how much detail do you have to share when you call in sick?

A reader writes:

We recently hired a new manager for our admin/support staff, and in her first team meeting she told us that when calling in sick, “Don’t just say ‘I’m not feeling well.’ I don’t want to hear that.” Apparently she wants a specific reason we are calling in sick.

In an attempt to point out the embarrassing nature of the human body when ill, someone asked “What happens if we have diarrhea?” to which she replied, “That’s fine. Just tell me.”

This makes me uncomfortable, and I know I’m not the only one in the group that feels this way. Awkward conversations about bodily fluids aside, I have clinical depression, which sometimes means taking a sick day to recharge. This is not something I am comfortable disclosing to this manager, nor do I feel that I should have to. The whole thing feels like we’re expected to justify taking the sick days we’re entitled to.

From a legal standpoint, what do employees have to disclose to their managers when taking a sick day?

Well, there’s what’s legal and then there’s what’s reasonable — and is so often the case, the two are not a perfect match.

Legally speaking, employers are allowed to ask you what’s wrong when you call in sick.

That said, if the reason you’re out is because of a medical condition that’s protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, your employer isn’t allowed to push for information beyond questions that are “job-related and consistent with business necessity” — like when you expect to return to work. (The ADA covers physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities, such as seeing, hearing, speaking, walking or breathing. So minor illnesses with short duration — like a cold or flu or a broken ankle — generally aren’t covered.) Of course, managers won’t know when they first ask why you’re out if it’s going to be ADA-related or not — which is a good reason for them to back off and stick to questions that are “job-related and consistent with business necessity” for everyone.

The other good reason for doing that is that, legal issues aside, employers should treat people like responsible adults and not violate their privacy.

There’s zero reason that your manager needs to know the reason for your sick day. Presumably she wants details because she wants to pass judgment on whether or not your reason for taking a sick day is good enough. But what is she going to do — tell you that your diarrhea should pass in a few hours and you should come in then? Tell you that your sore throat isn’t so bad and you should get out of bed and come to work?

There’s just no work-related reason for her to have that information. If someone seems to be abusing their sick leave, she can address that directly — but that’s no reason for requiring everyone’s medical charts as a general rule. It should be sufficient for you to say “I’m sick and not able to come in today.”

You have three options here:

1. Speak to her privately and say something like, “I have a medical condition that I’m not comfortable discussing at work, and occasionally I need to use a sick day for it. I’m not comfortable sharing the details when I do, and that’s not something employers typically require. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from pushing for information beyond questions that are job-related, like when the person expects to return to work. Given that, I’m concerned about your requirement that people share the reason for their use of sick leave and I hope you’ll reconsider it.”

2. If you have HR, talk to them and say something similar: “Jane informed us last week that when we need to use a sick day, we can’t just say we’re sick — she wants specific details about exactly what’s wrong with us. I have a medical condition that I’m not comfortable discussing at work, and occasionally I need to use a sick day for it. As I’m sure you know, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from pushing for information beyond questions that are job-related, like when the person expects to return to work. Can you talk to Jane about removing this new policy and respecting people’s medical privacy?”

3. Get a group of your coworkers to push back, either with Jane or with HR. The idea here is that a group of you would meet with Jane and/or HR and say something like, “We’re adults who use sick leave responsibly. Sick leave is part of our benefits package, and we don’t want to be obligated to share personal medical details in order to use it when it’s needed. Certainly if someone is abusing their sick leave, that should be addressed, but otherwise, we should be able to use our sick leave without being told that we need to share private medical information.” There can be power in numbers, and it can be harder to blow off an entire group speaking up.

I’d also keep an eye open for other indicators that Jane doesn’t know how to wield authority responsibly and/or that she has a shaky sense of boundaries. The fact that this was a high enough priority for her that she announced it at her very first team meeting doesn’t bode well for her judgment or priorities.

{ 384 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    Ugh. I’d be so tempted, the first time I called in sick and this lady wanted to know what was wrong, to answer with, “When you’re going down the hall and you feel something fall…”

    1. Allison*

      Yeah man, if she really wants a reason and she’s fine hearing about people’s digestive issues, I’d be fine describing my Hershey squirts in graphic detail. I’d pre-write lengthy prose about it, to send on such an occasion, until she sees the error of her ways and decides she doesn’t need to know after all.

      1. I am Fergus*

        I thought the same thing. I would say I have a rash on my penis, do you want a picture to go with the written explanation

        1. Jadelyn*

          …except for the part where involving your genitals and basically threatening to send your boss a dick pic gets you into harassment territory.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Oh, I’m sure it was intended as such, yes. I just don’t find it a particularly funny joke to say “haha, if my manager pushes for confidential health information, I should send her a picture of my genitals!” and it’s not the sort of thing I’m willing to let pass unchallenged.

              1. Nicole*

                +1. Especially with everything happening in the news right now, I’d rather everyone avoid jokes about sexually harassing coworkers because of something the coworker said or did.

              2. The Rat-Catcher*

                The picture part I agree, but what if it really was a rash on someone’s penis? Manager said vague wasn’t good enough…

      2. many bells down*

        I was thinking I should hire myself out to call in sick for people, because I have a couple different rare medical issues and I will happily give Too Much Information to my boss when I have to call out. You want the gory details? GURL U GOT IT.

    2. paul*

      Call while you’re on the commode dying. Wait until you feel the gorge rising, then hold it a foot or so away.

      Spread the awkward.

            1. Snark*

              Most places, you never read the comments. Here, you always read the comments, but never with anything in your mouth.

      1. LadyL*

        Or pull a Liz Lemon and fake it
        *dumps out coffee on the street* “Oof, I just ralphed on 6th avenue!”

    3. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      I have a chronic skin condition, psoriasis and sometimes a flare-up hurts so much that I can’t wear clothes. A previous manager questioned why I needed to call in sick. I took her into the restroom and lifted my shirt and showed my torso which looked like an inflamed battlefield. That was enough.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I actually think it would be kind of hilarious if everyone called in sick saying they had explosive diarrhea. Make it ubiquitous, and her request loses power.

    4. Relly*

      I would start documenting the various things I was coughing up: approximate shapes, color palette, viscosity. Include reference photos clearly labeled and time-stamped. Nickname them things like “Greeny,” “Whole Lotta Sludge,” and “This Might Actually Be Something That I Need In Order To Live, Like Part Of My Lungs Or Something?”

    5. Kristen*

      If I were the letter writer, I’d honestly just lie and say “stomach issues” when she asks rather than pushing back on this.

      1. Kristen*

        Oops I didn’t mean to reply to this comment specifically. First comment on this site is going swimmingly as you can see!!

    6. DBGNY*

      I had to take about week off in December for a case of pneumonia. I sent my boss two emails – one that I wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be in, and then another when I was diagnosed with it.
      Imagine how pleased I was to return to the office and found out that my manager was telling people that I should have just taken a Benadryl and come in any way and that it was just a cold.

  2. ContentWrangler*

    I find it extra concerning that this is a brand new manager making this pronouncement in their first team meeting. It’s not like this is a manager seeing sick leave abuse and instead of directly addressing it, just making an overall policy.

    This manager seems to have come in already on the defensive. I agree with Alison that you should keep an eye out for other poor management decisions.

    1. Anony*

      I was thinking the same thing. Why would a brand new manager impose new rules around sick time? It is a strange way to start off and implies a high level of distrust.

        1. Jadelyn*

          I’m less worried about “weirdo”, and more about “power-tripping jerk with boundary issues”. Weirdo kinda minimizes it, imo, when a boss who’s on a power trip, ruling with an iron fist, and assumes she’s entitled to personal health information on her subordinates…that’s way worse than just having a weirdo boss.

          1. JessaB*

            I would be more like OK Jane came from a culture that’s horrible about time off, or was treated like this herself a lot and thinks it’s NORMAL. We hear on this site all the time how people in terrible companies begin to think all companies do business that way or that they’re supposed to do business that way.

            I think I’d go on that before anything else, then maybe second thought she’s nosey, but not so much going immediately to she’s got bad intentions on purpose.

              1. Annonymouse*

                The most generous interpretation I can see is Jane wants to know which family of sickness it is so she can know how long you’re out for…. in a not well thought out way.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Perhaps this manager is not only brand new to management, but also a product of a bad manager. Otherwise, why would she want this much control? It definitely sounds to me like she wants to use the information to pass judgment as to whether someone is “sick enough” to stay home. Seems a lot like a former manager of mine that always wanted to know what we were using our personal days for, because personal days “should not be used as extra vacation time.” No, personal days are personal. Hence, “personal.”

      1. WillowSunstar*

        This is probably why my company just gives us PTO. There is no sick time bucket, no vacation time bucket, etc. It is all the same bucket.

        1. Wintermute*

          I understand WHY companies do this but I hate it, and in a lot of countries that actually have workers’ rights it’s illegal. No one should be left hugging their toilet at 3am doing the mental math to decide if it’s worth taking a sick day and having to shave a day off their trip to Disney World with the kids in the fall, or if they have to go in and risk giving the entire office a virus so they can go to their brother’s wedding in april.

          Giving employees generous sick time and as much flexibility as you can is not only the humane thing to do, it’s better for your other employees (not to mention customers and clients!) as well as your business.

          As an aside, that’s why it gobsmacks me that so many food places offer no sick time whatsoever. Sure it’s illegal to work with food if you’ve had certain symptoms, but those laws are widely flaunted because, hey, people have to make money to pay bills. But the idea of putting someone in that position should be terrifying to any restaurateur or franchise owner, because they’re putting you one droplet of fluid away from having your restaurant’s picture on the news next to “12 sickened in food poisoning scandal”.

          1. Former Employee*

            I never understand this approach assuming that the total number of days is the same, but all are open ended instead of assigned as “sick days” versus “vacation days”.

            Why do you want to have to take off days without pay if you get sick once you’ve used up all of your paid sick days? That’s when people generally come into the office even though they have something hideous that will make the rest of the office sick.

            Besides, how would you afford that trip to Disney World after you’ve lost a week’s pay due to uncompensated sick days?

    3. Former Hoosier*

      And presumably, if someone is comfortable enough calling in sick when they aren’t, they are going to be willing to lie about specific symptoms. I don’t see how this addresses any real concerns about sick leave.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Right? It’s not hard to list off some symptoms over the phone. I’ve claimed a migraine before because I had a boss who wouldn’t understand “my brain is tying itself in knots and I can’t cope with being around people right now”. I’ve faked a raspy voice instead of admitting a hangover. Not recently, but the point stands that it’s not hard to fake or lie about being sick when all you’re doing is telling someone about it over the phone. Saying “you have to tell me in what way you’re sick when you call in” isn’t even effective at what it purports to do.

      2. Antilles*

        Right. Especially since with a lot of common ‘illness’ symptoms, it’s not even *possible* for someone else to judge. You have no idea how serious my headache is since it’s not your head, you don’t really know whether my feeling like I’m going to vomit is real, etc.
        And this goes double for ‘pain’ of any kind, since, y’know, even actual medical doctors can’t do anything more but to ask me where on the smiley-face chart my pain is.

        1. WillowSunstar*

          Yes and what are they going to do if someone has a migraine? It’s not like it’s possible to concentrate on actual work with a migraine. But how do you actually “prove” it to a skeptic? I guess she could go for doctor’s notes, but that starts getting a bit ridiculous with grown adults.

          1. tangerineRose*

            Also, I imagine it would be torture for someone with a migraine to go to a well lit doctor’s office and wait to be seen when they probably just want to lie down in the dark for a while.

      3. Traffic_Spiral*

        This. Like, people can lie? Does she think that if someone is going to lie and say “I’m sick” they can’t add “I have a fever” without their head exploding? Having to describe your sickness isn’t going to actually stop people from faking sick leave, if they want to fake it.

    4. Not a Blossom*

      Best-case scenario is that she came from a place where people regularly abused sick leave (and even then, it should have been addressed with the specific people). However, I wouldn’t be surprised if she just wanted to feel in control. I also wouldn’t be surprised if she turned out to be one of those people who prides themselves on never taking a sick day (even when they really, really should).

    5. Yorick*

      This seems to me like a mistake a new manager might make. You might think it’s your job to make sure your reports are working when they should and aren’t faking sick days, and take a hard stance.

      Someone needs to explain it to her, but she might see it on her own once she’s had some employees call in.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        I thought this too. My team of directors and assistant directors, all of us exempt, got to interview the candidates for our executive director position. One of them had very little management experience (and I think we all had more or substantially more years of experience in the field as well). We asked about his management style and he said some generic statement to indicate he thinks he’s a good person to work for. And then said, “But of course, I have to make sure everyone gets to work on time.” We were like: Nope. THAT’S what you think your job is? Dude then clearly you have never done this job. It was pretty insulting that one of our (female) directors was told not to apply based on her level of experience and then they let this inexperienced youngster through the screening process. At least he did not get the job.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Wow. “I have to make sure everyone gets to work on time.” Nice when they make it clear in the interview that you don’t want to hire them.

    6. Catabodua*

      I was wondering the opposite – as in, her manager told her that this would be the new policy and she’s just trying to implement something someone higher up has decided and she’s too new to know she needed to push back

    1. EBStarr*

      “I have a chronic condition that’s acting up today” is a vague truth that could work for the OP.

      I’d personally be tempted to claim diarrhea every time, but I’m petty.

      1. Busibee*

        I’d totally do it. Just call in with “Oh, I ate something that didn’t agree with me!” and then hold the phone over the toilet while dumping a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew into it.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          Ha! This reminded me of Ferris Bueller, when he had his keyboard playing a wide range of illness noises.

        2. Sara*

          When I taught overseas in my early 20’s, it was a chaotic environment with a bunch of irresponsible new graduates. A few times we called in with ‘bad sushi’ when we were hungover. They never questioned it (though I’m sure they hated us)

          1. LadyL*

            Whenever I’ve worked in places that hire lots of young people and mangers get suspicious about why they call in sick on weekend mornings I always remind people it’s kind of the cost of doing that type of business. As in, you want responsible 40 year olds, you gotta pay responsible 40 year old wages. You want to pay 21-year-old wages, you’ll get 21-year-old behavior*. I think when you run a chaotic business and you only give employees the bare minimum, you’re going to get chaotic employees who also only give the bare minimum.

            *Obviously big generalities here, many responsible 21 year olds exist and also many irresponsible 40 year olds exist. But you get the idea.

            1. TheBeetsMotel*

              Exactly. I think people become more suspicious of call-ous in retail environments, because retail tends to attract younger people, students and, sometimes, those who aren’t needing to pay “real bills” with their paycheck*, which can occasionally lead to calling in for less-than-professional reasons. But you have to look at WHY said groups flock to retail (and tend to flock away again as soon as something better-paying and more stable comes along), and if your pay is not in line with the level of commitment you want from people… well, there you go.

              *(these are huge, sweeping generalizations, and I realize this: there are plenty of people trying and often struggling to pay Real Bills with retail jobs, and there are plenty of young people with more professionalism than people twice their age. But I’ve also met my fair share of the “just doing it to get out of the house” crowd within retail, too. And most 18-year-old student’s bill-paying needs are likely to be different from a 36-year-old-mortgage-and-kids person’s needs. Etc, etc.)

              1. Lissa*

                Yeah, one of the most frustrating parts of working retail/food service for me was that I *was* paying my rent and bills with it, and others weren’t. Having to work shortstaffed and deal with irresponsible behavior while making the same wage got really old really fast, and at the time yeah I did get mad at my coworkers, but in retrospect it was definitely the whole environment and making barely enough to survive on that was the real problem, not the no-show no-call beer flu quits job on first day because has to tie hair back people….

            2. whyo*

              “…you want responsible 40 year olds, you gotta pay responsible 40 year old wages. You want to pay 21-year-old wages, you’ll get 21-year-old behavior”

              YAAASSSS PREACH!

            3. Amy*

              This speaks to my soul. I was generally a responsible 21 year old but I wasn’t paid enough to keep my car running and my medical condition under control and my boss resented me for it alongside the folks with hangovers. It drove me so nuts I left the industry.

              1. Rainy*

                I worked retail management briefly after I moved countries, and my store manager enacted a “no scheduling around people’s other jobs” rule and then was infuriated when our associates started calling in sick. Yet somehow never connected the dots! You can’t survive on 12-16 hours a week in this town, but she wouldn’t give more hours, and when she decided that this job should take priority so she wouldn’t entertain schedule requests, she shot herself in the foot. Congratulations, enjoy the reasonable consequences of your unreasonable stance.

                1. Lissa*

                  That’s so horrible. Reminds me of all the ads out there for part-time but need to have a “flexible schedule”. Yeah OK, so I need to keep my entire schedule clear for a 14 hour a week job. That’s reasonable.

                2. Ego Chamber*

                  @Lissa “Reminds me of all the ads out there for part-time but need to have a ‘flexible schedule.'”

                  This is exactly why I get so mad whenever family members suggest I just “pick up a few part time jobs” when I say I’m having trouble finding full time work.

                  Everywhere I interview offers me 15-20 hours/week (caveat: no promises/depends on scheduling needs) but they won’t even interview you unless you say you can work any shift and any day when you sub an app.

                3. CMFDF*

                  I went on a job interview for some place where the listing was “social media coordinator” for a home health care company.

                  The woman interviewing me owned the franchise and explained it would actually be social media, scheduling, recruiting, managing cases, being on call 2 nights a week etc, it was for 20 hours a week until I proved myself (without giving me clear outlines out time frame there), but she couldn’t guarantee WHICH 20 hours. She also was very adamant that this was the kind of “career” that you could not leave at the office, you should always be thinking about it. I said, “well would it be all mornings, or two full days and a half day, would the on call count towards that 20 hours?” She said that wasn’t for me to worry about, refused to discuss pay, not even if it was commission or fixed rate, let alone if there were any additional benefits should I ever “earn” being full time (God, just remembering this woman makes me roll my eyes), and then seemed miffed when I declined the job. (I was looking for full-time work, and my mother had been a case manager at another home health care company for decades, and I knew I wasn’t interested in doing that long term. Also, my mom was fantastic at her job, and definitely didn’t live and breathe it every second of her life.)

        3. A Non E. Mouse*

          the toilet while dumping a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew into it.

          Well I’m going to need a different lunch plan…

        4. Loopy*

          Had a student employee at the college where I worked previously describe the digestive issues that had led to his recent absence thusly: “I [student] blew out my butthole. It’s BLOWN OUT.”

          I hadn’t asked; he just volunteered the info. However. I feel like when detailed information re: illness is demanded, this is precisely the sort of answer one deserves to get.

          1. Environmental Gone Public Health*

            When I was teaching at uni, I had a student that hadn’t shown up for at least 2 weeks. When he reappeared, I told him I was glad he was feeling better in the premise of making conversation and getting him the materials/assignments he missed, was going to offer a one-on-one tutoring session, etc. since he had told me he was sick via email, like I did with all my students. Didn’t expect the way-longer-than-it-should-have-been discussion on how much vodka he had puked up and how alcohol makes your vomit really weird colors along with the pros and cons of visiting a gay club.

            Ended up being a really good example to everyone around him of why you don’t show up to class still drunk. The joys of working with college freshmen!

            (I do miss teaching. It was full of shenanigans like this. Somehow I became the somewhat unwilling gen chem student therapist.)

        1. tangerineRose*

          I agree with the people who talk about giving gross details, even if they aren’t totally true details.

      2. Temperance*

        Sometimes, you can say things like “it’s coming out of both ends!” and gross the person out. You know, sometimes.

          1. Biff*

            “Oh, I’ve got the double-dragon shits and some –”
            “What is double dragon?”
            “The shit’s coming out of both ends.”
            “Why are you telling me this?”
            “You said we needed to explain our call-outs. So anyway, I’ve got a 40-acre headache –”
            “What’s that?”
            “Oh, when it feels like you’ve got 40 acres of bison stomping through your head, you know.”

            Get more and more and MORE ridiculous as you go along!

        1. Karma*

          My partner and I call that ‘cartwheels’. We’ve said it to our docor often enough that even he calls it cartwheels now.

      3. Epsilon Delta*

        Yep, it would be diarrhea every time for me. I mean, I would try to talk to HR about it too, but if that didn’t go anywhere, every illness would involve diarrhea or vomiting because people generally don’t push you to work through those the way they might if you have “a bad cold” or “a migraine.”

        1. tangerineRose*

          Jeff Foxworthy once said that calling in with “explosive diarrhea” would get the boss to say “No, please stay home with that.”

    2. EA*

      I wonder if the manager thinks requiring a reason would make people less likely to lie, as in this policy making faking easier.

      Clearly she has no idea what a prolific liar I can and would be in this situation.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        If I’m unafraid to make myself sound violently ill in order to get my neighbor to stop using the vestibule in front of my door for loud phone calls at 3 in the morning, she has no idea the levels I’d stoop to.

      2. Kay*

        I think it could make people more likely to lie! The LW has no reason to trust that this brand-new manager, already showing some red flags with immediately instituting this bizarre policy, is going to handle even general knowledge of their chronic health condition appropriately. If it were me, it would be diarrhea all the way down.

        1. Annabelle*

          Exactly! This sort of policy would make me feel like I need a really convincing reason to be sick. No one wants to be around someone who’s puking or pooping their guts out.

        2. WillowSunstar*

          Either that or worse, it would make everyone who has the flu feel like they have to come in and then pass it around. Ugh!

      3. Myrin*

        And honestly, you don’t even have to be a particularly prolific liar! There are tons of illnesses which are benign enough that they aren’t worrying, bad enough that you can’t come to work, and common enough that they’re not outstanding in any way.

        1. many bells down*

          I hurt my hip two weeks ago … in my sleep. Ah, the joys of middle age. I couldn’t walk without limping the next day, so I had to call out. I do a lot of walking at work, so “I hurt my leg” was all I needed to say.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Reruns of House can be helpful too. “I might have… Wilson’s Syndrome. It’s definitely not lupus.”

              1. Decima Dewey*

                You can have fun with a medical dictionary. Just browse it until you find something that sounds supermedical that means having skin or athlete’s foot.

                1. Lissa*

                  I did that with my surgery (as a joke with friends, not at work) and told them about my “laparoscopic cholecystectomy.” Sounds way more intense than just “got my gallbladder taken out.”

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Make sure to throw in sarcoidosis – either that you think you have it, or you know you don’t.

      4. Wren*

        I’d probably just lie regardless of what was really wrong if I was required to give a reason. It reeks of being an opener into “well, that doesn’t sound bad enough to stay home…” followed by an argument over what qualifies as too sick to make it to work. It’s also very invasive. I don’t like enumerating my physical issues to others, and when I’m sick I like it even less.

    3. Sara*

      I’ve called in with a migraine before when I didn’t want to explain a digestive issue. You can skirt this easily, as ridiculous as it is.

      1. Elizabeth*

        Since we’re allowed to email in, and I generally use voice recognition for email on my cell phone, my migraine emails tend to be highly entertaining to my boss & colleagues. They can generally get the gist of what I’m saying, but the word order in pretty jumbled and word choice can be a little strange.

        Maybe do something similar for this boss?

        1. Chickadee*

          I fell asleep once in the middle of trying to email my boss that I wasn’t coming in from a fever. This resulted in me sending half an email that trailed off into gibberish letters.

        2. Dorothy Lawyer*

          Even if voice recognition got it 100% right, me emailing with a migraine would be like that, too. It scrambles my brain – I’ve been told that I sound drunk when I have a migraine.

          1. Happy Lurker*

            My mother acts drunk when she has a migraine.
            She had my car once and could not remember how to shift it into drive to get home from the store (she had a manual and I had an automatic)…she couldn’t find the clutch and called me.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        My mental health issues mysteriously become migraines when I have a boss who is not sympathetic to people taking a mental health day. I do get actual migraines, but they’re very infrequent.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          That’s exactly what I was going to suggest. I get migraines. People know I get them because they’ve seen or heard me when I have them. OP, you may take one of my migraines (not literally, of course, but I give you permission to use one of mine as an excuse).

      3. JessaB*

        Honestly I think someone needs to ask this manager WHY they want the information and what they’re trying to accomplish and explain how to do that without being a right royal pain.

        1. SunshineOH*

          I wondered about this. Did anyone ask her WHY she wants that much detail? Sometimes reasonable people can get caught up in something until someone makes them stop and think. (Of course we have no idea if she’s reasonable.)

      4. MissingArizona*

        I have a blanket note from my neurologist for migraines, I just had my employer keep it on file. It’s nice that I don’t have to worry about proving anything, just “I have a migraine”. I have used it for digestive issues though, it’s just easier.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      That was my first thought – lie.

      Or… “My head is killing me.” I mean, it’s halfway true. (Although many people won’t accept a headache as an excuse to miss work, so it could backfire.)

      1. heatherskib*

        I countered this bit with a new boss by showing one of the migraine simulator videos on youtube. Once I demonstrated that it’s a safety issue because of orbs, auras etc. I no longer get pushback.

        1. Kelsi*

          Not that I would wish migraines on anyone, but it’s helpful that my current boss is also a migraine sufferer–she knows when I say I can’t come in because of a migraine, it’s not “wah I have a headache,” (although migraine-level headaches are a perfectly legit reason to stay home), it’s “I literally cannot drive safely because my vision is too impaired, and even if I got a ride there, I wouldn’t be able to see enough of my computer screen to do any work.”

        2. Dorothy Lawyer*

          Absolutely – I simply cannot see due to the aura, can’t drive, can’t look at computer, papers, etc. I winged it once and got a ride to court where I didn’t have to do anything but be there and say “yes, judge” but if it had been a trial, I would have been screwed.

          1. Rainy*

            My last really really bad migraine came complete with right-side paresthesia and receptive and expressive aphasia, and when I feel one coming on now I don’t fuck around. Especially because I bike to work. I got stealth-allergened by a muffin at work several months ago and the second I realized what was happening I was like I HAVE TO GO, IT TAKES TEN MINUTES TO BIKE HOME AND THE PAIN WILL HIT IN TWENTY.

        3. Relly*

          My boss was a touch skeptical about “migraine = really, I can’t work,” and I fail at setting boundaries, so I got talked into going into work with one.

          A couple of hours later, I was violently sick all over the bathroom. Like, I tried to keep it to the toilet, but did not entirely succeed.

          Boss: much less skeptical now.

          1. Chi*

            Relly, when I was a teenager, I had horrible menstrual cramps on the first day of my cycle. They were so awful that I would vomit all day long.

            Apparently lots of girls used that excuse to go home and/or get out of gym class. So when I told the nurse, she asked me to lie down. 5 minutes later I threw up violentmy and of course she called my mom. Mom got there in 20 minutes and the nurse most count of how many times I puked.

            From then on when I went in to her office she asked, “Do you need to go home?”

        1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

          A lot of migraine meds put people to sleep for half the day and make then groggy and stupid for the rest. If I were a boss I would NOT want anyone coming in on those things!

          1. JessaB*

            This, also my panic attack meds completely put me out. No way can I drive or do anything but lay in bed and hope the dizzy spinnys from the meds don’t trigger a bloody migraine on top of the panic. See I have hemiplegic migraines and they totally get triggered by panic as well as other things. So yay hospital stay. “Boss I just took meds that flattened me,” should be a reasonable excuse.

          2. Stormy*

            Mine sometimes make my face go numb, which leads to drooling and slurred speech. What a great impression to make at work!

    5. Annabelle*

      Yeah, I know it’s not ideal, but I was going to suggest this. Obviously it won’t fix the real issue — which is OP’s manager overstepping and not treating her reports like grownups — but it’s probably the route I would take.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’m of the same mind here, on both issues. Mentioning the ADA is almost certainly going to open the OP up to a host of issues she could avoid by simply making up unpleasant-but-harmless minor illnesses. If she feels up to tackling the problem, though, I’m sure she’ll find support amongst her coworkers!

    6. Magenta Sky*

      Or just tell her, when you call in, “It’s an ADA related issue. If you need more information. talk to HR about it. They’ll explain it to you.”

      1. JessaB*

        Which only works if you’ve already set up that with HR. Because if HR tells your manager they have no idea what you’re talking about, your boss is wrongly, but still, going to be all in your face about faking time off.

    7. Justme, The OG*

      My kid does actually have a fever today, so that’s what I told my boss when I emailed. She and I have a pretty good relationship overall and I’ll give her the minimum of details of why I’m out. I figure if it’s something awful like the bronchitis I had in May that I could let her know so she could expect me to be out more than one day

  3. A Person.*

    If she is new to management, she may be trying too hard to exert her authority and not realize that’s not a positive way to start out on the right foot with her team. I’d be on the lookout for other red flags too, but it’s not a good sign. Agree with mentioning it to HR if you have one.

    1. LadyL*

      The first time I managed someone I did all kinds of awful toxic things, because I had no idea that my past managers had been treating me awful. I just thought that’s how work was, and was replicating what I understood to be norms. I learned by people telling me what was up, and I’m so fortunate that people did pushback when I was wrong.

      Best case scenario, the manager doesn’t understand why this is bad, and speaking up will help her as well as everyone else. Worst case scenario she’s a knowing despot, and everyone needs to band together for protection.

    2. Emelle*

      Part of me is hoping she wants to know so she can prepare if it is something super contagious like strep or pink eye or one of those other childhood illnesses that adults get that are worse for them than the kids.
      But I feel like she would have said, let me know if it is something contagious so we can have your workspace wiped down, if that was her intent.
      But I think this is first time manager that has seen things as an employee

  4. Kathleen_A*

    It sounds to me as though Jane is one (or more) of these three things: (1) new to management or otherwise clueless about being in management and therefore thinks being able to say exactly why one of her employees isn’t at work is part of her job; (2) has been burned in the past by people who abuse sick days and thinks (mistakenly) that this is a way to curb that; or (3) is just really, really nosy.

    I mean, really, as Alison pointed out, what is she going to do with this information? And if the problem is #2, asking about it won’t help anyway. A hardened sick-leave scammer will have no problem saying “I have diarrhea” even if the reality is that he wants to get an early start on the weekend.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      I think it’s some combination of 1 and 2 that likely stems from prior experience in a toxic environment where this kind of thing was necessary due to widespread sick time abuse, or there was a general culture of not trusting employees to act like adults, or where she was responsible for reducing employees’ use of sick time or otherwise answering for her employees’ absences, or whatever.

      It does not bode well for her overall management style.

    2. Ponytail*

      Or no. 4 – British. It’s the norm in places where I’ve worked to say what’s wrong when you ring in. Nothing too detailed but enough for work to know if anyone else might be affected, could it cause issues with returning to work, does it need Occupational Health to get involved, is it something that happened due to work itself etc. Phone call can be “sore throat, ring you again tomorrow” but the self certification usually asks for a tad more detail (usually asking yes or no questions regarding the above issues). No-one says diarrohea because then they’d have to know how to spell it on the form!

      1. SarahKay*

        I was thinking British myself; it’s much more common here. I still remember my former (male) manager complaining bitterly and looking horrified when the requirement to say what was wrong was introduced some years back. He had a good portion of the female staff on site reporting to him, many of them in their thirties or older, and not in any way shy. I think his phrase was “I don’t want to ask them what’s wrong with them – they’ll tell me! In detail!!

      2. oranges & lemons*

        In my (anecdotal) Canadian experience, it’s not uncommon here either. Usually if someone is sick, they just say that they’re coming down with a cold or caught a stomach virus or something. But I don’t think my managers have ever pried for more information.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Oh, it’s common here to give general info – e.g., “I’m coming down with a cold” or “My stomach is upset” or whatever. And if it’s something more severe, such as the flu, it’s a good idea to give at least some additional information so that the manager can tell it’s not going to be one of those things that you recover from in a day. But it ought not be required, and if someone isn’t specific, my assumption is that the person has good reasons for this lack of specificity even if I have no idea what those might be.

      3. Obelia*

        I’m British too, and our self certification makes you select a general type of illness from a drop down list. We also have a policy that if you have diarrhoea/vomiting you have to stay away from the workplace for 48 hours after the symptoms stop to avoid infection. I think this is reasonably common. So that does specifically need to be disclosed, but how people do that doesn’t have to be epically detailed (I would just say “stomach bug” or “D&V” and “I’ll need to work from home for a couple of days once it clears up”).

      4. Charlotte in HR*

        I was surprised that this angle didn’t come up sooner, in either the original AAM response or in other comments. It’s entirely common and normal to ask for a general ‘category’ of sickness absence, both for monitoring purposes (as in “hmm, 80% of sickness absence in the last 12 months has been due to stress / musculo-skeletal problems / tropical diseases – maybe that’s something we should look at”) or from the point of view of support (“hmm, Cedric has been off with minor illness 14 times in the last 12 months – maybe there’s an underlying problem and we should be offering occupational health support / a referral to the Employee Assistance Programme / a truckload of vitamin C”).

    3. banana&tanger*

      Yup. I get migraines. And even writing this post, I want to put caveats on that. To explain – that I get BAD migraines. That I can’t see or drive or think or function. That using the phone is sometimes hard, and I’m so thankful that texting and emails are a thing now, because when I was younger, literally speaking to call in was difficult. None of that should be necessary to explain. I’ve had bosses who were supportive, some who didn’t ask questions, and some who want to know details and tended to be dismissive of “just a headache.” I someimtes resorted to just saying “I’ve got some sort of stomach bug, and trust me, no one wants me in the office.” Once, when I started getting a migraine at work, and it was hitting me hard and I knew I had to get home or I wasn’t going to be able to drive, a boss challenged me about it later. I said “I have a puking in my office rule: once I do that, I’m going home.” Shut her up. (And yes, I had actually puked in my office trash can. And I double bagged it and disposed of it in the larger can so that no one else had to see it.)

  5. Red Reader*

    Bleh. No. Every manager I’ve had as an adult has been like “Please do not elaborate on why you’re sick. I don’t need the details. I don’t WANT the details. Just give me a time frame and call it a day.”

    1. Radish*

      This was my first reaction. I am usually in the position of wishing my direct reports would provide less detail when they call in sick. All I need to know is that they won’t be there.

      1. Anon This Time*

        I had a former coworker who would email the all-staff address with detailed explanations of their digestive issues, despite policy saying “notify ONLY your immediate supervisor, the receptionist, and anyone directly affected by your absence” and emphatic requests not to be so graphic in their emails, specifically.

        Sadly, it turned out that some of those digestive issues had the root cause of “drunk all night, not sober yet, and hair of the dog isn’t working,” so we ended up having to let this person go. But at least now I’m not on quite so intimate terms with my fellow sufferers’ bowels.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      Same! It’s really bizarre that this new manager wants details. I don’t see any need for it. And doing so signals possible micromanagement and lack of trust.

    3. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      I’ve straight up told this to my students: I’m not your mother, and I’m not your triage nurse. I do not need to know how ill you are.

    4. palomar*

      Right? Biggest indicator that this person either has little to no management experience or is just a questionable manager… if she’s inexperienced, maybe six months or so of hearing the nitty gritty details of her employees’ illnesses will change her mind on this.

    5. strawberries and raspberries*

      I actually had to take a sick day after my probationary review, and when I came back my director was like, “Are you all right? I’m always so nervous when people take a sick day right after a review,” and after a few rounds of me insisting I was fine and him asking me was I really, I said, “I was literally on the toilet from about 4 am until close to 11 am. I was absolutely not thinking about my review.” At that point he was like WHOA TMI. You asked, brah!

    6. Annabelle*

      This has been my experience too. But I had a really bad manager as a teenager who was like OP’s boss. She wanted explicit detail and documentation and was super critical of said documentation. By the time I changed jobs I’d had it drilled into my head that you *have* to be explicit, so I’ve had more than one manager be like “all I need to know is when you’ll be back in, seriously.”

    7. Teapot librarian*

      YES. The time my employee emailed with “it’s coming out both ends” was really more than I ever cared to know.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Yes from me too. I keep telling my staff that all I need to know is that a) you’re not coming in and b) what time you want to use. And they keep telling me their blood pressure is high, that the nurse who looks after their mother is having a medical procedure…

        Oh, and the “what time you want to use” is because my system gives out an extra day off for “perfect attendance”, which just means not using your sick time. So people ask to use comp time, vacation, and Annual Administrative Leave days for the flu. The reward for not using time you’re entitled to is an extra day off that has to be used between January 1st and June 30, or else it vanishes forever.

        1. JessaB*

          Oh heck no. This is absolutely the worst policy ever. They’re basically forcing people to either directly lie or come in sick/ill or lose this “benefit,” if they’re honest.

          Perfect attendance awards in work or school or where perfect attendance makes a difference to your grades, pay or other benefits, is ableist and classist and just every kind of wrong way to do business.

          It’s really wonderful to have to argue ADA accommodations to prevent losing time or losing pay or part of a rise in pay at your annual review because you were out due to a covered disability. Or to argue that a teacher cannot dock your grade because you have Rheumatoid Arthritis (bitter, yes, won all those fights, and it really messed up my school career and work one too. People do not like the ones that fight for their rights and make them look bad.)

          Gods help those who don’t have disabilities but have kids or family who pass around the annual coughing crud in January/February from work or school.

          1. OhNo*

            Agreed. This is going to hit people with disabilities hard, and seems pretty unfair to those with chronic health issues.

            Also, it’s just not a very sensible tradeoff. Why would I give up my sick time for a single vacation day of limited use? I get a sick day every month-and-a-half at my current job, so I wouldn’t be giving up eight PTO days over the course of the year for one that has to be used in a six month window.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              It also seems like such a weird definition of perfect attendance. You get dinged for sick days, which you generally can’t help, but you can take scheduled vacation time?

      2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

        Student: “I’ve thrown up nine times this morning…”
        Me: That is truly information I could have done without. Is there a way to sterilize email? If not, can we invent one? I used to be pulling for teleportation, but pouring bleach through the internet now gets my vote…

    8. Chalupa Batman*

      I always feel guilty when I call in sick, so I have to fight the urge to give too much detail. I’ve had to literally tell myself out loud that my boss doesn’t care when my sore throat started or how I know my headache is a migraine. I also suffer from depression and anxiety, and on days when I can’t get out of bed and am overthinking everything already, it means the world to me to already know that my boss is fine with “I’m not feeling well today, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

      1. Blue*

        All of this. I have separately disclosed my depression to my boss, so he may have put two-and-two together and realized that’s what’s going on when I email and say, “I’m not well today and will be staying home,” but he never says anything other than, “Ok, no problem. Hope you feel better soon,” which is a relief when your mind is already spiraling.

    9. Not a Blossom*

      Seriously. All I want is “I’m not feeling well and won’t be in today. I’ll be in tomorrow/I’ll give you a status update tomorrow/I’ll be out for a few days. Here are the things that are urgent.”

    10. Turquoisecow*

      My old supervisor used to complain when one of my coworkers called out sick. Instead of emailing like the rest of us, she insisted on calling. If he didn’t answer, she’d leave a voicemail, promising to call him back. She would not stop until he answered, and then she’d make sure to sound like she was half dead on the phone – scratchy voice and stuffed nose, apologizing profusely about how terrible she felt.

      He’d always hang up and complain about how he didn’t need the details and he believed she was sick, especially because the sick day was usually following or preceding several days of her sneezing and coughing around the office.

      1. JessaB*

        Yeh that needs to be dealt with as an employee issue, I have a feeling I know why the employee is like that. Too many companies have this long drawn out you must call every one of these twenty supervisors until you speak to a human being, and it must be YOU, not your family, even though YOU have hemiplegic migraines and cannot actually TALK right now. I remember croaking through an asthma attack, “talk to mr b.” and handing him the phone because dammit, if I did not personally speak to someone it did not count.

        Did not matter that I could not physically SPEAK. I once had to have an ER nurse explain to said supervisor that a hemiplegic migraine is like a mini stroke and I was currently fingerspelling at the interpreter with my ONE working hand (thanking gods that ASL is a one handed spelling language and that I didn’t have to use my BSL which is two handed) and literally, absolutely LITERALLY could not speak. They wanted to make hay of it on my next paycheque, management was not happy with that particular supervisor. Luckily I guess this was pre Skype/facetime, whatever video thing, because they would probably have insisted on video conference of me in the ER bed. They were bad in so many ways. So glad I’m gone from there.

        1. Rainy*

          My migraines now have a reasonable chance of coming with aphasia, and I’m not sure how helpful calling in and explaining my illness would be.

          I used to have some saved texts that I sent to a friend on my way to the dr with my first aphasic migraine when I thought I was having a stroke. They were…almost intelligible, which was way better than my speech at the time! I honestly don’t know what I said to the admitting nurse, but she hustled me back to see a doctor immediately, who IMMEDIATELY checked my bp. I felt a lot better about my panic the second he was like “well you’re definitely not having a stroke so it’s probably just a migraine”. Luckily the aphasia was already resolving, but it was terrifying.

          1. JessaB*

            You didn’t ask for advice, so ignore if not wanted/needed, but since this happens to me a LOT…

            Yep scarey those especially your first. Mine are actually vascular so not only aphasia but actual left side paralysis and subsequent loss of function after. I now have swallowing trouble and other muscular issues after my last one. It’s terrifying if you can’t talk. Your brain knows what you want to say but you can’t.

            If you have use of your hand(s) there are a few good type and talk things for phones, and all of them allow you to save phrases for one tap communication. Some of them let you type an initial thing where you can hold it up and it tells them what’s wrong with you. Some aphasics can type or write if they can’t speak so set up some other modalities.

            I usually can still use my right hand and they send in an interpreter and I spell at them. But I remember the first one, we didn’t think about an interpreter and the doctor was trying to do a cognition check and asked me to tell them their name, and I kept tapping their ID card but they didn’t make the connection and pretty much ignored me after that. NOT good.

    11. Excel Slayer*

      This is my experience. I’m not managing people, but I’m one of the possible points of contact when people are out sick. I do not want a novel on why someone is off sick, I just care that they’re not going to be in.

    12. CarolynM*

      My boss has requested we don’t call him AT ALL if we are staying home sick – he wants us to just fill out the PTO form online – that’s it! I would feel weird not saying anything so our compromise is I send him and e-mail or text. But yeah, he doesn’t even want to hear directly from me that I will be out, he absolutely does not want detail!

    13. Health Insurance Nerd*

      This is me, as a manager. I even extend it to days off for non-sick reasons and have finally gotten my team to stop telling me why they need to be off. It’s their time to use, and I honestly don’t care what they are using it for. Until someone starts taking advantage I refuse to be the time off police. And this goes both ways and I don’t disclose to them what I am taking planned time off for (If I’m sick I’ll tell them that so I can set expectations for response times and what not, but I don’t elaborate).

    14. Wintermute*

      I think there is a middle ground, I’ve always given a general category, because a manager has a few things they want to know 1) is this an illness or injury? If it’s an illness just how many people should I plan on calling in? if it’s a flu and you just noticed it I should start planning for overtime pages right now because you’re not alone. If it’s an injury can I expect to get a call from our insurance asking for the incident report? 2) How long I can expect you to be out for, is it a day or two or do I need to have someone start covering your reports? 3) is there anything we can do to help you… or should be doing for us (disinfecting your workspace, etc).

      beyond that, you are right.

  6. Sandra Stout*

    So, if I call in sick with a sore throat and she says to come in and finish X project anyway, would it be terrible of me to come in close and breathe on her so she gets it too?

      1. Ego Chamber*

        “I’d even ‘accidentally’ mix up our coffee mugs…”

        I can beat that! :D

        I had a coworker who had a couple of little kids who were always sick (daycare age germ factory problems), and whenever my manager told him to come in sick (100% unnecessary, the rest of the department could handle it), he would sneak into her office and lick the rim of her coffee mug. Yes, this happened more than once. Yes, most of the department knew about it. No, our manager never found out (beyond getting sick).

    1. Catalin*

      Perhaps be really dramatically sick if she calls you in anyway*, ensuring everyone knows that your boss forced you to come in ill.

      *assuming you are ill and there is NO real need for you to be in the office.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Bring in lots of throat drops and chew them loudly when she’s talking.

        If you feel slightly tired or woozy at any point during the day, preferably when she’s around, sway, look alarmed, grab something or sit (sitting on the floor can be especially dramatic).

    2. Tris Prior*

      Don’t forget to lick her keyboard and mouse when she steps away from her desk! ;)

      (That’s what I told Boyfriend he should do when his work wanted him to come in with the flu.)

    3. JessaB*

      No because you’re an adult, you’re not asking permission, you’re telling them you’re not coming in, even if you’re using soft language. You may have to deal with that on the back end, but this is notification.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        This. The appropriate response, when you call your manager to say you’re taking a sick day and manager says you’re not sick enough, come in to work, is “I’m taking one of my sick/PTO days that I am given as a benefit of working at this company. I will see you tomorrow/day I assume I will be healthy enough to work.”

      2. banana&tanger*

        Yes. You aren’t ASKING to call in sick. You are TELLING her that you are sick. (This assumes that you are in a position where you can, in fact, say that to a boss and won’t get fired and such. I acknowledge that may not be the case).

  7. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

    When I call out my kids from school, the school wants to know if there is a fever or stomach issue involved in why I’m calling them out so they can plan for a possible outbreak. I can see that an office could want to do the same – especially since this years flu season has been awful.

    1. Dinosaur*

      A workplace isn’t responsible for managing illnesses between employees (outside of industries like food service) and has no business asking any of that. Employees are not children or students.

      1. fposte*

        Or, to put it another way, I think it could actually be reasonable to request employees report if they have something worryingly contagious. But that’s not what this manager did–she just asked for everybody to account for themselves when there’s no managerial need at all.

        1. Anony*

          That policy would be reasonable. I generally don’t have a problem giving a somewhat vague explanation (stomach bug, bad cold, flu bug, chronic condition) but I don’t want to spell out my symptoms because that seems like tmi.

        2. JessaB*

          Exactly, it’s not weird to say look “I think this may be contagious, or I think I ate something at the company picnic,” or other information that might prevent others from being ill. Or if you have a susceptible coworker and they ask you to make sure that you’re NOT still contagious or something when you come back. IE take another day there’s a chemo patient in the office.

          But you can still say exactly that without being in detail about what’s wrong with you. You can say you have symptoms that might show a problem without being out there about what they are. Now obviously if you have something that looks like chicken pox or mumps or something you should say so. There’s a point at which information is important. We should however trust grown ups to tell us this. The reason schools require it is because kids don’t know enough to say things like that. AND they have to manage a bunch of kids.

          Theoretically grown ups know how to wash their own hands and stuff.

          1. Wintermute*

            Bingo, norwalk is amazingly contagious, one reported incident a single person using the air sickness bags in the intended way infected an entire airplane full of people, other cases have seen entire cruises turned into modern-day plague ships (fun fact, they still use the same flag to this day, the yellow and black check, as they did back in the age of sail, to indicate that a vessel is under quarantine and a health hazard). You need to know because you could be facing an imminent staff-wide illness issue, depending on circumstances

        3. Adhdyanon*

          Schools and daycares do it because they’re, in my favorite phrase, *centers of contagion*. They also get shut down first in outbreaks. kids touch almost everything. Adults don’t. Adults can use cleaners to clean their own workspaces too. I think it’s reasonable to provide in the workplace for things that are reportable (like measles) and for special circumstances, but that’s about it.

          Also – little kids put a lot of stuff in their mouths, etc. I once saw my friends 3 year old lick a metal cabinet. I’m not judgemental – I realized I could totally image what it tasted like. Clearly I too have licked some sort of flat metal surface.

      2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        I work in the food industry and we send kids home when they come in coughing or have anything that’s contagious. Hangovers? Sorry, you have to power through.

      3. Observer*

        I disagree with this. Employers are responsible for providing a reasonably safe workplace, and that includes reasonable efforts around contagion. If someone comes down with something really contagious, the employer SHOULD share that information.

        1. yasmara*

          Remember the norovirus letter???

          I have to fight off my TMI impulse, but I probably would mention a specific, contagious illness (especially influenza A this year) if I had actually been diagnosed with it. The same way I’d let my son’s teacher know if he’d been diagnosed w/strep.

          1. JessaB*

            Yes, absolutely but that requires a real not self diagnosis, because 90% (% out of my hat, is probably actually more,) or more of people who use the word “flu” do not have it, have never had it, and have no clue how bad it really is.

            1. fposte*

              How bad it can be, anyway; part of the confusion is that it’s perfectly possible to have a mild flu.

              1. JessaB*

                I had actual flu once in my life. Ended up in hospital. For a week. It can be really, really bad, especially if you’re immunocompromised and have asthma/COPD. There was a reason back in the day pre Affordable care when vaccines weren’t automatically covered without copay that my doctor went through the rigamarole to get me the pneumonia vaxes ten years earlier than they usually recommend. All that stuff can kill me.

      1. JessaB*

        Yeh I would want upper management to be aware of this especially if it varies in a major way from other departments. You don’t want the appearance of unfair treatment, let alone actual unfair treatment (if the company is pro making people stay out of ill.) Disparate treatment claims especially around illness/disability can be a big deal depending on what employee is involved and why they were out.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I was having the same thought. I work in a clinical office and we would want to know if someone has flu symptoms or anything that could indicate an outbreak like an unexplained rash or severe fever. I don’t have a problem saying “I have a stomach bug,” “I’m having an allergy flare up,” or even “I’ve hit my limit. I need to rest a day.”

    3. Catalin*

      If an employee has a very contagious condition, I’d hope they’d give their close-proximity coworkers a heads-up. (Think pink-eye, strep, flu, things you would want to know early for treatment.)

      1. LCL*

        I did announce when I came back to work after my last sick day that I had a allergic reaction and not the flu. Which is normally TMI and something I would never do, but it is flu season here and I wanted to emphasize I would have stayed out longer had it been flu. I would never expect anybody else to do this.

    4. Guacamole Bob*

      That’s almost the opposite of what this manager did, though. It sounds like she presented it in such a way that employees will feel pressured to come to work sick because she doesn’t believe their reasons for calling out are “good enough.”

      There would be plenty of ways to form a policy that encouraged employees to report contagious illnesses so that coworkers could take precautions and get treatment early, the way that my kids’ daycare sends around a notice every time a kid in the center is diagnosed with strep or pinkeye or any of a list of common contagious kid crud. I’d love to know that hospitals and other health care settings had such policies for employees, for example.

      That kind of policy would likely include encouraging sick employees to stay home as much as possible, and I’m skeptical that this new manager is going to encourage employees to take all the time they need. A good policy would also not demand disclosure of chronic illnesses, mental health conditions, and other non-contagious medical concerns the way this woman seems to be demanding.

      1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

        “That’s almost the opposite of what this manager did, though. It sounds like she presented it in such a way that employees will feel pressured to come to work sick because she doesn’t believe their reasons for calling out are “good enough.””

        I just re-read the letter to see if I was missing something that you were seeing. If there is, I can’t see it. The LW said that she felt pressured, but there was nothing in what she wrote to indicate that the manager actually pressured any employees or made decisions on what was a good enough reason to call in.

        FWIW, I don’t think the LW needs to disclose her reasons, but I can see very legitimate reasons for an employer asking for that info – especially in light of this flu season.

        1. Observer*

          No, there is no legitimate reason for an employer to ask for any details. ALL they need to do is to ask is whether someone is contagious and if so, what they have. If the answer is no, then it’s not relevant at all.

    5. Observer*

      That’s very different than what the OP is describing though. The manager didn’t say “I need to know if you have anything contagious”, which is reasonable. But you do NOT need to know about someone’s diarrhea to deal with that issue. And you CERTAINLY do NOT need information about other conditions.

  8. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    The evil side of me would be seriously tempted to overshare and go into minute detail. She wants the details? I’d give ’em to her. “Gee, Jane. I’d love to come in but I’m suffering from a horrendous sinus infection. When I blow my nose it’s a cacophony of colors. All sorts of green. Even a little red, probably should see the doc about that one. Want me to text you the pic?”

    In all seriousness, though, definitely push back on this. I’d follow Alison’s script when speaking to her. And if (when?) she doesn’t let up on it, use the same script with HR. I think a double pronged approach is the only way she’s going to back down on this one. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t always know what’s wrong when I wake up sick the flu and a cold can start off very similar. Sometimes I just “don’t feel well” and it isn’t until a little bit later I can pinpoint why.

    1. The Meepster*

      My thoughts exactly. She wants to know the specifics of your illness? Get ready for a detailed description of your diarrhea, including the consistency and color, as well as a recounting of the precise volume of mucus you are expelling. Perhaps describing that you have a bruise that resembles a sheep? But then I have relatively high gross tolerance, so not everyone would feel comfortable doing that. Anyhoo, your manager should just be ok with “not feeling well” and I would be concerned that this may not be her only micromanaging characteristic…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s because many employers don’t value management as a skill and so don’t do good (or any) training for it, don’t prioritize it as a skill when hiring managers, and don’t evaluate managers as part of their performance evaluations on how well they’re building a team of high-functioning, reasonably happy employees.

      1. Sara*

        There’s a woman in my old office that somehow ended up the director of a sales group even though she’s awful. Someone told me that she kept getting promoted as a way to get her out of their department (she’s good at the basics and selling, but not anything management related). She’s bounced around the company going one step higher until she somehow ended up in charge. Its ludicrous

      2. Jesca*

        I agree with this. I have been working on my BS in Business Management for a few years. I have another degree in humanities, but I am doing business now out of a desire to hone my skills better in that area (it is for myself). What I have found is that most of the time the business itself promotes a certain culture under the modern principles of management (as found in my text books for managing), but then do not TRAIN their managers on it! They just say words and then offer no program for training to advance their desired type of management at all. Then, at the end of the day, you have a culture that is being driven but a set of management not actively participating in it because, when asked, they have no idea what any of it means! Managers where I work do not even understand how to do the reviews corporate wants.

        1. Jesca*

          And actually, this is how I found this site! I was doing some research on something for one of the management classes and happened across this site.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          Well, managers should be go-getters! They should be self-starters who can figure this stuff out on their own! They should be able to find resources to help them without having to have their hands held by corporate!

          If that sounds stupid, well, bad management (that lasts more than a very brief time) almost always starts at the very top.

          (Plus, actual training costs money.)

            1. Grad Student*

              (I think Magenta Sky is agreeing with you and mocking the all-too-common attitude that leads to the ineffective result you describe.)

              1. Magenta Sky*

                Yes. The real point was a) Bad mid-level managers are often put in their position by bad higher level managers, and b) training costs money, and it’s very easy for a bad manager to convince themselves that it isn’t worth it for proper leadership training for mid-level managers (which is a variant of a).

        3. NW Mossy*

          Oh, this is SO TRUE, even in organizations that otherwise do a fairly decent job at running themselves professionally. My own organization does a “boot camp” for new managers with 6 all-day sessions spread over 6 months. It’s a great idea conceptually and helps ensure that you get the legal fundamentals, but as with most training programs like this, it doesn’t really stick for most people unless you keep coming back to the content.

          I’ve found that I get a lot more value out of AAM and Manager Tools than I did out of those classes. There are parts that overlap, but what I was really crying out for in my first couple of years managing was how to do the boring, practical, day-to-day of managing people. This site in particularly shows you how to apply managerial reasoning to real situations, and it’s a huge help.

          1. oranges & lemons*

            I feel like this hits on a related issue–I suspect that many of the people who do have a sense of how much work and skill good management entails self-select out and some of the people who keep pushing to advance are not fully aware of how much of a different skill set it requires.

      3. Michelle*

        I totally agree with this. I have seen visible differences in employees when great managers moved on and people with absolute zero management (and people) skills moved into those positions. They don’t know the first thing about managing, end up abusing what little “power” they have and have tremendously high turnover rates.

        The best manager I have ever know was a gentleman named Stephen who was the AP manager at a Walmart. He really knew his stuff.

      4. Jam Today*

        I’ll answer my own question and add: managing other people is frequently the only way to “reward” high performers, even if they really just prefer their own job and would like to get paid a little more to do it well. This has happened to me twice. I do not want to manage other people. I do not like it, and I am not good at it. I am aware of my own limitations in that regard, and would really prefer to be left alone to do well at the things I am good at, and maybe once in a while get a little bump in pay just for being good.

        It never made any sense to me to take people who do a job really well *away* from that job, and put them in a role they don’t want and aren’t good at. You wind up with crummy managers *and* you’re out a high-performer, since you took their job away from them.

        1. Espeon*

          Ugh, this. I would be an awful manager, and have no intention of EVER becoming one, but it seems to be the only way to get paid more?! It makes very little sense.

          1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

            This is the way that quality teachers are rewarded too; they may you head of the department. My chairing style would probably be something like “will you please just do your effing jobs and not make me chase you all the time?? Please???”

          2. paul*

            Amen. I’m good at my job but there’s no room to advance within it, and I really think I’d suck at managing; I’ve seen a few friends basically fail miserably at it their first go round with it and that makes me nervous, since they’re more educated and even keeled than I am.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              Pretty much everyone has some failures as a new manager. The only exceptions are places that recognize management as an independent skill and specifically train people on that skill before they are managers.

              If you’re willing to acknowledge your mistakes, apologize to the people affected, and learn and grow from them, you’ll probably do fine as a manager. It’s a skill like anything else. Some people have to work harder to learn it than others, but just about everyone can get to the point where they are decent if they’re willing to work at.

              1. Bagpuss*

                I agree (with Trout Waver) but also agree that having management as the only path to further advancement is a mistake: if you are a great teacher but a mediocre manager, then it makes better sense to find ways of rewarding and utilising your skills as a teacher than to force you to do a job you’re less good at.

                My dad had this issue – the company he worked for promoted people to management. My dad was very good (and had an almost unique skill set) at his job, and no wish to become a manager, and no skills in that direction.

                It was a slightly weird situation where no one who he worked with wanted him to be promoted to management, because he was too good at what he did, but equally wanted to be able to promote him so he wouldn’t look to move on, because he would have been extremely difficult to replace.

                Eventually they created a kind of internal consultant post for him, but there was a period before that where he was just an anomaly in the system, prior to that, (as he learned from a former colleague, after he retired) new managers used to be told “Technically, [Dad] isn’t a manager and can’t tell you what to do, but if he makes a suggestion about the work the department is doing, listen to him. And if he advises you not to do something, don’t do it..”

                1. tangerineRose*

                  “if he makes a suggestion about the work the department is doing, listen to him. And if he advises you not to do something, don’t do it..”

                  This is a great position to be in!

          3. HS Teacher*

            Unfortunately, when you express no desire to manage they take that as you having no ambition.

            I have lots of ambition, but my ambition is to be the best teacher I can. It’s not to run a committee, manage other people, run the yearbook, or coach a sports team. I’m not a slacker; I’m just at a point in my life where I want to go home and relax after work, and I want to be home by 4:00!

        2. Annabelle*

          100% this. I’ve managed people in the past and it wasn’t my forte. I’m a high performer at my current job and I’m forever frustrated that the only way to earn more money here would be to leave my current job for a management role.

        3. Trout 'Waver*

          My department is transitioning from an attitude of “The only way to get promoted is into management” to separate ladders for managers and individual contributors. We’ve had several people quit and go elsewhere because they wanted promotions and more complicated projects but didn’t want to be managers. I’m excited to see the roll-out.

      5. Justme, The OG*

        I agree with that. My workplace has occasional management training you can take once you’ve been promoted. It would be helpful before the promotion though.

      6. Wren*

        I was not given any management training whatsoever when I got promoted to project manager. Pretty much just tossed in with a “here’s you team, you know what to do!” I knew how to do the work all right, but the managing part not so much. I had to figure it out by trail and error, observing other experienced managers, and thinking about what my own previous managers did that I liked or didn’t like. Training, any training, even a “no, really, you’re in charge and people don’t actually have to *like* your decisions” would have been helpful.

      7. Wintermute*

        True words. Also, I’d add that management is something unlike what they ever did before. The difference in skillset between a teapot technician and a manager over a team of teapot technicians is almost total, so being a good teapot tech doesn’t really have any bearing on your ability to manage. So you have a lot of people coming in as teapot techs, doing well, and being promoted to lower levels of management and that’s where they stop. They run face-first into the Peter Principle and there they remain, unfortunately as junior managers they are responsible for junior associates, and thus the first managers you run into in your working career.

    2. Indie*

      Because people are specialists at being people! They should have in-built people skills that are suitable for all situations!

      Kind of similar to the myth that English speaking children should just automagically be natural experts in English class (so they keep making the materials impressively harder and pay science and technology teachers more). Oh and the EAL kids will also pick it up with no help! Because, language! Soft skills! Etc. Plus everyone in the world can write well too.

  9. Anonymous Poster*

    This seems like an odd thing to open with. I’d be more worried, like Alison is, that this individual doesn’t understand where they should and should not butt into their subordinates’ lives.

    I understand why this manager would be concerned if the past manager mentioned some sick time abuse happening in the team. That’s good information to share! But then the fault is more, “Why didn’t you address this and instead lob a grenade into my lap?” And then compounding it with this pronouncement at a first team meeting is… odd. Is odd the right word? It’s odd.

    Personal story time, at one job the grandboss left (retired) and lobbed a grenade into the new grandboss’s lap. The new grandboss didn’t handle it well – at the first major program meeting, grandboss announced mandatory overtime, told us we should be grateful we have jobs, and clearly didn’t understand the boundaries around what exempt and non-exempt was. It was a complete disaster. It presaged a lot of problems, to the point where I left the company even though I had to repay tuition assistance (am still repaying). I’m not saying this will happen to you. I’m saying keep an extra ear to the ground to understand what’s going on. It could be a sign of it being time to spruce up your resume… it could also be a really rocky start to an otherwise fine manager. Please keep a lookout for yourself.

    1. Jesca*

      100% agree.

      What I have seen over the years is that a lot of people who call out sick/abuse time off are just really effing unhappy with their job and boss. So when I go into a new situation, I never initially just react to anything I may hear. There is always history and the reason may correct itself once a cause is erased. I have seen this happen time and again where once the manager is gone, the employee stop the behavior from before. Now, this isn’t always the case; sometimes you do have people who abuse the system so to speak. But laying that hammer down when you first start? It never ever works.

  10. Anon Anon*

    The only time I want a bit more detail is if someone has called out sick for more than a few days in a row. And that is less than me wanting to know specifically what is wrong with the person, and more to do with when I might expect the person back, and when it’s a contagious illness to encourage that person to stay at home until they are no longer contagious.

    I really think it’s odd though that any manager wants specific details especially for just one or two days. If you tell me that you are sick you are sick. The only time I question if someone is lying about calling in sick, is if there is a pattern that has been established (like they are calling out sick every other Friday), and in those cases I want more information.

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Where I work requires a doctor’s note after three days saying when you’re allowed back. They don’t even want to know what’s wrong with you. Just that you’re cleared to be back in the office.

      1. Anon Anon*

        We don’t require doctor’s notes. So if you tell us that you are sick you are sick. But, I think that is why we typically want more information if you are out several days in a row. Even if that information is that you’ve seen a doctor and they recommend an additional “X” days at home.

      2. paul*

        Ours does that too, and it has instituted different rules during bad outbreaks; I had to get a negative flu test to come back after having H1N1 back when, or when I got staph–but that’s related to specific outbreaks we were dealing with in our area at the time, they were pretty serious diseases and very contagious so I can get it.

        1. Former Hoosier*

          Which is entirely different than always expecting a specific list of symptoms. Especially in workplaces where safety is an issue or there is an outbreak, this is reasonable.

    1. DecorativeCacti*

      Had a boss like this and that’s exactly what I did. The best part was when she caught my stomach bug…when I had taken a mental health day.

    2. Political staffer*

      Bonus– if the person you’re talking to is the one who complains that people who poop in the office bathroom.

  11. Laura H*

    I’m usually transparent with my employer and will keep them as updated as I can/ feel comfortable.

    Recently had the flu and emailed the night before a shift that I’d likely call in and miss my shift so I could go to the doc-and get the diagnosis-, updated with the diagnosis and a return to work date. And also made sure to say thank you- because I’d never dealt with an illness that affected my workability for that long, and that’s stressful on its own. (Granted I only missed 3 shifts over approx a week and a half- it was still a long time on the calendar.)

    But that’s just the info I was comfortable giving. That’s gonna vary from person to person.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      I agree. And your comfort level is going to depend a lot on you as a person (sharing in general) and your relationship with your manager.

      1. Laura H*

        Also depends on how you’re feeling at the time you inform as well to a lesser degree of what medium you use to respond. Phone- you want to be short and as sweet as you can muster. Email- still short but you can elaborate a little more with a small amount of leisure on urgency.

    2. anonagain*

      It’s also different with either chronic conditions or more stigmatized conditions. Having the flu doesn’t typically impact how people view you as an employee long term. Needing a day off for, say, depression or menstrual cramps can.

      I have a chronic condition and I don’t share the details with my boss because they are boring. I also find that giving those details reinforces in people’s minds the idea that I am sickly and impaired. If I leave out the blood and guts and stick to when I’ll be out and when I’ll be back, I’m conveying that I am work-focused and doing what I can to put my colleagues’ attention on my work rather than on my illness. That matters when you’re dealing with a lifelong condition and not an acute illness like the flu.

    1. Grad Student*

      Ohhhh it’s good the rest of my office is in a meeting down the hall because I just cackled freely :)

    2. Fiorinda*

      I’d just say that I was suffering from the Dreaded Lurgi and currently not in possession of a brass-band instrument.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Applied for? The ADA’s rules against discrimination don’t require applying for anything. You may be thinking of requesting accommodations?

      1. mugsy523*

        I think you do have to apply for FMLA, maybe that’s what is being confused here? I used to work with a guy who would take intermittent FMLA and when he would leave a message on the call-out line, he’d indicate the absence was for FMLA.

  12. Malibu Stacey*

    I’m wondering if part of the issue is that this is an admin team and the manager is concerned about coverage, since a lot of admin tasks can’t be put off until the next day – the phone needs to be answered, the mail needs to be distributed, the team meeting lunch needs to be ordered, etc. Maybe it would help to discuss how coverage happens when an admin is out instead of trying to figure out of sick days are legitimate.

  13. Lily*

    Huh. I used it I have a manager who specifically told us /not/ to share details about being sick (since, as you note, it usually involves descriptions or bodily functions, plus it doesn’t make a difference what the reason is, you’re going to be absent).

    Only exception is if you’re out for multiple days, in which case a doctor’s certificate is required (which may or may not go into specifics anyway).

  14. KatyO*

    We had a manager that would question call ins so it became a joke to claim diarrhea because that, apparently, grossed him out and he’d immediately say “I’ll let them know” and then hang up.

  15. FunTillSomeoneLoosesAnEye*

    If you give your employees sick days, don’t be shocked when they use their sick days.

    So many places seem to resent, at best, people using their sick days and go out of their way to make the process of using them as difficult and debasing as possible.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      And if you don’t give your employees sick days, don’t be surprised when they manage to get sick anyway.

  16. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    I am an adult. Treat me as such until I give you reason not to. I loathe policies like this. I would be pushing back hard.

    I’d likely start with talking to the manager, but without disclosing that I have a chronic condition. I’d use Alison’s script but say “there are likely people on the team with chronic conditions and this could get the company in murky legal waters.”

    If that got me no where, I’d go to HR.

    If still nothing changed, I’d recruit the whole team to not give any detail when calling in.
    “I am sick and cannot make it in today.”
    “With what?”
    “With an illness I am dealing with. I’ll be back tomorrow/the next day/whatever the date is.”
    “I need more detail on what you are sick with.”
    “No you don’t. I am sick, I am unable to work, and I will be back in the office tomorrow/in 2 days/whatever the date is.”

  17. ThisIshRightHere*

    This lady being a new manager and coming right out of the gate with this outlandish policy reminds me of something that happened when I first came on board as a manager. When I arrived, my superiors gave me a laundry list of personnel problems that needed to be addressed (almost like they were saving these issues for me–and only me– to solve) and which they expected me to fix immediately. Perhaps someone has already told her that there is an abuse of sick leave problem?

    1. Kikishua*

      I thought this as well. I have seen this happen to other new managers who are following someone more lacksidaisical.

    2. Observer*

      It’s still a bad idea. You don’t solve genuine problems with stupid (and effectively unenforceable) policies.

  18. CatCat*

    Option 4, make up Sick Day BINGO cards filled with various ailments to call-in with when getting sick. You don’t actually have to have the ailment to state a reason on the card! You just need to name an ailment to meet her absurd demand. I suggest squares for, “The Chili Didn’t Agree With Me,” “Fever in the Morning, Fever All Through the Night,” “The Pink Eye,” “Old Man Mucus River,” and “Warm Mayo.” Check off a square whenever anyone uses the reason. Whoever wins BINGO, wins a prize!

    I mean, don’t actually do this because it’s not reasonable or professional… but imagine doing this because it’s kind of satisfying to fantasize about doing something ridiculous in response to a ridiculous demand.

  19. Manders*

    This is a weird thing to request of employees in general, but I’d be especially concerned about her not believing some health issues (like mental health issues, or chronic pain issues without visible symptoms) are real or serious enough to call off work for.

    If for some reason you’ve absolutely got to know the health status of your employees, you’ve also got to show them that you’ll be able to hear “Actually, I need a mental health day” without holding it against them. And announcing this kind of policy in your very first team meeting doesn’t exactly inspire that kind of trust.

  20. Em Too*

    Our system asks for broad categories, which I assume is in case they need to develop preventative measures – like if more and more people are out with back problems, maybe stop using that new chair supplier. It’s a big company. But I do *not* want more details than that (‘digestive problems, I will/will not be working from home, back in maybe x days’).

    Yet people do like to tell me about their injuries. I make them stop.

  21. Apostrophina*

    I’ve occasionally resorted to “Trust me, you don’t want me in the office right now”; traditionally this has been code for disgusting symptoms, but it expanded after I passed a horrible sinus ailment on to my boss simply by standing in the doorway and asking to go home.

  22. AlwhoisthatAl*

    This is what the Sound Recorder on your phone is for, set to record then send her the file as an email attachment. See if a Colleague can sneak in earlier and make sure the volume is up loud on her PC/Laptop

  23. DiscoTechie*

    The only time I’ve been detailed in why I’m taking a sick day off is if I have something that is highly contagious and early intervention could help any of my coworkers avoid the worst of it. For example, about a decade ago I got the flu, was diagnosed over the weekend, and able to take Tamiflu which is most effective in the first 24 to 48 hours. That was an email to my workplace of, “If you have symptoms do something about it.”. Other than that, the “I’m out today sick”. Short and sweet.

  24. Boredatwork*

    I find setting a precedent for food poisoning early is helpful. I’m exempt but we don’t have “paid” sick leave ( very common in my industry). My boss just absorbs the day and it’s NBD, people get sick. But, it’s a lot harder to justify a spontaneous day of non-PTO for mental health. This is especially problematic when the next day you don’t look like you’re recovering from a cold.

    I’ve used food poisoning for 3 jobs with similar policies and have never been questioned when I show up the next day looking not sick and well rested. I would absolutely fake phone vomit with soup if I was ever questioned.

    1. a-no*

      Another good excuse is vertigo. As a vertigo sufferer, the weirdest things will set it off. Initially I was out for two weeks, but since then headaches, fever, allergies, weather change, my partners new soap etc etc has set it off. So it’s a sudden onset issue that typically last from anywhere from 2 minutes to two weeks, BUT you are not allowed to drive while experiencing vertigo – therefore have to stay home.
      If you are unfamiliar with vertigo, you know when you stand up way to fast and get the spinning head rush? It’s like that but it doesn’t stop, your vision & hearing are impaired, you fall over etc etc. Its usually caused by a crystal in your inner ear that basically makes it impossible for your brain to calibrate and figure out which way is up.

  25. Rae*

    As a manager, I ONLY asked if they had something contagious so I could “inform” them if they were taking tomorrow off, too and plan for it. I worked with college “kids” who were desperate for hours. They didn’t call in unless they were really sick. They also came in sick and more than once I had to send them home and remind them that they couldn’t work until 24 hours after their fever cleared.

    One young man came in with the flu–high fever, nose, and eyes terrible…I put him in the office and asked him if he was really safe driving home. We (between the manager, himself and I) ended up deciding it was better if his mom came and picked him up. But after your early 20’s you should be beyond that kind of stupidity.

    In an office of fully grown adults capable of managing their own workloads and better at keeping germs to themselves and not needing to work with clients—I don’t think I would of been so “hard” on them.

    1. NW Mossy*

      I manage people too, and I see the same thing as you – abuse of sick time is a non-issue compared to the number of people who’ve come in trying to gut their way through it when they really should have stayed home in bed.

    2. Anon This Time*

      I once went to my on-campus job with a horrible cold, popped two Contac, drank an entire liter of orange juice, and promptly passed out. I woke up to my boss gently shaking me and asking if I was all right (while studiously NOT touching anything near my face or my empty OJ bottle). She then sent me home – fortunately, I was living on campus – and told me not to worry about my shifts, that she would make sure they were covered until I decided I was well enough to come back to work.

      I really miss that job.

  26. In a similar situation*

    Hi OP, perhaps you can tell your boss that you are taking sick time for something else? I also struggle with depression and anxiety and I occasionally have to take days off for this a well. My boss also like to ask us questions about our sick leave after we return to work and I too feel uncomfortable disclosing this to my boss. I usually tell him I have a stomach bug or some other illness that lasts a day or two.

    1. No names, please*

      I also sometimes need to take time off for mental health reasons, and I highly recommend lying about it, especially to a supervisor who is already displaying signs that she might be kinda judgmental about illness in general.

      If you have people above her in the company that will be reasonable, then Alison’s advice is great, but I would choose self-preservation over principle on this, if you have to choose.

      Specifically, I would recommend always saying it’s diarrhea, as mentioned above, but if you want to rotate, that can be fun, too!

  27. Hobgoblin*

    Ugh. I had a supervisor who did this and I hated it. My solution was to always use the same reason- upset stomach. What’s the purpose of this? To argue about the validity of my illness? No thanks. The same supervisor would also ask if I could come in by noon (halfway through my shift). Nope. Now I have a supervisor who tells me to get some rest and take as much time as I need. Such a breath of fresh air! Guess who I go above and beyond for?

    I call out about 2-3 times a year. If an employee is calling out “too much”, handle that issue. Treating everyone like children doesn’t solve any problems.

  28. whyo*

    If all else fails I would say “severe explosive diarrhea and vomiting” for any and all sick days, no matter what was actually going on.

  29. Rose*

    Could maybe this manager be from another country? I’ve only ever worked for large companies in the UK, and if I’m calling in sick (something I still have to do even though I’m a well-paid mid-level professional with my own team and a tremendous amount of flexibility in the hours I keep), I have to give some amount of detail for my HR record. No need to be graphic, of course, but I need to say “flu-like symptoms” or “migraine” or *something*.

    Then if I’m out for a certain number of consecutive days, or if I miss a larger number of non-consecutive days for the same stated reason, I need to produce a letter from my doctor verifying my symptoms and explaining what I and/or my workplace can do to prevent me from missing any more work.

    I had no idea that that’s not standard worldwide.

    1. Call centre worker*

      Yeah there seems to be a huge cultural divide on this issue. I’ve never worked anywhere that didn’t want a basic summary of why you’re not going to be in. I’ve always understood it to be so they can monitor it if you take over a certain amount of days off sick. Eg if you’re off every month with back pain they’ll want to discuss with you whether you’ve been to the doctor, what the prognosis is, do you need any adjustments to your work/working environment to help you with your condition, etc.

      It seems a bit weird that American employers aren’t asking this stuff, but from reading this site it sounds like a lot of them merge sickness days with holiday so it’s your problem if you’re off sick instead of your employer’s

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        I’ve noticed this too. Americans seem to consider sick leave some kind of earned benefit that you get to use as you like. Maybe because it’s not mandatory to give employees any paid sick leave days so it’s something the employer chooses to do to make the employees happy. In places where paid sick leave is mandatory and/or is partly funded by the state it’s seen as something you get when you truly need it, so people in general are more conscientious about how to use it.

    2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I was also thinking cultural differences because there are extremely different systems in different countries. And different companies too. Sometimes it’s the employee who decides themself that they need sick leave and calling the manager is only to let them know, not to ask permission. But in some systems the manager actually decides whether the employee can have sick leave or not. If the manager has this kind of mindset then it’s quite understandable that they ask for the reasons. (It’s a ridiculous system though. I think the right person to assess the need for sick leave is either yourself or a medical professional, not your manager.)

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      It could also be industry specific too — employees in healthcare, schools, food service, senior services, etc. may need to provide more information about their illness than an electrician or stock broker would.

    4. Indie*

      UK here too and same thing. Not only am I always expected to (vaguely) explain but I have to speak on the phone instead of emailing or texting.

      You know what though? I think the Americans are on to something. If it’s a delicate or personal matter, I’m not honest anyway. So I have to think of a euphemism sickness that is close in terms of recovery time. But then, I’m not a doctor and sometimes I have not *known* what’s wrong or how long I’ll be. All my employers have had “we will check into your reasons for sick leave if you have x days off, because that is taking the piss” so why not leave the checks and explanations for people who go over, and who may need help?

  30. East of Nowhere, South of Lost*

    What if the reason was mental, with the stigma attached to such things, the result could be awful.

  31. Lady By The Lake*

    I worked at the Centers for Disease Control and there it WAS a requirement to get specific about what our sickness was because of the risk of catching a nasty bug from what we were working with. But that was a specific case, and besides knowing that what you had wasn’t related to what we were working with, they didn’t want to know any more.

    1. Chriama*

      Haha, now I’m imagining an elaborate scenario where John doesn’t come in becusss he’s hungover but claims some symptoms that are similar to the zombie outbreak that coincidentally takes place that day in the office. Then the army surrounds his house the next morning when he’s trying to go to work and he has to explain…

      1. Lady By The Lake*

        Before I knew about the rule about being specific I called out sick one day (I note that I was an unpaid intern at the time) when I just needed a day off. The next day my boss wanted the details — so I just said “menstrual cramps” and that was the quick end of THAT conversation.

  32. Formerly Arlington*

    As a manager, I HATE getting details about this kind of stuff…for one, I feel badly that anyone would think I’m policing how they use their PTO, and secondly, I never know how to respond to highly personal info, like “I have a clogged milk duct that’s turned into mastitis” or “my IBS is flaring up.” I always worry I either sound too flippant (“feel better!”) or am myself guilty of TMI (“yeah, I had that issue myself.”)

    1. NW Mossy*

      I feel the same way! It’s like, “Dude, you know I trust you, right? Just stay home, watch The Price Is Right, and come back when you’re up to it.”

  33. JennyAnn*

    My only thought/exception would be some sort of restaraunt situation. At my serving job we recently had to sign illness guidelines, specifically how long we are expected to be out with various illnesses (minimums). For example, if you call out for gastrointestinal issues (nausea, diarrhea) they don’t want you back for 48 hours after the symptoms have passed. By asking for specifics, they’re able to predict how long you’re out and they’ll need coverage, so you don’t have to worry about calling out every shift until you’re better. I particularly appreciate it, because that’s one less thing off my plate that I have to deal with when I’m sick.

    But for an office situation? Unless they have some sort of similar policy, this is really weird.

    1. Stormy*

      Serving is quite the can of worms when it comes to sick days. I had to drag myself in with the most hideous migraines and sinus infections, but when I showed up with an eczema flare-up on my face and neck, they kicked me out right quick because it “looked bad”.

  34. Steph*

    My old boss would interrogate you on the phone if you called in sick. My favorite question was, “Which end is it coming out of?” Like did it have to be both to stay home? In the end she got the most gruesome sick descriptions because she seemed to push for it.
    I hope this practice goes away. I would never have asked my boss when she came back from a sick day which end of her was exploding with sick. And to be honest I felt demeaned when I had dragged myself in to work with leader issues and still got the 3rd degree when I caught whatever illness was going around in town.
    I agree that if there are issues with individuals to handle those without bringing everyone down to this level. Even if there were issues with past work or employees you have to let it go when you change employers or gain new employees. Its so demoralizing when managers carry issues they have over and a whole new group os punished for the actions of others.

  35. Katie the Fed*

    Meanwhile, I’m trying to get my employees to NOT give me details. I really, really don’t want to know.

  36. broadcastlady*

    I have Crohn’s disease. If this was required of me, I would likely detail exactly what was happening & my symptoms that day. This would most often be a mental picture that would not soon go away.

  37. Rookie Manager*

    I think this is one of those cultural differences; in the UK it absolutely is expected for you to say what is wrong if you are calling in sick. Graphic detail is not needed but something is.

    I’ve inherited a team who traditionally have very high levels of sickness (yes, my predecessor should’ve dealt with it but he was the worst). If someone keeps calling in with ‘food poisoning’ or ‘workplace stress’ then I want to investigate that.

    The difference may be the amount of sick leave you are entitled to. Some companies go as high as 6 months full pay and 6 months half pay. If you are getting that much paid sick time I think the organisation has a right to know why you are off.

    1. yasmara*

      We get 7 days of sick time at my US company. More than that & it’s manager’s discretion. Go above what your manager will allow & it’s short-term disability. This is definitely very different depending on what country you are in (or even state/municipality in the US).

    2. Autumnheart*

      Most US employees don’t get any sick time at all. For white-collar salaried jobs, you may get up to a week, or all types of leave may be bundled into a single bucket (mine is). For hourly jobs or even management in certain industries (customer service being a big one), it’s pretty much “Miss a day and you’re written up or fired”.

      It really sucks and the whole culture of “You’re never sick enough to deserve a break/additional support” desperately needs to change.

      1. Rookie Manager*

        Part of the reason to ask what is wrong is to check if extra support is needed. Ie if you keep going sick with back pain do you need a new offoce chair? However, if you can be fired without cause I understand why people would be reticent to share what was wrong.

    3. Jules the First*

      I refuse to fill in the form unless forced – my workload is such that taking a day off sick means working 8 hours later in the week, so if I can be there, I will be. If I’m calling in sick, you can guarantee that it’s because I’m not fit to work.

      Fortunately, all of my managers to date (except the one who made me come to work with a cracked pelvis, because I wasn’t in hospital) have been totally fine with that. There’s a special place in hell for the exceptional one already.

    4. Obelia*

      Yes, I agree Rookie – and it’s not unusual here, if sick leave provision is very extensive, to have a policy that X number of sickness absences within a set timeframe will trigger a discussion with the manager about if there’s anything underlying those frequent absences and whether support / occupational health referral is required.

  38. Liz T*

    What on earth is the purpose of this policy? Does she think people lying about being sick won’t be able to come up with a fake illness?

    Lying Employee: I’m sick.
    Jane: With what?
    Lying Employee: With…what? With…with…curse you and your perspicacity Jane, you’ve found me out!!! Guess I’ll come in after all.

    Anyone smart enough to lie is smart enough to say “a stomach thing” so I really don’t know what her end game is.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I wonder if it’s so she can decide your illness isn’t sufficient and tell you to come in to work anyway.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Years ago I had a boss who wouldn’t approve sick days if she didn’t think the illness was severe enough. One icy morning I fell in my driveway and landed smack on my tailbone. I was in such pain I couldn’t stand so I crawled back into my apartment, shredding my hands and knees on the icy pavement. When I called my boss, she cut me off: ‘So you fell down and have an owie. Not good enough. If you’re not in the office in the next hour, you’re fired.’ I needed the job, so I went in and I’m still not sure how that happened. Didn’t change clothes or clean up, and admit it was nice to see her shock over my appearance. At noon I finally got her permission to leave for a doctor’s appointment, but I was to be in the office the next day or else.

        Wish I could have told her where to put her owie.

  39. Goya de la Mancha*

    I’m pretty candid with my boss about my sick days, but that’s because I’m comfortable with her. In previous positions, I’ve just called in to the supervisor and said “I’m sick and going to need to take a sick day”. That’s generally been sufficient….Jane sounds like a pill…

  40. OrganizedHRChaos*

    My company has the opposite problem. We ask that you email attendance if you are going to be out. No other explanation needed but there are quite a few that find it necessary to provide their medical history, mom is being cremated today and I need to witness, have a court case for my latest dui, etc. Even when remind them that there are people who receive the attendance email that should not know their business.

    1. Bea*

      I’ve had so many vivid explanations over the years of being the person taking call ins. I’m glad my stomach can handle it, it’s so awkward.

  41. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    Ugh, yeah. My boss is cool, and would probably be fine with “I am way to anxious to leave my house or focus on work today” the two or three times a year that happens, but I frankly just don’t want him to know about that. And if I have the flu or grumpy guts or something I just don’t want to go into detail. Luckily, “I’m not feeling well” is fine by him, and fortunately true. When I’ve worked for people in the past who were more nosy, I’ve usually said something vague about “an upset stomach” or “feeling feverish”. Long ago, a manager tried to get even more details and I just said, “Look, I have food poisoning and am violently expelling things from both ends”. That guy NEVER questioned my “not feeling well” again.

  42. PM-NYC*

    This is absolutely a ridiculous policy. I do think pushback is needed, because it’s possible that making up detailed, gross descriptions of what’s wrong (while satisfying) could backfire or not work.

    Years ago, I worked a crappy, low pay, part time job. I was scheduled for a Friday night shift, but after working all day at my other job I realized I was sick & wouldn’t be able to make it in (second job had a long commute & involved being on your feet the entire time talking with the public). When I called, the first thing they said was “Well you don’t sound sick.” That’s what I worry the manager in this situation will say (which of course is an infuriating response.) So no matter how detailed the description of the illness is, I worry it could still be disregarded due to tone of voice.

    I think HR is probably the way I would go since this woman sounds ridiculous and HR would hopefully be more aware of possible ADA issues.

  43. blisterpolice*

    Having been on the receiving end of a very long, very detailed message about the extent of someone’s foot blisters, I told my staff that in the future, they just need to just let me know that they’ll be out and if they have an idea of how long it will be unless it’s something like the flu that we may need to know about because it’s contagious. I told them that even that was at their discretion.

  44. Greg*

    The most ironic element of Jane’s diktat is that employees who are lying are the ones most likely to provide lots of details around their sickness. If you’re genuinely sick, you’re not as worried about convincing people. It’s the people sitting on a beach who are most likely to spin lulrid stories about projectile vomiting, etc.

  45. kristinyc*

    I had a coworker a few years ago who was based in Hong Kong (the rest of our team was in USA) who once emailed the whole 30+ person team saying she was taking a sick day due to diarrhea. Awwwwkward. I think it may have been a bit of a language barrier – I met her a few times, and she may not have known it would’ve been okay to say she had an upset stomach.

    I have employees on my team who give me more detail than I need about their sick days. I wish they wouldn’t.

  46. Coalea*

    I have a colleague who always sends a very detailed email about his symptoms to our entire team every time he takes a sick day – think, “I’m currently running a fever of 101, my sore throat is improved, but I have a persistent cough that brings up a lot of phlegm.” No idea why he decided this is necessary – no one else does it! It’s kind of a running joke with some of us!

  47. Stormy*

    The “how much info do we need” issue became a thing when I worked at a company who changed their sick policy from “days” to “incidents”. So, instead of blowing through five sick days in one bout of the flu and having to take unpaid days the rest of the year, that flu became one sick “incident”. People were confused about how to handle certain things (like a recurring medical issue with flare-ups) with the incident policy, so there was a bit of over-reaching until things were smoothed out.

    I hope that this manager is merely acting out of newbie confusion or the desire to toe the line until she proves herself. (That doesn’t make it good, but possibly easier to fix.)

  48. bonkerballs*

    It’s funny, I already do this anyway. I work at a small office and we call in sick by emailing the whole team, and for the most part all of us include a quick little explanation: “hey guys, I’m dealing with a little stomach bug today and won’t be in” or “looks like that cold that’s been going around finally got me so I’m staying home, but I’ll be checking email periodically.” That doesn’t feel like over-sharing or a violation of privacy, and can be helpful for others in the office.

    However, as soon as you make it mandatory that I explain what I need a sick day for, my hackles rise and I don’t want to do it.

  49. Observer*

    What the manager is doing is ridiculous. I wonder if she’s doing this because she’s under the mistaken impression that managers are not allowed to treat anyone “differently”, and wants to be able to question any employee who she thinks is abusing sick time.

    That’s still ridiculous but somewhat understandable for a new manager.

  50. Bea*

    In Washington state they cannot require a reason because you’re entitled to your privacy and our mandated sick leave law makes that clear. I hope the rest of the states start picking up speed on their laws.

    You can ask for a doctors note after 3 days out but it just has to state you’re out and no explanation of illness. Since it’s okay to take mental health days.

  51. Invisible Tribe*

    I also have clinical depression and it never occurred to me to use a sick day to “recharge” from my depression, as the OP put it. It’s curious that the OP didn’t say the depression was so debilitating that she/he didn’t feel capable of working or felt that he/she would be significantly impaired at work. I have certainly used a vacation day (not a sick day) when I need what I call a “mental health break”. I think the unaddressed matter is this: How would the manager react when you call in sick with a stated reason of depression, even if you have been diagnosed as clinically depressed? Better call in sick with diarrhea instead.

    On a related note, a former manager forced me to set a written annual development goal of attending work parties, because I rarely attended work parties and never attended offsite work parties. It wasn’t good enough to decline politely, or say that I didn’t want to attend because I didn’t enjoy them. I didn’t tell him that I have diagnosed social anxiety disorder, coupled with clinical depression, among other things. And that parties can actually give me a panic attack. My mental disorders weren’t any of my manager’s business because they weren’t impacting my actual work, nor were they impacting my personal interactions at work. I was able to socialize with people in a work context and be part of group work meetings, be a good public speaker at work meetings, etc. It was just the darn parties that made me want to hyperventilate! In any event, I don’t know how my employers would respond to my mental issues, as there seems to be little understanding of mental illness in general, but I have no plans to disclose anything to them.

    1. Olive Hornby*

      I have taken the occasional mental health recharge day and see it as similar to staying home when you feel a sore throat coming on–sure, I could make it in to work that day, but doing so increases the likelihood that I’ll feel terrible later in the week and end up either taking multiple days off or coming in but getting nothing done. I suspect the OP’s new boss wouldn’t approve of either use, which is shortsighted–it’s going to lead not just to frustration and grumbling among the staff but less productivity overall.

    2. Bea*

      I’ve used sick time for bad days because my anxiety and depression can manifest in an increased stutter and speech problems. If I’m having trouble communicating I see it as a medical issue therefore sick leave verses vacation.

      Most places I’ve been with a distinct vacation vs sick leave policy means you can’t just use vacation because that’s prearranged with 2 weeks notice.

    3. SallytooShort*

      I think dealing with a chronic illness is an entirely valid reason to use a sick day. Not everyone’s depression manifests the same exact way. And for a lot of people even when you are on medication and mostly fine there are just “bad days” where you really can’t function. If it’s too frequent you need to speak with your doctor and talk about change in treatment. But you can be doing really well and just have depression kick you in the stomach one day.

    4. J.*

      Mental health *is* health. Just because you don’t use your sick days to take care of your mental health doesn’t mean other people can’t. As long as the employees are staying within their allotted leave (and not coming in contagious because they used up all their leave by June), I don’t care if my coworkers call out sick for a papercut.

    5. Marillenbaum*

      I don’t think you need to be debilitated by your depression to need a day off because of it. I might technically function when my depression is bad, but it doesn’t mean I’d function well enough for me coming in to be a worthwhile exercise.

    6. BatteryB*

      I’m sorry, Invisible Tribe, that you had to go through that. I don’t attend a lot of activities outside of work. Not for any mental health issues, but just because I didn’t want to attend. I’d be irate about having to set that as a development goal.

  52. One legged stray cat*

    I don’t know if this is the case, but when I’ve seen new managers dictate illogical rules before spending enough time assessing the team’s needs, it was often because upper management is pressuring them too. My company almost always hires out and never promotes people internally. It also has a high turnover in those positions. What ends up happening
    is that almost all of management had no idea how any of the real work actually gets done or why things are done certain ways. Upper management has a tendency of firing under management when numbers seem bad (these numbers actually have more to do with other departments and don’t actually mean much of anything but upper management doesn’t know that). When they hire new managers, they tell the hires what they feel is wrong with the team (often very off base from reality) and require the new manager to make changes immediately. The new manager has very little bandwidth to fight back since he or she is new. Stupid, dysfunctional policies insue, until that manager is fired and we get a new one. Then new problems begin.

    Your manager might have been ordered when she was hired to do something about the perceived high number of sick days in your department. Especially if you have a feeling that your previous manager was fired or forced out, if after talking with your manager, she seems unable to budge on such a stupid policy, you might have to try reasoning with HR or the management above her since they might have the real power to do something.

    1. LCL*

      This was my thought also-she has her marching orders to get absenteeism under control. Bad solution though.

  53. Sled Dog Mama*

    Ugh. No. Not cool. The only time I’ve given a reason more than “I’m not well” has been with a migraine (current boss also has them) and that was only because boss texted to see if symptoms were improving after half a day. The only way my employer is getting anything beyond “I’m too sick to work” is if I have the (legit, been to the doctor and had it diagnosed) flu. And that’s only because they consider flu an occupational hazard (yay health care) and an absence from diagnosed flu doesn’t count against your unplanned absences.

  54. silvertech*

    This manager would have loved one of my former direct reports… he was completely out of touch with proper workplace norms, so the first time he got sick he texted me from his doctor’s office and asked me if I wanted to speak to the doctor himself to make sure he was truly sick. I was horrified.

    Note that :
    1 – doctor’s notes are mandatory in my country when an employee is sick
    2 – employers are not legally allowed to ask why the employee was sick
    3 – I never, ever, told said employee that he couldn’t stay home when sick. Quite the opposite, he wanted to come to work with flu-like symptomps and I told him to please stay home (sick days are paid)

    1. tangerineRose*

      Most of the time when I’m sick, I just want to lie down. Hauling myself into the doctor’s office when I’m sick but will probably be OK in a day or 2 just sounds awful. Very glad these aren’t mandatory in the US.

  55. IT is not EZ*

    I had a manager that, if we wished to take a sick day, we had to come in and personally request it from him. No email, no phone calls. “I want to make sure you’re really sick before approving your sick time” was the quote I recall.

    Yeah, that didn’t go over well.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      Great! Showing up to the office in my nightgown and bathrobe, looking all flu-ish under the fluorescent lighting.

  56. Yolanda*

    I’m so out of touch with normal workplaces. If I call in sick I get yelled at and asked what is wrong with me and if it’s really THAT bad. Then my manager usually hangs up on me.

  57. Elle Kay*

    The only other thing that I can think of if she’s coming from a retail/service, hourly-shift kind of background. I worked in retail in college and, in those jobs, at minimum wage, people do sometimes just blow off work. They’d call in as sick just to not get a NCNS on their record (I know this b/c they didn’t try to hide it when they came back in) So I had managers who wanted specifics as a way to try and figure out if it was a “real” sick call.
    Which sucks but at $9 hour staff is just not that committed

  58. Free Meerkats*

    “I have explosive, mucoid diarrhea. I’ll put a sample on your desk in the morning.”

    And fun fact, that’s a distinguishing symptom for giardiasis; and it’s not as much fun as it sounds.

    1. Snark*

      Mucoid.

      Well. I suppose I have now found the one word in the English language that is more inherently disgusting than “moist,” and interestingly it also starts with M. That is a thing.

      1. Rainy*

        Oh, let me introduce you to my single-most disgusting word: tubule.

        Say it a couple times. If you hate “mucoid” you’ll REALLY hate “tubule”.

  59. Orchestra Alum*

    I mean I find people over share health issues to begin with. I don’t think a manger should feed into this. It almost becomes a competition and totally not needed. If an adult calls in and says they can’t work I would take it at face value. If Johnny football calls off every time the seagulls win on Sunday than take it up with Johnny individually.

  60. Rather Be Reading*

    I work for a library. Since our work is mostly coverage based, we’ve got a “sick line” voicemail that all the supervisors can access. It makes it more likely that someone will find out that we’ll be short staffed In time to adjust the schedule.

    Two hiccups: our IT has it set up so voicemails are delivered to the recipient’s email. And we’re a government agency, so all emails are government property and open to freedom of information requests. So we actually have a policy that you DO NOT say what you’re out sick with, because we do not want to be in the business of violating our staff’s medical privacy. It works fine for us.

  61. SheLooksFamiliar*

    A co-worker once got sick at work, and told our boss why he was going home for the day. Our boss listened to a few painful details, then he said, ‘Really, this is none of my business! Is someone covering for you in that meeting tomorrow? Yes? Then just take care of yourself and let me know when you’ll be back.’

    ‘This is none of my business.’ Words to live by.

  62. mf*

    Alison’s advice is good, but if pushing back doesn’t work, I’d probably tell a white lie. “I have a terrible migraine and can’t get out of bed. Hopefully I’ll be back at work tomorrow!”

    If you’re genuinely sick (due to mental or physical health), then how will she know what’s making you feel ill? It’s none of her business, and frankly, she’s creating a situation where employees will feel they have no choice but to lie. So it’s her own damn fault.

  63. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    …LW, can your manager take my team? There are times I’ve had to remind them that I DON’T need the play-by-play! (Sometimes, I get it anyway. Those are the days where I seriously contemplate my life choices that led me to this point.)

    But seriously, like…I’d like to give your new manager the benefit of the doubt w/r/t not really knowing boundaries, particularly if it’s her first time managing anyone. On the other hand, diarrhea is one of the few things that automatically grosses me out, so I’m finding it IMPOSSIBLE to imagine responding to “well, what if I have the runs?” with “tell me the deets.”

    If all else fails, next time someone ends up making an ill-fated run to Chipotle, I suggest giving her the Bristol scale.

  64. Wintermute*

    Just tell your boss you have a really bad case of anal glaucoma– you can’t see your @#! coming in!

    All joking aside, this is really worth pushing back on, and you’ve been given some great verbiage to do so

  65. I am Fergus*

    If the boss is an ass and wants details I would say:

    I woke up at 2 and had to do a mean piss, so I get up and walk down the hall.
    I threw up.
    pause
    I threw up again.
    pause
    I threw up for the third time.
    pause
    I thought I was fine
    pause
    i threw up
    i then made it to the bathroom because I still had to do a mean piss.
    So as I piss, it’s too late, I crapped my pants.

    If the boss is so clueless I would say this, only problem is could I do it without laughing

  66. The Claims Examiner*

    Always make it something gross, and always be very explicit. This also works with “why are you in the bathroom so much”, which I have gotten before. Do you REALLY want the answer to that question?

Comments are closed.