This was first published in the Daily Mail. Co-authored by Deborah Garlick founder of Henpicked
How to talk to your Boss
- 45% said they find it hard to communicate to their boss and 45% also said it’s hard to communicate to their colleagues.
- 54% feel communicating would make them look less capable in the workplace
- 45% don’t feel their boss would understand
- 29% said it would make them feel inferior to male colleagues.
As half the UK workforce is female, and 3.5 million of these women are aged 50 and over, it has become increasingly clear that employers need to pay more attention to occupational health issues for women.
However, menopause is still often seen as taboo, which can mean there is a lack of support for women who find that menopausal symptoms are affecting them at work.
Let’s face it, there may be an awkwardness, embarrassment and the fear you won’t be taken seriously. It can be hard enough talking to a GP about your symptoms or even friends and family. Many women find it particularly hard to talk to a line manager who is male, or younger than them, as they feel they won’t understand enough about menopause.
First, take a deep breath and remind yourself that your manager is a professional, and wants you to be at your best at work. Menopause is a natural transition period in every woman’s life, and that you deserve to be listened to.
Good communication is essential, and that takes preparation. Here are our tips for talking to your line manager, being clear what you want and achieving the best possible outcome:
- Prepare for your meeting. Keep a diary of your menopause symptoms, how they’re affecting you at work and what you’re doing to manage them. Extra support may only be for a short period of time while you talk to your GP about managing your symptoms. Include a timeframe if you can.
- Focus on the solutions. How would you like your line manager to support you? Think about the practical, reasonable adjustments that would help your symptoms. Could you work from home or come into work later some days if poor sleep is an issue? If the temperature in your office is making hot flushes worse, can you have a fan or move to a desk near an air conditioning unit or window you can open? Will you need time for medical appointments? Be flexible, ideally with different options.
- Check out what support is available. Does your employer have a menopause policy? If not, what support is already available. There will be absence and sickness and flexible working policies. Or access to Employee Assistance Programs or Counselling Services, which can help with symptoms like anxiety and low mood.
- Book a meeting. This means you’ll have time and ideally a private place to talk. It will be easier for you to explain everything in the right way. Think about confidentiality too. Some women are happy to talk to other colleagues about their menopause, others aren’t. It’s your choice. It does help everyone if we all talk about menopause openly and your colleagues can support you too.
- Prepare what to say. Mentally rehearse what you’re going to say so when you talk to your boss the words feel and sound natural. You could even do a mini role-play with a trusted friend. Take a walk before the meeting if it helps you relax.
- Explain your situation and request clearly. Talk your boss through your prep: your symptoms, how they’re affecting you at work, what you’re doing to manage them and how you’d like their support.
- Don’t expect an answer immediately. Remember, this may have been bothering you for a while. Your boss may have little or no knowledge of menopause or how best to support you. Allow them time to digest what you’ve talked about and seek advice if they need to from HR or Occupational Health.
- Set up a meeting to follow up. At the end of the meeting put time in the diary to meet again, whether that’s to agree a way forward, to monitor progress or update.
Above all, remember this is just two professional people having a conversation. It’s in both your best interests to find a good solution. And the menopause transition doesn’t last forever.
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