Being Professional When Professional Issues Come Up by Staci Kaiser

posted Nov 6, 2017, 4:13 PM by Writing Center
If you’re anything like me, doing your job well is important to you.  When unexpected issues arise in your personal life, there are professional ways of communicating about the situation with your supervisors (and your teachers), and there are some things that remain a matter of personal preference.

First, it’s important to be realistic about what you can do and what you can’t do, and communicate that information as soon as you can.  However, you can’t communicate what you haven’t carefully and realistically considered.  When a serious issue arises, you may think that you aren’t going to let it affect your work or school performance, but if you are real with yourself and kind to yourself, you will recognize that the issue is going to affect you.  Allow that reality to sink in.  There’s a major personal issue in your life.  Give yourself the time and space to handle the issue and the subsequent emotional and/or mental fallout.  It is actually more professional to ask for and take off time from work or class in advance, than it is to kid yourself into thinking that you’re not going to let the issue bother you and then do a poor job at work or on school assignments without your boss or teacher understanding what has happened. 

Therefore, once you have a clear idea of what time off you realistically will need, you have to communicate it to your supervisor or teacher as soon as possible.  If the issue you’re dealing with is going to interfere with your work or school schedule or performance, it is more professional to acknowledge it beforehand with your supervisor or instructor, than wait until it has become noticeable at work that something’s off, or your school assignments aren’t done well or on time.  If you are proactive, you have the chance to smooth the way and give your supervisors the time to make the needed adjustments.  If you are reactive, then when you do open up about what’s wrong, it may come across as an excuse.  This is doubly true with your classes and your professors.

However, the degree to which you discuss the details of your situation is entirely up to you.  If you have worked with your supervisors for a long time or feel close to them, then I would recommend sharing the details that you feel comfortable with sharing.  Also, if you are having a difficult time with what you are experiencing, your supervisor might be able to give you advice, support, or refer you to someone to speak with.  On the other hand, if you do not know your supervisor well or the place you work is more formal in tone, I would simply say make your supervisor aware of the issue and leave it at that.  It is similar with your professors.  Unless you have a particularly close relationship with the instructor, it is best to be brief.  Ultimately, the decision of how much to share is personal and context-dependent.

It’s important to know that while your work supervisors and your teachers have high expectations for your performance, more often than not, they are also sensitive and compassionate people who understand that we all face difficult personal situations from time to time.  When you have a professional position or are taking college classes, it is important to handle personal issues in a professional way, which includes notifying your supervisors or teachers when you have a serious problem in your life that may affect your work, after you have come up with a plan of how to give yourself the time and space you need.

 

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