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Disclosing Your Condition To Co-Workers

Should I Disclose My Condition To Co-Workers?

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Think through the advantages and disadvantages of telling co-workers.

Perhaps you only need or want to tell the people who work most closely with you because it will be difficult to hide your symptoms or because you'll need an accommodation that will raise questions and possibly even result in a greater workload for the person. It you only want to tell one person, and you think that person can keep a secret - great! But, if not perhaps it would be better if the news came from you.

Experience has shown the following are advantages and disadvantages to disclosing a health condition to co-workers. Add your own to the list before making a decision.


  • Keeping secrets is stressful.
  • You have an opportunity to control the information and avoid the rumor mill with potentially crazy rumors. In most work settings, nothing stays secret for very long. 
  • If you need an accommodation, it explains what is happening. Otherwise, resentment can build up because you're being treated as special.
  • You may get a great deal of support.
  • You may be able to speak more openly about any issues that arise, including changes in your health.
  • You won't have to worry about people who work with you finding out about your diagnosis.
  • You can take your drugs and other treatments without having to hide them. (Be cautious if you use marijuana for health reasons even if it is legal in your state. Because it is illegal on a federal level, the Americans With Disabilities Act and similar laws may not protect you from being fired for using illegal drugs.)
  • When people tell about a medical condition, they tend to learn that similar things happen to everyone. Once you open up, people tend to open up in return. Not just about a health condition -- but about all sorts of things.


  • It is impossible to predict how people will react.
  • People who react positively initially may change their attitude over time.
  • People may start treating you differently. They may show pity. At the other extreme, they could even start harassing you, even though it is illegal under the Americans With Disabilities Act and similar laws.
  • Competitors may try to use your health condition to their advantage.

If your employer reacts poorly to your medical condition, you may find that there are subtle or not so subtle changes in your relationship.

Secrecy is often confused with toughness, and some of us see toughness as a virtue.

  • You may feel that you are being treated differently, or that you are no longer being judged on your performance, but by your diagnosis.

Co-workers are not required to maintain the confidentiality of personal or medical information that you disclose to them.

Consider asking your employer to educate your co-workers about your disease as an accommodation.

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