Seminar Presentation 5-2

5-2 (Presentation within Topical Seminar 5):
Employee decision-making about disclosure of a mental disorder at work

Presented by: Kate Toth


Toth K1

  1. Fanshawe College, Lawrence Kinlin School of Business



In Canada, legislation exists to assist employees with a mental disorder in successfully performing their roles and protect them against discrimination. However, fear of stigma may lead employees to choose not to disclose the mental disorder, limiting help-seeking through accommodation. Decision-making about disclosure at work is thus a complex process, as both positive (e.g., work accommodation) and negative (e.g., stigma) outcomes may ensue. Research suggests that various factors are considered in making decisions related to disclosure of concealable stigmatizing attributes, yet limited literature explores such decision-making in the context of mental disorder and work.


The study used grounded theory methods to develop a theory of disclosure decision-making. Interviews were conducted with 13 employees of a post-secondary educational institution in Canada. Data were analyzed according to grounded theory methods through processes of open, selective, and theoretical coding.


Employees began from a default position of nondisclosure attributable to fear of being stigmatized in the workplace. To move from the default position, employees needed a reason to disclose. The decision-making process can best be described as a risk-benefit analysis. While almost all disclosure decisions were made spontaneously, participants clearly described a process of reasoning to make the decision, one in which data may have been gathered over a significant period of time. However, due to the changing nature of risks as events unfold, ultimately the decision is made in the moment before disclosure. Participants then returned to the default position of nondisclosure until another triggering incident suggested there might be a reason to disclose.


Understanding how employees make decisions about disclosure in the workplace informs organizational policies, practices, and programs to enhance inclusivity. The findings suggest possible intervention strategies related to education, policy, and culture for reducing stigma of mental disorders in the workplace. As organizations become more inclusive and supportive of employees, we can expect job tenure to increase, leading to enhanced recovery for individuals, and increased productivity and reduced disability claims costs for organizations.