“Should I tell my boss that my husband is in prison?”
This is one of the most common questions I get. One of the biggest fears a wife of a prisoner is that the news of their husband’s incarceration will cause them to lose their job. For some, it is a very real danger. Some employers require immediate family to be “crime free” and living in such a way that they are not a public relations liability. However, most employers will not fire you because of your husband’s circumstance.
Back to the question of “to tell, or not to tell?” There is a lot to consider before deciding whether to talk with your employer about your husband’s incarceration or not. Each situation is different, and every employer is different. So, while there is not a universal answer, there is a process that will help you decide if, and when, you should talk to your employer.
This is a big decision.
Once you tell, you cannot take it back. They know now. In every case, there will be something that will change because they know. You need to be prepared for those changes and how they may affect you and your family — even if you decide to keep your private life a secret. Because, chances are, your employer is going to find out sometime. The better prepared you are to manage any fallout, the less stress their knowing will cause you.
This is a big decision.
As you weigh out your options, here are my recommendations for determining whether to tell your employer your husband is in prison or not:
- Will his incarceration be in the paper or the news? If yes, Tell.
- Have you spent time outside of the office with your supervisor or boss as friends? If yes, Tell.
- Is there a policy about having immediate family convicted of a felony? If yes, Tell. (trust me on this one, you want them to hear it from you and not read it in the paper later. You might even get a job referral or letter of recommendation for your honesty!)
- Has your husband has been in prison for over 6 months and you started a new job? Assuming they do not have a policy about prison in place– If yes, don’t tell (unless you want to.)
- Are you interviewing for a job? If there is any possibility that it could affect your employer, tell.
- Are you in upper management or executive management? If yes, tell. It is better for them to hear the story from you, than think you are hiding something.
- Do you normally keep your private life private and your employer does not have a policy that affects you? Don’t tell unless you want to.
- Is your supervisor a jerk, but you like your job and they don’t have a policy? Don’t tell.
- Are you self-employed? Don’t tell your customers; tell your investors so they won’t pull out if they find out from someone else.
- Have you been at the same company for years, they don’t have a policy? Don’t tell unless you want to.
If you didn’t work before your husband went to prison, your life is about change. The first thing to settle in your mind is this: it is not IF you should get a job, it is HOW to get a job. As difficult as it may be to accept, you need to find a job. I have worked with so many ladies from such diverse backgrounds, whose husbands are in prison.
I am a HUGE proponent of telling your own story.
So, I want to encourage you to share your story and tell the people you spend the most time with what your family is going through right now. This takes the power away from others, and helps you deal with all the stress. If you don’t tell, you will be carrying the secret and the fear that someone will find out. I have found that, regardless of the outcome, it is better to share the information than to worry endlessly that you will be exposed.
It is YOUR story to share, or not to share. You have the power and the authority to decide what you will do. Don’t be afraid to share your story. If you decide not to tell, ask yourself why you are keeping it private. If it is just because if doesn’t matter to your employer—that is the perfect reason to keep your private life separated from your work place. But, if it is any other reason, you are better off telling them.
You are stronger than you know, and this is just one of the many hurdles you will jump along your journey.
I am rooting for you-