I figured I would throw this out to all you owner types. Keeping a long story short, about 9 months ago I was seriously injured in an accident. I thought the broken bone and an emergency surgery was the worst of it. I went back to work less than 72 hours after it happened - albeit not full time to begin with. I work in the engineering department, so it is sitting at a desk. I had received a blow to the head, so the I thought the massive headaches I was experiencing would abate quickly. It turns out I received a not initially diagnosed traumatic brain injury. I played high school football back in the late eighties and early nineties - when blows to the head made highlight reels, not penalty yards, so it was most likely my fifth or sixth concussion.
At the time of the injury I was the lead on a very large project that had a tight turn around time required for our shop drawings, so despite terrible headaches, vertigo and nausea I played through the pain, so to speak, for about three months until I got the job done. when it was done, I informed my employers of what my neurologist had told me almost a month before - that I was not to be in front of a screen for more than 4 hours a day three days a week. I was more than expecting they were going to let me go. Instead, they told me I was a valuable member of the team and would let me work whatever hours I could for as long as they could.
I have been back to work full time for about a month now, but I am by no means fully recovered. I have difficulty focusing and will sometimes lose my place. I used to be able to answer questions about jobs I had drawn months previously without having to reference the drawing. I could shift my focus across a half a dozen jobs in a day without a break in stride. Now if I get moved from one job to another it exhausts me and brings the mind-numbing headaches back hours earlier than normal (they are still a daily occurence, it is not a question of if but when). I make more silly errors than I used to - we have two levels of internal and two levels of external review after I am done with a job, so most are being caught.
So to the doing right by my employers part. I have been very proactive with my recovery, but the reality that I must face is the person I was pre-injury no longer exists and I must adapt to the my new reality. I am never late for work, I work hard every day, but my brain doesn't work as well as it used to. Physically my strength and endurance is almost on par with a kitten. I have heard no complaints about the volume or quality of work I have been producing, and yet I can't help but feel that I am not adequately repaying the faith, trust, and compassion that my employers have shown me. How would you feel if I worked for you?
P.S. Mr Gilbert, if you read this, my handle is not a knock against you - even when I disagree with something you post, I have always found your arguments cogent and thought provoking.
And a very wise policy it is Alan. When I was a shop foreman back home I wouldn't allow an injured worker to return without medical clearance. My situation is somewhat more difficult, however. We have been dealing with cuts, burns, fractures, sprains and the like for so long that outcomes are highly predictable. Brain injuries are far less well understood, and many of them cannot even be detected with standard diagnostic imaging. It is almost a subjective diagnosis that relies on the patient's report of symptoms and third party observation. Here I go being long-winded again. Basically my neurologist has been saying if you think you can deal with it, I won't stop you. But my wife's neurologist (she was a nurse and was assaulted by a patient 2 years before my injury) not only hasn't cleared her to go back yet, he has told her she will never be able to be employed as a nurse again.
I would be reluctant to keep you in a position of decision making, probably moving you to a CAD position. I'm curious why you weren't placed on disability? Being injured and not being able to completely fulfill your previous work level is pretty much the definition of disability. Are you a USA citizen, paying social security? I don't feel you are doing yourself or your employer any favors. With you medical symptoms after the accident, you should never have returned to work.
You’re asking us to make a judgment call, we’ll here is mine. From your post you sounded like an all star pre injury and by your post you show honesty and also that you care about your employer. Those two things by themselves are extremely hard to find. If your 3/4’s of what you were pre injury or even 60% and you are willing to find work arounds- techniques, reminders and safety nets to help as much as possible- I’d say keep on trucking. I’d keep you on and probably no reduced salary. Good employees are extremely hard to find. You’re better now than you were 9 months ago and you’ll be better in 9 months than you are now. Keep showing that same amount of concern and you’ll be fine.
Family Man's position is where I found myself in reading your post. The only thing that jumped out at me was the part where you said you powered through the job and only told your employer what your doctors had said afterwards. That may set off some alarms for certain people and wouldn't have been my prefered option whether I were the employee or employer. Just as they are being honest with you it would likely be best to keep them completely informed of your situation.
I had an employee a long time ago who in our small local community was somewhat considered one of the village idiots. He was a super nice guy, showed up every day, worked extra, would come in nights, weekends, off time, just to be helpful and would argue not to be paid that he was just happy to hang around and be out of the house. People shorted him constantly but if there was a quiet patch in the day and he was caught up and would see I was busy he would disappear. When I would go looking for him I would find him in the shop somewhere or in one of the trailers and it would be spotless and organized to the best of his ability. If he didnt know what things were he would group things that looked similar into piles and wait for instruction as to where to better organize them not wanting to put them where no one would know where they were. Point being, he was never going to be lead man on a crew but he is one of my most sorely missed employees even compared to some of the best I have ever had.
It may be nice if your doctors or insurance allow some occupational therapy to help you build the workarounds Family Man mentions though Im sure you can work hard at them on your own.
I couldn't agree more that finding willing and competent staff today in this business, and likely any business, is a nightmare. Sadly most people in this situation would either through opportunistic choice, physical needs, or forced by the employer or doctor, simply given up and started the process of social security disability. And that system tends to punish any those who are only partially disabled and can work XX number of hours because the scale factors for reduction in benefits against hours worked can seem to push many people into simply opting not to work at all and drawing their check when the mental reward of working is far better than someone sitting at the house (for those who want to work).
I would think asking your employer for a periodic quick sit down if needed just to keep each other up to speed and if only to ease your mindset that they are continually appreciative (which is pretty much reflected in the fact that you havent been let go) may get you through.
While its no TBI as we all age we have to work hard at workarounds for not being as sharp, as strong, more mental burden, tired, and so on. Unfortunately you just have to work a bit harder than the rest. Good for you that your still willing to work. Its rare in my world at least.
Open and honest will get you fair and level treatment by your employer. Just like always, do your best. Your best will just be different from what it was.
I am 67 now, and my days in the shop are a bit different. The memory is not as sharp, my hands no longer have the grip strength they used to, and I get tired. I'll mention I had a major heart attack at age 49, but with fast, good care there was no damage. The drugs I take make it a battle to keep moving.
As I age further, I will be relegated to sanding, sweeping and whatever I can do effectively. I hope I can just stay ahead of that curve so the other people in my life do not have to have a little talk with me.
Thank you all for your responses, it has given me a lot to think about.
Rich - I understand your concerns, I share them. Even at the top of my game it is not hard to make a mistake that could cost thousands. I am not a U.S. citizen but am a legal permanent resident, so I do pay into and am eligible for disability. I don't know if social security varies from state to state, but I know here it is quite a process. My wife applied and they agreed she couldn't be a nurse anymore, but could probably do something else so here claim was denied. Now it is in the lawyer's hands, which I understand is normal here. I do believe in the social contract and we have an obligation to help those we can when they need it, but I also believe that it needs to be a last resort.
Family Man - thank you for your kind words. I don't think I am (or was) an all-star. I got my first job when I was six years old working in my father's sporting goods store. I learned the value of hard work, the value of a dollar, and understand that the employee is indebted to the employer, not the other way around. I appreciate the comment about work-arounds. One of the most important things I did at my job back home is diagnose causes of errors and modify the process to make the error difficult or impossible to repeat. There is no reason I can't apply that here.
Mark B, you are absolutely correct that I should have been up front with my employers a lot sooner. There were several factors to that decision. First, I am the kind of person who wants to finish what he starts. Second, I was a soldier in the CF reserves, that gave me a "mission before the man" attitude that compels me to not stop until I fall down. Third, I have a family to support. With the accident not occurring in the workplace, I could have found myself without any sort of revenue stream to keep my family afloat. But regardless, I say again you were correct, that was a decision for my employer to make, not mine. They haven't asked how I am faring, nor have I offered much information. That too is wrong. I will reach out to them on Monday to give them an update. As far as disability goes, definitely not my first choice, I would rather work, but I certainly agree that the system here de-incentivises people to return to work. The sliding scale in Canada is quite a bit more favorable.
David - your story is inspiring. I fully understand the difficulties of dealing with medication. Currently we are still adjusting mine, it can be a real roller coaster. I appreciate your strength and willingness to share.
FWIW, my son suffered a concussion while he was a junior at MIT, which is a cognitively demanding school. The school put him on medical leave immediately, and his doctors told him to stay in a dark room, no screens, no reading, for at least 8 weeks. He did so. It was 4 months before he started using a computer again, and it took him about a year to recover completely. My point is that you might be delaying your full recovery by trying to work.
As a boss, I would do everything I could to support a highly skilled and conscientious worker, including making do without his or her services in order to speed recovery. It's possible that the company truly cannot afford to give you leave, but if they can you should take it.
What did your doctors tell you to do to maximize your chance of healing? Your concern for your employer is admirable, but both you and them will be better off if you do what is required for the best possible recovery.
I think it was in 2009 that a friend of mine had a fall while he was Roller Blading with his son. They called it a Closed Head injury. He worked in Inventory Control and he could no longer do his job. I do not know the circumstances for disability etc., but he did recover. It took about five years before he could work again and I do not believe he was fully recovered. Today, he has a job in Inventory Control and he also works in the same company helping with the Marketing and he is fully recovered. I think that your recovery may take much longer than you are expecting.
I would not self diagnose my condition. With the professional sports injuries, there has been a lot of research on head injuries. Don't worry about your job, take care of your health.
So, quick update. The neurologist I am seeing doesn't follow the dark room theory. His perspective is if you can handle it, do it. Neuroplasticity will make it easier over time. He also thinks post-concussion syndrome exists but is overdiagnosed, so he is treating me for migraines. Pat - that GTD suggestion is changing my life. I haven't read the book yet, but the blog posts I've read were awesome. I have set up a process that allows me to focus on on step at a time, if I get confused I just need to look at the last thing I've done and I am right back in the game. I measure my productivity in dollar value of product drawn per day. In the past two weeks I have gotten darn near back to pre -injury levels. A side note - one of my conditions is a type of verbal aphasia. I know what I want to say, but getting the words from my noggin to my tongue sometimes doesn't happen. I found some interesting research called singing therapy. The left side of the brain is in charge of speech, the right side music, so if you sing along to music, the left side starts to learn from the right. It is also paying dividends. Again, thank you all for your suggestions and advice, I appreciate it.
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