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Coping with Cancer Interventions for the Family
Cancer & Family continuing education addiction counselor CEUs

Section 8
Work Life and Cancer

CEU Question 8 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Cancer
Psychologist CEs, Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed providing comfort to the caregiver.  Three interventions which can help provide comfort to the caregiver include not letting the cancer patient be the focus of all conversation, encourage time outs, and avoiding interference.

On this track we will discuss managing cancer in the workplace.  Perhaps a client you are treating is in a supervisory role in his or her workplace.  If an employee or coworker has cancer or becomes a caregiver, considerate approaches that can help foster productive working relationships.  Therefore, this track provides guidelines for the business owner, manager or supervisor.  Four guidelines for managing cancer in the workplace are don’t participate in denial, don’t reduce responsibilities without asking, flexible scheduling, and trouble signs and two steps to effective confrontation. 

4 Guidelines for the Business Owner, Manager or Supervisor

Guideline # 1 - Don’t Participate in Denial
First, let’s discuss suggesting that the supervisor does not participate in denial.  In order to foster an effective working relationship, your client may consider discussing his or her employees situation to determine what he or she is able or unable to do.  Questions can be asked such as what plans does the employee have?  What benefits will he or she need?  What kind of schedule and workload will he or she be able to handle?  Your client’s company may offer benefits the employee is unaware of.  Think of your client.  Might he or she provide the employee with contact or up-to-date information regarding health benefits and insurance plans? 

Gail, age 46, was a manager in a call center.  One of Gail’s employees was diagnosed with bone cancer.  Gail was concerned regarding how she might handle the situation.  I stated, "Arrange to accommodate the employee.  Your actions will demonstrate your compassion and set an example for others in the workplace.  Also, if you ignore an employee who you know has cancer, six months later you may have to deal with depression, alcoholism, or poor performance.

Guideline # 2 - Don’t Reduce Responsibilities Without Asking
Next, I explained to Gail that cancer patients and their loved ones suffer many blows to the ego.  I stated, "Reduced job responsibilities can be one of these ego blows.  It conveys a negative message and fuels the fear of losing identity."  Think of your Gail.  Might he or she consider discussing the reduction of responsibilities regarding an employee with cancer?

Guideline # 3 - Flexible Scheduling
In addition to don’t participate in denial and don’t reduce responsibilities without asking, a third guideline for managing cancer in the workplace is flexible scheduling.  Clearly, the cancer patient will require time away from work. 

I stated to Gail, "By being flexible with your employees hours, you can reduce some of the burdens she would be under if she had to maintain a rigid schedule."  Gail ask, "What about changing circumstances?"  I answered Gail by stating, "Whether you’ve changed her hours or her responsibilities, reevaluate the arrangement on a regular basis, weekly or biweekly.  Adjust schedules and jobs as circumstances change."

Guideline # 4 - Trouble Signs and Two Steps to Effective Confrontation
Next, let’s discuss trouble signs and two steps for effective confrontation.  Clearly, anxiety, depression, withdrawal, tardiness, poor performance, and abrupt or rude behavior toward other employees are signals that the employee is in trouble. 

Randy, age 36, was a sales manager with a real estate firm.  Randy stated, "I’ve got this sales guy, James, who is dealing with his wife’s cancer.  Lately, James has been exhibiting behavior that is pretty disruptive.  Things like slamming down the phone, yelling at inanimate objects, and banging his fists on his desk just can’t be tolerated."  How might you have responded to Randy?  I stated, "If James’ behavior is disrupting the workplace, you might want to confront the issue before it escalates.  If you try to talk to him, he may insist his wife’s cancer isn’t upsetting him.  Yet when he is irritable or not performing his job, try this...

Technique: 2-Step Effective Confrontation

1. First, try to describe some of his behaviors.  You might say, ‘I know this is a very difficult time for you and I want you to know I’m concerned.  It seems to me you’re not quite yourself lately.  Please let me know how I can help.’" 

Would you agree that this intervention could let James know that Randy understood how stressed he was?  By describing the behavior and offering help, Randy took away James’ stigma for him of admitting he had a problem.  It allowed James to respond, ‘That’s how I feel.’

2. The second step in the Two Step Effective Confrontation technique is to clearly identify the specific behavior Randy wanted changed without attacking his employee.  For example, Randy stated, "I want to support you, James, but I’m having a problem with you yelling at things when you are upset.  Is there a way we can resolve this problem together?"  Think of your Randy.  How might your client implement the Two Step Effective Confrontation technique as a way to manage cancer in the workplace?  Would playing this track be beneficial?

On this track we discussed managing cancer in the workplace.  Four guidelines for managing cancer in the workplace are don’t participate in denial, don’t reduce responsibilities without asking, flexible scheduling, and trouble signs and two steps to effective confrontation. 

On the next track we will discuss the caregiver’s guide to well being.  Three interventions can be implemented with the caregiver of a cancer patient in order to increase the likelihood of that person’s well being.  They are seeking support, understanding and compromise, and handling unwanted advice.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Grunfeld, E. A., Drudge-Coates, L., Rixon, L., Eaton, E., & Cooper, A. F. (2013). “The only way I know how to live is to work”: A qualitative study of work following treatment for prostate cancer. Health Psychology, 32(1), 75–82.

Raque-Bogdan, T. L., Hoffman, M. A., Ginter, A. C., Piontkowski, S., Schexnayder, K., & White, R. (2015). The work life and career development of young breast cancer survivors. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62(4), 655–669.

 Soriano, E. C., Pasipanodya, E. C., LoSavio, S. T., Otto, A. K., Perndorfer, C., Siegel, S. D., & Laurenceau, J.-P. (2018). Social constraints and fear of recurrence in couples coping with early stage breast cancer. Health Psychology, 37(9), 874–884.

Spendelow, J. S., & Seidler, Z. E. (2020). Men’s self-initiated coping strategies across medical, psychological, and psychosocial issues: A systematic review. Psychology of Men & Masculinities, 21(1), 106–123.

Swancy, A. G. (2019). Navigating an ethical dilemma through a feminist model: The work of psychologists with adolescent and young adults (AYA) with cancer. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 50(4), 240–245. 

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 8
What are four guidelines for managing cancer in the workplace? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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