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JKHoopes 7:
HI! I understand what you’re going through. I posted a while ago about having been moved out of my normal job which definitely does suit me (teaching) to being an admin fill-in for another department while I had no course to teach. It was only three months but it was difficult. I got through it but never felt comfortable, I can say that that type of job would not be right for me in the long term.

Back in my normal job, I have not disclosed my ADHD to my boss, although I have disclosed clinical depression recently. She is a nice lady, caring, however not very well versed in mental health complexity. I blame the manager training program. It basically just allows HR to ‘tick a box’ and say that they’re keeping up with mental health policy guidelines or whatever. It’s just not as simple as ‘if you’re having a hard time, you have access to complimentary counselling sessions with the contracted company’. I feel like saying ‘Thanks- but that doesn’t really solve any of my problems, I’m still your worker to manage!’

A few things that have made her more accomodating of my ‘uniqueness’ without stigmatising me are: taking the advice of my psychiatrist if I am not feeling well and always getting a medical certificate. Informing my supervisor that I am taking new medications that are causing some side effects, and disclosing a few of my more problem issues, such as forgetfulness/ foggy brain, without actually mentioning a ‘disorder’ (apart from depression.) These symptoms can be tied to a wide range of health conditions.

For my experience at least, this has helped her to know how to deal with me, way better than any company cookie-cutter mental health policy training program for managers can. It also allows me to maintain a high level of privacy. When I’m well, I work hard, I work well. Medication has been especially helpful in boosting my energy and motivation and focus, so my results have improved as a result, even if there are still patches of difficulty, such as admin tasks. I point to my achievements, especially reminding myself, whenever I feel guilty about taking time off or not being able to do ‘simple’ things.

As far as performance management goes, I’m covered because Ive disclosed non-specific health problems, produced medical certificates proving a) the existence of a health condition and b) that I’m taking steps to address it. Ticking all the HR boxes at least for here in Australia!

I recently had a huge win in my performance appraisal where I fought to be graded higher than normal on account of the extra and higher level work I’ve been doing relative to my position. I thanked myself for keeping notes all year of my achievements, which I could rattle off. When we got into a disagreement, I just pointed to all the rating guidelines from the company’s intranet, highlighted the justifications, produced quantified examples of where I was achieving the stated ‘superior’ standard, and patiently waited for her to wade through all the print outs. She gave me the higher rating, no hard feelings, no ‘allowances’ for my mental health condition needed. I was so proud of myself. I was more than happy to knowledge that over the coming year I would work to get my personal admin up to the same standard as well. But this weakness of mine did not define my performance review, which was what I really needed.

Keeping year-round note of my achievements and taking time to read company policy in relation to performance helped me escape a debilitating and subjective unfair assessment of my supervisor because ‘i don’t get my paperwork in on time’. There are real benefits to putting policy into practice and calmly asking your higher-ups to do the same. And patience. It took two weeks to win, but I just let the evidence speak for itself and put the onus on someone else to disprove what I was saying.

I think the point I’m trying to make to you is that many supervisors either don’t understand or don’t believe mental health conditions are justification for negative performance reviews, but these days most companies have pretty good policy that you can use in your defence. In my case it was totally new to my supervisor, but that;s her job to be across that stuff. If guidelines exist to back you up, even if nobody has ever attempted to cite them before in a performance review, that’s what they’re there for.

You obviously are a caring ‘people person’ and my heart goes out to you! I bet you care a lot about your work even if it’s not really the right job for you, you just want to have a few wins and be acknowledged for it. That’s not asking for much! I hope it goes well for you.