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How to Talk to Your Leader About Personal Issues and Ask for an Accommodation

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Life is ever-evolving and sometimes can throw the biggest curveballs with little notice or advance warning. Although professionalism teaches us that an individual should leave their personal problems at home, the truth is, what happens outside of work often impacts what happens at work.   

Many professionals keep their personal issues to themselves and hope their leader and teammates don’t recognize a drag in performance or a behavior change. But great employees understand the value of sharing their issues or problems with a trusted leader to help them through a difficult time. In fact, being open about personal matters can actually enhance team performance and connectivity. 

How to talk to your leader about personal issues 

Authentic leadership is about knowing how to use resources to bring about the best results. When a leader becomes aware of an issue in an employee’s life, they often will mobilize resources to help the employee during their time of need.   

Employees should consider carefully what and how they share personal information with their leader and their teammates, but when done well, the employee can be encouraged and supported, which will engender loyalty and enhance team success even during the most challenging moments. Here are some tips to consider before talking to your leader.

1. Be aware of the problem and speak with your leader as soon possible.

One mistake many team members make is navigating a problem or issue by themselves for an extended period of time before asking for help. The sooner a problem can be identified and discussed, the sooner you can find a solution. Often a leader will know that something is happening with the employee because of their decline in performance. It’s far better to make your leader aware of the problem early so they are not guessing what the issue is that’s impacting your performance.   

Related: With Burnout on the Rise, Here’s the 1 Thing Managers Need to Do to Ensure Their Employees Feel Supported

2. Be honest about the issue and share what you are doing to help solve it

Many leaders find it rewarding to help employees professionally and find value in helping an employee during difficult personal times as well. The leader often wants to know what the employee has done to resolve or mitigate the issue on their own. Employment is a form of partnership, and in times of personal hardship, the leader would like to know what the employee has done to solve the issue. Be honest as to all the resources and ideas you have explored to solve the issue to gain your leader’s trust and partnership to help you where they can.

3. Be ready to ask for a specific accommodation to help with your issue

Leaders are often more than willing to accommodate an employee’s specific need when it makes sense both from a personal and business perspective. Consider how an accommodation could impact business performance and fellow team members who might have to do more because of the accommodation. Accommodations are a part of business processes, and an employee should never feel bad discussing possibilities with their leader.  

4. Be appreciative of the support and be willing to help others in the future  

One key step an employee can take during a conversation about accommodations is to communicate how they hope to help other employees in the future. Team members can enhance team trust when they are thankful to others for their support during a personal hardship and communicate that they are willing to return the favor in the future.  

Related: How to Help a Struggling Employee Get Back on Track

Although no one enjoys asking for help, the openness can create better connect teams and grow trust. Asking for an accommodation from a leader or a business can seem daunting, but it will allow the leader to understand a performance level drop from a great employee and do what they can to help.

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