2020 Goal: 5 Ways to Support a Co-Worker with a Chronic Illness
When a colleague becomes chronically or seriously ill, it can be difficult to know what to say and do.
As the year 2019 is drawing the curtain , here are 5 major ways to support a Co-worker with chronic illness as part of your year 2020 goal that may be adopted.
1. Show empathy
Simply telling your co-worker you’re thinking of them is a good start, said Nellis.
“It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know what to say right now, but I am here and thinking about you’ or ‘I want to be here for you and I want to think about some things that I can offer that might make your life easier right now,’” said Nellis.
She added that one thing people should not say is “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me sooner,” because this will make your co-worker feel guilty rather than cared for.
2. Let them guide you
Taylor advised to try and be aware of when a co-worker wants their privacy and when they want to talk about their condition.
“Gauge your approach based on their reactions,” she said.
Nellis agreed, and said people should be cautious when sharing stories about other people you know who’ve had the same condition until you understand whether the person is open to hearing them or not.
“If you don’t know the person’s preferences yet, saying, ‘I know it’s going to be okay’ or ‘The same thing happened to someone I know and now they’re running marathons,’ might be well intended, but not be where the person is if they are feeling like things aren’t going to be okay,” said Nellis.
3. Respect their privacy
Just because a co-worker tells you about their condition doesn’t mean they want others to know, too.
“Not everyone discloses at work, so if someone in your work world shares something with you about a health crisis, it’s important that you assume that you’re the only person they are telling… unless they tell you otherwise,” said Nellis.
“People have very strong — appropriately-so — feelings about how wide personal information should go and it’s incredibly important to think about someone’s privacy preferences,” she added.
4. Offer to help with work tasks
Rather than telling a co-worker you can do whatever they need, making a short list of job duties you’re willing to take over is more practical and less stressful for the person you’re trying to help, said Nellis.
“It’s super natural to want to sound like you’re so available and ready for action… but the problem with that is it puts the responsibility on the person who is already dealing with their own illness and having to figure out what that means in a whole bunch of areas of their lives to come up with something for you to do to help you feel good about helping them,” she said
5. Don’t ignore the situation
Avoiding your co-worker or ignoring their situation may feel safest, but Taylor said it’s best to think about how you’d like to be treated if you were in their place.
“As with many interactions in the workplace, when in doubt, the best course of action is kindness and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you’re not sure what to say or do, wait until you’ve done a little more research or have spoken to those in the know,” she said.