Dragonfly111

What to tell my boss/colleagues about time off for surgery?

10 posts in this topic

Hi everyone.  I'm *brand new* here, so apologies if this isn't the right place for my question! 

My question is about what to tell my boss and colleagues in setting up my time off for surgery.  I've found some similar posts on this forum about what people say (or don't say) to their colleagues about having weight loss surgery, and they seem to fall into three categories: say nothing, lie, or be an open book.  My goal is to be as truthful as possible while making this a no-big-deal sort of thing. 

Let me start by providing two important backgrounds points.  First, my boss and colleagues do not always conduct themselves professionally when it comes to discussing the people within our work group.  If I were to "say nothing" beyond the bare facts (e.g., "I'm having surgery," without providing further detail) I am confident that they would speculate about me behind my back and draw even more attention to the matter.  Second, I suspect that I have been held back from promotion due, in large part, to my weight.  I suspect that when I lose weight, I will be magically worthy of promotion, and I fear that if I am honest about having WLS, this will be used as a reason *not* to promote me.  The emotions I feel around this are for another post/topic on this forum! 

I appreciate any feedback/stories of survival. 

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I was was upfront about my surgery but I know that many choose not to be for a variety of reasons - not least because of the misconception and prejudice surrounding it.

You could just say you're having surgery for a female issue and leave it at that but then you'll likely face a lot of questions afterwards about your weight loss, eating habits, pill popping during the day etc. etc.

It's very much a personal decision and something you need to consider carefully.

There's a Mark Twain quote that was drummed into me from an early age and one I live by:  “If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.”

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Posted (edited)

Dragonfly111, your concerns are completely valid. 

To a great extent, this site is about sharing experiences. So, here is my 2 cents.

Years ago (mid 90s) I lost a lot of weight and was suddenly seen as a threat by my immediate boss. I eventually had to change jobs but it was one of the best things that happened to me professionally, as I had confidence that I had previously lacked.  I regained the weight during the emotional journey of changing jobs (old story, no?) but have never been so timid about my abilities.  

Now: Officially, "I am not discussing my private medical issues in the workplace." I use exactly those words when asked so it is clear to everyone that there is a limit that is a reasonable, ethical and legal one. I look people right in the eyes when I say it and wait for their subtle signs of "getting it" like a nod of the head or words of agreement from them. If I don't get the right response, I ask if what I've said is clear. I'm sure people discuss my surgery. It's human nature to gossip. Of course I have told a few close friends at work about my surgery (and they are 100% supportive). Like you I suspect I will be viewed as more worthy after I've lost a lot of weight, and have been "serious" about tackling a set of issues. People are often shallow and easily bored and will move to another topic of conversation soon enough. As the months go by, all that will remain is the perception that I am more effective in the workplace, and the (unchanging) competence I bring to my work.. Cinwa's comment about always telling the truth is really valid - I just choose to maintain a professional atmosphere.

Good luck. At the end of the day you will have big health improvements,  most likely a big boost to self-esteem, and be perceived, on balance, more positively in the workplace.

Edited by BurgundyBoy
added positive comment about cinwa's comment

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Dragonfly- I've been very private about my surgery. It's now been 2.5 years I think most people assume I had WLS but it's not something I discuss openly. When I had surgery, I told my boss I would be taking up to 4 weeks for surgery. I reassured him that my health was going to be fine, there was no reason to be concerned, and that I would be 100% upon my return. He didn't ask for any additional details. 

Good luck!

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I have a boss whom I trust. I told him what kind of surgery I was having so he would have some idea what my situation was. I only told coworkers that I was having surgery, that it wasn't serious but that I needed a couple weeks to recover. It feels kind of artificial not to tell them, but I feel that my body is my business.

We'll see how that works out when everyone starts noticing my weight loss....

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32 minutes ago, Carina said:

I have a boss whom I trust. I told him what kind of surgery I was having so he would have some idea what my situation was. I only told coworkers that I was having surgery, that it wasn't serious but that I needed a couple weeks to recover. It feels kind of artificial not to tell them, but I feel that my body is my business.

We'll see how that works out when everyone starts noticing my weight loss....

Like Carina, I trust my boss, ... but not some of the sharks at work. Key has been to keep doing a good job at work, everything else washes out. Snarky stuff just reflects poorly on the person who uttered it. For those who know me well, or who have been brave enough to say anything to me, have gotten lots of complements on my loss. 

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Strangers are easier, though. I talk to a woman on the train every once in a while, and I told her about surgery last week when she said she hadn't seen me for a while. Though this morning she opened with "So have you lost anything yet?" :rolleyes:

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Thanks to all of you for the candid and quick advice.  

BurgundyBoy, reading between the lines, I interpret part of what you're saying to be something along the lines of "we are treated the way we allow others to treat us."  It is a good reminder that I can't control what others say about me, but I can control my own messaging, and I can commit to making my messaging truthful, firm, and professional.  Life lessons, especially where sharks are concerned. 

Carina - I hear you about the strangers!  Sometimes you just have chemistry with people and you know you can trust them with certain parts of your life. 

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Posted (edited)

On 5/14/2017 at 7:39 AM, Dragonfly111 said:

Hi everyone.  I'm *brand new* here, so apologies if this isn't the right place for my question! 

My question is about what to tell my boss and colleagues in setting up my time off for surgery.  I've found some similar posts on this forum about what people say (or don't say) to their colleagues about having weight loss surgery, and they seem to fall into three categories: say nothing, lie, or be an open book.  My goal is to be as truthful as possible while making this a no-big-deal sort of thing. 

Let me start by providing two important backgrounds points.  First, my boss and colleagues do not always conduct themselves professionally when it comes to discussing the people within our work group.  If I were to "say nothing" beyond the bare facts (e.g., "I'm having surgery," without providing further detail) I am confident that they would speculate about me behind my back and draw even more attention to the matter.  Second, I suspect that I have been held back from promotion due, in large part, to my weight.  I suspect that when I lose weight, I will be magically worthy of promotion, and I fear that if I am honest about having WLS, this will be used as a reason *not* to promote me.  The emotions I feel around this are for another post/topic on this forum! 

I appreciate any feedback/stories of survival. 

I told very few people in general. At work, only my boss knows but we are best friends and I knew with complete confidence he would not share it with anyone. I'm sure many in my company suspect I had WLS. Fine with me - they can think whatever they want. I did have someone ask me after I lost if I got the "band". I laughed and said, OMG NO!

 

Part of the reason I decided to not tell anyone at work is years ago a woman at my company had by pass. She was very open about it. People would comment to her face on what she should and shouldn't eat. How much she was losing. How much she was exercising, etc.  I wasn't interested in dealing with any of that. I'm here to work and not chat about my health or my body.

 

My team at work is close. All of us have been here 10+ years. If I were to be out for two weeks and just say "surgery", a couple of them would be worried. I told them I was having a hernia repaired. I wanted to keep it simple. 

 

When I was deciding who to tell and how much to share I read a post here that said - You cannot un-tell someone. Once they know, they know. I'm sure you have people in your life and probably at work you could tell and trust to keep it private. But, you probably also have people who couldn't keep something private if their life depended on it. 

 

As you've noted, fat prejudice might be part of why you haven't been promoted. In my opinion, that is another reason to keep your surgery private. You want to be promoted on merits. Telling people about your surgery will defintely draw attention to your body. 

 

We had a work offsite recently and some old team pictures were part of the slideshow. Later, a couple of co-workers I've known for years told me they forget I used to be heavy. Yep, this is exactly what I'd hoped for when I had lost weight, that people would see me as I am now and not want to revisit what I used to look like. I'm not ashamed about how I used to look but what is most important is who I am now. 

 

Good Luck with your decision!

Edited by Stephtay

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12 minutes ago, Dragonfly111 said:

Thanks to all of you for the candid and quick advice.  

BurgundyBoy, reading between the lines, I interpret part of what you're saying to be something along the lines of "we are treated the way we allow others to treat us."  It is a good reminder that I can't control what others say about me, but I can control my own messaging, and I can commit to making my messaging truthful, firm, and professional.  Life lessons, especially where sharks are concerned. 

Carina - I hear you about the strangers!  Sometimes you just have chemistry with people and you know you can trust them with certain parts of your life. 

re: being open with strangers - I was cycling this past weekend, and a guy on a very fancy bike and I chatted as our speeds were similar. At one point I laughed and said I could get a more light-weight bike (saving a pound or so), but as I had lost 50 lbs since January that was the same as 2 or 3 entire bikes, and I was going to see how fast I could get on my current bike with its current setup. He asked if I had had bariatric surgery, and I said yes. Turns out he works in the pharma industry on drugs to help control hunger and induce weight loss. Nothing so far, he reported, looks as good as bariatric surgery. Some of my best "aha" moments have been conversing with total strangers. 

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