Disclosure dilemmas: how people with a mental health condition perceive and manage disclosure at work

Disabil Rehabil. 2021 Nov 11:1-11. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2021.1998667. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: Little research has explored the process of disclosure decision-making from antecedents to outcomes. This paper presents a model of decision-making about disclosure of a mental health condition to the immediate supervisor in the workplace shortly after starting a new job.

METHODS: A qualitative descriptive design was employed to explore participants’ experiences of the disclosure decision-making process, the disclosure event itself (if applicable), and their perceptions of the impact of the decision on personal, interpersonal, and organizational outcomes. The transcripts were coded and analyzed using directed content analysis.

RESULTS: Twenty-eight participants were purposively selected to represent different disclosure decisions, sex, diagnoses, and maintenance of employment. Analysis identified goals and conditions/context were important antecedents for the disclosure decision. All participants discussed concerns about prejudice and discrimination if they disclosed, and, for those who chose to disclose, high stress and anxiety were described during the disclosure event; however, supervisor reactions were generally described as positive.

CONCLUSIONS: Regardless of the disclosure strategy adopted, participants reported that their disclosure decision helped to support their self-acceptance and recovery. For those who disclosed, most perceived a positive response by their supervisor. However, the pervasive concerns of prejudice indicate there is still much work to be done.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATIONDecision-making about disclosure of a mental health condition to the immediate supervisor in the workplace is a complex process.Disclosure goals, the relationship with the supervisor and the workplace context are important antecedents to the disclosure decision.Careful consideration should be given to the planning of disclosure, particularly related to what information will be shared, how it will be shared, and an appropriate level of emotional content to enhance the likelihood of a positive response from the supervisor.Disclosure planning should take the supervisor’s style and organizational norms into account.

PMID:34762548 | DOI:10.1080/09638288.2021.1998667

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