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I have a coworker with B12 vitamin deficiency. They take shots every 12 weeks, but become really cranky from week 8 onward, and are very difficult to work with or even talk with. Unfortunately, getting my work done depends on my coworker's answers, and it has been increasingly harder to communicate in the last 4 weeks. This has happened in the last 3 months since we started working together.

While I appreciate my coworker being upfront and sharing the health problem, what are my options without causing any trouble? I'm getting delayed and missing targets because of this, so it developed into quite a stressful item for me!

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Have you talked to your manager about the problems you have when working with this colleague? The underlying cause is not your concern, the fact that it's affecting your work is. – Lilienthal Mar 21 at 12:15
3 months ~ 12 weeks, which makes me wonder, was this just for this cycle, or does this happen every cycle? – muru Mar 21 at 14:38
My father has a B12 deficiency too, and he found that the original interval prescribed had this same effect. They should talk to their doctor about getting it adjusted as it may be a good change for their overall health. – Logarr Mar 21 at 15:24
I think the point most are making is that you can make this a battle, but better to be understanding. – Richard U Mar 21 at 15:43
It needs to be dealt with, but keep in mind that this isn't some small thing. Deficiencies like this are often perceived the same way that something like a ragweed allergy is perceived. "What's the big deal, just pop some Claratin and get over it." While these things are not life threatening, they are often like a paper cut that never goes away. It's not going to kill you, but it nags at you day and night, drastically diminishing your quality of life and of course, your mood. – Technik Empire Mar 21 at 22:42
up vote 57 down vote accepted

As Richard U's answer says, you can talk with this person to let them know that they are getting difficult to work with. They may not realize how difficult they become during those 4 week periods. Lilienthal's comment about speaking with your manager is also good.

Not mentioned yet is that you can try to avoid personal contact with this person when he/she is difficult to be around. Instead of asking for answers in person, you could send an email or IM, make a telephone call, or whatever method your office uses. I realize this may be a little awkward if you're in adjoining cubicles, but if you need to get up and walk to another area to talk with this person, these alternatives could reduce the difficulty you are dealing with.

Also, try to be compassionate toward the person and make an extra effort to treat them nicely when they are having a difficult time. When they become difficult to be around, most people probably respond to them negatively, which can create a nasty feedback loop; by being nice to them, you can break that loop somewhat, at least between the two of you.

Finally, when they are unpleasant, keep in mind that the way this person treats you is due to their medical condition. It is not something you should take personally.

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+1 You put it better than I did. – Richard U Mar 21 at 13:19
I was the cranky coworker for some time (serotonin and vitamin D deficiency + some other health issues), and my performance was under the usual. I only truly realized the loss after I took medication and supplements, and kicked back to "my old productive self". Huge chances are your coworker does not realize it. – Mindwin Mar 21 at 14:54
I work with a person who experiences a rollercoaster of emotions, most of them disruptive. Sometimes over a week, sometimes over a day. They are very apologetic about it and only notice what is happening when they are reminded. It has helped our environment greatly to have a little flexibility and... urgh , an engineering office... spit spit – Gusdor Mar 21 at 16:12
@boot4life yes, people don't realize it, especially if it's dealing with a chronic condition that creeps up on you. – Richard U Mar 22 at 11:30
@boot4life what Ricard said. The situation does not springs into being at once. You become impaired over time, and one of the characteristics of the impairment is that you do not perceive it. self-reflection is hard even more when it affects your mental faculties. We are not talking about mood this is a medical condition, as serious as any other. – Mindwin Mar 22 at 12:23

Well, you know their pattern. For the first eight weeks after their shot, get as much out of them as you can so that during those last four, you'll have enough so that you don't have to interact with them as much.

If you live in America, the Americans With Disabilities act comes into play. The "reasonable accommodation" may be that you limit your contact with them during that time.

Also, speak to them directly and tell them that you notice that as they get closer to their next dose, they seems to be less genial. Ask them what you can do to accommodate them. Work with them, not against them and both of your lives will be easier.

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It's not just the condition, but its treatment.

Takes shots every 12 weeks, but becomes really cranky from week 8 onwards

As others have already mentioned, tell them you have noted a change in their behavior every time they did not get treatment for a prolonged period of time. Keep in mind though, this is a highly sensitive issue that might discomfort them talking about.

Make sure they know you are not trying to involve yourself in their personal affairs. Explain that you are only concerned with your work relationship and that you do not blame it on them.

If they get your point you might ask them if they have ever considered changing the frequency of their treatments in accordance with their doctor. In case they are open to it you could also point out there is Vitamin B12 toothpaste as a proven method for continuous treatment.


I am not trying to give medical advice here and neither should you. However, it could be that the dosage they receive is not ideal so it seems reasonable to recommend getting medical advice.

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Injecting large doses on such long intervals is just plain stupid. Although B12 is very well stocked (for months), on the other hand it is very "badly" absorbed (I mean the absorption cap is hit very soon, so 95% of a standard supplement is just waste, and for that shot it's more like 99%. Not to mention the effects of overtaking.). Supplementing on shorter intervals would be so worth considering. – Gras Double Mar 21 at 20:46
To be fair, a trend that coworkers notice that revolves around the shot cycle is something the doctor should be aware of. Also, my wife is B12 deficient and I didn't know it caused crankiness... makes mental note... – corsiKa Mar 21 at 21:49
@GrasDouble There might be medical reasons for giving high doses but I definitely agree with you on overtaking. Generally speaking, if you supplement more than needed all you get is expensive urine. B2T: There is also a chance the medical condition of the OP's colleague is not at fault here. Only a doctor can tell. – Søren D. Ptæus Mar 22 at 9:12
@corsiKa My ex-wife had a gastric bypass that lead to severe B12 deficiency - she purposefully missed many appointments to get her jabs and it lead to serious mood swings and psychosis... Hence the ex. – SeanR Mar 22 at 14:18
@SeanR I forgot I made this comment and I thought everyone was upvoting my wife's deficiency and I'm like wow heartless... then I remembered the first sentence and went ahhh right. Right. – corsiKa Mar 22 at 14:38

Email is your friend. Don't talk in person, send requests by email. If it is during their very difficult phase, cc your or their boss on replies. Workplace friendships are important, and their condition is unfortunate, but if they are preventing you from getting work done, you need to CYA. Apart from that, this is not your problem, just soldier on.

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Just skirting or ignoring the issue does not make it go away. If they need to talk face-to-face, it can get awkward. Maybe the coworker needs to adjust his vitamin shot cyces. Maybe it can be solved if they talk in the workplace, then take it to the physician for a review of the treatment. – Mindwin Mar 21 at 14:56
Mindwin: of course all of those things are true -- coworker needs to adjust his meds. And yet, unless OP is a doctor (probably not because username says DBA), and unless coworker is OPs patient, the best OP can do is soldier on and find a way to deal with a 1/3 time unpleasant coworker. And CYA. – MealyPotatoes Mar 21 at 15:02
MealyPotatoes, coworker probably is not aware of the situation. I've been through it (see coment on GreenMatt's answer) and until I got treatment, I could not see the full scope. Skipping contact is not the way to go. – Mindwin Mar 21 at 15:07
Mindwin: Sounds like you had a great outcome to a similar imbalance; very cool. And yet, I still don't think this is OP's problem to solve. But fear not; my point was not to avoid contact, it was to get things in writing. As you pointed out, coworker is probably not even aware that he is being difficult. By using email, OP can document coworkers responses. This provides empirical groundwork for a tactful conversation, and gives OP cover. If coworker is being difficult, OP can point to emails and say, "I tried." Then manager can have the tactful conversation with coworker. – MealyPotatoes Mar 21 at 15:44
If someone sent an email to me about something like this, my first thought would be, "this person doesn't care enough about me to talk to me directly. Their comfort is more important to them than helping me." Whether or not it's their problem to solve, I think email will only make the issue worse. It is also a lot easier to misinterpret people's intentions when reading an email message. – xdhmoore Mar 22 at 15:25

If it's impacting on your work a lot, take it to management. It's their job to find a solution that keeps you happyish and productive.

Your coworkers health issues are not your problem to solve. You can empathise with them as much as you want, but at the end of the day, they're becoming a burden which you didn't sign on for.

If someone was being overly obnoxious to me for 4 weeks, I can pretty much guarantee there will be a confrontation if it got bad enough. There's a point where excuses about medication would not be good enough. And I'd let the manager know that. A good manager resolves everyones issues, not some at the expense of others.

The manager has plenty of options to resolve it amicably ranging from talking to your colleague, to giving you separate work and a host of things in between. Either way pass the problem on and concentrate on your tasks.

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"guarantee they'll have more health problems": Do you mean that you would get violent, or would you just poison them? – Christoffer Hammarström Mar 22 at 8:52
Well, if you were to slap me because you thought i was annoying, "I can pretty much guarantee" that i'd call the police on you. – Christoffer Hammarström Mar 22 at 9:01
Anyway, giving the person with health problems a slap because they're annoying you is not good advice in general. – Christoffer Hammarström Mar 22 at 9:27
"If ..., I would ..." is giving advice in my book. AFAIK, the advice you are giving (threatening with violence) is criminal in most places. Do you really want to publicly advice people to take criminal action? – D Drmmr Mar 22 at 13:37
There is no excuse for violence. – Mr Me Mar 22 at 14:07

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