can I address an employee’s social media use on sick days?

A reader writes:

We are a close-knit department and most people follow each other on social media accounts, particularly Instagram and Facebook.

I noticed that the last two times one of my direct reports called out sick, she posted photos to Instagram during the work day hours. Basically they were “selfies” of herself looking all dolled up and ready to go. The first time this happened, I let it slide and in good faith assumed that she was just reposting a photo that was taken another day. Now that it has happened again and there is somewhat of a pattern, I want to address it with her.

Do you have any suggestions on how to approach this conversation? Or if I should approach it at all? I seem to be getting mixed opinions on this – some people say it’s not my place to comment on her social media activity. The way I see it though is that regardless of whether the photos were actually taken on the day she called out sick or not, it was poor judgment on her part because she is senior in this department and most of our junior employees (who step in to cover her work when she is out) have access to her social media activity. I was alarmed when I saw the photos and I can only imagine that the junior employee who had to stay late to cover her work on those days had a similar reaction.

I know this poses a larger issue that it is not ideal for managers and employees or mentors and mentees to be social media buddies.

Oooof, this is tricky. I don’t know exactly what the photos were, but it’s important to remember that — like your initial instinct said — these could be photos from another day that she’s just posting now.

You also really, really don’t want to be in the business of policing whether employees are really sufficiently sick on sick days. If someone’s unplanned absences are causing problems, you can address that, but otherwise you either trust your employee or not, and either she does good work or not. If you don’t trust her or her work isn’t good, then those are the problems to address much more than the sick days are. So for starters, I’d be looking at those factors and letting your answers there guide the rest of this.

But you’re right that perception matters, and if junior coworkers have to cover for her and then see these photos, you risk it eroding their trust in and respect for her (as well as frustrating and demoralizing them), and you risk them getting the wrong message about how they themselves should be behaving (for example, thinking it’s okay to misuse sick leave pretty openly, even if that’s not actually what she’s doing).

I don’t think it would be out of line to talk to her about that element of it, as long as you don’t sound like you’re questioning her need for the sick day. You could say this: “I’ve noticed that a few times when you’ve been out sick recently, you’ve posted photos to social media that made it look like you were doing something else that day. I’m sure you weren’t — I realize people post photos all the time that weren’t taken on that same day, and more importantly, I trust you. But it occurred to me that junior employees who are also connected to you on social media and who have to cover your work when you’re out are also seeing these and may not have that perspective.”

And yes, it definitely does raise a bigger issue about problems when managers and employees are social media friends, but I know I have lost that battle.

{ 376 comments… read them below }

  1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    “I’ve noticed that a few times when you’ve been out sick recently, you’ve posted photos to social media that made it look like you were doing something else that day. I’m sure you weren’t — I realize people post photos all the time that weren’t taken on that same day, and more importantly, I trust you.”

    I think I’d cut everything between “doing something else that day” and “I trust you.” Maybe she took it on a different day; maybe she spent her sick day dressing up and home and taking selfies; maybe she got dressed up to go to the drug store because it helped her feel less awful; maybe maybe maybe. The point is actually: “I trust you, but you should be mindful of the perception that it gives to your junior staff.”

    1. Kyrielle*

      I like this.

      On rare occasion I have to call out because of IBS issues. I can’t be very far from the restroom (if it weren’t that bad, I’d be working!). If I enjoyed getting dolled up, however, I could easily do that in my “spare time” and be near where I needed to be just-in-case.

      And the times I’ve called out because of a health issue that makes me _stupid_ as much as anything (because my job requires I be thinking clearly, or I will actually probably achieve negative work, ie, doing damage)…well, I do in fact need to be able to think to get “dolled up” without screwing it up badly, but lots of people with more practice don’t. :)

    2. Anxa*


      I really think the issue here is the perception among the rest of staff, not whether she was staying home sick or going out and about.

      I know there was a big conversation about honesty and integrity yesterday, but I really do think sickness is something that it’s okay to fudge the details on. I’ve called out sick with a stomach bug because I was too embarrassed of the pulled neck muscles I had. I’ve called out sick with a more minor cold on days when I felt like I needed a personal day on top of rest, having gone in when I was much more physically sick but felt over all better (please no judgment, I’ve never had a paid sick day).

      And maybe some illnesses or short-term disabilities are easy to work around if you really want to go into work, but it’s often difficult to talk about the fact that you can be about 80% as productive as usual if only you have constant access to a bathroom, or that you haven’t been sleeping well and don’t trust yourself to be accountable and fully present. Sometimes getting out and about really can help you feel better faster.

      1. OhNo*

        Agreed. Sometimes people use sick days when they’re not actually sick, and that’s fine. There’s a definite grey area for most people between 100% ready and willing, and so ill that they can’t get out of bed, let alone go into work. Letting people judge for themselves where they are on that spectrum on any given day is the only reasonable solution. Hopefully, the OP doesn’t actually care what this person does with their time off, just about the perception issue among other staff.

          1. Oryx*

            I thankfully only get sick-sick 2 or 3 times a year. The rest of my time, sick days are reserved for mental health days and my managers don’t require details if I call in sick.

      2. JessaB*

        I’ve called off work because of my inability to speak. I was perfectly fine to do any other thing at all. Go shop, go to the gym, but I worked in a call centre and they had no side non-phone work for me to do. Just because you may have to call out on a day doesn’t actually always mean you’re not generally functional, it may just mean you can’t WORK. And if doll up and go out to a Deaf club where we’re signing, just because I can’t talk at work, doesn’t mean I’m taking advantage of my office.

        On the other hand if I had work friends on my social media, I’d be smarter than to publish that fact without being really specific in the comments – poor dysphonic me, can’t talk one word, had to call off work, signing clubs ROCK.

    3. Bwmn*

      I think this is great because overall this is so much a perception issue rather than a work function issue (provided there aren’t other work issues).

      Exactly what a sick day should be used for has been debated here extensively because not everyone and not every employer has the same thoughts. So a general heads up on “discretion perception” is important. I think a similar conversation would be relevant if the OP’s employee was posting lots of partying photos that could give a sloppy impression (depending on the industry). This isn’t about policing what the employee is doing off hours, but rather giving the heads up that “if in this professional culture, we’re all connected – then more discretion and/or screening is required”.

    4. ZuKeeper*

      Frankly, I think people just need to think a little more about the picture they are presenting to the world on social media. Way too much stuff gets posted to FB/Twitter/Instagram where everyone can see it.

      There have been several instances now where an employee on FMLA leave was terminated because of photos posted on Facebook that appear to show an abuse of their leave. In each case cranky co-workers saw the photos and reported them. So far, the courts are upholding the employer’s right to terminate.

    5. Anonsie*

      Agreed. I do know plenty of people who play with makeup when they are home, especially if they’re not feeling well because it makes them happy. I’m big into makeup and a lot of people who post looks on Instagram or blogs or wherever will do up their face at home, take photos, and wash it off. This seems really weird to people who aren’t into it as a hobby and view makeup as something you do to go out and be seen, so “I trust you but it kind of looks like X to the people covering for you so be mindful of that” is the smartest route imo.

      Also I pretty much only put my photos on Instagram when I have a bored day at home so I’m now wondering if this looks like a “pattern” from me as well. Yikes.

      1. K*

        I think it is a huge STRETCH to believe a senior employee who has called in sick, which results in her junior staff having to working late to cover her workload, is going to spend the day doing her makeup and posting selfies to social media. I think most people would consider that extremely inconsiderate and unprofessional.

        1. Anonsie*

          I don’t know why you think it’s a stretch. A senior employee who has called in sick would spend the day doing whatever relaxed hobby she has when she’s at home, that’s just crazy?

          If posting photos on Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat on a sick day that requires coverage is inconsiderate and unprofessional, I didn’t get that memo.

          1. K*

            If you are actually sick enough to miss work (fever, runny nose, etc.) and you want to spend your day putting makeup on… it’s weird but that’s up to you. I would think you are in the minority of people who would consider this normal sick day behavior. The issue is putting that on social media when you have your coworkers as friends and followers. It makes you looks inconsiderate and unprofessional to the coworkers who had to re-arrange their schedules because of your ‘unplanned’ absence. You absolutely open yourself up to the opinions of others and your office when you invite them into your social media.

            I have to cover our receptionist when she calls in sick, which is a huge inconvenience for me. If she spent the day posting makeup selfies or checking in at a restaurant for lunch, or a club that evening on facebook I would definitely be rubbed the wrong way by it. There have been instances where I had an appointment the same day she called in sick and had to pay a cancellation fee because I wasn’t able to give 24 hour’s cancellation notice. If she’s calling in sick, I’m assuming she woke up feeling awful. Anything posted online that contradicts that is going to make me feel slighted.

            1. Megan*

              I think a more reasonable thing to feel slighted over is the appointment cancellation. Why is your workplace structured so that her time away from work is prioritized over yours? Keep in mind that the structure that allows that probably isn’t her fault, but it’s crummy anyways.

            2. One of the Sarahs*

              Please do bear in mind that “feeling awful” doesn’t always have visible facial symptoms. Unless one is a doctor, one shouldn’t be diagnosing other people as ill or not.

          2. annonymouse*

            The problem isn’t the pictures as much as it is the content.

            I’ve posted photos before on my sick days of the BBC 1995 edition of pride and prejudice, a bowl of soup and water glass with a comment of something like “good for what ails you!” And people don’t mind.

            If I posted a picture of me relaxing on the beach or commented on how crazy the teapot clothing/electronics/game shops shoppers were or how I nabbed a bargain- you can bet my coworkers are going to be super mad.

            I’m not saying that if you aren’t sick enough to be bed ridden then go to work. That’s just foolish.
            I’m not saying you can’t do anything fun on days your not your best.
            (Like the girl who couldn’t talk. A comment like “I might not be able to talk but I can feel the burn!” Is fine)

            I am saying if it looks like you’re taking advantage of sick days for clearly personal purposes AND making extra work for everyone else it creates credibility problems.

  2. moss*

    OMG I would be livid if my manager checked my social media and policed how I spent my time! LIVID! If I call in, it’s because I need a day off for whatever reason. Maybe a mental health day. Maybe someone in my household is sick and needs care. Get off my Instagram! It’s not my manager’s business as long as my work is being completed well and the client is happy.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Really? I mean, if you’re linked up on Social Media you should expect your boss can see what you post. And perceptions matter. And sick leave isn’t a day off for “whatever reason” – it’s for medical stuff. I’ve taken a mental health day myself, but I’ve been forthright that I was feeling run down and just needed a day to rest up.

      1. moss*

        I am not connected to my manager on social media so they would have to actively seek it out, which would be weird in itself. Also, my office culture (since we all work at home) is fairly hands-off and it would be beyond bizarre for my manager to question why I was taking a day off. I will often volunteer the information that I’m ill if I’m feeling bad and calling (really emailing) in the day of. But in general it’s “I’m taking off on Friday” and then bill it to sick time or vacation or whatever as I see fit.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But then it’s really a whole different situation. In this case, it’s an issue because they’re all connected and so the people who have to stay late to cover for her can’t help seeing the photos in their feed.

            1. annonymouse*

              It depends on what you say when calling in sick as well.

              If you say “I’m taking a mental health day” and there are photos of you at a park, in the city, eating food etc or partaking in a hobby then most people are going to be understanding.

              If you call in and say “I have flu/food poisoning/ anything that typically means you feel like crap and stay inside most of the day”
              And then you post pics of you out and about or check into a restaurant for lunch then people are going to be upset.

              Yes – you might be posting pics from before but most people tag them as such – trip with the girls June 2015. Portugal trip January.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        How is that not appropriate use of a sick day, though? “I’m taking a ‘I feel like crap and need a break to recover’ day” isn’t substantially different from a sick day used for physical illness. We’ve already covered that the need for a medical professional’s attention isn’t the correct line to draw for use of sick days, so beyond that… why should a boss give a rat’s patoot if the employee is sick or if she just desperately needs a break when she calls out?

        1. Koko*

          Exactly. Everyone gets the same N sick days. If someone can benefit from an occasional mental health/self-care day, that’s their choice of how to use their day. It’s not like they’re scheming to get some kind of additional benefit that no one else is getting.

          And that’s leaving aside the very real biological reality that psychological health and quite interconnected with physiological health. A long period of elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol can have deleterious effects on the immune system, cause excessive fatigue, reduce vitamin and mineral absorption, damage memory recall, etc. It’s just as reasonable for an employee to take a sick day to get stress levels under control as to get a bug under control.

      3. Mental Health Days Not Allowed*

        Just keep in my some employees don’t have the option of taking a day because of “feeling run down and just needed a day to rest up” because feeling run is not a medical diagnosis.

        1. AW*

          I think any workplace that requires you to go out and get a note from a doctor to justify sick leave shouldn’t be agasht about a photo that implies they went outside that day. Of course they did, you literally require them to do so.

          1. TrainerGirl*

            Perhaps the employee should be posting pictures to social media from the doctor’s office. This is why I don’t connect to coworkers.

        2. Marvel*

          …Erm. Actually, it can be. It’s relatively common, as far as I know, to go into the doctor saying “I feel like crap, I’m stressed out, I’m not sleeping well, etc.” and get a note off from work. That is something a lot of medical professionals will do.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Did you read the letter? If you and your boss are social media buddies, then it’s not “policing” for her to notice if you’re posting pictures of yourself at the club when junior employees are covering for your sick day.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Sorry Alison! I was composing my comment below for a few minutes and didn’t see this until after I hit submit.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Let’s not pick fights; regardless of the intent, neverjaunty does have a point, that the OP is CONNECTED to their direct report via social media, in fact all the employees are connected. You should expect your social network to see your posts, or that anyone can and will see your public posts. Now, my take on it is that I have a personal life, and I am not going to try to hide the fact that I drink or have strong opinions on controversial subjects. But I don’t post anything PUBLICLY that I wouldn’t want a reasonable hiring manager to see.

    3. OP*

      Thanks Alison, that makes sense. In this particular employee’s case she does great work but does tend to use more sick time than the average employee. I have addressed that with her in the past and have seen slight improvements for short periods of time but eventually the sick days pick up again. Considering that she truly is a key player on our team, I weighed the pros and cons a while back and made the decision to trust her and assume that if she is calling out sick, albeit once every 6 weeks on average, it is for a good reason. Seeing those photos two times in a row was the first time I started to question it.

      1. Roscoe*

        Every 6 weeks isn’t really that much. How many sick days do you give? I mean if you give around 8, well thats what I sick days averages out to in a given year.

        I also think there is something to be said for telling the junior workers to not worry about what other people do on their sick days. But I know everyone wouldn’t agree with that.

                1. pope suburban*

                  Wow. I’d been living in temp hell so long, I had no idea. Five days *felt* like little to me, but I was just thrilled to get any sick time. The part that really frustrates me about my current employer’s sick leave is that it doesn’t accrue– if you haven’t used it by December 31, it’s gone forever. That seems a bit spiteful, all things considered.

                2. Anxa*

                  That seems so high to me. I checked the link and it said 84% of workers have paid leave of some sort?

                  Is this only for workers at a certain income level? I thought the 2/3 of workers having paid sick leave seemed pretty high based on what I see among friends and family, but I also know I’m mostly cut off from the whole world of jobs with benefits and don’t really understand them well.

                3. sickly*

                  I think I’ve only ever gotten five in every job I’ve had until my current one, where it’s six. And they’ve all been private sector jobs.

                4. Not A Lot of Sick Time*

                  We get one sick day per quarter. No joke. Number of years of service doesn’t change this either.

                5. Rater Z*

                  I think it’s always been 5 days a year where I have worked in the past. Where I am now, it’s none and I am having to fight to get one day of paid vacation when the company says I am allowed 25 (been there 16 years now). I am now leaving footprints on by supervisor’s head over it.

                  My sister retired as a school teacher with 35 years in her district. She had over 300 sick days saved up and I believe she said they paid her for them when she retired.

                6. anncakes*

                  Jeez. We get ZERO paid sick days and accrue 40 hours of PTO per year. We also don’t get paid on holidays or pretty much any situation in which we aren’t actually in the building and working. My manager has been flexible around my needing to take time off for professional school interviews and for caring for a sick family member, but I lost out on a large chunk of wages. It sucks. I’d kill for even 5 days of paid sick leave.

                7. Megan*

                  That’s so weird to award more sick leave based on seniority – I’m going to be sick the number of days I’m sick no matter if I’ve been there for 2 years or 20.

                8. Melissa*

                  Wonder what the stats are for public sector workers. I get 12 sick days a year at my government job. I didn’t realize 8 hours/month was so generous compared to the private sector!

                9. TrueBlue*

                  Wow. I’m in Australia and it’s law to give 10 days personal leave per annum (pro rats for PT employees). Medical Certificate is only required as evidence if it’s more than 2 consecutive days or either side of a weekend.

                  I look at 5 days and my blood boils! People need personal leave! Especially if they dedicated hard working employees. Take care of those who take care of the company.

              1. S.I. Newhouse*

                My wife has had two jobs in a row with just 5 sick days per year. It’s terrible. One bout with the flu can eat up your entire sick balance or close to it. It means working several days per year of battling through severe colds, sinus infections etc. at work. (OP, I realize you probably didn’t create the policy so not beating you up here, just saying that it really stinks to have that little sick time!)

              2. super anon*

                Wow – I have 6 months of sick leave that is separate from vacation… 5 days seems so little. I thought at least 10 days would be standard for the private sector! That’s one really bad flu a year, not accounting for any other things that may happen, such as injuries. How do people make do on that?

                1. sunny-dee*

                  My husband has no sick leave and only 9 days of PTO. I don’t have sick leave, but I do have 16 days of PTO. The last job I had that separated sick leave and vacation time was years ago, but I want to say the sick leave part was only 5 days, and the vacation part was … maybe 8? It was an entry level job.

                2. Koko*

                  I get 10 sick days a year, plus I can work from home when needed. So when I’m only sniffly I work from home, but when I’m truly laid out I take a sick day. I actually have been rolling over the max 30 days every year for several years now because I use sick days so rarely. Most of the time when I’m not *that* sick it’s less stressful to work at reduced output from bed than it is to goof off all day and then have twice as much work to come back to the next day.

            1. Hlyssande*

              It does suck. That’s what I get too, and I’ve already used half of it due to an emergency mental health day and a half and a dental surgery. Sob.

            1. Lily in NYC*

              One flu and you’re out of sick leave! I’ve gotten so spoiled at my job; our leave policy is the best thing about this place.

          1. Roscoe*

            Thats great that you were able to do that. But I still don’t think that less than 10 sick days in a year is a lot at all. Thats my only point that I wouldn’t call it excessive, even if its more than the average person.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              We only get five here, but we get 15 PTO days that can be used for vacation or sick after you’ve used all your sick. I think everywhere else I’ve worked also have five sick days, but didn’t let you use vacation when those ran out.

          2. Lily in NYC*

            Why the “wow”? 2 days in 20 years is extreme in the opposite direction. I would estimate I take a sick day every two months, maybe every 6 weeks. Some of us have issues. I’d much rather not have chronic vertigo but I do. There’s nothing I can do about it and I know there are a couple of people who smirk when I call out. And it infuriates me – I wish they could see me lying on the floor all day. I’m actually glad that I passed out in front of one of them a few weeks ago because maybe it finally made her realize that I’m not exaggerating.

            1. Elle*

              I have vertigo too. It is really quite awful, isn’t it?? There’s no way on earth you can work. I can barely make it to the bathroom from my bed.

              1. Lily in NYC*

                Oh Elle, it’s the worst! I’m thankful that the cause of mine (labyrinthitis) comes and goes, so it’s not a constant thing for me. I’m sorry you have it too – I hope you don’t have to crawl around on all fours like I do sometimes!

            2. Blossom*

              Don’t want to derail, but this is one thing that has surprised me as a UK reader. Here, there is no limit to the number of sick days you can take, and a doctor’s note can only be asked for after 7 days off. Now, the law doesn’t require your employer to pay your for sick days (though decent employers will, up to a point), but if you’re ill, you’re ill. It seems bizarre to set a limit on something so unpredictable. Many years, I don’t take a single day off sick as I’m lucky to be in good health.
              Or am I misunderstanding? What would happen if you had used up your 5 days and came down with the flu? Are we just talking about paid leave?

              1. Blossom*

                (oops, I made a mistake above. Your employer *does* have to pay for your first 28 weeks of sick leave, but it only has to be a pitiful amount called Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). SSP only kicks in after four days, so I’m assuming you are just paid your standard salary for the first four days? I actually have no idea – shows how lucky I am to be healthy and not in a position where I have to worry too much about 4 days’ pay! I do remember wrangling with SSP once upon a temp job, and in the end decided it wasn’t worth the immense hassle to claim the £15 or so I was owed for a day off. Argh!)

                1. Marzipan*

                  I think they don’t have to pay for the first four days at all? But again, a decent employer goes well beyond the minimum. I’m pretty sure I get full pay for six months and half pay for another six.

                  The other key difference, though, is that it seems like in the US some companies treat a ‘sick day’ as not solely ‘a day when you are sick’? Like, I’m sure I’ve seen people on here talk about using them for doctor’s appointments and the like, so I get the sense maybe it’s a bit more complex?

                2. stk*

                  They definitely don’t have to pay your first 4 days.

                  (I’ve had to do that dance relatively recently – although I’m lucky and have only had one sick day in the last 3 years.)

              2. ToxicNudibranch*

                It truly depends on the employer. Mine will let you borrow against future PTO, or work unpaid if you prefer, but my last employer considered needing to call out in excess of your PTO (even for verifiable illnesses) to be grounds for termination unless you had some sort of FMLA protection. They gave precisely zero shits if you were calling out because you were bedridden with pneumonia or going out partying – if your leave was gone, then you were “abusing PTO”.

              3. BritCred*

                Unless of course your employer uses stuff like the Bradford Factor and then sacks you for being too unwell and too unreliable. And yes, they can.

                Thats Days X Instances X Instances. So 3 days in one go is 3 points. 1 day every six weeks (for 3 instances) is 9 points. Some people have consequences for their employees as low as double figures for the year (my work used to start “counselling” you at 27). I used to have a huge score due to travel issues with nausea etc. and every separate time you are ill you are aware its making the figure rise astronomically and are stressed about it.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              I don’t about the commenter, but I agree that in general if you’ve only had 2 sick days in 20 years then you are either unusually healthy, or you are something coming to work when you are contagious.

          3. Just Another Techie*

            Good for you. Last year I took twelve, because I had two major illnesses (an abscess that ruptured the day before a scheduled outpatient surgery to treat it, requiring an ER visit, three days in the hospital, and another four to recover at home; and then six months later, the entire team that travelled to a conference together came down with bronchitis, which in my case developed into pneumonia).

            1. StudentPilot*

              You can’t predict when you’re going to get sick, or when you’re going to need a medical procedure done. I was out for 2 days after having my wisdom teeth out end of January, then the second week of February I was off for 4 days with a nasty bout flu.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              Yeah, I’m not particularly impressed by those who never take sick days. Because either they don’t get sick (and it’s not an accomplishment to not take sick days when you don’t get sick), or they come to work when they’re sick (and that’s not a good thing for your coworkers).

              1. One of the Annes*

                At sixth grade “graduation,” one kid got a special award for having had perfect attendance from kindergarten through sixth grade. I thought that was a dumb thing to get an award for. And that that kid must have had some freakishly strong immune system.

          4. Bend & Snap*

            Let’s not set this as some kind of goal or something to be proud of. That’s not normal and corporate America needs more rest, not less.

          5. J-nonymous*

            When I was at Massively Large Company, we got 52 weeks of sick time for every two years (not years of service, the clock just restarted every two years). And in the nearly 10 years I was there, I took 3 days of sick time.

            Partly that was the culture – we just worked and worked and worked and worked. And even if we were home sick part of the day, we’d just let it come out of the 70-80 hours of work we normally put in. Another aspect was that we worked from home quite a lot.

            I don’t actually miss that.

              1. J-nonymous*


                This company (at least back when I worked there) lumped sick time with short-term disability. There were some caveats around how much contiguous sick time you could take without having a note from a provider that you were, in fact, disabled from working – but otherwise it was a lenient system…that virtually no one took advantage of.

                I left that company back in 2008, though and there may have been subsequent changes.

                1. Elle*

                  I see…very interesting! I’ve got 5 days total, so that’s why I thought it might be a typo. Good for them!

                2. J-nonymous*

                  Continuous. Not contiguous. I’d like to blame Autocorrect for that, but it was just my blurry brain.

          6. Victoria*

            Yeah, I’ll second, third, and fourth everyone else saying that we should avoid having that as a benchmark or goal to be proud of. I have always been a healthy person… until I wasn’t. I was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease (type 1 diabetes) last year and guess what? I took a week off work at diagnosis. Getting the flu for me now might mean hospitalization. Not to mention the *routine* doctors visits — 6/year, assuming nothing goes wrong.

            Sometimes you’re healthy, until you’re not. And it’s harmful to assign any value judgement to that.

        1. OP*

          Yes, if you are comparing it to the rest of corporate america, once every 6 weeks isn’t terrible. Our company just has a culture of not being very flexible with sick days which is why I said she takes more than the average employee. Unfortunately, at our company, taking a sick day every 6 weeks here gets noticed by senior management.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            If that’s the case, I’d let her know that if you haven’t already. Just because you’re ok with it, she may not realize it could hinder her moving up in the company.

          2. AnotherHRPro*

            This is a very good point. The amount of “acceptable sick days” is not universal. It is very much industry, company and role specific. My company has a very generous sick leave policy (no set amount of days, just be an adult and take time off when you are sick). Because of that, people who are sickly tend to take more time off than others. If someone was consistently taking a few days off every month or two I would raise an eyebrow. It might be fully legitimate, but it also may not be. And as a manager you have to think about the impact that sick days have on the rest of the team as work does not stop.

            1. Rater Z*

              One place I interviewed at, while I was out of work back in 1971, the guy told me that I was expected to come to work even when I was sick — unless I had the flu. His reasoning was that I would feel just as bad sick at home as I would at work.

        2. doreen*

          Eight sick days a year isn’t a lot- but a sick day every six weeks may be a problem. Sometimes it’s about the unplanned nature as much as or more than the total days. Most people at my employer accrue a sick day every 4 weeks ( 13 a year) and we can bank up to 200 days. It’s no problem if someone needs to take all 13 (or even more) in a year – but typically someone who takes 13 sick days isn’t calling in the “morning of” on 13 different days and requiring coverage to be arranged on short notice 13 times . It will be some combination of pre-planned days for medical appointments/recovery from procedures , multi-day call ins ( a call on Monday that the person is sick and will be out until Wednesday) and single day call ins. It’s one thing to cover for someone with no notice when they’re sick or have an emergency but I’m not happy about doing it for someone who calls in sick every time they’ve earned a sick day. ( and I have known people who know exactly which day of the pay period they earn a sick day and make sure to call in within a couple of days afterward)

      2. jhhj*

        Less than 10 sick days a year is not an excessive number of sick days, maybe it’s that your other employees notice that you are not generous with sick day use and use fewer than they would like to.

      3. moss*

        <i I have addressed that with her in the past and have seen slight improvements for short periods of time but eventually the sick days pick up again. Considering that she truly is a key player on our team, I weighed the pros and cons a while back and made the decision to trust her and assume that if she is calling out sick, albeit once every 6 weeks on average, it is for a good reason.

        I think you’re making a mistake trusting her. You have already spoken to her, she changes her behavior for a while and then starts it back up again. I’m not sure how you made the leap from that to deciding she’s probably calling out for good reason. It doesn’t seem logical. She’s got problematic work behavior in your office culture; you spoke to her and no permanent results came out of it; and therefore you decided to trust her? Why? Just because she’s a key player? I think that more than anything will hurt morale in your office. Regardless of how she’s using the days, the fact that she’s taking more than is acceptable in your office and getting away with that will be a problem for the rest of the team.

        I think you’re focused on the wrong issue here.

        1. OP*

          I would like to start off by saying that I do not agree with our company’s outlook on sick day use.

          The conversations I’ve had with her in the past were about the frequency of the unplanned absences, sick or not, and how the company frowns upon it.

          When I say I trust her I just mean that I trust she is actually sick and not calling out last minute to go to the spa or binge watch Netflix (but, when I saw those photos I questioned my judgement for a moment). She understands that if the frequency of the sick days continues it could affect her leadership promotion and her bonuses will be adjusted accordingly. But unless they start INCREASING, I am not going to make a major issue out of it, because…

          She is a key player on the team b/c of her overall knowledge of our department & the business in general. She has done a lot over the years to help improve our department and move it forward. I manage a cross-functional team so it is important for me to have someone who can deal with most of the front-line issues in each department before they get escalated to me. She was the only hire on my team for a long time so there is a big gap between the level she is at and our more recently hired junior employees. Our company is in a rapid growth phase and this department supports a constantly growing sales team. Basically our company grew too fast for our support function to accommodate that growth. So, to be frank, I need her on my team right now more than I need her off, regardless of if she is taking more sick days than my Director would like. Is that a bad outlook to have as a Manager? I’m just being real here!

          Now that we have a larger team we are in a different position than we were last year and the absences sometimes affect others who have to cover the work. So yeah – your comment is absolutely correct about potentially hurting morale on the team.

          1. super anon*

            Hang on – your company penalizes employees who take sick leave by cutting their bonuses or withholding promotions?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I know you don’t control that, but just to give you a sense of how normal this is: not that normal! And kind of bad, in that it penalizes people who get sick more than others, have chronic health conditions, etc. That’s not a great thing for attracting/retaining great people, or for basic fairness and morale.

                I think the big issue here is that she needs to factor in the perceptions of junior staff who have to stay late to cover for her, especially if she’s someone you’re grooming for a more senior role. I’d keep the focus there.

                1. NutellaNutterson*

                  And, I would guess, penalizes primary caregivers. Kids can’t go to school if they’ve had a fever the day before (and a million other rules), so I have definitely needed to take a sick day because my child was sick *yesterday.*

                2. Rater Z*

                  It might help morale in a way if you could take that bonus she loses and give even a portion of it to those who had to cover for the absent employee a lot.

                  It could be a complicated mess but a real morale-booster for the others as an appreciation for those who might be stuck working extra hours for nothing.

              2. Stranger than fiction*

                Wow I’ve never heard of that! (Unless it was maybe happening behind the scenes and I was unaware). I’ve worked in sales support a long time and usually everything is based on production/goals. But then I learn new stuff here all the time.

                1. LouLouBee*

                  At my job if we don’t make our productivity and sales goals for the month we don’t get the sale commission. The #s are set for the month, they will not adjust for days not in due to illness or vacation time even if planned in advance. The total # of calls is the biggie because you can have a few good days and make the sales goals for the month. It’s kind of hard to take more calls when you’re not in.

                  So if your total calls taken number is 200 for the month and you have a weeks vacation you need to take extra calls the days you are in or you can’t get your payout no matter how much you sell.

                  If you don’t make your sales and call totals for the month, again not adjusted for # of days you’re actually in, then you fail your monthly review.

              3. jhhj*

                I know that some companies pay out unused sick days every year — not at 100%, so it’s not a huge incentive to go to work if you are sick, but enough that it’s an incentive not to use them as extra vacation (in a company that has reasonable vacation time). But saying that people who use their company-provided benefits lose a bonus is . . . not a great incentive.

                If I were you I might be more worried about losing this otherwise great worker to a company with less bizarre rules.

          2. moss*

            I’m not trying to be truculent. But it sounds like you questioned your own judgement for a moment and then whitewashed it. It does sound like she’s not actually SICK-sick when she’s taking these days. I personally don’t want my manager to question what I do on my time off but I do not and never have had an attendance problem or a deadline problem. Your employee has. I feel like you’re making excuses for her that you would not make for just anyone. You are treating her differently, as I see it.

            Again, not trying to be mean or anything but I do wonder why you’re second-guessing yourself. She is causing problems for you with her absenteeism and your conversations with her have not fixed the problem.

            1. Zillah*

              Again, not trying to be mean or anything but I do wonder why you’re second-guessing yourself. She is causing problems for you with her absenteeism and your conversations with her have not fixed the problem.

              I mean… The problem is that she’s out sick. If she’s genuinely sick, that’s not a problem that tends to resolve itself because your manager talks to you.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think you’re making a mistake trusting her. You have already spoken to her, she changes her behavior for a while and then starts it back up again.

          Maybe. But it could also be someone with a legitimate chronic health issue who sucked it up and came in when she shouldn’t have for a while after she was talked to, but couldn’t keep it up long-term for legit reasons. (Of course, in that case, the employee should talk to the OP and explain the situation, but not everyone realizes they can do that or feels comfortable doing that.)

          1. Anonsie*

            This, absolutely. When I had a job where I got angrily hissed at after sick days for my chronic illness, I did drag myself in and sit starring at my screen without doing anything on some days when I would have normally stayed home. It dragged out how long it took me to feel well again, lowering my overall productivity by a lot more than the sick day would have, and increased the amount of pain I would have been in otherwise. I also had to budget my energy so everything else I needed to do in my life (including such minuscule things as basic hygiene and buying groceries) got shoved off to the side so all I was doing was sleeping and going in to work to keep up appearances.

            It’s not easy as “you can come in or you can’t.” Sometimes you can fudge this when you really need to, but it’s not sustainable and it’s a shit way to live.

            1. JaneB*

              Definitely this. I have mental health issues and a crappy immune system which means I get every bug going (and I work in an environment full of students coming and going, so the exposure levels to viruses is high). I really stress about letting other people down or causing them more work, and my current line manager and closest co-worker who most often has to cover for me are both not at all supportive (last year I was signed off medically (told not to go to work by a doctor) and getting sent emails telling me how much I was frustrating my manager and that I need to “just stop getting ill”; it’s not hard to be paranoid). I find it all too easy to get into a cycle of going to work and recovering from work and absolutely nothing else. Thank heavens for grocery delivery services and automatic prescription renewals and bill payments, or I’d really be in trouble!

              I finally “gave in” and called in sick for a few days recently when I realised how absurd it was that I was buying new underwear from Amazon because I knew I’d not have the energy/time/mental capacity to do laundry before I ran out of clean pants because laundry was Too Hard, and had been Too Hard for the whole of the preceeding two weekends. People who manage lively social lives AND hobbies AND sport AND domestic stuff for more than just themselves AND full time work and yet don’t appear to be perpetually exhausted or hyped-up on caffeine etc. amaze me. They’re another species!

              1. Anonsie*

                Ugh yeah. I was paying an insane amount of money to have grocery delivery (ain’t cheap around here) and any time I needed anything I had to Amazon Prime it because I couldn’t add more walking and commuting to my day. I wasn’t washing my hair as often as I should, even, because detangling wet curly hair was more than I could handle most of the time.

                So sure, maybe I can physically come into work and sit at my desk. And maybe it will require me to, after exhausting all the days I can get away with dry shampooing my hair, collapse on the floor crying because it hurts my arms to badly to comb through my it wet. So maybe whether or not I can physically make it to my desk is not the most important factor in deciding when I should be resting or not.

      4. Mental Health Days Not Allowed*

        Apologies to the OP if this has been addressed elsewhere.

        “We are a close-knit department and most people follow each other on social media accounts, particularly Instagram and Facebook.”

        Are you friends or are you co-workers…er, a supervisor and an employee who follow each other? Those are not the same thing. I may be overly sensitive, but friend is not a word I throw around easily. I get along with a great many of my co-workers, but only a handful qualify as friends. Is it a job requirement that OP and Staff be “friends” or “links”, etc.? Consider telling the Staff Person to update her privacy settings. Do that because you’re friends and you don’t want a friend getting in trouble do you? Or is this about work? You’re irritated Staff Person didn’t appear sick on her sick day, which is your right as a supervisor.

        1. Willow Sunstar*

          I agree, the co-workers can be set to acquaintance level. Use them for posting things occasionally, like a harmless cute cat photo, so they know they haven’t been cut off entirely, but save the going-out photos for actual close friends.

      5. Rebecca in Dallas*

        I don’t think a sick day every 6 weeks is that bad either, to be honest.

        Do your sick days roll over into the next year? If not, I’d assume she’s using them so she won’t lose them. My company gives you 6 personal/sick days and you can roll over 3 if you didn’t use them. I rarely get sick but I make sure to use at least 3 days, even if some of them are mental health days. (I might not do that if we had better vacation time, but we only get 10 days, then 15 once we hit the 5 year mark.)

        1. OP*

          The policy is strange. You get 5 sick days each year and can carry any unused days over to the next year, however, you can’t have more than 5 sick days in any given year. So, if you carry 3 days from 2016 over in to 2017 then you will only get an extra 2 days in 2017 making the grand total 5 days.

          Alison, perhaps you can weigh in here, is this even legal? Apparently they re-wrote the policy to comply with New York sick time law that requires 5 sick days each year. Previously we had a pool of 20 PTO days that were not broken down in to sick or vacation.

          1. Sparrow*

            So you start Jan. 1 with 5 available sick days no matter what? In practice, that makes it use it or lose it, no? It seems very misleading for them to describe that as “carrying days over.”

            1. doreen*

              I think they’re confused about the NYC sick time law- I’m posting the link separately. There isn’t any carry-over if the leave is front-loaded and every one is credited with the full year’s worth of leave on Jan 1. If an employer chooses not to front-load the leave but instead has it accrue, up to 40 hours does carry over to the next year. Example- someone earns 40 hours in 2016 and doesn’t use any. That 40 hours carries over and can be used if the employees is out sick from Jan 2-Jan 6 2017. The employee earns another 40 hours in 2017, but the employer isn’t required to allow her to use in it 2017. But it is there available to be used at the beginning of 2018.

              And they didn’t have to change from a pool of 20 days PTO
              ” If an employer provides employees time off for other purposes, such as vacation or personal leave, the employer does not have to provide additional time designated for sick leave if employees can use that time off for sick leave and the employer’s policies meet the other requirements of the Paid Sick Leave Law. “

              1. OP*

                I just want to confirm one thing – if they never use any of their sick hours then are they entitled to be paid out for everything accrued upon termination or resignation?

                I realized that the system we use to track time off doesn’t even split up the sick days and vacation days (it just deducts from a pool of 20) so if this is the case it would be almost impossible to figure out how many each person has accrued but not used and is entitled to paid out for.

                1. doreen*

                  Someone at your job is either confused or doing a poor job of explaining. The requirements of the NYC law are that you must earn 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked , up to 40 hours of sick leave a year. Employers cannot require medical documentation for an absence of less than three consecutive days and employees must be permitted to take sick leave for the specified reasons- which include medical treatment and illness of yourself or a family member and if your employer or your child’s school is closed due to a public health emergency. There is no requirement to be paid for unused sick leave when you leave a job.

                  If your PTO policy already meets or exceeds the requirements ( and I suspect most , if not all do*) then the only affect the law has is that a notice must be given to new employees ( and had to be given to existing employees by 5/1/14). The PTO doesn’t have to be broken up and tracked separately as either sick leave or vacation, and companies are free to pay for any accrued PTO when you leave the job. It might be easier to understand if you think about the purpose of the law- it wasn’t meant to affect companies that give employees 10 or 20 days of PTO to use for sick days or vacation days however they need to. It was meant to require that employees who previously didn’t get any sort of paid leave would get a minimum amount of paid leave so they wouldn’t lose a day’s pay for illness.

                  * It would be a really unusual job that gave PTO but didn’t meet the requirements of this law. Something like requiring advance notice for all PTO so that you couldn’t use it if you woke up sick one morning. Or only permitting you to take PTO for your own illness, not to care for a sick family member or for medical appointments.

            2. OP*

              Our HR department explained it to me by saying that New York law mandates at least 5 sick days and that employers allow their employees to carry over unused sick time. So they crafted the Agreement in such a way that let’s them “carry over” the days, but not actually.

              I am as baffled by it as you guys are and dread explaining it to employees.

              1. Xanadu*

                I kind of sympathize with her, it’s a no-win situation.

                If you’re a good employee and struggle in every day even when you’re sick so nobody has to cover for you, you’re essentially penalized by losing 5 paid days off.

                If you take those days, you’re penalized for having poor attendance and it eats into your bonus.

            3. Saturn9*

              The days are being earned throughout the year rather than having all the days available at the beginning.

              My employer just started a split sick time and PTO system, supposedly because of “recent sick time laws that are being passed everywhere” (or something like that): we earn “wellness time” (in addition to PTO, but we earn less total overall compared to the PTO we used to earn). We have the ability to earn up to 48 hours of “wellness” during the year but we are limited to being able to use 24 hours. The other 24 hours will roll over to the next year, where we’ll be able to earn up to another 48 hours total but can only use 24, whatever’s left at the end rolls over the next year, repeat.

              It’s dumb as hell and some of us are discussing a mutiny.

      6. K*

        I think the perception of her absence to junior employees and other staff is still worth addressing. You’re not reprimanding her, you’re pointing out something that she may not be aware of in a helpful way.

    4. OP*

      Well, she did choose to add me as a buddy on Instagram with the understanding that I would have access to see everything she posts. To be honest though, I wasn’t proactively checking her account to see what she was up to. I just happened to be scrolling through on my way home from work and came across the photos.

      1. addiez*

        And so would others – and you’re thoughtful to think about that perception. I behave differently on social media BECAUSE my office culture has us all as Facebook friends.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I have to wonder about her common sense. Like I said below, I know if I’m posting stuff like that on a sick day to post something like “as long as I’m stuck in bed with the flu, might as well catch up on vacation pictures.” You just have to think about how some things come across.

        1. Total Rando*

          This was my thought too. If I’m supposed to be at work and I’m posting pictures instead, the caption usually explains why.

        2. Paige Turner*

          Right, there’s a difference between posting dressed up selfies and posting old vacation photos. I think most people would realize that you didn’t jet off to the Bahamas and back for one day :)

          1. J-nonymous*

            Off topic. I once clicked on the map feature on Instagram and realized my map was woefully under-represented, so in one night I posted about 30 various vacation photos taken in multiple spots over the past 6 years.

            I got some (legitimate seeming) comments about what a fast world-traveler I was.

        3. Koko*

          Likewise, if you take a 5 minute social media break every 1-2 hours at work to decompress between tasks, that’s not a big deal in a lot of jobs. But re-posting 1-2 things every 1-2 hours on Facebook during work hours is not going to reflect well on you. It’s going to create the perception that you’re on Facebook the entire day. That’s the kind of thing you need to be aware of!

    5. INTP*

      Questioning how your social media use affects morale at the office and your coworkers’ perception of you is not the same as “policing your time.” The OP isn’t talking about physically forcing her coworker to go home and be sick or prohibiting any more sick days, just a conversation to confirm that these are in fact good-faith sick days (which imo can be used on any health-related activity, but sometimes people do use them for non-health-related time off) and the impact that the perception of misuse has on her team.

      And if you make your social media accounts visible to your coworkers, then you make your social media your employer’s business to some extent. Keep your accounts private or use a name your coworkers won’t know to google, and your accounts are your own private business.

    6. Stranger than fiction*

      If you feel that strongly about it, then I would think you’d also be someone who doesn’t connect with coworkers on FB.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Then don’t connect with boss/coworkers on social media. If you do, they WILL see it.

      If you’re not connected and they are Facebook-stalking you, then I can understand your ire and raise you a furious–it’s not any of their business what I do outside work. It’s a whole other rant how I feel about friending coworkers, but I’ll save that for another day. Suffice it to say if I got a job where everybody connected their personal (not any professional) accounts and I were expected to do so, it would make me so uncomfortable I would have to leave.

      1. omgomgomg*

        And even if they were stalking your social media, there are privacy settings you can use. Instagram and Twitter can be completely privatized, requiring you to approve any new follower requests. My Facebook account is so locked down to non-friends that you only get my name, cover photo, and profile photo.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          It’s probably a good idea to do that anyway (especially if you think someone is reading your wall for nefarious purposes!). But I need to keep at least my Twitter accessible to potential readers, though it is in my pen name. As for Facebook, if I ever became very well-known, I’d probably just delete my personal account altogether.

    8. Engineer Girl*

      You’re missing a key point. The person is in leadership. That means that their actions are held to a significantly higher standard than others.
      When you are in leadership your actions must be self-limiting **because** of perception. Otherwise it erodes confidence.

      1. moss*

        I think I am not missing the point. The point is the absenteeism that is causing problems for the rest of the team. This could be handled by increasing resources, not by monitoring what the absent employee is doing on her paid sick time. I would also note that I care not at all what those in the chain above me do with their paid time off.

        1. Marty Gentillon*

          No, in leadership, the absenteeism isn’t the problem. The problem is that it looks like this implore is bending the rules in a way that junior employees feel that they can’t. This can lead to junior employees feeling that the environment is unfair, or they are undervalued, causing morale problems. This appearance is worsened by the fact that the rule being flaunted is a local sacred cow. Increasing resources won’t improve the problem, as it is entirely psychological.

        2. K*

          The perception by the junior employees is the problem. If I have to cover my boss’ work on a day where she called in sick, and I see on social media my boss spent the day shopping and posting selfies of herself in changing rooms (for example), I would deduce that she wasn’t really sick and all the work I had to cover is going to feel like a slap in the face. If she booked the day off in advance and made some effort to mitigate how much of her work fell to me, that’s different. The first feels like an abuse of her seniority.

  3. B*

    And this is one of the main reasons I never friend/like anyone I work with. It creates a much better barrier so second-guessing and wondering does not occur. My personal life and my private life do not need to mix. I am still social with those I work with but I already spend 9-10 hours a day with them, my social media and my personal life are a time I use to get away from them.

      1. K.*

        Ditto. I have a firm policy: coworkers get added to LinkedIn only, no exceptions. If a coworker adds me on FB, I decline. If pressed, I say flat-out that I don’t “befriend” colleagues on social media. It’s too messy.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I don’t even bother declining. I just leave the request hanging there. That way, when I do eventually leave (or when she does), I can just accept the pending request.

          But, yes, I don’t Facebook or Instagram current co-workers. I know plenty of people who do, but I’d rather just not.

          1. AW*

            I just leave the request hanging there.

            But that makes the last thing you posted visible to them. Facebook made that change years ago: if you don’t actually decline the request they can see the most recent thing you posted.

            1. Adam V*

              Wouldn’t that go the other way? If they send the request to you, you can see their most recent thing. I’d be shocked if they got to see anything of yours – it’d open the door to Facebook-stalking if you could see something recent they posted before they got around to denying your request.

              1. Koko*

                Exactly – I don’t think this is right.

                Perhaps AW is thinking of the fact that privacy groups trump friend connection. If you add someone to a privacy group at the time you send a friend request, they are granted access to everything people in that privacy group can see without having to accept the friend request. Likewise, if you’ve added someone to a privacy group and they unfriend you, they stay in the privacy group and continue to be able to see the items you’ve allowed that group of people to see. (They even stay in the group if they delete their account, so that if they un-delete it, they resume having access.)

            2. Anonymous Educator*

              I couldn’t find any documentation for that. Can you link to the Facebook documentation (or a news article) that describes that “feature” (bug, really)?

      2. Chocolate lover*

        Ditto to only friending after I no longer work directly with them. The only exception is someone I was already friends with, and then later ended up working with. I wasn’t going to unfriend her.

        Most of my coworkers from my current and former office weren’t not especially active with friending coworkers, no one even sent requests much less pressured anyone.

      3. omgomgomg*

        Yep. That’s my rule, too. When pushed for a reason, I’ve told them that I got burned with adding fellow staff at my last job and it’s not going to happen until one of us leaves.

        I like these guys and there are a couple I’d stay in touch with, but it’s the workplace. There’s nothing wrong with having /some/ walls up!

      4. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Agreed. The only current coworker I’m friends with on FB was my friend before we worked together and we socialize outside of work.

      5. JustALurker*

        Same here, I always conveniently “forget, since I am not on Facebook that often.” I really like keeping my private, personal life, private.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Yes – me, too. I have one person who works at the same company as I do as a friend on Facebook, but she works in a totally different department than I do and we share a couple of hobbies. Mostly, though, I’ll only friend people when they leave the company, because I like having that separation.

    2. OP*

      That is a good policy – one that I wish I had followed when I first got in to management! This particular employee was my first hire and has been a learning experience for me across the board in boundaries between employee/manager.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I accept friend requests from my employees if they send them. It doesn’t really bother me – very few people post about work, and it’s nice to get to know their interests and stuff outside of work.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Thank you, I was starting to think I was the only one! I’ve got a lot of people I consider friends here at work, and those that I don’t know that well go on a “Work friends” list that is omitted from the more personal posts. But the rest of them? We’ve talked about family, sports, politics, TV, family, all kinds of stuff, and I value their opinions. Like I said earlier, I don’t think it’s reasonable for people to expect me not to have opinions, or to not like things, so if they have a problem with it, it’s their problem, not mine. And I haven’t run into that yet with…well, anyone, really, except one really close, old friend who can be very opinionated. But work friends? Nope.

          1. StudentPilot*

            I do in-house training for my department and I’ve accepted friend requests from my students (I get a lot of returning students session after session), ranging in age from mid-20’s to 50’s. I just make sure not to complain about my classes….or work in general really.

            A little oddly, my coworkers I’m not friends with – just my students. (Maybe because I spend more time with them than I do my coworkers.)

          2. anon for this*

            I added co-workers and I see drama being played out unfortunately. One co-worker posts updates on how much she is drinking and then the next day she calls in sick. I think we can fill in the rumors that this spawns. I think she only does this when she is stressed out but others see it differently.

        2. Kyrielle*

          I did so at my last job, and came to be uncomfortable with it in some ways. (I still have those folks as friends, and it’s much less uncomfortable now!)

          My current job doesn’t have a culture of adding people at all, and I’ve already decided I won’t – because I feel so much better about having a line between work and private. Not so much over things like today’s letter, but just because I don’t have to second-guess whether a comment about IBS – or kids – or whatever will impact their views of me.

        3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I accept friend requests from employees also, no problem. Maybe they have me on their “what my grandmother can see” list, IDK, but no issues with anyone who as chosen to reach out. Maybe 1/4 of the people who work for me have.

          Me, I post about television and food on FB. And post pictures of my dogs. So, no controversies, no issues, and sometimes some fun. :) Plus DOGS. We can talk about our dogs. :)

        4. Angela*

          I do not have direct reports but am in a leadership role. I will accept from anyone that sends a request, but if they complain about the company, I just unfriend them. It’s not my job to police their social media but I also don’t want to be associated with someone that is super negative about the company either. However, I would have concerns if I was managing someone who called out sick and then it seemed they were actually doing something else. The concern for me would be more the honesty issue. If you need a day off to (whatever) then say you need a day to take care of personal concerns if you aren’t comfortable saying what it actually is. I am lucky in that if I needed a mental health day, I could just tell my manager that and I’d get the day off with no further word on it.

          1. Jill of All Trades*

            Many are not fortunate enough to be able to be forthcoming about the reason for a day off, and even if you are a manager who can handle the truth, your direct reports may have had unfortunate manager assignments in the past and they assume that they have to be tight lipped about the reason for a day off. It’s okay to tell people that it’s okay to tell you and then make it a safe place for people to be forthright about their reason to take time off.

      2. B*

        OP you can still do this. Explain to people you have decided to keep your social media only for outside personal work. Most people I work witch are completely fine with that. Short of that you could put them all in a group that only shows your profile picture and nothing else, while you also unfollow them. By unfollowing them you are not going to see their posts on your newsfeeds.

    3. MashaKasha*

      I have SOOO dropped the ball on this. A lot of my current coworkers and I all worked together at OldJob, about 8-9 years ago, still in the early FB days (so early, in fact, that FB wasn’t blocked at work.) We also all hung out together at work, invited each other to parties at each other’s houses, etc. We all got a little Facebook-happy back in those days and all added each other. Only one person declined, saying they don’t add coworkers, and we all got a laugh out of how stuck-up they were. I had over 40 FB work friends at one point (that number thankfully went down over the years). Which I now think is pretty scary. Finally got a wake-up call last year, deleted some, hid my page from the rest, including their family and close friends. I feel that I cannot delete all of them, because they’ll take it as a personal offense, and never add me back if one of us changes jobs. I should’ve never really added any of them to begin with. This is a big regret of mine. If I ever change jobs, I won’t be adding anyone at my new job on any social media.

    4. BRR*

      This is a good policy. I had a falling out with someone I was friends with at my last job and this is my new policy. I will allow myself to be friendly but not friends. No facebook.

  4. Cobol*

    She could be catching up on her posting too. Being legitimately sick and bedridden is the perfect time to put together those albums you’re been meaning too .

  5. Laurel Gray*

    Another example of why people should not be friends with bosses or colleagues on social media while still working for the organization. I’d also argue that they shouldn’t in general and shouldn’t have an easily identifiable Instagram or Twitter unless they use it for business in some form. I like and appreciate the space between my work and personal life.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    I would definitely have a talk with her about it. I think it’s enough to say that the perception could be an issue and she needs to be more careful.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Agree. If she’s using sick days in accordance with policy, that’s her business, but she should do so wisely.

    2. Laurel Gray*

      This. Perceptions definitely matter and they are everything when it comes to social media and your job.

    3. OP*

      Agreed. In her case especially b/c she is at a senior level and I am grooming her to be in a leadership role eventually. I guess I will just take this opportunity to give her some casual feedback on the issue and steer her in the right direction.

      1. Just My Opinion*

        “grooming her to be in a leadership role”

        This isn’t just an opportunity to give her “casual” feedback. If you are, in fact, grooming her for a leadership role she needs to demonstrate that she is qualified for leadership. How she reacts to your perception of what took place is a good test to see if you should continue with leadership grooming.

        Don’t make the same mistake and cross manager/employee boundaries yourself. While you might like her and think she is good at her current job; if she isn’t management material then she isn’t – no matter how much you wish to “lead her in the right direction.”

        Please make sure she is a good candidate for moving up (and being good at her current job, while good, isn’t necessarily an indication that she would be good at leadership; there are other factors to consider); if she isn’t then you have to let go of that idea.

        Sorry, I hope this doesn’t come across as harsh as I don’t mean it that way! Good Luck!

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I agree. It sounds like she was instrumental in getting this department where they are, but I also think she may have grown complacent in some regards. I mean, it happens.

        2. OP*

          Update for all – I spoke to her about it and it went surprisingly well. I didn’t ask her when the photo was taken, I stuck with the “I trust you” position, but she did offer that it was a re-post from Valentine’s Day. Anyways, I explained to her how it could be perceived by others on our team and in the business. She completely understood and said it hadn’t occurred to her originally and she will keep it in mind going forward.

          For what it’s worth, this is her first senior role. These types of judgments come naturally to some, to me it’s common sense, but I suppose that others do need to be taught.

          Thanks to all for the advice!

          1. Just My Opinion*

            “She completely understood and said it hadn’t occurred to her originally and she will keep it in mind going forward.”

            That is excellent! Yes, for some folks such intuition/judgments might come naturally; for others they need to learn the other person’s perception.

            One place I worked we had a new supervisor who used to go around leaving post-it notes on folks’ computer screens stating “I was here at 9:03 and didn’t see you in yet? Please be on time!”

            Those who worked with her when she was one of the crowd felt that the notes were cute and understood that she was just trying to find her footing as a new supervisor. Others who were hired after she was promoted found the notes insulting. Once it was pointed out to her how some received the notes she stopped. BTW, she turned out to be a great supervisor.

    4. Newbie*

      The perception issue is a key one. I currently have a co-worker that I feel abuses our time off policy. Whenever she’s out, I have to cover her work, which then impacts the progress I can make on my own work. We are not connected on any social media and I choose to not seek out her social media activity on her days out of the office – mainly for my own sanity. But if I were to become aware of a perceived abuse, I would be upset about the impact her outage created with my own workload. I think that since this person is in a senior position and has chosen to be connected with her colleagues through social media, it should be made clear to her what the possible perceptions could be.

  7. Sunshine*

    The previous letter that Alison linked here is saved on my computer, and I reference it often. It’s been a big help to me, navigating through attendance issues with my reports, and coaching my managers on the same. Good stuff!

    I agree that this is tricky. I try to limit my social media contacts, and even with that, I limit what I share (almost nothing) for the reasons stated. I fear that keeping the boundaries will only get more difficult as the years pass.

  8. The IT Manager*

    So I am not as nice as the LW or Alison, and I my first instinct is to assume that this employee is abusing her sick days not that she’s lying in bed editing and posting photos from another. Possible yes, but not probable.

    I’m going to set aside my opinions on what sick days are for and my own agency’s strict and not unclear rules on how sick days should be used, and just say if it’s not a problem for the LW that the employee is using her sick day for a paid day off, she should just alert her to the appearance to and likely grumbling of people who have to pick up slack on no notice (and she mentioned others staying late so there’s an impact) by fun postings on social media on days when she’s “sick”.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Even if this employee is lying and abusing the policy, the “I trust you but optics” approach is still the best way to go, since it addresses the real problem. There’s not a good way to police how sick people really are on sick days.

      1. INTP*

        I agree. Even if you don’t trust the employee, it’s a way to say “I’m onto you” that they can’t argue with. If you try to address it from the angle that they’re abusing their sick days and need to stop, it won’t be a productive conversation – they’ll just say that they were posting old photos, and then you look like you’re back-peddling when you switch into “Well, it still looks bad.”

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Even if you ARE posting old photos, at least have the common sense to say something like “as long as I’m stuck in bed, might as well catch up on my photos” or something to remove doubt.

      1. Mike C.*

        The “common sense” thing bothers me becuase that means we should always be looking to cover our asses in case someone is watching and someone is looking to get us in trouble and someone is willing to overlook any other reasonable explanation. At some point it becomes very tiring to live in such a manner.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          But you don’t have to live in such a manner if you don’t friend your coworkers. Once you link to them, you’ve chosen to give up a bit of your privacy.

          1. INTP*

            Exactly. It’s just an extension of common sense that people with common sense have been employing for their sick days since long before social media. I.E., you don’t call a coworker to tell them that you’re not really sick, and you don’t take a mental health day and have lunch in the same places that your coworkers eat lunch or go shopping in the mall where you work. It’s pandering to societal norms a little because in an ideal world, taking yourself out to lunch on a day when your depression or anxiety re debilitating would be as acceptable as watching TV when you have the flu, but it’s also not unreasonable for an employer to expect some discretion.

          2. Mike C.*

            And yet we’ve had letters where “concerned friends” want to go to other people’s employers to rat them out for things that are not the employer’s business but “might make them look bad to other people”.

            1. BuildMeUp*

              I think this is different, though – the people seeing the posts are the poster’s coworkers who are picking up her slack when she’s out sick. If they are seeing these posts and thinking their superior is calling out sick, making them do more work, and then going out and having fun, that’s different than just “might make the company look bad.” It’s something that can really negatively affect morale, as well as those employees’ relationship with the poster.

    3. Mianaai*

      I’m really fed up with the perception that sick days are only to be used for “legitimate” sickness and anything else is an abuse. In addition to scheduled sick time due to doctor’s appointments and actually-can’t-get-out-of-bed sickness, I’ve had all of the following happen in the last year:
      – Woken up with a migraine, taken meds, called into work, gone back to sleep for 4 hours, then felt fine in the afternoon
      – Stayed home to care for a sick spouse
      – Called in due to my doctor’s / dentist’s office slotting me into a last-minute appointment.
      In each of these cases, I ended up getting dressed/made up/etc according to my normal routine. I didn’t post selfies to Instagram, but that’s just due to my own habits. Not to mention all the other reasons for dressing up that Victoria Nonprofit mentions at the top. I agree that there’s an optics issue here with the OP’s social media, but I’m really sick of the idea that “being seen outside of the house on a sick day” = “abusing sick time!”

      1. INTP*

        Yeah, I consider any sort of health-promoting activity that keeps you a more productive employee as a good faith use of sick time as long as the total number of days doesn’t become unreasonable. If I take a sick day to catch up on sleep and run some errands so I can also sleep sufficiently the rest of the week, I’m not sure why that is worse for my employer than if I get sick after a week of sleep deprivation and take 1-2 days off with 2-3 more days of reduced productivity. That said, I do think there are limits – clubbing isn’t really a health promoting activity in the physical, mental, or community sense, so if the employee is really doing that (based on OP’s response below that the pics were definitely not just putting on some lipstick to go to Target), it’s a reasonable thing to address.

        1. Mike C.*

          It’s as mentally promotional as attending any other musical concert. Just because it’s not in a concert hall and you don’t dress up doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. I spent 11 years as a violist and I also got into turntables in college, so I’ve seen a good deal of both sides.

          I mean sure, no one is dropping molly while they’re attending Madame Butterfly (though it could use the help!), but I saw way more bars open the last time I went to the opera than the last time I went clubbing.

          1. AFT123*

            I learned something new about you today! That is so cool that you were a violist. I played violin in my younger days and I have thought about picking it up again.

          2. INTP*

            Clubbing tends to involve drinking and staying out late, two things that you should generally not be doing if you’re in an acute state of depression/anxiety and need a mental health day. I’m sure some people are there for the music but that’s a minority of people in a minority of clubs. But I also don’t think it’s good to use a sick day specifically to go to the opera either, it’s just an acceptable thing to do on a needed mental health/rest day.

    4. AW*

      Possible yes, but not probable.

      OK, but why would you make that assumption? I almost never post pictures on the same day that I take them and, as far as I know, most cameras and apps don’t require you to. (Maybe those apps whose pics expire require you to send anything you take right away but I can’t think of any other exceptions.)

    5. Anony*

      Not every illness requires lying in bed. Not every illness is a cold or food poisoning.

      I have rheumatoid arthritis – there are days where I can’t go to work because of the pain or because of the medication’s side effect. Doesn’t mean I can’t get out of the house. I might even exercise – as, you know, advised by my doctors.

      Someone with migraines might be fine in the evening. Someone with bipolar disorder having a manic episode might even go out – doesn’t mean they can work.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Agreed! The last time I called out of work, both my ears were so infected they were totally closed up, so my sense of balance was shot six ways to hell, but I was otherwise fine. Couldn’t go to work, because I couldn’t drive safely, and the constant sensation of the floor rising and falling under me was all kinds of distracting, but I wasn’t reclining on a chaise lounge having the vapors or anything!

      2. Vintagelydia USA*

        I tend to doll myself up even more on days I’m sick so long as I’m not leaking an absurd amount of fluids from my face (and I more thoroughly clean my brushes afterward regardless because hygiene is important.) What better day to try out the more daring looks than days I won’t see many people? And if I’m successful, damn right I’m taking a selfie!

      3. Anonsie*

        Same. I have a rheumatic disorder and when I can basically expend no energy by being at home? I’m usually fine with some extra hours of sleep. It’s the getting up and going out that’s going to screw me up. And even then, often towards the end of the day I feel fine enough to go out and run an errand or something if I spent the whole day up until that point resting.

  9. AnotherAlison*

    This is why I love our “all in one” PTO policy. If you offer sick time as a benefit that can only be used when sufficiently sick, you risk getting sucked into policing it like this. I don’t like dishonest sick fakers, but it’s not worth spending company time trying to catch them either (the obvious abusers don’t take much effort to catch).

    1. AnotherAlison*

      (not that I’m assuming the OP is in a position where she can change, or even influence, the PTO policy)

    2. TCO*

      Even if your PTO is all in one, though, it sounds like the rest of the staff have to work extra when someone calls out on short notice. The short notice is the problem. If I were on that team, I wouldn’t really care whether my boss were actually sick or not, but I’d definitely be annoyed if they took PTO last-minute for something that wasn’t urgent.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I haven’t really been affected by this much. Most people do the right thing.

        I did have a situation at the end of last year where the Key Player to issue some deliverables was a no-call, no show. He ended up wandering into the office around noon, but I had had to scramble to get a contingency plan into action before that. This ended up being the beginning of a pattern. After New Year’s, he just quit coming to work and was eventually separated from the company. It happens occasionally, but the couple times I’ve witnessed it, an employee just goes off the deep end. It’s not by an employee that should continue to remain employed here.

        Other situations, like when people were getting Royals’ tickets at the last minute last year and bailing on zero notice, tend to be self-mitigated. If there is a this-must-get-finished-by 5:00 thing, they’ll stay and do it or make arrangements so that it gets done.

        I’m lucky to work with a professional, experienced team, so I understand all offices might not make it so easy to have this type of policy.

      2. Bookworm*

        Agreed. I also worked somewhere with all-in-one PTO, but if someone called in last-minute with a lot of frequency, that would be an issue. (Depending a bit on the department.)

        1. Bookworm*

          People also did occasionally offer up that they wanted a mental health day and check with everyone to make sure a last-minute PTO request would be ok. I don’t think anyone begrudged them that.

    3. AmyNYC*

      I prefer having separate sick time and vacation time, because it encourages people to actually USE sick time.
      OldJob had two “buckets” so a sick day didn’t impact vacation time, and I could take off when I wasn’t full-blown sick, but can rest and prevent it getting worse. NewJob has one “bucket”, so unless I physically cannot get out of bed, I’m not going to use “vacation” to stay home.

      1. Marian the Librarian*

        I agree with this. If we didn’t have separate sick time and vacation time, the majority of the people that I work with would come into work sick so that they could use their vacation on something fun, get everyone else sick and make the problem worse. In fact, our part time employees do this all the time because they don’t accumulate sick days. I’d much rather risk someone taking a sick day for a frivolous reason than have contagious employees coming into work.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        That is a downside. I don’t think the all-in-one PTO actually works unless you are fairly generous with it. You can’t give people 2 weeks total for sick and vacation and expect them to stay home with a bad cold.

        1. BRR*

          True. I think we all agree the same can be said in the LW’s situation where she said they get 5 sick days a year.

      3. Hlyssande*

        I agree with you in general, but I have a coworker that is proud and boastful of the fact that he hasn’t taken a single sick day in the last ten years or so. We get 5 paid sick days a year. And he doesn’t use them on purpose!

      4. Tau*

        Never to mention that employees who need to use sick time frequently (including people with various chronic illnesses or other disabilities) are effectively penalised for that.

      5. CMT*

        There’s definitely pros and cons to each way. As a relatively healthy person (right now, at least), I prefer having one bucket of PTO. I get to take a lot of vacation! But, like you said, I also sometimes come into work when I’m feeling run down, but not quite sick enough to stay home. I just don’t think there’s a clear black and white answer on which way is the better way to handle sick time and vacation.

      6. BananaPants*

        Yes. I love having separate sick and vacation time because I can take a sick day here and there without weighing whether it’s worth having to cancel a planned staycation (which we usually do to get home improvement/DIY projects done while the kids are at school/daycare). Mr. BananaPants has one PTO bank and it means he goes to work even when he’s super-sick because he wants/needs to save his time off.

        I average something like 6-7 sick days per year, and that’s with using partial sick days for doctor’s and dentist’s appointments. I’m able to work from home with a sick kid, though, so that helps immensely in being able to use sick time for when I’m legitimately sick.

      7. Windchime*

        But that’s the thing; it’s not vacation. We have PTO here; sick time and vacation time all go into one bucket but the days that are allocated to Sick time (I think it’s 5 days) don’t magically become vacation days just because they are in the PTO bucket. If you’re lucky enough to never get sick, then yeah–you can use your PTO however you want, including taking those 5 extra days as vacation. But they are in your PTO bucket in case you are sick and need to use them.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I hear what you’re saying, but in my case, I get 5 weeks PTO, and I think you start here with 4 weeks (2 sick, and earn 2 vacay by the end of year 1). You’re allowed to roll over 2.5 x your annual PTO earned. I generally have 8 weeks on my balance, and when it gets up to 9 weeks, it is usually about time for a couple vacation days or some dr. appts.

          I think it’s fair to put the risk of how to spend PTO on adult employees. If you have a junior employee with a health condition and not much PTO, yes, they should keep some in reserve and possibly need a reminder on that, but I’ve been going to school or work for over 35 years. I think I know me by now!

    4. Arjay*

      We have a single PTO bucket, but there are still different processes for vacation and sick days. Vacation / personal days have to be requested and approved in advance – just how far in advance depends on your role and your manager. But calling in the day of the absence is considered unapproved PTO and counts against you in the attendance policy.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Yeah, we’re supposed to get PTO approved in advance, unless you’re sick, but there’s no hard-and-fast rule on how this has to be handled. I can call my manager and say that my workload is light with no deadlines today, it’s 70 degrees in February, and I’m taking the day off if it’s okay with her. With separate sick time, policy would indicate that you should like about this to get the day off and not get in trouble, because you couldn’t take a personal day when well.

    5. Tilly W*

      I’ve never had a job where we had designated sick days, it’s always been one big generous PTO lump sum for your discretion. My SO’s job, however, only gives two weeks of PTO a year and two weeks of sick time. Right or wrong, he frequently uses his sick days to ski for his “mental health.” He’s an individual contributor so no one has to cover for him and his director encourages it with the reasoning that the ratio to sick days and PTO days is off. Sick days seem to cause a lot of drama and unnecessary policing from what I’ve observed.

    6. Rater Z*

      I got wrote up a few years ago because I called off while I was at the ER with my wife. The team leader who had to get my signature on it was really furious over it. It’s one of the big box retail stores so I understood it had to be done because of the fake sick call-offs. She said they already knew who those people were who were abusing the call-offs.

      The computer system was changed the following month. Now, it’s the time clock that writes up people for being more than a minute late or calling off. The supervisor does have the ability to override the points we get hit with. The points drop off after 12 months but they also combine with points for performance write-ups and 12 points in a year gets a person bounced out the door. It’s a half point for being over a minute late or leaving too early, plus one point for calling off plus, I believe, an additional point if the call off was less than one or two hours before the scheduled start time.. In four 1/2 years, I have been hit with 1.5 points (not counting the few times the supervisor overrode stuff). I think he realized I wasn’t a problem when I showed up with a heart rate of 120.

  10. Roscoe*

    I really wonder what “looking all dolled up and ready to go” means. Is she dressing like she is going to the club, or just “dressed” and not looking frumpy in sweatpants. I have some friends who won’t even run out to target without doing their hair and putting on makeup. This seems like a pretty weak thing to even bring up to me.

    However, maybe you should try to tell her that she should be some limits on her social media activity and who can see what. That way any perception issues are gone.

    Overall though, it really depends on the co-worker. If she is a good worker, I think this will do more to piss her off than anything, because you aren’t even addressing a work issue. You are addressing how she spends her sick days.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Well, yes, it is a work issue. If I take a sick day in the middle of a big project, dumping work on my junior colleagues, and then post a bunch of pictures on social media that makes it look like I spent the day clubbing, of course those junior colleagues are going to be pissed.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          You should see the start of intern season here in DC then. It looks like the clubs just closed and everyone went straight to work. No, you CAN’T wear a sparkly halter top with a skirt and those boots. NO!

          1. Mike C.*

            Look, just because I can pull off that outfit at 7am doesn’t mean you’re allowed to be jealous.

            /LOL at “those” boots!

          2. VolunteerCoordinatorinNOVA*

            That was one of the most awkward conversations I had to have with an intern about dress. Having to remind an adult that no, you can not wear a see through shirt to the office is just an experience. She just didn’t get it at all.

        2. Heather*

          For some reason my brain jumped to “day clubbing” as an alternative to “day care.” A new service for extra-rowdy toddlers to burn off some energy, perhaps?

          1. BananaPants*

            I would *SO* pay for this for our 2.5 year old human tornado. Give her a glow stick and put on some music and that kid will dance and dance.

      1. Roscoe*

        Well then in that case the real issue is calling off at an bad time. Not the posting pics. If it is truly an all hands on deck time, then that is fine to address. It sounds like though that any call off will affect others, and guilting people into not take a day off because of that is never a good thing. I had a job that they tried to make you feel about calling off since it made other people’s days more difficult. Everyone hated that

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I don’t agree. I’m willing to put in extra work at the last minute if a colleague is sick, but if the colleague just wants to have the day off and is perfectly healthy, I would be really annoyed. You have a massive migraine? Cool—I’ll cover it. Your child is home sick with the flu, and you have to care for her? Cool—I’ll cover it. You want to just sleep in, have a lavish lunch out, and post about it on social media? Not as cool.

    2. OP*

      It was dressing like she was ready for the club. Definitely not a trip to target with a little bit of makeup.

      1. Anony*

        So, I assume that picture was then taken something like 10 or more hours after the employee was supposed to start work?

  11. Mando Diao*

    A lot depends on what “calling in sick” means in this office. Do they have PTO or vacation days? Is there pressure to never call out? I’ve worked places where calling out was such an uncomfortable and guilt-ridden process that every day off was couched in the language of “sick days.” Or where there was no official policy so “calling in sick” was the only way to get a day off.

  12. Mike C.*

    I really, really get tired of this “perceptions matter” stuff in cases like these. Let’s be perfectly honest here – this isn’t about doing something bad, this is about having to deal with other people with limited imaginations looking to get upset. It’s no different than the bosses who demand butt in seat time “because you wouldn’t be working otherwise”, coworkers mad about someone else wearing headphones, whatever.

    Why can’t we all agree just to leave other people alone? Why are we always looking for reasons to get people in trouble for things that aren’t actually issues? Don’t we all have businesses to run and work to do?

    /By the way, my wife’s last job required her to friend her bosses and not lock them out of posts because “reasons”. So that’s fun.

    1. Cat*

      I think being a boss who is worried about the perception of people under you is very, very different than being an underling who’s forced to worry about the perception of your boss.

      1. Mike C.*

        Sure, I see that there’s a difference, but it boils down to the same root issue – others making (often incorrect) inferences based off of limited information and personally held beliefs about “what is proper” and everyone else having to spend their time playing CYA in response.

        1. Cat*

          Yeah, but that’s where the difference comes in for managers – human psychology is what it is and if your a manager, a large part of your job is being a good leader, which involves thinking about perceptions. (Obviously you can make your life easier by just not friending them on social media to begin with but that ship has sailed here). It’s not scrambling to CYA; it’s being aware of your team’s perceptions, which is part of leadership.

          1. Anonsie*

            I don’t think Mike is hammering that this is the LW’s fault though, it’s the whole system they’re operating within. It’s smart for the LW to look out for and give heads up to her reports about things like this; it’s crap that it works that way in the first place such that this is something she has to do.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      But OP isn’t getting anyone in trouble, or looking to. She’s just wondering if she should say something. And yes, I think it’s appropriate to say “hey, it doesn’t look quite right when you do this” especially if it’s someone in a senior position.

      And your wife’s ex-job? That’s INSANE.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That last part is hilarious. First, how would they know if employees created a Facebook Friend list called “4$$hole bosses”, and then excluded that list from 98% of their posts?

      Second, what’s to prevent employees from connecting with bosses on their “Cersei Lannister” account, but using “C. ‘Queen B’ Lannister” account to bitch about work with their friends?

      That is why I would run, not walk, away from a company that poorly managed.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, and boy was this place mismanaged. In preparation for getting sold (never happened), they took all the wall clocks away. You’re most likely thinking, “what in the hell?!” and you’d be right.

    4. Heather*

      By the way, my wife’s last job required her to friend her bosses and not lock them out of posts because “reasons”.

      WTF?! Stories like these are the ones that make me afraid of looking for a new job, even though I want to. What if my current company is actually sane and easygoing in comparison to everything else that’s out there?

      1. Windchime*

        The thing is that they would never know if you locked them out. So I say go ahead and friend them, and they get to see the one picture a week I post of my cat and nothing else.

    5. Ms. Didymus*

      Regarding your wife’s ex-job it is pretty simple

      “I do not use my social media profiles” add them and restrict them from seeing anything. It’ll just look like you never post. Is it crazy to have to do this? Hell yes. But unreasonable bosses are unreasonable.

      1. LQ*

        I don’t actually use my social media, so all they’d see was like 1-2 family photos over the last 5 years or so…it would be very strange, but I bet they wouldn’t believe that.
        (You’re young! You must facebook!)

        1. Talvi*

          I am a fellow Young Person who does not use Facebook. In the sense that I don’t have a Facebook (and never have). I feel that we are getting to a point where just enough people are deleting their Facebooks (over e.g. the fact that they’re regularly changing the privacy settings) that I can squeak by without anyone really finding it suspicious that I don’t have one!

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            I’ve read that Facebook is increasingly unused by younger age groups in general, who prefer other forms of social media when they use it – it’s very interesting to me how these things evolve.

            1. oldfashionedlovesong*

              This is fascinating, isn’t it? I was a freshman in college when Facebook still required an .edu email address and was limited to a handful of schools (one of which was mine)– it felt like the coolest thing back then. I remember writing on people’s walls to plan a night out, posting entire albums of our dorm room pranks and group selfies before they were called selfies. Fast forward to grad school (and I went to grad school right after undergrad, so it wasn’t that long after) and my students all viewed Facebook as a thing they had, not a thing they *used*. For them IG and Snapchat were the places to be– and I used neither (although I later got IG). I remember being bewildered at how fast I’d aged out of being the trendsetting generation. Now Facebook is the place to catch up on family photos, where your middle-aged librarian aunt posts pictures of her Disneyland trip with the grandkids, where your mid-20s folks (like me) post longform articles that no one reads. I still have my Facebook, but I can’t remember the last time I posted on someone’s wall to plan a night out :P

      2. Mike C.*

        They needed Facebook accounts to perform the work – you’d be surprised (not really) how often someone brags about committing fraud.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      On the other hand, you’d have to have a “limited imagination” not to realize that your coworkers WILL think less of you if they believe you’re pretending to be too sick to work when you really just wanted a day off at a busy time. It’s not something you should ignore just because it offends your principles.

      1. Mike C.*

        I’m not saying to ignore it, I’m simply saying that the others the root cause of the issue and that I don’t have to like the status quo. My facebook account is certainly locked down, but I don’t like the fact that I should have to be concerned that everything I post will be misconstrued by the disingenuous.

        If I wanted that life for myself, I would run for office. I’m actually serious about that point, I would love to run for a small, local office but I’m not going to expose myself and my family to the sort of bullshit that comes with it.

    7. neverjaunty*

      When your friend people on social media so they can see your stuff, “leave me alone” kinda goes out the window, is why.

      1. Anna*

        The problem is this idea that it’s all one-sided. “You friended the people you work with. What did you think would happen?” BS. How about, “Since you’re friends with people you work with, it’s important to remember not everything they do is any of your effing business.”

        1. neverjaunty*

          “Just because somebody announces what they were doing to everyone on a feed they’ve invited you to look at, doesn’t mean it’s your business”? I am honestly not following that, especially when the context here is a manager taking a sick day from work, rather than what she did on her weekend.

          1. Anna*

            Yeah, because seeing a photo means you get to create an entire backstory. Except you don’t actually know the situation and until that situation is directly shared with you, it’s not your business.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          If it’s not my effing business that you’re enjoying yourself while I stay late to do your work, don’t post it to social media.

          1. Anna*

            The point being, and has been shared SO many times in the comments, is that you do not actually know if that’s the case. My point is that “perception” seems to be a lot of people making assumption that they have no business making.

    8. Bookworm*

      I disagree. I mean, I think we can all agree intellectually that it’s not the sort of thing that should bother anyone, but we’re human and it can be hard to shake those perceptions.

      I remember when a colleague was working from home one day – she posted a photo of her with a group, out by the pool with snacks and their computers. Now, it’s no one’s job to police how she works from home (and they did have their laptops) but a number of people in my department were waiting on a deliverable from her. If you’re fielding call from frazzled clients who want a status update while your colleague is posting pool photos? That’s demoralizing.

      And particularly if the colleague is more senior – as OP has said – it can accidentally communicate to newer staff that expectations are lax.

      I think I see where you’re going with the “butts in seats” comment, but I disagree in this case because it’s NOT just perception – people are literally doing extra work to cover for her. OP said that they’re staying late. That affects them differently than if she was just wearing headphones – that’s their time. (Especially if they’re salaried.) And if you feel you’re being repeatedly asked to do extra work or stay late so someone higher up on the food chain can go have fun? I think a lot of people would find that discouraging.

      Plus, there’s a super easy fix here: she should just stop posting the photos, or, as other’s have pointed out, edit them to include an explaining caption.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Look, Mike’s point is that we’re all professionals, we should respect each other enough to give each other the benefit of the doubt. But there’s a point that some coworkers may not know you well enough, or may be under such a tight dead line that the BEC point is only a small step away today. There’s no one answer, it depends on who it is, what the circumstances are, and how you frame it.

        Can we agree that we should try to give people latitude (trust, but verify), but can’t always take for granted that it will be given freely and unconditionally?

        1. Bookworm*

          I haven’t seen anyone in this thread arguing that we’re not professionals or people shouldn’t give each other the benefit of the doubt.

    9. Newbie*

      I agree that leaving other people alone to do their own thing is ideal, provided what they are doing doesn’t negatively impact on my work. Then it does become my issue. The OP mentioned that there are staff that need to stay late to cover when this employee is out of the office using sick time. Do these extra hours worked mean the company is paying overtime? How is the normal workload of the employees that are covering for the absent employee impacted?

    10. Jinx*

      It’s the difference between an ideal world and reality. In an ideal world, I agree with you – you should be able to mind our own business and expect others to do the same. But in practice perception can have consequences, and when someone writes in for advice it’s an important factor to consider.

      1. Cat*

        I’m not even sure that’s how things would work in an ideal world. People are inherently social and want to feel that they’re being treated fairly, particularly by people in positions of authority. I think it behooves people in positions of authority to be careful about that.

        1. Jinx*

          That’s a solid point – I guess part of the “ideal situation” is having transparency AND not having to worry about fairness, because everything is fair. :P

      2. Mike C.*

        Yes, I recognize this difference but I think it’s important from time to time to point out that the root cause of the problem isn’t the person taking leave or having an open Facebook account, the problem are others who are trying to police the actions of others. Yes, there may be consequences, but many times there shouldn’t be.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          What you call “policing her actions,” her coworkers might call “noticing that she’s making them stay late and do her work while she calls in sick and has a good time.” There probably should be consequences if that’s the case.

    11. Laurel Gray*

      There are certain fights worth fighting for on the “perceptions matter” front when it comes to the workplace. I am not sure if it is worth fighting it for social media use like the one in this letter.

      FWIW, the leaving people alone for things that aren’t actually issues is the argument people make when they don’t think people should be fired for offensive things they post on social media too.

    12. BananaPants*

      “By the way, my wife’s last job required her to friend her bosses and not lock them out of posts because “reasons”. So that’s fun.”

      My state now has a law where employers are prevented from requiring employees or applicants to give access to social media accounts, so if this happened to me I’d tell them to pound sand. However, if in a state without protections I’d make a list of said bosses (probably titled something obscene) and restrict them from seeing everything except a very occasional and non-offensive post about the weather, or my family’s holiday portrait. Let them think I’m the most boring person on the planet…

    13. Ineloquent*

      I don’t disagree, Mike – we should absolutely trust people to behave professionally and manage their time appropriately. However, like any kind of trust, it must be earned through a solid track record of verifiable situations where the employee has shown professionalism and good judgement. I’m always going to monitor the new hire more than usual because they haven’t built that level of confidence. They might not know professional norms, and that’s ok. People learn by having others (hopefully kindly and tactfully) point out their mistakes.

      Your wife’s exjob is freakin insane though. No office should be stalking employees.

      1. Anna*

        How do you verify if someone is actually sick or not without making them do something annoying like bring in a doctor’s note?

        1. Ineloquent*

          You trust them until they give you reason not to. These photos would, in my opinion, be reason to doubt. The important factor here is the OP didn’t seek them out, but I think it’s totally reasonable to ask for an explanation.

    14. KellyK*

      /By the way, my wife’s last job required her to friend her bosses and not lock them out of posts because “reasons”. So that’s fun.

      Can people tell when you’ve locked them out of posts? I didn’t realize that they could. (I make extensive use of a “no politics or religion” group, and everyone I work with is in it.)

      Either way, that’s incredibly creepy.

  13. KLR*

    My key takeaway from this is to never connect with colleagues on social media, which is a practice I follow. I think the sick leave policy matters here. If “sick” days are akin to “personal time” days, I would not address it right now. If you are required to bring in a note from a doctor or something, that’s a different story, but as long as she is not using more than her allotted days, I would let it go for now.

    That said, I worked with a guy who would post online all the time when he was “working from home” or taking a personal day. He was connected to lots of our coworkers on social media, and people commented frequently about how he was never in the office or was clearly goofing off online during work hours. It really hurt his reputation. So I do think there comes a point where the suggested language about perception to junior employees is a point that needs to be made. I just don’t think Op is there quite yet.

  14. regina phalange*

    If I am posting old pics on social media, even if it’s a day old, I try to use relevant hashtags (#latergram, etc) to differentiate. That being said, this is a really fine line to walk, not only in terms of why people are using sick days, but what they are doing on them, and who needs to know. Social media is so prevalent, people should always be aware of what they post and the corresponding perceptions. Sadly this is not the case.

    1. Squat Cobbler*

      Posting under a different name for this:

      SO… right now I’m involved in a personal injury legal issue, which I never in a million years imagined I would be but something really bad happened to me and it was someone else’s fault, and I want my medical bills and lost wages reimbursed.

      I have to be really, really careful what I post on Facebook, even in a private account. I can’t just post a picture of me out hiking because I’m not in that much pain that day, because it could be discovered by the defendant’s legal team and used against me as proof that my injuries aren’t that bad. I can’t even say things like “I’m feeling so happy that I’m doing so much better 6 months later” because it could be used against me. It sucks.

      1. regina phalange*

        Ugh that sucks, I am sorry. I thought if your account was private then lawyers would not have access, but I guess you never REALLY know. Hope things work out in your favor.

        1. neverjaunty*

          There are lawyers who will send friend requests pretending to be somebody else, or try to get information through your friends. Yes, a lot of lawyers are sleazy.

        2. Elysian*

          This isn’t just about sleazy lawyers friending people or trying to keep it “private” – if you’re involved in a court case, they can just request relevant information and you have to provide it. It was a very memorable day in law school when I realized that if I keep a diary and then get involved in a court battle, I have to give my diary over to the lawyers so they can see if anything is relevant. It isn’t just about privacy settings, it is truly a matter of “don’t document anything you wouldn’t want a lawyer to read,” because it is all fair game to request.

      2. Melissa J*

        This happened to a friend of mine. I lost contact with her and was wondering what was going on. I thought she unfriended me, etc. Turns out she was involved in a similar case so she just got rid of all of her social media. I’m glad she’s doing a lot better now and she’s back on it. It was a definite CYA action on her part.

      3. fposte*

        Just wanted to extend sympathies, Squat. If you are who I think you are, I know it’s been tough, and it’s frustrating there’s this additional layer to it.

      4. INFJ*

        I got warnings about this from my lawyer when I was battling a denied worker’s comp claim. Not only was I frustrated about not being able to work and stuck at home unable to do much of anything because of my injury, I was also super paranoid about doing the simplest of things.. like taking out the trash. Having to police yourself to that level is extremely difficult. :-/

        1. Anna*

          And it’s offensive since it’s mainly the fault of mistrustful companies.

          For those out there thinking it: That people commit fraud is a part of it, but since that is a much smaller number of cases than they want you to believe, it really doesn’t hold much weight as a reason to treat people automatically like criminals.

      5. BananaPants*

        Two friends of mine who are going through contentious divorces are in the same boat. Their respective attorneys advised them not to post directly about the custody/alimony battle or detail what is in one case long-running abusive behavior by the soon-to-be-ex, because the opposing lawyers could compel the release of all posts on even a locked-down/private Facebook account.

  15. Sarah*

    This happened to my housemate. Out for a week with flu and bored out of her mind, she posted a huge backlog of pictures on instagram. Getting back on the Monday she found herself being written up for using the time to go on this fabulous holiday and was very nearly fired for it, despite being a PhD student and the pictures not actually making any narrative sense (taken on various holidays, with different hair colours). It got dropped immediately with much embarrassment once this was pointed out, but this reminded me of it. Apparently people had pulled up her instagram at the weekly meeting and ‘dissected’ it to prove this huge conspiracy. (this is in the UK btw)

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Holy crap! I am so disgusted that her coworkers actually sat in a meeting trying to “catch” her.

        1. Anna*

          Especially since she came back to an automatic write up and near dismissal without an opportunity given to defend herself.

  16. Somov*

    It astonishes me that in this day and age there are people (with conservative day jobs) who have either public accounts, or are friends with coworkers on social media.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      A friend of mine is friends with most of her coworkers on social media, and it drives me nuts as a manager. I feel like she has no boundaries. I’m always telling her to be careful what she posts, because people will unfairly judge her sometimes or get the wrong idea about her based on those posts. Plus, she needs to be really careful if she takes a mental health day and tells them she’s sick when she’s not.

      1. Somov*

        The younger folks that I work with immediately add everyone in the office! I have a strict personal policy against it.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      The rest of my life is pretty conservative, too, and I am a 3x/yr type of poster, so I’m not too worried about it.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m friends with SOME co-workers on Facebook. I don’t exactly have a conservative job, though. But I have rules. The people I friend must be people I would (and do) hang out with outside of work, and they can only be peers. I won’t accept a request from anyone junior or senior until they leave the company.

      Instagram, though… everyone in the office follows my Instagram, but that’s because it’s not really mine. It’s my dog’s. And he’s awesome.

    4. BananaPants*

      I am friended to selected coworkers/former coworkers on social media. I’ve been friends with these folks for a long time and I trust them. Only one is currently employed at the same company. I do not connect with any coworkers other than these carefully-selected peers, and NEVER with managers, on any social media outlet other than LinkedIn. Why borrow trouble?

  17. Snork Maiden*

    As a 30-something on Instagram, almost none of my posts are in the moment when it’s happening (I save that for Twitter). My assumption would be she is doing the same thing I am doing, which is editing and posting when you have a quiet bit of time to yourself. Many of my Instagram friends post #latergrams (photos they took awhile ago and are only putting up now). This is common enough that I hadn’t thought about optics, although it will be a factor now when I use Instagram, knowing how other people interpret that platform. (I curtail my Twitter postings when I am assumed to be offline.)

  18. ASJ*

    I can understand how the junior employees feel. I once worked with a temp (I was a temp at the time too) who would call in sick, and then post photos on her FB page of what she’d done that day. I remember one time in particular, she posted pictures from that day’s shopping trip – her daughter’s commentary made it very clear it had been taken the day she was ‘sick’. I don’t look down on people who take the occasional mental health day because I do it myself, but at least be discreet. But when your work lands on my desk and you’re posting about it all over FB? That I have an issue with.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      But when your work lands on my desk and you’re posting about it all over FB? That I have an issue with.

      This is the key issue, IMHO. Whether or not anyone should be “policing” (or how about we call it what it is – observing) your social media, if your absence has an effect on your coworkers, the reason behind that absence matters to them.

      1. Lady Kelvin*

        Yes, and this website has discussed several times the problem with compassion fatigue. If you are constantly taking sick time off because you get sick a lot, I’ll cover for you because being sick sucks. If I find out you’ve actually just been taking off days to go shopping or to the spa, I won’t take you seriously if you every actually do get sick, that’s not fair to me.

        1. Anna*

          OP has made it clear that this person is not taking an unreasonable amount of sick time, so that’s not really the case here.

  19. Kat*

    Just throwing this out there; my side gig requires a pretty heavy social presence. Because I have a full time job, I don’t have time to check social all day. I schedule my posts for the month on the first day of the month in hootsuite so I don’t have to worry about it. It’s complete with photos, graphics, etc. and I set up “if this then That” so if someone comments or replies, a designated response from me automatically goes. Anyone following my accounts would think I’m on social media all day…when I maybe check in once a week. So don’t assume she’s online during a sick day. She could be passed out but her accounts are automated

    1. Snork Maiden*

      Whoa, I didn’t know you could set up Hootsuite to reply! I schedule tweets for later just to spread my thoughts over the day, but this adds a whole new level.

      1. Kat*

        It’s not through Hootsuite. It’s a program called “If This Then That”. You can set up all kinds of rules, so if someone follows you, it will send them a “Thanks for following” message, and you can set up keyword alerts so that it takes actions (If someone uses the terms “loved” and “blog”, I have it set so it says “Glad you liked it! Check out my site at XXXX”.

        1. Snork Maiden*

          That’s really cool! I use a similar program on my phone to customize settings based on what area I’m in (it turns the wifi on when I get to my house, that sort of thing.)

  20. T3k*

    I’m not an Instagram user, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d also check if they’re not automatically set to post like you can do with Tumblr posts. On days I know I won’t be able to put up something, I’ll set it to automatically do it for me during certain hours.

  21. super anon*

    this situation is exactly why my social media accounts are private and anon – my facebook doesn’t even use my legal name. i also have a policy not to add coworkers to social media until after i’ve left a job. i especially don’t add my supervisors on facebook ever, not even after i have left.

    i don’t post anything “bad” (i don’t drink, drugs, party, etc) or disparage my employer or talk about work at all on social media, but in this day and age i think it’s worthwhile to keep work as far away from my online presence as possible. i take a lot of photos and then post them on instagram when i’m not busy or bored; a sick day would be a heavy instagram use day for me. i would be guilty of this kind of use, and i don’t want to deny myself vanity posting on a bad day because of optics.

  22. Lolisan*

    My mind is dizzy right now as I confront the idea that my Instagram habits could be noticed and dissected by my boss or coworkers (who are not followers of my account but could find it pretty easily). I tend to post “latergrams” way more often than I post in-the-moment photos. I don’t use hashtags whatsoever and I rarely put captions with more info than “Hiking in Maine” or “My cat is goofy”. I never thought this could ever cause an issue, but now I’m going to be super paranoid of what/when/how I post things.

    OP, if I were your employee and you confronted me about what I was posting on my sick days, I would be confused and a little wary of you going forward. Sure, it could just be a misunderstanding that you don’t realize I post photos well after the time they were taken, but I would realize you didn’t trust me and I would have a harder time trusting your confidence in me in the future. Not to say your employee would react this way, but if she’s as good as you say, do you want to risk it?

    1. Bookworm*

      I’m sure you’re fine. I don’t think anyone here is trying to say that you need to be “super paranoid” about what you post. Even what OP is describing, it doesn’t sound like anyone is actively gossiping or breaking out pitchforks.

      OP never said that she doesn’t trust the employee, or that she wants to police how the employee spends her time. She’s only concerned about possible demoralization of junior workers who are staying late to cover these sick days. She just wants to add some awareness. Adding a caption to an Instagram photo takes only a few seconds, so I can’t imagine it’s a big burden for OP’s colleague to start doing that.

      It is upsetting to think that people might be judging you, but I don’t think you need to shoot straight from ‘totally unconcerned’ to “super paranoid”.

  23. Erin*

    I would let it go, assuming that work is being handled, she isn’t over the allotted sick time, and that she’s otherwise a great employee.

    I see several commenters here made great suggestions on legitimate reasons she could be posting. But also, in general I think trying to figure out or police just how sick someone is is a slippery slope to be avoided.

    Do they just have a headache so they should come in or is it more of a migraine or do they have a fever, should I require a doctor’s note but what if they can’t afford the copay or a doctor’s visit isn’t really warranted, if it is a headache is she hungover or is it a more legitimate issue…

    I say if she’s allowed a certain amount of sick time, let her take it, and don’t worry about the details.

    Admittedly, the junior employee who had to stay late and can see the photos is tricky. I would either take Alison’s advice and talk to her about perceptions here, or you could have a ready made statement for if the other employee brings it up. “I don’t police exactly how sick you guys are when you call out. Those pictures could have been from another day, or have another reasonable explanation. I do appreciate your covering for her and that effort does not go unnoticed. Of course, she would have to cover for you if you needed to take sick time.”

  24. CADMonkey007*

    Since this is an already established social media connection, why doesn’t OP just comment on said selfie, and see what happens?
    “You look great! Hope you’re feeling better.”

  25. Kristin*

    I don’t know. I think this is two separate issues. You think the employee is abusing sick days, and her frequent sick days are being noticed by upper management.

    Another issue is you suspect she’s not really sick because of her social media posts. That’s irrelevant to the greater issue.

    You need to ask her if she has a health problem that is causing her to miss work so frequently. Maybe she does – maybe she has migraines, or maybe it’s something she has been embarrassed to bring up like depression, IBS, heavy or painful periods (I don’t think anyone should be but I can see why someone might not want to talk to their boss about this stuff) and then you can maybe work out a schedule where she can work remote or do something else in order to make up for her absence.

    I am of the opinion that may be unpopular that sick leave is leave to be used when you are ill, OR need a mental health day. The attitude of policing sick days makes me pretty angry, honestly. But I recognize I might be alone in that. I just find it insane that in America we have so few vacation days and are run ragged by employers and THEN if you take a selfie on a sick day/mental health day when you’re exhausted and just need a break, you’re in trouble.

    Mental health, wellness, and breaks are just as important to good employee performance as staying home when you have the flu, and if I found out my boss was policing me like that, I’d start looking for a new job where people were more reasonable/in line with my thinking.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m all for mental health days, but different workplaces have different norms (and different managers have different norms). I’ve worked in places where you aren’t supposed to call in sick unless you’re physically sick (not requiring a doctor’s note, but you definitely couldn’t just say “I need a mental health day”). I’ve worked in other places where they actually encourage you to take mental health days, but even then it makes sense to be prudent about when you use them (if everyone else is being slammed, they may all want mental health days then, too, but you may all have to suck it up for now and then recuperate later).

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      You need to ask her if she has a health problem that is causing her to miss work so frequently.

      I don’t consider once every six weeks all that frequent. YMMV, of course, but I’d be pretty surprised to get called into the office for that discussion.

      1. Anonsie*

        This is around my normal absence pattern for my chronic illness and you would be shocked. I’ve had to have conversations about this with management in every job I’ve ever had, literally every employer has considered this strange and excessive.

        1. Rater Z*

          I try to keep my supervisors aware of my wife’s many health problems. Not looking for pity or anything from them but it lets them know that, if I get called home, it’s not a joke. I work alone third shift two or three times a week so they have to send somebody out from the main store in that case. I can’t lock the door when I go out it — no key, not even the team leader has one.

          The fun (now) call, at 3:30am, was from my neighbor (an ICU-certified nurse) who simply said “Don’t let this worry you but you might have to take your wife to the emergency room.” The manager didn’t argue and I was home in less than 30 minutes. She had cut her skin while clipping toenails. The nurse had gone thru about 15 gauze pads trying to stop the bleeding. (I decided to try a stepic pencil that guys use when we cut ourselves shaving and that did the trick.) We can all do that but she is a free bleeder on a blood thinner who thinks nothing can happen to her. Another time, a nosebleed put her in the hospital for six days. Luckily, these things don’t happen often, but only concern at work, not complaints.

  26. Pep*

    Reason number 8 billion and 1 why I have a strict no-social-media-friending-of-work-people policy. My boss gives me crap about it all the time — offended that I refuse to accept her FB friend request — but I’ve told her and everyone else I work with that I’m doing it for their protection as much as for my own.

  27. KR*

    I don’t know about everyone else, but when I’m having a bad day and feel sick sometimes I like to dress up or put on makeup or cute clothes and take selfies. It makes me feel like I accomplished something that day, even though I couldn’t go to work. I think we also have to factor in that the employee might be posting these after the fact, might have gotten some rest and be feeling better, or needed a mental health day.

    1. AFT123*

      Totally. Especially when it’s a bathroom related illness – you feel otherwise fine but can’t stray from the bathroom, and you just get kind of bored! Then it’s kind of fun to break out the makeup bag and try new YouTube hair tutorials.

  28. Nicole Michelle*

    ACK, this concern is why I 1) don’t friend coworkers or bosses on social media unless I’ve left the company and 2) avoid social media on days I’m out sick. Such a sticky situation.

  29. Nicole*

    This is exactly why I’m very careful about what I post on social media when I’m out sick because I understand that perception = reality most of the time. I will purposely not post to any public accounts during my time off just to be safe. The last thing I want is someone coming across my account and thinking the worst of my work ethic. You may or may not agree that one should have to limit themselves in such a way, but to me it’s a minor inconvenience to protect my reputation.

    Also, FWIW, Instagram is either completely public, or hidden with only those approved to see the posts, so it’s possible someone with a public account who isn’t specifically friends with their coworkers could still be subjected to their scrutiny.

    1. OP*

      Yeah, I tend to function in the same way. I am “friends” on FB with the Operations Manager from our head office. Last month I was sick with bronchitis and a 103.5 fever for 4 days straight which caused me to miss almost a full week of work. Sure it was tempting to be active on Facebook during my “vacation”, but I erred on the side of caution b/c the last thing I want to deal with are comments being passed through the rumor mill to our CEO that I missed 4 days of work and was chatting it up on FB all day.

  30. Miles*

    If she’s a star player, it’s quite possible that these days off help her recharge and are a key part of how she’s able to perform so well. Maybe she’s not physically sick, but maybe these outings help her avoid the need for therapy.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      But this ignores the effect her absences are having on the other players who are picking up her work when she’s gone. If the stress is simply punted down to the next person, how is that beneficial?

      1. OP*

        I hear ya. Unfortunately the current situation on our team is that someone gets stuck bearing the brunt of the work regardless of whether it is planned PTO or an unplanned sick day. In addition to the 5 sick days everyone also gets 15 PTO days and when those are being used we are in a bit of a pickle too. Obviously it all depends on the sales volume that week, some days might be smooth sailing and others might be a nightmare.

      2. Roscoe*

        Well, if they can’t handle the sick days they give people, they may need to hire more. Sometimes manager’s don’t see that need until its too late. My manager didn’t think we needed more people. Fast forward to the last couple week’s when we have had quite a few people out for a day or 2 for random things, and we just can’t keep up. As bad as it sounds, its not the employees responsibility to make sure their is adequate coverage, its management’s.

        1. OP*

          Agreed 100%!

          I requested a new hire already and it was turned down b/c our CFO (who I report into) as he doesn’t think we really need someone. He wants me to utilize our receptionist (who I also manage) to do some of the extra work on my team, but I am not a fan of that idea. Sure I can use her for random tasks that aren’t involved with the day-to-day functioning of our department (and I do utilize her for this stuff), but for the critical work I need someone who can make it a priority. Our CFO is very disconnected from the day-to-day though so I just need to make him understand better. Unfortunately he works out of our UK office so we don’t get much face time together. Luckily he is visiting our office in a couple of weeks (he works out of our UK office) and we have a meeting scheduled to discuss.

  31. Dana*

    As if I weren’t paranoid about social media enough. This is actually why my account is very public. It helps me remember not to post anything I wouldn’t want to put on a billboard. With that said I wonder if this would be the same reaction if she was seen in public dressed up. I say that because I come from a family where no matter how sick you are you try to look your best before you go anywhere. Even the doctor’s office. I also think selfies no matter how dolled up are not an indication of intent. If she was dolled up and the comment said “can’t wait to go out” or something then that would be concerning. But getting dressed up and taking a pic means nothing. If I were this employee I’d just block my coworker and go about my business.

  32. Slippy*

    For the OP. I guess this is a case of just because you can look at a employee’s instagram account doesn’t mean you should. The big danger, as mentioned above, is the lack of context and the rush to judgment. Barring something really egregious like pictures of drugs/crimes that need no context the pictures you see are liable to be misinterpreted. By forcing a conversation about the pictures you may go down the unfortunate route of tangling with medical issues and privacy. Besides, nobody likes a nanny.

    1. Elle*

      But how do you not look at someone’s Instagram? I’m not on it, so I profess to some possible ignorance, but if it’s anything like FB, aren’t you just scrolling through what others have posted, thus making it difficult if not impossible to NOT see posts?

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        There isn’t a way to not look. It isn’t like Facebook, where you can be “friends” with someone and hide all their updates. If you’re following someone on Instagram, all her photos will show up in your stream until you unfollow.

        1. Slippy*

          There is one absolutely foolproof way not to see someone else’s Instagram. Don’t connect with them on Instagram. This goes back to just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Also if the company in question says that it respects the privacy of customers and employees (which 99.9999% say they do) then stick to professional network connections like LinkedIn and bask in the fact that ignorance is bliss.

      2. Angela Harris*

        Doesn’t Instagram have a policy that doesn’t show the exact date when pictures are posted? You can see this persons pictures out of order. It’s a safety feature

        So one might think shes at the club on her sick day but that pic is from 3 weeks ago

  33. Chris*

    When I started a job as ED of a small non-profit, I decided to keep all of my online stuff separate. I used a different iteration of my first name, I tweaked privacy settings etc. Invariably, some people found me and the friend requests started. The one that was the hardest to fight was the person who was at the same level as me (this was a weird org). Finally after months I gave in. Huge mistake. It turned out she was a bully and she told all the staff about my life, my blog, my life. Once I cleaned the place up, no one was allowed to be connected on social media.

    I suggest that the OP talk to her subordinate and that they both pull back from social media with their employees. They can’t really do much about the current situation with the employees except to suggest that they might not want to connect. They could also create a new policy saying that these connections are ill-advised and why and strongly suggest that new employees not connect with peers on social media.

  34. Telecommuter*

    I find this hilarious as my other fellow telecommuter posted a social media story about “how to you know you work at home” and our past boss – now much higher up – posted about how we work when we are sick because we are *home* (needless to say, this higher up likes this very much – and did I mention she will be in charge of rewriting HR policies this year?). So no mental health days, no “I have a migraine” days” – zip. Bloody nothing….I hesitate to even post anything I am doing at “night” or on the weekends because it looks like I do not have 110% dedication to my incredibly dysfunctional nonprofit environment…as in “you had time to do that Saturday afternoon? Why not catch up on your workload instead?” But it is too late to unfriend them all now.

  35. JustAnotherHRPro*

    Hence why I am not friends with anyone I work with on FB, I am rarely on Instagram anyway, and actually block some coworkers (not at this job, but my former job) for this very reason. I have friends…but people at work don’t need to know my business. I admit its a little off-putting, but especially working in HR, you kind of have to.

  36. Paola DR*

    The daily staffing structure of my job is divided in shifts. 2 people open and 3 close. When someone calls out sick in the morning it places a big burden on 1-the opening manager who has to most likely work alone 2-another worker who agrees to come in earlier and work the entire day or 3-a person who was to come in during their day off. if someone calls out for the closing shift, then the rest of the team has more work to do and if the person calling out is a manager then most likely the opening manager has to then work a double. There’s really no room for unscheduled absences unless its really serious. So i too would feel a certain way if someone calls-out “sick” and i see them taking selfies as if theyre just fine.

    1. Rater Z*

      I understand what you are talking about.

      Many years ago, I was team leader in an office where we were open from 8pm Sunday to midnight Friday night plus 8am to noon on Saturday with three people. A woman on days, I was evenings, and a guy on midnights.

      When the woman was off, sick or vacations, I got to work doubles days and evenings.

      When the guy was off, I got to work doubles evenings and midnights. I also covered the Saturdays.

      Me, I was not allowed to get sick per the personnel manager. If I went on vacation, they had to end someone down from the general office, 110 miles away.

      That job ended in 1978 when the company was sold and closed down by the acquiring company. I still miss the job, but not the hours. I was exempt.

  37. Caro*

    I once was fired for taking too many sick days. I got 9 per year – one every month-ish. I had worked there ten years. When I left, I had TWENTY-SEVEN accrued, not-taken sick days left. So employers may allot you a certain number of sick days, but not want you to take any.

  38. Joe King*

    Nowadays it seems that companies are lumping together sick and vacation hour accrual and just simply calling it paid time off or “PTO.” Whether unplanned or planned, what an employee does with their time is their business. There are days where sick could mean that an employee mentally cannot function in a work atmosphere. I’m a strong believer in using your paid time off. People loose this time as companies do not let it roll over. An employer does have the right to investigate and terminate due to pattern absences and occurrences only if stated in attendance polices.

  39. Jill from Cairo*

    So what exactly does one do when you have an co-worker whose work is not up to par but frequently e-mails in sick, as in “migraine so bad I can’t get out of bed,” and then posts Instagram photos of the clubs she went to that same evening? Do we just believe in a miraculous healing while we’ve all spent the day running around trying to cover her position? The sick leave and vacation leave at our organization is generous, but we feel like we’re all getting our noses rubbed in it.

    1. KellyK*

      That’s a tricky one. It still feels a little like policing coworkers’ social media, but I think if it’s affecting your work and it’s pretty blatant that they’re lying, it’s reasonable to go to your boss.

      A random selfie that could be from any time isn’t blatant, but posting that you’re out at the club the evening after you were out with a migraine is. I mean, yes, the migraine could’ve ended, but if you literally can’t get out of bed, you’re unlikely to be up for clubbing a few hours later.

      I also think it’s two separate issues. One is that you don’t have adequate coverage when people are out sick, and the other is that your coworker is likely scamming.

      But, whether you mention it to your boss or not, I’d unfriend or unfollow so you aren’t seeing their posts anymore.

  40. Angela Harris*

    Dear OP

    I suggest you get familial with filtering who can see your posts. Privacy filter is your best friend. For example i have some posts id never want my mother to see on facebook, so i block her from seeing them but everyone else can and she doesnt notice . It is a post by post thing you must do but cover your bases

  41. Anna Livingston*

    i just have a question. Can a employee get in trouble for calling another employee names and saying false information about them on social media? And can the manager get into trouble because it was being done on her post and she did nothing about it.

  42. Willow Sunstar*

    This is one reason I normally add only former co-workers and teammates to my Facebook page. I am, however, still very careful about what I post, since I also have relatives and Toastmasters friends on Facebook as well. I certainly would not add a current manager to it. However, I would add them on Linked In, if asked.

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