Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Talking With Your Employer About Fibromyalgia

Having fibromyalgia while still working can be a delicate balance. It's a balance that I maintain on a daily basis and am blessed to be able to do so.

Working with fibromyalgia can be one of the most challenging things that you as a sufferer can do.

There are times over the past year when I've had to:
  • Miss work for a few days (or more)
  • Have to go home early
  • Have to come in late
  • Decline a project or promotion due to the stress or hours

Working for an unsympathetic boss can really make this situation a whole lot worse but you won't really know how sympathetic (or not) your boss is unless you talk to him or her. The other side of that coin is that it is very uncomfortable talking to another person (who you may or may not feel that they need to know about your personal business) and wondering about the outcome.

That being the case, let me stop right here and say that whether or not you talk to your employer about your fibromyalgia is a personal decision that ONLY YOU can make. Only you know your unique situation and whether it will benefit you. If there is no benefit, then you probably should keep it to yourself for the time being. The nature of your discussion with your employer depends on the nature of your job duties, your relationship with your supervisor and co-workers and what gains you could make from your disclosure.

I can tell you what I see as the plusses and minuses and let you make your own informed decision from there.

  • Bosses generally want to see their employees do well at work
  • Telling your employer about your fibromyalgia may help "connect the dots" as to why you've been acting a certain way at work. You no longer are the uncaring employee who always "seems sick", but now MAY be the employee that is working hard for the company despite your pain. 
  • You have a chance to reaffirm your commitment to the company and being a productive member of the team.
  • You may get some reasonable accommodation in your work schedule and/or environment. (work from home, different work area, different chair, adjusted work schedule, etc.)
  • You have documented (or at least established) with your company that you have a disability or condition.

  • Your boss may see that the team may be suffering from having to accomodate your workload and see you as a liability.
  • They KNOW that you will continue to take time off as needed. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but some employers may use this against their employees.
  • This will potentially affect any advancement decisions that your company will consider concerning you.
If you do decide to tell your employer about your fibromyalgia, don't spring it on them. Set an appointment to discuss it with them, but don't volunteer too many details. They should not need to know everything about you. Reaffirm that you are committed to your job and that you will be in contact should your health condition change.

When I told my boss, I told them that...  "I have fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by wide-spread pain and fatigue. There will be times that I may have to come in late of leave early. I also have quarterly doctor appointments, so a flexible schedule on those days would be appreciated. I'll come in an hour early or leave an hour late, if needed."

That's about it for now. I'd be interested to hear how others are dealing with this situation.

Best of luck with your decision!

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