I am a new hire at a software company in North America. I recently noticed that my direct manager coughs up a lot and keep coughing for 1-2 minutes straight.

When I inquired couple of colleagues , they also seemed worried but don't know what to do. They informed me that he has this condition for more than 4 years and they don't know about the exact disease.

I sit in close proximity to him and am very worried that his disease might a contagious one. The company is a small company with about 50 employees and we don't have a formal HR department.

What can I do in this situation ?

  • 3
    If he's had it for more than 4 years and it was contagious, someone would've noticed. That said, asking are you contagious or should I call the zombie squad with a jesty-looking smile might do the trick.
    – rath
    Nov 13, 2015 at 22:56
  • 8
    Communicable diseases do not last for 4 years. And since you don't mention that any of the other employees have come down with the same illness over the past 4 years, it seems incredibly unlikely that you have anything to be concerned about. Nov 13, 2015 at 22:57
  • Please realize there are many things that could cause this that aren't contagious, and are not actually classified as diseases. We have a new person in our area with terrible full-blown, actually documented and under doctor's care rag-weed allergy. This time of the year it is absolutely horrible to be him. Anyone else coming in to our area for the first time would be tempted to tell him to go home because he "obviously has the flu."
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 14, 2015 at 17:16
  • A long term, persistent cough is likely to be a disease like sarcoidosis or lung cancer, neither of which is contagious. There is a chance he has not seen a doctor about it, so you could says something like "I hope you've seen a doctor about that cough" depending upon how close you are.
    – dave
    Nov 15, 2015 at 22:18

2 Answers 2


The cough could be caused by a number of non-contagious conditions, such as acid reflux. If you are concerned, you could simply say:

"Hey, I've noticed your cough and I'm concerned about you. Are you OK?"

This may prompt an explanation. There's nothing wrong with a tactful inquiry in a case like this. You aren't violating anyone's privacy by expressing concern, and he or she should pick up on the likely reason for your inquiry and provide your answer. If not, it wouldn't be out of bounds to ask if the condition is contagious. But as others stated in the comments, it's doubtful that a contagious condition would last this long (note: I am not a doctor)...


What can I do in this situation ?

Just ask him whats wrong, no need to beat about the bush. I doubt it's contagious, but you never know I guess.

If it is contagious, then you could refuse to work near him/her and take it to the boss, or you could quit.

  • 1
    You say he's been doing it for several years. If he hasn't dropped dead or caused people around him to cough as well, it's most likely either allergies. Or it could be a reaction to a blood pressure medication, which can create a chronic cough in 20% of the people that take it (name of med escapes me, but it had this effect on me.)
    – LexieLou
    Nov 15, 2015 at 21:59

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