Whom Should I Tell? - National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Skip to navigation Skip to content

Whom Should I Tell?

Share

In this article

Overview

If, after carefully considering the pros and cons of disclosing your MS at work, you decide to proceed with disclosure, the next step is to decide whom to tell. There are important issues to consider when making this choice.

Boss

Possible reasons to disclose to your boss now

  • You’ve been at your job more than a year.
  • You and your boss have a good working relationship.
  • Your performance reviews have been positive.
  • Your boss has a history of supporting others with special needs.
  • Your boss will be supportive and help you obtain accommodations if and when you need them.
  • Your boss is discrete and unlikely to gossip about you.
  • You will be relieved of the stress related to keeping a secret.

Possible reasons to delay disclosing to your boss

  • You are new to your job.
  • Your performance reviews have been inconsistent or poor.
  • You don’t know if your boss will keep the information private; he or she isn’t legally required to do so.
  • Your boss is not known for his or her support of people with special needs.
  • Your boss may worry that you will hurt the company's productivity.
  • Your boss may view you as less competent because you have MS.
  • Your boss may become overly protective or hesitate to promote you.

Human Resources

Many people consider the Human Resources (HR) manager at their workplace to be the first point of contact for all employment-related issues. However, deciding when to disclose to your HR manager may depend on several factors. 

Possible reasons to disclose to your HR manager now

  • You need to request an accommodation, some type of work modification, or time off because of your MS.
  • HR managers are trained in the specifics of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and can help you seek accommodations.
  • HR managers are trained to assist people with disclosure issues.
  • HR managers are required by the ADA to keep all medical information confidential. 

Possible reasons to delay disclosing to your HR manager

  • You don’t need to make any special requests at this time.
  • You have heard that your HR department isn’t all that knowledgeable about the ADA or supportive of people with special needs.

Co-workers

Because co-workers may also be close friends with whom you share information about your personal life, you may want to talk to them about your MS. However, there are several important issues to consider first.

Possible reasons to disclose to co-workers now

  • You will have the opportunity to educate them about MS and the symptoms you’re experiencing.
  • You will have the opportunity to get their support.
  • You will be relieved of the stress of keeping a secret and trying to hide how you feel.
  • You will feel more comfortable on the job and less isolated.
  • You will feel more able to ask for some help if and when you need it.

Possible reasons to delay disclosing to co-workers

  • Some people may react negatively — e.g., pulling away from you, not knowing what to say to you, doubting your ability to do your share of the work, worrying that your MS might be contagious.
  • People who have limited knowledge of MS may make incorrect assumptions about the disease and its impact on you.
  • Co-workers are not required to keep the information confidential so you may lose control of who knows about your MS and who doesn’t.

Bottom line

Think carefully about whom you would like to tell about your MS and why. In general, your HR manager is your best resource for assistance with disclosure issues and accommodations Not everyone is equally familiar with the ADA or committed to protecting your rights in the workplace.  People don’t always respond or behave in the ways you would like them to.

Share