If you have decided to disclose, in addition to figuring out whom to tell and how to tell them, you'll want to give some serious thought to what, and how much, your supervisor and coworkers need to know. For some people the decision to disclose will mean sharing widely at work. While others choose to keep the details to a minimum, which might mean only disclosing diagnosis or even just any side effects that may impact them at work. Remember how much you share is totally up to you.
Tips on What to Tell
- Reveal only as much as you want to, in a straightforward manner. People will take their cues based on how you present yourself.
- Prepare ahead of time what information you want to share.
- If you're telling just one or two colleagues, create a comfortable, private environment in which to tell them. And, be sure to mention if you want them to keep this news to themselves. It might not be obvious to them to do so if you don't say something.
- Give them a chance to ask some questions, if you feel comfortable doing so. As you know only too well, some people have no experience with cancer and don't know what you're facing.
- Explain to your confidants what to expect in terms of future absences, and let them know there may be times when your mood and productivity will be affected. Don't be afraid to ask if you can rely on them for help.
- Consider letting people know if you expect your appearance to change -- for example, hair loss or changes in your skin or weight. Explain to them that it's part of the process of getting better.
- When telling your supervisor, think strategically when mentioning your legal rights; some supervisors might feel threatened by the topic. For support in having this conversation, download the Manager's Kit.
- You may want to reassure your coworkers that you're not disappearing on them. Let them know that you're still an integral part of the team and that work is important to you and you want to be kept in the loop.
Most importantly, remember that this will be a fluid experience and what you know about your situation may change as you go through treatment. By sharing your diagnosis, you're beginning an ongoing conversation with your manager and/or coworkers; this enables you to discuss things as they evolve and adjust your plan of action accordingly, as well as your team's expectations of you.
Also, it's worth noting that you may find yourself in the position of having to educate your supervisor, because most people haven't experienced this type of situation before or been trained on how to handle it, another instance where the Manager's Kit can come in handy.