The rise and fall of a promising career

I have touched on many of the practical dos and don’ts about RSI, but what about its associated stigma and how it has the potential to change your employer’s perception of you?

Usually RSI sneaks up on you and hits you when you are most under pressure and least able to cope with or, indeed, rest from its causes. Often it seems RSI hits conscientious hard workers. In my case, I went from being a top performer to a problem employee in the space of  less than 10 years. This steady decline was not something that I wished for, wanted or felt happy about, but there was very little option, later at least, to change course. I could make management happy by working harder and thus continue to hurt my arms and hands, and I knew that backing off work would mean less throughput, less visibility and fewer financial rewards. It’s a vicious cycle.

I can remember how it ultimately felt when I quit. In one respect, there was the relief of being free from the cause of pain but, on the other hand, there was the bitter feeling of how the injury had made me fall from being a top rated performer to simply a problem employee in the space of 10 years. In truth, the injury had led me from loving my job to becoming almost disillusioned with it when I realised that I just couldn’t perform my role any more due to the pain. It’s a nightmare journey with a lot of frustration along the way.

It was also a sad day to finally say goodbye to my engineering position, in which I was qualified and had spent the best part of 20 years doing, in a career that I really had enjoyed. And, of course, the future lay before me with a very large question mark over it. There were a lot of mixed emotions.

The one thing that still rankles me is how the transition from a star employee to a problem one can happen. An injured worker isn’t very useful to a company and there is a breakdown in relationship between employer and employee when you get injured, which I guess relates to the business ethos. It’s a fact of life that, if you are limited in learning new things because you are injured, then you are becoming less and less useful. The only contribution for a long term employee is knowledge of the job. This can be tapped into in an advisory role for a while, but once that knowledge is imparted or becomes dated, your usefulness rapidly diminishes and you become a problem that needs to be addressed. Should I have done more? Should my employer have done more?  There are many open ended questions that linger with me to this day, ones that I know will never have an answer.

If I could change one thing, I’d have taken the injury more seriously a lot earlier. I can’t over-stress this point to anyone reading this who has just developed an RSI. It is very important to break free from the underlying causes before you too end up going from star employee to company problem.

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4 comments

  1. brad says:

    Hi people, im Brad and i am a Builder in Australia. I have had forearm pain now for about 2 years and ignored the problem because of doctors poor infomation. We new it was tennis elbow but a couple of quater zone shots and im back at work. (NOT FOR LONG) Take this as a warning people. I now have tears in my exstensor muscle were it joins the bone and am faceing a very long recovery time. Surgery may be an option but all they can do is promote blood to the damaged erea. Haveing a large tear also dus this! catch 22.

    Now if you suffer forms of this doing simple tasks as typing then god for bid you do any phisical work. Learn now to look after your muscles by streching, aplying heat , compresion and ice when inflamed from over use. it take some pain to gain so when u do strech its gota be uncumfortable.

    My carrier is now on hold for how long i dont no. Its all ive known and every learnt. Hard to suport a family with a condition like this. But ive had worse. Tell your doc you need good physio and prevention tasks not pain solitions and rest. If there not acomidating find someone that is. Because it only gets worse if not looked after trust me.

  2. alanf says:

    Hi Brad,

    thanks for your comment, it’s interesting to hear from someone with RSI who hasn’t been injured from computers. That’s my experience, but I have read of RSI from work such as building/construction. Can you elaborate specifically what repetitive task it was that set your RSI condition off? Just curious. You are right though there is no gain without putting effort into rehab effort, and its difficult to do this AND keep doing the work that caused the pain to occur in the first place.

    Alan

  3. Justin says:

    Alan,

    If you don’t mind me asking – what did you end up doing for a career? I’m quite dejected at the moment and am looking for advice into other ventures.

  4. alanf says:

    Hi Justin,

    I went for a completely computer free life doing picture framing. I can still get RSI pain in the wrist when using a mount cutter especially through heavy duty board, but generally, framing is something I can do that doesn’t involve sitting working on a computer. still have to check emails, but generally I have reduced the exposure dramatically. Interestingly my old RSI injuries are still there, and it doesn’t take too long on a keyboard/mouse to upset them so I need to be very careful and limit any computer work.

    Alan

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