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A colleague is struggling with injuries. Should I let his boss know?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
Q: One of my good friends at work was involved in a motorbike crash a couple of months ago. He has returned to work but I can tell that he is struggling both physically and emotionally, yet no one seems to be cutting him any slack. I've overheard conversations about him where people think he's making a big deal about it, but I know how serious this has been for him. He doesn't know what people are saying and is keen to play down his injuries. Would it be disloyal of me to say something to his boss? I'm in an awkward position.

A: I'd guess that the reason your friend continues to play down his injuries is an understandable concern for his job. But by doing so, of course, he may actually be putting his job in jeopardy. The more his boss believes his recovery to be complete, the more critical he will become of your friend's performance. So I'm not sure that loyalty comes into it much; you just need to take every care not to do more harm than good.

The key issue is the likely speed of his full return to physical and emotional wellbeing - so it would help a lot if you found out what his medical prognosis is. You should be able to do this perfectly naturally when asking him how he feels he's doing.

If his advisers have every confidence that he'll be back to his old self reasonably soon, I think you could safely have a confidential word with his boss. Explain that your friend is putting a brave face on things but knows he's struggling. Given a little more patience and understanding, he'll achieve full recovery even more quickly. If your boss has any sense (and a bit of a heart) that should have an immediate effect and your friend need know nothing about it.

I'm afraid I have no helpful advice if your friend's prognosis is much less optimistic. It's asking too much of almost any employer to make permanent allowances for someone seriously impaired through injury - and you'd certainly do your friend no favours by suggesting to his boss that this is what he should do. However, the fact that he's back at work at all after just a couple of months must suggest that all he needs is a little more time and understanding.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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