Q: I work with an older man around 60 who has started to show memory problems. I don’t want to be the one who reports him, but his errors are getting harder for me to cover. I’ve mentioned it to him, but he just says, “Oh, I must have forgotten to do it but it’s not important.” Some of his forgetfulness can result in future problems, but he won’t admit it.
I have reminded him of certain documents that need to be filed on time, but when I do so, he says, “I got it. Don’t worry.” His responsibilities are separate from mine, but if I don’t say anything, things will fall on me to get done correctly and things will be done last minute. I’m afraid I’ll look bad either way, as if I am intentionally pointing out his forgetfulness to make him look bad or like I’m intentionally not reminding him.
A: Don’t be concerned about what co-workers think of you; they will think what they choose to think regardless of your actions, and some will think the worst of you even when you have good intentions. Follow your conscience. It is kinder to remind your co-worker and have him think he’s got it covered than to not remind him and let him suffer the consequences of forgetting.
To take it one step further in letting your conscience be your guide, have a private talk with him to explain 60 may be early to experience the beginning of dementia, but because you care, you want him to know you are seeing changes in him. If he reacts defensively, take a step back and say you were trying to help before there is a real problem at work. He should be relieved when he hears you’ve got him covered, and if he is still offended, give him a break. Imagine how threatening it must be to first realize your mind may be failing, and then to also discover your co-workers have noticed it.
If your co-worker’s forgetfulness becomes more apparent, it may be time to report the incidents to your boss. Once you have brought attention to the problem, it’s the boss’ issue to handle.
With first signs of early-onset dementia, a person can experience cognitive impairment between one’s 30s to 60s. Early dementia is an emotionally charged subject for a person to accept at any age. You want to first offer help to your co-worker, but ultimately, do what you feel is right for the company. If you stay in a job long enough, you could end up being the one to experience it.
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