Friday, 21 June 2013

Don't feel guilty about taking that sick day

You may have noticed that for the last week or so I have not posted.  This was due to several factors but the biggest one was that I was down with the flu and any post would have contained more rambling than is good for any reader.

However it did remind me about something that I have been meaning to post for a while.  There are several media sources that delight in writing and showing videos about people who have been caught by their bosses when they have taken sick days when they are not entitled to do so.  Indeed there seems to be a perception in society that people will take a sick day at the slightest sniffle or cough.

This has not been my experience nor the experience of many of my friends and contemporaries.  In fact there are a remarkable number of people who feel extreme guilt about taking a sick day and who, as a result do not take enough of them.

Young professionals feel an incredible amount of guilt when they take sick days

There is a crazy guilt associated with taking a sick day.  This is particularly true for young professionals who are trying to make a good impression or who are working really hard to build a reputation in a competitive industry.  Some people who have expressed this sort of feeling to me include bankers (myself included), lawyers, accountants, doctors and dentists.

There is the feeling that you are letting the team down or that the project or deal or case you are working on is so dependent on you being there to finish your part that you could not possibly take a days leave.  And if you are finally that sick that you cannot physically come into work you feel incredibly guilty that you are at home.  You stayed glued to your blackberry or email making sure that you can respond instantly and you go back to work much too soon because your team or your clients or your deal cannot survive without you.

This is are not that important or critical that they cannot survive for a day or two

Your organisation and team was there before you got there and will be there after you leave.  You need to get out of your  head that you are that important to your team.  I totally get the feeling that you are indispensable and are needed for whatever you are working on but if you think about it objectively you will be able to see how easily you are replaced - it is not a great feeling but its one you need to come to terms with.

Further - your organisation would be better off if you actually took some time to get better

If you think about it objectively you are helping no one by
being at work sick.  You are likely to be much less effective than when you are feeling 100% and also are likely to make other people sick.  Taking a few days off will actually be better for your organisation and your team will prefer having you at 100%

No one will remember your sick days when it comes to promotion or bonus time

Most people (myself included) have this weird feeling that by skipping work for a day or two that it will not look good and deadlines will not be met which will mean a lower bonus or perhaps a pushing back of the promotion date.  Nothing could be further from the truth - trust me when I say that no one will care if you take a few days off and more importantly no one will remember them when they come to bonus time.

One last tip...ignore the jerks

Every organisation will have jerks who make you feel bad for taking time off when you are sick.  I once had an associate when I was in investment banking who made me feel guilty and made me come into work when I had a raging fever and was sweating at my desk barely able to see the screen.

These people are jerks and should be ignored.  If you can, find a way of bringing up their treatment of you with your superiors in the organisation.  Trust me when I say that most senior staff will be horrified of the idea of you being forced to work when you are sick and that person will have some awkward questions coming their way.

So, finally, if you are sick - make sure you take the time that you need to get better.  No one will thank you for being a martyr and both you and your organisation will be better off for it.

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