Telling Your New Supervisor About Your Chronic Illness or Condition

One thing I have always been nervous about when starting a new job is telling my new supervisor that I have chronic health conditions. It’s a conversation that is necessary but that can cause people to feel uneasy or nervous.

I always worry that my supervisor may be uneasy about my situation and that they themselves will worry about my ability to perform my duties. With a health conditions that are invisible on the outside, like my migraines, narcolepsy, etc., I sometimes worry about the following things: Will they think I may not perform as well as others? Will they get frustrated with how frequently I need to leave for doctor appointments? How understanding will they be when I am having a bad pain day and need accommodations or need to go home to rest? Will they understand if they don’t have health problems themselves? How can I make sure they don’t think I’m faking it.

As with anything, we can’t understand what someone is dealing with unless we are dealing with it ourselves. It goes the same for health conditions. Someone can’t fully understand the symptoms that come along with our conditions & illnesses unless they have that condition or illness themselves.

However, when it comes to working in an office, good supervisors will always be accommodating and will try to understand as much as possible. Even though I’ve always been nervous to talk to my supervisors about my chronic illness upon being hired, I’ve only ever had amazing supervisors who put my health first and who are completely flexible.

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Here are some tips on how to breach the topic and talk through your chronic health conditions & illnesses with your new employers and supervisors:

  • Be open and honest – the more your supervisor knows, the more accommodating, flexible and understanding they can be
  • Remember that everyone is human and everyone deals with something. Maybe they also get migraines or deal with another health condition. Even if they don’t, you have to remember that they will have their own situations that need accommodating from time to time.
  • Remind them that you will be fully capable of doing your job and that this won’t affect your work ethic. Instead, it just means that some days the pain will take control,  that your health will have to take precedent & some days you will have to do what is necessary to feel better or decrease the pain however much you can.
  • Work with them to come up with back up plans on if there’s ever a day that symptoms show up unexpectedly and you need to stay at home on short notice.
  • Tell them about the doctor appointments that you have on a regular basis but make sure they know that from time to time, emergency appointments may come up.
  • Ask them if they require any doctor notes for validation so that you can notify your doctor

Remember: You are just like the employee sitting next to you. You are capable of performing and producing excellent work. You have the same great work ethic and great ideas to contribute. This employer hired YOU for a reason. Because you were right for the job!


Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a lawyer. The opinions and advice listed above are my own and are based on personal experience and do not reflect the opinions of others. Check out the Americans with Disabilities Act if you have any questions on working as a person with a disability. 

Hire My Headaches

Having just graduated college, I’m among thousands of my peers battling it out in the job hunt. Job application after job application. Interview (hopefully) after interview. It’s a tasking process, but we gotta make that cash somehow right? I know for me, some days I wake up and know that it will be difficult to just sit in a chair and put a smile on because of my head pain. It’s a tough situation to handle because people with chronic illness (and no money coming out of school with lots of student loans) have few options. We could either: A) Face the pain head on (punny?) and go to the interview and do the best we can all while putting on a smile for show. B)Call and postpone the interview, hoping that on the next date scheduled, we won’t feel so crappy or C)Take a hiatus in life and stop going to interviews because it’s painful enough just moving around…but yet be stuck with no money to pay the bills.

Lately I’ve been trying my best to do A but at times have had to falter to B. It’s OK to sometimes have to call and postpone with an interviewer. I struggled at first agreeing with that fact, but it’s life–things happen. For the most part, people understand that migraines are debilitating. And I tell them it’s a migraine because I don’t want them to have to listen to my 10 minute monologue on the background and nature of my life with chronic pain.

That’s one thing that I’m having trouble with facing being an entry-level candidate. Do employers need to know about my chronic pain beforehand, or even at all? Do I need to explain to them that while some days I feel pretty OK and will be able to go through the workday just fine, but some days I feel like someone is squeezing my brain to the point where I think it might actually defy all logic and burst from within my skull? How do employers see this issue? Is it something that will cause them to think twice about hiring me? Are people with chronic illnesses seen as liabilities?

It’s an answer I can only find from people who have experienced it before. That’s why I’m hoping this blog helps me find a community to help me face the questions that don’t always seem to have answers.

We all hope, that one day we can go to work and feel pain-free like the co-workers around us. We hope that we won’t have to take sick days for migraines when we could be using those days out on a lake or dipping our toes in the ocean water on vacation with family or friends. But we know for now, that it’s not the case. Hopefully we can find a happy medium and hopefully our employer (or future employers) can help us do that.