Chronic Communication at Work: Faking it on a Not-So-Great Day

When you’re living with a chronic condition, you may have days when you are feeling totally on top what it takes to do your best work. You may have days when you aren’t up to even trying. But you may have days when you’re not quite feeling it, but aren’t feeling bad enough to stay home.


And those are the days I’m talking about here. When you feel like you can basically do what you need to do to get through the workday and be productive. And after all, that’s who you are. You’re committed to your job and you don’t want to leave your team short a person if at all possible.


Practically speaking, these may also be days when you don’t want to use up your sick time and don’t want to risk either losing a day’s pay or giving your boss something else to complain about.


You might call these “semi-bad days.” And you want – or just plain need – to push yourself to get to work.


How about considering this approach: Fake it ‘til you make it.


You may not love that statement, especially if those words have been directed towards you. And you may not like the idea of faking it at work, even on a day when you’re not at your best.


“Fake it ‘til you make it” may be a good strategy on these days. By faking it ‘til you make it, I mean showing that you are committed to doing the best job possible and supporting your team. Notice I said “best job possible” and not necessarily up to your usual standards. After all, everybody, whether or not they are living with a chronic condition, has some days that go better than others. Also notice I said, “supporting your team.” Even if you aren’t at your usual best, your presence can make a big difference in how the day goes for your co-workers if they don’t have to divide up your responsibilities or find a replacement. Your show of support and commitment benefits you in the long run. It’s kind of like making a deposit in the bank of good will, and helps to balance out those days when you can’t go in to work.


Keep in mind: I’m not suggesting you should go to your job on a day when you know you are feeling too poorly to work. Don’t place your health at risk!


So what does it mean to “fake it ‘til you make” on a day when you feel not great but good enough to go to work? It means putting your best foot – and face – forward to do as good a job as possible on day when, in a perfect world, you would rather have stayed home.


How do you fake it ‘til you make it on a one of these days? Here’s how:


Show some enthusiasm.   It’s hard to pretend you’re feeling like being at work when you’re just not feeling it. So, while you don’t have to spend the day belting out the company song, smiling, projecting an upbeat attitude to other employees, and demonstrating a “can do” attitude when you’re asked to do something can go a long way toward meeting your daily enthusiasm quotient. Admittedly, this may require some faking.


Pace yourself. Of course, you aren’t always in charge of how you spend your time at work. But as much as possible, see where you can pace yourself to conserve your energy. Think of yourself as having a limited amount of energy that has to last throughout the work day. And then try to expend your energy on what’s most important. Anticipate what’s ahead so that you can pace yourself.


Take breaks where you can. Again, jobs don’t always allow for frequent breaks. But make sure you take advantage of the breaks you have available to you. Use your breaks to slip away alone, if possible, and get a couple of minutes to take a lot of your feet, and your mind, and regroup before you place yourself back in the middle of the action. Even slipping into the rest room for a few minutes can provide some needed alone time.


If you have a supportive co-worker, then ask for support. If you have a co-worker who knows that you are living with a chronic condition and understands what it’s like for you when you are having a bad day, you may want to confide in him/her. Let them know how you’re feeling. If they are willing and able to let them lend you a helping hand in some way, this might be the day to say yes to their offer.


Be upfront with co-workers as needed. If it’s clear to others that you are not at your best, and somebody asks you what’s going on with you, it’s up to you how you want to respond. If you do tell them you are aren’t feeling at your best, keep your response positive and empowered. “Thanks for asking. I feel up to holding up my end of the workload. That’s what I’m here to do.”


Stay especially positive with your boss. Use your judgment in communication with your boss. This might be a day to stay under the radar screen and focus on completing your job tasks. But that may not be possible. If your boss takes not that you don’t seem to be at your best, it can be helpful in your communication to emphasize your commitment to the organization and to your co-workers.   “I’m not feeling at my best today but I’m hanging in there and I’m here to work. I don’t want to let the team down.”


Contribute where you can. If there is a task that you are not going to be able to complete, offer to take on other tasks that you are more likely to be able to complete. If possible, you might offer to switch up a couple of tasks with a co-worker. Or ask for some assistance if you can, e.g. with tasks that might require a lot of lifting, walking, or standing for long periods of time.


Is it time to ask for accommodations? Consistent days when you’re having trouble performing your job tasks may be a signal that it’s time to ask for accommodations. This doesn’t mean resigning or going disability, it means working with your company to modify your job requirements to support you in contributing at your best. Nobody likes asking for special treatment at their job, but look at it this way: accommodations can help to assure that you job tasks are in line with any limitations your chronic condition may place on you. That means not having to fake it on those not so great days.


You, your chronic condition, and your job. On those days when you don’t feel at your best but don’t quite need to be at home, making it may require some faking it. But when you do your best to project enthusiasm and commitment, everybody benefits. Especially you!