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Should migraineur bosses tell their employees about their health issues?

My colleague Diana Lee of Somebody Heal Me has written some great articles on how (or if!) to inform an employer of your status as a migraineur. (Check out her outstanding articles here and here.)

I have been extremely fortunate in that most of my employers have been very understanding about my migraine disease and the special needs I have that crop up because of it. Several supervisors have helped me set up alternative lighting so I could avoid fluorescent lights, while others have allowed me to keep a flexible schedule when necessary.

But here’s something I haven’t quite come to terms with: I’m a boss now. What do I tell my employees about my migraine disease? Granted, it can easily be argued that the risks here aren’t nearly as high-stakes as the risks you take when you tell your boss about your illness. I won’t exactly fire myself or put myself in an environment rife with triggers—I’m the head honcho and will arrange the bookshop in a way that will allow me to be as healthy as possible at work.

When it comes to talking about migraine with my booksellers, however, I haven’t been entirely forthright. I’ll often try to hide the fact that I’m dealing with a migraine attack until I catch myself mixing up words or acting antisocial—then I say to my employee, “I am in the middle of a migraine—sorry.” But, with the exception of Jim and R. (an employee who was a friend before she started working at the shop), I haven’t talked at length about my disease and how it might affect my role as boss in the workplace.

Are any of you entrepreneurs and/or managers? Do you tell your team about your health issues? How do you handle it? What was the outcome?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Annie
    6 years ago

    This can be a difficult position. Many people that report to me know about my Migraines because of the awesome light accommodations I have but I also have people that work in other states who never come into the office and can’t always tell when something is going on. There are only two who know how often I have a Migraine attack.

    Like you, I won’t say away anything about them unless my symptoms become too noticeable. I’m sure there are days when they think I’ve been drinking because of the way I talk. I find I haven’t talked to anyone about how Migraines affect me as a boss, but it’s probably because of my own insecurities about being ineffective as a manager while in the midst of one. Although I’ve never said it before, it’s hard to feel like you are leading effectively when you can’t find simple words to use, you can’t get the words out that you have thought of and your head is pounding distractingly away.

    Thank you for a good topic. You’ve given me a lot more to think about and work through.

  • Rose Conley
    6 years ago

    My experience is, maybe not to tell your employer. I lost the best job of my recent life because of a severe migraine. I had been on the couch for 3 days, couldnt eat, couldnt drink, just couldnt get up. I lost 4 lbs that time. My employer called and said if you dont come in today, dont come in at all. I COULDNT get up. So I lost my wonderful job. Very bummed about it.

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