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Dealing With Coworkers In Non-Traditional Jobs


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#1 drago

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Posted 02 July 2010 - 08:36 PM

I titled this "with non-traditional jobs" because my job is not based in an office all the time; when I work in theatre, sometimes I am working with people as a director or as a director for them, or as an assistant director and/or stage manager. This has me working with a lot of different people that change up.

I've had a horrible month with narcolepsy - just BAD. And I've let a fair number of things slip through the sieve, so to speak, but it's not like I have wanted to! But the narcolepsy has made me tired, and made my memory horrible -- HORRIBLE -- and now it's just getting better again...

Today, a woman I work with sometimes told me, "Just putting it out there, you can be hard to get in touch with sometimes." I backpeddled a bit, explaining about my phone, even though I know she has e-mailed me too. I couldn't even bring myself to apologize, because, well, I just couldn't. I jetted out of the conversation as fast as I could, but I felt so crushed when I was driving home - deflated. I had really let her down by being last minute, hard to get in touch with... and even though I've told her I have narcolepsy, I couldn't bring myself to admit that my disability has really been eating away at me this month, and I'm sorry. I just couldn't even think of that sentence.

This woman is wonderful, I've worked with her before, and she knows that I am not always difficult to get in touch with. I also know her well enough that she would not make this comment offhandedly or if the issue had been small or even medium-sized, you know?

And to be honest, I just feel *BEEP*ty right now over all of it; and since I can't really explain myself, I just avoided it. I am worried that I've really messed up future work with this woman. ON the other hand, I don't know her well enough as a friend to confide in her, and I haven't worked with her enough to talk about help with disability or whatever...

I'm kind of stuck, and I'm not seeing much of a way out of this, you know?

drago

#2 Saraiah

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 12:22 AM

Drago,
One thing that I've found to be helpful when I've screwed up at work in some way is to come back to the subject with the person after I've had a chance to think it over and tried to find a solution. Sometimes it helps to identify the cause of the problem as narcolepsy, sometimes not - it really has depended for me on how the other person tends to behave. It's not always necessary to even explain the cause, as long as one takes responsibility for the problem if one has truly caused it, and comes up with a plan to prevent it from happening in the future. So I'd come back to her and say something like this, briefly: "I thought carefully about our conversation the other day, and I really apologize for being hard to reach lately. I've been thinking about how to be sure that this isn't a problem in the future." And then provide a solution that you think will really help - whether it's asking her to contact you on a number with an answering machine, or an email, that someone in your home will also be checking; or some other way of communicating that you virtually always check even if you're half asleep; or even getting a phone for the deaf that both rings and sets off a vibrating device under the mattress in your bed...whatever creative solution(s) you can come up with.

Everybody screws up at work sometimes, whether they've got narcolepsy or not. Most of the time if you're doing a good job in general, people just want to know that you can look at a problem in the face, and figure out how to solve it.

I'm beginning to think that the worst thing about narcolepsy ISN'T the exhaustion and microsleeps (as awful as they are), but instead is the pretty global cognitive impairment that I cope with a lot of the time. No memory, incredible difficulty paying attention, forgetting to follow through on things, inability to work quickly and efficiently because one's brain isn't functioning... It takes a lot of creativity to come up with solutions to work around all this stuff. Let us know how it goes.

Saraiah

#3 drago

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 02:21 PM

One thing that I've found to be helpful when I've screwed up at work in some way is to come back to the subject with the person after I've had a chance to think it over and tried to find a solution. Sometimes it helps to identify the cause of the problem as narcolepsy, sometimes not - it really has depended for me on how the other person tends to behave. It's not always necessary to even explain the cause, as long as one takes responsibility for the problem if one has truly caused it, and comes up with a plan to prevent it from happening in the future. So I'd come back to her and say something like this, briefly: "I thought carefully about our conversation the other day, and I really apologize for being hard to reach lately. I've been thinking about how to be sure that this isn't a problem in the future." And then provide a solution that you think will really help - whether it's asking her to contact you on a number with an answering machine, or an email, that someone in your home will also be checking; or some other way of communicating that you virtually always check even if you're half asleep; or even getting a phone for the deaf that both rings and sets off a vibrating device under the mattress in your bed...whatever creative solution(s) you can come up with.

Everybody screws up at work sometimes, whether they've got narcolepsy or not. Most of the time if you're doing a good job in general, people just want to know that you can look at a problem in the face, and figure out how to solve it.


Hi Saraiah:

I totally get this angle, since this is what I'd normally do. Unfortunately, since I work in a non-traditional working structure, chances are the problem won't come up again in this same manner. I also honestly don't have a solution to the contact issue, because if I answer the phone 'half-asleep' I will not remember the conversation later at all. And in general, the issue for me has been memory-related, and I just don't know what has caused it, let alone how to fix it... I guess I'm asking you - what do you do when you've looked for a solution and just can't find one?

I'm beginning to think that the worst thing about narcolepsy ISN'T the exhaustion and microsleeps (as awful as they are), but instead is the pretty global cognitive impairment that I cope with a lot of the time. No memory, incredible difficulty paying attention, forgetting to follow through on things, inability to work quickly and efficiently because one's brain isn't functioning... It takes a lot of creativity to come up with solutions to work around all this stuff. Let us know how it goes.


Yes, I've had this problem as well - my memory (especially short-term memory) dissolves like that sometimes. I think the other problem is that people don't understand how a sleeping disorder can throw off your memory/ability to do things the way that narcolepsy does, mostly because it's also a neurological/autoimmune thing, right? So when I try to explain, it always feels like the person is considering the possibility that I am making excuses.

drago

#4 Saraiah

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 04:20 PM

Hi Saraiah:

I totally get this angle, since this is what I'd normally do. Unfortunately, since I work in a non-traditional working structure, chances are the problem won't come up again in this same manner. I also honestly don't have a solution to the contact issue, because if I answer the phone 'half-asleep' I will not remember the conversation later at all. And in general, the issue for me has been memory-related, and I just don't know what has caused it, let alone how to fix it... I guess I'm asking you - what do you do when you've looked for a solution and just can't find one?

Yes, I've had this problem as well - my memory (especially short-term memory) dissolves like that sometimes. I think the other problem is that people don't understand how a sleeping disorder can throw off your memory/ability to do things the way that narcolepsy does, mostly because it's also a neurological/autoimmune thing, right? So when I try to explain, it always feels like the person is considering the possibility that I am making excuses.

drago


This is the kind of stuff for which I turn to the rehabilitation literature for people with memory deficits. I don't give up easily on looking for solutions, because if one gives up the resultant disability can really wreck one's ability to work (not that I'm working at the moment - but I am planning to go back as soon as that's possible), not to mention professional and personal relationships. Here are a few ideas:

For in-person conversations: I've gotten very forthright about briefly telling people that I have memory deficits (I don't even go into the fact that the cause of the deficit is narcolepsy), because I need to make lots of notes, and I often will ask to make a recording of all or part of a conversation. When I know I'm having a tough time remembering, I start making digital recordings of conversations. My favorite way to do this is to walk around with a SmartPen and a little SmartPen notebook. The SmartPen records what one is hearing and links it to one's handwritten notes. That way, I can make a little note in my notebook ("conversation with John about X work project") and then just play back that part of the recording later. One can buy a Livescribe Pulse Smartpen for about $150 these days, which is a lot, but if it's a decision between buying the pen or losing the ability to work with a theater person, I'd go with the pen.

For phone conversations: The first thing I'd do is just tell people straight out that I much prefer to communicate either in-person or over email than over the phone, and try to cut that problem off before it starts. That way, one can either record the conversation or one has a written record. Another alternative is to obtain the person's permission to record the telephone call, put them on speakerphone, and turn on the digital recorder. BUT it is illegal to make recordings of telephone calls without the person's express permission for each and every call, so be very careful with that.

Whenever one uses either notes in a regular notebook, a digital recorder like the SmartPen, or any other way of recording information, the key is that you MUST make a daily habit of listening to and/or reading the information from the preceding 24 hours, so that the forgotten information makes its way into your consciousness. And then you've got to take that information and write it systematically in a place you'll know to check when you need it. When my memory is really bad, I use a 3-ring binder divided into sections including a calendar, and sections for each project/whatever. I've had sections for things as mundane as what to pick up the next time I'm at the grocery, and as complicated as a specific project I was doing at work.

All of this is a lot of work, especially when one is first forming the habit of working in these ways. But people get used to your requesting to take notes or record converations, and one gets used to having to doublecheck recordings later. I'd personally rather put the evidence of my memory deficits out there before other people and be able to continue working - especially since the evidence will be out there otherwise anyway, in the form of my completely forgetting decisions and obligations and agreements.

Hope that helps a bit. - Saraiah