Some of my clients are unemployed and looking for new jobs or even new careers. But many are employees who are deeply frustrated by a supervisor’s attitude about chronic illness. That frustration led to me to develop a “list” to hand out in the seminars I deliver in corporate settings.
I’ve found that “good” managers are looking for insight and ideas for better managing a diverse population. And chronic illness is an issue of diversity! FYI – you might want to share this with your supervisor or colleagues.
1. SHOW YOUR RESPECT
- Promote confidentiality. If an employee has disclosed a chronic illness to you, it’s because you need to know. But this isn’t meant to be a “water cooler” topic. You should decide together who needs to know, what should be said and who will be responsible for the conversations.
- Respect boundaries. Chronic illness does not mean “open season” for unsolicited advice. Set an example for others and model this behavior.
- Clamp gossip. If you become aware that people are gossiping about this (or any!) employee, act before it blows into a storm and condemn the behavior. Such talk only hurts everyone’s performance.
2. GET THE INFORMATION YOU NEED
- Myths can lead to trouble. When an employee tells you about a chronic illness, learn the facts. Get enough information to discuss the situation credibly. The web can be a reliable resource but it can also be incorrect so be sure to “vet” your source.
- Don’t assume that you know how to help an employee perform successfully. Good intentions are a starting point but it’s not enough to want to do the right thing. Ask your employee what he/she thinks is necessary to get the job done and then take action to put these steps into place.
- Review company policies together. Review company policy together to ensure common understanding concerning vacation, sick time, disability leave and FMLA requests. Decide jointly how missed time and other related issues will be recorded and followed up.
3. SET PERFORMANCE GOALS
- Encourage realistic goals but don’t lower the bar. People should stretch to achieve goals but they must be achievable. Employees with chronic illness often need reminders to set themselves up for success.
- Create opportunity for flexibility. This is valuable for all employees in the current workforce, regardless of the reason. It is critical for people who live with unpredictable and/or debilitating health.
- Provide feedback. Chronic illness is not a reason to avoid giving an employee feedback about performance. In fact, it’s a necessary tool for success.
This is just a starting place. What would you add or change?