This week, I have had a bit of a tough time at work. Rather unfairly, I have had to have a sickness absence meeting, with both my manager and the Human Resources department. How I got to this stage is self-explanatory: sickness. Should I have got to this stage? No.
For someone who is a very sickly person, I have done well to ensure that my attendance at work is satisfactory, and that during the time I am at work, my performance is that of an employee who likes to excel. My figures and audits show this clearly. Furthermore, as I have stated in a previous post, I do have an ongoing and rather debilitating health condition. Due to this, my absence from work is sometimes imperative, but it is not without trying to ensure that I have done everything I could to stand myself in the best stead to attend the following day.
Anyway, this post isn’t about the reasons that I was “invited” to this meeting. It’s about how I dealt with it.
Firstly, I use the words “invited” in inverted commas, as to get an invitation to something is to me something that a) gives you a choice in the matter and b) is usually something you would look forward to attending. My manager had spoken to my prior to this meeting, and stated that he would do his best to ensure that the outcome of the meeting was an informal warning, and that he would support me and fight my corner. He also informed me that it would be a supportive meeting in which my company would be held responsible for proving that they are doing everything they can do in order to make my working life easier.
Boy oh boy was I lulled into a false sense of security! As soon as the meeting began, I was ripped to shreds, patronised, made to feel guilty for genuine sickness, and felt that my capability within my role was under question.
I am 22 years of age, I am an adult, and I do not deserve to be treated the way I was, and patronised or spoken down to. I deserve to be treated as an equal, and that is exactly what I am.
Now I’ll be honest here, in past jobs, when my depression and anxiety were at an all time high, I was very quick to self-certify a day off here and there. As you will know , if you suffer with anxiety and depression, these mental illnesses present themselves in physical symptoms, but can also leave you with fatigue, lethargy, and a general “cannot be bothered” attitude. And that’s not to say that we’re lazy people of course, it’s actually a condition of our mental illness that we feel no interest, nor have the energy, to do anything.
In my current job however, and with my current mental standing being one of a stable nature, I have managed to keep attendance high, as well as my performance one of the highest in the office.
As you can imagine then, met with such conflict in an official environment, that I totally had not expected, I had two options: lie down and take it, or fight for what I believed in and for what I knew I deserved. And I did the latter.
For the way I stood my ground, defended myself with evidence, spoke eloquently, clearly and concisely, challenged things I did not agree with, asked questions and proposed some of my own, I am truly proud. In this situation, I knew that standing up for myself was so important, and knowing my rights and the facts of my case allowed me to do so. I was my own biggest defender, in a situation that i had not prepared myself to have to put up my armour. There were times in my life where I would have submitted to the punishment and formal warning that was given to me, in fear of creating a work place environment that may cause me anxiety and more stressed, and in previous jobs I definitely have done that. I could have felt intimidated and seen myself as a lesser person. I could have sat back whilst waiting for someone else to ride in on a white horse and defend my honour…but I would have been waiting for a long time.
I didn’t wait. I stood up for myself when I needed to have my own back. I was my own biggest supporter.
I am extremely proud of the way I conducted myself, and even though I am usually quick to anger and can lose my temper easily, I composed my argument very professionally.
This is so much more than a work dispute for me though. This is the first time in a long time that I have supported myself, and allowed myself to fight for my own beliefs. This shows trust and belief in myself; these are things I truly struggle to feel. I have seen that at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, I’m strong and can handle anything that is thrown my way, knowing that I did it my way, and had my own back the whole way through.