Michelle: If someone wants to disclose their MS at work, could you give them any ideas on how to prepare for that disclosure?
Carla King: I think all of us want to prepare for a disclosure conversation. To be caught off guard and then blurt it out in a way that you haven’t really conveyed all the messages that you want to convey, it can put you on the back foot a little bit and not give you that chance that you need, so definitely would say prepare.
There are a few things before you prepare that you need to consider. The first thing I would say is that, you know, there is a fear, I think, in people when you give them something unknown, and that’s part of the human condition and it’s fine, you know, it’s part of their human reaction to panic or to think, oh my god, what’s going on here, kind of what can I do about this.
But also to remember that line managers, for example, they don’t have a huge amount of training, so when they have line manager training they don’t have this sort of conversation come up in the training, so this is going to be brand new, no matter how experienced your line manager is on this sort of stuff.
So it’s important for you to keep it personal- keep it non-personal, sorry, keep it professional. So take the personal stuff out of it. So, for example, they don’t need to know that you fill up your pill boxes on a weekend or, you know, you’ve had to watch your energy levels at specific times of the weekend, you know, anything that hits the kind of working day, then they kind of need to know about.
But just be careful about kind of what you reveal. And the other thing to do before you prepare is to pre-empt any questions that the line manager might have. Because then you feel more ready and by preparing you feel much more confident.
So, thinking about the timing, so once you’ve thought about the timing, also think like how are you going to do it. So, for example, if you’re in the workplace and you have one-to-ones with your line manager, think about going into a quiet room instead of going to the café that you might normally go to, or whatever, you know, just kind of keep it kind of quite calm.
And use it at a time when you’re not both rushing off to go and do something, because as much as you want this conversation to be quite short, it is a conversation, so it might mean that you might have to bounce around a few ideas, or they just take it away.
Just leave yourself enough time. If you’re in the recruitment process, you might just actually, through no fault or choice of your own, have to phone somebody, and that is quite tricky, because when you’re phoning somebody you have a very finite sense of time with them, because phone calls generally tend to be very quick with these things, but also what’s missing out of that conversation is you don’t have those non-verbal cues.
So you can’t read what they’re thinking by their body language. So you’re already missing a few things, but as long as you’re prepared for that, then that can kind of be in your favour, almost, as well. So the environment I think is quite important, the timing’s very important, and I think the what, now this is the what, this is like the thing, the kind of thing that everyone thinks about.
So, thinking about, when I disclosed I thought about getting a piece of paper and sort of writing three columns. And in my first column I’d write what are the barriers. So if I’m looking at my job description or thinking about my job, which areas specifically, so be as specific as you can, what is actually, what am I struggling with and what might I struggle with if I haven’t started yet. And then in the next column I’d think how is this affecting my MS.
So what symptoms are coming out and what’s actually happening, basically. So how is it affecting your work. And then the final thing is thinking about what can be the solution to this, so what is your actual need, your reasonable adjustment, right?
So some of it’s going to be about what you can do at work and some of it’s going to be what the employer can do. So then what I do is go and make a cup of tea, kind of distance yourself from it a bit, kind of take a breather, come back to it and then prioritise what things you want to talk about in that disclosure conversation.
So how much of it is a complete deal breaker and how much of it can you manage yourself through just adapting a few sort of little things, different approaches. And that’s what you would base your conversation on.