Support from colleagues
One of the important relationships people have in the workplace is with their colleagues. We asked the people with long term conditions or a disability that we spoke to tell us about what everyday things their colleagues might have done to support them, and what they found less helpful.
Some people we spoke to explained that they sought to keep their condition or disability hidden from their colleagues, but said they felt they could draw upon their support if they needed it in future.
For many people, it was the "little things" that people did that helped them feel supported and valued within the workplace, such as having a friendly or supportive attitude. A common theme in these accounts was how, as Kevin reflected, "generally people are quite helpful". People found that offers of help or support were often no more than they might hope to ordinarily receive from a colleague. Sometimes these everyday acts of courtesy, consideration or common sense extended to assist with an impairment or problem a person was having. For example, Sue's chronic back pain meant she struggled to lift some boxes, but she found her colleagues were happy to help her when needed. Lyn said her colleagues were happy to collaborate and proof documents, reducing any worries about her dyslexia. And Charlotte similarly found her anxiety eased when a colleague read an email she was drafting that was causing her some worry.
© Disability NarrativesLyn explains that sometimes it is the small things that people do that can really help manage her dyslexia.
There were also accounts from the people we interviewed of colleagues showing awareness, recognition, patience and kindness.
© Disability NarrativesJo Z found colleagues were would offer help when they saw her struggling with her back pain.
Having a long term condition or disability affected some people's relationships with their colleagues, sometimes in unusual ways.
© Disability NarrativesCharlotte finds being part time also helps keep her relationships with colleagues on a professional level, which she appreciates.
© Disability NarrativesIt is important to remember that if someone confides personal or private information about their condition to you, that it is treated confidentially.
© Disability NarrativesHumour is often used to diffuse social situations, but Mary found it was not always appropriate or welcome.
Misjudged support and unhelpful expectations
Many of the people we spoke to described moments of forgetfulness from colleagues. At times this amounted to minor irritations or embarrassment when the person had to repeat a request for help or consideration. For example, Maria, who is visually impaired, described how on occasion she had been left a hand-written note (rather than an electronic one), which she would have to ask colleagues to read out to her. The variability of people's conditions was also occasionally a cause of misunderstanding, especially when colleagues expected to see continual improvement. Some people even reported that their needs or requests were being (wilfully) ignored or side-lined.
© Disability NarrativesThe reaction of some colleagues to Mary’s condition has caused her worry and made her feel guilty.
Support from: Union
A source of support some people drew upon was the Union that they were a member of. Jo advised people should "join a union", though not everyone we spoke to was a member of a union. Some of those who were did not know that a union might be able to support them, or did not feel they were in a situation that needed the union's support.
Some people had poor experiences of the help they received.
© Disability NarrativesHaving a neutral third party with you at a mediation meeting can be helpful, but Charlotte found little other support from her union representative.
Frances felt that the union representative was "a great morale booster". Jo found they provided practical support and being a member of the union was also a good social opportunity.