Recently, one of my employees booked a meeting with myself and the office manager (HR) to discuss details about a disability that may affect his work performance. He brought a note from his doctor which stated that he is "undergoing suicidal ideation for [an extended period of time], but does not pose any risk to others". He also stated that he is currently seeking further diagnosis and treatment for his condition.

We're a fairly small team and he has been one of the most senior team members. He has excellent technical skills and has not had any problems getting along with other members of the team, and as far as I know he seems satisfied with his position. The information he brought up was actually quite shocking to me. Even though we account for bus factor, losing him either due to quitting or his medical issues would be hard on the team.

Our meeting was abruptly cut short by an incident, and since it was the end of the day, mostly everyone left by the time it was over.

I did not get a chance to ask about accommodations, and he seemed quite uncomfortable bringing up the issue in the first place. Also since he is under going treatment (which requires travelling out of the city, as there are few doctors here for mental health), it might be a while before he fully understands his situation.

At this time, all I can think of doing is to perhaps allow more flexibility in his schedule to accommodate for possible doctors appointments.

What is the best way to deal with this situation? I have briefly discussed with the HR person but she wasn't too sure about how to go about this either.

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    If Canada has something like short term disability or medical leave, you could check to see if mental health is covered and offer that as an option. Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 18:04
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    Our meeting was abruptly cut short by an incident - Did you reschedule the meeting to continue the discussion that was cut short? You said he "seemed uncomfortable" bringing it up, but he did book a meeting with you over it.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 19:50

1 Answer 1


Most importantly, make sure that your team member knows that his having to deal with mental illness changes nothing for you and for his employment. It is really important that he feels he is safe and accepted. Coming to talk to you about this would have been very, very difficult.

You also need to be very aware of not disclosing his condition to anyone without his permission, unless absolutely necessary. He does not need to become the topic of watercooler talk. Obviously HR and relevant management need to be informed.

While you need to allow him to deal with doctors and treatment, he will appreciate otherwise being treated just like anyone else. He isn't after pity, just understanding. Give him an appropriate workload, the latitude to deal with his treatment and otherwise just let him do his job :)

Lastly, if you want to know what he needs - ask him! He will no doubt be able to tell you what accommodations you need to make. Don't guess if you don't have policies in place already. Remember, he knows how he feels and what you can do to make things as easy as possible for everyone.

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    The only other thing I can think of woudl be to try to build a littel extra tuime into any project work estimates while he gets this undercontrol. He is likely working slower than his normal pace.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 18:12
  • Excellent answer. Only, I would discuss with your employee if he wants to disclose his condition to his colleagues. I would prefer bringing my colleagues a difficult message above having to keep a secret. Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 20:49

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