Should I tell my boss I am depressed?

I have had to go on medication and can't decide if I should tell anyone.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 20 May 2015

Q: I was recently diagnosed with depression and have been prescribed anti-depressants. I don't want anyone at work treating me differently but, equally, I feel I should be upfront with my boss. Is it worth mentioning or, now things are under control, should I just keep quiet?

Jeremy says: As I'm sure you know, there are millions of people on anti-depressants - the great majority of them living entirely normal lives. Mild depression is a common enough condition to have lost most of its stigma. So whether or not you confide in your boss depends more than anything else on what sort of person your boss is and what sort of relationship the two of you have.

If it's an easygoing relationship, you're likely to feel better if you mention your diagnosis - but you certainly won't want to make a big thing of it. In fact, you'd probably be well advised to present this information not as any sort of problem but as reassurance. You should tell your boss that a month or so ago you were a little concerned that life seemed to be getting you down a bit - as your boss might have noticed. So you saw your GP, who diagnosed you with mild depression and put you on anti-depressants. Since when, you're happy to report, you've been absolutely fine. And that's all you need say. I wouldn't even ask that your boss treats this information as confidential; the more unexceptional it all seems the better.

Only if you know your boss to be the sort of person who tends to dramatise things and exaggerate their implications should you keep your news to yourself. The last thing you want to do is trigger an entirely unnecessary sense of concern. And you have absolutely no legal or moral obligation to inform your boss about any medication you may be taking.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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