better than expected

Color me pleasantly surprised.  My meeting with HR went pretty well.  I had to laugh one point – when I told the HR rep that I was offered an apology by the offending coworker, “What did she say?” HR rep asked.  “She said she apologized for ‘coming on strong’ yesterday, that she had given it a lot of thought, what I had said about my ‘issues’, and that she guessed the lesson we can learn here is that next time, I need to say ‘no’ sooner.”  The HR rep said “Well that’s a half assed apology, excuse my language…”

Ok so let’s back up.  The very abbreviated and much (over) simplified background:  The coworker, call her Lizzie, has now had a tantrum on me twice.  Both times it came after us needing to coordinate on something involving my physical work space, in a way that would make it difficult to impossible for me to work without aggravating my physical symptoms.  Both times, I disclosed that the reason for my limits was based in health issues.  The first time Lizzy had a tantrum some months ago, I decided to acquiesce after it since I didn’t want to be subjected to more abuse from her.  Plus, it was a thing that involved me only tangentially, in her mind.  She wanted to use my work space and didn’t want me in it.  She does not have a sense of others that allows her to understand why that might actually INVOLVE the other person.   The second time was this week when we were working on a thing involving me and the issue of where  this thing would be came up.  So the second time really actively involved me, even to a person with the emotional and social limitations Lizzie apparently has.

And that brings us up to this week.  On Wednesday, after an email exchange gone bad, Lizzie came to my office and reprimanded me, loudly, asking “why do you have to make things difficult?!” and when I cited my health concerns, said dismissively and with more than a little venom “Now you’re just talking in circles!”  There was more to it, those were just some of the highlights.  I had to conduct a phone interview IMMEDIATELY after she left, and she did this in front of one of my employees.  She left,  I pulled myself together a bit and said to him “well, a teachable moment here:  that is NOT how workplace accommodations are supposed to go”.

It was rattling, and that’s putting it mildly.  I couldn’t sleep that night and have had trouble falling and staying asleep since.  All night after, I would experience episodes of shaking.  Just writing this, my arms are shaking and my shoulders are tightening up from the tremors.  This on the heels of my gut already being in overdrive bad mode has made it unbelievably difficult for me to do anything this week.  Yesterday, I ate rice and chicken broth for dinner and nothing else all day because my gut was so messed up.  I’ve lost another 5 pounds since last Friday.

So HR is going to talk to her about her sensitivity to issues of disability.  HR rep asked if I would give permission for her to cite my documented disability and request for accommodations to Lizzie, without giving details of the nature of the disability and I said yes.  She then asked if I would want to set up a meeting to talk to Lizzie after HR talks  to her and I said no and here’s why.

I understand that there needs to be relationship building rather than retreating for me here at work.  I’ve been seen as being uncooperative at work because I do have these limitations and people are not happy when I have to impose them like to take a lunch or restroom break or to not work a 12 hour day or to not give a presentation in an overheated room.  I try to do things to help people see that I am cooperative, and one of those is being sociable and talking with people.  The problem is, if we are having a conversation where the issue of my medical stuff comes up, I have a dilemma – if someone asks for too much information, if I don’t answer I worry that I will be seen as being cold or unapproachable or otherwise non-social.  But there are some things that are quite private and I don’t want to share.  It puts me in an awkward position and I usually end up feeling bad afterwards.  Lizzie has shown that she has some attitudes and beliefs about physical disabilities that suggest she would be insensitive and would ask those questions, and some behaviors that suggest to me, strongly, that she would have a negative interpretation if I was not receptive when she asked them.  I know you are going to talk to her and I expect that it will help, but I think these behaviors are based in deep unexamined beliefs, and I don’t think that they will be dispelled enough by a conversation with you for me to want to have a conversation like that with her, at least not right now.  If we build a relationship and it comes up organically, then it might be different.

HR rep was busy writing, looked up and says “Do you mind if I tell her this?  I never thought about it like that, but I can  see where it could cause problems and make someone uncomfortable.  I don’t know your department that well, I mean I don’t work over there much but I know some of it and imagine it as one of those places where everyone goes around sharing everything…” (I interject “oh that is exactly right”) “…and for someone not to would probably be seen as cold.”

I actually don’t know that I expect that the talk from HR will help.  There’s been a lot of damage done by some bad leadership and a culture of bullying that has gone on in my department for years before I even came there.    Can one talk fix it?  I hope that one talk can start it towards fixing at least.

However, I am soooooo happy I was able to get this out there.  I am amazed with myself.

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