my work colleague has cancer, what do i do?

A lot of people panic in this situation and there is no need to. Here you will find some helpful tips and advice on what to do and say when your work colleague has been diagnosed with cancer.

Provide Security

If you are an employer, reassure your employee that their job is secure. It will be one less thing your sick employee and their family has to worry about. This has a knock on effect within the workplace with other employees also getting that sense of security within their job. Often, this gesture lifts morale overall.

Keep Them Informed Of What Is Happening At Work

Job security can be further reinforced when the sick employee is kept abreast of what is happening in the workplace. The power of a phone call to simply say, “Hi, we miss you” cannot be underestimated and goes a long way to lift the feeling of inclusion. Always find out their preferred means of communication though. A card is always a good idea. Make them regular if possible.

Ask Their Permission Rather Than Take Over Their Role

Never just take over your sick coworkers tasks — ask for their permission (if you are able to do so). Nothing takes control away from someone quite like other people assuming what you can and cannot do. Lack of control is a huge issue for someone who is sick. Ask if there is a task that is concerning them and offer to lessen their stress by offering to at least help them out with it or do it for them. The simple act of making a decision or choice helps give a feeling of control back to anyone who is sick.

It's Normal To Feel Awkward

Work colleagues may feel extremely awkward around someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. Often it is their own insecurities and vulnerabilities getting in the way. Often this awkwardness is so consuming that they opt not to say or do anything, even though they may want to help. Find a way through, perhaps just say "I don't know what to say" and go from there.

How to Offer Help - Be Specific

When offering to help a sick colleague, outline specifically what you can do for them. Just saying, “Let me know what I can do to help” will more than likely be followed up with an “Ok” and no request for help is ever made — the awkwardness of asking for help will generally outweigh the actual need for help. 

Perhaps tell them that you are able to do their weekly report when you do yours, or something along those lines.

Be Inclusive

Include the sick colleague in invitations for social occasions and events. By assuming they will not be up to coming shows a lack of empathy and only isolates them even more. Inclusiveness is key.

You Don't Have To Put Up With A Bad Mood

On the other side, an employee doesn’t have to put up with a bad mood or temper from their sick colleague. This is abusive behaviour and will need to be dealt with in the appropriate manner or by the employer and management.