I live in USA and work in the software development industry. I have a frequently occurring health problem. It is quite annoying, but will not become life threatening, at least in the next 5-20 years. It does affect my quality of life, but it does not prevent me from working. It is not embarrassing to mention to anyone.

I am going to get a surgery in a few weeks from now, in a hospital which is not too far from my workplace. The surgery takes 1-2 hours, and usually the patient can leave the hospital shortly after the surgery, or in rare cases, the next day. Adverse effects can happen a few days after surgery or even 5+ years later, which are sometimes fixed by reversing the surgery. Reversal is usually a short and safe procedure.

We have sick time & vacation time and I will be taking 2 days of sick time in advance for this surgery. I want to know if I should inform my team about my surgery and how much details I should give them. My questions are:

1 - Should I simply request for two days holiday, without telling them the real reason for requesting the holiday ?

2 - Should I tell them that I have a surgery ? If yes, then should I mention the name of the procedure and why I am having it ?

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    yes you should; i got lots of candy from co-workers after my appendectomy. – dandavis Jan 17 '18 at 21:20
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    This seems very dependant on your relationship with your team. I don't think there's a real generic answer. – Erik Jan 17 '18 at 21:22
  • @Erik - I hope that information about the surgery will not be used against me. It seems unlikely, but I have no way to be sure. – HundredNeedles Jan 17 '18 at 21:25
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    @HundredNeedles if that's your primary reason for asking, definitely don't tell anyone. – Erik Jan 17 '18 at 21:26
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    Different situation, but similar answers: Is it appropriate to tell my coworker my mom passed away? – David K Jan 18 '18 at 14:27

What you tell your manager when requesting the leave and what you tell your team about your absence are two different things.

If there's a chance your manager won't approve the leave if you just say "hey, I'd like next Wednesday and Thursday off", or if your company separates sick leave and vacation time, then you should tell him you have scheduled minor outpatient surgery. That tells him that the timing isn't discretionary, and also lets you use your sick leave instead of your vacation days. In the US your manager is unlikely to pry into the details of medical issues for fear of crossing an HR "don't ask about" line or just creating an awkward situation. He might say something like "I hope everything's ok", which you can answer noncommitally or with more information, depending on how close you are.

You don't have to tell your teammates anything. If somebody asks about your vacation plans, you can say anything from "nothing special" to "actually it's a small medical thing" to the details, depending on your relationship with the person and the norms of your team. In my experience, coworkers don't expect to know about these details.

If you're close to the people involved, and you think they would want to know, and you're willing to share, then you can share (it's not wrong to do so). I've had a few coworkers who were going through cancer treatments, and their letting us know allowed us to help them. These are people who welcomed the support and didn't consider sharing to be a privacy violation. I had one coworker who was out for several weeks and then came back on a limited schedule initially, and the director assured the team that things were under control and asked us not to pry. The team respected that.

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    And it can depend on corporate processes and benefits as well. I just had one of my staff inform me of an upcoming operation. Where I work that means any of their days off are medical, not vacation. Further, they return through our medical folks who can limit the work hours or duties of the employee based on written information from the doctor (if limited in hours, the remainder are paid as medical leave at full rate). The medical staff has the final determination on this, not me. If the employee doesn't want it broadcast, I certainly would not do so. – Jon Custer Jan 17 '18 at 22:38
  • @JonCuster - Thanks for adding that. The procedure does not limit ability to work, as long as there are no extremely adverse conditions, which happen to be rare. So, I'd imagine that there would be no need to limit my hours of work. But, I'll check with HR. – HundredNeedles Jan 17 '18 at 23:46
  • I keep information like to my manager. If it's a personal matter, I will keep the details short enough to keep them in the loop, but make it clear, what I have told them is personal. If I don't care, I let the people around me at work know about whats happening, it depends on what is happening. I once had to tell my manager that I was having surgery 2 days in the future, and would be out for 2 weeks because that's when I was scheduled for surgery. Sometimes your health is more important, and your boss understands because they have done the same thing in their work career. – Donald Jan 19 '18 at 15:31
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    This might not apply to you, but if for some reason you need to extend your sick leave, this will be easier than extending a vacation on short notice. (For example, I had a dental surgery a while ago, which required a few days of extra recovery time. Since I had mentioned this possibility beforehand, this came as no surprise to HR.) – Llewellyn Jan 19 '18 at 18:42

You definitely need to tell your manager you need a medical operation so you can get it approved as medical leave. You do not need to provide any more details than that if you do not want to discuss it. You indicated in comments that your company gives sick time separate from your regular paid time off. This is exactly the kind of thing that benefit is for; there is no need for you to burn your vacation time for medical leave. But your boss needs to know that it is for medical leave. This also prepares them in case there is a complication that requires you to need more time (it happens).

It would also be a good courtesy to let anyone else who relies on you at work know that you will be out and not reachable. Again, you do not need to provide any details as to why. It isn't any of their business. If they ask, you can just say that it is personal and you don't want to talk about it. Most people will respect how personal a medical need can be and won't pry.

Lastly, give yourself plenty of time to recover. Do not underestimate how much even a "minor" medical procedure can take you out. I once had a "minor" hernia repair surgery where they sent me home the same day. Going in I thought I would only need a couple days before I could return to my desk job. It took me out for a full week, and I needed that time. Don't feel bad about taking time off to give yourself time to heal. Your health is too important.

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  • Thanks. If you don't mind, which type of hernia was it ? – HundredNeedles Jan 19 '18 at 17:59
  • I don't remember the term for it, but it was a very common type for men with a routine operation to fix. Still hurt more than I was expecting. – Seth R Jan 20 '18 at 4:33

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