"What I Wish I Could Tell My Boss"

Is there something you really wish you could tell your boss right now, but instead you're holding it in? Well, you are not alone. Navigating the employee-employer relationship can be tricky. It isn’t as easy as speaking what’s on your mind without filtering. The fear of reprimand for saying the wrong thing is real. So, we all bite our tongue instead of saying what we need to say, and a lot gets swept under the rug.

What would you tell your boss if it was to remain completely anonymous?

The “What I wish I could tell my boss” series uncovers some of the all-too relatable challenges of the workforce. Titles vary in subject matter and intensity from “I’m terribly envious of you” to “You’re immoral, I won’t follow your lead”.

The most striking feature about this series when taken as a whole is how many of these articles relate to mental health:

“Telling you about my mental health was a big mistake”
“When I told you I was depressed, you fired me”
“My anxiety isn’t a weakness”

The theme running through these articles is easy to spot: people are afraid of telling their bosses about their mental health. We’ve pointed out before in a previous post “nearly 4 in 10 workers wouldn’t tell their manager if they had a mental health problem” (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2015). Employees are afraid of losing their jobs, or negatively affecting the relationship with their boss if they were to disclose. It’s unfortunate to read that people have to conceal something like a mental illness, where sharing about it is the surest way of getting help.

Be a Workplace Mental Health Hero

As employers or co-workers we can all have a part in lessening the fear of disclosure of a mental illness in so many ways:

  • Be proactive: ask your employees and co-workers how they are doing before it gets very stressful, don’t wait until the “busy season” arrives at work. Check-in with them often.

  • Acquire mental health knowledge as a company: it’s hard to talk about something when you can’t be sure that people will understand. If the whole company or unit engages in learning/seminars about mental wellness in the workplace this can minimize the surprise/fear around having mental health conversations, and prepares everyone to respond in a helpful manner if someone does want to share.

  • Don’t accidentally feed the stigma: It’s easy to say things that are offensive to someone who is going though a mental health problem, without even knowing that you are doing it. Ever heard someone call the weather “bipolar” or declare that they are “so depressed” because the coffee shop ran out of lactose-free milk? I have, and it’s a bit cringe-worthy but is usually not coming from a bad place, but rather from bad habit! Check out our post on tips for avoiding these unnecessary language blunders.

Is there something you wish you could tell your boss? What are the pros and cons of disclosing a mental health problem at work? What can workplaces do to make disclosing a mental illness less scary? Let us know in the comments below!


Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2015). Would you tell your manager you had a mental health problem? Retrieved from http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/news_releases_media_advisories_and_backgrounders/current_year/Pages/Would-you-tell-your-manager-you-had-a-mental-health-problem.aspx

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