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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