how to talk to an employee who frequently calls in sick before or after a weekend

A reader writes:

What is the appropriate way to talk to an employee who tends to take Thursday afternoons and Fridays and Mondays as sick time? I would think some of these are legitimate, but the pattern is somewhat obvious and my boss has even noticed and is wondering if this employee is really just taking vacation time.

First, make sure it’s truly a pattern and not just something that happened, say, twice. But assuming it is…

“Jane, I’m concerned about your sick leave use. I’ve noticed that your sick time has tended to frequently fall just before or just after a weekend.”

Then, wait and see what your employee says. That’s important because there could be a legitimate reason for the pattern that you’d want to know about before plunging ahead. (For instance, if it turns out that your employee has a standing medical treatment on Thursdays that causes nausea for the next several days, that will change the conversation, probably to one where you talk about better ways to plan for it.)

But assuming nothing like that surfaces, you can proceed to: “Sick leave is different from vacation leave because it’s unplanned. That means it has more of a disruption on our work. I don’t want to discourage you from using it when you truly need it, but I’m concerned about the pattern I’m seeing, because I need you to be reliably here and because it’s likely to cause resentment in coworkers over time. I’d like us both to keep an eye on this going forward.”

That’s it. By raising the issue, you’re alerting the employee to the fact that you’re on to the pattern, which makes it a lot less likely that it’ll continue in the future. (Although if it does, you can address it at that point, referring back to this conversation.)

You also want to ground your thinking about this issue in what you know of the employee aside from this. Is she generally diligent and conscientious, with a high work ethic? (I’m betting not, but it’s possible.) Or does she have a lax attitude more broadly? How’s her work overall? If she’s generally a good employee, your tone in this conversation might simply be concerned — a tone that says “I feel I need to point out this pattern, but it seems out of character for you and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there’s a reason for it.” But if she’s not (and again, I’m betting she’s not, because this type of thing generally shows up in employees who aren’t top performers), then take this as a flag to address the overall performance issues with her as well — because you need to, and because doing that will be more straightforward than second-guessing what she really did the last three Fridays she was out anyway.

By the way, some people would tell you to require doctor’s notes from this employee going forward. That’s certainly an option, but in general doctor’s notes are a poor option. It’s better to simply trust your staff to behave responsibly and address it head-on if they don’t.

{ 308 comments… read them below }

    1. Zahra*

      Well, On a 5-day week, each day is 20% of the week. 40% of sick days taken over 2 days (which is 40% of the week) is statistically insignificant. Nothing to worry about.

      (Sorry, I couldn’t tell if your comment was sarcastic or sincere.)

      1. Jax*

        I read the first comment and thought, “Whoa, looks like most people misuse sick days.” Then you pointed out the rest of it and I’m laughing at myself for not thinking it through.

        It’s funny how stats can be manipulated to make a point.

        1. Cat*

          I remember reading that same thing somewhere when I was a kid (Dilbert, maybe?) and it was has stuck with me ever since. It’s interesting how unintuitive that feels.

        2. Anon*

          Yeah, like how political reports often state that an “overwhelming majority” (of 52%) supported a measure.

        3. Laufey*

          Best book on the subject is “How to Lie with Statistics.” It’s basically a primer on how to avoid being manipulated by numbers. It was written in the 1950s, but is still fantastic, and doesn’t require a firm grip on numbers to read. It’s still required reading for a lot of Stats classes, and ought to be required for anyone over the age of 18. (It’s also really short!)

          /Shameless plug. Disclaimer: Only my love of stats has prompted this share.

          1. Erik*

            +1 for that book – awesome reading. Many stats people don’t even know it exists, and it should be required reading. It’s also written in English, too.

      1. some1*

        “Homer, the plant called. They said if you don’t show up tomorrow, don’t bother coming in Monday.”

        “Whoo-hoo! Four-day weekend!”

  1. BB*

    Can OP give us an idea of the company sick policy? If the company has limited sick days vs unlimited than that completely changes things IMO

    1. Sadsack*

      Just because there is no limit on sick days doesn’t mean employees should say they are sick if they aren’t to get days off.

      1. Anonalicious*

        Right but if they are limited paid sick days that means that at some point this employee is going to run and thus not get paid for them, which may be seen as less of an issue than if the company is paying her for what appears to be taking an extended vacation on an unlimited basis.

      2. tesyaa*

        It’s the opposite. Some people might feel that if there is a defined limit on sick days (say 5), they’re entitled to take all 5 even if they’re not actually sick 5 days. People might be unwilling to intentionally misuse “unlimited” sick time, but might feel there’s nothing wrong with taking what’s “rightfully theirs”.

          1. Michele*

            I don’t consider myself to be superhuman but I rarely get sick. The last time I called out sick to work was 3 years ago.

            1. the gold digger*

              I think I have taken 3 sick days in my life (except when I was a Peace Corps volunteer and was sick a lot because I was not in optimal conditions) and one of those days was because of a hangover. I am very, very lucky that I do not get sick.

              1. Simonthegrey*

                My husband has taken 2-3 sick days ever since we got together, and one of those was actually for a back injury. On the other hand, I average at least 3-5 per year. I get sinus infections very easily and they turn to bronchitis fast. I used to get sick more, but I’m not in retail handling money OR working with small children any longer.

          2. NK*

            In my 9 years of working full-time, I think maybe once I took more than three sick days in a year. This seems pretty typical of my coworkers as well. Not to say that taking more than that isn’t legitimate, but I don’t think it’s uncommon to take just a couple sick days a year.

            1. tesyaa*

              I haven’t taken sick days in years, but I usually have the option to work from home when sick. There have definitely been days when I was sick, didn’t want to infect my co-workers or wasn’t up to commuting, but was still able to work. I realize not everyone has this option.

            2. FiveNine*

              It depends. I much prefer to just schedule time off. The only times in my life I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about whether and how to use sick time — as opposed to pre-scheduled time off — is when the company has been overly restrictive about time off, frankly.

              1. Colette*

                Scheduled time off is generally different than sick days, though (with the obvious exceptions for medical appointments, surgery, etc.)

                1. FiveNine*

                  What I mean is that it’s only been companies I worked for that were extremely stingy with paid time off or the rules surrounding it where I juggled using sick leave instead. Companies like this (primarily in service or blue-collar work) really almost shoot themselves in the foot because they make it far more likely no days taken off by employees are going to be scheduled, it will all be last-minute call-ins.

                2. Carpe Librarium*

                  An acquaintance of mine hated a job so much that he carefully planned out sick days and annual leave days so that, once public holidays were factored in, he never actually worked two full M-F weeks in a row.

                  He was also looking into finding a different job.

              2. Kassy*

                I definitely experienced this at one job. They had this weird “3 in 1” rule where you could call in 3 times every six months, but when you did, 3 consecutive nights would count for the same as one night. So of course, when people called in, they almost always used 3 nights in a row even if they didn’t really need it (myself included), because otherwise it was only 3 nights in 6 months.

            3. JustKatie*

              I think it also depends on what your job entails. Dragging yourself in while sick for a desk job is completely different from, say, firefighting. Even my teaching job I had a rough time coming in sick because I had to be on my feet and act enthused no matter how I felt.

          3. ExceptionToTheRule*

            I worked with a guy who retired having never taken a sick day in 40+ years. Guy proceeded to die of a heart attack 3 months later.

          4. Jax*

            Really? My company does not offer sick days. We have 5 days of vacation time per year (more if you’ve worked more than 3 years) that can be used as a sick day, but most people would rather take a real vacation then blow them on the flu. They drag themselves in.

            This is horrible–and I am 100% on board with government policies requiring companies to offer paid sick days. But there are many people who never call off, no matter how sick they are. They make the Wall of Superheroes in early January and earn a bonus.

              1. Jax*

                Preach. I hate the nonexistent PTO at this company so much that I’m spamming my congressmen to support FMLA reform and paid sick days.

                It’s ridiculous that companies can’t just act right without the government telling them what to do…but just 100 years ago we had little kids working in factories and a normal work day was 12 hours. Laws fixed that.

                1. Russ*

                  Government does enough to stifle capitalism. You may leave and get another job, or negotiate something different. Once the company finds that no one will work under these conditions, they will change or go out of business.

              2. Carpe Librarium*

                I read that as employees can use up to 5 of their x number of vacation days as sick/unplanned leave.

            1. GrizzlyUrsula*

              Okay that is a terrible, terrible policy. It encourages people to come into work while they are still infectious, which can spread the illness around the workplace. It puts people with lowered immunity at serious risk (Older people, people with very young children, immuno-compromised people, people who live with immuno-compromised people). My immune system is fine, and I’d rather take on extra work for the day than catch the flu from a co-worker who refused to stay home out of a misplaced sense of duty.

              People who come into work when seriously ill are not superheroes. They are martyrs who pup everyone else at risk.

              Also 5 days is insane. I got two weeks (14 days) as an entry level employee my first year on the job. Your workplace has some seriously misplaced priorities.

              1. Zillah*

                People who come into work when seriously ill are not superheroes. They are martyrs who pup everyone else at risk.

                I agree. I understand that sometimes your company doesn’t really give you a choice, and that’s one thing, but I hate it when people act like they deserve to be lauded for their work ethic when they come in sick. It does not make you cool, and my not-great immune system does not thank you. Ugh.

            2. Meg*

              Full-time employees at my company receive 4 weeks paid vacation, and a 5th week after 5 years. I think they can continue to accrue vacation time yearly after that. We also offer maternity/paternity/adoption leave, sick time, and personal time.

          5. The IT Manager*

            Not to be snarky, but these “super-human” probably don’t have kids or much contact with kids. Kids especially young ones in day care are magnets for contagion and often pass it on to the rest of the family.

            1. Anonymous*

              The point was that these super humans do not exist.

              I have no contact with children, and always get a cold or two a year.

              That is why I said, everyone is sick at least 5 days a year.

              1. Anon*

                I do have contact with kids, and don’t believe I have ever needed to use a sick day for myself. They are always spent staying home with a sick kid, or sitting in the hospital while they get stitched up, etc.

                Somehow if I ever do catch something that would merit staying home from work, it only rears its head on weekends.

              2. doreen*

                Lots of people get a cold or two a year- but IME few people take any sick days for a cold. Bronchitis, pneumonia,sinus infections, yes. But the only people I know who might call in sick over an ordinary,runny nose sort of cold are attendance problems for other reasons.

            2. Aunt Vixen*

              People have different immune systems. There’s nothing sub- or super- about it. I get sick if someone in the next county has a cough. My fiance could take care of a whole plague ward and not get a sniffle.

              1. Laura*

                THIS. We have two kids age 5 and under. And let me tell you, I catch most of what they do, and my husband maybe gets one of these things a year.

                1. sunny-dee*

                  Yep, although it’s reversed for my husband and me. I get sick maybe once a year or less (but if I do get sick, it knocks me out). He works with The Public (restaurant GM), and gets sick every 6 weeks. Although, he never takes off and powers through, and I work from home, so neither of us ever takes a sick day.

              2. fairyfreak*

                Even when my husband and I get the same thing, we react differently! He gets falling-down sick for a day and then gets better, and I’m unhappy sick for a week. I’m not sure which is better, but since we’ve got 2 kids, it’s good that we’re different. We can’t both get falling-down sick at the same time!

            3. Celeste*

              Correct. Also, the little darlings can’t drive themselves to medical and dental appointments, and that costs even more time. Our employer sanctions sick time for this but I’m sure some have to use vacation or personal leave.

              1. MaggietheCat*

                That’s exactly my line of thinking. All of my sick time is devoted to the children :)

            4. JC*

              Agreed. Even more relevant if your workplace allows you to take sick days to care for sick kids. I don’t have kids and have taken 3 sick days in 5 years, but I’d be surprised if someone with young kids could say the same.

            5. JoAnna*

              Agreed. I very rarely take sick time because I’m sick — it’s usually because one of my kids is sick and can’t go to daycare.

          6. Elizabeth*

            I haven’t had an unscheduled day off in over 2 years. I used to have to take multiple days off for colds & migraines, but the last couple years, I’ve gotten sick on weekends but been better by Monday. If I’ve had a migraine on a workday, I could take medication & be in an hour late. When I woke up with a sinus infection not to long ago, I made a trip to urgent care, got antibiotics & started taking them and was at work only a couple hours late.

            I would honestly just as soon be sick on a weekday, though. I enjoy my weekends away from work as a way to recharge mentally, and being sick doesn’t let me accomplish that.

            1. bearing*

              I always say that my superpower is getting sick on Friday afternoons, being laid up all weekend, and being better by Monday.

              I think my immune system must be able to prioritize.

              1. Sarahnova*

                This is actually not unusual! Your body can often temporarily hold off succumbing completely to an infection if you’re focused on something, then once you relax – WHAMMO.

                I did my undergrad at Oxford, which has short but very intense academic terms, and I used to get sick as soon as term ended, like clockwork.

          7. Gilby*

            Bronchtis will take me out for at least 3-5 days depending on the severity.

            Aside from bronchitis, which is my body’s choice of sickness I am rarely out.

          8. Katie the Fed*

            Seriously. I’m a walking petri dish and everyone I work with has young kids. I am out at least 5 days a year.

          9. Noelle*

            I almost never get sick, and when I do it’s unfortunately usually over weekends, holidays, or already planned vacations. Last year I took my first summer vacation in five years, and I got strep throat :(

          10. Purr purr purr*

            Me. I consider it to be an unlucky year if I get even a cold. My last cold was October 2011 and I only remember that because I was about to go scuba diving and panicking about not being able to. Haven’t been ill at all since then.

          11. HR Lady*

            I’ve probably taken a total of 3 separate sick days in the 12+ years I’ve had my job.

            I think my husband has taken 1, maybe 2, sick days in the 8+ years he’s been at his job.

            We are blessed with good genes :)

            1. HR Lady*

              And just to be clear: that’s 3 sick days total. Not 3 per year. (Same with the example of my husband: 1 or 2 sick days EVER at his current job.)

          12. Adam V*

            My first company only gave 6 sick days each year – 4 “excused” (with a doctor’s note) and 2 “unexcused”.

          13. Meg*

            I had an injury that prevented me from working for a few days, but other than that, I hadn’t been sick or used a sick day in almost 4 years (2008-2012). As soon as I moved to a new area though, I got sick :(

          14. aebhel*

            I don’t think I’ve ever taken more than one sick day a year. Granted, up until recently I didn’t get paid sick time, but even so, unless I’m going to take time off every time I get a runny nose (do people seriously do that?), I wouldn’t use up anywhere near five days a year.

            …which is probably fortunate, actually, because I’m going to be having a kid soon, and I suspect that my sick days will be relegated to ‘child is too sick to go to daycare’ days very shortly.

          15. Jen RO*

            Last time I took a sick day was 3 years ago. I had an infection and had a high fever for almost a week. I’m pretty healthy in general (and I could’ve avoided that fever too if I paid more attention to my symptoms).

          16. WorkerBee*

            I have never taken a sick day from any job, ever. Granted, I’ve only been in the workforce a few years, but it was definitely less than five x/year.

        1. Anonymous*

          And when people do that, it makes it harder to believe the people who actually ARE sick 5 (or 10 or what have you) days a year, and tends to create a culture where managers are naturally suspicious of those who take their sick time even when it’s needed.

          When I was a junior college, I had a then-undiagnosed autoimmune disorder and I was sick fairly frequently. I had 3 excused absences in every class and one semester, I had to use them all. My grades were severely docked for it and I was told that the expectation was that the 3 absences were there not to just be USED but only used if needed. But the thing is, I actually needed them! And I even told my professors and kept them in the loop – and I never went over, even though a few times I had to drag myself to class. It didn’t matter though because the underlying policy was that you just. didn’t. use. them. all.

          It was a hard lesson and it still bothers me that a lot of workplaces have similar policies or that it isn’t your “right” to use them all because it places undue burden on the employer. So then, frankly, in my opinion, the employer or college should only allow the amount that wouldn’t place undue burden if someone DOES have to use them all. But I know that’s maybe a “how it should be” vs “how it is” thing, and since then I just suck it up if I have a flare-up and I’ve already used a sick day in x amount of time.

          1. Kelly L.*

            That’s a stupid policy–if you have 3 excused absences, that should be how many you get without a penalty to your grade. Blerg on your behalf.

          2. Malissa*

            My problem with sick days and college classes. I paid for each and every one of those classes. As long as I am keeping up on my work and not causing undue burden on the teacher it really shouldn’t matter how often I’m out for any reason. It’s my money I’m wasting.
            Online classes are the best thing ever just for this reason.

          3. Jess*

            This sort of thing is what taught me to have things registered as a “disability” whenever possible. Even when the only result is going to be that I miss class/work a bit more. The legal label gives you a lot more protection for a few extra days out – even if that’s all I needed.

    2. some1*

      My former company had a limited number of sick and vacation time. One of my coworkers called in sick when she wasn’t sick enough that she was more than 40 hours in the hole on both sick and vacation time.

      1. Jean*

        Joining in late to give a shout-out to the others whose bodies go straight from Noticing the presence of one little cold virus to Developing fullblown bronchitis. I could be the poster child for people with lousy genes for resisting respiratory infections. Have things gotten better with time? No, because the co-occurring symptom is that I’ve been working at home–not out in public breathing everybody’s germs and microbes!

        For maximum fun, pair this condition with colleagues or a supervisor for whom it’s always Just a Cold. Alternately, pair this condition with office mates who Never Stay Home Even When They’re Deathly Ill and Spewing Contagion.

  2. Anon for This*

    We have a variation on this at my office and I’m curious what people think – we have someone who is often out but more so on Fridays and Mondays; the explanation is that the week wears her down (hence Fridays) and the weekend messes up her sleep schedule and makes her prone to insomnia on Sunday nights (hence Monday).

    My instinct is that this is fine, but when we’re at the point where her reliability is not conducive to do the job, we’re at the point where her reliability is not conducive to do the job. But it’s a tough situation.

    1. Anon for This*

      (I should note, she’s usually working from home instead of calling in sick, but that she’s in a position where not all tasks can be done from home so the effect is kind of a semi-sick day.)

      1. gbgbgb*

        FWIW, it can also simply be logical.

        I get migraines and I drag myself in a lot in spite of them (because I”m not putting anyone else @ risk of getting sick–it’s not like you’re going to catch them from me!), but I will say, Friday (er, because I work 4-10’s, that’s Thursday in my world, but, still Friday for the rest of you) and Monday are the hardest days to drag myself in. 1-the week wears me down, so I’m that much MORE likely to have a migraine on Monday and 2-the ‘weekender’ headache, where the change in stress (going from the stressful work week to the non-stressful weekend) triggers a migraine–which can easily last 3 days.

        Not saying it’s not a problem, just saying that there’s a reason I have more sick days on My Monday/Friday.

        And a few people mention things about how to fix it–maybe valid, maybe not in her situation, but I personally respond with a GREAT deal of hostility toward people who try to nose into my health business @ work–I’ve seen literally dozens of specialists, I take daily medications, I do all sorts of things they’re unaware of to keep this at bay, it feels intrusive and generally obnoxious for laypeople to try to nose into a medical problem. (rather like saying “oh, have you heard about how tea-tree oil and breastmilk helps?” to people w/ a cancer diagnosis. I”m well aware this is a problem, I’m well aware of treatments. I’m already dealing w/ the world’s most awesome doctors, what Joe Schmoe has to tell me about it is probalby not really news)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, I agree with your last paragraph. I would do her the service of pointing that out to her directly though — as in, something like “I understand what you’ve explained about your insomnia, and I’m sympathetic. The reality is, though, that we need someone who’s reliably here on Fridays and Mondays the vast majority of the time. I want to give you an opportunity to look into whether there’s anything you can do that will help you do that, but ultimately that is what we need in the position.”

    3. Del*

      If she’s just having insomnia because her sleep cycle is disrupted, that is very much fixable. She might need to rearrange her plans so that she’s not staying up till 4am or whatever on Saturday night, but that is something that is absolutely within her control.

      Now, there are forms of insomnia that are less responsive to lifestyle changes (I’m battling some of that myself, so I’m definitely sympathetic) but if it’s just a sleep cycle disruption from weekend activities, that’s not set in stone. There are also non-prescription sleep aids that can help with minor insomnia without creating heath havoc, if your relationship with her is such that making a suggestion of the sort is appropriate.

      1. some1*

        I stay up/sleep late on weekends but I use sleeping pills just on Sunday nights. I’m a little more tired on Monday but I don’t feel like I’m dragging.

      2. littlemoose*

        Wholeheartedly agree. I know my migraines are triggered in part by irregular sleep, so I try not to let myself stay up late or sleep too much on weekends. That just comes with the territory of having a chronic condition sometimes. Her weekend sleep schedule can likely be improved to minimize the Monday absences.

      3. Zillah*

        Yeah, I have to agree. When you struggle with insomnia, you need to practice good sleep habits all the time, not shrug them off on the weekends. It might put a wrench in your social life, but either you accept that or you find a new job that can accommodate you.

        1. Jamie*

          This works for migraines, also.

          Once I stopped sleeping in on weekends and kept to basically the same schedule as during the week I had a massive reduction in weekends from hell.

          I miss sleeping until noon, but it’s just not worth it.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      Unless she’s asking for a reasonable accomodation for something like insomnia (and being out most mondays is probably not “reasonable”) then she needs to pull it together and get to work.

      1. Simonthegrey*

        If being out Mondays was how I treated my weekend-induced insomnia and sleep problems (they run in the family but god knows I make them worse by my lifestyle choices), I can pretty well guarantee that I would eventually start missing Tuesdays because Monday nights now mess up my insomnia.

    5. Musereader*

      Seriously?! Weekend induced sunday night insomnia happens to me all the time! I would never use it to get out of work on monday. I know that most people I have discussed it with have similar problems.

    6. LBK*

      This seems like a stretch of the term “insomnia”…honestly, it sounds like she goes out late on Friday and Saturday and then can’t fall asleep on Sundays. She probably has trouble sleeping/goes to sleep late the rest of the week, too, hence being “run down” by Friday. I do the same thing, honestly, but I don’t treat it like a medical condition – I treat it like me being stupid and not going to bed when I should! Feels hard to be sympathetic in this situation.

      1. Zillah*

        Well, some people truly do have problems with insomnia or who just have a delayed sleep clock (which there’s probably an actual name for, but I don’t know it). It’s not that uncommon. I struggle with my sleep, because my body tends to think it’s three or four hours earlier than it really is, so I have sympathy for people with similar problems.

        That said, it’s not clear that that’s what’s going on here – I’m inclined to think that you’re right, and she’s just going out late on Friday/Saturday. And, of course, while I have sympathy for people with similar problems, at the end of the day it’s not the company’s job to accommodate them. If it’s impacting their work, they need to grapple with it as best they can or find a workaround that’s okay with both them and the company.

        1. Lalou*

          A delayed sleep clock is a thing? Keeping a normal sleeping pattern is and has always been a constant battle for me. Morning people confuse me so much – whenever I have had prolonged periods of time off of school or work my sleep pattern just defaults to bed at 1am, wake at 9:30 on the dot. If I could get myself a job that starts at 10am I would never need an alarm clock again.

          1. Ellie H.*

            Yes! Read “Internal Time” by Till Roenneberg. I read it recently and it sheds useful light on so many things.

          2. HR Lady*

            BTW, there are jobs that start at 10 AM. (And there are bosses that let you set your own schedule, for certain jobs, in certain industries, and probably once you’ve proven that you are a really good contributor.)

      2. Lalou*

        I often do the same thing too. I turn back into teenage me at the weekends and sleep too long and too late, then get major denial that Monday will happen and put off going to sleep even more. Most Monday mornings start with me lying in bed, trying to reason myself back to sleep because I am just So Tired. This Monday morning just gone my dream-brain very nearly convinced me that it was not actually Monday at all – it was actually Sunday again because someone messed up the leap years or something. Flawless logic!

        So yeah – Monday mornings are difficult, but unless I genuinely didn’t sleep at all I would be able to suck it up and drag myself to work on time, or at the very worst an hour or two late. I have suffered from long periods of insomnia before triggered by anxiety but this affected me on all days of the week, not just Mondays. From the reason she gave (weekends mess up her sleep schedule) it sounds to me like this person just needs to get it together.

    7. L McD*

      I mean, I feel that, but at the same time that’s the same crap we all deal with. And a lot of it is still on her. I don’t want to be harsh because I don’t know this woman, and she might have health issues that make her more prone to true exhaustion vs. the typical “this week sure wore me out.” But I would be willing to bet there are plenty of people who feel the same way she does, but work through it. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that.

      The insomnia particularly bugs me. The weekend doesn’t “mess up her sleep schedule,” she CHOOSES to keep a different schedule on the weekends, and consequently she’s not tired on Sunday nights when she’d normally be going to bed for work. Again, something most people deal with to some extent. Whether or not she has clinical insomnia that she deals with on a regular basis, a Sunday-specific phenomenon sounds more like “I only woke up six hours ago because I was partying all Saturday night, and now I can’t sleep.” (Harsh, maybe, because it could be some kind of family or social obligation that she feels tied to – but I don’t really know many of those that absolutely REQUIRE you to stay up so late that your schedule is completely screwed up for Monday.)

      You can’t do much about her personal life, although considering she brought it up, maybe you could say that keeping a regular schedule on weekends, setting an alarm in the morning etc. helps some people avoid the Monday morning “shock to the system.” And conversations about her workload and stress management during the week might help shed light on why she’s so drained by Friday that she feels she can’t come in.*

      * I’m assuming she’s not actually sick (or claiming to be sick) – but really, if it’s that lack of sleep and work stress are making her sick this often, it probably needs to be addressed the same way.

      1. Anon for This*

        I don’t know all her circumstances, but I suspect that it’s a combination of a lot of the things you mention and that things legitimately are really difficult for her but also perhaps not handled perfectly on her end (which I’m sure, in turn, is partly because it’s difficult to handle things super well when you’re dealing with a lot of other things that sap your energy).

    8. Sickie*

      I have Crohn’s Disease, and what usually happens to me is that I am slowly running myself down, and then Friday comes and I just don’t feel well enough to go into the office. But, this happens maybe 2 or 3 times a year.

    9. Jennifer*

      We had someone like this who maybe made it in ONE Monday that I ever saw. I honestly don’t think she ever came in more than three days in a row, tops. I think she had some kind of chronic illness, but she was a top manager and plenty of things didn’t get done because she was never around to sign off on them. Every time she went on vacation, she’d be gone for 3 weeks in Japan or wherever and then call in sick for the next 2 weeks to recuperate from her vacation. It was really ridiculous after awhile because it just seemed clear that if she was that ill all the time, she couldn’t work. It took years for her to finally leave the job on her own too.

      I suspect the answer to this is that the higher up you are, the more you can do whatever the hell you want.

    10. KrisL*

      The weekend messes up my sleep schedule too, and I feel sleepy on Monday morning, but I wake up and deal with it.

    11. Kelly*

      I have to say that I am not much of a morning or a Mondays person. I worked retail for several years with a lot of late night shifts, so transitioning to a 8 to 5ish schedule was tough. It took me almost 6 months to get used to getting up at 6 am during the week. I would love it if I had the option to come in later on Mondays around 9 am and work later or take a shorter lunch. Due to staffing issues, that won’t happen.

      I wonder if this person is hourly or salaried. That could make a difference because if they are salaried and getting their work done from the office Tuesday through Thursday and some work done from home Mondays and Fridays. That’s a whole different situation than an hourly person calling in on those two days on a consistent basis. There are salaried people who work more than 40 hours a week, but there are also the ones who come in late and leave early on a regular basis. Of course, it’s helps that they are probably management and claim that they answer email or take work calls at home, but hourly people do that too and don’t get paid for their time.

    1. Anonymous*

      The last time I needed a doctor’s note for work, the clinic was closed for the day due to too many patients, and the next day when I tried again, I got there right when they opened and waited for six hours. I wish businesses would stop doing this.

    2. Calla*

      Yeah, I work in healthcare and I’m pretty sure all doctors hate them.

      Timely, because I want to send this article to my professor. I take evening classes in an adult degree program and missed last night due to back issues (I have constant low-level pain that sometimes flares really bad). I emailed my professor, let her know, and turned in our small assignment. She asked for a doctor’s note. Really, though? You want me to make an appointment with the doctor (impossible for same-day anyway) and essentially pay for a note for back pain, instead of trusting your adult student?

      1. Anoners*

        Our doctors HATE them with a passion. We created a separate day clinic for walk-ins, and added an appointment type of “doctors note” so we could track how many we were getting. It was ridiculous, and led to a little PSA campaign on our part to talk about the burden this puts on the healthcare system and employees.

        1. Calla*

          To be fair, she didn’t say it was required or I’d be penalized — but she did still ask for one!

          1. Simonthegrey*

            I have never asked a student for a doctor’s note. That’s ridiculous. After all, you’re an adult; if you need to miss class, I can safely assume that you know what you’re doing. I don’t go out of my way to give allowances to students when they have missed class for illness, but I make everything available for them to make up any work. That’s silly on your professor’s part.

      2. tesyaa*

        If you have a doctor you see regularly, they might be willing to provide a note after a phone consultation, especially if they’re familiar with your chronic issue.

        1. Calla*

          I work with doctors and one is aware of the issue so I’ll probably just have him write one. She won’t know the difference. I’m stubborn and don’t want to provide one just on principle though!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Another option — provide one (thus giving you the moral high ground in a sense) and accompany it with a note explaining why this is so problematic.

          2. Becca*

            I am also an adult student and working professional with chronic pain issues. I have had a professor ask me once, in similar circumstances, to provide a doctor’s note (I missed a Saturday morning class but turned in the assignment online and held an A average). I declined politely. I pointed out that I had a handle on the material, I met my commitment, my doctor’s office was closed, the note would cost me money, and it was ultimately unnecessary. I asked her whether it was truly necessary given my circumstances, and explained that I felt she was using fairness in the sense of treating people the same regardless of circumstance vs. treating each student individually.

            You may want to try a polite, assertive pushback and see if that works for you. It worked in that situation for me. She agreed with my point, and it wasn’t an issue.

            1. Calla*

              Thanks! I think I’m going to first clarify whether she views it as necessary (there is zero context other than “Bring in a note” from her email), and if she says yes, take this approach.

              I really wish I could take class from home like some people have the option to work from home in situations like this!

      3. AdjunctForNow*

        I always tell my students not to bother, because the ones who are trustworthy will show me that by being good students the other 95% of the time, and the ones who aren’t, won’t. I then assign grades accordingly.

        1. Calla*

          Yes! I’m a little biased, but I think I’m a great student. Judge on that, assuming I’m not missing tons of days. Now to be fair, as I added above, she didn’t say it was required in order to not be penalized, but I think it’s something you shouldn’t even bother asking for, especially for something minor (if I had missed multiple days and said I was in the hospital, that makes a bit more sense).

      4. L McD*

        I can see this being less crazy if she was specifically offering to excuse the absence (assuming she grades on attendance), but only if you could prove you’re sick. If that’s not part of the conversation, though, I’m flabbergasted. I’ve never had a teacher take issue with receiving an assignment via email if I had to be absent.

        (The excused absence thing is still not ideal, mind you, but for me it would contextualize why she even feels the need for “proof” in the first place. Otherwise it’s soooo far into the realm of “none of her business” that I can’t even wrap my head around it.)

        1. Calla*

          Yes, it may be possible she’s requesting it in order to not count it towards my number of allowed absences, which would be nice — but that wasn’t part of the email, so I don’t know. It was literally just “I hope you’re feeling better. Bring in a doctor’s note [next class].”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            “I don’t go to the doctor for this type of back issue. I’m surprised by the request — I’m a responsible adult who is on top of my assignments, and I’d rather not be expected to pay a fee for an unnecessary doctor’s appointment to ‘prove’ my absence was legitimate.”

          2. PB*

            I think in your case it should not matter as you were handing in work on time.

            With my students if they are asking for an extension on their assignment due date then I ask for a note – this is mostly a bureaucratic exercise – to be seen as treating everyone fairly etc etc.

            I don’t always ask though…..especially if it’s only a day or two.

    3. ghostwriter*

      The reasons I hate doctor’s note requirements:

      1) Clinics charge $25 for them where I live, and as an intern I already lose a day’s pay every time I have to take a sick day

      2) The average waiting time at clinics in my area is about 2 hours, which is not great when you’re sick and just want to be in bed

          1. Chris*

            Seconded. I cannot get my doctor to make a “just a note” appointment- that stupid slip of paper costs me $75-$100

            1. ghostwriter*

              Maybe it’s my Canadian privilege talking :). I still reserve the right to gripe about it, though.

                1. WorkerBee*

                  I’ve never waited more than an hour or so in a clinic. Am I just insanely lucky or something?

            2. Not So NewReader*

              I lost two days pay plus $113 for the doctor appointment. I only would have been out one day but I rested. This meant I had to lose a second day tracking down someone with MD after their name.

              The whole fiasco came to over several hundred dollars out of pocket. All because my boss did not believe me.
              I almost told him to hire only people he could believe. Then I realized there aren’t any such people.

      1. Marmite*

        My employer only requires a note if you’ve been off for 7+ consecutive days, so generally at the point where you likely want to be seeing a doctor anyway. Doctors can sign you off for x days ahead of time, so, for example, if you go see the doc on Tuesday and he thinks you’re going to need a week off work to recover from your plague-lurgy then he can write a note there and then signing you off for a week. Then when you go back to work a week on Wednesday you just take the note with you.

      2. PB*

        Reason I love AUS. Funding of our Medicare system requires about 1-1.5% of income as tax.

        The benefit? Never having to pay to see the doctor (bulk billed it’s called) or for care in a public hospital.

        Waiting times still aren’t that great though…

    4. Sarah*

      I work in a union environment so unfortunately doctor’s notes for excessive sick leave is a necessary step – but in the end it is worthless because the employees how abuse sick time also have doctor’s that will give them notes for anything.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This. Where I live there are plenty of doctors who know that X or Y employer does not have a good reputation. They will write people out for a hang nail- just because they know people need a break in the insanity.

      2. JuliB*

        That might be a nice add-on profit center for a dr. Advertise doctor note appointments for $25 / 10 minutes. Have them talk with an LPN, print up a note, and send them on their way.

    5. holly*

      i went to a urgent care center recently and they asked me if i needed a dr. note. it was so weird and made me feel like i was in school or something! but i guess there are still lots of occupations that need them?

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        The one time I did get a note at the doctor, it was not to excuse my absence while I was at the doctor (which I’d done myself in the accepted I’m-an-adult way of e-mailing ahead of time: “I’m going to the doctor, should be in by 10”) – it was to tell my managers that they, the doctors, were instructing me not to go back to work for at least two weeks. HR just needed it to put in the file in case any questions were ever raised about that length of absence. (When I got back, all my passwords had expired and I had a new officemate.)

      2. OhNo*

        You know, I got asked that too when I had to go to the ER not too long ago. It was very weird to me, not least of which because it was 3 in the morning and I had just been in a car accident.

        I was so flabbergasted that I actually had to ask the doctor – there are workplaces that require a doctor’s note to prove you’ve been in a car accident?! I just emailed my supervisor and coworkers to let them know. There were no questions at all. They even brought cake for me when I got back!

  3. BCW*

    I’ve mentioned this before, but I hate that the fact that if someone calls in on a Monday or Friday, which is 40% of the week, that its assumed that they are faking or whatever. Its possible sure, but its not that unlikely that someone will be sick then. Or even that they are feeling bad Thursday, but plow through and take Friday off. Not saying that this person is doing this (although I too wonder how many times she has done it to make it a pattern), but its like an automatic assumption with some people, and thats not right

    1. Bryan*

      I think in this case it’s a possibility that it’s repeated behavior and that’s when in this case it has turned from sick to a vacation. But I agree that there is an unfair stigma. When I schedule a Dr appointment I make sure to not do it on a Monday or Friday.

      1. The Real Ash*

        Those are the days I specifically schedule my medical appointments. I’m lucky that I have a relationship with my manager such that I can tell her they’re doctor appointments, but you’re giving yourself a bit of a longer weekend. As long as you don’t abuse that, I don’t see why that would be an issue.

    2. NK*

      If a person is sick a couple days a year, I don’t think anyone is really noticing if it happens on a Monday or Friday. I’m guessing if it’s often enough to notice a pattern, it’s probably a problem regardless of what days it’s happening on. The fact that it’s often happening on Mondays and Fridays just makes it further suspect.

      1. Katieinthemountains*

        Yes, we have a major deadline the first Monday of the month that can lead to much stress as multiple project managers try to get reports finalized and across town by noon, and we had a secretary who was frequently out sick on that Monday, especially if it was preceded by a payday Friday. If she were a rock star employee, we would have been sympathetic about her frequent illnesses, but she wasn’t. Pattern + character/work ethic is what makes it suspicious.

    3. Nelle*

      Definitely. I got food poisoning on a Sunday night once, and I felt very self-conscious calling in on Monday morning.

      1. BCW*

        Same think happened to me. It didn’t help that people knew I went away for the weekend. There was an assumption that I just wanted another day off, but I was miserable.

      2. GrizzlyUrsula*

        I once got a stomach flu the Thursday before a long weekend where the extra day off was Monday. What followed were the most miserable three days in existence (well, according to myself at peek self pity while barfing at two in the morning).

        But man was I ever conscience of how bad it looked calling in sick that day. If my manager was a more suspicious person, it definitely would have looked like I was trying to score a 5 day long weekend.

        But happily my manager is a reasonable sort of person who doesn’t want to see people drag themselves into the office while ill, and is pretty good about giving approval to take Fridays or Mondays off if you want to actually use your vacation time.

    4. BCW*

      I think if someone is taking “too many sick days” then it shouldn’t matter what day of the week it is If you are noticing that people are taking a lot of sick days, then to me, that is what should be addressed, not the day of the week you are taking them on. Some people may prefer Wednesdays off because it would break up their week, but people wouldn’t notice that as much. However, if I take all 5 of my sick days in a year, and they happen to all be on Fridays, and someone else takes all 5 of theirs and theirs are all on Tuesdays, should I be “spoken to about attendance” over them? I don’t think so.

      1. the_scientist*

        “no work Wednesday” is the best.

        (Disclaimer: I have never called in sick without actually being sick, and the ONE Wednesday I took off this year, I took an unpaid vacation day, planned and approved in advance). But, having Wednesday off breaks up your week so nicely!

        1. LBK*

          Agreed – almost all of our big winter storms that kept me out of the office were on Wednesdays this year. I never realized how nice it is to have a break in the middle of the week like that until now!

        2. Del*

          I used to never work Wednesdays (on a 4×10 schedule) and it was pretty much the only thing that kept me going through that miserable excuse of a job! No-work Wednesdays are amazing.

        3. Marmite*

          I have been known to take the occasional (like one a year, if I haven’t needed any legitimate sick days) “mental health days” and Wednesday is the best day for that. Makes the whole week so much more manageable.

        4. BW*

          Agree! I prefer to break up the week rather than extending my weekend. A longer weekend just means it’s that much harder to get back into work mode afterwards. I recharge a lot more from a break in the middle of the week.

          When I take several days of vacation, I like to do Thursday, Friday, and the following Monday. That way I get 2 short weeks with 1 vacation.

    5. Anonicorn*

      I called in once after a long weekend. I went white water rafting one day, horseback riding and hiking the next, then had an 8 hour drive home and stupidly thought I could work the next day.

      I felt awful for calling in “because I’m tired,” especially when it was my fault for miscalculating how many days I’d actually need off, but I also wish calling in after/before the weekend weren’t considered some juvenile prank for extra time off.

    6. Leslie Yep*

      Totally agree. Sometimes when I can tell I’m getting sick, I just tough it out until Thursday and then take a sick day on Friday so I have 3 full days to sleep it off, rather than getting back to 50% okay with one day off on a Tuesday, and then getting sick again a week later because I didn’t really rest and care for myself enough. If the problem is that sick time is excessive, talk about that.

    7. Anonsie*

      This is what always happens to me– if I feel run down during the week, I’ll push to get to the weekend. I don’t want to be out at the end of the week because I want to wrap things up, and I’ll grind pretty hard to do that. Then I end up crashing and being more ill over the weekend, but usually better by Monday.

      Buuut sometimes not better by Monday, so either I’m out Monday or I try to push and push again and end up being out Wednesday.

  4. LizNYC*

    Thank you, Alison, for allowing for the caveat that this employee *might* have a medical treatment happening that might lead to feeling sick. This might not be the case at all for this particular employee/situation, but as someone who has to take a weekly medication with the main side effect of “flu-like symptoms” for 24 hours (so much fun!), but can linger longer, it’s something that could be a possibility. I used to take my meds on weekdays and would be dragging at work, since I couldn’t take 52 sick days in a year…

    1. De (Germany)*

      Yeah, I take my meds on Saturday night and they can totally mess up my Sundays. Which then means I am not as well rested as others because one of my two days off might be spent with a bad headache and a ban on taking painkillers.

  5. Anonymous*

    How much is “frequent”? At an old job, I was warned that I would be fired the next time I was sick, because I’d been sick on two separate Fridays within the same six month period. Six months!!

    (And my “weekend” at that job was Monday and Tuesday, so the lecture about faking sick to get long weekends didn’t make much sense).

    1. Anonalicious*

      I agree the definition of “frequent” is important. My husband’s former company had a policy that you could only have 5 PTO-U days (Unscheduled PTO – sick was part of PTO, but their PTO was fairly generous) in a calendar year or you would be knocked for attendance on your performance review. If you had 3 or more (not for the same illness) in some period of time – I don’t recall what – you would be put on a PIP.

      1. themmases*

        Wow, I think your husband and I must have the same employer.

        I was told the same thing this year after being out for 5 days in a row, with bronchitis and a fever, from a hospital. Despite our having one big, fairly generous PTO bucket.

        1. Anoners*

          Yeah it was horrible. After a bad flu season went through that place, they modified the policy slightly so that if you are out for the same illness like the flu or something, the manager can count that as once instance of being sick, instead of tracking each day you take. Still sucks though if you have a bad manager who sticks to the old policy.

  6. JennG*

    Has this employee applied for intermittent FMLA? If she has a medical certification from a doctor, she may be protected under FMLA. If she has not completed a certification, you may want to give her that option before taking any adverse employment action. I know AAM believes doctor’s notes are poor option, but if the absences continue and she has not been given that option after notifying the company of the potential for the need for leave it may be a problem. I have also found that the medical certifications can open the dialogue about what accommodations or time off is truly needed.

    1. JennG*

      I work in HR, so as a disclaimer, if an employee completes a medical certification, it may be a violation of their privacy for their manager to see the certification or know what the condition is so it may need to be handled by the person who administers this function.

    2. littlemoose*

      I don’t disagree with you, but I think the onus is still on the employee to at least give the manager a heads-up about what is happening, whether directly or through HR. If there is a serious underlying condition, the manager should at least know about it in general terms. I deal with a couple of chronic conditions, and at my jobs I have scheduled a short meeting with my supervisor just to alert them about it. That way, if I do become ill, it’s not a total surprise. I have also tried to communicate when things get worse, so that they know what is up with me. I once had three doctor’s appointments in a week (well, two appts and a test), and again sat down with my supervisor to let her know that I was undergoing workup for what was eventually diagnosed as celiac disease. But I tried to keep her in the loop (without a lot of details), and to be proactive rather than letting her wonder why I was out so much. Of course, the caveat is that this is a supportive and flexible work environment, and I know many workplaces are not like that. I’m fortunate to have one.

      1. BluBeast*

        I work in a union environment where we have a number of people who use FMLA and intermittent FMLA. It has, in many cases, become a protected way to abuse sick time. Now we have staffing issues due to adhering to a needed law that protects people with a genuine condition.

  7. Also Anon for This*

    I have a family member who is an alcoholic, and who reliably (ha!) calls in sick on Mondays. Usually two or three times a month, and this has definitely been going on for long enough to be considered a pattern. Apparently this is very typical behaviour for alcoholics, needing “extra time to recover from the weekend.”

    I’m not suggesting that your employee is an alcoholic, of course; it’s just somethingelse to think about as you have the conversation. And I have no idea how to proceed from there if it turns out that she is, other than the “your behaviour is impacting your work” conversation. It also opens a whole big can of worms about whether or not alcoholism is considered a medical issue, and how to handle it in that sense.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was leaning toward the alcoholic (or just partying too hard on the weekend) side because the LW made no mention of the employee appearing sick during the week.
      If I’m sick and take a day off, I usually feel it coming on the day before and my co-workers notice.
      If the employee is that sick, she should be sick on a Wednesday once in a while.
      I’m betting the employee knows they can get away with taking the days off, and since no one has said anything about it, they keep doing it.

      1. Anonsie*

        “because the LW made no mention of the employee appearing sick during the week.”

        That’s quite the assumption. You can’t just look at a person and know they’re feeling normal. Plenty of people seem totally normal until they crash completely, or even after. Someone with a chronic illness, too, is especially like to not look like there’s anything wrong (see: And even if it’s just regular ol’ viruses or whathaveyou, not everyone turns into a puddle when they don’t feel well.

        My boss is an amazing illness chameleon, he’s been very sick a few times and I can never tell. The other day someone told me he’s had bronchitis and been on antibiotics/steroids for weeks– I had no idea, he gives off no clues.

  8. Sunflower*

    This is exactly why I am a strong advocate of everything grouped together as personal time. People will always get sick and call out day of but I don’t think you would see as many people calling out sick and work could be planned farther in advance.

    Is your company stingy with vacation time? My company is extremely stingy and as a result, people are always calling in sick on Fridays or Mondays and everyone takes every day they get every year.

    I definitely have some personal bias in here but if you aren’t going to give employees a fair vacation policy than this is what you’re going to end up with

  9. HM in Atlanta*

    I always focus the conversation on that it’s unplanned time off – no matter what leave bank the person uses. We talk about repercussions to their workload and their peers when it’s unplanned.

    Also, a part of this conversation is letting people know that it’s okay to bring up time off they might need for medical or caregiver issues. We are very flexible and supportive. Sometimes, people are afraid to bring these situations up because they’ve been burned by past employers.

    Normally, I ask them to suggest some solutions for decreasing their unplanned time off. For people who work to decrease or find solutions, it’s a big win. They are committed and become advocates of how great the company was to them when X happened. For people who are slackers, then we go down the other path.

  10. HR “Gumption”*

    It’s best if there is a time sheet or payroll record to print off and review.
    First- It’s best for the Manager to confirm it is an actual pattern.

    Second- Difficult for the emp. to deflect or deny when it’s documented so clearly.

    1. AnonHR*

      I’d also agree with this. I had to have a similar conversation with someone who I knew had legitimate reasons for calling off, but it was getting out of hand and I was not looking forward to addressing it. Using her timesheets I was able to identify pretty easily that she had missed one day every payroll for the last few months, and addressing that that was a lot more powerful way of approaching the real issue as opposed to “you have to stop being sick/getting flats/being unlucky”.

  11. John*

    Shared my first apt with a good friend who has a very different work ethic. She took all of her sick days, claiming she was “entitled” to them, and mostly on Mondays when she wasn’t in the mood for starting the work week.

    That kind of attitude blew my mind.

    (She got on the mommy track. Now, her kids have terrible attendance at school.)

    1. Us, Too*

      Not to pick on you, particularly, but… I LOATHE the phrase “mommy track” with a white hot passion.

      I never hear its counterpart (“daddy track”) applied to men when they (albeit infrequently) take time off work to attend to family obligations.

      I’m so sensitive to the possibility that any little thing I do at work related to my child could result in me being classified as someone “on the mommy track” that I avoid bringing up the subject at work. In fact, a colleague/friend mentioned to me that he didn’t even know I HAD a child for the first 4 months we worked together and that two months after that he’d never heard me speak with any sort of “Mom” tones about my child. I told him just what I’m saying here: I’ve seen what happens when women are categorized as “mommy” by their workplaces. And I didn’t want that happening to me. My colleague just looked at me agape. He’s a man.

      At any rate, my point is simply that it’s hard enough to be a woman in a predominantly male field without having to worry about a “mommy track” that has no corresponding “daddy” element for men who work.

      1. Us, Too*

        AND… in the event that I DO take a year off to care for my child, I’ll be treated very differently upon my return than a man who takes a year sabbatical to, for example, travel the world or pursue a hobby. I’ll be a “mommy” returning to work instead of a global adventurer or whatever.

        1. the_scientist*

          A++ to all of this. “Mommy track” is such a repugnant, judgmental, morally superior phrase.

      2. some1*

        Us, Too, I agree with the points you made and I can see how the term “mommy track” comes off as offensive.

        However, I used to be friends with a woman like John describes. She calls herself a stay-at-home mom, the truth is, she didn’t work much at all well before she had kids. She would work retail jobs for a few weeks at a time and either call in sick until they canned her or just stop showing up because she her work schedule interfered with her social life. Having her first kid just gave her a socially acceptable reason not to work.

        1. some1*

          ETA: and her children are frequently absent from school, as well, and have issues turning in homework.

        2. Us, Too*

          Kids may be her excuse, but if the problem is her work ethic, let’s talk about that, not her parenting status. Imagine the public outcry if I pointed out that someone had an attendance issue due to a claimed medical issue (that wasn’t actually a medical issue) and I made a comment like “Apollo’s on the disability track”. Duuuuuude. No. Just, NO.

          1. Jax*

            Yes, let’s talk about a woman’s work ethic and not her parenting because:

            1. It sneers at stay-at-home parenting with an attitude of, “Now she’s lying at home on her couch all day while the kids play in another room!” which is a huge fallacy of stay-at-home life.

            2. It subtly accuses all women that if they have children they aren’t as dedicated to their careers and went “mommy track” instead of “ladder climber”.

            3. It places a low value on children, as in, “She couldn’t hack life in the adult world so she retreated by popping out a couple of kids.” It makes her look like a cold and callous mother who gave birth to little Get Out Of Work Free cards.

        3. Jennifer*

          Maybe we should call it the “slacker track.” God knows I’ve known a few childless dudes who are on that one.

      3. aebhel*

        This this this. A woman with a bad work ethic and attendance is a lousy employee. Her children or lack thereof do not and should not figure into it. That phrase is offensive not just to SAHMs but to all women who work.

        FWIW, my mother quit her job when I was born and until quite recently hadn’t worked outside the home in 25 years. And trust me, she didn’t spend it lazing around the house doing nothing.

    2. JustKatie*

      As a former teacher (even in a great school district!), I cannot believe how lax some parents are in making sure their child gets to school. If you blow off work, that’s on you to face the consequences. Not teaching your kids the importance of getting to school and self-discipline is terrible. And it’s never really possible for chronically absent students to fully make up their missed work. I taught foreign language, so sure, they could complete worksheets and watch some videos, but could never make up for the crucial class communication time. Way to screw over your kids.

      1. Us, Too*

        I was always way ahead of my classmates so missing school really had no impact on my academic performance. I learned more at home doing my own reading and pursuing my interests under my own steam than I did at school. (This may be a reflection of the quality of public education I received more than my own abilities. I’m hardly Einstein. LOL.)

        At any rate, I’m not sure that missing school is any more an impact on student knowledge retention than missing work is on productivity for an employee. As long as they get the work/job done, who cares if they’re in seat? i.e. the issue here shouldn’t be attendance, but rather performance to whatever standards are in place.

        (I get the argument that absences are a pain for teachers and I think that’s is a fair one. I just don’t get the argument that you’re “screwing over your kids” if they miss class. Take your foreign language example. If you teach French and I take my kid to France for two weeks, isn’t his time better spent in France than in your classroom in terms of real world practice of communication?)

        1. JustKatie*

          That is highly dependent on the student, and you’re right, some kids are able to do well independently in high school (I think elementary is a different story). But a good part of being a student is not just academics, but learning to be a good citizen. Student absences caused me no end of extra work- having to stay later/ arrive earlier to administer tests, making sure I dropped off papers for absent students off to the correct office, having to rewrite lesson plans group/ class activities so that they could be done “independently” (but were never really able to replicate the full experience), and then having to follow up with the student to be sure all the loose ends were tied. And while of course it was my job to help students who were behind for any reason, it gets a bit tiring to have to do all of this for a kid who just didn’t feel like going.

          I was a lot like you as a student (as in, I could teach myself a lot of things, loved to read a learn). But I doubt you were able to replicate the classroom experience of AP physics or French on your own :).

          1. Us, Too*

            I’m not so sure that public schools are in the business of teaching people to be good citizens. At least not in Texas. LOL.

            At any rate, absences being a PITA for teachers is a perfectly valid argument for not taking kids out of class for “stupid” reasons.

        2. Simonthegrey*

          I do think that teaching children the habit of attending school is important. Like you, I learned a lot on my own through reading and having parents who took me to museums and galleries, but unless I was really sick, I was in school.

        3. JustKatie*

          And most parents do not have the means to take their kids to France for two weeks, and if they do (with their non or limitedFrench-speaking family), I GUARANTEE all they’re using is their “merci” and ordering at a restaurant. Not learning how to use the subjunctive. Now if you send your kid to live with a host family for a month, that’s a different story. But can you do that sort of thing for all five to seven courses your child is missing in a day?

          1. Us, Too*

            In your scenario, there appears to be value in attendance. If there is value in attendance, students should attend. I’m talking about situations where there isn’t value – and questioning the academic value of forced attendance. (I completely get the operational value of teacher effort)

            Again, my perspective is one where I did the same worksheets over and over to fill time because I completed my work before everyone else. Talk about non-value.

  12. Jax*

    My husband’s company has a general bucket of PTO to be used for all time off. Last year he called off a lot (in my opinion) due to snow days, sick kids, and his own illness. He got a great performance review and even a comment that he balanced his PTO well.

    His coworker, who used her PTO to take every Friday off in the summer for lots of long weekends, got a bad performance review for her use of PTO. She was really upset because they were all scheduled and approved beforehand. Her manager held it against her anyway.

    My point is that there is a awful stigma around taking Fridays off that sometimes doesn’t even make sense.

    1. the_scientist*

      Few things grind my gears more than workers being penalized for making use of the benefits that they are entitled to. I hear and read lots of bitching about women who take maternity leave- how DARE they drop all this work on their co-workers and inconvenience them! I think this is largely a consequence of the US’s positively inhumane mat leave policies. I also hear and read about “unlimited vacation” workplaces where workers are subtly punished for taking time off at all, or workplaces where it’s an unstated rule that you never call out sick/use your vacation time. Benefits such as vacation time are a part of employee compensation packages and employees are entitled to use them, all of them, within reason- i.e. if the company has travel blackout periods.
      I’m not advocating using all your sick days just because you have them, but if someone genuinely needs all 5 days or whatever, they should not be penalized. And I would guess that you are less likely, as an employer, to have issues with people using their sick days when they don’t need them when you have reasonable sick and vacation policies and foster an environment where taking time off for legitimate reasons is not frowned upon.

      1. Emily K*

        My company allows PTO rollover each year but can only carry forward 150% of your annual allotment each time the calendar changes. The thing that makes it interesting is we have a LOT of employees who stay with us for 5, 10, 15 years because it’s such a great place to work. As a result we end up with a lot of folks with 5+ years tenure who get 4 weeks a year vacation and early in their tenure carried over a 3-4 days their first year, 7-8 their second year, 10-11 than that their third year…until 5 or 6 years in they hit the rollover cap, carry over 30 days and get 20 new ones for the new year, then *have* to use at least 20 days/4 weeks a year or else lose some next time the calendar changes. We get a lot of senior-tenure folks who take off every Friday all summer long because it’s less disruptive and logistically easier to plan than taking 2-week+ vacations.

    2. Jennifer*

      It does seem like the repeated use of the same day is where everyone has a problem with it.

      If someone was taking off every Thursday for five weeks in a row, I wonder how much people would care? Or if they were out one day per week but it rotated as to which day they were out?

  13. Anon*

    Huh- I’ve always worked at fairly flexible places, so grain of salt and all that. But, I always schedule my kids appointments for the last visit of the day on a Friday. First off, if they spike a fever, that means I don’t have to keep them home from daycare (and miss work) the next day. Second, it means I get extra time with the doctor- he always sits and chats more since he doesn’t have anyone else waiting. When #2 was a baby, it felt like every month or two, for a while! It never occurred to me that the people I worked with would see that as me wanting to have a long weekend, even thought I was using “sick leave” for this. IOW, there are lots and lots of reasons, and if the work is still happening, then MYOB. (For the OP, it sounds like there are impacts on work products, so a conversation is worth having).

    1. NK*

      But the difference here is that the time off – while sick time – is scheduled. That is different from taking unscheduled days off on frequent Fridays/Mondays. In my office, people put their scheduled doctor’s appointments on the shared office calendar, so we know when they will be out in advance and can plan for it. I wouldn’t think twice about someone scheduling frequent doctor’s appointments on a Friday/Monday vs. any other day of the week.

    2. BCW*

      Honestly, it probably wouldn’t come off as bad for you to many people, since you have kids who you are taking to the doctor. Whereas a younger, single person, the assumption is that they want to go get drunk all weekend. Its a very unfair assumption

    3. Celeste*

      My child just got started with orthodontia. I had the idea that we could just do the Friday afternoon thing that has worked so well for well-child pedi visits, but at least in my town there is no such thing as an ortho who is open on Fridays! We’re on a Tuesday every 6 weeks schedule. I am dipping into vacation time to cover it because I have a bigger bank of that than sick. I can also run it down to zero with no repercussions, unlike sick. Sometimes you just get locked into whatever a busy in-network provider can give you, and you have to make the best of it.

  14. FormerManager*

    I worked in higher ed for a place that had a VERY generous sick day policy. A colleague took every single one of them because she felt this was her earned benefit. She would even run up sick day deficits, which was not supposed to be allowed. She would email elaborate explanations of her illness to our department, which somehow made it even worse. It always dampened the morale.
    The kicker is, she was an extremely high performer when she was in the office, making her net worth more valuable than the rest of the “lifers” who showed up every day but just marked time.

    1. FormerManager*

      TO CLARIFY: Just need to add here that we became rather friendly and she shared with me that she wasn’t ever really sick.

    2. DCQ*

      Isn’t there some theory that the more details you try to give the more likely you’re lying about something? If I email boss and simply say “I’m not feeling great” that’s probably more believable than “Last night I coughed three times and felt like I was hacking up a lung so think its best if I stay in bed and not infect everyone…”

      1. Sophia*

        Which is a bit demoralizing because I always feel the need to (over) explain – but I”m never lying about my illness!

        1. A Bug!*

          It makes for good television when the protagonist dramatically seizes on a tense shift in the last five minutes of the episode, startling the suspect into confessing everything. But in real life, even highly-trained professionals are not able to consistently separate lies from truth based only on statements from the subject.

          I’m not going to say that nobody’s ever going to conclude you’re lying based on your level of detail, because there are a lot of TV shows that offer a little knowledge of deception theory, and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

          But I don’t think you should fret about it, because there’s not much you can do to prevent it; if someone’s decided you’re lying, they can just as easily settle on “too little detail” as the reason as “too much.” After all, both of those can be indicators of deception!

  15. Anonymous*

    I’m finding it really hard to follow the comments lately. It’s getting way too hard to follow which comments people are replying to.

      1. Fiona*

        I have the same problem, and personally, I think it’s mostly a site design issue combined with more commenters. You’ve got long (and sometimes looooooooooooong) threads of conversation being squished into a relatively narrow space. 6 or 8 or more people’s responses stacked under one comment means I have to keep scrolling up and down to remind myself exactly what each commenter is replying to….and then the next comment in line is actually in reply to an even EARLIER comment, and so on.

        (If/when you do a site redesign, look into responsive/proportional layouts that adjust to the width of the viewing screen rather than assigning fixed widths to each column.)

      2. Ellie H.*

        I LOVE the comments design (and would implore you not to switch to Disqus). They are clean and easy enough to follow, for me. I think it’s more a function of increased number of comments. The ability to collapse threads might be nice, though.

        1. IronMaiden*

          I agree with you. The beauty of this website (apart from the great content) is the ease with which the comments can be read. Perhaps a little place marker might be handy for the really long threads that can’t be consumed whole.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      (Also: Can I ask that you do your part to help with that by choosing a user name? Having multiple Anonymouses makes it harder to follow conversations.)

      1. Anonymous*

        The huge string of comments under this post was really hard to follow:

        BB March 25, 2014 at 11:09 am
        Can OP give us an idea of the company sick policy? If the company has limited sick days vs unlimited than that completely changes things IMO

        I have a username but I usually forget to type it in the box. Maybe it would help if you forced people to sign in to comment?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m actually looking into requiring a user name (but I don’t want to make people sign in, for a host of reasons). Thanks for the further context!

        2. anon*

          If you use the same browser and your settings aren’t on clear everything immediately, the user name is usually saved in the “name” box, from what I’ve seen

      2. A Bug!*

        Does the Name field automatically populate with “Anonymous” if you submit a comment without completing that field? Making it a required field might help. Just the step of having to type in a screen name, even if it’s not protected in any way, might cause many “anonymous” users to put something slightly more unique.

          1. L McD*

            Maybe also one of those systems that randomizes a username for people who don’t choose to use one. That way people can still comment if they don’t feel like coming up with something, and it’ll still be unique.

            1. Laufey*

              Bonus points for the name generator pulling in names like “Theon Greyjoy” or “Peregrin Took” or “Helen Eddis” and the like.

              1. Mints*

                Haha the snark in me thinks the auto names should be slightly embarrassing to encourage nonnies to name themselves
                (Fish Microwaver, Lunch Stealer, Pen Thief)

          2. Jean*

            I chose my user name and use it consistently because this makes me a “Named Anonymous.” In other words, my AAM moniker makes sense to me without being the name by which I’m known in real life.

            Not to be paranoid* but how anonymous is our so-called anonymity as commenters? Alison, I’m fine with the idea that you can trace the IP numbers. I figure that information isn’t available to anyone else because the rest of us are just blog readers. (In the unlikely event that somebody hacks in to the point of retrieving that information, oh well they’ve shown themselves to be a Bad Person and all bets are off.)

            * I’m asking out of plain old curiosity. If my comments went viral I would be embarrassed by some of my attempts at humor, but I haven’t said anything that would justify my being disgraced, arrested, or hit with a lawsuit.

            Sorry to send you War and Peace here. Thanks in advance. No rush to reply.

          3. Jen RO*

            Alison, have your tried going to Settings > Discussion and checking the “Comment author must fill out name and e-mail” box? This does what it says on the tin. (Unless you don’t want to request e-mail addresses, in which case I don’t think there’s anything built into wordpress that allows you to ask for username only.)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes — the problem is that I don’t want to require email addresses, because I think it will suppress commenting. (Let me know if you disagree!)

    2. Kay*

      I occassionally have trouble following, but it’s usually tied to a comment that gets a lot of responses and trying to figure out what was the original comment. It might help if responses were earmarked in a more definitive way than simply one tab over. Kinda like when AAM posts in the open threads.

      1. Emily K*

        For a big parent thread, I’ll put my cursor over the the line on the left-hand side of the first-level child comment and then don’t move the mouse, so as I scroll down using the wheel or Page Down buttons, I can see that any other comments that line up with the cursor are just one-level nested. (Or do the same for second- or third-level nested if it’s a REALLY complex thread!)

  16. HannahMarshmann*

    My manager calls in sick almost all Mondays. So, every Monday I’ve got the Bananarama song stuck in my head, “Just another migraine Mondaaaay. Whoa whoa”

    1. Jamie*

      The Bangles did Manic Monday. I’m sorry…I can’t help myself.

      I’ve known a lot of people who had absenteeism specific to Mondays …the most interesting of which he was an ultimate fighter on the weekends so he was always super sore after the weekends.

      I hate being sick on a Monday or Friday…what’s the point of a long weekend if you’re feeling too crappy to enjoy it.

      1. Jean*

        I’ll be hornswoggled! Could have sworn it was the Go-Gos, but–as per the Oracle of Google–nope. Learn something every day.

    2. ReanaZ*

      Late to the party, but… I have chronic migraines. And they overwhelmingly happen on Mondays. This is probably partially my fault since I am more likely to, say, take my preventative meds an hour late or stay up until the crazy late hour of 10:30pm or eat food prepared by other people (where it’s hard to monitor if it contains any triggers) on the weekend (although I’ve gotten stricter on all of those things, and it hasn’t really helped), but it’s also partially because they’re cyclical and tend to happen in fairly regularly intervals on the medication (i.e. about fortnightly), so they happen on the same days a lot.

      Luckily my boss and department head are very supportive, but I am constantly paranoid this is how people feel about me, despite the fact that I am otherwise a high performer.

  17. DCQ*

    For my current job, I live a little over an hour away from work. My doctors’ offices are by my house and so I often ask to telework when I go to see doctors (and I have chronic medical issues that are frankly none of my employer’s business I have to deal with) and take sick time for the time I’m at the actual doctor. The funny thing is a lot of my appointments lately have been bunched up so there’s been at least one per week the last couple of weeks. I swear my boss thinks I’m pregnant (he made some sort of comment regarding the fact I forget to water the plant in my office and how if I couldn’t take care of that I wasn’t ready to take care of a kid…). Whatever, none of his business and working on getting a new job anyway…

    To the OP — I totally support Allison’s advice here — you never know what’s going on, your employee is not obligated to tell you their medical issues, but expressing your concern about this apparent pattern is the right way to go.

  18. Laura2*

    How content does this employee seem with the work in general? If this isn’t happening every week but happens just semi-regularly, could they be scheduling interviews and taking it out of sick time instead of scheduling vacation/personal time in advance? I’ve always preferred to schedule interviews on Thursday and Friday since it somehow feels easier and less suspicious to miss Friday than to miss a day in the middle of the week. Depending on how your workplace handles time off, they might also think it’s easier/less confrontational to just call in than schedule time in advance.

    1. Elle D*

      I did this when I was job searching in a different city. It was a 3.5 hour drive, so it made so much more sense to schedule interviews for a Friday or Monday and spend the rest of the weekend there so I didn’t have to drive 4 hours, interview and drive home. I did my best to schedule the time off in advance, but I had minimal experience in a crowded field so if a company called me on a Wednesday and needed to see me that week, it seemed easier to just call out sick on Friday.

  19. Anon*

    So I have to admit most of my sick days are on Monday or Friday.

    For Friday: I’m NEVER just sick for a single day – I don’t know who is. So if I take of Wednesday or Thursday, I’ll probably need at least the next day or two to rest and get better. This is why if I feel sick on a Wednesday, I will usually just push through until Friday (unless I’m really worried about coughing/sneezing all over people.) I’m usually half dead by Friday, but at least I only have to take one work day off instead of several.

    As for Monday, I suspect I have bad allergies to mold in my house but can’t afford to move. I often feel really icky after spending the entire weekend in my house. I will wake up on Monday morning with a terrible sore throat and runny nose. Most of the time, I suck it up and go to work knowing that I will feel better if I can just get to work. However, it’s been so bad that I’ve lost my voice because of the allergies. (I’m blaming mold because I’d be really sad if I was allergic to my cat…)

    Now, I take about 6 days off a year. I personally don’t think that’s too excessive. But I would guess 80% of my sick days are on a Monday or Friday.

    1. Sunflower*

      It’s also worth noting that because most employees take vacation days on Monday and Friday, there might not be as much work going on or to be done so the employee feels better about missing a day when not a lot is going on (fri or mon) as opposed to a super busy day (tues-thurs)

  20. Just a Reader*

    My husband’s company pays out all sick time in the first paycheck of the year. If they take a sick day after that, they have to pay it back.

    It’s an awful policy that means everyone works sick. Now that we have a child, it means that we can’t balance sick time between us if we need to stay home with her for some reason, so I get screwed.


    1. LBK*

      That is…bizarre. So do you have a special sick day savings account or something where you keep all the money in case he has to call out? I feel like I would lose track of it…

    2. HR Lady*

      Wow, that is weird. I’ve never heard of that. It doesn’t even make sense from a cash flow perspective for the employer.

      1. Just a Reader*

        Interesting–my husband is exempt but his job is governed by a union. This is a global 500 company.

      2. LBK*

        Out of curiosity, what part of laws governing exempt employees does this violate? My Spidey Sense said it was probably illegal but I couldn’t come up with how based on my limited understanding of exempt employee laws.

        1. Just a Reader*

          It would surprise me if there weren’t some kind of loophole, because the size of the company makes me think they wouldn’t do anything that overtly illegal, especially with unionized workers.

          For context, it was the quintessential American brand until it was bought by a Belgian/Brazilian conglomerate in 2008.

          1. Just a Reader*

            They’re not docking regular pay though–they’re asking for repayment of sick leave paid out at the beginning of the year. The paycheck stays the same.

            They think of the sick pay as a bonus for not calling out, and if you do call out, you forfeit one day’s worth of the bonus.

            Is that the same?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              How you pay it back? Does it come out of your paycheck or do you write them a check? Either way, I think it’s really sketchy; a lawyer could say for sure, but I’d be surprised if this weren’t fertile ground for a legal action.

              1. Just a Reader*

                I don’t know actually–the hub has never called out sick due to the policy. I’ll ask him tonight and then post.

                Overall, this is not a nice company to work for.

    3. Interviewer*

      Trying hard to understand this – why do you have to pay it back? Can they just not pay you for a sick day when you do take it, since they paid you for sick time at the beginning of the year? I am so confused.

      1. fposte*

        This reminds me of those horrible people who tip by putting x dollars on the table at the beginning of the meal and tell the server that for every mistake he or she makes money is coming off of the pile.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          People really do that?
          Doesn’t that almost encourage the wait-person to dump a bowl of soup in their laps?

        2. Nina*

          My ex brother in law did something similar; he would mentally take off $1 for every error the waitstaff would make, but he wouldn’t tell them he was doing it, he would just leave the tip accordingly. I had no idea people actually put the money on the table for the waitstaff to see.

  21. some1*

    My last company would not allow you to take any type of personal or vacation time without notice. That means if you woke up with burst pipes (or some other emergency) you were forced to call in sick.

  22. Anonsie*

    A coworker and I once talked about this in terms of suddenly crashing when you have down time. She was saying she will get sick every time she takes time off work, and often on weekends as well, and says “it seems like once you stop moving all the time, you stop fighting it off as well.”

    Ever since then I notice that this does happen to me to some extent– sometimes I intentionally push through until a scheduled day off, of course, but it does often feel like once you’re away from work all the things you were unwittingly pushing away come crashing on you. You didn’t feel tired during the week, but suddenly Saturday you’re sore all over and exhausted. Or maybe you did notice you felt a little tired but it wasn’t bad, then Friday night suddenly you crash and burn into a fever and shivers. You were a little peeved by something Monday, then on Saturday morning you wake up angry about it.

    It’s like once you don’t have the normal drive telling you to do and think about other things, you suddenly notice all the other stuff. It was already there, but you’d effectively forced it out of your attention just by having to function during the week.

    1. Jamie*

      This is true for me. During particularly intense periods where I’m working excessive hours under a lot of stress I absolutely will be down with a migraine as soon as I have a day or two off.

      I don’t know if it’s the severe dip in adreneline or if it’s some defense mechanism to force me to physically rest when I can – as much rest as you can get with a migraine…I don’t know but this absolutely happens to me and others in my family with stressful jobs.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I had a nasty headache while on vacation visiting family. The joke was made that I did not want to be there thus the headache. (It was nasty. Someone took a baseball bat to my face.)

        One nice person pointed out that migraines happen AFTER the dreaded event not during the dreaded event. I had a shake up at work before vacation. Yeah, I was pretty shook about it. I had to thank that one lone voice, because the jokes were just not that funny.

        1. Anonsie*

          I always get headaches on Saturdays. I don’t know why, but I wake up with spitting headaches on Saturday all the time. Maybe I need to be looking at my Fridays at work…

    2. Trillian*

      All through school and undergrad, I would finish the term and more often than not get sick the day after my last exam/assignment. The most memorable was spending my entire Christmas holiday laid flat with one of the pandemic flus, the only one of my family who came down with it. And all those sunny, warm, flowery, snorking, snuffling, coughing, rheumy-eyed, cement-sinused days of May!

      I didn’t catch things. I slowed down and they caught me.

      1. Chris80*

        “I didn’t catch things. I slowed down and they caught me.”

        +1 I’m also a student and always seem to get sick between semesters.

      2. Aunt Vixen*


        I have a side job as a church musician. It may not surprise you to know how sniffly that organ/choir loft gets the week after Christmas and the week after Easter.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Pipe organs gather a lot of dust and molds, too. That probably helps to intensify the problems.

  23. MaryMary*

    Does anyone have advice for working through a similar situation, but where there’s a pattern of “working from home” because an individual doesn’t feel well, but it seems to happen frequently on Thursday afternoons and Fridays? I’m not the person’s manager, but I’m in a managerial role and several people have commented on it to me. We don’t have a formal work from home policy, but it is seen as a nice little perk to be able to work from home with a minor illness (cold, sprained ankle) instead of having to take a PTO day (vacation and sick time come out of the same bucket).

    1. Elle D*

      Does the person seem to legitimately be working from home? To me it would seem that if she is getting her work done from home and occasional telecommuting is allowed it isn’t really a problem. If there’s a reason “working from home” was in quotes, then I think the bigger issue is an abuse of the telecommuting policy and her manager should address that.

    2. Just a Reader*

      If it’s not an issue of performance, what is the issue? Why not afford someone a perk when they’re working under more comfortable circumstances and still producing? Or is it the timing?

      If “work from home” = less output than when in the office, that’s one thing. But punishing a dedicated employee for working through a minor illness by making them take an unwarranted sick day because you don’t want to give “perks” doesn’t sound like good management.

    3. Dan*

      I used to work for a large defense contractor, who even made the interns take all of those stupid “tests” about harassment and discrimination and all of that stuff that seems to be common sense these days.

      But the big, big, big takeaway I got from all of that was that no matter what the offense, the manager should *always* address performance. What I didn’t understand then (and still don’t to some extent) is that if performance is unaffected, have they really committed a workplace crime?

      That’s a long winded way of saying that if your employee is working from home and getting their work done, why does anybody care about where they are physically located? For the last few years, I’ve worked at places where it simply doesn’t matter where the job gets done. While the employees at your company may see working from home as a “perk”, as a business, it also means that your mission continues to get accomplished without interruption in those scenarios. If I’ve got a deadline, and it happens to snow significantly and shut the office down (or make it hard to come in) I don’t see it as a “perk” to actually get my work done on the deadline that was agreed to by the company and the customer. The other options are that I work longer days the rest of the week, work the weekend, take PTO, move the deadline, or possibly get paid from an admin bucket.

      If your employee isn’t getting their work done, that’s a performance issue that you should address. If they are, then don’t worry about it. And if your company has a “wink wink nod nod” understanding that working from home means not doing any work, that’s a cultural problem, not something specific to one employee.

      *Says the guy who gets more done at home than he does in the office.

    4. MaryMary*

      My organization (well, leadership) values face time in the office, and we have no formal work from home/remote policy. Informally, managers have begun allowing employees to work from home with minor illnesses, since most people have home access for after hours and weekend work. Personally, I am pro working from home, but I am also concerned someone abusing the informal work-from-home-while-sick-program could ruin our ability to have people work remotely on a regular basis.

      The employee in question is not a superstar, so it’s hard to tell if she’s less productive at home. We don’t have strong productivity metrics (is she not answering email because she got stuck on the phone with a client for an hour, or because she’s taking a nap?). Right now, all I’m certain of is that she seems to fall ill at the end of the week. Repeatedly.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Has the person been told what the policy or expectation is?

      Personally, I would need to be told directly and clearly what the guidelines are. (But I would probably ask and not make
      management me hunt me down to tell me.)

      Maybe she just needs clarification.

  24. Anonsie*

    Another thought– does this employee’s work schedule have anything to do with it? Say, maybe Tuesday and Wednesday she has a lot of inflexible work so she’ll push herself to stay with it no matter what.

    Because really, Thu/Fri/Mon is MOST of the week. Seems less like they’re blowing off Fridays as much as maybe they avoid ever being out on Tues/Weds.

    1. Anon*

      Thanks for wording this. I REALLY hate taking Tuesdays and Wednesdays off because those are always my busiest days.

  25. Joey*

    Personally I don’t like the idea of mentioning co workers resentment for someone’s absences. I think it has the potential to cause the person to resent his co workers and wrongly feel like the manager might not have had a problem with it if it weren’t for the co workers.

    1. some1*

      I agree. But the manager could frame it as, “When you call in, I need to pull Jane away from the Smith account to work on your accounts blah blah and it stretches the team very thin.”

    2. Del*

      Agreed. While it might come up as part of the discussion, the manager should focus on the actual impact to other employees – ie “When you take Friday off, Wakeen has to cover your [special Friday duty] as well as his own, and that’s pretty tough on him,” rather than “yeah everyone secretly hates you because you do this.”

  26. Case of the Mondays*

    I’m a weekend warrior and tend to injure myself over the weekend requiring a doctor’s visit on Monday. Or I just totally overdo it and am wiped out on Monday. I also have food allergies and only eat out on weekends but sometimes I get exposed and am still recovering come Monday.

    1. Jean*

      At the risk of sounding simultaneously concerned and harsh, can you modify your life to minimize weekend injuries (maybe find time to exercise midweek) and exposure to allergens? You might save yourself a lot of muscular, skeletal, and other kinds of suffering.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        Yeah I made that sound way worse than it usually is. It usually only happens a couple times a year, not every Monday. I agree though, I need to fix it!

  27. Ursula*

    I had a coworker who was often out on Mondays. The thing is, she had friended me on Facebook so I would occasionally see her posts about being out for drinks with her “besties” late on Sunday night.

    She quit by email one Monday morning and never came in again.

  28. Mona*

    I used to work for the Federal Government. There was one employee that would call in sick on the first Monday of the new pay period and at least one more day during the pay period. This person is still employed there and has been there for over 10 years. Everyone knows, from the Dept. Mgr. on down to their Section supervisor, and no one does anything. This person was in another dept. and that Mgr. made them bring in a note every time they called in sick, but all they had to do was call the Dr. and go by and pick up a photo copied note with the date written in, “Please excuse Gladys Kravitz for being ill today. Thank you, Dr. Jekyll. 10/11/12.” When the position in my dept. came open, the Mgr. encouraged this person to apply, and they got the job because the Mgr. wanted to get rid of this person, but couldn’t fire them, (in the Fed you either have to attack someone or get caught stealing to be fired). They never had any sick or vacation time and when it ran out, they took the time without pay. The thing about it, this person could have easily gone on disability because while they would call in sick for piddly stuff (diarrhea, a headache, not a migraine, just a headache, tiredness) they had a legitimate disability that would have allowed them SSI/Disability and they never called in for that. Sigh.

    1. shellbell*

      The thing about disability is that it isn’t so easy to get. In fact the process is quiet hard. Even the expedited process for terminal patients can take months. The average time from filing to getting it is18 to 24 months. During that time you might end up with no income or health insurance. It is a tough choice. I wouldn’t recommend doing it if you only have to call I sick a few times month. Most places will accomodate your disability and allow you to continue to work (a financially and mentally healthy decision for many people).

      1. Not So NewReader*

        My husband got it in five months. I asked why he got it so quickly.

        The woman from disability said it was a number of factors:

        The form was very well filled out. (It took 6 hours to answer all the questions.)
        My husband’s age (late 50s).
        His work record (steady since college).

        She went on to explain that younger people, with sporadic employment were more apt to take longer. And the bit about filling out the form- if we had not done such a good job she would have lost hours tracking down this missing info. This alone could take her weeks to complete.

        I thought it was weird that it went through so fast, I just had to ask that question. Her answer was a real eye-opener to me.

        1. shellbell*

          You got lucky. My spouse is very ill and filled out the form well. She has worked full since age 19 and is now in her 40s. She was denied with a not that while she was severely disabled she could still speak and move her arms and legs therefore she could do some kind of work. It is also worth noting that disability is administered by the state so all states a different. Also, the backlog of applicants great exponentially in the last economic downturn. I would say that they are many people who do just as good of an application and who are in similar circumstances who are denied. I’ve known terminally people who died before getting approved because the process took longer than 5 months for them and they get an expedited review.

  29. shellbell*

    My wife is disabled and doesn’t work right now. When she was still working she called in a lot. Usually on Friday and monday. Friday because it took everything she had to go to work. She often came straight home, ate dinner, and went to bed around 6 pm. She was still so exhausted by Friday she couldn’t get out of bed. The Monday call in’s were from the times when she tried to have some semblance of a life on the weekend. She went shopping or went to a museum, but was then so tired on Monday she couldn’t work.

  30. KC*

    Please give your employee the benefit of the doubt as there is a small chance that nothing fishy is going on. I work for the federal government, and we have separate sick and vacation days. It is super weird, but I get cyclical vomiting on either Sundays or Mondays every month or so (and no, I don’t go out drinking during the weekend.) I had a boss from hell who reprimanded me for being out on Mondays. I explained the situation and offered up a doctor’s note, but she didn’t believe me.

  31. Brigitte*

    I think there’s another factor at play to consider. A lot of employees try to white knuckle their way through the week, knowing they have a cold or something similar coming on, but thinking they can rest up and get well over the weekend.

    Then the weekend comes, and by that time, the illness has gotten much worse than it would have if they’d given their poor immune system a chance to do its work by taking a day off during the week.

    Or they think, I just need to make it to the weekend, and Friday comes around, and they realize they’re just not going to make it.

    This is why I’m a huge fan of preventative napping! If I feel a cold coming on, I take the day off and spend it in bed, and I encourage my employee to do the same. As a result, I almost never get a full-fledged cold, which is much more detrimental to productivity than one or two days of preventative care.

  32. azvlr*

    I had this one job that was by far, the longest commute I’d ever had. I had taken a salary cut of several thousand dollars to move to the area and for the first 6 months of the job was having financial troubles because of some double-dealing on the part of my landlady.
    I’m not particularly proud of this, but I frequently called in the day before payday because I simply couldn’t afford to put enough gas in my car to make it to work that day. My boss never called me on it. I’m outgoing once you get to know me, but I like to be invited into conversations about my personal life rather than just assuming everyone wants to know the gory details. During the entire time I worked there, no one ever asked questions to get to know me. My boss NOT calling me out on this made me feel that much more isolated. I wanted someone, just once, to pull me aside and say they were concerned. It made for a very long and lonely year. I was glad when my contract was up. I am now in a much happier place both personally and professionally.

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