The 4 Best Ways to Be Honest With Your Boss About Health Issues

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Ava Roman10
April 13, 2024 at 6:3AM UTC

It’s hard to hide a health issue in the workplace, especially if your condition makes it harder to get your job done. If you’re struggling with a health condition at work or there’s a good possibility you will, having an honest conversation with your boss about it is a good idea. 

When you tell your workplace about your needs, they can work to accommodate you so that you can comfortably get your best work done. Here are the best ways to approach the conversation. 

1. Consider what to share. 

Before going to your boss about your condition, consider what you want to share with them. Some conditions can be managed without many details, while others may need a greater explanation to accommodate you properly. 

Regardless of what you need, sharing your medical history is unnecessary. Only share with your boss or colleagues what you’re comfortable sharing. It’s discrimination against the law for your employer to pry about details they don’t need.

Discuss with your physician how to manage your condition at work and speak to your boss about the necessary accommodations. You can explain what symptoms need the accommodation, but only share what makes sense to you. 

It’s a good idea to make a list of what to discuss before meeting with your boss, so you don’t leave anything out. You don’t have to make the conversation lengthy, but ensure that you cover everything you need your boss to know in order for you to do the best work possible. Even if you are friends with your boss, keep in mind that you’re in a professional setting, so don’t feel obligated to give details you’re uncomfortable with. 

2. Be honest about the details.

Whatever you decide to tell your boss, it’s important to be honest about your condition and how it might affect your work. Hiding your symptoms can lead to more stress and rumors if you have to take multiple sick days. Be upfront about why you need to take time off or adjust your office. 

If you’re honest about your needs, others can better help you create an environment where you can do your best work. Just as you would help a co-worker with your needs, it’s probable there is someone on your team who will look out for you as well, so long as you’re honest. 

3. Have an in-person conversation.

There are many ways to communicate with your boss, from email to company messaging software, but speaking about your health issues in person is best. Health conversations can get complex and you don’t want anything you say to get misconstrued or misunderstood. 

When sending an email or instant message, your boss will not be able to understand your tone of voice, which could make them think your condition is better or worse than it is. Email also can lead to sharing more information about your condition than you meant to. We tend to ramble more in text than we do in person. When you speak in person, you don’t have to guess which questions they’ll have. If they do have questions, you risk a long chain of emails that’s hard to keep track of. 

Calling your boss is better, but it still places barriers between the two of you, making miscommunication possible. Over the phone, you can’t read facial expressions and can mishear what you say. An in-person conversation is the best way to have a productive conversation. 

Speaking to your boss about any concern is like ripping off a band-aid–you just have to do it. Meeting together gives you the opportunity to direct the conversation and your boss the ability to ask questions. It also shows your boss that you’re not afraid to broach necessary topics with them and that you care about making sure there are no misunderstandings in your workplace. 

If you feel uncomfortable talking about your condition, try doing so in an open office or over a video call. If you fear discrimination, having an email conversation first will give you a paper trail. 

4. Make your work the focus.

While your conversation needs to be about your condition, it needs to be framed in how that condition will affect your work. 

Even the most caring boss needs to consider making sure the work gets done and accommodations can help you do that. However, it’s important to assure them that you care about helping your workplace succeed and that your talking about your condition so there is open communication about your work and how you can be most productive. 

Don’t make any promises you can’t keep but work to return any support you receive by giving them your best effort. Try to stick to or exceed any goals you have to show you are fully committed to your role. That being said, don’t push yourself too hard just to have them treat you well. 

Follow your call-off policies and ensure that you acquire the accommodations needed to work at your best. 

Trust Yourself When You Bring Up Health Issues 

You know yourself best and if you’ve been in a workplace for a little while, you likely know the atmosphere. Trust yourself to broach a conversation about health issues with the right platform and tone. 

You are deserving of a workplace that willingly accommodates your health needs without being forced by law. 

It’s hard to hide health issues; doing so can cause unnecessary stress and impact productivity. Be honest with your boss about your needs to thrive in your workplace.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Ava Roman, Managing Editor of Revivalist, writes about lifestyle, wellness, and woman's topics. When she is not writing you'll find Ava in a yoga class, advocating for body positivity, or smashing the patriarchy. 

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for bringing up health issues at work? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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