Don't Ignore the Signs

My dog Banjo was sick recently. It came on gradually, so the signs were subtle and, individually, seemingly not a big deal. But something just didn’t seem right. Erring on the side of caution, I called the vet (thank goodness they are open on Sunday!). Upon hearing all of Banjo’s symptoms, they suggested I immediately take him to an emergency vet hospital. As it turned out, my sweet pup had an intestinal blockage and was whisked into surgery within two hours. He then spent four days in the animal hospital before I could bring him home and needed another few weeks to get back to his former spunky self.


Why am I sharing this story (besides the opportunity to also share a cute photo of Banjo)? Lately I’ve seen a lot of parallels between Banjo’s illness and the – mostly mental, but sometimes physical – health of nonprofit staff members.


Like everyone these last couple of years, those who work in the nonprofit sector have been dealing with a lot. And though it appears things may be getting a bit better, many people are just starting to process it all and/or experience secondhand trauma.


As you look at those around you, do you notice changes –even little ones – that might be a precursor to something more? Perhaps someone who was once very engaged in workplace discussions now remains silent. Maybe the work of a previously exceptional performer has fallen off a little. These could be the result of a bad day, but they could also be an indication of something greater. Pay attention.


Take action to address what you can. Asking non-intrusive questions may help you better understand the situation. For personal issues, giving time and space is sometimes the answer. If the behavioral change is related to work, partner with the affected individual to determine the best course of action.


Recognize that healing takes time. Often, issues have been building for a while, so you can’t expect them to go away overnight.


Ultimately, Banjo came through his ordeal with flying colors. I’ve often thought about what would have happened to him if I hadn’t looked at his symptoms collectively and taken them seriously. The lesson I took away: Sometimes you do have to sweat the small stuff, so it doesn’t become a bigger problem.

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