Dealing with Office Politics, Jealousy and Rumours when fighting Chronic Illness
I’m extremely lucky and grateful that the president of the company I work for understand what it is like to live with a chronic illness and has been incredible through my journey so far. If you are struggling with a management team that doesn’t understand, my heart truly goes out to you.
What I wanted to write about today were the other dangers/complications that are present in the workplace when you are battling a chronic illness. Even with the perfect boss, you will still be faced with:
I was absent for a week from work due to radiation treatment. In that week, I learned that a manager tried to get me fired on multiple occasion. She also bad-mouthed me to the staff telling them that I am incompetent at my job for not properly planning for all possible computer issues or new employee hires while I was away (even if there’s a rule about warning me 2 weeks in advance of any new employee hire, which they never do and to never have someone start while I’m away from the office, which they did.) Thankfully, the president pushed back, but the manager isn’t stupid. Even if it didn’t work with my boss, some of the badmouthing stays with employees.
That same manager also badmouthed me to the staff telling them that I am incompetent at my job for not properly planning for all possible computer issues or new employee hires while I was away (even if there’s a rule about warning me 2 weeks in advance of any new employee hire, which they never do and to never have someone start while I’m away from the office, which they did.).
Thankfully, the president pushed back, but the manager isn’t stupid. Even if it didn’t work with my boss, some of the badmouthing stays with employees.
Of course, she’s all smile and kindness upon my return.
I don’t know about other workplaces, but this one has a human resources department who puts a lot of emphasis on secrecy.
Some of my past treatments have affected my immune system, which means I must stay away from people with colds and other illnesses. Some treatments, like radiation, means I need to stay away from certain people, like pregnant individuals. Each time, I have advised the human resources department and asked that an email is sent to the staff to let them know. These emails rarely see the time of day and when they do, they are very vague and open to interpretation.
I personally think it doesn’t hurt for people to know what is going on. If they see that someone is often away from the office or suddenly working from home or isn’t their usual self, isn’t it easier to understand if you know that this person has health issues she’s battling? It isn’t just slacking? Because has seen under office politics, someone will take advantage and make sure people think this employee is slacking.
Upon taking a week for another treatment, an employee overheard that I was having radiation treatment. Surprised and concerned, she spoke to a co-worker, who immediately assumed that I had Cancer and was dying. Before long the whole office was talking of chemo, losing my hair, of fighting for my life, etc. The human resources department who had waited to the last minute to send an email I had requested, had to do damage control. They told the staff that I didn’t have cancer (which isn’t accurate) and that it was a private matter. Again, open for interpretation.
Upon the human resources department request, I am not volunteering the information, but like I explained to them, if someone asks, I will answer honestly.
Another coworker who loved being in the limelight got really mad when everyone started to talk about me and had a fit. She went as far as hinting that I was faking it for the attention. Luckily, I’ve been with the company for over a decade and most people know that I’m extremely introverted. Attention is the last thing I’m looking for. Looking for understanding is more up my alley.
Returning to work, I was nervous about all the emails and the problems awaiting me. It turned out that getting back to work wasn’t a problem. It’s the human factor that is making my return so much harder than it should be. I’m already feeling like crap due to my what’s happening in my body and I’m bombarded with backstabbing, jealousy, impatient people and rumours.
So even if you are lucky enough to have an understanding employer, it’s still very difficult to deal with a full-time illness and a full-time job. If you don’t have an understanding employer, it’s hell.