(Name and details have been changed to protect privacy)
Patty struggled at work with disclosure and the on-going communication around her health challenges. She lives with chronic migraines and an immune deficiency and had been experiencing increasingly debilitating symptoms for the past six years. Patty struggled with knowing when is the appropriate time to disclose, what to say about it, and when to bring it up to people who already know about this.
Patty had spoken of this only once to her boss and he’d never brought it up again, even after she was hospitalized and missed work for two weeks. She believed that she was both protecting her job and not burdening others by not talking about this. But she also found herself constantly worried about what people might be thinking and not saying to her. This was creating tension and getting in the way of her productivity.
In our first call, Patty told me that she wanted a checklist that she could refer to when she thought she needed to discuss her health problems. But every time she thought she had a ‘formula’ for what to say and when, she found that there were too many variables in the equation. As we discussed this, she realized that this issue is more complicated than she had realized.
Patty was surprised that this communication would require strategic thinking.
I have never found that there’s an easy solution to a complicated situation. Have you? I recently trained our new rescue dog not to poop in the house. She came to us crate trained and I thought it would be relatively simple to break this habit since I’d trained many dogs. But it was more difficult than I’d expected. I found that I couldn’t rely on a set of steps to follow because this situation has too many variables. Until I asked myself the right questions, I stayed frustrated when the dog didn’t respond as I thought she should.
So, whether you’re training a dog or figuring out your challenges and approaches to discussing a health problem, you might consider this from a strategic point of view.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to get clear about your own situation:
1. What do I want to have happen? (e.g., I want my supervisor to trust me to do my job and not resent when may pace may be different from others.)
2. What does this actually mean in action terms? (e.g., I will gain his trust if he knows that I do my best to deliver what is expected and keep him informed if there are delays or problems that will impact him or others.)
3. What do I need to say or do to achieve my desired outcomes? (e.g., He needs enough information to feel confident that I am taking care of my responsibilities but not too much information or emotion that makes him think he has take care of me.)
4. What challenges or obstacles might in the way of fulfilling what I want? (e.g., My boss worries about everything, he doesn’t like when anyone else’s problem becomes his problem, and he doesn’t like to be surprised)
5. Where are the opportunities to overcome the challenges that I’ve identified? (e.g., I can assure him that I am competent in taking care of my health and my job because I’ve been living with this for many years and know how to be a successful worker, even with this. I will let him know that I will keep him as informed as he needs to be so he is never surprised or embarrassed .
Bottom line is that when you face complicated situations, you can’t rely on a tip list.