I’d say that’s a tough one, wouldn’t you? Esther is angry, feels totally alone and is really scared. Seems understandable to me.
As it turns out, Esther (not her real name and all facts have been changed to protect the ‘innocent’) wasn’t told that it was “bad health” that led to her dismissal. When I suggested that she think about what was actually said, she realized that nothing was said or written about her debilitating chronic disease in her dismissal meeting. In fact, her supervisor wrote that her work was very good and she got high marks for performance.
So what did they communicate? She is not sufficiently reliable for this position because:
- She frequently leaves the office for unpredictable amounts of time to go to unexpected medical appointments that always take longer than she predicts.
- The frequent unexpected sick days are disruptive.
- Her doctor’s recent stipulation that she can only work 8 hour days, rather than the necessary 12 -14 hour days, makes it impossible for her to perform at the high level required.
Esther works for a large consulting firm that’s known to ‘eat their young’. She’d considered and rejected demanding ADA accommodations. She’s afraid that if she does, they’ll relocate her within the firm to a job far below her talents, or that she’d be marginalized completely if she stays in her current job. Worst of all, based on what she’s seen happen to others, she’d burn her bridges and won’t get the good recommendations she needs.
Esther, diagnosed two years ago with a rare blood disorder (3 years after starting at this firm), has a combined social work and law degree with hefty loans left to repay. She has two months left to find a new job. At that point, she’ll be unemployed and without a pay check. So far, she hasn’t found anything.
This isn’t an unusual story in my world. In Esther’s favor is her skill set, her talents and degrees. She’s a valuable commodity and should be able to get a job with more reasonable hours, even in a difficult job market. Also in her favor is that she’s young (29), unmarried and can relocate if necessary to find the right job.
What’s not in her favor? Her natural expectation that a double degree from a top university should entitle her to work at a ‘top’ job. Her belief is deeply embedded. She had also assumed that she’d get a good job with good pay that would allow her to easily pay off her hefty school loans. And, that was all happening, as planned.
Until disease “destroyed her choices and her life ” (her words).
Esther’s biggest challenge is in re-setting her expectations. This is hard, I know, having spent a life time doing this. But that’s true for all of us who live with anything that is:
- Unpredictable (you never know when it will get worse or better),
- Debilitating (gets in our way of doing things) and,
- Chronic (it might get better but it will never go away completely and for sure).
Esther has to find a new job, a new career – something different. But before she can do this, she has to accept what her life is now so she can develop the resilience to bend with the punches and live the life that she wants for herself.
I’m not saying this is easy. Not even close. Is it possible? I think it is. Do you have any better ideas?