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I've struggled with anxiety on and off for about ten years.
It can sometimes manifest itself in unexpected ways, and can lead me to develop bizarre fears or behaviours - such as being unable to answer the phone, or random bouts of dyslexia when under pressure.

I have just started a new job at a well known software company, which I am very lucky to have, given my age.
I (obviously) intend to resolve these personal issues soon, and have started the process of seeking help, but in the time being I am left in an awkward position.

It is clear that the best way forward is honesty with an employer, who can hopefully work with me to reduce the effects in the workplace. My new colleagues and managers are extremely good people, and I have no doubt that this is what they would do. However, given that I have only recently started this job, I feel I havent had enough time to make an impression yet, and I do not want this to be their lasting impression of me.

The main issue here is, I would hate for them to start thinking of me as 'More trouble than I'm worth', or start to regret their decision in appointing me.

Note: These concerns were not raised at interview as, like I previously said, they come and go, and at the time they were not affecting me. But since joining the company they have hit me harder than expected, and I feel obliged to confide in them that they have already started to affect (if not my work) my confidence in the workplace.

What is the best way to approach a new boss about my health concerns, and when is it appropriate to bring such issues up at a new job?

  • 4
    Welcome to The Workplace! How obvious is the problem to others? If you were to say nothing, how quickly and how spectacularly would the problem arise? (I'm not asking this as a lead-up to "don't say anything"; you've clearly indicated you want to say something. I'm just trying to get a sense of the magnitude of the problem, as it might affect how you do this.) Please answer by editing your question, not by leaving a followup comment -- comments are meant to be temporary. Thanks! – Monica Cellio May 12 '15 at 16:13
  • Have you taken this to your doctor? If not then there's some benefit in doing that - and getting a firm diagnosis if possible - before you talk to your employer about it. Also of course, if treatment is effective then the condition will have less impact on your work! (and as a side-benefit you'll probably be happier). – A E May 13 '15 at 16:55
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If and when these issues start impacting your ability to do your job, you need to talk to the company. However, you should have this discussion with HR, not your boss. They will(should) be versed in the policies and laws that apply in your jurisdiction. They can then work with your boss, as appropriate, to handle the situation.

The company may not have a right to know your personal medical details, however, they do have a right to know that something is affecting your ability to do the job you were hired for. If you expect them to take the existence of health concerns into account when evaluating your job performance, you need to share that with someone and that is part of what HR departments are for.

I don't know about UK law (assuming based on your profile), but in the US, reasonable accommodations are required for many situations like this. But no accommodations are possible if you don't at least share some information.

  • Concise and interesting advice, many thanks! I'll investigate my new company's HR. – piggy May 12 '15 at 21:47
  • This is what HR are there for and they are pleased if you come to them with something they have been trained to deal with. – RedSonja May 13 '15 at 7:10
  • HR should be more knowledgable on the rules and regulations, but they will go straight to your manager to discuss what you have raised with them. If you want to keep things under wraps for now, it's best to stick with discussing it with people not connected to your current company. – Eric May 17 '15 at 1:18
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I wouldn't say anything.

Your health issues are none of the company's concern. Having anxiety at the start of a new job is pretty normal in my experience, and you aren't going to be super productive at the start of a new job. Most companies accept that when they hire young developers.

You said that you are already seeking help, so be patient and just work as well as you can. I think that if you told them about your health concerns, it would create a problem that isn't there IMO.

Keep in mind that the reason companies provide health insurance is for this exact reason. Companies need healthy employees in order to get a better ROI. You are doing exactly what you are supposed to.

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    While the details of your health issues are none of the company's concerns, if you have health issues that affect your ability to do your job, then that is a valid concern for the company. This is something that should be taken up with the HR dept. They should have policies and procedures around helping you through this. In the US, and some other jurisdictions, reasonable accommodations are required in many cases, but that can't happen if you don't tell them and work with them. – cdkMoose May 12 '15 at 15:17
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    I'm not sure I entirely agree with this answer. Things like GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) can be debilitating. If you are officially diagnosed, I think you should follow the advice given for any other disability, that is generally disclose on a need-to-know basis only. If you are not, it may help to inquire if you should get an official diagnosis. – Kai May 12 '15 at 15:24
2

This is what has worked for me for more than 30 years now. First, since your disorder seems to go in waves, make the best impression you can during the times it is impacting you the least. People are much more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to their best employees.

Decide now what accomodations you might need. You don't want to wait until you're seriously affected and have the added stress of trying to figure out what to ask for. Discuss this with your medical professional.

Next, if you see that you are starting to spiral down and it is affecting work, go talk to your boss (or HR or both depending on who you think wuil be most able to understand the issue). A good boss will make some accomodations for you without involving HR. More serious accomodations may need HR approval.

If you have done step one, you boss wants to help you becasue he doesn't want to lose you. That will help with HR.

Of course there are some bosses, that it is best not to discuss these things with, some people are very rigid in their thinking and don't think it can be a disability unless they physically see something broken like a broken leg. It is best to avoid bring it up to your boss until you have worked there long enough that you have feel for his personality.

It is important to talk to your boss/HR before they call you in for a chat about your performance.

Go into that discussion with a plan for what accomodation you need, what you details you are going to tell them about your medical history (and what you are not; you don't need to tell them everything, but it is easier to get more specific accomodations if you are more specific) and what you are doing to reduce the need for accomodation if it applies (and it probably does in your case - for instance you might say you are working to get a medication for this but the meds can take a month or more to kick in and you may have to try multiple meds to get the one that works.).

If you have a medical note from your doctor or therapist, bring it to the meeting. You may need to discuss it with the therapist first and he or she will likely suggest ways to make this a more successful request.

2

when is it appropriate to bring such issues up at a new job?

It's appropriate to bring up these issues whenever they look like they will get in the way of you successfully completing your assigned tasks. That appears to be now.

It's unfortunate that you chose not to discuss an issue you've been struggling with for 10 years during your interview process. But that's done and you must live with that decision and move on.

Be ready to explain why you didn't bring it up before, explain they symptoms you have experienced in the past and now, explain the kind of professional help you are getting, and explain what you need from your manager and your company. Be willing to work hard to come to a solution that works for both sides.

1

I do not think we can give you a meaningful answer here. What you should do really depends on how frequently your condition has an impact on your performance, what exactly your duties are (is it actually a problem when you cannot answer the phone?), and so forth.

However, you write that you have already started the process of seeking help. I assume this means you are seeing a psychologist or therapist (which is good all by itself!). You will not be the first client this therapist has with a similar question, and you will likely go into deep details with your therapist about everything related to your job that you cannot and should not discuss with us here. Conversely, your therapist should have a lot of experience about disclosing information like this with employers, and ideally would even know a bit about applicable workplace law, or could direct you to someplace you could get competent legal advice.

So my advice would be to discuss this question with your therapist. Good luck!

  • Another thing that I think you should consider strongly when making the decision to tell or not tell, is: How will it affect you? Will you feel more at ease once it's out in the open (which might reduce the problem)? Or will you feel like you're under a spotlight? – mhwombat May 16 '15 at 18:31
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First, seek to make your own accommodations for your condition. If you can't pick up the phone immediately, can you return the call two minutes later? If you are having a bout of dyslexia, can you postpone reading for a couple of minutes?

If things are still not under control, seek an accommodation for your anxiety from HR but I don't think you can ask for an accommodation without a specific idea as to the accommodation you want. And it has to be an accommodation that's feasible. Otherwise, hello unemployment.

  • 3
    I didn't write that comment by hand. I voted for deletion of the answer because of its content being utterly vague and borderline off-topic. And for the record "useless and worthless" is quite the redundancy. Don't take your anger out on me for your downvotes. – Alec May 13 '15 at 9:40

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