Close site search

Simply start typing to search Changeboard and then press enter

Managers avoid speaking to employees with cancer

Posted on from Changeboard

Some 21% of managers have admitted to not speaking to employees about their illness after they have been diagnosed with cancer. How can you broach the subject with your employees once they've received the news?

A worrying number of managers avoid speaking to their employees with cancer about their illness.

New research by AXA PPP Healthcare has revealed that 21% of managers have never broached the subject with employees suffering from the disease. 

Polling 500 managers that manage or have managed someone with cancer, AXA found that 20% of respondents feel they don’t know how to talk about cancer. Some 21% admit they don’t feel comfortable speaking about any illness with employees.

Of those who have discussed the illness with workers, a fifth said they’re less comfortable talking about cancer than other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis.

The study also found that 17% of managers have told colleagues about an employee’s illness without discussing it with them first.

Evelyn Wallace, cancer care operations manger at AXA PP healthcare said: “Talking about cancer can be hard and the fear of upsetting the employee, despite having the best intentions, can put managers off broaching the topic. 

“Equally, it’s alarming that some managers are sharing details of the employees’ cancer with colleagues without first asking them what they want to share. Having a frank and honest conversation with the affected employee can help managers understand whether or how they want to talk about their cancer and how and what they want the rest of their team to be told.”

AXA also investigated how the behaviour of managers changes towards returning employees. Some 64% of respondents said their relationship didn’t change at all. Of those managers, 41% said this was because they were worried about the employee’s abilities and therefore decided to take pressure off of them. 

Wallace added: “It’s important for managers to understand that returning to work after cancer can be a very daunting experience. It can take time to recover from any serious illness and each person will want to handle things differently.

“It’s also likely that their recovery to a new normality will be a rollercoaster – psychologically, emotionally and physically. Therefore, managers should not expect a formulaic return to previous standards. Nor should they expect the same productivity levels straight away but should instead listen to what the employee needs and be flexible in the support they offer.”

Get content similar to this article

You can cancel email alerts at any time

Content by email

Thanks! You have been subscribed to receive emails about the following subjects.

Get more with Changeboard

Changeboard is a global HR jobs site, career advice resource and events platform to help HR and recruitment professionals find the perfect job to progress their careers. We're here to help you change the way you work.

Register now

Changeboard Magazine

Changeboard is read by more than 22,000 senior leaders in print and 85,000 online.

  • Get Changeboard Magazine

  • Get Changeboard Magazine
    on mobile

  • Get Changeboard Magazine
    in print

Subscribe to Changeboard today for:

  • Engaging and relevant decision-support content
  • Exclusive interviews with CEOs & HR leaders
  • In-depth profiles, case studies & insights from progressive senior HR & resourcing practitioners
  • Stimulating career advice, delivered in bitesized chunks to help busy professionals advance their careers efficiently.
Get the Changeboard magazine
Get Changeboard Magazine

Job search saved

Your search has been successfully saved.

Register or log in to manage job alerts.