Chronic Health Conditions: Do You Tell Your Employer?

You have a chronic medical condition. Perhaps it is rheumatoid arthritis; perhaps it is manic depression; perhaps it is ulcerative colitis. You are faced with a monumental question: “Do I tell my employer?”

It is certainly a question that can cause a dilemma. One problem is that our medical conditions wax and wane. One day we feel like we can conquer the world and the next day we barely can get out of bed.

Let’s look at it another way. “If you don’t tell your employer is it a lie of “omission?”

In answering that question I don’t think so. Many people don’t go through a litany of their ills. Who is to say where the cut-off point is?

Some people wear their heart on their sleeves. It is hard for them to keep information private. Other people feel that their life has been invaded if they give any information out.

I’m not sure there is a “right” answer or a “wrong” answer. We can only lay out some considerations.

I can tell you that I have manic depression. I chose to tell my employers that I had the condition. My logic, especially where I was holding a fairly high position was that they had a right to know everything.

I think after having had a career, that I was wrong. If I had it to do over again I would not tell them.

People don’t understand manic depression. They think the worst. They talk behind your back and that makes matters even worse. Further your ideas get questioned.

However what about rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis? If you have flares on a regular basis and your employer does not know the situation they may draw the conclusion that you are sickly or don’t care about your job. Worse you may find yourself in a task you can’t handle.

Also, if you do not tell them you may find every day brings stress and pressure because you feel you are hiding something.

Yet some people create strategies to help get through situations where their condition might be a drawback.

One more scenario says that by being open you get a chance to get next to people and give the best of people a chance to support you. You may even find people who are suffering from the same thing you are.

What do you do?

If you have a mental condition I think that you keep it to yourself unless you are not under good control and if you aren’t you probably aren’t in good enough shape to work.

The reason I say that is people still don’t understand mental conditions. They are prejudiced and further they lump them all together. Mental conditions cannot be “seen.” Even the medical profession to some degree has a problem with them. Lay people think you should just “toughen up.”

On the other hand if you have a severe physical condition it seems you should tell the employer. You can get into a situation where you are out of action for awhile. Further conditions like ulcerative colitis can cause problems at work and it would be better if your boss knew.

I am not suggesting you tell everyone. I would make sure my boss knew. If they didn’t you could put them in a tough situation.

Whatever way you go do all you can to be fair to yourself. And, remember what someone thinks about you isn’t necessarily you.


Care Continuum Alliance

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