Dyadic resources in the return to work of cancer survivors: exploring supervisor–employee perspectives

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Purpose: The number of working-age people recovering from cancer is gradually on the rise; yet, cancer survivors have higher rates of unemployment compared to other employees. Cancer survivors returning to work cope with symptoms of fatigue, distress, cognitive difficulties and physical limitations. The present article addresses the supervisor–cancer survivor dyad as the unit of analysis, in an attempt to identify the dyadic resources that underlie the coping of the supervisor–employee unit with return to work. Materials and methods: In-depth, semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with 12 dyads of cancer survivors and their supervisors, representing successful return to work, followed by comparative content analysis of the data. Results: Four themes were revealed: (1) Congruent supervisor–cancer survivor views regarding personalized/standard management of cancer survivors’ returning to work; (2) Return to work as a team work approach; (3) Commitment and persistence in the face of obstacles, and (4) Supervisor and cancer survivor mutual appreciation. Conclusions: Joint coping of supervisors and cancer survivors with the difficulties of the return to work process is perceived to contribute significantly to the success of return to work. Training of cancer survivors and supervisors conducted by rehabilitation professionals regarding aspects of the orientation toward return to work is suggested.Implication for rehabilitation Cancer survivors have different preferences regarding standard versus exceptional organizational treatment following return to work. Organizational acknowledgment of the cancer survivor’s value for the organizations supports cancer survivors’ return to work. Cancer survivors can benefit from a sense of responsibility and involvement in decision making regarding the process of return to work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2151-2158
Number of pages8
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number18
StatePublished - 28 Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by The Israel Cancer Association, grant #20160085.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Cancer survivors
  • qualitative research
  • return to work
  • supervisors
  • working-age

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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