Posts tagged #work

Asking About My Cane

A .5lb collapsible carbon fiber in sparkly indigo. It might be the most stylish thing I own.

A .5lb collapsible carbon fiber in sparkly indigo. It might be the most stylish thing I own.

If you follow me on twitter, you might have seen me singing the praises of my shiny new cane a couple weeks back.

I have a neurological condition that causes, among other things, dizziness. I bought a cane because having a third foot is really handy when I'm feeling unsteady.

Since I'm not dizzy every day and not in the office every day, my cane didn't make its first appearance at the office until this Wednesday.

Wednesday looked a lot like this:

for colleague in colleagues:
  curiosity = random.randint(1,20)
  if curiosity > 5:
    print(colleague.name() + ": what happened?")
    print("me: nothing, I just have a neurological condition\
          that causes dizziness.")
  time.sleep(600)

(For the non-parselmouths among you, that means I was answering the same question all day).

I don't particularly mind answering questions about my cane-use. It's natural to be curious when someone you work with suddenly shows up with an assistive device. If I had it to do again I would have dropped it in the office slack to get the explanation out of the way all at once, but I didn't find the question invasive or uncomfortable.

But sometimes, these questions are uncomfortable. Some people don't want to talk about their health or disabilities, especially at work. People with disabilities have good reason to fear discrimination. Even when we're not concerned about that, sometimes we don't want to have to be the walking brochure for our conditions, or we're not up for well-intentioned advice from people who are not part of our medical team.

Which is why I want to give a shout-out to my boss, for asking the question a different way. Rather than asking "what happened," he asked, "are you okay?"

I replied, "yup!" and went on with what I was doing.

This phrasing conveys the same sentiment--an expression of polite concern--but it's much easier to answer without either supplying personal information or making things awkward. That's especially handy when there's a power differential in play that might make someone feel like they need to answer a question even when they don't want to.

As for the rest of my team: none of them pressed me for more information about my health or offered me unsolicited medical advice. They're pretty good at boundaries.

I say all this not as a means of giving my office ally cookies, but because I think the world would be a better place if more folks followed their example of how to talk to people about their disabilities. It's nice to work somewhere where I can use a cane when I need one without anyone making it weird.

Posted on May 22, 2015 .

All comments are subject to my Comment Policy.

Disclaimer O'Clock

I started a new job recently. I'm working with great people on really exciting stuff.

So this is as good a time as any to establish some disclaimers regarding my personal writings and social media accounts.

I think it's perfectly reasonable for employers to hold employees accountable for bad behavior they engage in on their own time. If I'm publicly engaging in behavior that might give the appearance of impropriety, or give coworkers a reasonable impression that I'll discriminate against them, it is right and proper for my employer to have a problem with that. Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences.

But there's a particular brand of troll that works to silence women by trying to get us fired for having opinions on the internet. I've seen it happen to friends of mine and to women I barely know at all, and it can get really ugly.

So just to be clear:

When I write or post things online, I am speaking as a private citizen, and all views I express are my own. I'm not acting as an employee or speaking for my employer. My employer does not have editorial control over my blog, my social media accounts, or anything else I write online (except for some of my code, which gets published on my github account).

If I write something for my employer, it will be clearly marked as such. Code-wise, that means it'll appear in a repository my employer owns, or else a fork of a repository they own. My job doesn't involve writing things for public consumption other than code at the moment, but if it ever does, that content will appear on my employer's site, or a social media account they own, or will otherwise be prominently and clearly marked as having been written in my capacity as an employee.

I will never, under any circumstances, be using this blog or my private social media accounts to host content I wrote for work.

I take responsibility for the way that I comport myself, both on the job and off. So if you have complaints about me that are my employer's business, I'm not going to tell you what to do with those. But if you're just some sexist troll who's annoyed by how I'm responding (or not) to your harassment, you should be aware that I'm a federal employee, and that my employer is therefore constitutionally barred from retaliating against me for any statements that I make that are not pursuant to my official duties.

Since I never, ever post anything pursuant to my official duties on this blog or my private social media accounts, you're pretty much out of luck on that front. Maybe you should instead spend that time examining why you're so invested in getting women to shut up.

Posted on August 3, 2014 .

All comments are subject to my Comment Policy.