Human_skeleton_back_en.svgI’m not especially strong or athletic.

It doesn’t take much for me to take a knee and ask for a break. But I’ve been walking around with a sore groin and a strained pectineus muscle for the past year because I just didn’t know what to do with the pain.

I think that most adults are in some physical or emotional pain. If you are not hurt, you are not alive.

That sounds pretty unhealthy, I know, so I started seeing a physical therapist who is teaching me to stabilize my pelvic girdle. Sexy, right? (Not so much. I do a bunch of unflattering exercises and grunt like a hockey player.)

As I do these exercises and attend my 3x week Pilates sessions, I’m still not sure that pain can be wholly avoided. God knows that pharmaceutical companies have tried to lure us into believing that pain management strategies are rooted in a pill. I once worked with a senior executive who bragged about popping a Bextra for a hangover.

(True story.)

Those attitudes have created an aggressive culture of drug dependence and severe bleeding of the stomach lining.

Pain is so individual.

It’s not my place to tell anyone how to manage illness or injuries. I will tell you that in all walks of life — from health care to manufacturing to professional services — people lie about pain to get out of working.

I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes.

In the early 2000s, it was a joke that everybody had carpal tunnel. Many people did have carpal tunnel, but it’s amazing how you can have debilitating wrist injuries and still manage to live a normal life and paint the exterior of your house while on medical leave.

I saw that happen.

And I’ve witnessed more than my fair share of employees with back and neck injuries who were caught biking, skiing, tubing, snorkeling and otherwise cavorting around the world while out of the office.

I have also watched cancer survivors and industrial accident victims rush back to work because, hey, they don’t want to be lumped in with people who scam the system.

Lying about pain and illness is immoral.

Every time someone lies about being in pain — or lies about being injured at work — it makes it harder for someone with legitimate pain to get the help she needs. And when you spend time with someone who lies about pain, it gives you a skewed vision of your body.

Am I hurt? Do I need time off? Can I just shake this off? Will I look sketchy if I ask for another week to recuperate?

I like to think that great HR departments exist to help employees get the medical and professional assistance they need during difficult times. After all, you’ve earned your benefits. They’re yours to use when the time is right.

But if you haven’t earned it, and you lie about it, those great HR professionals will guard the best interests of the organization — and other healthy employees — and ensure that the resources are available in the long-term for employees who deserve it.

HR exists because some people lie about being injured at work. So I suppose I should warn you now: if you lie about pain or illness, you will get caught.

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