Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Workers Fighting Serious Health Issues Need Support of Co-Workers, Bosses

I've done hundreds and hundreds of interviews over more than 20 years as a journalist, but the ones that I remember most are with people who are facing enormous challenges in their lives, but who somehow manage to get up every day and go to work.

But let me be clear here: I'm not just talking about the person who puts up with annoying co-workers or bully bosses. I'm talking about the folks who face daunting physical challenges, such as life-threatening diseases, and still remain committed to doing their job.

One of those interviews was with a woman who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was funny, insightful and smart. She provided these suggestions on how you can help the person at work who may be facing such a challenge, including:

· Asking how you can help. There are a lot of fears when you have cancer or another serious disease. You wonder how you’re going to get through treatments, how you’re going to keep your job and when you’re going to get back to normal. If you’re working with someone going through it, reassure the person you’re there to help, whether it’s with a project at work or making them lunch. Tell them they’re still a valuable person at work.
· Don’t be an armchair physician. While it's nice of you to care, inundating someone with articles and books about a disease such as cancer is overhelming, and possibly dangerous in some cases. Offer to help with research if the person wants, but it’s really uncomfortable for the person to have to deal with something he or she does not want.
· Pay attention. Those undergoing cancer treatment or coping with other diseases may get exhausted suddenly. When you see the person start to become tired, offer to cover for them and let them rest for a while, resuming when they feel better.
· Be reassuring. If you’re in a management position, assure the employee that it’s OK if he or she is not in top form. Tell the employee that he or she is valued and that the person’s job will be there tomorrow. One of the greatest fears for those fighting a health problem is that they may not be thinking clearly and they're worried they can’t do their job. The boss telling you it’s going to be OK and you won’t lose your job is really helpful.


Anonymous said...

The woman in your example is amazing. And you're right. It somehow makes me reflect on my own situation. There are times when I complain about the work load and stuff like that... While someone makes efforts to go to work despite his or her conditions, I'm lying on my bed wishing I didn't have to get up. It puts everything in a deeper perspective.

Anita said...

Thanks for your comment. Such people are inspiring to all of us. And don't worry...I think every one of us has been in bed wishing we didn't have to get up, no matter what our health condition!