relief instantly flood your body and reply “That would be great, I really appreciate that”.


In this scenario, your boss has an understanding of the cause empowering them to identify actions required to support you but also ensure that the business doesn’t continue to be impacted. By spreading the workload across the team ensures that high priority and important tasks are shifted to others to manage enabling you to continue with low priority work which relieves pressure on you. Whilst not working on high priority important work, your boss feels comfortable for you to take time off to seek the professional help you need to support your personal challenges.


Don’t try to get through the personal and work pressures alone, gain the support you need through divorce coaching, where priorities are identified, action plan developed, strategies to switch your focus and mindset between personal and business priorities, self-care and emotional support.


Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Mediator & Parenting Coordinator

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