I'm a software engineer and was recently involved in a motorcycle accident that has my right hand in a bit of a mess. One of the injuries in particular is causing a lot of pain - an unhealing broken scaphoid.

I'd like to think that I'm usually very productive, but this injury has me taking frequent breaks lasting from minutes to hours. My social life has gone to zero due to the unpredictable nature of these breaks and the fact that I'm still obligated to deliver the same value for the salary I'm being paid - but now that takes twice as much time.

I'd like to try to explain to my coworkers that my relatively low productivity isn't due to me being lazy, and that their perceptions of me are important to me. I'd like to manage those perceptions by explaining the type of injury I have, and possibly even showing them the X-rays (more from an isn't this gnarly position than a defensive one). I'm hoping this kind of transparency will soften their likely very negative current perceptions of me. Even the quality of my work is declining as the pain sometimes completely derails my train of thought and leads to forgetful/sloppy behavior.

I have considered disability but I don't feel that I'm disabled; I'm just a bit handicapped at the moment. Any advice would be much appreciated.

  • 5
    Hey this is a health issue and unless I'm very wrong, you're entitled to medical leave until you are fit to return to work. Why you "have" to work even if it's causing uneasiness and pain? Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 5:22
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    Please add a country tag. Much of what you write are red flags for a country that has no laws to protect their workforce and telling you to go by those laws would not help you. Generally speaking, if you are lucky enough to live in a democracy, go find out which party will change the laws so a single accident won't ruin your life that way and vote for them.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 6:21
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    Do you have concerns that they won't believe you if you told them the truth? Has anyone already voiced suspicions that you're being lazy?
    – user34587
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 8:00
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    So, You say your hand is causing you enough pain that you have to take frequent breaks that sometimes last literal hours. You also say that you don't feel you're disabled. Well, I am sorry, but you are the very definition of disabled. The fact is, you could continue to put on a "brave face" and hope that your injury goes away soon, but as long as you're being honest with yourself, you should consider the possibility that you're doing a disservice to both yourself and your employer by doing so. You are probably better off just taking disability leave until your arm is fully healed.
    – McITGuy
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 22:13
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    The reason you feel pain is that it's your body telling you you're hurt and to avoid causing more damage. So you should probably go on sick leave if possible. Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 11:44

3 Answers 3


As you say, you had (and still have) a problem. It affects your productivity, coworkers have noticed it, and they have "negative perceptions". You want to soften their temporary resentment. I see that as a very positive attitude, so why wouldn't you just tell them what you're telling us?

Any communication channel will help I believe. First: you manager. Explain everything, one on one, provide them, if possible, with any suitable solution for you and the company, taking into account your health, needs, and duties. Talk to them first.

Then, your colleagues. You want to be nice to them, so just be nice, tell them the truth.

Hi guys! I've just had a bike accident, and suffer more than I expected. At the moment, I've an unhealing broken scaphoid, my hand hurts a lot, and forces me into frequent/longer breaks.

I know it messes our work up, and, as team member, I'd like to do my best in order to help. It takes more time for me to deliver the work, but I'll catch up as much as I can, and work longer hours.

As a colleague, I'd understand your problem, and wouldn't blame you. And even help you. As a small business owner, I'd like to know what happened to you before I notice your "temporary low productivity". And I'd help you: health insurance (your rights, your problems with them, your coverage...)? different hours? different duties? talk to team and explain? Well, any manager's duties.


Canada ->

There are a couple of routes you can go. The most typical is that you apply for short-term disability, or arrange for light duty arrangements with your company. Depending on your recovery, it may or may not turn in to long term disability.

So, currently, you have a disability. You should be accommodated. You definitely need to find resources local to your municipality/region.

As for your coworkers. It's none of their business, and you don't answer to them. Your supervisor should be controlling the tone of the room with regards to how you're performing, and that person is the one evaluating you. Discuss it with them.


You seem to be seriously overthinking this.

The answer is in the question:

I'm experiencing hand pain that forces me to take frequent breaks.

Just say that.

But, surely you say "ouch!" from time to time? Surely at least one co-worker has noticed?

  • If anyone complains you say "if you could suffer that accident instead of me, and I had to do your work, I'd gladly do it" .
    – gnasher729
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 12:59

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