Bad vibes

About the middle of January, I contacted the office and told them I thought I’d be able to return to work from January on a limited basis. They were happy with that. I was uncertain but felt I had to do something. I was feeling a bit better at the time, and there comes a time when you feel you need to move on. Plus, there’d been gentle pressure from the office to come back. We agreed on 3 hours a day.

By the time I started work in February, I wasn’t feeling so well. I had expected the congestion to have cleared up by then, but it persisted. On top of that, the head pain had become worse (because a plate in my mouth had become misaligned, I think). I’d been on occasional, low-level, over the shelf pain killers but had been forced onto the heavy-duty pain killers I was forced into taking around the clock.

I made the best of it at work and coped okay, though the pain killers heavily fatigued me, and I couldn’t predict when I would be available for work and when not.

About the middle of the month, I had another conversation with my Team Leader. He wanted to know what I would do for March and was pushing for 4 hours a day. By this time, I felt pretty worn down and had actually considered reverting back to zero hours until I felt better again. I said none of that. That would be a last resort. Instead, I was busy arguing with my TL, who seemed unwilling to take no for an answer. I got quite angry in the end and told him emphatically that I couldn’t commit to something yet when I didn’t know if I could honour it. Okay, he said, we’ll talk next week.

By the time we were due to talk a week later, I was ready to admit that I was considering going back to zero hours. Of course, if my health improved, I would look to increase my hours, but it was not something I could promise.

Instead, an email popped into my inbox from the TL announcing to HR and management that I’d agreed to continue on for three hours a day in March, increasing to four hours by mid-month. I was bemused. We’d never even had that conversation, let alone agreed to it. Instead, he’d gone off and unilaterally decided on my behalf.

I let it go. I wasn’t happy, but it wasn’t worth the argument. I knew that if I chose to, I’d work the hours I was able, which would be it.

Last week, I contacted the TL and updated him on my situation. I told him I had been considering going back to zero hours. I told him I couldn’t be as reliable as they would hope, and there might be some days I couldn’t work at all. I tried to explain how I was feeling, but it made as much an impression as in previous times. Fuck all.

Then, because I had lost trust in my TL and wanted to put it on the record, I sent an email to the HR manager telling him the same stuff.

On Friday, I had a one-on-one with my TL. As always, he asked me when I thought I might be able to return to full-time work. I told him I didn’t know. It could be in a month, it could be in several. I don’t think my doctors know any better than I do in this regard, and I’m constantly being urged to be patient. Cancer is no small thing.

My TL then suggested that I check out the internal vacancies as they come through on email in case there was something I might be interested in. I was taken aback. I think I made a joke of it, but afterwards, I was fuming. The inference was clear – if you can’t work with us FT, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

I wasn’t surprised. I’d always got on very well with my TL. I thought he was a decent, good-hearted type. I don’t doubt that he is. Unfortunately, now I’ve come to believe he’s also naive and weak, and so, so disappointing. I’ve never got the support from him I’d have expected throughout my illness.

I’m speculating, but I would guess my TL had a conversation with his manager about my ongoing availability. I get that it’s uncertain and that they need to make plans, but that’s the way it is. It’s worse for me, guys. And so, I presume something was said about encouraging me to make my position vacant.

Yesterday, I sent an email to the HR manager reporting the conversation and how it made me feel pressured, disrespected, and disposable. I reminded him that I wasn’t doing this for fun and that a little empathy would go a long way. I also an assurance that my position was safe. Once more, I needed to get it on the record.

I imagine there would have been some conversation behind the scenes once my email was received, and maybe some well-earned bollocking of my TL for being so clumsy (he’s guileless and without the sophistication to present it more tactfully). Of course, none of that could be admitted to me, and the email I received apologised for the misunderstanding without really bothering to explain it. He reasserted that my health was the primary concern and my job was safe. Very well down and exactly what I expected, but I had put them on notice.

I don’t know how it will affect my relationship with the TL. It won’t make much difference to me, but if he tries to justify his words, I’ll call bullshit. As you may expect, I’ve been left with a nasty taste in my mouth.

I need to get out of the place once I’m healthy. There’s a bad vibe. I got no support from them through my treatment and only cursory communication. I felt as if my TL wasn’t listening half the time, as if he was doing something else. His disinterest was hard. I felt forgotten in general, right down to being overlooked by the organisation a couple of times handing out vouchers and the like.

It’s a cruel thing when you have cancer. You feel isolated at the best of times, and I was doing it solo. I like to think I’m self-sufficient, and I am in many ways, but I’m also human. You need to feel acknowledged. You need to feel as if you matter. I got none of that.

The current plan is to hang in there long enough to claim my long service leave – about a year. I’ll clear out then. Let’s hope I make it that far.

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