Chronic Communication at Work: When You Can’t Get the Work Done on Time

Some days, even the best of intentions aren’t enough. Like on a day you’ve hit a rough spot with your chronic condition and can’t get a task done on time. Or when you can’t quite get through your shift.


Have you had a day like that lately?


Your co-workers may be aware of your chronic condition and be ready to jump in and help. On the other hand, you may be attempting to stay “under the radar screen” so that your co-workers don’t see your work being affected by your health. Or you may not want anyone to know about your diagnosis and be keeping it to yourself.


Regardless of how much your co-workers know about your chronic condition, when it gets in the way of you being to complete your tasks at work, unwanted attention may come your way. This can leave you feeling exposed. And that can bring up other emotions, like shame, insecurity, and fear of the future.


If you have some of those days when you aren’t quite up to getting your work done, here’s what you can do:


Don’t turn this into a catastrophe. Not being quite able to go the distance at your job today doesn’t have to be a crisis. You’ve done pretty well on other days, right? And chances are, you’ve got a lot of good days in your future. So this doesn’t have to mean your job is in jeopardy. And as for the work that didn’t get done today, it’s probably not going to put your company out of business. In other words, keep your perspective. And remember that everybody has bad days.


Avoid the urge to read minds. When we’re feeling exposed or ashamed, our minds go to town. We start interpreting looks or comments we get from other people and make assumptions about what they’re thinking. And usually, those assumptions are all about the worse possible scenario.


Be kind to yourself. When that voice of self-criticism starts heaping on the blame, with lots of woulda-coulda-shoulda, say thanks for the feedback. And then choose to show yourself some compassion and encouragement. Tell yourself: “I’m a hard worker and I’m doing as much as I possibly can. I’ll get through this.” After all, you’re a human being, not a machine.


Be transparent, within reason. You don’t have to add further stress by pretending that everything is okay when it’s not. But you also don’t have to disclose details about your condition that you aren’t comfortable disclosing and, most likely, are not needed. You can simply say to your manager and/or your co-workers: “I’m not at my best today.” Let them know what you have completed and/or how long you can remain at work, and what you won’t be able to complete within the required timeframe.


Avoid surprises. You may or may not know in advance when you can’t perform at your usual level. But if you do think you won’t be able to perform as expected, sound the alarm early instead of waiting until you are at the point where you have hit the wall. Say something to your manager like, “I’m not feeling at my best today. I am going to push forward and try to get this done, but I have to let you know I may not be able to.”


Where possible, offer solutions. You may have some ideas about alternate ways to get the work done. Can it be postponed for a day or two? Is there a task that can be put to the top of the list so you can focus on that before you stop working for the day? Do you have a co-worker who is willing to switch tasks with you or do you a favor that you can pay back when you’re feeling better? Say something like: “I want to do what I can to help out. And I have a couple of ideas.”


You and your job. You’re doing the best you can to get it done and done on time. And a day when your chronic condition keeps you from meeting your goals doesn’t have to be a disaster. Be kind to yourself! And communicate!