At work - considerations and tips for the workplace
Self-Help: Skills & Preparation for Working
For a full article covering preparing for work issues, work-life balance issues, adulting, etc. see Working on Work-Life Skills: plurals on the job, on the go, getting things done, managing life New.
See Also: The Plurality Playbook (offsite)
In addition to this page, please see the document at PluralPride.com released by Irenes and FreyaSpirit that used to be an internal Google document. Basically it covers how to be plural at work, work alongside plurals at work, and how to manage plurals in your workforce.
While it may seem when one looks at the online plural community, like many plural folk do not or cannot work, it's important to note that 1%-3% of the general population has DID, much less other forms of plurality, and does most certainly work and not have disability.
Those people working and in careers may not know they have DID or be aware of their plurality — but many are aware, and working along with it. There's a lot of bias from both therapists and the support community regarding folks' ability to work with plurality or DID, and the accommodations needed to manage working. One of the reasons for this bias is that working inherently prohibits the time needed to devote to trauma work, therapy, and support groups.
There are people in the support community, and who are clients of therapists, who do hold down jobs while plural. They are usually outnumbered by those who cannot work, simply due to limitations as stated above.
So there tends to be some corners of the online community who feel it's uncommon to work with DID, or even plurality in general. It's not.
Passing As Singular At Work
It is rare to work and be openly plural or open about having DID. This is in part due to massive stigma around DID and plurality in general. A singular-centric society doesn't make room or space for plurality — it barely is aware it exists, and doesn't know how to make accommodations for it.
At the same time, covert systems (and systems with high co-consciousness) may have an easier time working because there is a level of plural-wiggle-room in what singular-centric society thinks is being singular. More overt systems may manage to work by carefully having only one (or a small few) of their system who can manage a singletsona New at work. Obviously this takes extra energy, and can be frustrating to backgrounders who cannot front at work for fear of being outside of the range of plural-wiggle-room acceptable in singular society.
Then there's the openly plural workforce. Some folk are to the point of fed up with the stigma and oppression of a singular-centric/plural-blind society and have decided not to work in hiding. Or they may choose to do so for reasons of authenticity, or because their system is so overt (aka "flagrant" which is a nasty stigmatizing word used by therapists — because of the connotations of throwing it into other's faces or being offensive about it) when they switch that it doesn't fit at all into the plural-wiggle-room that singular-centric society provides that masks plurality at large (and plural eggs/folk who have not yet consciously realized they're plural or have DID) in the world.
Since approximately 90% of plurals have "covert" presentation (i.e. they can switch without most singular folk noticing), there's a good chance that many working plurals can go unnoticed indefinitely.
The Price Society Pays
Masking plurality has a price not only on the energy and mental health of the plural workforce — but also a price in how that workforce is allowed or able to leverage their plurality on behalf of their employer or society at large.
Imagine if a singular worker were told to leave half their talents offline when working or interacting in society. "We only want your coding ability, you can leave your people skills at home." Not to relegate headmates to be quite that partitioned — only to make the point that a plural system is most brilliant when firing on all cylinders.
When everyone in the system is co-conscious, backs a project, and rolls up their sleeves to tackle a situation as a team, they can tag-team other folk with different blends of skills, knowledge and talents, brainstorm, and come up with creative solutions much quicker than physical teams can.
The limitation of this team is one body with which to do external tasks such as writing reports, making phone calls, or writing code. However, at the same time, there can be an internal team pouring over the work and collaborating on it, bringing a variety of skills and perspectives to the project at hand.
If we only bring one headmate to a job, or a limited smaller subset of our system, we may not have access to that creative collaborative potential. In addition, those who contribute to a project deserve more than the singletsona getting credit for their contributions.
See also Access & Accommodations New.
Thanks to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), it's getting easier and easier to get accommodations in the workplace in the US, hopefully it remains that way and the rest of the world catches up. Please see this link for suggestions for work accommodations for PTSD in the workplace until we can write up something more extensive on the topic. Their website overall is an amazing resource for all types of accommodations for physical and mental issues, and they provide advocates at least in their state if not nation-wide to help negotiate accommodations.
In New York, I know that our Independent Living Centers can also help negotiate work accommodations with employers. Look for advocacy organizations and get assistance in working with employers to get what you need. You and your therapist, if any, or a peer support specialist or assistant at these organizations can go over the accommodations you believe you need in place, and they can help negotiate how to present needs to your employers.
You may also be able to gainfully work with the assistance of a service animal New, for example if you need to be "Snapped out" of dissociative fogs, if you could use pressure to be grounded, if you need someone to be alerted if a very young alter fronts and is helpless, or if you have extreme anxiety or hyper-vigilance, a service animal may help you feel more safe, etc.
Additional Optional Accommodations
Here's some other accommodations that plural systems may need to work optimally, on a case-by-case basis. Not all accommodations are needed by every plural system.
- individual recognition of headmates' contributions (covert systems may not want this!)
- some plural systems may find it additionally exhausting to work with an external team in certain situations. Please keep in mind that they may be having an ongoing debate internally, and additional external debates can be exceptionally taxing especially if the plural system in question is autistic. (some systems, especially with high internal agreement, may love external debates!)
Below is an older version of this article and this page needs to be re-written.
- If you're going to tell a group of people at work that you're plural — be prepared for everyone in the world to know. It's one thing to tell a best friend, another to tell a coworker and expect the boss or HR won't find out. See Crisses' Coming Out Tips New for better ways to manage talking about plurality amongst the singular masses.
- Your& reactions that go on at work will vary depending on who is fronting, or who in your& system wants to deal with what's in front of y'all. Y'all and your& coworkers may be confused as to some of your& collective behavior.
- The headmates that are out, doing your& collective job, are going to get more time being front than those who don't. Therefore it's best to have a kind of job that a number of y'all can deal with, or learn to deal with, so that others in system don't feel neglected as much or get antsy being "trapped" inside.
- Enjoy what y'all do. If you& choose a job that you& collectively appreciate or love, you'll be less stressed out and be able to work better. See our materials on Better Spoons (or video presentation here) to find out more.
- Organize! If y'all have significant "memory holes", leaving notes, using a daily work journal, and using an electronic calendar for specific appointment schedules can help. Stay organized: having a place for everything and everything in its place (filing forms in clearly labeled folders that always go in a certain drawer for example) works wonders. That way, if memories or reminders are inaccessible, they exist on paper or electronically.