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Communicating with team members and colleagues

It is up to your employee to decide whether they want to share their diagnosis with their colleagues. 

It is important to talk to your employee early on about the level of detail they want to communicate with others in the workplace, and when and how they would like to tell others.

It is possible that your employee does not want to share their breast cancer diagnosis in the workplace.

Whatever their decision, it must be respected and adhered to.

I was happy for people at work to know I had breast cancer, I just didn't want to be the one to tell them. I gave copies of the Helping a friend or colleague with breast cancer brochure to my manager, so he could give them out.

What to ask your employee

If you employee chooses to communicate their breast cancer diagnosis to team members and colleagues in the workplace, consider asking the following:

  • Who do they want to share the news of their diagnosis with and who should tell them?
  • How do they want the news to be communicated, for example one-to-one, in a meeting or by group email?
  • How much information do they want to shared and what information should stay confidential?
  • Are there any preferences your employee has for how people can provide them with support?
  • How do they want to be communicated with throughout treatment and recover?

When communicating with team members and colleagues try to:

  • avoid personal details and dramatising
  • use positive language while being honest about what to expect
  • discuss with team the best ways to approach their colleague about their diagnosis
  • focus on the impact your employee’s illness may have on people and projects at work
  • suggest staff speak to you or another appropriate manager if they are having practical issues with the situation, or if they are feeling distressed.

The death of an employee

If your employee is diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and dies, it can be extremely difficult for colleagues to come to terms with.

People will react differently and some team members will need support, personally as well as professionally. Often this is an exhausting time, so it’s important to look after your own needs and be aware of support available to you.

You may want to think about ways to remember the person by setting up a memorial, such as a garden or a plaque.

You should also let your team know about any counselling service or employee assistance program (EAP) available to them.

Useful information

For further information, the following resources are available: