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I work in sales. My boss is a micromanager and trying to change my personal life by adding discipline to it. I am okay with that. What I am not okay with, is today morning on a meeting call, he has humiliated me by criticising me on some of my personal habits in front of my team. Is this ethical? And if not what should I do? Have I made a mistake by sharing my personal life with him?

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    It's not necessarily unethical. It's certainly unprofessional. Jul 16, 2021 at 14:00
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    "My boss is a micromanager and trying to change my personal life by adding discipline to it. I am okay with that" Why are you OK with your boss meddling in your personal life?
    – sf02
    Jul 16, 2021 at 14:02
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    What is the location? Jul 16, 2021 at 14:30
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    This has nothing to do with ethics. Decorum and professionalism come to mind though.
    – joeqwerty
    Jul 16, 2021 at 21:16
  • @JoeStrazzere Easier said than done, they don't exactly advertise it on their professional profile and changing managers can be as hard as changing jobs.
    – Mast
    Jul 17, 2021 at 6:31

4 Answers 4

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Is this ethical?

Ethics are very subjective and heavily dependent on local culture. But in most professional environments that would not be ok.

And if not what should I do?

Regardless whether it's ethical or not, you want it to stop: Tell your boss clearly that you are not ok with him sharing personal details with anyone else and certainly not in public. If that doesn't help, document the occurrences and check with your HR department and/or company handbook/policies if you have any.

Have I made a mistake by sharing my personal life with him?

Yes.

Only share personal life with people that are trustworthy and you boss clearly isn't. IN most cases it's best to keep work and private life seperate.

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    I concur. Regarding your last bit, it really depends on your relationship with your boss. If you're not friends outside of work, I wouldn't really share anything with him/her. Some company cultures have it where they want you to share your entire personal habit as a way to make it a "cool" place to work. Instead it back fires like this. Next time you're forced into that type of situation just share something they can't argue about like cooking or working on your yard or something to that effect.
    – Dan
    Jul 16, 2021 at 18:45
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    I disagree that it's clear cut when to keep "work and private life separate". I've had bosses that were fantastic, trustworthy people that worked hard to care for their employees. That's a good reason people get into management after all: to grow and care for other's development. Many don't want to be shills... That said. I've also had bosses with little regard for their employees, and you are indeed right to guard your personal life from them.
    – Doug T.
    Jul 16, 2021 at 21:57
  • "If that doesn't help, document the occurrences ..." - I would recommend to start documenting now, so that if you need to take further steps in the future you have a full documented history.
    – marcelm
    Jul 17, 2021 at 12:11
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"I am okay with that." No you are not. If it's your mom, dad or wife, or perhaps a very good friend, you may be ok with that (and even there you have a veto on the matter). Your boss, in any case, if they are none of the above, has no business in your private life. You now let them in, so you have to - tactfully - find them a way out. Calling you out for your private habits is a no-no; unless your habits put you in a position that endangers the business and he is forced to set a public execution - um - example.

To be honest, I probably would say something to the effect "I did share this information with you because I trust you. I trusted you with dealing with it responsibly and of course not to further distribute it. Maybe it was not obvious that, while I entrusted you with this information, this did not imply that this was for public dissemination. So I would like to be explicit about it: please do not distribute private information about me to others."

You may need to evaluate if you want to say that - we do not know your boss, and while there are some positive statements there to soften the blow, there is a rebuke in there, too. They might not take it very well (though a even far stronger rebuke would be well deserved, still they are the boss); so OP's discretion is advised.

Whatever the case, never ever share any private information with that person again.

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One important thing for a healthy work/life balance is to maintain boundaries. To keep your work-life and your personal life separate. That does not mean that you can not talk about one in the other. You might even have people who play a role in both parts of your life. But it is completely improper for a boss to get involved in the personal life of their employees. And it is an equally bad idea for an employee to let them. Your bosses authority over you starts as soon as you are on the clock and ends as soon as you are off the clock.

Sometimes, someones personal life can affect their work-life. For example, when one has bad time management and an unorganized daily routine, then that can result in them frequently showing up late to work. This is are problem a boss needs to address, because it affects the business. But figuring out how to fix that problem is up to the employee.

If you believe you need help to get your personal life in order, then by all means, get someone to help you. Ask a friend, a family member, your partner or even a professional life coach. But your boss from work is a rather bad choice of person for that job, as it violates boundaries between personal life and work life. Especially if said boss is not the kind of person who can keep personal matter of other people private and blabbers about them in public.

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You are contradicting yourself.

First, you say that you're okay with your boss acting as your gouvernante, teaching you how to live your life -- and then suddenly say that you're not okay when they do exactly that?

By presenting your habit as objectionable, they are probably trying to push you into dropping it. If they started doing this coaching under the promise to "bring discipline into your life", they probably think that this habit is standing in the way of that.

So make up your mind about what exactly you're "okay with" here -- how much and what kind of "reformation" you're willing to take, whether the reformation they are able to provide is worth it, and what price you're willing to pay for it (which includes the risks you'll be taking):

  • Personal coaching on lifestyle matters is very likely to bring you heavy discomfort in the process as you learn to do things that you would previously not even think of doing and/or not have the courage to do.
  • Likewise, due to the moral compass change, you have to be especially careful of what teachings you absorb and to make sure that you take people who know what they are doing as mentors. (So that the coaching will make you better rather than worse off at what you're trying to achieve in life.)
  • In a personal growth training course that I've attended, they also stressed the need that a student must be paying a noticeable amount to a coach for such services so that they have a strong motivation to come through the discomfort that such a training ensues. You backing off at the first sign of discomfort is a prime example of why such a source of motivation is necessary.

Then act accordingly. If it's not worth it, break this relationship off in one of the ways suggested in other answers. If it's worth it, or some things are worth it, explicitly clarify/negotiate the details of the deal: what services they will be providing you -- in particular, how much discomfort they'll be willing to put you through. Obviously, you're running the risk that they would consider a lesser service unworkable thus a waste of their time and refuse to provide it. As mentioned earlier, explicitly paying then for the coaching this way or another would also help with your motivation if it's really worth it -- or maybe attending some dedicated training course instead.

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  • This answer would be fine if the complaint was about the boss's comments on personal habits. It wasn't. The complaint is that the boss did this in front of the team, humiliating him. This would not be appropriate even if it was from a professional coach. Because your answer doesn't address this at all it is a bad answer. -1
    – coagmano
    Jul 21, 2021 at 4:41
  • @FredStark I'm alleging that the humiliation was a part of the "training" as the boss sees it. Jul 21, 2021 at 4:54

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