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How to Best Advocate for Yourself at Work with Chronic Illness

Mindset and Self-Advocacy

How to Best Advocate for Yourself at Work with Chronic Illness

Advocate for yourself, gold standing microphone

Do you experience intimidation in the workplace because of your chronic illness? Do you often feel misunderstood and frustrated? How many times have you tried speaking up for yourself without being heard?

When I talk about work-life balance when dealing with a chronic illness and how to run a successful business, certain situations will require you to advocate for yourself. When these situations arise, what do you do?

Self-advocacy is seen in any sector because no matter where you are in this life, you should be able to speak up for yourself. Sometimes you will feel intimidated, short-changed, or doubtful and what will make these feelings go away is if you learn to speak up. 

Speaking up could mean asking questions or clearing a doubt but regardless of how you need to speak up, what matters is the effectiveness of your action and your mental health.

The truth is that you might have even tried to advocate for yourself many times but with little to no result, and that’s fine because sometimes, it takes more than one try to get people to take you seriously. Please, don’t stop at it because you are making a boatload of difference.

Is self-advocacy needed in the workplace?

This question is vital because some still think self-advocacy might be limited to healthcare alone. Yes, self-advocacy is needed in the workplace just as much as in healthcare and any other place you meet people. It might take several forms, but you are self-advocating as long as you speak up for yourself.

If you have a chronic illness and you are actively working for someone, you need to be able to advocate for yourself in the workplace. You will need to learn several self-advocacy skills, but you will become an effective self-care advocate when you do.

Benefits of Self-Advocacy in the Workplace

I already mentioned that self-advocacy is a needed skill in the workplace, so here are some of its benefits:

  • Understanding

Your employer might know your condition before hiring you and approve your impromptu sick leaves or delegation of tasks. However, it might not bode well with the other employees and result in office conflicts. 

Advocating for yourself gives a level of understanding because they get to be aware of your special needs. Other instances include requesting suitable accommodation or health benefits.

  • Respect

It garners you respect because you thrive at what you do. It is not easy to manage a chronic illness and a demanding job but seeing you doing this will make your office family respect you, and they will understand that you are not a pushover or a lazy person.

Workplace environment, people sitting around a large table with laptops
  • Boundaries

Self-advocacy also helps you set healthy boundaries at work. You express how your employer and co-workers expect them to treat you.

How to Advocate for Yourself in the Workplace.

It might not be a perfect list, and there are times when you might need to improvise, but these are some ways you can advocate for yourself at work:

1. Know your rights.

Knowing your rights takes priority because you want to ensure that while you advocate for yourself, you do not break any existing laws and can leverage those in your favor. 

If there are benefits and exceptions you are legally entitled to, like the ADA and FMLA, then you want to make sure you get them. 

2. Know your value.

Know what you are bringing to the table. Communicate your skills loudly, so people pay attention to them more than your chronic illness. People quickly forget, so you have to do this consistently not to prove yourself but to remind them of what you can bring to the table.

When you are confident in your value, you can advocate for yourself properly, including asking for a salary raise.

3. Create a close support group.

You want to have people at work who can actively speak for you when your impact is being questioned. If not, you can have your direct supervisor keep a scorecard of your performance over time, and you can use this in your defense when you are advocating for yourself. It will also communicate the value you are bringing to the table.

Purple Inflamed sisters thriving logo mug and purple squad with purple ribbon mug
A purple ribbon is a universal symbol of support and advocacy, show your love and appreciation for others as well as commitment to a meaningful cause with this Inflamed Sisters Thriving mug. The perfect gift for yourself or another chronic illness warrior.

4. Create awareness.

Create an awareness of the issues you want to address when you self-advocate. Perhaps, you want them to install a disabled elevator to allow you mobility with your wheelchair. Or maybe you need a private workplace where you can install your air purifier or any other conditions that fit your special needs; you should start by creating awareness around you.

5. List out the issues and their effects.

When you create awareness, follow up by having an in-depth report of the issue and how it can affect your productivity and the company. 

Make sure the effects are verified facts, and if possible, back it up with research papers and blog posts where necessary.  

6. Ask questions from your community.

I’m going to go right ahead and assume that you have a community that is specific to your condition. If you don’t, you need to get one.

Ask questions from this community, preferably from someone who works in the same sector as you or at least a closely related one. Find out if they have encountered similar issues, the result, and if there are any laws for or against it.

Inflamed sisters thriving podcast hosted by Catina Morrison including guests from the chronic illness community
Here stories from chronic illness warriors just like you. Watch Inflamed Sisters Thriving on Youtube or listen on all streaming platforms.

7. Create an alternative.

If possible, create an alternative solution to that particular need. For instance, you can request to work from home instead of in a private workspace. Any alternative that will not endanger your health or make you settle for a less-than-ideal situation is welcomed.

8. Have a backup plan.

Always prepare ahead for objections and have your backup plan ready for action. This is why asking around and doing findings is essential because you can predict objections and suggest ways.

9. Decide on your manner of approach.

Your manner of approach when advocating is almost as essential as the action itself. You shouldn’t be rude, and you shouldn’t be a pushover. Learn how to strike a balance between being serious and rude. Be assertive and make sure your communication skills are fine-tuned.

10. Don’t settle for less.

Don’t settle for less than what you requested. If your requests, alternatives, and backup plans are not accepted, then respectfully conclude the meeting but try another time. If it directly impacts your health, you shouldn’t wait another minute, depending on the severity of what you are advocating for. 

You and your health are most important.

A group of women sat in a circle on the grass Surrounded by palm trees with the ocean far in the distance

Conclusion

The most crucial thing in self-advocacy is your ability to communicate effectively. It is important because when people don’t understand you, there is little to no result at the end of the day. You also have to do appropriate and accurate research, anticipate objections, and practice your manner of approach continuously.

As seen, self-advocacy in the workplace goes beyond setting boundaries but also involves ensuring that you work in an environment that favors your health. It is never easy to advocate for yourself, and as I said in the introduction, it takes more than one try to get people to listen.

Keep at it, keep fighting, and you’ll see the end.

Which of these workplace self-advocacy steps jumped out at you? Have you ever tried advocating for yourself in the workplace? What were some of the challenges you faced?

READ ALSO: 11 Top Tips for Salary Negotiation even with Chronic Illness.

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