How to address major life changes with co-workers


Life is tough enough. For many, talking to colleagues during a big life transition can be yet another burden to shoulder during an already stressful time.

“Major life changes are a part of our developmental and personal life’s journey,” said Nkem Okakpu, Ph.D., LPC, a therapist based out of Clifton and Scotch Plains, NJ. “Unfortunately no matter how personal some events are, those parts of yourself might also be present in the workplace.”

These run the gamut from identified gender to a leave due to medical reasons.

“These may require not validation from colleagues, but recognition. I would prompt you to ask yourself, ‘What parts of this journey are necessary for the work culture, work interactions and your work self?’” said Okakpu. “You have the autonomy to choose how much you share.”

Should you decide to speak up, it’s possible to navigate these moments with confidence. “Addressing major life changes at work can be important for maintaining a sense of authenticity and connection in the workplace,” said Lauren Borkowski, MA, LPC, a licensed professional counselor based in Longmont, Colo., noting that, “It’s essential to feel seen and heard by your team, as well as feeling safe enough to share … [but] it can be difficult to determine how your colleagues might react.”

Young Asian tomboy woman in casual attire working from home
The choice to inform colleagues of life changes is up to you, but here are some ways to do it if you choose to do so.
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For that reason, Borkowski also recommends weighing the pros and cons of sharing your news, whether it’s a pronoun change or announcing your divorce. It can be helpful to discuss this with a trusted friend or therapist first. Then, “Check in with your support system again to help process your feelings and address any other needs that come up,” she said.

Ahead, how to share such news gracefully, and perhaps even spare your co-workers any potential faux pas and discomfort along the way.

Coming out

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for this, offers Valatie, NY-based Finn Schubert, MPH, a career coach and consultant who specializes in workforce issues for trans and nonbinary people, and who is currently creating a transgender-specific workforce development curriculum for the nonprofit TransNewYork.

“Let your choices be guided by what you know of your specific workplace, as well as your personal goals,” he said, adding that the best way to do it is the way that you are most comfortable with.

Woman's hand working in office with LGBT decor and accessories.
There are many options for how you might want to share your sexuality if you choose to do so.
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“Some people want their co-workers to know that they identify as gay, and so they find it easiest to slip it into casual conversation,” he said. “Some people who are transitioning may need to discuss specific logistical issues, for example, strategizing with their boss about how to inform clients of their name change, and so they may find it easier to schedule a meeting with their boss to ensure all the points are covered.”

Schubert emphasized that people will generally respond in kind in terms of how you approach it — if you act like it’s not a big deal, people will follow your lead, and vice versa.
And if you decide not to share, that’s A-OK. “A cisgender heterosexual person is typically not expected to make announcements about sexuality, and perhaps the same thought should be applied to all people,” said Okakpu.

Changing your pronouns

Schubert says that this announcement is also highly workplace-dependent, but there are some guiding questions that may help you hone in on how you want to handle sharing the news: Has anyone else at your workplace changed their pronouns, and if so, how was this handled? Do your co-workers have a basic understanding of trans identities, or will announcing your pronoun change mean providing “Trans 101” education? How are similar changes (such as name changes due to marriage) handled in your workplace? “It’s important to normalize pronoun changes alongside other changes, like name changes, that happen commonly in the workplace,” he said.

Young businesswoman
Announcing big life changes in the workplace can be challenging.
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While some prefer simply to update their signature line without any fanfare, many people prefer to announce their pronoun change in a brief email or announcement, offered Schubert. “Either way, in most cases, it’s a good idea to give your boss a heads-up so that it doesn’t come as a surprise, and so that the two of you can strategize, if necessary, about how to handle any issues that may arise,” he said. “You can also let a few trusted co-workers know beforehand, and let them know if there is anything that they can do that would be helpful for you,” such as correcting or educating others.

You’re going through a divorce

“Colleagues are curious about each other and their relationship statuses. It can be difficult to discuss divorces, breakups, and name changes,” said Borkowski, stressing that it can also be a helpful part of the healing process.

Try talking to your manager and your human resources department. “They may also have suggestions about possible social and emotional supports such as seeking counseling through your employee assistance program or finding a divorce recovery group,” she added.

Getting support from a trained counselor can help you further assess how to discuss your breakup or divorce with others. “It is important to honor your needs and the healing process. If you don’t feel ready to share with colleagues, it’s OK to wait,” said Borkowski.
Like all other major life changes, it’s up to you to decide what you want to share and what you want to keep private. “Consider which parts of this event show up at work. Perhaps, discussing your relationship at work may not serve you in any way within your role,” said Okakpu.


Soruce : https://nypost.com/2022/06/05/how-to-address-major-life-changes-with-co-workers/

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