when a sick employee is spotted around town, how long should salary negotiation take, and more

It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. When a “sick” employee is spotted around town

Should an employee who has called in sick to work and is seen out shopping lose that day’s pay? I am the employer.

No. First of all, it’s perfectly possible to go shopping when you’re sick. You might not feel well enough to function at work but still be able to drag yourself out to buy the gift you have to mail to your niece by tomorrow in order for it to arrive for her birthday. Or you might feel sick in the morning but feel better enough by the afternoon that you’re able to run errands. Of course, it’s also just as possible that the employee wasn’t sick at all, and was legitimately caught faking it. But you can’t know for sure, and you shouldn’t be in the business of policing this kind of thing (even if you could, which you can’t).

Either you trust your employee or not, and she does good work or not. If you don’t trust her, or her work isn’t good, then those are the problems you’re facing and need to address — not whether or not she was really sick that day.

2. Telling a candidate we can’t meet her salary expectations

I have a great candidate whose stated salary expectations are about $10,000 higher than what we can pay. Is it appropriate to go back to her to say, “Our salary range is $X. Given that knowledge, would you like to continue with the interview process?” And if so, any best practices on how to say that?

You can say it exactly like that! The only thing I might add to your first sentence is “and we’re not able to increase that range.” Otherwise, you risk the candidate thinking that she can negotiate for more at the end of the interview process. (Of course, she might anyway, but it’s worth being clear so that you minimize that risk.)

Most candidates will appreciate you being direct and giving them enough information that they can make an informed decisions.

3. Proposing going part-time after maternity leave

I’ve worked full-time for a small business for 6 years. I will be returning from maternity leave next month, at which time I would prefer to work part-time (25 hours a week instead of 40). How should I address this with my employer?

Just be straightforward! “When I return at the end of this month, would you be open to me working part-time? Here are my ideas for how we could structure the position to make it work.” It can also be helpful to propose trying it for X months and then revisiting at the end of that period to see how well it’s working.

4. How long should salary negotiation take?

I received a job offer for a software developer position. I told them I was excited to consider the offer and asked to have the details in writing so I could go over it. I decided to negotiate on salary because considering the entire offer, including the base salary and benefits, the offer seemed a little weak based on my experience and skills, not to mention it was a worse overall offer than my existing job. (At my existing job, I make a lower base salary, but they add 10% of my base to my retirement account monthly without any contribution on my part.)

After explaining to the recruiter that I felt the offer could be better given my skills and experience, she said things like, “We are a small company and don’t usually negotiate salaries” and “I guess we could see what our VP of Technology thinks…what are you thinking?” I gave them a figure that made sense to me, and was still within the salary range we initially discussed over a month before. She told me that she would discuss this with the hiring manager and the VP and see what she could do for me.

For the last two weeks, they have been touching base every few days with another excuse of why they don’t yet have a counteroffer. Examples: “We need to run some numbers and analysis and get back to you by the end of the week,” “The VP of Technology is out on vacation now,” “The hiring manager is out on vacation now,” and “The recruiter is out on vacation now.” I personally am beginning to question whether I even want to work there now. I feel at this point like if they can’t get a reasonable offer together, what will it be like to work there? Why is it so hard for them to make decisions? I’m also becoming suspicious about what is taking so long. My question is, do you think this is a reasonable and professional amount of time to take to put together a counteroffer? What do you think I should do at this point?

It’s certainly possible that all those people are out on vacation one after another — it’s summer, after all — and two weeks isn’t actually that long for this. Four weeks would be unreasonably long, but at two, you’re still in the realm of what’s reasonable.

To me, the bigger red flag is “We are a small company and don’t usually negotiate salaries.” I’d wonder if there are other perfectly normal things they think they can skip doing because they’re a small company — raises? Professional development? Feedback? Vacation time? It’s possibly that salary negotiation is their own blind spot, but I’d make sure that you’re clear about their culture before accepting an offer.

5. Using color on resumes

Is it time to incorporate some tasteful color and design elements into resumes? Would using a color that matches a company color (red for Target, orange for Lowes) work well?

No. Hiring managers aren’t looking for creativity in a resume (unless you’re applying for a design position). I promise you, all they want is a concise, easy-to-scan list of what you’ve accomplished, organized chronologically by position, plus any particularly notable skills, all presented in a format that they can quickly scan to get the highlights. That’s it. They don’t care about color.

Since I notice from your signature that you’re a professor in a business department of a university, I also want to thank you for asking before suggesting this to students, since so often people advising students give them job search advice that isn’t grounded in a knowledge of what employers actually want and which encourages students to spend energy on things that won’t help them (and sometimes hurts).

6. My boss told me it wasn’t my place to question him

I work at a large Fortune 500 company, where I have been here for 15 years. I have a brand new boss who is new to the department yet seems to be walking the halls like John Wayne with his imaginary gold badge. He REALLY enjoys his title. His need to be always right is wearing on our team. HR is even involved since I went to his boss to complain and requested I be moved someone/anywhere else.

Issue: During our last meeting we had a tiff and I mentioned he had too much time and was too involved in my day to day activities. His reply was, “It’s not your place to question your boss.” I can’t seem to shake this comment off. He told the same thing to the other female employee. Is this sexist or am I looking too much into this? He has 3 employees and seems to harass only the 2 females but this could be coincidence.

I don’t know if it was rooted in sexism or not — there would need to be a larger pattern of treating male and female employees differently to say for sure, because the comment itself isn’t inherently sexist. If you’re seeing such a pattern, the pattern is certainly something it would be appropriate to raise with your HR department.

That said, it really isn’t your place to tell your boss that he has too much time on his hands. You can certainly talk to him about your concern that he’s overly involved in your work, but you need to do that in a professional manner — not be getting into “tiffs” with him or telling him that he has too much time on his hands. You were out of line there, which means that you’re giving this guy legitimate complaints about you, which isn’t going to help your case.

7. Applying for a lower position after earlier applying for a higher one

I’ve seen your posts about applying for two jobs at one organization, but this situation is a little bit different/more awkward. Last night, I applied for a director position at a museum I’d love to work for. I have the minimum qualifications but it’s a bit of a stretch. After submitting my application, I noticed they are looking for a manager position in the same office (to be supervised by the new director). I’d be better suited for the manager job, and I’d probably enjoy it more, but I don’t think I should contact them and let them know I’d rather be considered for a lower-level position. How would you handle something like this? Eep!

Apply for the manager job with a cover letter that says, “I applied for the director position earlier, but after seeing the manager position, I believe it may be a better match for me.”

If you were a strong candidate for the director position, this would be stickier, because you wouldn’t want to undermine that application or generally come across as not confident in your own qualifications, but since the director position was a stretch anyway, this is a reasonable way to go.

{ 154 comments… read them below }

  1. Laura*

    #6: Alison is right here. You can’t challenge your boss, and it’s really not a good idea to do it in a public setting where other people are there to witness it. I do know how tempting it is, because I’ve had a few jerk bosses, and ended up shooting my mouth off to them and it’s never ended well. I never got fired for doing that, but I definitely got talked to about it, and I’m fairly certain it affected my performance evaluations for those years.

    The best way to handle this is to go to your boss and apologize for your behavior in the staff meeting. Then tell him that you’re frustrated/confused about why he’s been so involved in your day-to-day work, and ask him if there’s something he’s concerned about.

    Since he’s new, it could be that he’s just trying to learn what your job entails, and how you do it. And believe me, that’s a good thing, even if his approach leaves something to be desired. I had a boss once who did not bother to spend one second with any of his direct reports to find out about their jobs, and just wanted to issue edicts from on high. It was ridiculous (and I told him so, which I shouldn’t have done, but he really ticked me off) because how can you manage people if you don’t know what they do? And how can you help them if you don’t know how they do what they do? His response was, “I’m a manager. That means I manage.” Needless to say, he was grossly ineffective.

    Even though you shouldn’t challenge your boss, I think it is okay to question your boss. There is a difference. Questioning is a expressing a legitimate concern, asking why a decision was made, or asking if this or that has been considered, and so on. Challenging is more adversarial, and has more of a “I’m right, you’re wrong,” or “You don’t know what you’re doing,” connotation.

    1. BellaLuna*

      In a prior position we had a major reorganization and my group was reassigned from an awesome mgr to a new one who knew nothing about our industry or job responsibilities. I was the only one in our group located in the same geography and building w/the new mgr. Bottom-line he evaluated my performance and approved raises so I scheduled weekly meetings with him to review what I was doing and request feedback. It was a valuable experience for both of us. I educated him on my responsibilities and how accomplished my work and he became one of my biggest supporters. Maybe if you scheduled weekly meetings with your mgr, let him provide input and didn’t argue with him it would alleviate his micro mgt.

      1. Laura*

        This is good advice. Even if your manager is new to your area or industry, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have anything valuable to contribute. And in return, you can offer him some background on your own job, how your department does things, how your industry works, and so on. If he’s secure with himself, he’ll appreciate your efforts and will be happy to learn from you.

        I got a new boss once who was brand new to the company’s industry – telecommunications. My co-workers and I were all new to it as well when we were hired; it was a DSL start-up way back during the dot-com boom. It took us all months to be able to follow along in meetings and be able to contribute just because there was a huge amount of industry-specific jargon and the volume of acronyms was overwhelming. So when this new manager started, during one of our first one-on-ones I said, “Hey, I know you’re new to the industry, and I can tell you from experience that you’ll be bombarded with all sorts of jargon and acronyms that will make absolutely no sense at all. I’d be glad to help you decipher all of it if you’d find that useful.”

        I thought it was pretty harmless, and in her position I would have appreciated the offer. She evidently thought I was making a statement about her abilities/competence, and from that day forward she didn’t bother to hide the fact that she didn’t like me. At all. In another one on one, she said that she was going to hire some more people. Since the IPO, the workload had skyrocketed but the headcount stayed the same. So we talked about my job duties and what I would like to keep and what I’d like to pass to someone else. And she did hire people, and guess what she assigned to them? The stuff I liked to do, and things I’d wanted to hang onto in order to fill in gaps in my existing skill-set. And what did she leave with me? Everything I’d said I wanted to get rid of. It was pretty obvious she was trying to make me miserable. Fortunately, this all coincided with the company blowing through all the IPO funds, and I could see that the company was going down the tubes anyway, so I moved on.

    2. Chinook*

      I want to echo the idea that it is a bad idea to challenge your boss in public. Unless she is someone who accepts different points of view willingly, doing so will be a challenge to her authority and she may have no choice but to react a certain way in order to save face and/or her role as the authority figure (which she is as the boss). When done privately, though, there is more of an opportunity for a real dialogue.

    3. Vicki*

      I was recently watching a tv episode in which someone had been promoted to run a major department. Another dept head was talking to someone who knew the new guy and asked “You know Terrance. Is he enjoying the new job?”

      The other woman thought about it and then said “I think he’s enjoying the… authority of it… immensely.”

  2. Seal*

    #1 – The OP doesn’t mention where they saw the employee shopping or what they thought they were shopping for. On days I have called in sick, I occasionally had to drag myself to the drug store for cold medicine or the grocery store for soup or ginger ale. Or I had to stop at Target to pick up a prescription after visiting the doctor and picked up a few other things while I waited. There have also been times where I was up sick all night, slept in the next morning, but by the time I felt well enough to venture out it was too late to go into work and get anything done. Had I run into anyone from work they most likely would have been able to tell I was ill just by looking at me, but if not I would certainly mention that I was out sick that day. The days I have had to call in sick I would have much preferred to stay in bed, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.

    1. jesicka309*

      There are other kinds of ill that peopel forget about, where I would probably still go shopping
      -Anything mentally related (depression, anxiety etc.). I know I’ve called in sick for anxiety, and while I wasn’t outwardly sick, sitting at my desk for 9 hours would have had me sobbing into my coffee
      -Anything gastric related – Your employee might be wandering around completely fine, with a mental map of the nearest toilet for emergencies
      -Headaches/migraines/other chronic pain – my medications for this leave me unable to focus and sleepy, yet still capable of getting to the shops to do what I need to do
      -Colds and coughs!! You can function perfectly well with the sniffles or a heavy cough, but most workplaces aren’t keen on these sick individuals coming to work and spreading it.

      Unless the employee was specific in their illness (“I can’t get out of bed I have the flu and I can’t breathe and I’m vomiting”), then you have no idea what they’re in for. For all you know, they have some sort of unnoticeable sickness, like an ear infection, or a ‘personal’ problem that required immediate doctor attention.

      1. Y*

        Also, lots and lots of serious chronic illnesses that may leave you in a lot of pain, but still able to get around.

        It’s amazing how many people, when they think of a sick employee only think of someone having the flu or food poisoning. So many things can make you unable to work and not all of them will get better by staying in bed all day.

        1. AnonintheUK*

          I once worked with someone who went and complained to HR because, on a sick day, she had seen me on a bus! wearing a sundress!

          It was suggested that perhaps she could allocate her mental resources to doing her job, rather than policing how people got to their doctor’s office on hot days in August. I never found out quite who it was, or I might have had a lot else to say.

          1. Y*

            In my company, someone once told on an employee who was sick (with a doctor’s note, I might add, and presumable one for something mental health related) and was seen at the swimming pool with her children – not even swimming, just watching as her children having a swimming lesson or something like that. Hence my anger when it comes to such things.

            1. Lillie Lane*

              Not questioning the doctor’s note, but aren’t swimming lessons usually pre-planned? Seems weird, but perhaps it was after working hours.

              I’ve just worked with so many slackers that brag about calling in sick when they actually don’t want to go to work that I’m a bit jaded and suspicious.

              1. lonepear*

                Sure, they’re preplanned, but maybe the babysitter/nanny usually takes the kids to their lesson. If Mom was out sick for the day already and felt well enough to drive, why not?

          2. Anon for this post*

            I try to stay home if at all possible on days when I call out, just to avoid the nosy, tattle-tale types. Which stinks, because I have stomach issues, and so I can feel completely awful and be a permanent fixture in my bathroom for part of my shift, and then feel just fine for the rest, but I have a job where when you call out, they have to cover your shift entirely anyway, so I can’t just come back in for part.

            That said, someone was once fired from my workplace after being seen out and about while “sick”, and I don’t actually have much of an issue with it, due to the circumstance. This employee had already tried to get the time off as vacation, comp, and via switching shifts. He was seen working at a side-job (an occasional job that wasn’t anything that he depended on financially, if that makes sense). There were other disciplinary issues as well, but that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

            1. Jamie*

              Anyone else flashing on Dwight trying to trip up Oscar when he called in and caught Oscar and Gil coming back from ice skating?

              1. tcookson*

                Yes! I always think about that episode when people are talking about trying to catch people calling in* sick falsely.

                *I wonder if it’s regional, but around here we say “calling in sick” and I’ve noticed on the message board a lot of people say “calling out sick.”

                1. doreen*

                  I’m not sure if it’s regional as much as industry related- most people I know “call in” sick, but my kids “call out” sick. ” Calling in ” at their jobs refers to calling the store to see if you are needed to come in that day to cover for someone who is out or because it’s busier than expected.

                2. Chris80*

                  Interesting. I typically hear “called off” where I’m from in the Midwest USA, but “called in” is a close second. I’ve never heard someone use “called out”, and tbh it makes me think of a threat or challenge i.e. “I’m calling you out!”

                3. Windchime*

                  We say “call in sick” here, too. But “call out sick” does actually make more sense.

                4. Rana*

                  I’ve always said “call in” because I figured that’s what one was doing: calling in to the office to tell them I’m sick.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              At OldJob, I had only partial phone coverage, so I often went in sick and worked until my backup showed up. That worked better for me than coming in later. Once in a while, though, I wasn’t able to be upright or drive, so I had to call in and just stay home the entire day. I figured they would just have to deal with it, and it didn’t happen very often.

              At NewJob, they don’t want you in if you have a fever. I worked from home sick one time, but it’s kind of hard to plan that if you wake up sick and don’t have your computer with you. But because I’m no longer front desk, it’s not as much of an issue.

    2. SB*

      I have a particular condition that will occasionally cause me to be in a lot of pain. However, I notice the pain eases slightly if I’m up and walking (slowly). I work a desk job and can’t really spend a couple hours walking and be productive. The pain is usually worse at night (lying down), so after a sleepless night in pain I might take a sick day and walk slowly around the mall until the pain dissipates enough to sleep.
      I imagine if I took a sick day, and then was seen walking around the mall, it might look a little funny (and would be monumentally difficult to explain) but is no less a legitimate reason to take a sick day.

      1. KellyK*

        If your supervisor seems both understanding and discreet about health issues (or already knows about your condition at least vaguely), this might be the kind of thing that would be worth telling him pre-emptively, so he’s not caught off-guard if some self-appointed hall monitor tells him you were at the mall.

    3. zoe*

      What if the person was signed off sick with sickness and diarrhoea and was actively out looking for new jobs and seen perfecly fine and attending a going away party. Where does an employment stand?

  3. Anonymous*

    #2: If you have a fixed salary range that you can’t budge from, then what’s the point of asking your candidates for their salary expectations up front? Why bother with the games instead of just stating your range in the initial listing?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She’s not playing games; she’s planning on being straightforward with the person about what they can pay. Just because an employer doesn’t put a range in the ad doesn’t exclude the possibility of their not playing games and being direct. You probably don’t put your salary expectations in your cover letter, and that’s not game-playing either. (And yes, I agree that there should be more burden on the employer to be up-front than on the candidate, but there are times when there are good reasons not to — such as if you have a very wide range that would vary based on experience.)

      1. Anonymous*

        but there are times when there are good reasons not to — such as if you have a very wide range that would vary based on experience.
        But in those cases, you could state the range any time after receiving an application, after you learn the candidate’s experience and can give the narrower range. I agree that in those cases, you needn’t give a range upfront — but my point is that even in those cases, you shouldn’t be asking the candidate upfront. If you do, you’re either implying that the it’s negotiable (and forcing the candidate to make the first move), or else you’re playing games with them.

      2. BellaLuna*

        Personally I would appreciate if company actually told this I was in a position to evaluate whether I wanted to pursue the position. I might be willing to take less money in exchange for more vacation time or flex time. etc.

        1. Lydia Navarro*

          Yes, I have recently been dinged for making too much. It is difficult to gauge what range to put down when asked, since it may be quite a bit higher than the high end of what the company can pay.

  4. Kristi*

    #7: What if there are multiple positions within the same organization and general field, but different departments? I’d like to apply to both entry-level and mid-level, and would not assume each department is sharing resumes/applications with each other. I’ve actually called to verify which positions are still open/hiring, and was told to apply for anything (or everything?) I felt I was qualified for.

  5. Anonymous*

    #1 When I get sick, there’s no one around to take care of me, so I have to get my own medicine, drive myself to the doctor, etc. I sure wouldn’t want to get nailed for being in the store for legitimate reasons.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Me too. :(
      I’ve had to go out sick to buy medicine or pay a bill that couldn’t wait. It absolutely sucks. If my employer gave me flack about it because someone “tattled” or they saw me, I would be pretty upset.

  6. KarenT*


    Don’t read in to it. Lots of absences can be a red flag, but shopping isn’t. She could have woken up with a migraine/stomach bug or something else that passed by lunch. Or she could have had an urgent item to pick up. Or she could have been buying chicken soup and Advil.

  7. KarenT*


    Please do! The way you worded it is great. It would be a big waste of both your time to go through the interview process only to find out you can’t agree on salary–especially when a candidate has been upfront with you.

  8. Y*

    #1: This kind of thing actually makes me angry. I have rheumatoid arthritis. Yes, with most flares I can walk because the joint pain is mostly in my hands and jaws. That means I have problems talking and using my hands, which makes my job impossible. Still, I can go out and try to forget about the pain, go out and go see a doctor and shop for groceries on the way (can’t exactly go without food, can I? Especially because I need soup/ice when it gets so bad I can’t chew) and even *gasp* go swimming, because that is beneficial.

    1. Chinook*

      I actually had this happen to me when I was living on a teacherage on a reserve next to the school. I had to call in sick because I had lost my voice (which would have made me very ineffective in a junior high classroom) but I was otherwise fine. I had to be strategic when I walked my dog during the day so that I wouldn’t be out when they had recess but I still had someoen comment on my not looking all that sick.

  9. Jessa*

    Not to mention that sick, shopping employee, could be in Walmart shopping waiting for their prescription to be filled. Or could be out getting the one thing they think they can keep down despite feeling like garbage. There are a dozen reasons I can think of without even trying that someone might be out and about when they’re too ill to work.

  10. Cheryl*

    #1 Whether I call in sick doesn’t change the fact that as a single individual, some things still have to get done. And I have been in that position before…my family wanted to know why I shoveled the driveway when I had a herniated disc. Well since it’s me, me and me who does all the upkeep on the house and no one else came over to do it… So keep in mind the world doesn’t stop and errands still have to be done, sick or not.

    1. Rachel*

      And even with a roommate, if I’m sick and I need something during the day, well, she has a job! When I’m sick there isn’t always going to be someone else to pick up groceries or medicine for me, so unless I’m so sick that I can’t get out of bed, I’ll be taking care of that myself. Delivery services for that kind of thing exist in NYC, but they are way overpriced.

      1. Amanda*

        I have a roommate who stays home all days studying for the MCAT and I still wouldn’t ask her to make a special trip just to get me some Advil and juice. Unless I’m seriously sick, I would feel uncomfortable asking anyone besides my parents or my boyfriend to run errands for me (and none of those people mentioned live anywhere near me).

    2. FiveNine*

      This, for single people. But I did have a coworker who was a single parent and she saved all her sick days ONLY for taking off for when her 4-year-old was sick. I mean — and I don’t mean to open a can of worms here, especially since I really have no vested interest in this situation — but I thought that’s precisely what sick leave was for and that taking it if you need to take it to take care of your child, or parent, or dependent was perfectly legit. And in those cases, as with yourself, you might well need to run around town for all sorts of things.

      1. Adam V*

        Do you mean she’d come in to the office when she was sick, so that she could save her sick days for when her child was sick? Or just that she used sick days for both?

        1. FiveNine*

          She’d specifically try to save all of her sick time for use when her child was sick, which did mean she’d come in when she didn’t feel well unless she was on her deathbed.

          But like I said, at least in our organization, I thought that using sick leave to take care of a sick dependent was legit use of sick leave. I know it’s a legit use of sick leave where I work to take sick time to go to a doctor’s appointment, even for routine physicals etc. And that’s another example where the person might be seen about town while using our company’s sick leave in a perfectly legit manner.

      2. Anonymous*

        Had an employee how would do that – come to work sick and take off for everyone else around the house or just on Mondays/Fridays to get a break from the family. Needless to say after she called in on New Year’s Eve 2012 (the Monday in between New Year’s Day), I had to write her up and put her on a PIP (there were other issues as well). I had enough. It stopped immediately.

  11. anon*

    #5 Not to be a complete nit-picker, but orange is for Home Depot. The other place you mentioned is blue. (Can anyone tell I work for Home Depot?)

    1. Piper*

      #5: I was coming here to say the same thing. Lowe’s is blue, HD is orange. Also, I don’t think color in a resume is a bad thing, depending on your field (as Alison mentioned). I work in a field where color is okay as long it’s not distracting from the content (content first, then design!) But the colors should be colors that work for you (ex: if you have a professional website, use the same colors on resume – in small doses – as you do on your site).

      I wouldn’t match colors on my resume to the branding of the company to which I’m applying, though.

  12. German Chick*

    #5 For my resume, I used LaTeX (instead of MS Word) with some elements (my name, captions (“work experience”, “education”) slightly highlighted in two different colors (dark gray and violet). The colors match with my picture – where I live, it is mandatory to put a picture on your CV- and increase readability. On two occasions, job interviewers told me that they thought my CV’s layout looked very well put together and that it gave them a positive impression of my software skills as well as of my ability to present good-looking documents.

    This being said, I do not believe that my layout made them invite me, but the content.

    1. Y*

      Yay, another LaTeX user! And another German! :)

      I also use a LaTeX template that has some elements with color. It has color templates for red, orange, blue, green and gray and I usually go for either red, blue or gray depending on how I feel :) Like you, I of course have a color picture of me on my resume anyway.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Want to highlight here that these are non-U.S. readers, so that no one in the U.S. gets the idea that putting their photo on their resume is a good plan.

      1. the gold digger*

        I am getting resumes from outside the US that have photos, marital status, age, religion, and hobbies. One guy listed his idols – Sun Tzu and Mahatma Gandhi.

        1. Anonymous*

          Embrace the cultural differences! But don’t let the extra information (or non-resident status) influence you… :-)

          1. Chinook*

            Non-resident status should influence you to atleast verify if they are eligible to work in the country they are applying to because, if they have to apply for a work visa, that will definitely effect when they can start work.

        2. guest*

          Female engineer graduated in India, back in the 90s: the job applications I filled out had to include a male guardian’s (father or husband) name and also my religion, caste, date of birth, passport photo and of course gender.

            1. Laura*

              I had heard that as well, but it takes time for those things to truly go away. An Indian person in my group moved to a department managed by someone who is known to be very rude, pushy, and aggressive, and this person also assumes they know more than everyone else about every possible topic. I was surprised that someone would voluntarily move to that department. Then I heard through the grapevine that one of the other managers in my area, also Indian, had been treating this person very badly because they were from different castes. HR got involved, and that person is no longer a manager.

              1. Chinook*

                I think that discrimination based on caste in N. America would be an interesting human rights case because it is technically not a protected class (unless you stretch the definition of “race” to include caste which may or may not be a stretch). Considering the large number of East Indian immigrants in parts of Canada, I am surprised it hasn’t come up (or maybe it has and it hasn’t made the enws in Alberta?).

                1. Anonymous*

                  This doesn’t just happen at the workplace either, I’ve seen it among grad students, and wouldn’t be too surprised if some tenured faculty members do it too. Sometimes it’s something the person doesn’t even realize what they’re doing. One student would tell every non-Indian that she was from the highest caste, but “caste doesn’t matter anymore”, however she did this while other Indians grad students could hear here. She didn’t realize it was a form of discrimination and the time I didn’t realize it either, or I would have called her on that.

  13. Amber*

    #5 “Hiring managers aren’t looking for creativity in a resume (unless you’re applying for a design position).”

    This is false, people applying for a design position should handle their resume the same as for any other job. I’m a designer and have also had to interview many designers. Making a colorful or creative resume has the potential to do more harm than good. The safest bet, even as a designer, is to just make sure your resume is well written. Designers are judged on their online portfolio. If the portfolio is bad then the resume doesn’t matter and the applicant won’t get an interview no matter how good their resume looks. For a designer, the resume is really used to give the information that can’t be gathered from the portfolio. Portfolio = Creativity, design aesthetic, art quality. Resume (for a designer) = List technical skills (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc), types of projects you’ve worked on, other normal resume stuff.

    1. Anonymous*

      Really! We used to say at our studio that good artists were too busy *working* to spend time trying to make cutesy ‘infographic’ style (or whatever the visual trend might be) resumes. If you are unemployed with lots of time on your hands, make a new portfolio piece rather than waste time on a resume that is hard to read.

    2. Piper*

      I agree that colorful and creative formatting isn’t great in any field, but I do think there’s a difference between accent colors (i.e., bullets and headings – things that make it easier to scan and read) and an all-out resume infographic with backgrounds and color everywhere, though.

    3. Esra*

      I disagree. There are definitely people who go overboard, but a lot of design positions want more than a basic resume. At the very least it should have your personal branding on it and match your portfolio and business cards.

      1. Chinook*

        I think there is a difference, though, between subtle branding and something being over-designed. In fact, isn’t part of the skill of a good designer the ability to make sure information is converyed in an understandable way while still being esthetically pleasing?

        1. Esra*

          It surely is. I was disagreeing with the assertion that it shouldn’t be colourful or creative at all. On any of the design teams I’ve worked on, a plain Calibri Word template resume would be frowned upon.

          1. Lydia Navarro*

            Plus Calibri is an awful font. Helvetica for sans and Georgia for serif are lovely, readable, etc. On OpenOffice, make sure to turn “pair-kearning” off though.

            1. Jamie*

              I love Calibri – it’s my favorite of all fonts. Arial is a distant second and I hate everything else.

              This is totally a preference thing, though, I admit.

  14. Mark*

    #1 if the employee has sick time he/she can use it as they feel. Once they run out, then you can discuss any attendence concerns.

    1. Sourire*

      In my opinion, that *should* be how sick time is used (and it should really be called unplanned absence or something to avoid the whole sick vs not sick issue), but in a lot of companies, that is not how it works.

      Also (and I know this is reaching beyond the bounds of the original question), there are certainly cases where there can be concerns about absences or abuse before an employee hits his limit. If that employee is always calling out on days near the holidays that others wanted but were not able to take, if he had asked for the time off previously and was denied due it being important he is in the office at that time, if there is some sort of mandatory meeting/training etc. Of course, one can legitimately need to call out when any of the above are true, but I wouldn’t have an issue with an employer looking into that absence a little more closely.

    2. Anonymous*

      I really don’t agree with this. Sick time is intended to allow people to stay out of the office and recover if they’re sick. There is no entitlement to use all of it – for example, to supplement your vacation time – and you could certainly have attendance concerns about someone who hasn’t used it all yet (such as an employee who always calls in sick on the Monday after a holiday weekend). I would also have integrity concerns about an employee who called in “sick” whenever his favorite sports team had an afternoon home game on a weekday.

      I have worked in organizations with time banks for paid time off (combined vacation and sick time). This worked out very well for me as I’m pretty healthy, so I was able to schedule a lot more vacation when we switched to this system – the operative word being “schedule.”

      Having an employee suddenly not show up for work can be disruptive for some jobs, leaving the manager and co-workers scrambling for coverage. If this happened too often, I believe the employer would have a legitimate concern even if the employee had time left in the time bank.

      Sick time should be managed with the same professionalism as any other aspect of your working life – and hopefully with some consideration of the other people you’re impacting.

      1. SB*

        But where do you draw the line at the definition of sick? Sure, I can see getting upset if you have Monday/Friday-itis… If you’re calling out sick for something that could have been scheduled, that’s one thing. But I think the point is “sick” isn’t always lying in the bed with a temp and an ice pack. I do take sick days for things that can’t be scheduled, like uncontrollable pain, but it doesn’t mean I’m lying in bed all day. Other people may have anxiety disorders or migraines, or perhaps they took a sick day because their kid is sick.

        1. Anonymous*

          No disagreement on sickness in my post – nor any requirement to lie in bed all day. I was responding to the “use it as they feel” comment.

        2. Jamie*

          It’s hard to draw the “what is sick” line but for me calling out last minute should be for unavoidable absences. Sick, in pain, water heater dies and plumber can only come during the day, family emergency. IMO it’s not for regular PTO which can and should have been scheduled in advance.

          I don’t mind picking up the slack for someone because they were up all night with a family member and can’t make it in…I resent not having any advance warning if it’s for a ballgame for which you’ve had tickets for weeks.

          I personally think PTO should be PTO and responsible grown ups would schedule in advance whenever possible (or inform) and take emergency days when unavoidable. But if there are designated sick days and if there is criteria over when they should be used that should be respected…because some employers do differentiate these from other PTO.

          That said, depends on the shopping in this instance? Called in sick and then were in a bridal store picking out a wedding gown? Not good…but almost anything else can be explained (but shouldn’t have to be) that unless you’re literally on your death bed sometimes you need to go out when you’re feeling like crap.

          A million years ago I was a single mom and had three kids with me in the drug store…we’d just come from the doctors and I and 2 kids were running fevers and the other just starting. I was waiting for the rx to be filled, because ear infections can’t wait, and I can’t tell you how many people kindly told me we should be home in bed.

          Good thing they told me, because I thought the best place for sick kids with a sick mommy was being carted all over town buying fun things like antibiotics, orange juice, and children’s Tylenol.

          Unless you are Uncle Bill with your very own Mr. French sometimes you need to fend for yourself, even when crappy.

          Just like sometimes you need to haul your cookies into work when you feel like crap. I’ve had early morning root canals and still made it in by 8:00 for a meeting rather than being home feeling sorry for myself and drifting in and out on vicodin. Sometimes you do what you have to do and people should trust others to make the right call…unless it’s being abused and then deal with that. Not the need to run out and pick up some ginger ale and trashy magazines to get through the flu.

      2. Anonymous*

        I think this shouldn’t be about individual preference but instead company policy. In my company, I am not allowed to ask what’s wrong with my employee or require a doctor’s note (before 3 consecutive days). If they call in sick, I assume they are. If it happens a lot, then I deal with it. Managers have enough to deal with during the day and worrying about an employee’s reason(s) for occasionally calling in is frankly at the bottom of my list.

      3. Bwmn*

        I worked for a children’s hospital that did the banked time off (for combined vacation and sick time) and the result was really appalling. People would basically look at all of their PTO as vacation time and didn’t want to “waste” any of it on sick days. So the result would always be that for a few months around the winter, the whole office constantly rotated the sniffles/colds/mild illnesses.

        It created a work culture where there was no incentive to be sick and stay at home to get healthy. And this was at a hospital where many of us came into contact with ill children. Dreadful policy.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Some jobs don’t have a set amount of sick time. At the spouse’s company, you take sick time as you need it and at the manager’s discretion to give it. So it doesn’t “run out” unless it seems like you are using it inappropriately.

  15. Emily*


    In my recent job search, I kept the resume design as neutral as possible but took color, font, design, and the “feel” of the company brand into consideration with the work samples I created as part of the hiring process.

  16. Anonymous*

    Based off of her approaches to situations like question #1, I really think I would like having Alison as a boss. I wish most bosses operated like her!

  17. EnnVeeEl*

    OP 1 needs to be careful mentioning this at all. If I called in sick and ran out to get my favorite soup and some cold medicine, and my manager came to me with this, I would immediately start updating my resume. I wouldn’t want to work for someone who just assumed I was lying calling in sick or was more worried about me calling in sick for a “legitimate” reason than doing good work.

    Like the many good examples posted here, there could be a million reasons why the person was out. The immediate response and the question makes me feel some kind of way about the manager.

    1. JMegan*

      +1. I was going to say that another possible reason for the “sickness” is that she’s not happy at work. And while she may not have been technically ill, maybe she just couldn’t face going into the office that day.

      Just a theory, and of course I don’t know what the culture and morale are like in the OP’s office. But I have certainly been known to use sick time for days when I wasn’t up for working with my micromanaging boss and having my every move watched and questioned!

    2. Nichole*

      Good point. In every situation that I’ve seen similar to this (the ‘was s/he really sick’ game seems to come up a lot, especially now that people are broadcasting every movement on Facebook), when the boss seemed upset by it, there were signs that Boss was already displeased with Employee’s performance. It’s worth examining for the OP whether having seen the employee out when s/he was supposed to be sick is the real issue (in which case let it go for all the reasons listed here) or if it represents a bigger issue that needs to be addressed.

  18. Anonymous*

    1. This is a point that annoys me at my work. If we call in sick, and then are spotted out in town or whatever, we can get in a lot of trouble. There has even been a notice posted up recently saying we will get a warning if seen out and about on a day we call in sick (though we also have to produce a doctor’s note within 48 hours)… We don’t even get any pay if we call in sick anyway as we are paid based on when we clock in only, so there is little motivation to want to skip work anyway.

    It is very possible that we are not up to an 8 or 9 hour shift at work, but are able to go out to do a 30 minute or 1 hour food shop, for example. Even spending several hours shopping, where you can sit down when you need to, go to the toilet, or take a drink if you need it, and rest when you need to is completely different to being at work. Also, considering I work in a fast food kitchen, we should not really be in when we are sick in case we are contagious!

    This has applied even to someone who was on longer term leave after an operation. She was in trouble for being seen out and about while recovering, but for saying she was unable to work (when the doctor told her she should not go back to work).

    I think employers can sometimes be so focused on trying to ‘catch’ someone out, trying to ‘pull a sicky’ that they don’t consider the situation realistically. Maybe some people call in sick too much, but that can be seen from a pattern of sick calls, not from spotting someone out one way.

    1. Anonymous*

      I have to admit that I would be tempted to respond badly to this – for example, by calling in to work and asking if they could have someone drive me to and from the doctor’s office, pick up my prescription for me, and then head to the grocery store to stock up on tissues and orange juice while I was feeling so rotten – since they clearly didn’t want me doing it myself and I would hate to have them misunderstand. :-)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Why not seriously ask them if this means that you cannot go out to pick up prescriptions, tissues, and soup during those days? I’d love to see what they say to that, and it could be enough to get them to back off.

        1. Jamie*

          This is exactly what I would do. Without any snark or rancor ask about the logistics of picking up prescriptions and the like and ask how they’d like you to handle that.

          It could easily be what opens their eyes to the flaws in this plan.

          1. Layla*

            Where I live , we don’t have to go to the mall for such things.
            So , I think there is less legitimate reasons to be seen
            We also require doctor’s note for all sick leave ; doctors (GPs) are also generally within walking distance

        2. Sourire*

          Since he (apologies if poster is a she) stated the job is in fast food, sadly, he would probably be told that’s the policy, and he if he doesn’t like it there are a whole line of people who would be willing to take his job.

          1. Anonymous*

            I am a she :). Thanks for the replies. Unfortunately yes, what Sourire said was the response given when staff have asked this question in the past.

            1. KellyK*

              In that case, the only reasonable thing to do is look for another job (and possibly report it to the health department if people who handle food are being forced or pressured to come in while sick).

    2. doreen*

      “Maybe some people call in sick too much, but that can be seen from a pattern of sick calls, not from spotting someone out one way.” I really think that depends on the specific circumstances. I wouldn’t jump to conclusions seeing someone on the street or in Walmart or seeing someone on long term sick leave anywhere but I remember a conversation I had years ago with coworkers at a government agency. An employee at a different government agency had been disciplined for calling in sick on a single day. She went to a baseball game, had her picture up on the big screen and had bad luck – a manager from her agency had taken vacation leave that day and saw her on the screen. My coworkers were outraged- according to them , it was her time, she could use it however she wanted to etc. The truth is there are only two reasons why you would call in sick at my employer to go to a baseball game- you were denied the use of other leave for operational reasons or you had no other leave left. And the outrage my coworkers displayed just made me more certain that they weren’t really sick the Friday before a three day holiday or on Christmas Eve or the day after Thanksgiving. Might have been great for their morale to get away with it – but it wasn’t for those of us who got stuck covering for them.

      1. Heather*

        >She went to a baseball game, had her picture up on the big screen

        Was her name Sloane Peterson?

        1. doreen*

          Nope, it’s my name- but now I know why people tell me “Doreen from Queens? there’s a song about you” :)

      2. Anonymous*

        Two reasons to call in sick to go to a baseball game – denied leave or had no other leave left –

        Um, excuse me?

        Are you seriously suggesting an employee should call in sick to go to a baseball game because a) they were told they needed to be at work, or b) they had already used up their leave for other things?

        I need to go pick my jaw up off the floor.

        1. doreen*

          I’m not suggesting that it should happen- I’m suggesting that 1) That’s almost certainly what did happen in the case of the person on the big screen
          2) My coworkers thought it was perfectly acceptable since “it’s her leave to use as she wants and they can’t require a doctor’s note for one day”
          3) Those coworkers are lucky I never ended up supervising them, because I wouldn’t have believed them when they called in sick on Christmas Eve/day after Thanksgiving every year (long story,but only one of their group could be off on any given day. Once one person was approved, the others didn’t bother asking. They just called in sick)

          1. Bwmn*

            Where I work (overseas – completely different labor laws on sick days) we have far more sick days than standard in the US – but when taking a sick day before a holiday/vacation it’s always required to have a doctor’s note even if it’s just one day.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      “we also have to produce a doctor’s note within 48 hours” — Does that mean if I get a sore throat and cold and can’t stay awake, I need to go to a doctor to find out that I have a virus and there is nothing they can do, get some rest and please pay before you leave? I almost never go to a doctor when I am sick, mostly because I know that I’ll recover faster by sleeping than by waiting to see a doctor. Making you spend money to get a note from someone who often can’t help you, and then not paying you for the sick day on top of it seems pretty harsh.

      1. VintageLydia*

        It’s pretty much standard operating procedure in retail and food service :/

      2. Anonymous*

        Yes, this is the case.

        It’s harsh, and it’s stupid, but it’s how it works and policies often don’t make sense.

        1. Jessa*

          Yep and it always hits workers that really cannot afford to go to the doctor when they know they have something the doctor cannot help (a virus without a common treatment.) Some don’t have insurance, and even those who do, some don’t have the co-pay needed. And if they don’t get paid for being out ill, that means they lose a day’s pay AND the money to go to the doctor for no good reason. I hate that. I can get it if it’s more than 3 days or something. Because that’s not so much “prove you were ill,” but “verify you’re allowed to come back to work without hurting yourself or making the whole place ill.”

          1. Cheryl*

            I totally agree with this!

            Number one: I am a federal employee. Which in English means I can barely afford basic living expenses and some months, even that is debateable. It also means that I do not have the money for copays, prescriptions, taking time off to see a doctor..(even on the off chance they can get me in this month).

            Number two: Given the current political climate, the mental well being of a federal employee is enough to drag one into the quagmire of depression if we are not careful with ourselves. So the usual mental barrage that we deal with has intensified due to the climate that we work in. Taking a mental health day is sometimes paramount to survival.

            Number three: At my age, it’s not just a cold anymore. My immune system is already compromised with a myraid of respiratory issues and if I do not take the time off to rest, sleep non stop, take prescriptions, rest (yes I know I already said that); then soon I will have pneumonia or a raging sinus infection from hell or worse.

            I understand why we are asked for doctor’s notices, but I also know if the “calling in sick” is an issue for a manager, then there has to be some underlying issue to cause that sentiment. If there is a pattern with an employee, then please address it with that employee and don’t take it out on me. I am an adult and I expect to be treated as such.

  19. Just a Reader*

    #6 Yikes…you can’t talk to your boss that way. And those types of actions undermine your possibly legitimate complaints about management style.

    Calm down, document the real stuff and treat your boss with even a modicum of respect. Isn’t that what you’re asking of him, after all?

    1. Jamie*

      I agree – telling him what is and isn’t a good use of his time? The OP lost any high ground she might have had. A lot of places have insubordination as a policy violation and depending on how it was said and the greater context this could have been a serious problem for the OP.

      You just don’t do that.

      1. fposte*

        Really, that’s not something you should say to anybody other than your own direct report, and even then you should say it with the awareness that that’s a problem you had a hand in creating.

        1. Just a Reader*

          Right? My old terrorist of a boss used to give me feedback like, “Come on! You should have done it this way” and “Get your sh!t together” (my sh!t was very together).

          That’s not any more appropriate than what OP6 said to her manager.

  20. LV*

    My résumé uses a bit of colour – it’s the Google Docs Résumé-Standard template if anyone’s curious. I thought the colour made the divisions between sections easier to spot and increased readability. Now I’m wondering if people just think it’s obnoxious *bites nails* Although I -have- gotten a job with it…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think it’s a disaster to do it (although I wouldn’t tie it to the company’s colors), but I definitely don’t think anyone should be *advising* job seekers to do it — there are plenty of other things they should be putting their energy into it, and this one doesn’t matter.

    2. Cathy*

      I don’t have a problem if your name and the section headers (Education, Experience, etc) are in a dark color. It improves readability on the screen a tiny bit, and it looks fine on a black-and-white printout. The really awful ones are things like medium blue on a light gray background which is readable on screen, but lousy on paper. I don’t bring my laptop when I’m interviewing you face-to-face, so your resume needs to be readable when printed in black-and-white.

      It doesn’t affect whether I call you for an interview, but I don’t really like the extraneous colored dots and rectangles that are on some templates. The Google Standard one does have that red square to the left of your name that pushes all the text on the page over to the right. That’s just taking up space, and unless your resume is really short and needs some filler, I’d get rid of it.

    3. Rana*

      My feeling about color accents is that they should be something that still “works” even if the resume gets printed or copied in black and white.

      (In fact, that’s my general rule of thumb about formatting documents that aren’t PDFs – assume that they will get mangled in some way by the process of being emailed, printed, copied, etc. and try to keep the formatting as simple as possible so that they remain as legible as possible.)

  21. nyxalinth*

    #1 When I was in the Navy many years ago, I came down with a stomach bug and was put on bed rest. I still had to get up for meals in the chow hall, and someone saw me and reported me. My immediate boss told Mr Nosy “Yes, she’s on bed rest, but the chow hall doesn’t deliver, and she still has to eat. Mind your own business and get back to work.”

    1. Sourire*

      They should have made that person deliver all your meals from then on out, since they were so very concerned about you and all.

  22. De Minimis*

    #1…Just don’t do what a manager did at my former job…she ran into an employee at the mall, and found out later that the employee had called in sick that day [people at our workplace had various assigned days off–it was a 7-day a week operation.] When the employee came in again, the manager threw a screaming fit and practically attacked her.

  23. A Teacher*

    Amen to the comments on number 1 about leaving it alone. I gets migraines and on the once a year I actually call in (I hate having subs, too much work), if I can’t sleep or if I’m not having auras I may actually go to the gym on the afternoon because exercise is one thing that sometimes helps. Sometimes helps being the key words.

    1. Jamie*

      Does it really? I work with someone who swears that taking up running had the side effect of controlling migraines…so this fascinates me.

      When I’m in the throes I can barely make it to the bathroom, I can’t imagine working out with a migraine…so is it something that helps it dissipate once it’s taken hold or do you have to start during the aura phase which (for me) is before the pain settles in?

      I am always looking for non-medicinal ways to control these.

      1. Just a Reader*

        I’m curious too–do you have to really get your heart rate up? I’m 8 months pregnant and the migraines are killing me, but obviously a vigorous run is out of the question. Wondering if light exercise will do it.

      2. A Teacher*

        Hi, on migraines, yes sometimes exercise helps. I’m like a normal sufferer where heat, noise, light, and other things are triggers and I do have auras when they get really bad to the point where a cool dark room with medicine, caffeine, increased water, and my bed are all that work.

        If it is a mild or moderate headache, exercise seems to help. I do run 3 times a week which also helps, but I also find (remember I actually have a medical background in athletic training) that water exercise is awesome for migraines. I teach it one night a week and even when I feel awful it helps.

        1. A Teacher*

          Oh and water exercise is great for my pregnant participants because the heart rate gets up without it being as jarring on the body. The resistance of the water does a lot for the body, making the heart work harder and increasing your BP this increasing blood flow through the body.

      3. Elizabeth*

        Whether or not exercise works for me depends on the severity of the headache and my ability to reach the point that endorphins kick in. If I’m having a full-on, sick-to-my-stomach, can’t-stand-light migraine that includes a racing heart rate? No chance. If it is what I call a working migraine, when my office lights are off & I am only queasy but can take meds, I can try to get the endorphins going and possibly help the pain that way.

        1. A Teacher*

          Totally agree. The last one was 5 days long, auras, dark cool rooms, don’t talk to me headache. The one before that was about 3 days and annoying but functional and exercise helped that one. It totally depends headache to headache.

        2. Windchime*

          Hey, I have different levels of migraines, too, including a “working migraine”. Usually with that level, migraine medication plus a hot shower will get me going in an hour or so. But when I have a full-on migraine, all I can do is lie miserably on the couch and wait for the vomiting to start.

          Migraines are misunderstood. My co-workers probably wonder why sometimes I come to work with a migraine and sometimes I call/email in sick. Fortunately for me, I have the kind of boss who says, “Rest up, take care, feel better soon” when I email in sick. After reading some of these horror stories, I realize how fortunate I am. In a past job (years ago), I had to justify to my supervisor why I needed three sick days to stay home with my very sick toddler who was having trouble recovering from a tonsilectomy.

          1. Jamie*

            Working migraine is a great phrase – I’m totally stealing that. It’s exactly what it is – some you can power through and feel like crap and for others the world completely stops and any sound, smell, or light makes you want to die.

            I’m glad you have a compassionate manager…while I would never wish a migraine on my worst enemy I have found that people who know them first hand tend to me a lot more understanding of the nuances of how they affect you.

            And as an IT if you tell me that a certain monitor gives you a migraine I’ll move heaven and earth to get you one which doesn’t.

      4. Lydia Navarro*

        I will take a very high-speed walk during the aura phase after popping two advil, a vicodin or tramadol, and a glass of soda or coffee. It does work for me.

    2. Laura*

      Have you ever tried doing yoga? I don’t get migraines, but it has done fantastic things for the back problems I’ve had — full disclosure, they are all self-induced since I’ve got issues with my weight.

      Hauling around a toddler certainly wasn’t doing anything to help, so I tried yoga and it has made a world of difference. And a couple weeks ago I’d had a headache all day long, taken some Tylenol, eaten something (I do get headaches if I haven’t eaten in awhile), but nothing helped. Then I went to yoga and by the time the class was over my headache was gone.

      1. A Teacher*

        I wish I could do yoga (well all of it). I’ve done the PT route for my shoulder and left arm 4 times–including surgery for my left arm in 2010. The orthopedic told me to stay away from yoga because of it, but a ton of my friends do it and say it is super beneficial.

        1. Laura*

          That’s really too bad. There is a class before the one I take that is specifically for people with medical issues. It’s very, very slow and gentle, for people with things like lupus, MS, and so on.

  24. Chocolate Teapot*

    If you had phoned in sick, and gone straight to the doctor, it is likely you would have a prescription, and normally people would want to collect the items straight away. So therefore it is likely you might be seen “shopping” as the chemist may not be anywhere near the doctor’s surgery.

    In any case, the sooner you have your prescription medication/have requested advice from the chemist, the sooner you can start work on getting better.

    1. Jessa*

      Not to mention that if I am in Walmart getting a prescription filled, I’m not just going to sit there in my scooter waiting for it. I am going to get whatever the heck I need for the time I am out so I don’t have to drag myself around again when I realise I have no bread or milk.

      And if I happen to be able to handle a plain chicken on bread sandwich (maybe, hoping I can keep it down,) you may see me in the Subway attached to the Walmart while waiting. This is NOT abusing leave time and bosses need to understand this.

      It’s not even abuse if I have kids and I have to take them to an event and I bundle up and sit miserably waiting for them to finish dance class or karate or art studio. Sometimes you are off ill and you have responsibilities that while you can’t/shouldn’t go into work, you still have to deal with.

      And people on longer term disability from work, may be off work because they had surgery and can’t sit for 8 hours or lift or whatever. But they can still go out for an hour or two on a given day. Geez louise. If management thinks someone is abusing leave then deal with that person.

      I just despise the concept of “someone did x so now we have to micromanage every second of everyone ELSE’s lives in order to make sure they never even dream x exists.”

  25. Rich*

    Regarding question 2: I agree that is exactly what you want to say to a candidate. On one job interview I went on, the HR director looked at my preferred salary and said, “This is much higher than we pay for the position.” I was totally fine with the honesty, and appreciated the subject of compensation being brought up by my potential employer rather than having to ask about it myself.

    1. Jamie*

      I agree – and kudos to the OP for wanting to be upfront and not wasting everyone’s time if it’s not acceptable.

      And for being so non-judgemental about it. Part of what makes the salary negotiation stuff so touchy (at least for me) is the unspoken snarkiness of “really, how can you be so cheap as to not pay $X for this position?” countered by “I cannot believe you think you are worth $X and were apparently ridiculously overpaid at your last position.”

      No reason for hidden insult on either side – it is what it is and is that a good fit for both parties or not? So adult.

  26. B*

    #1 – Leave the sick person alone! If they are single, or heck even if they have a s/o that person could be working, and need something they must get out. What if they were up all night in the bathroom, wasn’t sure they would be ok, and then by the afternoon they were. Perhaps they had a doctor appointment they needed right away for something personal but could still be up and about. So many different reasons this person could have been out.

  27. Anonymous*

    Re #1: As someone who suffers from IBS, I only call in sick when it’s severe – as in, I need to physically be near the bathroom as it hits in waves every 15-30 minutes. The logistics of being able to do that at work would mean that I may have a horrible accident in my office chair or the whole day is a write-off since I can’t be productive spending a ton of my time on the toilet. Thankfully the severity dies down within a few hours and I’m fine to be at work the next day. No one would be able to tell outwardly that I’d been feeling awful just the day before, and quite frankly, it’s none of their business and I shouldn’t have to explain my condition to everyone to alleviate any sort of suspicions they may have about the sick day being legit or not.

  28. Anonymous*

    #1 – My former employer had no-cap sick days that were prone to abuse so I can see why seeing a sick (or “sick”) employee out shopping would be a concern. As others have said, it’s totally possible to be ill yet be physically capable of running an errand, likely out of necessity. Perhaps the employee just needed a mental health day–something that I’m sure everyone has taken at least once.

    Pay attention to PTO patterns, not one instance. There’s a difference between possibly playing hookie for one day and mysteriously falling ill every Friday for months. This may also be a good opportunity to reexamine your PTO policy. Is it clear? Is it realistic? Does everyone understand it? One thing I’ve noticed is that people tend to view their sick and vacation time as one ball of PTO. This may not be how you want things to work if your PTO is carved up into categories, but it’s closer to how people actually use their time off.

    1. Jamie*

      Perhaps the employee just needed a mental health day–something that I’m sure everyone has taken at least once.

      I think this is where the confusion comes in. People having mental issues and being unable to come in due to anxiety or whatever aside a lot of people use this phrase to mean they just didn’t feel like coming in that day.

      And it’s not true that everyone has done that at least once. I haven’t. I’ve felt burn out creeping up and taken a PTO day, letting people know I’d be out ahead of time and I’ve certainly stayed home if I was sick (and worked from home if I was okay, but contagious) – but I’ve never just called in because I didn’t feel like working that day.

      Not trying to be a pedantic pollyanna – but I don’t like the assumption that this is something everyone does, because a lot of us have never just blown off work without a valid reason.

      1. Forrest*

        But taking a needed mental health day, regardless if one suffers from medically diagnosis depression, is a valid reason.

        I don’t think people who just take sick days every other Friday. But sometimes you just can’t go to work and you can’t put your finger on a reason other than “I just won’t make it through the day.”

        There’s a difference between someone who “blows off work” once a year vs someone who its dodging it repeatedly.

        1. Anon*

          I’m not being treated actively for mental health issues, but maybe 3-4 days a year, hormonal ebbs and flows bring on huge spikes in my otherwise well controlled depression and anxiety (I am a female-relevant because of how the types of hormones that are spiking impact my mood, not because I assume all females are inherently hormonal and crazy). There have been days when I woke up on the edge and have been fully dressed or in the car before I realized that I could not handle the outside world that day. However, I know just by looking at the calendar that in a day or two I’ll be fine. I agree with Jamie that the best way to handle day to day burnout is a scheduled day off; my situation is an example of why some people may genuinely need a mental health day, even if they aren’t in treatment or actively living with depression/anxiety. I’m hard on myself when I call in unexpectedly, but when that happens I’m often less able to go out and function normally than when I’m physically sick.

        2. A Bug!*

          Yes, I agree that you don’t need a diagnosis to take a mental health day, but someone who is blowing off work, even if it’s just once a year, shouldn’t be calling it a mental health day. It cheapens the term and makes it more difficult for people with actual mental issues to get taken seriously.

          1. Chinook*

            I agree that calling it a mental health day because you just can’t deal with work isn’t the right thing. For those of us with mental illnesses, it is like calling in sick because you have a cold – everybody gets them and we can all work through them but it does make people start wondering if people are gaming the system. I love Jamie’s idea of taking a PTO with notice because one can tell when the stress is starting to build up. This has the added benefit of not adding to your coworkers’ stress as well. Now, if the idea of getting out of bed and facing the office makes you want to hide in a closet or you are about to throw the phone if it rings one more time, then you definitely have more than “a simple cold” and need to take the break.

  29. De Minimis*

    We had people who would take off every weekend [as I mentioned earlier, many of us normally worked weekends.] Sometimes they would question people on it, sometimes they wouldn’t. It was such a dysfunctional environment that a lot of people routinely abused sick leave just as an escape.

    It was very frustrating for those who showed up regularly to see the same people calling in sick repeatedly–after a while many just got tired of it and started calling in sick themselves.

  30. Scott*

    Re: #4 Thanks…this is a really helpful response. I haven’t seen any advice anywhere else on salary negotiations that mentions what a reasonable timeframe is for the back-and-forth. Also like the comment bringing up the small company excuse and what it could mean.

  31. Anne*

    #1: Echoing everyone else here, unless there is a real, serious pattern then leave it alone! I’ve had a few instances where I was sick in the evening/through the night (I have a bad sense of smell and sometimes have trouble telling when food has gone bad… oops) and called out of work because I only got 1-2 hours of broken, interrupted sleep. Situations like that, I do not trust myself to handle any of my job functions reliably, I handle large sums of money; one off day at my job could cost my company my annual salary in screwups we have to write off. But after sleeping until 1pm or whatever, I am perfectly fine to go about what’s left of my day. Doesn’t mean the call-out wasn’t legit, since trying to get up at 6am and roll off to work would have meant an enormous potential liability for the company.

  32. Cajun2core*

    On #2 – That is why employers should post the salary range in the ad. Don’t waste an interviewees (and your) time. The applicant may not have applied for the job if he/she knew the salary range that they would get paid.

  33. Anonymous*

    I was in a similar position with 6. Our team lead was leaving, and it was gonna be me and a new girl on the account. She left one of her primary duties to the new girl, and I wondered why it wasn’t left to me since I had more experience with it and I’d been around longer. I mostly wondered if I was being passed over because my performace wasn’t up to par or something. I asked the lead because I trusted her more, but instead of answering she told the manager who took me into a little room and basically scolded me for asking such a question. It was none of my business who gets what responsibilities and I didn’t get to say someone was advancing “too quickly.” He left the meeting saying he never wanted to have a conversation like that again.

    Since then I basically felt like I couldn’t tell him if/when something was bothering me. He would ask me what was wrong but I was afraid I’d get in trouble if I told the truth. Wasn’t good for my career there.

  34. Collarbone High*

    Not an argument for policing the whereabouts of sick employees, just an amusing story:

    I used to work nights on a newspaper copy desk, and we would work frantically until the first deadline at 10 p.m., then go get takeout from the restaurant across the street and head back to work. This was our routine every night; it was 100 percent possible to predict our movements down to the minute.

    We had a copy clerk who was notorious for calling out for dubious reasons (his grandmother died 17 times in one year, but the union fought off all attempts to fire him). One night, we walked into the restaurant at 10:06, as always, and came face-to-face with him drinking at the bar with friends.

    In a city with thousands of restaurants, he’d chosen to use a fake sick day at the ONE PLACE we ate at, not to leave before we arrived right on schedule, and he didn’t even have the sense to at least sit at a booth where his boss wouldn’t spot him the second she walked in the door. The union rep didn’t say a word when he was fired the next day.

  35. La Reina*

    Another WTF to the #1 question. Besides the issue of being out in public because you’re going to the doctor, pharmacy, groceries, or take-out (I like pho or ramen when I’m sick), what about the post H1-N1 advice/notices that if you’re stick, STAY home from work.

    Also I’ve been on the opposite side where I was out for a day with a migraine and e-mailed my boss about it. Who never bothered to notice the e-mail and when my employees came asking if I’d called in sick, he told them he didn’t know anything. Like didn’t call me (which I would’ve been fine with answering the phone) and waited until the next day to semi-accuse me of just not showing up for work. Nice feeling knowing that if I’d had the proverbial car accident and had been in a ditch, he wouldn’t have bothered to notice that I wasn’t around.

  36. Rachel*

    #7 Thank you SO much for this great advice! I would have thought I’d seem wishy-washy or desperate, so I’m glad you think I might have a shot applying for the lower position!! :)

  37. Lydia Navarro*

    Just wanted to add, I have called in sick for same day outpatient ob-gyn procedures. And it would be totally possible for me to perhaps go to the grocery store or whatever after the procedure, but at the same time, I was in too much pain to work and was recommended to rest up over a long weekend (for example). Or the employee could have had a double root canal. “I’m sick” is sometimes a catch-all for those tough medical procedures we’d rather not get into detail about.

Comments are closed.