Disclosure in the Workplace

Feb 21

Should someone with a mood disorder disclose her condition to her manager or anyone with whom she works?

Psych Central Associate Editor Therese J. Borchard posted an interview with Lisa Clark Keith, who did her doctoral dissertation on this topic. Check out Disclosure in the Workplace: An Interview with Lisa Clark Keith to read the interview.

If you have experience with disclosing bipolar disorder or another illness at work, please post to share your experience.

3 comments

  1. stephanie /

    i disclosed to my supervisor, who was the head of my department, that i had bipolar disorder shortly after i was promoted to my new position. i could almost see him cringe, or was it me? he treated me differently after our conversation, and in fact, made a few remarks to me in front of my subordinates. they had no idea what he was referring to with his comments, and i just let it roll off. but when they asked me later, i too, disclosed my personal information to them. they did not flinch but could not believe the audacity of the boss behaving in such a manner. he also led me to believe that because i was experiencing a high level of stress about a year into the job, that my performance was lacking in his opinion. “was i in the ‘frame of mind’ to continue working?” he went so far as to suggest FMLA to me, without me asking. i was flabbergasted to say the least, and took it upon myself to discuss this sensitive matter with our HR department. to make a long story shorter, after thoughts of suing for medical discrimination and the additional stress that would bring, and a deteriorating professional relationship with my boss, i decided to give my notice to vacate my position. it was a very difficult decision to make, as it was a job i dearly loved. do i regret it? no. but i regret the fact that there is still stigma attached to bipolar disorder in our society. also, i will no longer be revealing to future employers my medical issues that do not have an impact on my ability to perform my job.

  2. Ellie /

    Stephanie,
    So sorry you had to deal with bigotry in the workplace. To disclose our diagnoses to employers makes sense…..on paper! Mental illnesses are still met with ignorance, but there are always worries to be considered. What if I decompensate at work? Who will be able to get me the help I need? Will the police be called to “handle” the situation? What if I am cycling and get a bad work evaluation? If I then tell my employer, will they think I am making excuses?
    If you’re somewhat like me, then you recognize these thoughts as the anxiety-inducing triggers for the manic episodes we so hope to avoid. Perhaps the first thing for people to do when starting a new job is to ensure they have decent, empathetic, and supportive people in their personal lives. To share or not to share? Deeply personal and worth discussing with a knowledgeable, objective listener. Some mental illness diagnoses make us spontaneous and impulsive. We jump off the cliff before attaching our parachutes. Oops!

  3. I certainly agree disclosure is not for everyone. It’s important to carefully consider when and how to disclose. I suggest if you do disclose do it this way:
    http://blogs.psychcentral.com/bipolar-lifehacks/2014/10/shhh-dont-tell/

    Be prepared for a few jerks. Know the stats and be prepared to educate others. Don’t just tell one or two people – they gossip and then you lose control over the dissemination of the information – tell a group: they are less likely to react in a negative way because they don’t want to be seen as ignorant or rude. Tell when you are in a place of positive mental health, so that if you do cycle or become manic or depressed, they aren’t caught off guard. I make several suggestions in my blog Bipolar Lifehacks at Psychcentral.com. If you want to read the study, find me on LinkedIn. Best, Lisa

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