Insights for HR Professionals

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10 Secrets Employees Don't Want HR to Know

Posted by Patrick Ball on 21 Sep 2015

Employees often don't want to share too much at work

If you’re like most of us, there are some things you’d rather keep close to the vest when it comes to what you do and don’t want your employer to know.

But sometimes unexpected situations arise, and there are other times when overcautious employees could be missing out on getting the kind of support they deserve.  

With that in mind, we’ll cover a couple of the secrets and situations employees might try to hide, as well as a few tips for how and when to talk to HR or your manager about these issues as they arise.

  1. “I’m Looking for a New Job”
    Employees treat job hunting as a covert operation, and sometimes their stealth is justified. Like when you need to hang onto your job until you land a new one or make that cross-country move. Here’s an occasion when knowing your manager can help you proceed with appropriate caution. If you have a solid working relationship, you might be able to give longer notice without fearing repercussions. And that’s what they call a win-win.

    Related: Why Good Employees Leave Good Companies 

  2. “I’m Pregnant”
    This one’s got a limited shelf life, obviously. Sooner or later, the baby bump will betray you, even if the politest of colleagues keep biting their tongues and swallowing the question that’s on everyone’s mind. In this scenario, you’ll want to get a feel for your company culture and talk to both your manager and HR. HR is where you’ll go with questions about benefits, maternity leave and other policy matters. But you’ll also want to get on the same page with your manager about transitioning your projects and planning for maternity leave.

    Learn More About Great Employee Benefits for Millennial Moms 

  3. “We’re Having a Baby”
    A close relative, of course, of the “I’m Pregnant” conversation. This situation occurs when an employee’s wife or partner is pregnant or the family is adopting. Accordingly, it’s another scenario where you’ll want to feel out the company culture and initiate conversations with both your manager and HR. HR for the benefits, leave and policy-related questions and your manager to talk transition to and from parental leave. In many organizations, leave for the non-birth parent – sometimes categorized as the “non-primary caregiver” – is shorter than for the birth parent, so keep this in mind as you approach the conversation.

  4. “My Nanny Quit”
    When child care arrangements change unexpectedly, it can cause quite the inconvenience for working parents. Hiring a new nanny takes time, and you can’t exactly find a new child care center overnight. While it might be uncomfortable to let your boss know about child care issues, it’s best to be up front about what happened and ask for flexibility while you work out a new arrangement. While you’re at it, check with HR to see what care assistance benefits your company has available. You might just find you have resource and referral services or even employer-provided backup care to help you out in a pinch.

    Related: 15 Times When Working Parents Need Backup Care 

  5. “My Commute is Killing Me”
    They say time is money, and commuting to work costs you both of those each day. For the average American worker, the daily commute is about 25.5 minutes, but 10.8 million Americans travel more than an hour each way to work … and 600,000 travel at least 90 minutes and 50 miles each way. That’s a lot, and it doesn’t even get into variables like the frustration of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. As the way we work shifts, many workers have found that moving their hours slightly can make a big difference in shaving time off the morning and evening commutes. In many companies, these decisions are handled at the manager level, so it might be worth talking to yours if you feel like your commute is killing you.

  6. “I Want to Try Working from Home”
    So you want to try telecommuting. And maybe you can! Thanks to technology, employers are becoming increasingly willing to give employees flexibility over when and where they work. Some companies have a policy, but often work from home and other flexible arrangements are handled at a manager level. Familiarize yourself with company policies around telecommuting, and then present to your boss a detailed plan explaining the benefits to you and the company; suggest maybe one or two work from home days a week and build from there.

    Find Tips for Managing Remote Employees 

  7. “I’m Taking Care of My Parent”
    What happens if your dad's health is deteriorating and you need to check in throughout the day until you can find a more permanent arrangement? Or if you have to move mom into your guest room because her dementia is progressing? Almost half of men and women in their 40s and 50s are providing some level of care to an aging relative, and many of them are doing so while working full time. As these needs become more prevalent, managers are becoming more understanding – they are human, after all. Or think of it this way: If your boss sees an uptick in personal phone calls, they’re going to think something’s up – better to explain you are working on a personal problem than to let them think you’re just slacking off.

  8. “I'm Having a Health Crisis”
    Telling your boss personal medical details isn’t high on most people’s list of career goals. If you’d rather keep quiet about your budding health crisis, that’s certainly your prerogative. Keep in mind that the people you see and interact with daily are probably going to notice something’s amiss – especially if you’re emotional or taking unplanned time off. Even if you don’t want to go into a lot of detail with your boss, remember that HR can be a resource for you in terms of helping to navigate health or medical leave benefits.

  9. “I’m Having a Mental Health Crisis”
    Employees may be even more loath to tell their boss about a mental health crisis than a physical one. According to a study by the Priory Group, 68 percent of full-time workers worry about telling their employer about a mental health issue because of fear of a negative response, the report said. If you’re not comfortable talking about it, don’t. You don’t have to lie about it, but you can keep it pretty vague and just let your manager know you have a medical appointment. If you feel as though anyone is treating you differently, then it’s time to notify HR.

  10. “I Hate My Boss”
    The saying goes that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. These complex human situations are tricky and often go beyond any HR policies and procedures. If you’re really struggling with your boss, go to HR to help find a solution – but make sure you present your case based on the actual relationship mismatch rather than blaming your boss. Removing the power struggle should lead to a better, more realistic solution.


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