Worker Bee Advocacy

I can’t tell you how many times in my working life that I have been in conversation with coworkers, where people were expressly proud to have worked themselves into a mere, frail shadow of their former (happier) selves. ‘I’m SO tired’ they say with triumph, as they slurp down another too-hot cup of coffee, a zombie like aura beaming all around them. Okay...so, maybe that is a bit dramatic, but many work cultures demand a lot from people these days. Cultures like these leave little room for those of us who don’t fit the worker bee mold.

Migraine's uncertainty and work expectations

Through self-advocacy, I’ve been able to strike a good work-health balance, but I know that migraine’s unpredictability can impact my ability to meet expectations at any time, and I also know that many expectations in workplaces are not accommodating and need to be pushed back on. That is why I continue to stay sharp and prepared to advocate for myself and others when needed.

Tips for advocating for yourself at work

Here are some tips for self-advocacy when migraine impacts work, or when work fails to accommodate Migraine. These tips are based on my own experience, and are not meant to be prescriptive.

Find someone you can trust

This tip may not be possible for many folks, especially in work environments that privilege individualism. For those who work in environments where you do have co-workers you can rely on and trust, building deeper relationships can help with self-advocacy in the workplace, because it may mean that others will stand up and advocate for you, too.

Ask for changes as a collective

In my experience, sometimes when only one person asks for a change or accommodations, they can be singled out and seen as a problem-maker. If multiple people ask for changes together, it can have a larger impact. Coming together with other folks who share concerns or who care about you in the workplace may ease the journey to a more accommodating work environment. Having folks in your corner who you can rely on and trust can also help to make the work environment less stressful and more manageable. This is not easy, and sometimes we find ourselves in environments where friends are few and far between. In these cases, it can be important that we hold firm to our value and dig into some of the following tips.

Know your rights

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against folks with disabilities, including folks with debilitating migraine disease. The law also requires that employers provide ‘reasonable’ workplace accommodations to those who require them. Submitting a formal letter asking for accommodation to your employer with specific requests which would help you to feel safer and healthier at your job is an important tool. It can also be helpful to have your doctor or care professional write a letter in support of you and your needs.

Know your own limits

One huge way I’ve advocated for myself is by learning to say NO. For some reason, when I was growing up I always believed that you could never say no at work.

Migraine self-advocacy in the workplace

There are so many unique and nuanced considerations when it comes to working. For many in the migraine community, the choices are limited and difficult in regards to where, how long, and in what ways we work. For me, a huge part of self-advocacy that I learned and grew to adopt head on was setting boundaries and limits for how much work and what kind of work I do. I used to work in food service for instance, but was always told to handle foods I was allergic to and always dealing with migraine triggers. Now, I do not apply to food service positions.

Do you have other tips for advocacy in the workplace? Let's discuss in the comments!

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