Bernadine Rust explains that honesty is always the best policy and that by disclosing your diabetes when you start a new job, you control the process and the story.
Starting a new job can be scary on its own. You must meet new people, learn the lay of the land, adapt to a new office culture and environment, build relationships from scratch and not to mention prove yourself to management.
With the climate of job scarcity, especially during the current pandemic, we have become almost territorial about our job security and most employees would do anything to stay employed to provide for loved ones.
As someone suffering from a chronic illness, such as diabetes, you might be wary when it comes to disclosing your illness to colleagues and management as you might fear either their response or repercussions against attaining permanent employment or even promotions in the future.
Reasons why you want to refrain from disclosing
You might have reservations due to a fear of potential bullying or discrimination, a sense of feeling exposed or vulnerable, a fear that it might influence potential promotions, or that you will be treated differently to the rest of the employees, and a fear of being disadvantaged about something you have no control over.
Furthermore, you may also need to face people’s opinions, some of which might come across as judgmental or even ill-informed. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, there is a stigma and stereotype attached to a diagnosis of diabetes, especially Type 2.
There are those individuals that might feel that you have brought this disease upon yourself due to unhealthy behaviours and a sedentary lifestyle.
The problem that most of us experience today is that too many people have too much to say about things they mostly know nothing about. In certain situations, you may find yourself having to defend your medication regime or treatment plan and having to try and educate someone with already formed opinions. Unfortunately, not everyone is open to changing their minds. People might also not know how to respond to you, and you may feel that they pity you or think that you are unable to take care of yourself or are unqualified to do your job.
Reasons why you should consider disclosing
Suffering from a chronic disease may at times be unpredictable. Depending on concurrent events in your life and additional stress, this might influence your overall health and in turn job performance.
You may want to consider disclosing your diagnosis to your immediate manager or a colleague that you work with closely. This will enable them to have grace and empathy with your health limitations and be understanding if at times you may need to schedule follow-up consultations with your doctor or multi-disciplinary team during lunch or even office hours.
This will also provide you with accountability partners who can offer emotional support and who can check in to see if you are coping. They may also be able to remind you to take a break, take your medication or injection, test your glucose levels or have your lunch to manage your energy levels.
It might also make things easier at office parties, meetings or luncheons as they will be able to cater to your needs as well. Given the pandemic, your employer might even be more inclined to allow you to work from home, if possible.
Although we make ourselves more vulnerable through self-disclosure, we also make ourselves more approachable. This may make connecting with your new colleagues easier as you might be surprised to find that someone at your new job may share your diagnosis. In turn, this will provide you with an opportunity to educate people and to combat the negative stereotype and stigma associated with this disease.
Additionally, this can also keep your company more aware of their employees’ needs and enable them to modify their approach to wellness and keep the company accountable for illness sensitivity and fighting against workplace discrimination.
Immediate medical assistance
Most importantly, there might be a time in the future where you may feel unwell and need medical assistance immediately. By informing your colleagues and manager of your game plan for emergencies and supplying them with your medical information (doctor’s name and contact number, medical aid information, your personal information needed for admission and your next of kin), they may be able to act swiftly and possibly even save your life.
If you’re travelling a lot for work, having a colleague know may make you feel safer and more at ease knowing there is someone with you that will have your back. This will also enable colleagues to check up on you if you fail to come to work or if you’re unreachable for an extended period.
Additionally, by disclosing your illness. you take ownership of it instead of it controlling you and in turn move from a sense of denial or pain to a place of acceptance. This may lead to an increased self-esteem, better stress management and increased compliance to your treatment plan.
How to tell your colleague/manager
You do not need to tell everyone. Choose whom you disclose your diagnosis to and do it in a calm and controlled manner. Having one on one meetings or talks may help to control the conversation better and you will be able to answer any questions that the person might have and, in turn, inform them of your contingency plan.
Make sure to choose your time and place carefully. It helps to read a room first to know when someone will be approachable and in a frame of mind to listen to you and really hear what you have to say. The last thing you need is having a debate with someone.
Remember, you don’t need to defend yourself or your treatment plan. This is your journey and your process. Some people may offer advice or make suggestions. Although it may not be applicable to you, understand that this may be their way to tell you everything is going to be okay and that they want to help and be there for you. Know that you can ask for what you want or need.
Honesty is always the best policy
Lastly, make yourself indispensable as this will prove to your managers and colleagues that you’re serious about your job and will do everything you can to provide your best work.
Honesty will always remain the best policy. By disclosing your disease, you control the who, what and where. You control the process and the story. Although we can never control how others may react or behave towards us, we can to an extent control our response and attitude towards life. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
MEET THE EXPERT
Bernadine Rust is a registered counsellor, life coach and NLP practitioner with a special interest in the effect of physiological health on emotional and mental well-being. She advocates a holistic approach to overall health and believes in striving for a balanced and peaceful life. She has a private practice at Grace Medical Centre in Shelly Beach, KwaZulu-Natal and offers online counselling sessions.
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