I got this question in an email from Michael, a reader of my blog:
I’m a wheelchair user due to a neurological condition called dysautonomia. I first fell ill following a viral infection. I started a new job in September and was very excited and very motivated. However my condition means that if I get a viral infection I basically end up seriously ill needing 24 hour care. So I am devastated to have missed 3 weeks since starting. My line manager sees this as a big failure on my part ie. results will suffer if I keep being off. So now I am dreading going back and wish I’d stayed in my old job where they did at least seem to be more accepting that I averaged 3-4 weeks absence a year for reasons related to disability.
I also know of lots of other people who are disabled who have the same problem- employers just don’t like absence and don’t see that you are actually very dedicated to the organisation and want to do a great job.
So I suppose the broader question is how to tackle this “don’t be sick or there will be hell” culture. For myself and other disabled friends it seems to be the major cause of unhappiness at work.
This is not a question we have dealt with a lot in our consulting work, so I would very much like to hear your thoughts.