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How to Talk To Your Boss About Depression

Posted on January 23, 2018

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Depression often makes work difficult, and sometimes, you have to tell your employer. Read this blog for how to talk to your boss about depression.

It might be difficult for you to imagine talking to some of your friends about your depression, much less your boss. Personally, I have had to talk to my supervisor about depression at several different jobs, and it was never easy, but it was always worth it. Before you jump into this tough conversation, there are several factors you should consider.

Should I Tell My Boss I’m Depressed?

First, you have to decide whether or not you should even tell your boss about your depression. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people from being fired for their mental health disorder, but that doesn’t mean you won’t face repercussions. If your work culture is close-minded, you may fear judgment or discrimination from your coworkers or boss.

That being said, if your performance is suffering or you have to miss work, it’s better to talk about it sooner rather than later. One summer in college, I had a depressive episode. During the worst of it, I didn’t show up to my internship for a week. It was much harder to explain my behavior to my supervisor after the fact. In retrospect, I wish I had been more upfront about my depression.

Talking to Your Boss About Depression

If you believe talking to your boss is the right decision for you, here are some tips:

  • Ask your boss to set aside some time to meet one on one. That way, you can have privacy and his or her full attention.
    Have what you want to say planned out in advance. This will help you feel more confident. You might also try practicing with a friend first.
  • Tell your boss what support you need, such as permission to leave a little early for a therapy appointment or some extra help on a project. Be as concrete as possible.
  • Be honest, but don’t feel the need to go into too much detail. All you need to tell them is a simple description of your diagnosis and what accommodations you may need.
  • Remember that depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, so chances are, your boss knows someone with depression (and may even have it themselves). Mental health awareness in the workplace has come a long way, so your boss may be more understanding than you expect.

I took a more proactive approach to this conversation recently, and it was much more successful. When my boss responded empathetically, I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I was able to relax more at work. It felt great to not have to hide my secret anymore. I hope that when you talk to your boss about depression, you feel the same relief.

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