My good friend’s “baby”, Jimmy, got a diagnosis today of ulcerative colitis. Jimmy has always been a strong guy — and he’s lost 15 pounds in the past month! He told his mother that for the first time in his life, he felt like he was drowning.
The “good news” is that he’s being treated immediately with prednisone and then will go on 6-MP.
Jimmy called me with questions about his job that he just started a few months ago. He asked: What he should tell his boss — should he tell her the truth about being sick?
Oh , oh – this is always tough to answer. I told him I needed to know more about the situation before I could answer it. When I asked him if he likes this job, he responded with real enthusiasm – this was the first time he sounded like the happy guy I know. He loves this job and thinks he can go far in his career here.
And here’s when I threw him an oar: I told him to keep his eye on that prize. If he wants to keep this job and move ahead, the most important thing he can do is to pay attention to what he can and can’t do.
The problem that I see is that most people start with the question: What do I tell my boss?
They hear horror stories about people who have disclosed and lost their jobs — and they clam up. But that’s really putting the proverbial “cart before the horse”.
Instead, start by asking yourself: Is this illness getting in the way of doing my job?Now you’re looking at deliverables/outcomes/concrete information. It means you have to notice if your performance is falling before others do. It takes a certain amount of self observation.
So , if your answer is, “No!“ then there’s no reason to discuss it.
But, if you can say “Yes!“ — and Jimmy could- then you need to do something about the situation. You see, even if it’s tempting to not talk about it, your boss will most likely assume that either you can’t do the job — or worse, that you aren’t interested. And either puts you in a worse light than if you have a chronic illness.
Now ask yourself: What would help me do my job better?
Maybe you need time off for medical appointments, a different schedule a different kind of back up -or even to get your health back. Here’s where creative thinking is good. Figure out what it would take to make this happen – – and how this will affect the people you work with. That way when you talk about this with your boss, you’re not just dumping it in her lap. Hey, you might even score some extra points by coming up with helpful solutions.
And,think on this: when you speak with your boss (or anyone else at work) about changes you need so you can keep working successfully and take care of yourself, keep your message: simple, matter of fact and confident.
I cover a lot more of specifics in my booklet, Talking about Your Chronic Illness, which is part of my Career Thrive series at my cicoach.com website. You can also download free published articles related to this topic — on my cicoach.com website.