Talking to Your Boss About Your 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. Sometimes your performance may be reduced or you may miss full or partial work days. You may operate on less sleep, be impaired by medication side effects, and your pain may make it hard to concentrate. Some days you may feel crabby, sad, or worried.

Should You Talk to Your Boss About Your Pain Problem?

You may have wondered what, if anything, you should say to your employer about your condition. This is a very complicated question. 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 problem. Each situation is unique and no one can tell you whether you will benefit from talking to your boss. However, here are a few issues to consider if you are thinking about such a discussion.

  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 with your boss, 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 work flow?

  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 very 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 problem is not an area for you to bond. The goal of your meeting should not be to elicit social support or sympathy from your boss.

  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 in to 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.

If you do decide to talk with your boss about your condition, I hope the ideas mentioned here will result in a productive meeting with positive outcomes for you and your employer. Good luck!

About the Author. Dr. Linda Ruehlman is a social/health psychologist and researcher, co-founder of Goalistics, and director of the Chronic Pain Management Program, an interactive site that helps people with chronic pain to manage their pain and live richer, more effective lives as well as Think Clearly about Depression, a self-management program for depression.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is provided as an educational and informational resource only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional psychological or medical advice.

PainPathways Magazine

PainPathways Magazine

PainPathways is the first, only and ultimate pain magazine. First published in spring 2008, PainPathways is the culmination of the vision of Richard L. Rauck, MD, to provide a shared resource for people living with and caring for others in pain. This quarterly resource not only provides in-depth information on current treatments, therapies and research studies but also connects people who live with pain, both personally and professionally.

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