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Ask L2: How honest should I be with my boss?

I'm getting my doctorate. Do I owe my boss that information?


THE CLIFF NOTES

​PROBLEM

SOLUTION

Should I tell my boss I’m currently getting my doctorate degree?

If your boss if not overly supportive of decisions that would put you at an educational advantage over them or over colleagues, and there is no direct reason to announce it, then maybe it’s not the time.


 

Disclaimer: Identities are kept confidential. The advice given here should be taken at your own risk. If you are having true mental or physical issues, please seek professional assistance.



THE QUESTION:

Should I tell my boss I’m currently getting my doctorate degree?


 

I can’t really answer this directly because I’m not sure what the workplace dynamics are, but I can tell you that if it was me, EVERYONE would know I was getting my doctorate degree. I would tell the busboy at restaurants and the teller at the bank.


That’s such a huge step and something that not a lot of people can say.

It’s entirely possible, however, that because I don’t know all of the details of your situation, maybe there are good reasons that you’re hesitant.


If your boss if not overly supportive of decisions that would put you at an educational advantage over them or over colleagues, and there is no direct reason to announce it, then maybe it’s not the time. If it would create additional stress in your work environment by sharing that information, then you can do it on your time and avoid the stress. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and you get to decide when that information becomes public.


That being said, I tend to think of these things from a support perspective.


Getting a doctorate is a full-time job that adds stress, financial strain and massive responsibility to what is probably an already full plate. Might there be times when you need to take off from work to focus on this other full-time gig that you’re embarking on?


Are there going to be times that you need a supportive environment where you can openly share your not-work-related stressors just to blow off steam? If the answer to those is yes and you can count on the people you work with and for for that kind of support or relief, then I would absolutely let them know so they can both celebrate with you but also provide cover if necessary.


Additionally, I assume this doctorate process is going to take several years, so how does that impact your career trajectory? Does this put you in a place where you will be at the same educational level required to get the job that your boss currently has? Is that part of the hesitation?


Feel free to write back with some more context on what the work relationship is like and the implications of your decision to get this advanced degree on your current work situation, and I can do my best to give you some more targeted responses.


Either way, I’m proud of you for making this decision for yourself, and I can’t wait to see where it leads you.


L2



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1 Comment


Liz H
Liz H
Jul 13, 2023

OP please consider your work policies as well as if there is a conflict of interest. In many fields (& for almost all STEM professionals ) you may be obligated to report even a potential conflict of interest. Not doing so & the “boss” or anyone in the company reporting you may constitute grounds for immediate dismissal.

Who you need to tell might be your boss, a union rep, HR or just noticing it in an update to your ethics compliance documents & you hopefully have a work aid or employee handbook that specifies what to do if it is your intention is to work full time & also get your PhD.


If you’re in a situation where it’s…


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