Be the Boss Over Cancer

Cancer in the workplace can cause a shift in normal operations. When a coworker is diagnosed with cancer, these shifts can be slight or vast depending upon the type of work, the work culture, the individual diagnosed and your relationship with that person. From a practical standpoint, workloads and responsibilities may change and day-to-day activities may look very different. But what happens when a coworker is a friend?

If you have developed a friendship with your coworker over time, you may be feeling a number of emotions including sadness, helplessness, fear and anxiety. You may also experience a drive to want to “do” something; to somehow help out. This is very normal. But remember, the best way to help certain coworkers diagnosed with cancer is to be mindful of what their needs are during this experience. In other words, take your cues from them and follow their lead. In many cases, who your coworker was before cancer, is largely who they are now. Cancer may have challenged some aspects of their personality or behavior, but in essence, their core makeup remains in tact. So with that in mind, here are some tips that may help you support your coworker when you are in the workplace:

  • Listen. Being an effective listener is the key to understanding the type of support needed in the workplace.
  • Be flexible. Cancer is a very fluid disease and things often change. Being a team player and adjusting to changing schedules and duties will go very far in the workplace.
  • Offer your expertise in an area you excel in. If you are a whiz at organizing, offer to organize their files, desk or office.
  • Vary your conversations. When it’s not about work, it doesn’t always have to be about the cancer. Talk about a funny movie or something interesting you just read.

For more information on dealing with a coworker who has cancer, please visit this page: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/coworkers

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