Deciding whether to tell — and whom to tell — is an intensely personal decision. You might feel it is essential to disclose your diagnosis, whether because of personal preference or because you run your own business. Alternatively, you may believe privacy is critical and that, aside from family and close friends, no one is entitled to information regarding your health.
Some things to think about as you weigh your options are: What treatment side effects are you likely to experience? How might the law work in your favor? And what is your work environment like?
Consider the Side Effects
In some cases, cancer and the method of treatment can cause side effects such as fatigue, chemo brain and discomfort, all of which can affect productivity levels, making it difficult to perform your essential job duties. Changes in productivity and/or appearance, as well as any extended absences, may give your boss and/or coworkers reason for concern. These factors may also cause you to think about whether any modifications or adjustments can be made to your job responsibilities or work environment that will help you feel more comfortable and be more productive and effective.
Consider the Law
In order to request a reasonable accommodation or medical leave, you may have to disclose a medical condition — though not necessarily an exact diagnosis. On the other hand, if you are not seeking protections provided under a state or federal law, such as a reasonable accommodation, time off or discrimination protection, you are generally not required to disclose any information about health to your employer.
Consider the Culture
The kind if environment you work in could be a determining factor when deciding whether to disclose your diagnosis to your employer and/or coworkers. To get a clear sense of your workplace culture and how you fit in there, ask yourself the following:
- Is your company big and/or formal? Is it the kind of place where everyone keeps to themselves? Or is it small, close-knit and friendly?
- What are the different kinds of relationships you have with individual coworkers?
- Is there anyone you feel you can trust with both personal and professional matters?
- Has someone else at work had cancer? If so, how was it handled?
- In general, how do people react when they hear that a coworker is ill or dealing with another serious event? Do they resent having to “pick up the slack” or do they rally to support their team member?
Answering these questions can help you predict how your news might be received. It may also help you decide whom to tell — and how. Although it might sound cliché, this is a situation in which you really need to trust your instincts, because you know your work environment better than anyone.