Murk

How did you keep it secret at work?

41 posts in this topic

I am aiming for a June VSG surgery and I am a very private person.

I would like to keep my surgery from my co-workers but I don't want to outright lie about why I'll be gone. The thing is, there are people I'd want to tell, but boy, you tell one and it gets out like wildfire. There are some very, very, critical, bold, gossipy women that I just don't want approaching me with questions so I really don't want to tell anyone. It's none of their business I know, but it sure makes it awkward when I tell them that. I may want to tell people eventually, because if I'm a success there are those who could benefit from my experience. But for now I want to keep it private.

So for those of you that kept it secret, even if it was for a few months, how did you go about it tactfully?

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I too feel the same way. I'm a very private person and I also don't want to hear " oh you're taking the easy way out", because of what I've read , this will be extremely difficult. So,  I'm looking forward to hearing from others. Btw.. I work for the same medical company that will be doing my procedure, just in a different clinic. 

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Surgery of any kind is a personal matter and people who ask are being rude. So, in my opinion telling them you'd rather not discuss your health issues at the moment is much more polite than they are being and more than they deserve. People ARE going to ask questions when you start dropping weight. I would (at least at work) start now with healthy eating habits so that it becomes obvious BEFORE you leave for your surgery that you are attempting to lose weight. When you are questioned after your surgery you can tell them that you are following a Dr ordered high protein, low carb diet and it is beginning to pay off.  It won't be a lie. Best of luck to you....my surgery is also coming up in June.

T

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Hello. I have not told anyone at work. I started drinking shakes with yogurt and veggies at work for lunch for about 6 months pre-op so the liquid diet didn't even phase them. I just said I needed to have an abdominal issue corrected. No one pushed any further. A few close friends were more concerned, but never pressed. I did tell them it wasn't life threatening but it needed taken care of. They are thrilled for me to lose the weight!

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I outright lied to people in my family and said I had hernia surgery.  Sorry not sorry.  I knew it was best for me to do that.  Maybe one day I will tell them, but for now, I'm happy with my decision (and my lie :D). I work from home, but if I worked in an office, I'd do the same- probably like KMFL up there, I would have said I had to have abdo surgery but not serious.  I am extremely private and truly believe it's no one's business unless you make it their business.  I've worked in healthcare for many years and I take confidentiality very seriously.  People call me the vault. If you tell me something in confidence, I'll die with that. I've found out the hard way that not many people are like that. They may swear up and down that they'll never tell, but they do.  My own mother is one of them.  For that reason, I only tell a very precious few.  And, like many have said here, once you tell, you can't untell.   Good luck with your decision, and congrats.  You'll be so glad you did this for yourself!

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2 minutes ago, bellamoma said:

My own mother is one of them. 

Right there with you on that one. Mother KNEW I didn't want anyone to know and finding out she told my aunt was like a knife to the heart. Sounds dramatic, but gah! Seriously!

I did the same as bella and said I had hernia surgery. I also added there were some complications and I had to be on a special diet while I healed.

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Oh, Jen! I'm so sorry about that. I know exactly what you mean by a knife in the heart.  I guess I'm "lucky" in that my mom betrayed my confidence twice and I didn't give her a third chance.  So I never told her I had VSG.  She thinks I had hernia surgery.  She wouldn't have known at all, but the day I had my operation, my grandma became very ill and everyone was rushing to the hospital because they thought she was going to pass away that day.  So she was frantically trying to get in touch with me.  So I had to come clean, but not totally clean. That's when I said I had the hernia surgery.  

When I was in my 20s I was on Jenny Craig. I wanted NO ONE to know, but I lived at home w my parents so obvi, they knew.  Well, she blabbed to a co worker who was also on Jenny Craig, and when I went to my mom's office that co worker was all BLAH BLAH BLAH JENNY CRAIG BLAH BLAH BLAH. Omg. I was heartbroken.  

The next time was when I was pregnant with my second son.  I had many miscarriages- 9 to be exact. So I didn't want to tell anyone I was pregnant again if I was just going to miscarry.  That may sound terrible but I guess it was a coping mechanism for me.  My mom point blank asked me if I was pregnant. She caught me off guard and I said yes, but given my history, I really didn't want to announce it until I as a bit further along (at that point I was only 10 weeks).  Well.  The next family gathering, two weeks later, everyone was congratulating me.  I was so angry and hurt.  At that point I realized if I want something kept a secret, I sure nuf can't tell that lady.  nohhh way.  

I'm sorry to hijack the thread. Just wanted you to know I'm sorry this happened to you.  I know that dagger so well.  xo

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I think the best way to handle it at work is just to say you're out for a medical procedure. If they keep pushing, tell them you're a private person and don't want to share the details.

I personally decided to tell those in my department. I'm in HR so everyone would have access to my FMLA paperwork anyway and I'm kind of an open book anyway. Other than that, I haven't told anyone because no one else asked why I was out - I'm a big traveler so everyone assumed I was on vacation which was fine with me!

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I used saved up vacation time, not sick leave, and did not put in for FMLA.  My HR department is not aware that I had surgery - and I'm keeping it that way.  My HR department has a history of being overly invasive with employees in our organization regarding medical issues (myself, and other employees), and has violated the ADA and HIPAA (they store medical records in HR, so they have to comply with HIPAA, but they ignore it).  As a result, I no longer inform my employer of any medical procedures, illness, etc, and intend to continue to follow this personal policy unless I need to file an L&I claim.  I am not the only person at my work that feels this way.

I told two of my coworkers that I had surgery (my partners on my shift - we work by ourselves) a couple days after I came back and they noticed that I had lost weight in the three weeks that I was away.  (Which is funny, because I actually lost more in the months leading up to the surgery, but they hadn't seen me in three weeks, so I guess that significantly smaller drop seemed much more dramatic.)  Anyone else who has asked, I simply have said, "I've been dieting, and I've also consulted a dietician.  I'm doing high protein, low carb, little to no sugar, and have changed my eating patterns a lot.  I do many small meals throughout the day rather than a couple large meals.  I've lost X pounds since February of 2015."  (It helps that I give my weight loss since when I started losing weight pre-op, not since when I went on vacation for the surgery.  Clearly, I didn't have surgery in February of 2015, so I think giving that date as the time when I started losing weight throws them off of the idea of my vacation being connected to my weight loss.)

I don't mind my coworkers knowing, so much, but I feel VERY strongly about my HR department knowing.  Thus, my coworkers don't get to know.

Edited by Polyphemus
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19 hours ago, Polyphemus said:

I used saved up vacation time, not sick leave, and did not put in for FMLA.  My HR department is not aware that I had surgery - and I'm keeping it that way.  My HR department has a history of being overly invasive with employees in our organization regarding medical issues (myself, and other employees), and has violated the ADA and HIPAA (they store medical records in HR, so they have to comply with HIPAA, but they ignore it).  As a result, I no longer inform my employer of any medical procedures, illness, etc, and intend to continue to follow this personal policy unless I need to file an L&I claim.  I am not the only person at my work that feels this way.

I told two of my coworkers that I had surgery (my partners on my shift - we work by ourselves) a couple days after I came back and they noticed that I had lost weight in the three weeks that I was away.  (Which is funny, because I actually lost more in the months leading up to the surgery, but they hadn't seen me in three weeks, so I guess that significantly smaller drop seemed much more dramatic.)  Anyone else who has asked, I simply have said, "I've been dieting, and I've also consulted a dietician.  I'm doing high protein, low carb, little to no sugar, and have changed my eating patterns a lot.  I do many small meals throughout the day rather than a couple large meals.  I've lost X pounds since February of 2015."  (It helps that I give my weight loss since when I started losing weight pre-op, not since when I went on vacation for the surgery.  Clearly, I didn't have surgery in February of 2015, so I think giving that date as the time when I started losing weight throws them off of the idea of my vacation being connected to my weight loss.)

I don't mind my coworkers knowing, so much, but I feel VERY strongly about my HR department knowing.  Thus, my coworkers don't get to know.

So sorry to hear about your HR department. As an HR professional it makes me mad to hear these kind of stories - you should be able to trust your HR department with that kind of information.

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To a few that were bold enough to outright ask, I said hernia surgery.  To be fair, it was a decent shot I'd need a repair while they were in there doing my VSG - they ended up not needing to do it.  From that point, I have maintained that since I had to go on a pre-surgery liquid diet anyway and flushed all the bad stuff out of my system, it seemed like a good start point for a total lifestyle overhaul for food and exercise.  I haven't had anyone question it further.

We have local HR and corporate HR.  FMLA and leave, including STD, go through corporate HR.  So there isn't any chance of local "leakage".  Which is nice.  Knowing my local HR rep though, I would trust her with the information.

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I never really thought of it as a secret but more of a protection of my privacy. I'm not ashamed of having WLS it was just none of anyone's business. I told my immediate family and almost no one at work. When asked, I said I was having a routine procedure. If someone pressed me, I thanked them for their concern, assured them it was nothing life threatening, and explained that I was actually really private about medical things and would prefer not to talk about it. When people ask me how I lost my weight, I tell them that about a year and half ago I got really serious about getting healthy and made some drastic changes. I eat much less and exercise a lot more. All of that is true and none of it betrays my privacy. There have been a few times that I've chosen to share that I had WLS when I'm speaking to someone that may benefit by hearing my story.

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At time time, I lied and said gynae surgery.  BAM - no further questions asked - no one wants to know about my ladybits!  Afterwards when I couldn't eat and the weight was coming off I just told people I'd had a bug in hospital and hadn't been right since - I only had a couple more months to go working there before moving so I didn't have to have a long-term plan or anything.  In retrospect, hernia surgery would have been a better bet (and also kind of true, they pulled down a hiatus hernia when they did the op.  Didn't stay put, my whole pouch is now in my chest and is Reflux Central, but meh).  

Once I'd moved, I was off the weird-texture stage, so I could get away with saying I was eating less and moving more, and that my doctor had recommended it and it was making me feel much better, which had the benefit of being true.  

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I am fairly private as well.  I work in a school with a staff of about 80 and of those 80 I think approximately 70 are women.   Many who like to talk and may who have extremely inquiring minds.   Schools close for the summer but I have to leave early since the school year was extended following a lot of snow days.     A few coworkers keep asking me what my plans are for the summer.  I am giving sort  of sketchy responses.   I don't know, just hanging with my kid...relaxing...but I swear some people are just so nosy.    I have to share that something medical is going on since I now have to take off early.    The thing is that I cannot imagine myself questioning another coworker if they told me they were taking off, or if they said they were having a medical procedure.   I will have to put in my leave this week and have already mentally rehearsed saying, "medical procedure....yes, I am o.k....no, I don't talk about my medical issues here at work."  "I don't care to discuss it here..." etc..I think all you really need to say is just that..also, I would not share this with anybody at all, even if you are bursting at the seams....if you keep quiet you can talk later...if you talk now, well, you cannot jump into a time machine and take it back.   Best wishes.    Also if some nosy person asks about your change in diet, change in lunch break habits, just say that you are on a restrictive diet, since that is true....

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16 hours ago, Ceecee123 said:

I am fairly private as well.  I work in a school with a staff of about 80 and of those 80 I think approximately 70 are women.   Many who like to talk and may who have extremely inquiring minds.   Schools close for the summer but I have to leave early since the school year was extended following a lot of snow days.     A few coworkers keep asking me what my plans are for the summer.  I am giving sort  of sketchy responses.   I don't know, just hanging with my kid...relaxing...but I swear some people are just so nosy.    I have to share that something medical is going on since I now have to take off early.    The thing is that I cannot imagine myself questioning another coworker if they told me they were taking off, or if they said they were having a medical procedure.   I will have to put in my leave this week and have already mentally rehearsed saying, "medical procedure....yes, I am o.k....no, I don't talk about my medical issues here at work."  "I don't care to discuss it here..." etc..I think all you really need to say is just that..also, I would not share this with anybody at all, even if you are bursting at the seams....if you keep quiet you can talk later...if you talk now, well, you cannot jump into a time machine and take it back.   Best wishes.    Also if some nosy person asks about your change in diet, change in lunch break habits, just say that you are on a restrictive diet, since that is true....

I am a private person as well. I only told my husband, my BFF, and 2 coworkers who had to cover me. I do not want to be the subject of gossip. If anyone asks about your weight loss, tell them that you are under a doctor's care, and following a high protein , low carb program which is all true. You can also say you are following an Atkins like program. People know about Atkins programs so it should stop further questions.

Some one on this forum once said that once you ring a bell, you cannot unring it.

 

best wishes as you start this journey to a healthier you.

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I apologize for bumping an older topic, but this has been something of a concern for me. I work in a physician's office that part of the university hospital I'll be having my surgery at - technically, my boss - or any of my coworkers - could look up what Im having done. It would be a violation of HIPAA, but similar things have happened before - or people know someone who knows someone in the OR, who talks about what you were in for. 

I initially was going to tell my officemate, because we are fairly close in the way you are when you share a small room 40 hours a week together. However, she cannot keep her mouth shut, so I figured on the whole office knowing. We're a pretty open office, so initially I didn't have any worries about this.

Then two weeks ago, one of our medical assistants had some nasty things to say about a bariatric s/p WLS patient of hers the other day, and the things she was saying (and that others were agreeing with) are the sort of person WLS cringes over - that its giving up, "howd they let themselves get that far" etc - with me standing there, larger than their patient ever was! 

I resolved then to keep it quiet. We do not have sick vs vacation time, just a pool of PTO, so time off requests isn't an issue, as long as I have no complications and do not end up needing FMLA. I question, though - if I lie about the surgery, and my boss finds out differently, am I in trouble? 

My current plan is simply to request the time off and hope I am not asked for an explanation. If all else fails, I may go with the hernia excuse.

Already been burned by my mother - who I have told I dont want others knowing - asking me about surgery at mother's day dinner, in front of all 12 people around the table. Really prefer to just avoid a similar situation at work.

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@delilas There was also a recent thread on this, maybe one of the Adults (I mean moderators) can link this. Everyone's workplace is different and how it is handled varies.

I told SOME of my key work colleagues while making it clear that I was in general not going to talk about it in the work environment, and if someone did not look me in the eyes at the time and agree, I asked them if I was being unclear. I have had no issues. Having said this, the last thread on the topic had some very smart observations, worth looking at...

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Posted (edited)

 

On 5/22/2017 at 1:33 PM, delilas said:

I apologize for bumping an older topic, but this has been something of a concern for me. I work in a physician's office that part of the university hospital I'll be having my surgery at - technically, my boss - or any of my coworkers - could look up what Im having done. It would be a violation of HIPAA, but similar things have happened before - or people know someone who knows someone in the OR, who talks about what you were in for. 

I initially was going to tell my officemate, because we are fairly close in the way you are when you share a small room 40 hours a week together. However, she cannot keep her mouth shut, so I figured on the whole office knowing. We're a pretty open office, so initially I didn't have any worries about this.

Then two weeks ago, one of our medical assistants had some nasty things to say about a bariatric s/p WLS patient of hers the other day, and the things she was saying (and that others were agreeing with) are the sort of person WLS cringes over - that its giving up, "howd they let themselves get that far" etc - with me standing there, larger than their patient ever was! 

I resolved then to keep it quiet. We do not have sick vs vacation time, just a pool of PTO, so time off requests isn't an issue, as long as I have no complications and do not end up needing FMLA. I question, though - if I lie about the surgery, and my boss finds out differently, am I in trouble? 

My current plan is simply to request the time off and hope I am not asked for an explanation. If all else fails, I may go with the hernia excuse.

Already been burned by my mother - who I have told I dont want others knowing - asking me about surgery at mother's day dinner, in front of all 12 people around the table. Really prefer to just avoid a similar situation at work.

You have nothing to be ashamed of. The people that you work with that were bad mouthing the patient sound kind of like unprofessional jerks. You have much more restraint than I. I don't think I could have kept my mouth shut during that conversation.You have a right to privacy and dignity. You are not obligated to share that you're having weight loss surgery nor should you have to lie about it. The only thing we're obligated to share with work is what and if we will have limitations. Do you think it would help to go through your HR rep and explain the situation and your desire for privacy?

Given that you're in the medical field, there's a good chance people will put 2 and 2 together once your weight loss becomes clear (which it will pretty quickly). It may make sense for you to formulate an explanation that you're comfortable with. When people ask me how I lost my weight, I tell them that I got really serious about getting healthy and made some drastic changes. Saying that you're not comfortable discussing personal medical information is a perfectly acceptable answer to inquiries about your surgery. 

Edited by Jabsie
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The people that you work with that were bad mouthing the patient sound kind of like unprofessional jerks.

For sure. I had an eye opening surprise when I moved from typical bedside nursing in the hospital to clinic work. I always felt most healthcare people are pretty tolerant and open, until I worked in this office. My officemate lost 70 pounds doing keto-type diets, and was fairly supportive when I first looked into WLS, but the medical assistants are like a pen of clucking judgemental hens.

I may do like you suggested and speak directly to HR. Since I'm doing PTO, I hope to not have to file any paperwork, but if for some reason I have to do FMLA, I may see if its possible to have the form go straight to them and not via my manager. Talking out my fears here and then with my husband helped calm me a little about the whole situation. 

Thank you all for the suggestions!!

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No reason not to speak directly to HR. When I filed my FMLA paperwork it went to the top boss, not my manager. I did speak with my manager, who is a very good soul, and made it clear that I expected a professional workplace. 

No reason not to be blunt with HR about your concerns, and explicit with your observation that some co-workers are unprofessional. 

Good luck. All of us have to find the right approach for our individual circumstances. 

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19 hours ago, delilas said:

 

Then two weeks ago, one of our medical assistants had some nasty things to say about a bariatric s/p WLS patient of hers the other day, and the things she was saying (and that others were agreeing with) are the sort of person WLS cringes over - that its giving up, "howd they let themselves get that far" etc - with me standing there, larger than their patient ever was! 

I resolved then to keep it quiet. We do not have sick vs vacation time, just a pool of PTO, so time off requests isn't an issue, as long as I have no complications and do not end up needing FMLA. I question, though - if I lie about the surgery, and my boss finds out differently, am I in trouble? 

 

First, if you lie to your boss and they find out you will not be in trouble. 

 

Second, what you say happened two weeks ago is exactly why I didn't tell my co-workers. We worked with someone who'd had WLS and people said terrible things about her. And, some of them felt like it was okay to talk to her about what she was and wasn't eating. I didn't care so much if people talked behind my back but I did not want anyone to think they could talk to me about my eating or my body. 

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That's good to know. and yes, I don't want to have those conversations either. I dont know if its because its medical, but everyone here seems to think they have a right to know or force things on other people. An example last week was that I was breaking out in hives a bit (stupidly sensitive skin) and my coworker insisted it was horrible (it wasnt, it was just typical me, likely someones perfume set me off), and marched me to a bathroom, and when I insisted again I was fine, she went and got our lead physician and had them look at me. Thankfully the physician at least listened when I said it's not my first rodeo with hives and I'll be fine, and I know my coworker meant well, but damn people, learn some boundaries. I could totally see that becoming a conversation on what I am and am not eating. 

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So I have very different ideas than the peeps who've responded above. 

I say eff your little clucking hens. Be the example that makes them change their viewpoints. If the successful WLS patients stay in the closet, it just reinforces that "I know someone who gained all their weight back" opinionated behavior. 

I've been open and honest about my surgery. I've inspired someone to have the sleeve as well. I really don't care how people feel about why I "allowed" myself to become obese and "sank so low as to need surgery". They can all take a flying - well you know...

I also work in the medical field. In my system, we have "glass" that protects our information from nosy little coworkers. That doesn't stop someone who had a true need to be in your record from gossiping though.  In that light, it just reinforces my stance on being open and honest. 

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I appreciate that viewpoint as well, and have been trying to get the courage to go balls to the walls and give no effs for others thoughts. 

 

7 minutes ago, Clickin said:

I also work in the medical field. In my system, we have "glass" that protects our information from nosy little coworkers.

Unfortunately, our system has a glassbreak function only for protected parts of the chart, like mental health records. It records whatever user logs into your chart, but doesnt present the scary glassbreak except in those cases; so truly, coworkers could look at my chart and I would not know unless they say something. Thankfully, the threat of fines and jail under HIPAA keeps most people in their place, but I've known two people in the past (at a previous job, not here) who got walked off the job for accessing charts they shouldnt!

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