How to tell your boss about your situation

As you begin to take on more responsibility at home, you may find yourself taking on less responsibility at work. You may try to do it all at first. Most of us do, and most of us suffer burnout as a result. If you are also caring for children you will burn the candle at both ends. This is bad for everyone.


Perhaps you prefer to keep your home and work lives separate. I hear you on that one. I’ve also learned the hard way that silence can backfire. If you are struggling to maintain core hours and meet commitments or deliverables, strongly consider filling your boss in on what’s going on at home. They don’t need to know specifics—you are absolutely entitled to maintain your loved one’s privacy. A simple “my dad needs some extra care about the house, and I am struggling to make the hours work” is a good start. You may be able to stagger work start and end times, schedule breaks, work more virtually (i.e. at home or at your loved one’s home) or even work a 9/80—working 80 hours in 9 days with every other Friday off. If financially viable, you may be able to cut back hours or even work part-time.




If the thought of approaching your boss concerns you, question why that may be. Do you fear retaliation? In other words—do you think you could be fired for broaching the subject? If you suspect retaliatory measure may be taken if you speak up, consider talking to your HR partner first. They can document what you are asking for and why, and may be able to help provide possible work alternatives. They can even sit in with you when you take the request to your manager. Following the resolution, ask for the agreement in writing (email is easiest). Use this for reference going forward if you move teams, get a new manager, or find your arrangement in question.


You will likely need to inform your team members or other co-workers about your new arrangement so that they know when you are available. Again, only disclose what you are comfortable with. A general “I have some increased responsibilities at home I need to take care of” will suffice. Ensure your colleagues know of any blackout hours when you are not available, and schedule backup if possible. You manager can assist in making the announcement during a team meeting or a group email if that is your preference. If you’d rather inform others—whether via a team meeting, group email, or individually—you can go this route as well.


After years of trying to hide what was going on at home, I finally spoke up. I was glad I did. My manager was incredibly supportive of my struggles and even divulged his own predicament with his father’s early onset Alzheimer’s. I was able to flex my core hours to account for helping out at my sister’s more, and even negotiated a five week unpaid leave of absence when I reached an emotional cliff a year or so later. My team members knew a bit about what was going on, but I didn’t disclose details. I didn’t need to. I kept up with my work and took the necessary time to heal. It was worth the initially awkward conversations by a landslide.