Explaining Eczema to Your Employer
Eczema is not a “comfortable” disease to manage. It’s uncomfortable to experience, it’s uncomfortable to show to others, and it’s uncomfortable to explain — especially in a professional setting. Many individuals, myself included, like to maintain a degree of separation between their personal and work lives. But what happens if that’s not a possibility? From my experience, the two are bound to intersect at some point. You can only call off so many days of work due to a flare before your employer starts to question your motives. Because of this, I feel it’s important to be transparent with your supervisor upfront to avoid any potential issues down the road. Below, you’ll find several tips to help make the conversation about your skin a little bit less painful.
Schedule a meeting
No one likes to be caught off guard. Start by scheduling a time to speak with your supervisor. If you can plan a time where you’ll have their undivided attention, they’ll be in a better position to listen and address your concerns. Be sure to meet in an office or conference room in an attempt to keep your conversation private.
What you can say:
- “Excuse me, (insert name), would you mind if I took a minute of your time?”
- “I’d like to have a word with you privately. When is a good time for us to talk?”
- “Are you free to have a conversation? I’d like to discuss some of my concerns with you.”
Explain the condition and symptoms
Many people are unaware of the symptoms and complications that eczema often presents. Give your supervisor a run-down of what you experience with your skin on a daily basis.
Here are a few common questions you may receive and their potential answers:
- Q: What exactly is eczema? Isn’t it just a rash?
- A: “Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an autoimmune disease that presents itself as (share your symptoms and related complications).”
- Q: How does your eczema directly affect you and your work?
- A: (Explain your symptoms and the different types of atopic dermatitis that you manage. This is also a good time to explain how flares can erupt at a moment's notice.)
- Q: Are there any other complications related to your eczema?
- A: (Feel free to mention a lack of sleep or any other issues you feel comfortable with sharing.)
Share your concerns
If you have any additional concerns, don’t hesitate to be vocal about them. After all, it is your supervisor’s duty, and in their best interest, to ensure you’re working in an environment that is both free of harassment and one that offers reasonable accommodations for your medical needs.
Additional concerns may include:
- Bullying in the workplace due to your skin condition
- Special workplace accommodations that allow you to perform your job duties
- If you believe that your work environment is contributing to your health issues, inform your supervisor as well
Once you sit down and have a conversation about your eczema with your employer, you’ll feel much better about your work situation. Not only will a burden be lifted off your chest, but you’ll have satisfaction in knowing that you took matters into your own hands.
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