Anxiety problem: How to tell your boss?

Are you unsure about telling your boss you have anxiety?

So you have bagged yourself a new job and have gotten over the heart-pounding nervousness of your first day. Check you out! But how do you tell your boss that you have anxiety, without them treating you differently, or thinking you cannot handle your job?

Telling your boss about your anxiety is a completely personal decision. For a few people, it’s not an option they consider – but have a look at the below points to see whether sharing is caring. 🙂

1.Anxiety: To Tell or Not To Tell

Barbara Markway says that when she is with patients, they’ll often question whether or not they should tell people about their anxiety.

First of all, consider your relationship with the person you might want to confide in. Do you have a close relationship? Is it generally supportive? How has this person reacted when you’ve shared other things about yourself? Has this person shared personal things about him or herself? Do you think sharing this information will have a positive effect on your relationship?

If you genuinely feel that your boss is not the right person to confide in, consider the wider working community. Could you chat to a member of the HR team?

Don’t let your boss’s personality stop you from telling someone at work, especially as this could cause serious damage to your improvement – e.g. if you cannot go to Cognitive Behavior Therapy because you do not want to ask for the time off work. It’s hugely important that you tell someone who can fill in the relevant people.

2. OK so you’ve decided to tell someone about your anxiety. What now?

Schedule in a meeting with your manager or HR representative. Depending on how you feel, I’d suggest biting the bullet and arranging it sooner rather than later.

It also means that in a busy working environment often meetings can get postponed or changed, so scheduling it earlier rather than later is much better.

3. Write down what you want to say.

My Dad has engrained the 6’P’s into my mind since I was old enough to understand even the rudey bit: Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

And those little P’s are so true – consider your anxiety meeting to be like a presentation. If you don’t organise your thoughts beforehand, you may forget something that’s really important.

Write down what you want to say before your meeting and have a practice in front of the mirror. Here’s a few examples:

i) Tell them that you have anxiety and how you are treating it.

ii) How you are going to/have taken measures to reduce its impact on your work.

iii) Make it clear that you are telling them to be honest and transparent about you illness – and this should be praised.

iv) How it may affect your schedule/working life – e.g. CBT sessions, therapy, resistance to group activity, resistance to presentations…

v) Keep going back to how it’s a positive thing you’re telling them – it means you’re in this job for the long run, that you trust that they will respect you in your role.

4) Anxiety and Mental illness – know your rights in the workplace.

Here’s the big’un. You have the right not to be discriminated against for your anxiety.

Time to Change details the law here:

The Equality Act protects people from discrimination. It brings together the law that was found in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), the Race Relations Act, and the Sex Discrimination Act.

It protects people from being discriminated against because of certain characteristics, such as gender, age or disability. You might not think of yourself as disabled, but if your mental health condition has a serious impact on your day-to-day life over a long period then it might be considered a disability under this law.

5) Do what’s right for you.

If you’re still uncertain, write down the positives and negatives. Every situation is different, I totally get that.

Just remember, that the law is there to protect you against discrimination. Did you know that stress alone counts for 13.3 MILLION days off work per year? If you can reduce your risk of stress and strain by telling someone about your illness, that’s gotta be a good thing….right?

Let me know what you think 🙂

HH xo

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  1. Belinda O says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I think the more we discuss these topics, the easier it will be for people to manage their mental health issues. Some of the mentally healthiest people out there are those who have been diagnosed with one disorder or the other — because they’ve learned how to deal with it,

  2. This is something I have been wondering about for a long time. I have never told an employer that I had anxiety, but then that made it worse because the symptoms would inevitably come out. I couldn’t take criticism in person, and there were days when I was afraid to leave the house. And people wouldn’t know why I was being defensive, or why I wasn’t there. The ideal would be to not tell, and then have no symptoms that affect your work. But that’s just not realistic. Sooner rather than later is very important, because there are some people in the workplace who lie about things, unfortunately, and make things harder for those people who have legitimate medical conditions. I am thankful that you addressed this, because it’s difficult to find good resources on anxiety when most people have merely heard of it and have no idea what it entails, and because in my experience therapists and psychiatrists act impersonal and don’t always give a straight answer.

    1. hannahadkins says:

      Thank you for you comment, particularly on such a personal topic. It’s so important to treat mental health like the physical – and therefore enable people to keep getting better! I wish you all the best HHxo

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