Merge's Blog

Leave difficult personal issues outside the workplace

When you’re facing a personal crisis or dealing with difficult personal issues, it’s not unusual to want to get it off your chest by venting to others, often the people you work with.  It’s only human!  But … when you’re in a position of leadership, choosing who you voice your frustration to becomes critical.  Let me explain.

A manager at a client company is going through a messy marriage breakup, and not surprisingly, emotions in his personal life are running high.  On an almost daily basis, he rails on about his [insert colourful adjective] wife and her [insert just as vivid adjective] lawyer – to his staff, his co-workers, his clients, just about anyone who will listen.  Clearly he has got a lot on his mind and he needs to unload somewhere, but it’s the where that is the problem.  Airing your dirty laundry in public, without restraint, is never a good idea.  And probably without even realizing it, this manager is creating a very awkward working relationship (with his staff, co-workers and clients) AND seriously undermining his own credibility.  Most people don’t know what to say or do when faced with such a situation which creates an uncomfortable environment.  And when other people (particularly those who are not personal friends) hear this manager trash his soon-to-be ex-wife in colourful language, they automatically make negative judgments about his character and professionalism.  It doesn’t matter if their opinions about him are legitimate or not, the damage to his reputation is done.

So … the moral of this story goes back to an adage that has been around for over a century – don’t air your dirty laundry in public!  The modern version would add – and particularly not to your staff, co-workers and clients.  Far better to vent your frustration about personal issues to a selected number of good friends, who could be personal or professional.  The key is to keep your venting to a select trusted few.

Your thoughts?  What are some other ways or arenas in which this manager could safely get his emotions off his chest?  Or have I missed the boat and it’s okay for him to “share” so much at work?

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