by Meridith Levinson

Should You Tell Your Boss When You’re in a Slump?

Oct 21, 20084 mins

A recent experience of being in a writing slump got me thinking about just how transparent we should be with our bosses regarding our workloads and our productivity–especially when we’re not performing at our best and especially when the economy is bad. When it comes to your boss, there’s honesty, and then there’s too much information, and your job security may depend on you knowing the difference. 


Last week I fell into a writing slump. My writing became labored. Painstaking. The end result of this slump: It took me two days to write a simple, 700-word story about women in IT. I should have been able to crank out that story in a matter of hours, and in two days, I should have produced at least two articles, not one. 

I debated whether or not to tell my boss about this slump. On one hand, I believe in being honest with my boss about my work and my performance. Most days, I send him e-mail updates to let him know what stories I’m working on that day.

On the other hand, if I told my boss about this writing slump, I worried that I’d be turning something that would ultimately wind up resolving itself in a day or two into a bigger deal than it needed to be. I also worried that ‘fessing up to this slump would be like admitting weakness. After all, I’m a writer. CXO Media pays me to write (and edit) articles for So if I have no output to show for myself after a day of work, it doesn’t reflect very well on me. And since my boss is keenly aware of all of the content being published on, including who’s producing it and when, he doesn’t really need me to tell him when I’m not producing. He’s like Santa Claus: He knows when I’ve been bad or good. 

In the end, I didn’t tell my boss that I was in a slump. I just wanted to get my writing done rather than dwell on the fact that my writing wasn’t going so well.

The whole experience made me wonder just how transparent we should be with our managers about our workloads and productivity–ESPECIALLY when we’re not performing at our best and ESPECIALLY when the economy is bad and companies are considering layoffs. (I’m not saying my employer is considering job cuts, by the way. I’m just speaking in general.) 

To answer that question, let’s examine some potential pros and cons of being very transparent with our bosses.

  1. Managers like to know what their employees are working on because they need this information to do their jobs. Good managers like having a dialog with their direct reports.
  2. Managers like honest employees. They also like employees who are confident enough in themselves and in their work to admit weakness once in a while.
  3. Honesty and transparency builds trust and respect.
  4. A good boss will reassure a good worker that a temporary slump can be overcome. A good boss will understand that slumps are part of work cycles. A good boss, like a good psychologist, may even help the employee identify the root cause of the slump, to help fix it.
  5. A good boss would want to know when a good employee is not feeling like he’s playing his “A” game.
  1. You might be giving your boss too much information. Your boss might not care about all the details that you think are important.
  2. Your boss might view you as a high-maintenance employee.
  3. Your boss could use the information you share with him or her against you in a performance review–or worse, when making a decision about which staff to cut. (I realize this is rather drastic, but not entirely unrealistic, either.)
  4. Once you share information with your boss, it’s out there: You can’t take details back. Yet your judgment may not be the best when you’re in a slump.
  5. Some managers do not want to hear, even in passing, about employees’ lives, health, or issues outside of work.

What would you add to these lists of pros and cons? Have you ever been burned by being too open with your boss about your work? What happened? Or did being honest serve you well?

Managers: I’d like your input, too. Do you want your direct reports to be completely transparent with you, or do you think they should keep slump-related information to themselves, in order to protect themselves when times are tough?