“My boss doesn’t understand my migraine disease. What do I do?” I see this dilemma pop up in my migraine Facebook group every now and then. The advice given in return ranges anywhere from the passive approach of prayer to the nuclear hammer approach of telling the boss where to go, then finding a new job.
Most of the advice in the comment section is more practical than either of these options. I tend to agree with these more reasonable and mutually beneficial solutions to the problem. The bottom line is that if your boss doesn’t understand your illness, then you have a teaching opportunity.
Pointers For a Migraine Lesson Plan
- Don’t downplay your situation. Be honest about what migraine illness means for you and for your employer. You both have a stake in the game. Setting proper expectations goes a long way toward establishing a good working relationship. I’m not sure if there are specific HR requirements for disclosing an illness to an employer. I didn’t bother to ask because I felt it was in everyone’s best interest to be upfront about my migraine episodes. I prefer to eliminate a problem by attacking it head-on.
Knowledge is key. If your employer doesn’t know the basic facts about migraine, then they may jump to the wrong conclusions when an episode occurs. You don’t have to spew out your entire life story, but do educate your boss with a brief rundown of the migraine phases and what treatment looks like for you.
For me, early symptom detection allows me to treat my episode with oral medication and keep on working, with the shades down and some lights turned off. If the migraine progresses too far, I must go home for an injection. Visual anomalies could impair my driving if I let the episode go untreated too long. My employer must trust me to know when I need to use sick time.
Discuss potential workplace triggers. Your boss doesn’t need to know every item that might trigger a migraine for you, but there are potential triggers lurking about in workplace environments. Let your boss know if lighting adjustments will be necessary. Make your boss aware if you are triggered by strong perfumes and scented oil products co-workers may be using.
Changes in eating patterns are a major trigger for me. I let my boss know that skipping lunch would result in an unproductive employee. Sacrificing a few minutes for me to eat saves us both from hours of inefficiency or downtime.
Develop a plan together. Open communication leads to a plan of attack that works for you and your employer. Knowing what the plan is before migraine episodes strike allows you to act quickly and won’t leave your employer in the dark. It’s important for your boss to know how your work will be done when you are out of commission with debilitating pain and nausea.
Honesty and education develop trust in the employee/employer relationship. Trust and cooperation are a great combination for successfully dealing with a migraine episode in the workplace. Everybody wins when we work together.
As a self-employed writer, I’m the employee and the boss these days. The hard part now is giving myself permission to have a sick day when migraine prevents me from giving a job the focus it deserves. No matter whom I work for, honesty, knowledge, and understanding are still the keys to productive working relationships.
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