I need to put something in my calendar so people don't schedule me into meetings during a time when I'm out for medical reasons.

However...I don't know what to call it, or how to respond to people asking me why I have to leave. I'd use the "my kids need to be picked up" excuse, but they know I don't have kids. I'd put doctors appointment, but our calendars are public and I don't want to make an obvious lie. I also know I don't have to tell anyone, but saying "none of your business" or "it's too embarrassing to say" doesn't seem appropriate.

What's the protocol here?


7 Answers 7


However, I need to put it in my calendar so people don't schedule me into meetings at that time.

However...I don't know what to call it, or how to respond to people asking me why I have to leave.

In the calendar I'd just label the time as "Out of Office".

If people asked, and I felt compelled to answer at all, I'd just use the vague term "I have some things I need to take care of" or "Family issues" and leave it at that.

  • 41
    +1 because "Out of Office" looks better as a recurring event on a public calendar than most alternatives. A medical-related label would likely pique somebody's curiosity, which could lead to uncomfortable questions. But a generic Out of Office could be anything and any vague answer should suffice if anyone inquires.
    – aleppke
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 23:42
  • 91
    Very good answer, except for the family issues. I'd rather suggest "I have a private appointment" or "I have a scheduling conflict". It gives people less ways to follow up ("Familiy issues" => "Oh, is everything ok at home, is someone ill in your family?"), especially if its recurring.
    – Polygnome
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 23:53
  • 9
    @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ The question is about the public calender and co-workers, and doesn#t even mention the boss. But telling the boss that it is a recurring doctors appointmenr should be enough. In most jurisictions, medial matters are private and none of the business of the boss.
    – Polygnome
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 9:22
  • 3
    This is how I handle it. HR and my boss both know I have appointments (knowing just what they need to know), and I put Out Of Office on my calendar. Nobody has ever asked about it. I doubt anyone has looked at my calendar enough to realise I have an appointment at the same time every week.
    – LangeHaare
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 10:27
  • 2
    @LangeHaare I agree. I'm pretty sure I've never gone to someone's calendar and said "They're out again this week? I must pry!". Out of Office is definitely appropriate, and the way to go if you're not all that close to your coworkers.
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 14:13

Simply call it a private appointment - people have those all the time.

  • "Personal appointment" is along the same lines: true but sufficiently vague to not invite further questions.
    – BradC
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 18:52
  • 17
    I almost always say I have an "appointment". No need to add detail. You're not available, brevity is fine here.
    – Anthony
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 19:16

All you need to put into the calendar is that you will be off at these times. Beyond that, it's nobody's business.

If anyone asks you say:

"I have a scheduling conflict."


"I have some personal business that I need to attend to."

Leave it at that.

  • 13
    Scheduling conflict sounds off to me for a regularly recurring thing. I'd definitely go with the personal business answer instead.
    – Myles
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 20:14
  • Plus then if people question what that means, you can say that it's personal, and none of their business.
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 0:30
  • 2
    I would use "personal matter" rather than "personal business", because of the connotations of "business" -- jobs, money etc. It's a minor thing but I wouldn't want to unwittingly give the impression it's freelance work on the side or somethign like that.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 9:11
  • 1
    @Myles I guess it depends on the workplace, but I often need to schedule meetings with people, where they're not aware of what else I have on (& vice versa). If they say "can you do Tuesdays at 10am?", I'll often just say something like "Sorry, I've a conflict at that time. What about Wednesdays?", rather that get into the ins & outs of what I'm doing on Tues 10am — not because it's sensitive, just because I know they won't care or its not relevant. Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 20:45

I have had similar issues, and have always just labelled the callendar slot: "Medical Appointment".

This is vague enough not to be a lie but also makes it clear it's a medical issue which should dissuade people from prying much.

  • 9
    I'd say it's not even remotely a lie. Mental health, by definition falls under medical Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 7:27
  • 9
    I would not recommend this. Having a recurrent "Medical Appointment" in your agenda might raise questions from your colleagues. "Private appointment" should be sufficient. Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 8:02
  • 3
    Why not? It's completely normal to require physiotherapy twice a week (for example) Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 14:44
  • 1
    @jeroen_de_schutter Do you mean explicit questions put to you that you've have to answer? Surely just saying "I don't want to get into it" would put a stop to any further discussion. Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 20:47
  • 2
    @jeroen_de_schutter: Can you clarify why you think "medical appointment" will raise more questions than "private appointment"? To me medical appointment is more sacrosanct than "private appointment". The former are things necessary to your health and well being. The latter could cover anything from medical appointments down to "I'm going swimming" or something entirely frivolous and unnecessary. I'd be more inclined to wonder why people are leaving work early with no apparent good reason...
    – Chris
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 9:34

As someone with mental health issues I had this. I told them 'I suffer from depression and I'm going to my classes to help cope with it'

That said, there's no reason why they need to know, you can just say "I'm going to a medical thing" and leave it at that.

The interesting part was, upon telling people this, others opened up to me about their issues. To be honest most of the time I don't care what other issues people are dealing with, but it was good to hear that others 'understood' that sometimes I would have off days and such.

  • 4
    I'm glad you had a positive result but I would not recommend this. I've known several people who were let go shortly after their boss found out they were struggling with depression. Officially of course their condition had nothing to do with their being let go ... but it's happened too often for me to think it was just coincidence. And that type of discrimination seems to be fairly difficult to prove.
    – David
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 11:54
  • @David that sucks, and I would sue the hell outta anyone who tried that with me. But would you want to work somewhere so unsupportive anyway? Also, either way your boss is going to question you having weekly sessions of any type if it's that kind of place. -- After all, it's that kind of place that lets people go for no reason, including definitively not because they had some medical thing they had to go to for 6 weeks. Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 8:40
  • 1
    @djsmiley2k You could take legal action but based on the situations I'm familiar with, this type of discrimination seems to be difficult to prove. And while long term I might want a position in an organization with a more supportive culture ... in the short term I might need the paycheck.
    – David
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 11:28
  • @David that depends if you work in the US where you have to prove the discrimination, or Germany/EU where THEY have to proof that the reason they gave for firing you is valid and good enough.
    – kat0r
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 13:19
  • @kat0r I never said discrimination was a danger everywhere. I said I knew people who I believe were victims of discrimination -- i.e. that this strategy is not safe everywhere / in some places it might be risky.
    – David
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 20:45

Your options are, in descending order of honesty:

  • The truth (e.g. mental health appointment)
  • A variant of the truth (e.g. medical appointment, coachgin)
  • Refuse to say (e.g. private appointment)
  • Believable lie (depends on your situation)
  • Obvious lie (e.g. have to take my tortoise for a walk)
  • Shaggy Dog Story (e.g. part-time astronaut training)

Depending on how comfortable you are with talking about it (or talking in general). I would not recommend trying a believable lie - you'll get caught out eventually. But if you don't want to tell people, making up a blatantly obvious falsehood is a good way around it. A private appointment might be asked about, but your colleagues are likely too polite to outright accuse you of lying, so saying something obviously false is a good way to indicate "don't ask" without being too explicit.

If every time they ask you tell a different story, they'll quickly get the point that you don't want to say, and for some reason telling tall tales seems to spark less speculation than trying to hide. See also: Refuge in Audacity.


So, enough answers already and an accepted one, which looks good, but I'll present a different spin:

Say you have hired a mental coach and you are getting coaching - and that he/she is really helping you become more focused and driven, and mgmt has accepted you take unpaid leave for it. It is basically true, and it sounds much better, and if it was me, I'd be more positive about "seeing my coach" as opposed to "having therapy" just for my own feeling about the situation.

Even psychologists are unsure about what the difference between coaching and therapy is...

  • Can you share experience about how this is received?
    – user42272
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 21:24
  • Also it's not basically true, it's blatantly false.
    – user42272
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 21:25
  • @djechlin Read the link, there is no way of distinguishing a mental coach from a therapist. This makes it basically true.
    – Stian
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 7:19
  • How it is recieved, a manager I worked with had his own mental coach and not only did he have sessions monthly with him - he has also had him "shadow" him for entire days. Imagine bringing your therapist to work, tell people your therapist is here to observe you the entire day, they'll think you are bat sh*t crazy. Mental coach? No problem.
    – Stian
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 7:21
  • 1
    Sounds like a term which was invented as a marketing gimmick by a therapist who couldn't find enough work otherwise. (And I can't think of a case where I'd use "Basically true" and "Could work in an ad" to describe the same thing. ;-)
    – employee-X
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 18:13

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