A reader writes:
I was in an accident over a month ago. I didn’t realize how badly I was hurt until the next day. I only missed a day and a half of work because I had a weekend to recover, but I honestly wish I had taken better care of myself and missed more.
I’m still going to physical therapy and other accident-related appointments almost every day to help myself recover. But for the last month, I kind of feel like I’ve been dropping the ball at work. I’m in low to severe pain every day at work but I have a pretty good attitude about it and I don’t know if my coworkers or boss realize how much pain I’m working through. I’ve let them see me taking pain pills so they at least have some understanding, and I’ve let my boss know that I’m still going to appointments daily.
I’m getting back to normal, but I still have trouble performing a few of my responsibilities at 100%. I’m also just plain distracted and making a poor employee. Every day, it feels like something related to the accident is bothering me: insurance issues, personal issues resulting from the accident, pain, doctor’s appointments.
I’m really trying my hardest but I’m afraid because I “look” so much better to everyone that my boss and coworkers might think I’m slacking. I know I’m getting up to take small breaks too often — but I get to be in so much pain from sitting still.
I don’t know how much longer recovery is going to take — another month?
In the meantime, can I do anything to help my boss understand that I’m not a poor employee — that this isn’t permanent? I’m fairly new to my job — less than a year — and don’t want to make such a terrible impression.
Should I get a doctor’s note and give it to HR — something to let them know I’m still experiencing pain and having trouble lifting and moving things?
Talk to your boss right away! Most managers would be sympathetic to this, but they can’t accommodate you if they don’t know there’s a need.
Also, acknowledging to your boss that you know the situation is affecting your performance will mitigate any worries that she might have that something else is going on, and giving her a rough timeline for how long it’s likely to last will mitigate any worries that this is just your new performance level forever.
Say something like this: “I want to talk to you about some medical issues that I’m still having stemming from the accident. I’m still in a great deal of pain, and I’m still having trouble performing all of my responsibilities at 100%, particularly moving and lifting things. I’ve talked to my doctor about how long the recovery should take, and we think it will be about another month before I’m operating the way I was before. I’m bringing this up because I don’t want you wondering what’s going on or how long it might last; I want you in the loop on the situation. I’d also be glad to get a doctor’s note if that’s something that would be helpful.”
If there are specific accommodations you’d like (such as not having to move or lift things for the time being), say that too.
Most managers are going to be pretty understanding about this. But you have to speak up.
I hope you feel better soon!