Do you tell your coworkers/boss/work? Career suffering? How to deal?(7 posts)
In this economy, I think it might be a bad idea to tell your work place that you got bed bugs. What do you think? Did you ever inform your work/colleagues? How did it work out? As the recent NYT article, something that spreads faster than BB is stigma, and I don't want a career backlash.
This BB business is very tiring. I find myself absentminded at work obsessing about my problems at home. Plus I'm exhausted....doing laundry, taking all these usually crazy precautions that are necessary when you have BB. Double showers. TIRED...by the time I get to work. How do you deal? I'm really trying to get my act back together and focus on work at work. And when I get home...tackle the BB problem again with zest.
My husband told his line manager and hasn't suffered any problems. She was helpful and allowed for time off to deal with the situation.
We are currently in watch and wait mode but my husband told his office colleagues that we think we were exposed to bedbugs on vacation and were concerned we might have brought them home with us. No one had a problem and one guy actually said - "I wonder if those are what's causing all these bites on my legs!" I think all the news coverage though recently has helped.
I know many people would probably not react that way, but I'm definitely a proponent of "the only way to get society over the stigma of bedbugs is to get over it ourselves".
I think deciding whether or not to tell employers is always--but especially in a bad economy--an intensely personal decision that has to be made only after taking a lot of factors into account.
I agree with nobugs4me in theory that telling your employers and friends is important to help get rid of the stigma that is all too often still associated with bed bugs.
And if all other variables were equal, I'd say that for that reason alone, yes, telling your employer is a good idea.
Unfortunately, all other variables are never equal.
I work for the state of California, at one job, and the city I live in for my other job. I have rational, understanding, politically left-leaning supervisors, both of whom would never in a million years hold it against me if I accidentally brought bed bugs to work. I've known these folks for over ten and over three years, respectively. They are highly (some might say overly) rational people. I am at at will employee for the city and on a multi-year contract for the state. At both places, not only am I protected by a union, but I've been active in the union in both places--with the full and enthusiastic support of both my bosses.
For that reason, looking back now, I would likely tell me bosses if I were infested again. I did tell the people that I worked with day to day at the time.
However, if I didn't have the relative job security that I have, if I worked for a small business that would have a much harder time bearing the cost of treatment at work--even if I thought that my boss would take that into account when it came to assigning classes, I would absolutely not disclose at work--even though (in theory) I think it's the right thing to do.
Fighting bed bugs is a heck of a lot harder if you're unemployed, and it would be nice to think that no boss would retaliate--even unconsciously--if he or she thought that an employee brought bugs into the office even accidentally and foisted that expense on the business.
However, I am also fully aware that it would be nice if we all had first quality health care and universal access to higher education for qualified students. It would be nice if teacher tenure worked the way it was meant to. It would be nice if I could wave a magic wand and make bed bugs disappear.
Since in the real world, whether or not to disclose to your boss is influenced by a whole ton of factors including but not limited to job security, how deep the pockets of the entity you work for are and whether they already have experience dealing with pest control in general and bed bugs specifically, what the personality of your boss (and likely your boss's boss) is (or are), and a whole host of other factors, I guess my personal rule of thumb is this:
if it's safe for you to disclose to the people at work that you have bed bugs, yes, it's a good idea to do so to help dispel the stigma.
However, making that decision must always take into account the particulars of your situation because if it's not safe to disclose, you risk doing yourself far more harm than you are doing good to others. It's the same way that a lot of helping professions focus on making sure that people who work in those jobs don't put themselves at risk while helping others. People who sign up to be lifeguards or social workers clearly have a thing about helping others. But the first rule of both gigs is that you can't put yourself in danger while trying to help others because, if you do, someone else will have to come along and save both of you.
If people are in the position to do so, by all means disclose.
If people have good reason (more than the first flush of bed bug awareness fear that bed bugs could be anywhere) to suspect that the bugs either ended up or came from work, then finding a way to disclose--even anonymously--is vitally important.
However, if doing so puts your safety or your job at risk, then, no, I don't think it's a good idea to disclose.
I told my bosses immediately, but it helps we're all understanding psychologists. hahaha! They've even arranged for 2 treatments in my office. I'm very fortunate, but I would agree with buggyinsocal that it's a very personal decision, and there are many factors that need to be taken into account.
I told my boss and the building services manager, telling them that I had them at home and feared that I may have unknowingly brought them into work. However, I knew that they had previously found them on the other side of my floor and in other floors in the building, so I knew that they would be open to inspection.
The good news is that my immediate office was cleared (I never take my purse into the bedroom - I always keep it on the kitchen counter). I also opened up the dialogue - people were openly discussing whether they've had them or not. The bad news is that five spots on the floor were "infected" - including a massive clothing closet. (We share our floor with a fashion company.)
Side note: Initially, my infestation was "small" - just confined to the bed. However, the PCO didn't do a proper treatment (didn't treat certain areas in the bedroom, told us they would encase the bed and then didn't), so the mini-monsters have scattered. We've since had a 3rd treatment (with a 4th coming in two weeks) and THIS bit of info I haven't shared with work. I figure, I did my due diligence, and I'm tired of being known as the "bed bug girl" around work, especially when coworkers are confessing things to me like, "I found a bug and killed it, thank God I killed the one bug."
There's NEVER just one.
I told my employer who was supportive and even offered for me to come sleep at their house (what an idiot) but that "support" didn't last long. He was telling me I needed to hang my coat up (beside everyone else's) and I got in trouble a time or two for being an hour late because I was at home dealing with this. No matter what, they'll never know what you are going through and what kind of precautions need to be taken. When you have bb, you do not hang your coat next to anyone else's and you don't go sleep at the boss' house so you can infest him too! I would have loved for him to go through this too so he knew what it felt like. His wife actually told me one day to just not worry about it. OMG, really? Don't worry about it and then what, it goes away? Like I said, if they aren't going through it, they have no clue! Do the best to not bring bb to work, but I really don't think that certain people need to know about bb troubles at home. Then again it depends on the person. Some people feel incredible shame over this and others aren't afraid to talk about it.
Put it this way, if you had a troubled relationship, marriage or trouble dealing with your kids or your financial situation and were having the same sleepless nights because of this, would you run and tell the boss? Now I'm ranting.
I personally think that what happens outside of work is non of my boss' business and will keep it that way after what an idiot he was over my bb situation.
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