I am typically a top performer and a hard worker, but my seasonal hay fever is making life (work) hell.

Besides sniffling, which irritates some of my colleagues, I often get drowsy from medication and otherwise my eyes are itchy and I find it difficult to breathe.

This makes it hard to concentrate, and I have noticed that in the past few weeks I have received more admonishing by my manager for not doing a good job; I feel helpless, especially because I never underperform and I always understand, but this time - for some reason - I find it hard to follow what he wants from me / or what he doesn't want me to do - unless something goes wrong and then he tells me that's what I wasn't supposed to do.

Our work involves a lot of figuring out things on our own.

I don't know whether the drowziness/irritation is causing me to be in "automatic mode" rather than "learn/listen/think", but most certainly I am finding it very hard to absorb new information and apply it at work or think on my own feet.

Most of the time I am just doing routine and hoping to go home early every day. (Whereas my work involves a fair amount of non-routine, independent thinking type of work, and in fact for most of my "good years" I was able to figure out things on my own). Generally I it's as if my active mind is "switched off" due to this illness.

What I am most concerned about is that my manager repeatedly told me "This is what you were supposed to do earlier" and I find myself confused and lost.

What should I do in this situation?

UPDATE: Many answers and comments here assume that I might be able to put the cause of the problem (the allergy / its symptoms) under control. I am 100% sure that my current state is as best as I can get, at least for the time being. Reasons include the range of medications I can use due to adverse effects interacting with other conditions I have + other commitments which means I must stay here and at this job. So, given these constraints, how could I deal with the issue? What if my allergy cannot be controlled the season? How can I ensure I don't loose the job?

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    Many good short-term solution, but you need long-term plan beyond increasing doses of your medications. Did you considered finding a job in different geographic area where your allergens are not present? You first need to find out your allergy triggers. Then maybe adapt/change careers. Jun 26, 2014 at 23:18
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    This question is specifically about how to communicate with MANAGER/BOSS about this and how to make due at workplace due to performance issues. This is NOT about annoyed colleagues, which is my other question. The two questions are separate and DISTINCT. Jun 26, 2014 at 23:43
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    how many weeks per year does this last? Jun 27, 2014 at 0:25
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    Thanks for clarifying that you are sure your current state is as good as you can get it, that helps give context to your question.
    – Alnitak
    Jun 27, 2014 at 10:02

3 Answers 3


OK first we can't help you with the medication, but truly get to a doctor however you can and try a different med. If you have a doctor and you call his office and tell them the meds are making you unable to work, they might find a way to slot you in earlier. What concerns me, as a severe allergy suffer myself, is that what you describe seems way beyond any effect allergies have ever had on me; you truly need to get to a doctor ASAP as it could be something else causing the lack of focus (it sounds like you didn't have this problem so severely in past years?)

Now managing work performance when an illness is making you temporarily not do as well. First and formost, talk to your supervisor. Tell hom why you haven't been at your best and acknowledge that something needs to change to put you back on track. Tell him what steps you are taking to resolve the problem medically and, since this is seasonal, how long you expect it to last. Then give him a plan for how you are going to mitigate the effect this is having on your work. It could include such things as:

  • Asking him to assign you less critical work if he can during this time or allow you more time.
  • Since your symptoms are annoying others, seeing if you can arrange to work from home temporarily. Think about how the medicine affects you and try to schedule your easiest work during the hours when it makes you the sleepiest. This might also reduce yoru stress level by getting you awy from the annoyed co-workers and might make it easier to focus as you coudl take breaks when the symptoms get worse.
  • If you feel things are taking longer than they usually would, you could consider suggesting working extra hours to make up for it.
  • If you are having trouble focusing, then start writing things down.
  • If you feel you need to check with him more frequently to ensure you haven't forgotten something, then suggest that.
  • Changing work hours to avoid the worst of the symptoms (my allergies are worst in the morning for instance)

By talking out loud about what the problem is, agreeing that your performance has taken a nose dive and making suggestions for how to fix the issue, you are going to get more help than sitting the sniffing and trying to concentrate.

Finally don't just assume that the allergies are seasonal and there is nothing in your environment that can be changed to can fix it or help it. My allergies got 1000% better when I put a cover on my pillow that stopped dust mites. I still have seasonal allergies but they are not as severe. If you can mitigate even a small part of your allergies theough other means, then do so and you may find just a little bit of relief will be enough to let you concentrate again. If you can get into an air-conditioned environment, this should help too. Is there another geographic locaton you could go to where the allergies wouldn't be as severe?

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    Highly recommend your last suggestion. Nothing will help relieve allergies better than living in a geographic location that doesn't have as much of the allergens that you are allergic to. We had to leave Florida (I just loved it there) to get my son away from all the things he was allergic to. It made a huge difference. I know we made the right decision to move because usually after about the 3rd day of visiting family back in Florida his skin starts breaking out.
    – Dunk
    Jun 26, 2014 at 21:48
  • I cannot afford to relocate right now. All I can do is somehow find a way to work better or at least ask my boss/employer to understand why I am not superstar anymore, but that I am not doing so "on purpose". Jun 26, 2014 at 23:46
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    Also, if there are workplace accommodations that would make a difference (air filter at your desk? change in work hours, as suggested here? etc), ask your manager about them. I once asked an employer to get the AC ducts cleaned and it made a huge difference for my allergies -- everybody was happier after. Be prepared to do the legwork -- figure out what would make a difference, do the research, and come with a proposal. Jun 27, 2014 at 14:54

Firstly, I'd see a doctor and look for a better medication solution that will meet your needs. I know there are more options nowadays for allergies, though not first-hand and definitely not better than a doctor would.

Secondly, where your manager has told you "this is what you were supposed to do earlier", was it something directly mentioned by the boss? If so, perhaps you should work on taking notes so that you don't miss the boss' directives in the future.

If it was something you missed due to lack of focus, I'd work on finding the medical solution I mentioned earlier before trying to find a work solution. You say yourself that in the past you have been a star performer. You can probably get back to that level if your allergies can get under control.

  • 1. Unfortunately I have very poor access to advanced medical solutions; in the very least, I will have to wait a long time until I can get an appointment with a doctor... So in the meantime should I tell my boss anything? 2. I didn't miss the boss' directives. Without going into too many details it's something analytical: "Think of all possible scenarios before submitting the report". I was unable to foresee all possible scenarios but thought I had done so and submitted the reports, multiple times. Jun 26, 2014 at 20:48
  • If you have to wait a long time to get an appointment then you'd better make the appointment NOW. Also, be sure to ask to be put on the wait list in case a cancellation occurs, let them know it is causing you serious problems at work. Also, from your "sniffling" question I'm sure your boss already knows about your allergies. Your boss will probably be understanding for a "short while" but your allergies are not his/her problem. You doing your job is their problem. So do your part and AGGRESSIVELY attempt to get this problem under control. It is possible.
    – Dunk
    Jun 26, 2014 at 21:43

You cannot expect you company to keep paying you to do a job you are unable to do at this time. So the question becomes, are there simple accommodations that your employer could provide, or small changes that you could make, to enable to you perform your job efficiently in your current medical condition? If not, you need to document that your medical condition precludes working in your line of work, and apply for medical leave.

In terms of looking for accommodations, my first suggestion would be to confirm your assignments and your interpretation of them by email. You might tell your boss in advance that because your allergies are making you a bit fuzzy, you feel it would be best for you to confirm things with him in writing, so that there is no misunderstanding. You might also ask for permission to record meetings so that you can review things later if needed.

If that is not sufficient, and if you truly cannot be treated medically to be able to function properly during allergy season, you should ask your doctor about getting documentation to take a medical leave during the time that you are unable to work. You're better off taking a leave and coming back when you are able to perform at full capacity than getting fired for doing a poor job.

If you are in the U.S., you probably have short-term disability coverage at work that will pay you a percentage of your usual income while you are unable to work due to illness.

Alternately, with medical documentation that you are unable to do your normal job, you might be able to negotiate a short-term switch to a job with more routine assignments, if such a job is available. This is more complicated (and requires your medical documentation to be pretty specific about what you are and are not able to do in your current condition) also might entail a temporary pay cut.

  • I agree it would be unusual, but if the employee can't do his job and can't be medically treated to a point where he can, it seems the logical outcome. Jun 27, 2014 at 16:00
  • Whether or not a doctor would agree that his condition was serious enough remains to be seen. But apparently the doctors are admitting that they can't treat the allergies correctly, in part due to other underlying issues, so it may be the combination of the allergies and the other issues that would allow the poster to qualify for disability. Jun 27, 2014 at 16:09

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