I have noticed that whenever any of my colleagues takes a sick day, they send an email to the department that includes details about their illness. For example:

I woke up with a splitting headache and I need to lie down and perhaps call the doctor. So I will not be available today.

To me, this seems like a violation of personal boundaries. My employer (and especially my colleagues) have no need to know any details about my illness. My emails look like this:

I need to take a sick day today. I anticipate being available tomorrow.

I believe that my only obligation is to follow the company policy on sick days (timely notification, not exceeding the limit per year, etc.) Am I wrong here?

  • 2
    @JoeStrazzere - it might be if people don't want to hear about those things. Personal boundaries aren't just what you want to share, they also involve what you want shared with you. Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 3:46
  • 4
    Heard about an employer requesting detail where the employee replied to all parties with so much detail they were horrified and changed the policy...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 6:12
  • You’re not wrong. Some coworkers might choose to share their plans for the weekend. Others prefer to keep it to themselves. Same thing here. Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 6:25
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    Also, consider the fact that the overshare was due to potential concerns around people mistakenly believing it was COVID-related. A headache is not one of the common symptoms. Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 10:32
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    Never, ever, ever do this. If your colleagues at this particular company sometimes do it, they are completely silly. Ignore them.
    – Fattie
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 13:09

4 Answers 4


Am I wrong here?


You may need to provide more details to your manager, depending on applicable laws, but you certainly don't need to give those details to your co-workers.


Generally, you don't need to provide any information about the causes of your sick leave.

One big exception: You have an obligation to inform your employer if you have a highly contagious disease(like Covid-19), at least where I live.


I would never send an email to the department. I contact the line manager, and say something like: "I'm ill with x and can't make it in today."

I do mention a reason, but I don't go into any detail. I don't want the entire department knowing my detailed symptoms. It's not their business.

The line manager then has the responsibility to communicate with colleagues, and the only thing they should be told is that I'm ill and wont be in.

If company policy required me emailing the department, then I would like you, keep details to a minimum.

Whether or not you need to provide details to your employer is a different question.


No, you aren’t wrong, but your colleagues aren’t wrong either. How much to share is your personal choice, which will depend both on what is happening and your relationship with your colleagues. You don’t need to share more, they don’t need to share less.

A general sense of what is going on, isn’t Too Much Information (headache, vomiting, cough, etc), pictures of your vomit in the bed or around the toilet would be. Routine Colorectal Cancer examine is TMI, routine doctors examine isn’t.

Basically you want to provide a sense of when you’ll be back to work, how you do that without going into details that you don’t want to share or they don’t want to hear, is up to you.

  • Personally for me, any details beyond the word "sick" or "ill" or "not feeling well" or "doctor appointment" are TMI.... especially vomiting ???!!! Basically any reference to a body part is TMI. I did not go into health care for a reason. I kind of feel that my having to read these types of emails from colleagues is a tiny violation of my boundaries!
    – JoelFan
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 18:16
  • I think I was pretty clear that just saying "doctor appointment" was ok with me
    – JoelFan
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 0:18
  • @JoelFan: sorry, tried to edit and messed it up. Deleted it.
    – jmoreno
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 2:29

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