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Talking to Your Boss About Pain

Talking to Your Boss About Pain

If you are like many people with chronic pain, you maintain a full-or part-time job, despite your pain. Working with chronic pain can be challenging. Occasionally, your performance may be reduced or you may be late or absent. You may operate on less sleep, be impaired by medication side effects, and you pain may make it hard to concentrate. Some days you may feel crabby, sad or worried.

What, if anything, should you say to your employer about your condition? It’s complicated. The answer depends on the nature of your job, your relationship with your boss, whether revealing your condition would put your employment at risk and how much could be gained through a discussion with your boss about your pain. 

Each situation is unique, and no one can tell you whether you will benefit from talking to your boss. If you decide to discuss your condition with your employer, the goal should be a productive meeting with positive outcomes for both of you. Here are a few issues to consider.

>>Unless your boss spends very little time at the workplace, he or she is probably already aware that something is wrong. Without any explanation, would your boss think you are no longer committed to the job?

>>Before scheduling a meeting, think through what you would like to talk about. What are your challenges? Can your boss easily help you to address one or more of those challenges? For example, would arriving a little later in the morning and staying a little longer in the day be helpful to you without disrupting workflow?

>>What is it that you want your boss to know about your condition? And why do you think he or she needs that information? What are you hoping will be the result of your meeting? What would you like for your employer to do?

>>Be careful about what you share with your employer. You want your boss to maintain faith that you can do your job. Anything you share should be related to how you will continue to perform your job, despite your pain.

>>You and your boss may be on friendly terms—however, your pain is not an area for you to bond. The goal of your meeting should not be to elicit social support or sympathy.

>>If you do schedule a meeting, make a list of each of your concerns or the topics you wish to discuss and then rank them in order of importance. Talk about the most important issue first. It is likely to get the most time. Don’t feel you have to go through everything on your list. In fact, you may want to keep the initial discussion brief and factual.

>>Don’t just drop into talk to your boss about this important topic. Try to schedule a meeting at a time when you think your boss will not be overwhelmed or distracted by other matters. {PP}

Linda S.Ruehlman,PhD

Linda S.Ruehlman,PhD

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