Speaking with Your Supervisor
The decision to disclose to your supervisor that you have vulvodynia depends primarily on whether the pain affects your ability to work. Although each work situation is unique, it may be helpful to consider the following.
- Why Do You Want to Discuss It? First, consider your reasons for telling your supervisor. Do you want to reduce your hours or take sick leave? Do you want to be transferred to a less stressful position? Do you want to explain why your performance has been impaired or why you’ve been calling in sick?
- How Much Information Should You Share? Consider what you would need to know if someone working for you had a health problem. If you’re asking for a change in your job, your supervisor will have to tell his/her supervisor. You are not usually required to divulge a medical condition unless you are taking extended leave; however, in this case, you may have to provide your human resource department with a confidential diagnosis from your provider. If you work closely with others, you may want your colleagues to know that you have a physical condition that sometimes interferes with your attendance or performance. You do not have to go into detail if you don’t feel comfortable; you can say, “I want you to know I have a chronic pain condition so you’ll understand why I’m not here at certain times.”
- How Do You Tell Your Boss? If you’re feeling anxious about it, consider writing down what you’d like to say beforehand and practice the conversation with your spouse or a friend. Once you’ve decided to have the conversation, schedule a 30-minute meeting on a Friday, which gives your boss time to think about your situation over the weekend. At the beginning of the meeting, request strict confidentiality. If your boss has to report to his/her supervisor or the human resource department, discuss how you would like the issue to be presented to others. It helps to begin the discussion with a statement indicating that you are committed to your job and willing to work hard. Explain that you have a chronic condition that is more manageable on some days than others and assure him/her that you are doing everything you can to seek proper treatment. If you are uncomfortable, you don’t have to be specific about your diagnosis. You can simply say that you suffer from chronic pain, and if prodded for more information, a phrase like, “I’m just learning about it myself,” should terminate the inquiry.