Injuries can leave employees sidelined and organizations flailing. As an employee recovers, is management demonstrating support and trust or neglect and suspicion? Liz Simpson shares the story of her laceration, the importance of communication and trustful gestures, and how NOT to deal with employees that are injured.
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I had three key takeaways from my conversation with Liz:
1) Communication matters. As a manager or a co-worker or friend, your silence can speak volumes. When someone is injured, reach out with a call, a text, an email.
2) Be sensitive to the emotions that an injured person might be feeling. Liz felt scared, worried about when and if she would ever recover. In showing that you're aware of their feelings, try offering a simple observation: "This seems really hard. I imagine that it might be scary or overwhelming or sad..." When you say something like that, it gives the person a chance to respond or not to respond and shows that you are considering their feelings in the midst of an injury.
3) Just a closing question. What assumptions do you make about people that are off work for injury? Do you believe them? Or, are you suddenly judging them? Wondering if they're making it up? Liz spoke about how hurtful these assumptions can be. Are you making them?
If you would like more of Liz’s reflections, here are some additional highlights from our conversation:
How you treat people at work matters
24:35 - Liz Simpson
You're at work more waking hours than you're at home. What are you going to do with the people that have been put there with you? What are you going to do with this? What are you going to make of it for people? Are you going to make people where they don't want to come in an hour? I mean I've had many days where I was when I, as this kept going on, there were so many days and I was like, "Oh thank god I cut my finger! Now I don't have to deal with them!" That's crazy! It's like, is this what you want for the people you've hired? Or do you want people who feel like this coworker was a godsend. You know, this person was there for me when I needed them.
Injuries are scary
10:18 – Liz Simpson
And it's very hard to calm down and say, OK, this was six days ago …and even if it had been my right hand you know the glove part would have been frustrating but just knowing like and even you know I like to paint I have other things I like to do and it's like everything I like to do. I need this to be working I need this to be 100 percent. So, it was sort of this moment of what is my life gonna be like now. And so that was that was scary
Empathy to coworkers is important
11:40 - Liz Simpson
I think a lot of times, because I've been in positions at a job where somebody has something happen and you're like, they're exaggerating. And I'm sure I had a job a while ago where somebody and, I mean, I hate to say supposedly, because I had something happen, but slipped and fell on some ice and then was off for a really long time with back pain. And I remember, we all were sort of like, yeah right, whatever. And so then, and you know I feel like I'm a Christian so I feel like God the Universe or whoever you believe in puts you in these situations, and for me, I think it's really helped me be a lot more empathetic because I remember so many days thinking back to that co-worker and thinking, Man I feel so bad. And I never I think, I probably reached out at some point but, do you know, for a very long time it was, yeah right. And now I was like, yeah, I'm in this position.
Reach out proactively in communication
16:23 – Liz Simpson
That was the I was the only time I heard from him when I texted my manager and my boss December 4th or 5th or whatever day was say, "Hey I'm headed to the E.R." when I text them when I got out and was like, "Hey I'm gonna be off tomorrow you know with my because I have to keep my bandage dry for 24 hours" and I think when he wrote back that day like thanks for letting us know. I didn't hear from him again until February. In that email, and this is a person who's a fellow dentist, this person is my colleague, even if we never work again we're colleagues we have the same degree...and the very idea that you couldn't ever reach out on your own, not responding to something that I've sent to explain, like, I'm still off with another doctor's letter...not that, but just as a fellow human being as my colleague to say, "Hope you're getting better...never."
We bring our whole selves to the office
21:26 – Liz Simpson
We have this idea that you should be able to go to work and turn that off. And I think it's very American that it's like you're going to go to work and you're going to shut that off and you're going to take care listen produced for the night you're going to be produced for the next eight hours. And then when you hit the door you can then turn those emotions back on. And that is not real life for many people. There are people that can do that. Good for them. I'm not one of them and there's people who they get to work when they can get engrossed and everything and they are OK. But at some point, we have to say there are people who are going to be at work and may need to step up and cry about something or are going to have to be on the phone dealing with stuff the work will get done. And I think if you've taken the care to choose good people you won't have people that will take advantage of that.