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Picture courtesy of Rosalind Joffe

Picture courtesy of Rosalind Joffe

Rosalind Joffe has written a great book for working women who have autoimmune diseases. She has been promoting her book through this virtual book tour. There are tips on disclosing the illness, how to succeed in the workplace when only your skill set is no longer enough, and what to do if you get fired by your boss, or your body, or both.

We are giving away a copy of the book to the person who can best answer this question.

What is your biggest challenge at work and how will reading this book help solve it?

I recently interviewed Rosalind with some questions of my own. I will let her take it from here.

Looking down the rabbit hole:

 

1. Why do you encourage women with a CI to work? Is there an additional benefit of working as compared to healthy women who do not work?  (I am referring to loss of resources and finding a balance.) Actually, we (my co-author, Joan and I) wrote the book as a support for those who want to work but find too many impediments in the way. As a chronic illness career coach, I know there are too many variables in a decision like this to say that there is only one right way for everyone.

 

That said, chapter 2, Why you should keep working, makes the case that continuing  to work helps you maintain your physical, social, mental and financial health. I site specific studies that support this notion.  But no doubt about it —working can be difficult. It’s not easy to find an organization where unpredictable health doesn’t lead to being marginalized, to find co-workers who support you and don’t resent you, and to earn a salary/benefits that meets your needs. But I urge you to consider the long term, rather than focusing on the immediate demands of young children or the difficulties of a severe time in an illness that could improve. 

Finally, I think (but haven’t seen any research to support this) that it is even more valuable for women with CI to keep working. I describe this in detail in Chapter 2 but here are some highlights: 

  • There is a higher rate of divorce among couples with CI and if you’re single again, it’s likely you’re going to have to support yourself (or live on the poverty level income of SSDI).
  • Many of us with CI find that increasing limitations means a loss of self-esteem. As long as you’re doing work that you CAN do, work is one place where you can continue to feel valued.
  • Work offers a distraction from your body and that’s a huge piece of being able to live with CI.
  • When you have a debilitating CI that requires disclosure, it’s more difficult to re-enter the workforce after a hiatus.  It’s always easier to find a job when you’re currently employed.

  2. How does one keep emotion out of disclosure? Especially when newly diagnosed emotions are everywhere and there is no clear answer to the question, “How will this affect your ability to work?” (I broke all of your rules on disclosure).

So, if you “broke the rules”, how did it go for you? 

 

Obviously, there are many variables. The chapter, Talking about your Chronic Illness explores this issue in depth.  With a new diagnosis, if you’ve had to take a leave or there is a physical difference people can see, you’re “out of the closet”. Since none of us are prepared for living with illness, I suggest you seek help from someone you trust to develop the skills you need to discuss this on an on-going basis. 

 

Generally, I think it’s better to disclose a new diagnosis once you have a better idea of how this will go for you.  When you’ve lived through several “flares”, you’re better prepared to respond to the question:  “How does this affect your work?”  If you have to discuss it, however, be as honest as you need to be and as private as you want to be.  Remember, no one wants a sob story.  They want to know you can do your job.

 

As far as keeping emotion out of any discussion of CI at work, that’s about being “professional”.  All organizations have a culture with unspoken standards for acceptable behavior.  In some settings, emotional is fine.  But if you’re gushing with fear and sadness, then others pick up on this and view whatever you do or can accomplish through that lens.  That’s true whether you’re healthy or not.  Filtering your behavior is a key factor in workplace success.  Make sure you get help – either from a trusted colleague, a mentor or a coach. 

 

3. As a coach, how would you counsel a client who wants to start a home-based business because the demands of a full-time job is too stressful?  Joan wrote about this in the chapter, You’re Fired – by your body or your boss.  Setting up your own business means that you need at least three things: 

 

  1. Something that you can do that people will pay you to do
  2. Financial backing to support you while you’re getting the business of the ground
  3. Motivation, discipline, the ability to work alone and belief in yourself

 If you have all of those things, then a home based business could be a terrific solution to those of us living with unpredictable, debilitating disease.  Both Joan and I did it successfully but we’re aware of what it takes and we encourage others only when they are clear that they can meet the basic criteria I stated above.  Most people don’t make the kind of money they think they’ll make but do find that’s offset by the flexibility and freedom they get with self employment. 

 

Rosalind, thank you for your insight and willingness to answer our burning questions concerning work and chronic illness. Many of us have been encouraged and enlightened.

 

 

Rosalind Joffe, co-author of Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend!, is president of cicoach.com, a resource for professionals who live with chronic illness. Check out her website (http://www.cicoach.com), which is filled with resources about career challenges living with CI and her blog, Working with Chronic Illness (http://WorkingWithChronicIllness.com)

 

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I’m participating in a Virtual Book Tour with other popular bloggers to bring attention to this important new book: Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend! Along with the other bloggers, I will be interviewing the author and bringing attention to this important issue. Join us Nov. 3 – Nov. 24. I will be interviewing Rosalind.

My post will include a give-away. I will be giving a copy of her book to the person who can best answer the question: What is your biggest challenge at work and how would reading this book assist in solving that problem? Rosalind and I will select the winner. The deadline is December 4th (wow, where did the time go?).

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