my employee is being difficult … but I think it’s the stress of illness

A reader writes:

I am a manager for a team of 11 people. One of my long time employees, Zed, has stage 4 cancer. When Zed was first diagnosed about three months ago, I asked if he might consider taking FMLA leave (we have very generous medical leave policies). Zed refused. I think it’s because being his job is a big part of his identity, so he wants to work as much as possible while he is going through chemotherapy.

Zed is an exempt employee. He comes in days when he is up to it (two or three hours is a “good” day) and takes sick days when he is in treatment or can’t come in. He has been pretty good about giving me his anticipated schedule a week ahead of time so we know when we can expect him.

All of us like him a lot personally and are rooting for him.

Zed has recently begun exhibiting behavior that I do not find appropriate in a professional setting. One of his responsibilities is interfacing with, let’s say, the basket weaving department. Zed sends angry emails IN ALL CAPS to and about the basket weavers, complaining about their work, bringing up things the basket weavers did wrong five years ago, and generally making statements like “I don’t know what is wrong with these people.” My staff and I are frustrated that we only have two or three hours a day with Zed, and when he is in the office he spends his time complaining about other departments and what everyone else is doing.

Zed’s tone and behavior are starting to have consequences for his coworkers and our department, and I know it’s time for me to talk with him. Do you have any recommendations for how to say he needs to improve the tone and manner of his communications? It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to think that that his diagnosis is having consequences for his mental health, which is spilling out at work. Should I suggest counseling or bereavement groups, or just stick to the facts of “your work is not up to standards, and you must improve”? Should I push harder for him to take leave so he can focus on getting better? (I would expect resistance to this.)

I’d appreciate your help knowing how best to respond to this difficult scenario and be a good boss and a good human being.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 84 comments… read them below }

  1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Yes. Don’t lose patience with him. Counsel him – but be kind. Also – as a manager, put yourself in HIS shoes for a moment – try to think how he might be thinking.

    I wish you luck.

  2. Dee*

    When I got sick my boss let me know that they couldnt flex with my medical needs schedule and that I should go on FMLA and that my job was safe but if I was focused on my health I wasn’t focused on my work.

    And they were right. Once I stepped back I realized I needed to devote all my energy to getting better. My boss made the right call. When you’re sick you’re already feeling so much loss and lack of control it’s not uncommon to try to keep one foot in your old pre-illness world but that’s not good for you or your employer. And, realistically, anytime the employee is taking off on a reduced schedule should be going to FMLA.

    I hope the employee takes the time they need to recover so they can come back to work in full effect and emotionally whole.

    1. Dulcinea47*

      Many people can’t afford to take FMLA, b/c they don’t get paid. So they’re still trying to work as much as possible. Money plays a huge role in decision making around illness in the US and I don’t think it helps anything to pretend it doesn’t.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        FMLA can be used in conjunction with sick leave, so that it is paid leave. The LW says they have generous benefits and Zed is using a lot of sick leave already, so it doesn’t seem like that is a problem.

        1. Just Me*

          But you’d only be paid for however many sick days you have accrued, right? Say, 10 for the year? For people who are going through months-long illnesses/treatments, that’s not going to go very far.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I understand what you are saying. I’ve used FMLA twice. My company pays a full 12 of it before it goes unpaid. Once. So the first time, I had sick days, FMLA days, then unpaid. (I was able to split them into half days, so 24 days with full pay) The next time I had sick days then unpaid.
          And I am complimenting my company for doing this. I don’t think it is the norm. We read on here about one PTO bucket and no sick days.
          But this is my letter from a distance and calm retrospect. When my husband (fortunately? already retired was diagnosed with stage 4, there were many days he was just not himself and not able to make decisions and scared af.)

      2. Kelly*

        This exactly. Unpaid leave is pretty useless if you can’t afford to pay your medical bills, housing, utilities, ect. I can completely understand the feeling of needing to work just so you don’t end up destitute.

          1. myfanwy*

            Wait, do you think all double-income households can cover all their costs on one salary, and the second person is just working for fun money?

      3. Dee*

        OP indicates they have generous leave policies in place. They are the one asking for advice. The advice is encourage the employee to take leave. That includes making it financially reasonable. The letter indicates that the employee isn’t taking leave because of pride and wanting to stay in the mix. Not finances.

    2. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Part of the chemo may be prednisone, which has known emotional effects (if he’s doing RCHOP). Trust me, I know this one (husband had that therapy).

  3. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

    As using the other part of this reference would be in poor taste in this situation, I’ll just say that I hope Zed is finding time to get out on his chopper.

    1. Revenue Elf*

      From someone with a pitch sense of humor…if I was Zed, this would make laugh. I would also make sure my news is announced in the same tasteless fashion :D

  4. goducks*

    When I was going through chemo and radiation, I was encouraged to just take FMLA for the whole period of treatment. My boss was great and made all sorts of statements about my job security. However, despite all that I was keenly aware that once I’d exhausted my FMLA, any promises that he’d made would not have the force of the law behind them. And if I used up my FMLA during that treatment period, when I was very sick but still more or less able to haul myself into work, then if things got really bad down the line, I’d be out of luck, and quite possibly fired. Which would mean losing health insurance, losing income, losing the employer-paid life insurance that suddenly seemed really critical for my kids’ futures. I took intermittent FMLA on the worst days, but used it sparingly.

    I worked because I was terrified of what would happen if I used up my FMLA safety net.

    The LW should gently address the performance impacts, but should really understand that things like pushing a cancer patient to take FMLA can feel like your boss is trying to pull out your safety net.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Yes, this. ESPECIALLY if they are insured through employment.
      Medical bills + unpaid leave + insurance tied to the job = it’s not so easy to just take time off when you’re ill.

      1. pally*

        Goducks, your situation is exactly why I was so grateful my employer gave us long-term disability insurance as one of our benefits. A co-worker was able to stay home and fully attend to his health while undergoing cancer treatment.

        Most felt this benefit was a waste of money. But when you aren’t able to work and you need funds, it can be a huge blessing.

        1. goducks*

          I had LTD. LTD doesn’t protect your job, it replaces income. Even with LTD it is legal to terminate an employee if they’ve exceeded FMLA. My insurance benefits were critical to me, I could not afford in the middle of cancer to lose those benefits, even if I had some income replacement. I could not afford COBRA. Keeping my employment as long as I could was critical to my family.

        2. Wintermute*

          Just a fair warning to you, having LTD insurance usually just means you get to lose a lawsuit before you go on social security. a close friend’s lawyer outright told him that he had never seen them pay without fighting once in his career as a lawyer unless it was a case that was literally clear cut like an amputated limb.

          You can fight, you may even win. If you win you’re still out tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and they still may delay your payment. It’s good to have but it’s also important to have a backup plan.

          1. Off Plumb*

            I guess it depends on the insurance carrier? I had zero issues getting LTD when I needed it, and while they required me to apply for SSDI they also paid for a company to handle the application and appeals for me. (I was on disability for almost two years and I did lose my job, but I have no dependents and was able to afford COBRA. Still a lot better than being unable to work and not having LTD coverage.)

            1. Wintermute*

              That’s true it can vary and it largely depends on your disability and a lot of other factors. I just like to warn people because I’ve had several loved ones and friends with bad experiences and when they went to rely on something they’d been paying for for years to decades and expected to be there for them they were told a six figure legal bill MIGHT get the service they thought they were paying for all along.

              I like to warn people to take it with a grain of salt and to look up the reputation of who your work offers.

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Concur that pushing anyone facing the unknown to take FMLA can indeed feel as though someone’s trying to pull away your safety net.

      The correct thing probably would have been to use FMLA when my child was hospitalized for a long stretch. However, my income and the fact that I carry the health insurance made that a non-option if we wanted to remain insured and not default on our mortgage. So I worked a 40 hour a week hodge podge, remotely, with my boss’s blessing.

    3. CommanderBanana*

      I absolutely hate that this is the state of healthcare and employment in the country in which we live.

      1. Coin Purse*

        Yes. At my last job I had a colleague who had a teenage son dying of cancer and he had to juggle his time to not be put in jeopardy of losing health care. It was a horror to watch someone come in to work because of meeting a benefit metric knowing his child was dying at home.

    4. Out and About*

      FMLA is pushed hard by HR. Yet they seem utterly confused by the complete panic it creates.
      I had hurt my wrist and the doctor wrote a note for alternative work duties for one week. HR immediately pushed for unpaid FMLA, which was horrible as I was the only family income and we were paycheck to paycheck at the time.
      I worked out 3 days of alternative work duties and 2 days of paid sick leave with my supervisor.
      Every. Single. Day. that week I was asked about FMLA and if I was sure my injury was temporary.

  5. Constance Lloyd*

    Years ago, I had a coworker who was working while treating a serious and potentially deadly medical condition. She became openly hostile to coworkers and clients alike. Our manager eventually had to have a conversation with her which went along the lines of: “I know you’re dealing with more medical stress than anyone should, but you cannot continue to speak to people this way. If you find yourself losing your composure in a conversation with a client, you have my permission to transfer them to me and I will take over. If you find yourself losing your patience with a coworker, you have my permission to tell them you don’t have the capacity to finish this conversation right now. You do not have my permission to snap at anyone. Here are examples of conversations you’ve mishandled and here is how I will need you to handle similar situations next time. Can we agree to this plan?” It was hard but it worked. As coworkers we were all willing to give her a little extra grace, but we couldn’t expect clients to do the same without context.

    1. glouby*

      This is a great script for a tough situation–thanks for sharing. Did your manager explain to you and the other workers that this is how she would communicate her expectations to the person?

  6. Tradd*

    My small company just had to let go a woman in her late 60s. She had been with the company about 2 years. She had a stroke a year ago and was out for 3 months, then a very close family member died. She was maybe in the office 3 days a week. You never knew when she was going to be in and a lot of us had to take up her workload. She was also continually falling asleep at her desk. She kept missing critical things repeatedly which then required me to stay late. She was always belligerent with coworkers, customers, and management. We were sorry about all she had gone through, but you can only carry someone like that for so long. She is eligible for social security so she will have something coming in.

    1. Bast*

      “Someone like that” can just as easily be any of us in the wrong set of circumstances — people don’t plan on terminal illnesses or the death of loved ones. Something about this phrasing just rubbed me the wrong way.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yes, but it’s a job, not her whole community. It’s not realistic, practical, or fair to expect it to be endlessly accommodating to someone who can no longer do what is needed.

        1. CrazySexyCool*

          I feel this. I have been on both sides – needing FMLA and scared to take it, and managing someone who needs to take it and won’t. As a manager, I have been as flexible as I could for 3 years with someone with a chronic condition, but it got worse and worse over the last 6 months and was becoming unfair to me and everyone else on the small team, as it was impossible to know when we could rely on their presence at work and when we couldn’t. This person had been very resistant to FMLA in the past, so I didn’t bring it up again for years. I had a conversation with them and let them know that I was reaching out to HR to let them know that I believe there was a qualifying FMLA event. I really, really help it works out for this person, as I do care about them and have worked with them for over a decade.

        2. Bast*

          My issue isn’t with letting someone go, as long as it is done with compassion, it’s the attitude of “someone like that” — like they are a drain for coming down with a condition. They didn’t ask for it. They certainly don’t want it. And if staffing is a really huge issue, this is a company issue and doesn’t deserve to be pinned on a single staff member’s illness. “Someone like that” is extremely dismissive.

          1. EchoGirl*

            I think the “someone like that” is referring at least in part to the “always belligerent with coworkers, customers, and management” part. I’m sympathetic to the external factors but people will understandably lose sympathy if the person is mistreating them on top of everything.

        3. JaneDough(not)*

          Please keep in mind, though, that the US has virtually no safety net. I’m not saying that a workplace has an obligation to keep someone who can’t do their job, but at the same time it is profoundly not-OK to cut someone loose to almost-certain poverty.

          @Tradd, monthly SocSec payments aren’t all that high, and if she isn’t 67, then she’ll lock herself in — forever — to a lower monthly sum than the one she would receive were she able to claim at 67.

          I don’t know where you fall on the income spectrum, but I’m someone who never earned much, bc I chose a helping career. My entire adult life has coincided with the 40+ years’ assault on the middle class. Did you know that someone earning $72K in 2020 was earning only 61% of what the *would* be earning had the economic policies of 1945-75 been kept in place? (RAND stats, 2020)

          My income dropped between 2003 and 2008. My profession (publication-related) was torpedoed by the Great Recession, and despite having been at the top of my field *and* having a great rez + great work ethic, I’ve not had FT work since. Add in the medical debt I carry — something unheard of in every other developed democracy — and at 62 I’m in lousy shape financially, and terrified. And out of work at present because I have cancer.

          @Tradd, something about your post didn’t sit quite right with me; apologies if I misunderstood your stance — but if you’re not yet fighting for M4A, fair taxation, an expansion of affordable housing, enhanced rights for employees, and everything else that is standard in our 30 peer developed nations, then please get on board *now*.

      2. Tradd*

        The recently fired coworker would scream at her manager when they were talking privately. Plenty of she would not do x or y. She refused to do what was needed to do her job. Doing my job depending on her doing her job properly, which she didn’t. Why should I and other coworkers have to repeatedly work late (probably an extra 3 hours a week for each of us) because she can’t do her job properly? There are times when coworkers are dead weight. And that’s what she was. And we don’t get paid for OT, which made me extra spicy about the whole danged situation.

      3. Endorable*

        Maybe it would be easier to think about as not ‘carrying someone like that’
        but as meaning ‘carrying someone in that way’.. so the ‘like that’ associates with carrying, not someone :)

      4. Leenie*

        I’m not the OP, so I could be wrong, but I didn’t read “carry someone like that” in that way. I thought the “like that” referred to the “carrying,” not to the person. Like, you can only carry someone in that manner or to that degree for so long. Again, I could be wrong, but I hope I’m not in this case.

      5. Sharpie*

        I read it as ‘you can only carry someone in that way’ rather than ‘someone of that type’, I don’t think it was meant as harshly as you’ve interpreted it.

      6. Becca*

        I also read the “like that” as referring to the carrying rather than the person and assuming it was meant in that way I think it’s fair. There is a limit to how long you can carry on taking on a large chunk of someone’s workload in addition to your own and working longer hours or more intensely to get everything done, especially if you’re then being needed/expected to stay late for critical emergencies (presumably with no warning) AND being subjected to belligerence yourself and then having to try and also having to deal with customers who are unhappy because they’ve been subjected to belligerence. That isn’t a sustainable situation no matter how sympathetic you are to your colleague’s situation.

  7. The Rafters*

    Cancer medications can really mess with you mentally as well as physically. OP, when you speak w/ Zed, ask him to speak to his treatment team and his therapist. If he doesn’t have a therapist, his cancer treatment center can refer him.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah, I have personally experienced the “you have stage 4 cancer and have decided to berate me for everything I’ve done in the past 10 years which you perceive as ‘wrong’ and scream even more if I attempt to exit the conversation” and it ain’t fun. It’s also extremely extremely common. Zed should get compassion but not a free pass to being cruel.

      1. The Rafters*

        I don’t mean that OP shouldn’t call Zed out on his behavior, simply that she may point out to Zed that he should speak w/ his treatment team.

    2. Girasol*

      Yes, this. My husband was a whole other person – angry, paranoid – on some of the meds he took during cancer treatment. Zed may not be aware, so recommending that he discuss with his doctor the behaviors that others have mentioned might be doing him a favor.

      1. Aeryn*

        Steroids are a major part of many chemo regimes, and absolutely cause mood swings (in all directions – anger, tears, paranoia).

        I always warn my patients, and more importantly their families, so they realise what is happening (and don’t just put it down to stress).

    3. Part time lab tech*

      You do need to protect the healthy as well as the sick. Hopefully people will forgive Zed for his poor behaviour due to cancer but he still can’t be allowed to do this, and they might not forgive management. My mother could be difficult, particularly with my elder sister, but was generally thought of as a lovely lady. Towards the end of her cancer treatment, she ranted and her fear made her paranoid, to the point where she accused my older sister of deliberately hurting her and wanting her dead. My sister rang me in distress after a series of horrible episodes and moved in with me for a couple of weeks.

    4. Jessica*

      I was going to point out something similar. My mom finished cancer treatments earlier this year, and one of the things we noticed is that she became very, very short-tempered and ornery during her chemo treatments and it continued even after, which was very outside the norm for her. Once I talked to her and pointed out how she was acting (coming from a place of concern), she talked to her oncologist. Apparently, many chemo medications can cause mental health problems, such as very bad depression/anxieties, and when you couple that with the stress and what’s basically an existential crisis of having cancer, it can result in someone being very short tempered and snappy. Once they drilled down on the fact it was a side effect, she went to see her regular doctor, and he was able to get her onto some antidepressants, and now she’s acting worlds differently from what she was acting during treatment. So this is definitely something to take into consideration–if he doesn’t have a therapist, he definitely needs to consult with his oncologist and tell them about the behavioral changes; they could refer him to someone who can help him and/or get him to a doctor who can prescribe something for him to take to alleviate the mental upsets.

  8. ScruffyInternHerder*

    This may come out as armchair diagnosing, but here goes. An alternate thought:

    I’ve seen where chemo treatment and all of the side effects and complications thereof have changed the patient – it wasn’t just stress, it was a personality change chalked up to an undetected stroke due to the chemo, upon medical review. It could indeed be a kindness to address what you’re seeing, because the patient may not “see” it themselves.

  9. mskyle*

    One thing I think is worth noting is that it might not be “the stress” that’s causing him to act this way – it could also be e.g. medication side effects (lots of cancer patients are prescribed steroids with the resulting ‘roid rage). Or heck it could be an actual symptom of the cancer itself, depending on how that’s going!

    Alison’s advice is valid regardless, but just saying it’s not any wiser for a manager to try to diagnose mental health issues in an employee with cancer than anyone else.

    1. Lexie*

      That was my thought. We don’t know what type of cancer Zed has or where it has metastasized to. The cancer could be causing changes in his body which is causing changes in his behavior. It’s possible that he has little to no control over this.

  10. Katy*

    Agree with everything Alison said but I also hope the manager looks at the issues that are frustrating the employee with the other departments. I can’t tell you how many times a day I delete emails the could justifiably be a “WTA+another letter” after other departments just never respond to repeated requests for information.

  11. PhyllisB*

    Here’s something else to consider when my husband was being treated for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, after every chemo treatment he had to take steroids (in his case, prednisone.) Steroids really do a number on you. They make you extremely irritable and give you an insatiable appetite. (This sounds awful, but I was so glad he was working out of town during this time.)
    Having said that, you can’t totally disregard his treatment of his co-workers but perhaps you can 1. Restructure his job duties where he doesn’t have as much interaction with other people and 2. Have a talk with your team and explain this to them so they will maybe not take it so personally. And of course have a conversation with Zed telling him how this is affecting people. He’s really going through a rough time.

    1. Jen*

      I was on steroids for a year for an autoimmune disease and it was amazing how much different and better I felt once I finally could go off of them. I am very thankful for steroids since they helped save my life but they really mess with you, and you don’t always realize it.

  12. Melody*

    From experience: as well as all the stress etc, many chemo treatments heavily rely on steroids to mitigate the side effects. This has an effect on the personality which is almost exactly what the writer is describing. If that’s what’s happening to Zed, it’s possible he has no idea his attitude has changed. Which doesn’t fix things, but may give some insight into the problem.

    1. ampersand*

      Agreed. Steroids can really mess with you—and kind of like being sick or feeling unwell long term, you may not realize it’s happening because it’s just the way you feel now. It can be difficult to identify when your baseline changes, if it’s a gradual change.

  13. I should really pick a name*

    When you talk with him, try not to speculate on the reasons for his behaviour. He can provide that info if he wants to, but you don’t want to be an a position where you’re basing your decisions on how you THINK he feels.

    1. NoThanks*

      You cannot force someone to take their medical leave if they do not wish to take it. Within the first two sentences it says he was offered his leave and refused to take it.

    2. The Rafters*

      He may not be actually dying. I had stage 4 Hodgkins, which the vast majority of the time is extremely treatable. Please don’t assume that cancer = death. That said, chemo meds really do a number on people.

  14. Chirpy*

    All of this is why I truly hate that insurance (and therefore your health care and whether or not you can afford to stay home sick) is tied to your job in America.

    FMLA is useless if it’s not full pay for many people.

  15. learnedthehardway*

    It’s possible that Zed’s treatment is having an impact on his ability to think. Chemo is poison that will hopefully kill the cancer before either the chemo or the cancer kills the patient. There are a lot of side effects with that, and some can be cognitive. I would bet that this is a good bit of the issue, in addition to stress.

    I would keep that in mind when setting boundaries with Zed. You may need to tell him that any feedback he has for other departments needs to come through you first – in addition to offering for him to take more time off, urging him to take FMLA, etc. etc.

    It’s also legitimate to remind him that everyone is treating him with grace during this difficult time, and that he needs to do the same with colleagues.

  16. Pizza Rat*

    Zed may not be able to afford to go on FMLA. Cancer treatment is very expensive, even with insurance. I’m not excusing Zed’s behavior, but that’s a huge amount of stress on top of the treatment. Having cancer is scary, I’ve been through it.

    Zed’s behavior needs to be addressed; he’s still responsible for it and it’s affecting others. That the LW reached out here makes me think they can approach it with compassion.

    If the company has, and Zed elected, short-term disability insurance, I would suggest Zed talk to the benefits coordinator to get some help. That may allow him to take the time off he needs and take less of a financial hit. Additionally, some cancers and their treatment could qualify him for disability accommodations and maybe he could work from home and save the stress of commuting.

    1. Dog momma*

      That’s what I’m wondering.. the 1st step should be STD/ LTD, .. and with those generous benefits, I’m confident the business has the disability insurance

  17. Raida*

    Cancer treatments can change how angry a person is – irrational, uncontrolled, easily set off. It can continue after treatment, and those people have to learn how to work within their new normal because they didn’t have a couple of decades with these emotions to handle them.

    It could be that he needs to focus on his health, or it could be that due to the change in his emotional balances he simply cannot be professional – which means he’s just not allowed to come to the office, as he is unable to *not* be a ranting d*ckhead.

  18. Hiring Mgr*

    If you wind up letting him go, or if he resigns, cover his COBRA or equivalent for the full term if needed

  19. Alex in Marketing*

    One thing to remember with cancer patients is that they are often on steroids as part of their treatment plan. My husband had (and beat!) cancer a few years ago and the steroids did cause a change in his behavior – his temper was very short in ways that were unlike him.

    As for managing this situation, it’s certainly difficult. His behavior needs to be addressed and he has to work on anger management.

  20. JaneDough(not)*

    I’m going a little OT, but this is important: Stage IV of any cancer is bad, but it isn’t necessarily an almost-immediate-death sentence. A medical researcher named Steven Merlin was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer 11 years ago — yes, 11. He had surgery and also was blasted with an atypical no. of chemo cycles (46, where 12 is typical), and he’s here and is considered cured. (You can read about him at the letswinpc(dot)org; enter his name in the SEARCH field.)

    In his writings, he has mentioned a woman (not by name) who had 37 cycles and who, like him, is considered cured.

    I’m not playing down how horrible it is to get any cancer diagnosis (I know firsthand), let alone one for Stage IV — but I’ve now read enough to know that finding treatment at one of the leading centers, which also can lead to participation in clinical trials, will greatly boost a person’s chance of surviving. I acknowledge that not everyone can do that, and that sucks. But if you can, please do. Get your diagnosis and treatment plan from a superb medical institution; your local hospital can then follow instrux about administering chemo.

    If you don’t know where to find treatment, ask your local library for the name of the most highly regarded nonprofit that addresses the particular type of cancer you or a loved one has, and call someone at that nonprofit. Or check the National Cancer Institute’s website for more info.

  21. OP*

    Hi all,

    Original poster here. I am sorry to report that Zed actually passed away a few months after I sent in this question. He never stopped working, and actually called in sick just one day before he passed away. We did have the recommended conversation about appropriate tone and work related emails — but I’m not sure it did much good. About a week before Zed died he was sending long emails complaining about….well, who even remembers.
    A few things that I’ve learned:
    – Your job is a huge part of your identity. For Zed, that was really why he didn’t want to take leave. He didn’t know who he was without his job. Without his job he was just a cancer patient.
    – I don’t want my job to be my entire identity! If I have just weeks to live, I don’t want to spend them arguing with people about silly things.
    – I used our EAP for some counseling sessions for myself after Zed died. I think I underestimated how hard this all was on me and on Zed’s colleagues. If you are a manager facing a similar situation, please be kind to yourself. This is all heavy stuff and really, really hard.
    – life is short, my friends. “what is it you plan to do
    with your one wild and precious life?”

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      I’m so sorry for your loss

      It sounds like you were a good manager to Zed

      That’s not wild or precious, but it’s not nothing, either, and probably made a big difference to Zed’s self-perceived quality of life.

      Thank you for sharing the update.

  22. Revenue Elf*

    Mentally ill here. FMLA is terrifying on a daily bc yes, there are days I cannot do anything but cry & sleep. But I need to save some of that job-protecting FMLA in case I’m hospitalized. I feel like if I was in an “unalive” mindset & I was out of FMLA & knew I was going to get fired for underperforming during a menty b?? Not a lot of incentive to get out of the mindset. Just sayin. BUT I think wfh for us FMLA is a great thing. I’m exempt, so if I I need a nap (or just an hour to destress), I can hop back on if I can’t sleep or I need a distraction. Flexibility & compassion are key, but I think letting us work out of the office helps both me AND my coworkers.

  23. TimeOffNotNecessarilyGood*

    I have several chronic medical issues and I consistently feel worse if I take more than 4-5 days off at a time (sometimes less). Work distracts me from feeling lousy, gives my brain something to do other than think about how lousy I feel and how much pain I’m in. My employer changed the way our time off worked at the start of the year so I ended up taking just over two weeks of use it or lose it time at the end of last year then my sister passed away on Dec 31 so I took another week of bereavement leave (I’m Jewish). I spend most of the time feeling awful, much worse than I normally do. So there could be some of that going on.

  24. Beenthere*

    As someone that has gone through cancer treatment and chemotherapy three times, the medication given to manage the symptoms can have unwanted side effects. I found that I was extremely anxious and irritable at times. I think it was caused by the high dosage of steroids. I snapped at one of my coworkers during a meeting while I was going through treatment and felt horrible about it. I apologized profusely but still feel terrible about it.

    it’s hard for others to understand how difficult it is, unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. I hope that people will show some understanding and grace to someone going through something this difficult.

  25. BooBah*

    The website is completely terrible, I don’t know if it’s just for those of us that are not in the US (I’m in the UK), or for everyone. It doesn’t let me read anything unless I subscribe, and I get about 3 different pop ups, as well as animated ads on the page that make the whole experience a bit stressful.

    1. Magc*

      Before the website blocks the content, quickly typing ctrl-a and then ctrl-c (select all, copy selected text) and then pasting (ctrl-v) into Notepad will get you a text-only version of the webpage that contains the column.

  26. Been there*

    I totally understand wanting to handle Zed’s situation compassionately. I caution you to also consider your team. Do not sacrifice your team and your own reputation out of compassion for Zed. Ultimately you are serving your clients, your staff, and the organization. You need to keep everyone’s well-being in mind.

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