Should I tell my boss why I was out?
July 9, 2016 2:02 PM   Subscribe

I have a long history of physical illness. I have a chronic medical condition that causes frequent loss of work, which my boss knows. I've taken several leaves of absence over the past few years due to this. However, my current LOA was due to mental illness. My depression/anxiety has been with me for a long time, but was contained by medication, until it wasn't.

I texted my boss today to let him know I'll be returning to work in about a week. He has been very supportive in regard to my physical health. In his reply, he stated how much I am needed and asked how I was feeling. He is not told the reason for my absence. Should I tell him why I was out, or let him continue to believe it was due to my physical illness?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's none of his business. It's not like he would be able to approve you being out for one condition but not for another condition. You're not well enough to come in, and he trusts you to make that determination. That's all he needs to know.
posted by bleep at 2:12 PM on July 9, 2016 [11 favorites]

Although I understand your impulse, unfortunately I recommend that you give him absolutely no extra information that isn't required. The boring answer is often the right answer.

I say this from the perspective of someone who has also really struggled with mental health issues, but also someone who is a boss. Beyond "I'm not able to work now, but I will be on (date)," it is better for me as a boss to not know the personal details.
posted by samthemander at 2:12 PM on July 9, 2016 [21 favorites]

I would not do so. There is still a lot of unfair stigma against mental illness. If you think that this will be frequently repeated or start impacting your work directly then you might want to consider telling rather than having him somehow find out on his own. But until that point, no-- leave it out. Thank him for his concern and move on.
posted by frumiousb at 2:40 PM on July 9, 2016

My experience with telling an employer that I struggle with depression is that my boss and co-workers never thought the same way about me again. I felt the stigma that frumiousb mentioned upthread. Even though I didn't get fired from that particular job, it showed me that what my co-workers don't know about me won't hurt them and I just need to concentrate on doing the best job I can.
posted by strelitzia at 2:58 PM on July 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'll toss in another "this is information the boss doesn't need to know" answer. But I'll also add that most mental illnesses are physical illnesses - they just affect the brain rather than the heart or the liver or some other organ.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 3:07 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

as someone who has a been a boss and someone with depression/anxiety, just let the assumptions be what they are. you aren't being dishonest and there's no good outcome from sharing.
posted by nadawi at 3:33 PM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Dealing with a chronic illness usually involves at least one breakdown. It's part of the territory. He doesn't need to know the exact reason that you are unable to go to work. It's all part of the same thing you have been dealing with.

If you need special allowances made at work to help manage your stress level then you should tell him. Otherwise, leave it be and focus on feeling better.
posted by myselfasme at 4:43 PM on July 9, 2016

As a boss, I never want to hear specifics about this sort of thing. "I was sick," "I have an appointment," "I have a doctor's appointment," "I had a family emergency." Those are fine.
posted by Slinga at 4:57 PM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

Your boss is not your friend.
Your boss doesn't need to be in your head.

(I wish I'd said this to myself every day)
posted by yesster at 6:39 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

No, you shouldn't tell.

Focus on getting better and getting the care that you need.
posted by amanda at 6:59 PM on July 9, 2016

As a boss and employee benefits lawyer, nope. Even if he or she is a great, compassionate boss, you're both better off keeping actual medical information out.
posted by Pax at 7:31 PM on July 9, 2016

posted by Ready2016 at 3:37 AM on July 10, 2016

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