Part time employment – changing the way we do business

March 21, 2018

Why do corporations limit opportunities for part time workers?  I feel like I am being discriminated by a system that makes it challenging to find suitable work for my experience and education.  The work that is often offered is low pay, no benefits, and limited opportunities for advancement. It is really hard for me not to become discouraged.  I have health issues that make it difficult for me to work full time, yet it doesn’t mean I can’t be competent and valuable as a part time worker.

I keep hoping and praying for an opportunity to prove myself, to show that I am a competent, efficient, and creative.  I continue to educate myself, do more than the task at hand, and build relationships with the people around me. I believe that I become increasingly frustrated because I see this gap between how I am growing and developing and yet i still keep hearing “we don’t hire part time people for that position”.  It doesn’t matter what my capabilities are, there is a limit if you can’t work full time.

My real passion is in the social work field.  I love all aspects of what I call social services.  I am especially drawn to helping those with challenges – children who have been abused, or need an advocate, people who don’t have homes, or those with addictions and mental illnesses.  I enjoy the hands on experience, as well as assisting with goals, case management, or behind the scenes type of activities. I am very mission oriented – the purpose of the organization needs to be shown in the day to day activities.  

I will keep advocating, writing and trying to find a voice for myself.  At the same time, I aim to do this in the most respectful way possible. I have met some of the greatest people, who are heartfelt, yet are comfortable with the system as it is.  I don’t pretend to understand or know all the logistics to running a business. Though I have had some experience in contract type of work. I am open to hearing and listening to the business perspective.  Is there any way we can find something that benefits all?

I don’t want to be angry or bitter, and I am doing what I can to work through the various emotions that come up in relation to feeling like there is this box I can’t get out of.  I have always hated feeling boxed in – perhaps my early days of being put in a trunk. I absolutely love finding ways to do something that is outside of the norm. It expands my thinking and beliefs in something greater.  

I want to be an advocate.  I want to also find others that might help me find a way through this maze.  I believe that I can find a way to support myself, be more of who I am supposed to be, and create change in the way things are.  I want to do this with integrity, with hope, and with a mindset that continues to be open and interested in the people.

Grace and Peace

Elissa


Working again

May 31, 2016

I am grateful for the understanding I received at my new employment when I disclosed about my memory issues related to my concussion.  It felt good to be supported and understood regarding my challenges and a willingness to work with me.  This felt like a rare gift, and gave me courage as I continued on this journey.

I learned a lot about my abilities in the past week.  Unfortunately, after a few hours on my first shift, I got a migraine that remained with me for the day.  My brain couldn’t handle all the stimulation and learning, and went into overload rather quickly.  I love being in an environment with a lot of activity and variety, but may not be something I can handle at this point.  Later in the week, I had a shorter shift, which appeared more doable.

This process, like many in my life, seems to be different than I imagined it would.  Because of the nature of the job, I am working with many different people, and I find myself needing to share more than I had intended to.  Perhaps this is part of my path, where I learn to find the balance and right words to share in each situation.  What I thought I would need, isn’t the way this environment is set up, but yet I am still learning valuable ways of communicating and acceptance, and getting a better understanding of my own abilities.

It is always hard for me to see what it is I am not capable of doing.  Though I can look at the positive side, a part of me still feels flawed, inadequate, and unworthy.  Work is such a significant part of having stability and opportunities, and I haven’t found something that gives me promise that I can have this in my life.  I am competent in many ways, but it doesn’t seem to be enough for the workplace.  My vision mind wants so much more, and the gap between my desires and my abilities is vast.  It doesn’t help when my income isn’t enough to pay expenses, and I feel like I am sinking further into poverty.

As I move forward, I have to hold on to my truth, and trust in time it will come together.  I see things falling into place, and I am doing what I can each day.  I can’t deny the love of people I have around me, and that I am becoming a better person – more kind and humble and present.  I pray that I can discover my abilities, and contribute in a career path, and find a means of being financially stable.  I step at a time.


Perceived Failure

May 24, 2016

Summer 09 100Today I am feeling anxious, as I wait for an appointment with a new supervisor.  I feel shame and inadequate and emotional as I plan out different dialogues in my mind.  It is hard to be different, and to feel less than, and to have a brain and body that don’t work how I wish them to be.  I have fibromyalgia and post concussion syndrome, these effect my memory, my emotions, my ability to process and hold a  lot of information in my head, my energy level, and I have chronic pain.

I often have felt like a failure in the workplace, as I have worked at many different places over the years.  In the earlier days, I believe part of it was because I was restless, and my goal was focused on navigating college and what would help me get there.  I also struggled at times with coworkers or bosses, and processing through the criticisms that could often arise in the work environment.  Without a real sense of my own value, it was easy to feel shattered or angry when others seemed to be against me.  After having children, and becoming effected by fibromyalgia, work took on additional challenges.  Having little energy seemed to aggravate my weaknesses for lack of detail, and focus, and sometimes had less tolerance for rude behaviors.  Adding a mild traumatic brain injury to the mix, increases these difficulties even more as my brain struggles with memory, processing, and focusing.  In many ways these has brought more tolerance for others, yet it can be more difficult to hide my emotions.

As I write about my perceived failures, it brings a sense of sadness to my suffering. Regardless of the circumstances, or my part in it, the pain of these experiences caused me to doubt myself as a person, and doubt my self worth.  Regardless of where my next job leads me, this part isn’t true.  My value and my success aren’t dependent upon outside circumstances, but of who I am as a person.

I pray that when I go into my meeting today, that I remember the strengths that have been brought to me through my processes.  I have a variety of skills in the jobs I have done, as well as some attributes that have come out of my illnesses.  I am more creative in finding what works, and much more present in my body and spirit.  My acceptance, understanding and kindness towards others grows, as I find a small level of this towards myself.  I know what it is like to feel overwhelmed, helpless and without hope, yet also know what it is like to see and feel love, to find support that empowers, and to believe in taking the next step towards my dreams.  We are all on a journey, and I am grateful that each day brings me the opportunity to grow and be more of the person I desire to be.


A new Day

July 29, 2013

A day of disappointment, yet a day of gratitude.  Another loss in this chapter called life.  My new job seemed to have been going well.  I enjoyed the work, and felt like it was an area I could excel in.  I found my energy level could maintain itself as long as there wasn’t too much stress.  Unfortunately, my coworker who was training me, wasn’t happy with my performance, and when she isn’t happy, then she prevails.  As a result I was let go.

I have found that I have one major gauge when it comes to conflict – is the person willing to communicate and work through the conflict?  Through the years I have met many people, some who were highly moral and some who appeared to be more self protective.  Regardless of their moral outlook, the biggest area where conflict could be resolved was a willingness to be humble and talk through the issues.  Unfortunately this wasn’t the case with my coworker.  As much as I wish to rant and rave, in the end it doesn’t really matter.  I will strive to communicate, and be open-minded.  However I can’t control other people and don’t tolerate regular insults well.

The upswing – I enjoyed my little time reentering the working world.  I love learning new things, love learning about the law, and enjoyed being an advocate for those who are going down the wrong path.  I took pleasure in giving grace to people even when they had made serious mistakes or were caught in the system.  I could be kind and hopefully make their day a little easier by treating them with dignity.  I learned more about my strengths and weaknesses, in spite of literally no positive feedback.  I created my own systems, made changes with my mistakes, worked well with clients, gave it my best effort and tried to be positive.  I didn’t do as well without structure, in some of the details, and with unclear roles and situations.

It is hard not to feel like a failure when things don’t work out.  To some degree I have a clear understanding of my own role, and can protect my own hurt with feelings of anger.  I asked enough questions to seek better clarity, but the more that was spoken, the less that made sense.  I am grateful that I didn’t disclose about my fibromyalgia, as this would have made it even more complicated.  I don’t have to question whether they were using it against me, though she could have known through her LinkedIn search.  The reality is part of it was my doing, part of it is who I am, part of it was the environment, and a great part of it was the people.  I can gain comfort in knowing I tried my best, and sometimes things just don’t work.  May grace be given to me.

The beauty of the struggle is that this is when I like to write.  I have much less to say in the good times – which there has been many.  Somehow I feel more in touch with my soul in the pain than the mundane.  So as much as I prefer to have the glory, perhaps it was all meant to be…..

I


The Next Adventure – I got the job!

April 29, 2013

I can’t believe it – I am almost officially employed.  I received a call a few days ago that I was selected for a part-time job as a legal assistant.  I am looking forward to returning to work, challenging my mind, and meeting new people.  Everything seems like a good fit for me during this time in my life.

Having chronic pain does bring some unique concerns that I would prefer not to have.  I have to consider the office environment, my ability to focus, and whether I should disclose about potential limitations, and ways I may need to adapt.  Unfortunately every job is different, so what worked and didn’t work in my last job may not apply.  Fortunately I am healthier than I have been for years, and am no longer on any medication.  This should make a difference in my stamina.  Hopefully eating right, taking breaks, and drinking some good coffee will help me in the initial intense learning days.

Regardless of my concerns, I can’t help but be excited.  I will hold on to the energy I feel from being with the people I will be working with, and my own interest in the law.  I love learning about the law, and doing research on topics that interest me.  I will keep my support group strong, let go of some of my commitments and forge ahead to this new path.  May the spirit guide me in each step, and help me deal with whatever comes my way.

 


job interview today

April 22, 2013

I had a job interview today for a legal assistant position.  In many ways it was a spur of the moment application, looking through jobs and finding one that seemed interesting.  I have always wanted to be a legal assistant, and this looked like a great fit for me: close by, few areas, and my areas of interest and strengths.  I really enjoyed meeting the attorney and other legal assistant – wow, great people.

When I came home, I wanted the job more.  I love the idea of a new challenge and being able to make some extra money.  Did I mention the people were great?  Very kind and easy to be with.  The job sounds challenging and stimulating.  The interview went well – it lasted a few hours.  I really believe I can do the job (well most of the time).

Then the fear creeps in – should I have disclosed about my chronic pain?  Last time disclosure was a disaster, and ended up being more problematic.  I think it is something better to manage on my own.  Lots of coffee in the early days to help with the fatigue, and move around as needed.  I may have to limit my evening activities.  I felt confident in my decision not to share.

As the evening approaches, I decide to see if they looked me up on Facebook or LinkedIn.  Not sure about facebook, but linkedin shows that someone from a law firm looked at my profile today – oh no, what is on there?  Overall professional, with lots of connection to disability groups and pain groups.  Then I saw the part about fibromyalgia – did they read this?  Oh shit, not what I wanted.  I didn’t want the interview process to be mixed up with the fibromyalgia.  Looks like they may have known before they interviewed me.  The good part is, we still talked for hours.  The challenge is whether they were hoping I would disclose or not.  Since no-one read my chronicpain journals today, I am confident they didn’t read about my disclosure series :).

Well I should know in a few days whether I got the job.  I am feeling sad and fearful.  Sad that I have to worry about this thing called fibromyalgia and fearful that it will be a shadow that follows me every time I step into the light.  I am one of 5 people who were interviewed, and clearly we connected.  I pray that regardless of what they learned, they can be open to seeing my strengths and find who is the best one for the job, whether that is me, or another person they interviewed.  I also pray that I can accept whatever comes my way.  I don’t feel compelled to take the fibromyalgia off of my linked at this point, but might be something I do in the future if I continue to look for work.


Hoping for a flexible career while living with chronic pain

July 19, 2012

Still hoping for a career in spite of living with chronic pain and fibromyalgia

Some days it can be difficult to reflect on the career losses of living with chronic pain.  I look around at friends and family members with dreams of accomplishment and the ability to carry it out. As a young child I dreamed of being a psychologist and a writer.  I wanted to make a difference in the lives of people who were suffering.  As I grew older my dreams became more sophisticated and branched out to potential paths yet the heart of it remained.  I love counseling and coaching people and enjoy the healing power of writing.  Friends have commented regularly on my insights into living and wisdom to sort through complicated situations whether in writing or in regular conversations.  I also love doing research, strategizing and developing systems that can aid a group of people. 

When looking ahead, I still see many barriers.  I read through Craigslist and am drawn to many career opportunities in social work, strategic planning, the legal field, research, writing and social media.  When I read through the details it can be difficult to imagine myself in a structured job that doesn’t allow flexibility for my bad days.  Add in commute and preparation time and my energy level can be drastically reduced.  During my work days I found I could work roughly 15 hours a week, but it still made life outside of work challenging.  When most of my energy went into work, it left a lot less for my family and responsibilities at home. 

I still have hope that a new career path will open up for me.  Writing and consulting can have the flexibility I need, yet allow me to contribute to others.  Perhaps there could be a way for me to return to school for a masters or doctors degree in counseling.  This is also a job I could do part time, though internships could be challenging.  My experience with chronic pain in both these categories would be helpful.  As much as I enjoy my current life, I miss the value, the people, the stimulation and the growth that comes from having a career.   I will continue to make the most of my daily life in spite of my pain, yet keep the dream alive for something more. 


“Disability” at Work

July 8, 2012

I am learning a great deal about disability. Though I can classify myself as disabled, I have never thought of myself this way. The term in itself implies limitation and little hope. Synonyms for disability include: disqualification, incompetence, incapability, lack of power or ability. There is even a definition that is specific to work. Random House Dictionary includes a definition of “a physical or mental handicap, esp. one that prevents a person from living a full, normal life or from holding a gainful job”.

In general, I prefer to reflect on the statutory definition of disability. Statutory Definition — With respect to an individual, the term “disability” means

(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;

(B) a record of such an impairment; or

(C) being regarded as having such an impairment.

I like the focus on the impact on activities verses implying that someone with a “disability” can’t live a normal life. I would prefer the word “impairment” be changed to condition, because many “impairments” also come with strengths that may be less measurable. Unfortunately we also fail to note that some of these “impairments” can have less impact on someone’s life activities with simple modifications.

The best way I can describe myself is that I have been regenerated. I believe that my condition has moved me to” re-create, reconstitute, and, make over, esp. in a better form or condition.” The pain I feel in my body brings me a greater awareness of my physical and mental state. Because stress increases my pain level, I am more committed to addressing problems and maintaining a positive attitude. Because I struggle with fatigue, I have made adaptations to my schedule. I have more down time to spend with my family, and constantly evaluate my values and priorities so I can focus on what is most important. As a person I am much more compassionate, humble and understanding of the challenges people with limitations face. I also have learned new survival skills, medical terminology, and assessment techniques.

When I make adaptations to my life, I notice less the negative impact of my physical condition. Because I have extreme pain back and have periodic pain spasms, sitting can be difficult. At home, I encounter the intense pain less, as I sit on my couch to type. During meetings or in the office, I am still searching to find a comfortable working chair and ways to keep this more manageable. When dealing with my fatigue, I find that it is best to tackle the detailed activities during my prime time, as I need to be able to focus. When I feel more tired, it helps to focus more on my natural abilities like talking to people or doing routine tasks.

Because my symptoms are less visible, many people are not aware of my physical challenges. Disclosure is a balance not easily understood. For me it has less to do with rights, and more to do with support and my motivations for disclosure. It is important that I have people around whom I can talk to in both the work and personal environments. In situations where I am doing a task, or have less personal contact it is less significant to fulfilling my role. I choose to live with a degree of potential misunderstanding instead of making my condition part of the equation. I seek to remember that those around me may also have limitations that I am unaware of.

I am grateful that I have had opportunities to explore my vocational interests through volunteer and work experiences. It isn’t easy, and has required a great deal of flexibility and personal growth through some tough challenges. I keep in mind my own values, and keep pressing ahead. It may not always turn out the way I want or expect, yet, it is always enriching if I allow it to be.

References:

Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010.

http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/902cm.html


Discrimination in the Workplace

December 8, 2011

What happens when disclosure goes wrong?  When I started my disclosure series, I didn’t anticipate including an article regarding discrimination in the workplace.  With all the protection and awareness regarding equal rights, one wishes to be hopeful that discrimination is a rare event.  Unfortunately though, when there is disclosure or an apparent disability discrimination happens.  It can be difficult to determine whether this different treatment is something that qualifies as discrimination.

Laws are put into place to protect employers and employees.  It is always important to understand the local and federal laws and guidelines when you have a disability.  It is also helpful to understand your company policies and/or other contracts in the workplace.  If you need clarification on policies, it is important to ask your human resources representative (ideally in writing) and document whenever possible.   Many people may need greater understanding of the laws, and will want to consult a lawyer and/or the civil department to have a better grasp on its impact for them as a person with a disability or for the employer who hires them. 

Communication is always key to solving problems and another means of protection for everyone.  It can be difficult to know whether asking questions or stating complaints can be helpful or hurtful when dealing with working relationships.  In a larger company, a human resources employee can answer questions and it probably won’t affect the working relationship.  In a smaller company, the person dealing with human resources may be your boss or co-worker, and questions may create conflict for the person with a disability.  An employer might feel accused and deny or rationalize any wrong doing without even taking the time to listen to the complaint.  Often times, people do things that might look like discrimination, but it is more related to lack of information, discomfort, lack of interest, or something else entirely.   Most people do not want to cause others harm, and often a conversation can make people change.  Unfortunately for some, a conversation may just make things worse, and result in a power struggle or they will attempt to help, but don’t follow through or change their behaviors.  As an employer, it is very important that you take their complaints seriously and consult others for input.   Keeping records of such statements can be helpful for everyone if a formal complaint is made at a later date.    

Feeling like you are discriminated against can be difficult emotionally and physically.   It is always helpful to have outside support and people to process with that you can trust.  This may be a family member, a counselor, a lawyer, a support group, and/or a friend.   Often we can sense things that are going on, but may not be able to quite articulate if it is actual discrimination or whether we want to address it.   Many people, on some level, will have an emotional reaction to someone with a disability, and this is easy to sense when it is aimed in your direction.  Learning how to react to this can help build bridges.  However, when their biases result in different treatment that causes harm, more specific communication is generally needed.  If communication doesn’t work you may want to take other actions.  This could be filing a complaint, seeing a lawyer, look for a new job, observing and documenting, or some other option.  Having people around to help you see your options and validate your experience can help ensure you make the best choices that work for you.

Being accused of discrimination is difficult for an employer.  A lawsuit of discrimination would hurt a company’s reputation and cause financial harm.  The supervisor might lose their job and/or have to go through an extensive evaluation of their actions.  Taking the time to work through the issues, whenever possible, is always advised.  Most people want to be treated well, and legal action is generally done when nothing else works.  It is helpful to understand clearly what the person is looking for, and how specifically you can make it better.  This may require listening to a lot of venting, and probing gently for clarification on what can be done.  If needed, a mediator or human resources personnel might mediate to give a different perspective.  It can be useful to have someone they trust sit in as well, to aid in reaching an agreement and/or understanding.  Consulting with others to receive legal and general feedback can give guidance on questions to ask, and assist in processing through the employer’s own emotions.  It is ok to have conflicts with a person who has a disability, but important that the same protocol is followed as is done with other employees.    

Discrimination can diminish if we all choose to look more intently at the subject of discrimination.  When we take the time to see how we treat certain people differently, we are on the path to making changes.  All of us have biases that impact what we do.  Ignoring these biases, however, can cause great harm especially when we act upon them continuously.  The best way to change our own biases is to talk about them and confront them directly.  Often this involves spending time with the people we are most afraid of, and learning to treat each person as an individual.  Even in the most challenging cases, we always grow from these experiences as we choose to turn towards something better.  With greater awareness, we can proactively make our work environments more satisfactory, where we embrace our fellow man and see the unique strengths we each bring. 


A letter to an Employer regarding hiring someone with a disability

September 8, 2011

I have written a general letter to an employer considering hiring someone with a disability and/or with chronic pain.  This letter is expressing my ideal work environment and what it is I need and desire from an employer.  Every individual is different, so I can’t generalize to others, yet it can be a great starting point for understanding and thinking about accommodations and support in the work place.  My letter is  addressed  to a potential employer, as this is the beginning of the employment relationship and where the self advocating begins. 

 Dear potential employer,

 Please consider me for employment opportunities in your company.  I have many skills and experiences in which I can contribute to make your company a success.  I also have chronic pain, fatigue and some ADD traits.  Even though my health conditions require some adaptations, they have contributed to making me the strong person I have become.  I am clearer about my priorities and values, I think outside of the box, I know how to work with others, I am persistent, have integrity and can see the silver lining in the most difficult situations. 

Hiring someone with a disability will make you and your company better.  I have met many people with various disabilities when I worked as a vocational consultant, and every one of them has changed me in some way.  I have been inspired by the positive attitude, the ability to overcome obstacles, the self evaluation, the willingness to ask for help, and the humbleness of many.   I have learned to be clearer in my statements, to slow down, to change my perceptions about certain disabilities, to ask others if they want my help (not assume they do), and to listen so I can receive a clearer picture of their life.   I have also seen how difficult it can be for some people to find a sense of value and worth in the middle of such difficulty, and how many doors were shut down because they didn’t fit into our expectations of “normal”. 

The structure you set up that will be effective in drawing out my strengths, will also contribute to greater relationships with others.  Writing out instructions is helpful for me to be clear on what is needed, and develops procedures in the office.  Regular meeting times helps me feel supported and allows time for constructive feedback.   Working together we can see problems and visions from a different viewpoint making us more creative.   

The greatest thing an employer can do is to learn about the specific individuals needs in regards to their disability.  Asking questions to understand how I am doing and what I need creates a supportive environment.  Because of privacy issues, it can be helpful for the supervisor to ask whether I  would like to talk about the impact of my disability in the work place and if I wish to be the one to bring it up or to set up meetings periodically to discuss this.  Many employers believe they are being supportive by treating them like everyone else, or ignoring the issue.  However, for some individuals this can feel like the elephant in the room, and problems may not be addressed in their early stages.  Though the responsibility does fall on the employee, it can be difficult for someone with a disability to be assertive about their needs for fear of losing their job, discrimination and/or rejection. 

For some disabilities it may be helpful to have discussions about it with the staff.  If the employee is interested, they can provide information to other co-workers about their condition and how it impacts them.  If such disclosure is public it is imperative that the employee chooses this option, and follow up support is available.  This can be a good option for the more visible disabilities or where the accommodations are apparent to everyone.  In an ideal world disclosures about all disabilities would be treated with compassion.  This is generally not the case, especially with mental limitations, and could become problematic for the employee in his/her relationships with others. 

Making accommodations for an employee may feel burdensome.  It can be difficult to schedule time to make changes in the work place and to have discussions with your employee.  If the individual seems demanding or there are personality clashes, it can be challenging to sort through what is needed in the situation.  An employee may not even understand clearly what they need in the work place, because the type of work and environment can be different than anything they have experienced.  Often being around someone with a disability can trigger emotional reactions with co-workers and employers that are uncomfortable.  The powerlessness in the situation goes against our nature to fix things, we may feel like they are getting special privileges, and we may have had negative experiences in the past that effect our current assessment.  Processing through your own biases is crucial to a healthy environment. 

Learning how to find your own support is vital if you find yourself reacting to the employee and if you start making decisions that go against the values and strategic plan of your work place. 

Communication and support are the keys to any healthy work environment.  If we have regular times to discuss issues then the remainder of the time can be focused on production and fulfilling company goals.  There are many resources available to learn about the local laws, accommodations, and services for those with disabilities.  Some disabilities can receive job coaching, through state or local programs and employers can receive training and guidance on particular disabilities.  Being proactive will give a greater likelihood of success.  However, just because one experience wasn’t successful it doesn’t mean the next one won’t be.  With an open mind, you will be amazed at the lessons you will be taught, and the inspiration you gain from watching someone with significant barriers succeed in their job duties. 

 Thank you for considering me and others with disabilities for employment. 


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