All my business
November 7, 2017 5:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm having a surgery done next week and I don't feel like sharing.

My supervisor knows it's a surgery (because of the time I will be off), as well the FMLA people. I suppose in retrospect I could have gone with "medical procedure." There is another department in our office -- none of us cover for each other or anything like that. If they made a stab at being nice, that would be one thing -- but they don't make the slightest effort (and that is probably another story in itself).

I feel there is way too much oversharing in the world, yet if one of them didn't show up for three weeks, I'd wonder. The women I eat with, same story. Lovely people, but not real friends.

I like my privacy. So, you're not me, but what would you say, if you said anything?
posted by intrepid_simpleton to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you want to give people a heads up: “I’m having surgery so I’ll be out for 3 weeks. I don’t want to discuss the details. See you when I get back.” You could add “I’ll be fine” if you think they are genuinely concerned and not just being nosy.

You will undoubtedly get questions when you return. Use the past tense version of this script.

Most people understand that medical issues are private matters. If the people you work with don’t get it, just keep saying “I don’t want to talk about it.” This has worked for me.
posted by jshort at 5:55 PM on November 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

So, you're not me, but what would you say, if you said anything?

Before: "I have a medical procedure; I'll be out from x to y. If you need to take care of things, person will be happy to help you out."

After: "I had a medical procedure. It went great! How 'bout them Cowboys?"
posted by saeculorum at 5:56 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

"I will be out for medical reasons for the next three weeks. It's nothing to worry about!" and, if pressed, "It's personal so I'd rather not talk about it, but it's not a big deal."

It doesn't matter if it is actually a "big deal" or something to "worry about" but they don't need to know that. It sounds like you have a good handle on what's going on, and that's what is important.

And yes, when you get back, "Everything went well, thanks for asking!"
posted by darksong at 6:00 PM on November 7, 2017 [12 favorites]

I'm confused... like... do you even want to say it's a medical thing at all? I mean, you can if you want, or I guess if there will be physical signs of it like a cast or something.

"I'll be out of the office for three weeks." If they get nosey, that's on them not you. You don't have to share anything. I would even support a lie of "visiting family."

And in my experience of having chronic illness and trying to navigate work and surgery, people don't actually respect that medical issues are private.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:03 PM on November 7, 2017 [12 favorites]

Second Crystalinne's verbiage: out of the office. Give even less detail than you are thinking.
posted by JenMarie at 8:14 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

There are already people at your workplace who know you're having surgery of some unspecified kind, so there's a fair chance that this knowledge has already started diffusing outward through the gossip networks.

If you'd rather nobody had a clue, you can use the same networks to damp the story down by arranging for those who hear it to judge it as yet another baseless workplace rumour. Inject multiple narratives of your own, most of them broadly supporting the surgery idea but with multiple mutual incompatibilities.

Confide in several more co-workers that you're actually (a) suffering from gallstones (b) having liposuction (c) in need of a knee reconstruction (d) skiving off for two weeks in the Maldives with your secret lover - but obvs don't tell anybody.

If you get asked about any of these things when you get back, do your best to look genuinely put out, and claim that you've spent the last three weeks dealing with a family emergency that you'd rather wasn't talked about kthxbi.

There's probably no way to kill the story completely, but at least this way you'll find out who spilled your beans.
posted by flabdablet at 9:38 PM on November 7, 2017

"Medical leave" is nicely un-precise.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:55 PM on November 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

I... would expect that telling multiple conflicting stories would intensify interest rather than tamping it down. You're obviously hiding something if you're going to that much effort to do that.

Agreed with those that say giving less detail is better. Use boring descriptions wherever a simple "Something came up and I'll be out for XX" isn't enough. "Personal reasons", "medical reasons", etc. And deflect whenever someone wants to talk about it with "it really isn't that interesting" or "I'd rather not."
posted by Aleyn at 10:00 PM on November 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

Since you’ve already told your supervisor, you don’t need to say anything to anyone else, really. Your colleagues will just realise that you’ve gone missing. And when you come back, if someone asks, just say: “personal stuff”

And if you feel you must give people a heads up, just say you’ll be gone for three weeks.
posted by Kwadeng at 10:10 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

In certain areas, I like my privacy and I like others having their privacy, so "out on medical leave" would be fine. If I felt like people were offended at not getting the details, I'd share some emotional content without any medical facts, e.g., "ugh just a kinda stupid medical thing I've need to take care of for a long time." That makes it sounds trivial and not worrisome and not something you feel like discussing without giving any medical details. But it really depends on your personal conversation style.
posted by salvia at 10:45 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you want to avoid giving the impression that this has to do with your reproductive system, or something else very personal, you might say, "It's private," rather than "It's personal."

Another possible deflection is to say, "You know, I always find other people's medical issues tedious at best, gross or scary at worst. So I just don't ever talk about mine." This gives a bit of a tone of consideration for the asker, but also sort of warns them that, no, you don't want to hear their surgery stories, either.
posted by Capri at 11:08 PM on November 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I might not even say anything, and put an auto-reply message on my business email. Per DarlingBri: "I will be out of office on medical leave until ___. In the interim, please direct your work concerns and questions to ____. Thanks."
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:27 PM on November 7, 2017

I guess I'm really used to Hipaa now. I would say "I'll be out for 3 weeks." If someone asked "Oh! What for?" "Personal reasons." That's it.

Also, it might be because I'm a New Englander and damn we don't ask personal questions. And if we do, and someone is uncomfortable, we beat ourselves up for it for years.
posted by greermahoney at 11:30 PM on November 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think that instead of just saying "medical procedure" you could add the one word "routine" to that, and say that you're out for 3 weeks for a "routine medical procedure". for some reason, "routine" sends the message that even though it is a thing you'll need to recover from, it is non-emergency and non-serious, so people will get the message that they don't need to, like, worry.

If they ask for details, just say "eh, it's no big deal and I would rather not get into it, I'll be fine" and change the subject ("so, actually, let's talk about how we take care of covering for me while I'm gone").

Something about the word "routine" sort of de-escalates it somehow.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on November 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

The people asking pointed questions are really in two different groups: people who are busybodies and like to know things for no reason, and people who care about your well-being, even if you might not feel comfortable sharing those details at work. I'd just say something like "oh, it's something I've needed to take care of, nothing life-threatening."

Most of us need some sort of medical care at some point and I have absent-mindedly asked questions more pointed than I needed to, when I really just wanted to express some concern for my peers. A brush-off comment is perfectly acceptable.
posted by mikeh at 8:46 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Because I've never been in one of the gossip loops for whatever reason (too busy or uninterested in other people's drama), I don't uderstand how gossip works. So (if I'm allowed) another question would be, "How are you so sure the gossip is already spreading out?" Two people were told--my supervisor who I would have told even less if I didn't believe he was honorable, and the FMLA person, who surely, if they haven't signed something, has some kind of commitment to dummy up.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 7:57 AM on November 11, 2017

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