Managing your career despite migraines
Thriving despite the hardships
Many Migraine and chronic headache sufferers are aware how severe Migraine and headache disorders that demand total cessation of work can wreak havoc with doing one’s job. If one works in a situation that demands availability all the time when one is working – such as a retail position, a phone-operator/switchboard/call center job, or an assembly-line role — there is little one can do other than have a sympathetic or enlightened supervisor and coworkers.
However, other positions have somewhat more flexibility and an occasional headache will not necessarily be cause for someone to be in the crosshairs of management. Nevertheless, those with Migraines who are not in jeopardy of being fired may still find that their headaches are an obstacle to their career progression within their work organizations. This article describes some of the pitfalls that may arise for the Migraineur and some possible solutions to keep one’s career on track.
In addition, the Migraineur may be overly sensitive to perceptions of not working enough (because of time lost during headaches) and may compensate by feeling constantly pressured to work harder and do more — even if his or her work is comparable or better in both quality and quantity, to that of others. A nagging sense of not accomplishing enough can cause perpetual stress that can further aggravate headaches.
A possible result of not being fully present at these extra-role activities, even if the person is a capable, hardworking, punctual, and productive worker, is that he or she is perceived as “not being a player”. This may be the actual perception of others, or it may only be self-critical analysis projected onto others, but the result is that the person feels that he is unfairly falling behind in his career. It can feel to such employees that they are viewed as frail or elderly — fine for current work, but not worth investing in with stretch assignments, mentoring, or the other types of training afforded to high-potential employees. The person then becomes in his or her own eyes a “double victim” — victimized by the anguish of the ailment and then punished again because he or she cannot fairly compete in the shadow world of social networking.
Migraineurs are not alone in this lament — women with small children, religiously conservative or observant employees, others with disabilities, and even the obese and unattractive all feel victimized by the inability to participate (and thereby compete) in some of the realms of the parallel social world. However, these are not illegal or discriminatory activities, and the focus needs to be on coping rather than holding onto victim status.
Fred Mael is an organizational psychologist who does research and consulting in the areas of work and organizational performance, and does work-life and career coaching. He can be reached at www.maelconsulting.com.. This article was posted on the MAGNUM website in May 2003.