23

I'm technically okay, but these days, I'm becoming the weakest link on my team due to some recent health issues:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Memory problems
  • Poor concentration
  • Slow thinking

It's getting harder for me to start a task, complete it from A to Z, and learn from it.

I haven't consulted a doctor yet, but my boss (and coworkers) have started avoiding giving me important tasks because they know I won't be as effective as I'm supposed to be, especially with the critical ones.

The question is, how am I supposed to handle such a situation in a way that it won't affect my career, nor the team’s efficiency?

PS: This is my first experience, I've been here for 5 months, I'm 25 years old.

  • 138
    If you're genuinely suffering from all 4, I think "how do I tell my boss" should be of a far lower priority then "figure out what's going on". You need to visit a doctor first and worry about your career second. – Erik Jan 26 '17 at 11:41
  • @Erik Of course I'm going to check a doctor, but still, a discussion have to occur between my coworkers and me, and that's what I'm asking about. – Radhwen Jan 26 '17 at 11:52
  • 36
    Yes, but until you know what the problem is, there's no way to tell how to approach your colleagues with the issue. You could require everything from a week of vacation to a year of treatment and the approach is very different. – Erik Jan 26 '17 at 11:54
  • 28
    Its better to consult the doctor then the internet.. – S.Visser Jan 26 '17 at 12:07
112

I haven't consulted a doctor yet

This is the key phrase in what you wrote.

You indicate that you are having "health issues" which are severe enough such that you and others see it impacting your work and severe enough that it compelled you to post here. Worry about your health first, then worry about work later.

Get yourself to a medical facility and get thoroughly checked out. It could be diet, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, lifestyle, or (hopefully not) a serious medical issue such as depression.

Depending on the results of your exams, that will guide what you say or don't say to your workplace.

Most likely, you have something going on that you can deal with quickly and privately, and return your work to its normal efficiency.

If you truly have a health issue that will adversely impact your work in an ongoing way, your medical professionals can advise you on how to deal with it, or refer you to someone who can help.

It doesn't make sense to talk to your boss about this until you really know what you are dealing with, and what you want your boss to do about it. (And as @HLGEM has pointed out if work has already noticed, then without a diagnosis you are far more likely to be fired. You have far less protection.)

  • 57
    And the scariest thing is that his co-workers have noticed and adapted their behavior, which means that this is SERIOUS. – Teacher KSHuang Jan 26 '17 at 12:10
  • 28
    Further if work has already noticed, then without a diagnosis you are far more likely to be fired. You have no legal disability protection even if your locality has such laws. Get to a doctor and then once you know, you can talk to HR/your boss about accommodations. – HLGEM Jan 26 '17 at 15:17
  • 5
    My only disagreement is that I see no reason not to start a preliminary conversation with your boss. At this point it's enough to say "I know that I haven't been effective lately and I am making plans to see a doctor to figure it out. Thank you for being patient with me, and I will let you know when I learn more." – David K Jan 27 '17 at 13:37
23

As someone who has experienced all of these things, I first want to ask back some questions.

  • Do you still find your work as interesting as it used to be?
  • Do you try to keep your body active? (If your body doesn't work then the brain can become slow and you tend not to remember things)
  • Do you get regular and enough sleep? (Can effect performance/brain function alot and is IMO the most important "activity")
  • Do you know when you started "behave" in this way? Maybe you can trace back to when you started experience these things.

Bottom line to this questions is that it can depend on a lot of factors and until you visit a doctor and rule out some of the possibilities.

Before you talk to your boss about these health issues I would regard first see a doctor then if it's not something medical, then try figure out why and when it started to happened.

I found out that sleep was the most important thing, even if the amount of sleep differ between 1 hour.

  • 4
    Lack of sleep could cause all of the OPs symptoms. Nice catch! – Mister Positive Jan 26 '17 at 12:15
  • 6
    @MisterPositive Depression also could, but I only speak from my own experience. – user27051 Jan 26 '17 at 16:49
4

If you approach your boss, it needs to be with a request on how they can help you to become a more productive employee. Meaning, you first need to understand what will make you feel better.

In the case of something like a nutritional deficiency (e.g. iron deficiency in vegetarians) or diabetes, you may be able to work with your doctor to fix it without ever bringing in your employer.

In the case of something that requires a surgical or other off-work treatment, you would need to tell your employer what time frame you will be off or on reduced duties.

In the case of something basically untreatable like SEID / Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease there is little your employer can do other than give you less demanding work - which they are already doing - or cutting your hours. In the case of requesting less hours, it would be highly important to have an official diagnosis with an explanatory letter from your doctor explaining the diagnosis and affirming that the reduced hours will make you more productive.

I can't imagine any scenario where talking to your employer would come before at least one and probably multiple doctor visits.

2

I will stress first, and foremost (like the others) address the medical issue first. See a doctor, or if you don't want to do that, get some extra sleep, spend more down time, etc. I won't say seeing a doctor is the only way, but those are some pretty serious issues. Also any legal protection you may have under, for example the "disabilities act" will require you to see a doctor.

Now aside from the doctor/legal part, I am going to focus on your question. How do you "tell your boss"? I want to also address some cold facts that a lot of people will try to ignore because it's either polite, or because they legally have to.

First, telling your boss. You really should have a note from a doctor to back you up, otherwise your boss may just think your "whining" or trying to get out of work. Basically, if someone came to me and told me they were having those kinds of issues, I would send them home to see a doctor. If I thought that wouldn't be enough I would tell them not to come back till they had seen a doctor. Those are serious issues. If they still resisted (A boss can really make you see a doctor if it endangers people in the work place but that's a tricky slope) I would think your just making it up to get out of work. Essentially, in my mind no one would have those level of problems and not see a doctor, so I would make/force openings where you could see a doctor, and if you didn't....

But that aside, if you still wish to tell your boss, then your need to tell them just enough to let them know your aware of the problem and most importantly what you are going to do, or what you need to fix the problem.

For an example, if someone came to me and said "I'm having these health issues." My first questions are going to be, Did you see a doctor? Why haven't you seen a doctor? Do you need time off? Do you think you can still do your job? Those questions lead to a bad place, but your not leaving a lot of room. Depending on your job, your basically telling me that not only are you endangering your self, but also others, and the company. Of course this is a larger issue if you work with machinery, or automobiles, but I wouldn't want to risk issues with the coffee pot or copy machine either. Keep in mind, you may think these issues are "mild" but I don't know that.

If instead you came to me and said "I know I have been a bit forgetful the last few weeks. I made a doctors appointment to get it checked out." My response is going to basically be. "Ok, let me know how it goes, or if you need anything. If there's anything I can do to help let me know." These are good places to go. Now you have alerted me to the fact that your aware of an issue, and your doing something about it. For me, that closes the loop. After you get back from the doctor, it might be time for a different set of conversations, but for now I'm good. I would likely not even think of it again.

So telling your boss is important, but don't go in without a game plan. Admit a problem, and have a proposed resolution. Don't divulge too much, but at the same time be honest.

Bonus Material

Some "cold" facts. Now I say these, not because you asked, but because you need to be aware of them if you do have a problem.

  • In the US there is the "disabilities act". You should read up on it. The proper name to get you started is "Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990." However there have been many adjustments over time and the public "thinking" on how this act works is usually wrong. The act helps you, but also spells out some protections for the company too (in a kind of backward way). There will be some things the company can and can't do. But there will be some things the company can do. You really need to understand this act if you do have a problem. It does not protect your job in all situations!, more importantly in order to qualify, there are certian things you must do.
  • Many states also have a/some "disabilities act(s)". A popular one in Florida is the FMLA or Florida Family Medical Leave Act, this law (well really it's a set of laws there is no real single act" Is essentially a guide on how to implement the Federal Medical Leave Act, with a few extra bits thrown in. Point being that your state, may have some extra laws to help, or hinder you. They must abide by the Federal ones though.
    • In both the points above, "common knowledge" of the laws is WAY off. For example many people around here (not SE, here IRL) quote the "Florida medical leave act". There is no such thing. What people are usually referring to is the Federal Family and Medical Leave act, or the "Florida Family and Medical Leave Laws". If you think the name is confusing, try figuring out your protections and responsibilities are without help.
    • And finally, I urge you, if your issue is a more permanent one, to re-evaluate your job/carrier. I know someone that worked at a call center, but had "disabilities" that kept her from being able to hear the phone, or type, or talk on the phone for long periods. The company would not risk firing her. But she also had nowhere to go. So they "stuck" her in "administration" basically doing nothing. Her job satisfaction was not high.
0

I had/have similar issues. As other people mentioned. See a doctor asap. I'll add some more about medical options at the end. I'm going to focus on your actual question first.

Try to figure out what is hard for you to do, what causes problems and possible workarounds. These workaround can include your boss and colleagues.

Forgetfulness and not being able to finish tasks can be helped to some extent by lists and frequent reminders and/or status reports. Offload all cognitive load you can onto lists and reminders. Try to make most of your work consist of habits (way less mental load). That should give you more breathing room for when you have to actually focus.

You can communicate with your boss and coworkers about your issues (they seem to have noticed already anyways), your plans to improve and how they can help you.

I had the advantage of being the most technically skilled person in our team and I offloaded most follow-up tasks to my colleagues while I just focused on very specific issues (I had a lot of trouble switching between tasks). Even so, I still had lists and reminders for everything (such as planning my next day at the end of the day with reminders and time blocks just so I wouldn't space out several hours).


For the medical part, I'm sorry for your symptoms. They can point to numerous issues, ranging from a severe lack of sleep to malnutrition to auto-immune disease to hormonal issues to poisoning. A good doctor should try to check you for other symptoms (which you may not notice as symptoms).

A few things to check that should help with diagnosis (non-exhaustive list): check your stools (consistency, frequency, color, wiping), do you have any specific food cravings and/or weird taste effects (such as craving salt and finding it to taste sweet), how long would you sleep without alarm clock (in vacations after you're caught up on sleep), do you ever get dizzy (is this related to how long ago you've eaten or not), did you recently move. Answers to the above questions are not sufficient to diagnose anything, but can help you narrow down the search (and hence save you medical testing costs and time).

-2

Go be assessed by a doctor. Take time off work until you have done this. Until instructed to by the doctor, rest and do not do anything strenuous. It's important to remember;

1) Your health is important

2) Without your health you cannot do your job. It sounds like you are already having difficulty doing your job if your team mates have started treating you differently with easier tasks. You are no good to anyone, your self or work place, if you cannot function normally.

Also, try not to drink alcohol to often or do other recreation that can be hard on the body.

  • Who down voted? – MrE Mar 20 '17 at 8:07

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