A career planning and employment resource for people who are blind or partially sighted

Keeping Your Job – Tip Sheet

The following tips are intended as guidance for you in employment – as you work to maintain or keep your job, you will want to consider these points. If you’d like more information on job-keeping strategies, visit the Working Life Resources section.
  • Always treat your boss and co-workers as you’d like them to treat you – with respect and courtesy. You may have to reach out to them and let them know that you’re open to questions about your disability and how it affects your ability to work. Be prepared for some silly or seemingly rude questions. People may ask personal questions such “Who picks out your clothes for you?” or “How do you put on make-up, shave or brush your teeth?” because they cannot fathom doing these everyday chores without sight. You can decide in advance how you want to respond – with serious and informative answers or with humour, but don’t be rude or sarcastic. This could make your co-workers uncomfortable and ill at ease with you.
  • Recognize that you may have to initiate interactions, particularly in the early stages of your employment, because your co-workers may be hesitant around you. They may worry about things like whether they can use words like see, look at, and view. And they may assume that your life is so different than theirs that you will have nothing in common to discuss.
  • Early on, you’ll need to correct that misperception; you’ll want to greet them, ask questions about their activities, inquire about their families and pets and share information about your activities and loved ones. The key is to give and take enough information so that you can learn about them and they can learn about you and see what you have in common. Remember what they tell you; if necessary, jot down notes to yourself to help you remember the names and ages of their children or what school the person attended) so that you can reference the information in a future conversation.
  • Be a responsible, dependable worker. This means getting to work on time, staying through your shift, taking your lunch or breaks and returning to work in a timely fashion, and not calling in sick unless you are truly ill. If you must miss work, let your co-workers know of any important business that’ll need attention during your absence and what to do.
  • Don’t ask for help unless you really need it and pay attention when someone helps you so that next time you can do the task yourself without assistance. Employers expect to have to help new hires for only a brief period of time. Depending on the complexity of the job, that can range from six weeks to six months. They don’t expect to have to help you all day, every day and if you require that level of assistance, they’ll find a way to remove you from the workplace because you’re not becoming productive.
  • Be frank, but reasonable, concerning the job accommodations or modifications that you’ll need to do your job properly and to be fully productive. Although you will likely have to speak to your accommodation needs in the interview, don't be too demanding; this means only ask for what you really need. If a less expensive option will work well for you, consider asking for that. Over time, after you've proven yourself as a valued worked, and if a more advanced or more expensive technology would suit you better, that would be the time to ask. 
  • Do the job you were hired to do. Be sure you understand the tasks you’re required to do and do them as instructed by your boss or supervisor. Even if you think you know more than your boss, do as your boss says. He or she has been with the company longer than you and you need to follow your their instructions; when you become the boss, you can do it your way.
  • Be prepared to stay late, come in early, or take work home with you on occasion in order to keep up – especially in the early stages of your career. You can’t afford to fall behind. Sometimes your sighted co-workers will be able to move faster or grasp information or techniques quicker than you can with your visual limitations. You don’t want this to become a concern for your supervisor or your job could be in jeopardy. Technological advances have made this less of a problem, but it can still be challenging to keep up with sighted co-workers’ levels of productivity. But you’ll have to do so to keep your job.
  • Treat the employer’s tools and resources as if they were your own. Don’t waste resources (paper, pens, memory sticks, etc.) and don’t waste other people’s time (distracting co-workers when they’re working, for example). Keep tools and equipment clean and report any malfunctions immediately to the appropriate authority. Pay attention to the state of tools and equipment when they’re issued to you and ensure that you keep them in the same working order.
  • Don’t abuse sick time, vacation time, or personal leave. Keep track of any time that you accrue that falls into these categories and only use what you have when you need it. Don’t use sick time simply because you’ve accrued it – find out how much sick time you can accrue and maintain a balance so that it’s there if you need it. Follow the company’s guidelines for time accruals and if you have questions, ask the appropriate person for clarification. Never make assumptions.
  • Finally, follow good social-skill rules: don’t gossip, speak negatively of others, or make fun of others; use the social amenities such as please, thank you, you’re welcome, excuse me or pardon me, when appropriate; smile and be positive in your interactions with other; use gestures that you know others expect (e.g. wave hello and good-bye); and remember to think before you speak so that you can engage with others in a meaningful way.