You want to go beyond paperwork to support your employee with cancer, but what do you do?
First, learn what not to say, and second, know what to say. These two items set the foundation for support. They help you build trust with your employees.
The third step is action. But before you start, it's important to understand if your employee with cancer is a segmentor or an integrator. Once you know that, you are closer to understanding the best way to support them.
Who is a segmentor?
Segmentors are talented at creating boundaries between their personal and work lives. You're a segmentor if you do not respond to emails after work. You are a segmentor if you are focused at work, but you don't think about work once it's over. You're a segmentor if you don't understand why your colleagues want to bring their kids to work for Bring Your Kids to Work Day (remember those!) You like kids, you may have kids of your own, but bringing them to work feels like it crosses a boundary.
You're a segmentor if you keep your home keys separate from your work keys, and you need time to decompress as you move from home to work and work to home. Working from home has been challenging for you, mainly because it blurs the line between work and home.
Who is an integrator?
You are an integrator if like Bring Your Kids to Work Day, and think there should be a Bring Your Partner to Work Day and a Bring Your Friend to Work Day. You're an integrator if you have a hard time shutting your brain off from work. When you were at work, you had photos of family and friends on your desk. You keep your home and work keys on the same key chain. You look at segmentors and think they are unicorns. You don't understand how anyone could, and why would keep work and home separate.
How many integrators vs. segmentors are there in the work-place?
Google did an internal study a few years back, and they found roughly 30% of those who responded identified as segmentors. If you apply that to your employees, it could mean almost 1/3 of your employees with cancer will be segmentors.
Why this matters when your employee has cancer.
Let me ask you a question. What is one of the first actions a person takes when they hear a friend has cancer? They bring a meal. That seems innocent enough. But if your employee is a segmentor, showing up at their home with a meal may feel intrusive. (To learn other simple and more helpful ways to help with a meal, listen here.)
If your employee with cancer is an integrator showing up on their doorstep with food will most likely be welcomed.
How do you tell if an employee is a segmentor or an integrator?
You may not be able to tell because people being a segmentor or integrator is a sliding scale. But a sure-fire way to discover is to ask! And a simple way to ask is to approach it with humor. "Hey Doris or John, can you show me your key chain?" Approaching it with a more serious tone also works.
There are many ways an organization can support an employee with cancer. But let's talk about how to treat an employee with cancer if they are working. A diagnosis of cancer doesn't mean they can't work.
When coming up with ways to support an integrator or a segmentor, think about a new version of the golden rule. Instead of treating others the way you want to be treated, treat others the way they want to be treated.
How to treat an integrator with cancer
If you are the opposite of your employee with cancer, anticipating or understanding how to support them can be challenging. Here are three ideas on how to engage an integrator with cancer if you are a segmentor.
How to treat a segmentors
For integrators, segmentors can feel distant, and disinterested is receiving support. And they will probably not want to discuss their diagnosis with you, but they will want to talk about work. So take advantage of that. Below are a few ways to drive engagement for a segmentor.
No matter what your employee is, if they have cancer, do your best to treat them as a human being. We all have preconceived ideas of what we would do if we had cancer, but those are our ideas. It’s important not to pass judgment, but as I said above, to treat them the way they want to be treated, not the way that you think you would want to be treated. There is a big difference between the two, and it can drive engagement not just for your employee with cancer but for those watching your interactions.