telling boss about many upcoming doctors appointments
January 22, 2011 10:05 AM   Subscribe

How do I notify my boss that I'll be leaving the office for regular doctors appointment without causing too much concern?

I'm going to start regular appointments with a therapist for my depression, and I'll need to be gone from work for at most 1 or 2 hours. The appointments are already scheduled as early in the day as possible. There's no way around this.

I'll need to notify my boss whenever I have an appointment (probably once or twice a month). This is in addition to other routine medical appointments that are long, long overdue for me (physical, ob/gyn, dentist, eye doctor, etc). This means over the next few months, I'll be going to a lot of medical appointments, and because I prefer to not be specific about exactly what I'm going for, I don't want it to seem alarming that I'm all of a sudden going to the doctor's so much. I have a good relationship with my boss, to the extent that I don't want to cause concern or have them think I'm dying, but not good enough to want to tell about going to a therapist. Obviously, I know they are not supposed to ask any further, but I was just curious what is the best way for me to handle this.

What is the best wording to notify my boss of these upcoming medical appointments, while maintaining privacy but not causing concern? Is this common in the workplace? Should I let my boss know in advance that there will be all these regular appointments coming, or just update as they come up (with ample notice of course).
posted by lacedcoffee to Work & Money (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, I wanted to note that most therapy appointments will be early in the morning, but I'll be coming to work 1-2 hours late. If I schedule them in the middle of the day, I'll be gone at least 2 hours, so I can't just do this as an extended lunch break.

Over the last 3 weeks, I've already been to 3 various appointments and I have more coming up soon. It feels awkward to keep updating my boss of all of these. Am I just overthinking this?
posted by lacedcoffee at 10:12 AM on January 22, 2011

You could use the following line, which pretty much covers any ailment under the sun and avoids having to talk about therapy:

"I've been feeling really out of sorts lately, so my doctor booked me a few appointments to try to figure out what is causing it. I've tried to schedule them to be as early as possible, so as not to miss much work."
posted by dflemingecon at 10:17 AM on January 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

How about emailing your boss, and telling him, "I am overdue for several routine medical appointments (physical, dentist, eye doctor, etc.) - I just wanted to let you know in advance that I will be out of the office/ in late because of these. I will let you know about each specific appointment as I schedule it."

Regarding therapy, what I did was told my boss that I had a weekly medical appointment at (time) on (day), and that I would be taking an extended lunch break (for you, every other week/coming in late). She probably figured out that it was therapy, but didn't ask. I think if you routinely have an appointment at the same time, your boss will eventually figure out that it's for therapy.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:24 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't have to provide much information at all. You can offer a blanket statement like "I have a set of medical issues that are going to require some extra attention over the next six to twelve months. It's not an acute illness, and I'm not in any danger so you don't need to worry, but I wanted you to know now so we can make whatever adjustments we need to work around it. Some of them will be regular and I can share that schedule right now, while a few others will be scheduled as needed."

Some bosses might think therapy, but a more experienced boss will know not to leap to that. People don't need to share any medical detail, and I've had employees with a range of things, some of which I had detail on which they offered, and some of which I didn't. Some of them could have been therapy - makes no difference to me as that's protected also. If you want a cover story, ongoing allergies, infertility, chronic pain, and PT are things that commonly require regular weekly or biweekly appointments.
posted by Miko at 10:31 AM on January 22, 2011 [23 favorites]

Agreeing with Miko, and adding that PT is, indeed, something that everyone understands easily and which can provide a nice cover if need be. But just saying you have a backlog of appointments to get to should be enough - you can always reassure them by saying something about "routine checkups".
posted by ldthomps at 10:37 AM on January 22, 2011

As above, but I'd add that you will, of course, be making up the time and that if there are specific times you need to be in the office, you'll do your best to accommodate it - but that, of course, you have to consider your health needs.
posted by acoutu at 10:37 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yup agreeing with above, I would say: "I will be missing work from ____to ____ for the next three weeks for health reasons. Do not worry about me, everything is fine." The end...No more no less. If they ask for more say the words "I do not feel comfortable discussing my medical history with anyone but my doctor." Also the end.
posted by Felex at 10:51 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

If they ask for more say the words "I do not feel comfortable discussing my medical history with anyone but my doctor."

This comes off a bit rude, and may or may not be quite the wording you're looking for, depending on the asker. If it's your boss asking, I'd politely demur and say something along the lines of, "I'm sorry, but I'd rather keep it private. I hope you understand." This preserves the relationship as well as your privacy. Now, if it's someone just being nosy, I wouldn't hesitate responding in the way Felex suggests. Just be aware that it comes off as overly formal and standoffish, and it's probably also not true (I'm sure there's someone in addition to your doctor with whom you'd feel comfortable discussing your medical history).
posted by pecanpies at 11:19 AM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Talk to Human Resources.
posted by KogeLiz at 11:39 AM on January 22, 2011

"It's nothing serious or salacious, but trust me, if I told you it would make you really uncomfortable and you'd never be able to get the image out of your mind. Every time you'd look at me you'd squirm in your seat a little."

Always keep 'em guessing!
posted by pjaust at 12:16 PM on January 22, 2011

Just to clarify, I really don't mean to be glib about your question. I'd just tell them I was going to have some regular doctor's appts as others suggested. I'd only give the above response if I were asked about my medical history. 'cause I'd want them to squirm a bit for asking.
posted by pjaust at 12:21 PM on January 22, 2011

Your boss or HR person will probably (hopefully) be relieved if you can give them a lot of advance notice, i.e. go ahead and schedule a whole month of therapy if you can do that. They'll probably appreciate knowing that this is going to go on for awhile and not just for a month or two, but there's really no reason for you to have to tell them why, just say you have a series of doctor appointments. In my work experience, most people get annoyed when there's only a day or two notice or the appointments aren't scheduled around really busy times (depending on what kind of job you have).

If it was something to really be concerned about, such as chemo, they may probably expect that you would tell them that but anything else should be kept professional and private IMHO.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 12:52 PM on January 22, 2011

As a manager, here is what I want from a staff member in this situation:

Advance notice - if you know when you'll be out of the office send me one email with the dates and times. Don't dribble out information if you already know it.

Suggestions regarding coverage of your work - are you making up the work, having someone cover your shift or do you want me to resolve this issue. I'm okay with any of the three, but I need to know which one.

Clear notice if you need assistance - if you need a desk nearer to the bathroom or you can't take do a particular task, then tell me or tell HR. I'll help, but I need to know what you need.

I don't want to know about your medical issues - really. I care about my staff as people and friends. However speaking as the boss, staff medical issues are not my concern beyond ensuring that they have appropriate accommodations. I'm not curious. Working for a healthcare company, the less I know about your HIPAA the easier my life is.

I don't want to make you squirm and I don't need to squirm. Staff have medical needs that must be attended to during the business day. It's not a big deal unless you make it one.
posted by 26.2 at 1:04 PM on January 22, 2011 [19 favorites]

You don't need to say anything more than "I will need to be out of the office on X dates for Y time" for medical appointments. Then state whether the time is to be charged as medical leave, you will make up the time, or whatever, so they know how to note it on your time sheet. Bottom line: the less you say, the better.
posted by Flacka at 2:32 PM on January 22, 2011

If you can bundle the eye dr., the ob-gyn and so on into one or two days, and use either sick days or vacation days, I think the standing therapy appts. will be a lot easier on the rest of your team. Taking off two or three times a week for a month isn't going to endear you to anyone, no matter how legitimate the reasons. Or else use your lunch hours or schedule before you come in.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:10 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, don't lie. Don't tell them anything. 26.2 is right. The less they know the better. For you and for them. Just schedule the time.

Depending on when the appointment is, it will be easier and less disruptive (to your work and to your coworkers' curiosity) to:

- Show up for work late, after the appointment.
- Leave early for lunch.
- Return late from lunch.
- Leave for "home" early.
- Combine with other appointments on one day and just take a sick day.

A cheerful "got some things to take care of" is my favorite brush-off line when coworkers get to wondering about time off.

And don't be "mysterious". That's what people do when they WANT people to wonder where they are going all the time.
posted by gjc at 6:37 PM on January 22, 2011

I had this problem last year when I was doing IVF and needed to go for blood draws and ultrasounds every couple of days for a three week period, plus had a full day off work for surgery, and did this three times during one year. I absolutely did not want my boss to know it was for IVF, since I was doing an egg donation to a friend, not doing it for myself, and that's way too much information for work colleagues to know.

I said to him, "I'm going to have to take some time off a couple of times a week for medical appointments for the next little while. I'll make up the hours on Fridays (usually my day off). I'll let you know what days I'll be in late each week. Please don't worry about me; it's nothing serious."

He got a bit probing when I had the retrieval, since he had been trying to schedule some important work for the following day and I said outright: "I'm having minor surgery on Wednesday. I don't know if I'll be up to a five hour meeting on Thursday, and depending on how I'm feeling, I might not be in at all."

When he tried to find out what exactly the surgery was for, I said "Girl stuff." which totally ended the conversation. Of course, I tried that on another colleague who was female, and it didn't end the conversation at all - she spent the next 30 minutes telling me in graphic detail about her fibroids. But it's usually worth a shot.

So yeah, if your boss does start probing for more info, I'd totally just say "Women's issues", and he doesn't need to know that is code for "I'm a woman and I'm having psychological issues." :)
posted by lollusc at 6:48 PM on January 22, 2011

I have been to the doctor and dentist a lot over the past couple months just due to bad timing on a lot of things that all reared their heads at once - enough that I feel pretty self-conscious about it - but I've found that my coworkers don't seem to care what's going on with me as long as it's clear that I'm not contagious. I'd let your manager know that you have a regular appointment for the foreseeable future, but nobody else will probably even notice a pattern if you don't make a big deal about it. Ultimately, everyone has to do this stuff to some extent, and many adult men are aware of the fact that women have annual appointments and all kinds of extra parts that they don't really understand, which sometimes require special, mysterious doctors. (Yes, I am a software engineer, and I think most of my coworkers would rather die than ask me about a doctor's appointment on the off chance that it was a pap smear.)

And yes, physical therapy is always the convenient cover for a regular appointment. If anyone does pry, including your manager, just say it's that. I don't usually like to lie, but it's what they get for questioning you on something that absolutely is none of their business.
posted by little light-giver at 11:15 PM on January 22, 2011

Speaking as a manager, tell me that you are starting to take better care of yoruself, which necessitates a series of appointments plus some one-offs. *shrug* As long as you have the vacation/sick/personal days for it, I don't care much beyond being glad for you that you are getting your act together.

A healthy & happy employee is a better worker, is more fun as an office-mate, and is garteful to me for flexibility and so more likely to self-manage. Win, win, win! Not kidding, actually.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:36 AM on January 24, 2011

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