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ReseaRch n Helping employees with fibromyalgia manage their reputations through disclosure dances

algia. the students willingly helped Figure 3. Questions to ask your client about her workplace
her by writing on the blackboard so
she could teach sitting down. they Workplace culture
rearranged desks and fetched text- • How have other employees been treated in the past when they
books and ice for her pain. She got revealed health-related difficulties with work?
the accommodations she needed • Is the workplace friendly and close-knit, or formal and business
without disclosing her illness. focused?
• Are employees with disabilities respected and fully included?
Tips on advising women with
fibromyalgia Workplace relationships
• What kinds of relationships does the client have with her super-
let’s go back to the office where visor and co-workers?
the worker with a new fibromyal- • Were there any tensions in these relationships before the fibro-
gia diagnosis has asked for your myalgia diagnosis?
advice. How can the results of our • Who does your client feel she can trust with personal matters?
study help you advise her?
First, you can help her man- Workplace policies
age her reputation by focusing on • Does the workplace have policies and practices for helping ill or
her productivity and value to the injured employees stay at work?
employer. You might want to cau- • Is there an accommodation policy?
tion her that pushing through pain • Is there an anti-harassment policy?
and fatigue and working hard could
make her condition worse. instead, Personal preferences
the two of you could collaborate • Does your client prefer to keep personal matters private at work?
creatively to find ways to change • Does she feel that sharing personal information with fellow
working conditions or family-life employees is best?
demands so she can avoid the need • Does she feel comfortable talking about her situation?
to push through and work too hard.
Second, you can help your cli- adapted with permission from oldfield, M., Parkinson, M., Maheu, c., and Stergiou-Kita,
M. (2016b). Who gets to know: How to exercise your power of “disclosure.” retrieved from:
ent assess the risks and benefits
of disclosure by learning about power-of-disclosure/
what it’s like to work in her job.
You might ask the client about in her current research, she is exploring the
utations. also, key to remember is
her work environment, work cul- that disclosure is often not a sim- experience of aging with dementia through
ture, and relationships with her co- ple yes/no decision. it can happen a disability-studies lens. Her other research
workers and supervisor. Figure 3 spontaneously when employees interests include alternatives to workplace
accommodations that do not require disclos-
contains specific questions to ask. improvise disclosure dances in
ing difference, and factors other than illness
third, you might want to find out everyday work relationships. Your that push employees with invisible disabilities
what your client has learned about affirmation and understanding of a out of their jobs. dr. oldfield can be reached
disclosure from fibromyalgia self- client’s delicate situation can pro- at
help websites. these sites often vide reassurance and support. Ellen MacEachen, Phd, is an associate
advise people with the illness to Professor with the School of Public Health
educate family and friends about Acknowledgements and Health Systems at the university of
fibromyalgia and its symptoms. at Waterloo. Her research focuses on the soci-
ology of work and health, how people with
work, however, this advice could the authors would like to thank disability, illness or injury can maintain jobs
translate into an exposing dance, uyen Vu and Elizabeth McGroarty, and employment. She is co-director of
with its attendant drawbacks. rN, coHN, for commenting on the centre for research on Work disability
these tips may apply not only the draft article. Funding for the Policy. dr. MacEachen can be reached at
to women with fibromyalgia but to research was received from the uni-
employees (female and male) with versity of t oronto and the centre for Bonnie Kirsh, Phd, ot reg. (ont.), is
other invisible, intermittent chronic research on Work disability Policy. associate Professor in the department of
illnesses. Key to remember is that, Margaret Oldfield, Phd, is a social scientist, occupational Science and occupational
therapy, in the rehabilitation Sciences
depending on the characteristics of writer, and academic editor. Her disserta- institute and the department of Psychiatry
their individual workplaces, employ- tion in rehabilitation science examined how at the university of toronto. Her research
ees may need to manage their rep- women with fibromyalgia stayed at work. focuses on work integration for people

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