Advice column: colleagues are passing judgment without knowing my health issues

Dear Ash

I have recently taken ill and am undergoing tests in order to confirm a firm diagnosis; however, although my line manager has been sympathetic and understands the need for me, for example, to leave early or start later in order to attend appointments, I have been sensing animosity from my other work colleagues. I have not told others about my current health issues and as the department is under a lot of pressure to meet specific targets I sense that my colleagues do not think I am pulling my weight enough.

Although nothing has been said to me directly, I saw one colleague recently rolling her eyes when I confirmed that I would be leaving early for an appointment. On another occasion, I felt a colleague was making a dig at me when she said out loud that she didn’t even have time to get a hair appointment.

I don’t feel that I should have to disclose personal details about my health issues but at the same time I’m getting concerned that there may be a sense of hostility being built up against me.  

Ash replies:

I’m sorry that as well as having to deal with your health issues you are also having to deal with the added tension of immature office politics!

You clearly have a legitimate reason for being excused from work at certain times, your line manager seems happy to provide you with the flexibility to attend appointments, and quite frankly it’s no one else’s business as to where you are going and why.

I suggest that you discuss the situation with your manager since you seem to have a good relationship with him/her. It may be that the office environment is so pressurised that this is causing undue tensions between the team, and perhaps flagging this up to your manager may allow management to consider how best to manage the work deadlines in order to ease tensions.

In the meantime, if you do experience any more comments then you should perhaps consider asking to speak to the particular individuals on a one to one basis. Sometimes people can be much more reciprocal and reasonable when confronted individually, and perhaps taking the initiative to seek to clarify what the issues are may shame certain people into behaving more appropriately. There is no need to disclose any personal information, but you could just confirm to individuals that your reasons for increased flexibility have been discussed and agreed with the line manager and that if there are any issues this could be raised with management.

No matter what the attitudes of your colleagues, just try to focus on your health and in getting the help you need, as you will be no use to anyone if your health continues to deteriorate; and that ironically that will probably only cause more irritation to your immature colleagues!  

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and other legal professionals, which can be put to her via the editor:, or mail to Suite 6b, 1 Carmichael Place, Edinburgh EH6 5PH. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education, Training & Qualifications team. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, head of admissions on 0131 476 8162 or by email:

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