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Managing Migraine Sufferers

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

Every manager knows that a headache may affect an employee’s productivity. The situation usually resolves itself fairly quickly with the help of an aspirin, fresh air or time away from the computer. For the 28 million Americans suffering from migraines, however, headaches are not just a temporary annoyance but a serious, often misunderstood condition.

How might a migraine differ from a regular head­ache? According to the American Pain Foundation, one key difference is location. Migraines are usually felt on one side of the head, whereas most other headaches hurt on both sides. Pain may be so intense that simple movements such as standing can be challenging. Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and difficulty thinking clearly may accompany a migraine headache. People may erroneously toss around the term “migraine” to mean any bad headache, but it is a neurological condi­tion with episodic attacks and should be monitored by a health professional who can offer treatment options.

While some diagnosed employees are upfront in discussing the condition with their manager, others fear being misunderstood or treated with kid gloves. If you become aware of a worker having migraines, take time to understand the particular nature of his or her condition. The Migraine Awareness Group notes that every sufferer has different triggers, frequency of attacks and remedies. Ask affected employees what you can do to help, from providing a quiet place to lie down temporarily to getting the person a caffeinated beverage. See what environmental measures can be taken; fluorescent lighting and odors from cleaning supplies and copier chemicals bother some people. Likewise, be aware that a change in air pressure is a common trigger, so flexible scheduling during certain weather conditions might be appreciated.

To the extent that the affected worker feels comfort­able, a manager also can share information. This action keeps co-workers from making false assumptions, such as that the sufferer is overdramatic about “just a head­ache,” is lazy, has a drug problem or seeks unwarranted special treatment. A manager’s professionalism about the matter can lay the groundwork for empathy and understanding.

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