Is It Wise to Discuss Personal Health Issues With Coworkers?

The above picture is of a man and a woman sitting at a desk talking.

Is It Wise to Discuss Personal Health Issues With Coworkers?

A good work-life balance is an important part of a healthy work environment—but what happens when the two collide?

If you have a disability, you might find yourself wondering whether you should let your coworkers know. You might feel the need to explain inconsistencies in your work or have a desire to bring your "full self" to the workplace.

On the other hand, there is value in privacy as well. Even if you don't think your job would be in jeopardy, you might want to stay private in order to avoid gossip and rumors.

So how do you decide whether or not to tell coworkers about your personal health? And how would it work? Keep reading to find out.

Invisible Disabilities

Some disabilities are noticeable whether or not you tell your coworkers about them. Others, though, are known as invisible disabilities or hidden disabilities. For example, these can include chronic fatigue, autoimmune disorders, and mental illness.

As you might have already experienced, some people will be resistant to the concept that invisible disabilities are real disabilities. This is certainly disappointing, but it might help to point these people in the direction of online resources on disabilities like yours. 

So if you're nervous about telling your coworkers about an invisible disability, it can help to look up some resources beforehand. This way, if they respond poorly, you can give them something to read and exit the situation.

Calling in Sick

If you have a disability, it can be hard to know when to call in sick. In most cases, there are only so many sick days available a year. When you're dealing with a long-term illness or condition, you might not know whether your symptoms count as "being sick."

At the end of the day, though, your health and safety come first. This is one reason why you might want to let people at work know about your disability. This can protect you when you have to call in sick or need accommodations.

Taking sick days when you need them isn't just a way of taking care of yourself. It's also an important step in making sure you are doing your best work. Pushing yourself to go to work when you're out of sorts might seem like the "hardworking" thing to do, but it could do more harm than good in the end.

So regardless of how dedicated you are to your job, it's generally a good idea to get your basic needs met.

You're in Charge

You shouldn't feel forced or pressured to disclose any personal health matters at work. If your coworkers start to get nosy, just remember that you have every right to keep your health information private.

And even if you need to disclose something about your condition at work, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. For example, you can explain relevant symptoms without saying the name of your disability—like letting your coworkers know that you need treatment that prevents you from working after regular hours.

This way, even if you have an important, last-minute project coming up, your fellow workers will already about your situation. You can work with them to schedule your work for times that are better for you.

You don't have to give any more details if you don't want to. And if your coworkers try to make you feel bad for not telling them, feel free to remind them that this is personal information.

Getting Support for Personal Health

You never know until you try, but your coworkers might become important allies at work once they learn about your disability.

They might have some experience themselves or know someone who's gotten workplace accommodations in the past. And if you get unfair treatment at work, your coworkers can help stand up for you.

So if there are people you trust at your workplace, telling them about your personal health can improve your working experience. Just knowing that someone else understands your situation can change everything.

Discrimination at Work

The law protects you against workplace discrimination, but that doesn't mean it never happens.

Discrimination can happen in a multitude of ways. You might experience micro-aggressions or even insults from your coworkers, which can create a hostile work environment for you.

Or you might be passed up for promotions due to assumptions about your reliability and performance. You might even be worried about losing your job.

What you should know is that none of these things are acceptable in an inclusive workplace. It's not your responsibility to put with this, and it's certainly not your fault for telling people about your disability. Sharing information about your personal health can make you more vulnerable to these attacks, but it can also allow you to get help.

If your workplace has a human resources department, it might be a good idea to let them know about any discrimination you might be facing. They can help issue warnings to the perpetrators and mediate conversations. Or if your work has an accessibility office as well, even better.

And for delicate situations like promotions, raises, and the threat of being fired, here's where the law can get involved. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a termination based on your disability would be a wrongful one.

You're Not Alone

There are lots of people with disabilities out there, and they've often asked themselves the same questions you're asking right now. Deciding whether or not to tell coworkers about your personal health is something that depends on your comfort level and how much you trust the people around you. Whichever route you decide to take, you have the right to do it exactly how you want.

And if you're searching for new jobs, check out our job search page! You might just find the perfect workplace for your lifestyle.