Communicating personal challenges at work

I recently shared my experience of returning to work after my mum passed away and have since received many questions around how to communicate personal challenges in the workplace.

As a manager myself, this is a topic I’m extremely passionate about and one that I try to instil in my team by being open and honest about the happenings of my own world.

There are many different ways to share personal stories in the workplace but I’ve chosen to focus on my three gold rules for successful sharing.

Commit to sharing (or not sharing) your story

When we’ve experienced something traumatic it’s normal to go into meltdown mode and start saying, being and doing things without much thought.

But, before you go all Donald Trump on us, it’s important to take a breath and think about your ‘personal communications plan’ for a minute.

  1. Consider whether you want to share your experience at work.

  2. If you do, ask yourself what are you hoping to get from sharing.

  3. Once you’ve established this, think about who would be the most appropriate person for you to share with.

Taking a little extra time to think about if, how and whom to share personal anecdotes to in the workplace will give you a better chance of sharing in a way that keeps you in control and gives you what you need.

Share your story succinctly

I recently shared my experience with grief to a room full of people and burst into tears. We’re not talking one of those cute single tears. Oh no, this was Full. Blown. Hysteria.

I later reflected on how I’d shared my story and realised I’d done it in the exact same way I’d share with a friend. I bared my soul, went into a lot of detail and placed huge emotional emphasis on every individual word.

When sharing grief, or any challenging personal experience, we must do so in a way that is succinct and gets to the heart of the ‘why’ behind our share.

The secret formula for doing this is to state your experience, share your feelings and then ask for what you need. This ensures you remain in control and allows the listener to understand the facts, connect with you emotionally and know immediately what they can do to support.

Close the loop

Once you’ve committed to sharing your story it’s important that you keep the person or people updated on how you’re going. Managers have a duty of care to your health and wellbeing but can sometimes be afraid of prying into your personal world so are appreciative of transparency and proactivity on your part.

A simple email or coffee catch up is a great way of letting your colleague or boss know where you’re at personally and what you need from them.

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