my boss sends me work to do when I’m out sick

A reader asks:

I work for the finance department of a nonprofit. Whenever I call/email in sick, I receive multiple emails from my boss (on my work email) asking me to complete tasks as though I am in the office — things like making lunch reservations, printing off documents for him, fixing something on his computer, etc. I have to send him multiple messages for him to finally understand that I’m out sick.

When I don’t check my work email when I’m out sick, he complains or blames me ​if something doesn’t get taken care of in time, like lunch reservations for that same day. This is the same boss who forgot that I was out on vacation over the holidays and scolded me for not having an out of office message (which with our email system only gets sent out the first time you email someone who’s out), when in fact I did. He just forgot and thought I just wasn’t responding to him.

He seems to get upset whenever I’m out of the office, and I’ve actually started going in when I’m sick or injured and should probably stay home. I’ve even gone in against medical advice when I was having severe back problems because I knew it would almost be worse if I stayed home.

I really need this job right now, and I’m worried that he’ll get upset enough to fire me even though I’m not in the red on my sick time, and I still have my projects completed on time. How do I get him to respect my sick time?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 96 comments… read them below }

  1. pleaset

    “He just forgot and thought I just wasn’t responding to him.”

    This doesn’t surprise me.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.

      Of course he did, because the world revolves around him. It should respond to him immediately. If it does not, it can only mean that it is ignoring him, not that it is unaware of his glorious presence.

  2. mark132

    Based on the task list it’s almost like this guy suffers from ‘learned helplessness’. Surely he can print his own documents without help? The advice to not respond in fact if possible not even check email when off is spot on. I personally only rarely check my emails when I’m not “on the clock”.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House

      Eurgh I had one of these bosses. I was the manager of a department and he treated me like his personal assistant. Make my dinner reservation! Fix my email! Help me buy tickets to Teletubbies on Ice for my daughter! All of these things were not only well outside my job description, they were not in anyone’s. Our org didn’t have admins, and they especially didn’t have admins for out-of-work things like dinner date reservations and buying tickets to children’s performances.

      I would pretend I didn’t get the email, but I was advised that my relationship with him would be better if I “was a team player and helped out with things that weren’t my job” and “played dumb to flatter his ego instead of being intelligent and therefore threatening.”

      I felt dirty.

      1. Busy

        Uhg god gross past manager started doing this to me, so I left! It was all this weird stuff too like you listed. I was hired to do really high level stuff, dude. Not submit your receipts! The day I told him he could try yoga to help his back pain as it seems to help a lot of people (he asked), and he told me to send him videos on youtube was the last straw. Cuz yeah, thats what I have to do all day. Find you youtube videos? And I was doing all the department work!! All of it!! Cuz he already lost all his other employees. Find him youtube videos, indeed. I am not an admin. Bless admins, but that is not a job I am good at.

      2. lnelson in Tysons

        Even when I was an admin, some of the requests that I got were like: “seriously” I think the winner still is could I go to the internet and find out what the weather was predicted to be in a city that the manager was going to for a business trip.
        With this winner it was also automatically assumed that I would fetch his bus pass even when he was in the office and had to walk by the office to collect the said pass himself. I will admit that it made perfect sense when he was out of town on business and couldn’t do it himself. He also thought I should have offered to run out and buy him lunch more often. No, not out of my own pocket, but simply go to his office and ask “do you need me to go fetch you lunch?” The office culture did have the “hey I’m going to the corner deli does anyone want anything?” culture. But even if I bought my lunch in, I was supposed to go out to fetch.
        On the bright side that place did respect sick days.
        Another boss called me at home when I called in sick to make sure that I was home sick. It was a little hard to explain that I was sick of her.

        1. La La Land

          Looking up the weather, and doing other prep work for business trips, is entirely a reasonable request for an executive to make of a personal assistant. (To be clear, it’s completely outrageous to ask of someone in management.)

          Ditto with short errands. Yes, the exec may be ambulatory, physically able to walk to fetch a bus pass. That doesn’t mean it’s an effective use of her time, especially if she’s very senior.

          If you don’t like this, don’t apply to be a PA.

          1. Jennifer Thneed

            1. Did you miss the part where the boss had to walk by the bus pass office in the course of their day?

            2. Did you miss the part where this poster was an admin, not a personal assistant? Those are not the same thing at all.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger

              Also, on what planet does it take less time to email someone and type out a message to someone describing your request than it does to type “weather[dot]com” and then “[city]”??? The boss was spending MORE of their own time asking lnelson in Tysons to do it than it would take the boss to do it themselves!!

              1. That Girl From Quinn's House

                If you get your boarding pass sent to your Gmail, Google automatically starts displaying the destination’s weather on your phone a day or two in advance, on whatever they’re calling Google Now these days.

                1. La La Land

                  I should probably add the caveat that, as with most things in life, some degree of common sense applies.

                  I’m sure someone can come up with an example of an out-of-bounds request (wasn’t there a letter from an admin in the last year or so who was asked to arrange strip-club visits for her boss?), but I don’t think the point is “who can come up with the most outrageous counter-hypothetical.” Moreover, if there’s a gray area where you have a reasonable disagreement about what is appropriate, I would generally advise erring on the side of keeping your boss happy.

                  Finally, some of this may vary with the culture of your company, and with the level of the executive’s seniority. A newly-minted junior VP probably has less leeway than a longstanding C-level executive. Regardless, though, arranging business trip logistics (including a weather report, if so requested) strikes me as totally fair game.

              2. La La Land

                There are plenty of components to a business trip that make only take a moment or two individually, but cumulatively they take time. And you don’t want highly-paid people spending time on clerical and administrative matters. That’s why organizations hire admin people.

                It’s a totally legitimate request, and by and large I see the distinction between “personal assistant” and “administrative assistant” as a semantic one. Even if I’m wrong, that’s what the purpose of job descriptions and interview questions is: to clarify expectations about the role.

                If you don’t want to be an admin, don’t apply for administrative jobs. If you don’t think your are qualified for non-administrative jobs, talk to your boss about paths to long-term career advancement. I have a friend who started out as an admin and now has a fairly senior role at a well-known tech company.

                1. Kettles

                  You’re incredibly wrong; it’s not semantic, and they are completely different jobs. An admin might order office supplies, answer the phone, do the filing. A personal assistant attends to the every personal need and whim of a senior member of staff.

                  Administration, which you seem to be dismissing as ‘clerical work’ can be essential to an organisation, and often requires a particular and useful skillset. I used to do it and found it tougher than much higher level creative roles, including management.

                  Conversely I could never be a PA; my default is that very few able bodied adults are incapable of, or too important, to grab their own coffee and print their own documents. I think it’s demeaning to expect someone else to do it for you.

                2. La La Land

                  You are confusing personal assistant and administrative assistant. I assure you they are different.

                  But “administrative assistant” sounds a lot like “office manager.” If people are confusing personal and administrative assistants so often, why not refer to the latter as an office manager?

            2. La La Land

              “Did you miss the part where the boss had to walk by the bus pass office in the course of their day?”

              No. Did you miss the part where I said waiting in lines isn’t “an effective use of the exec’s time, especially if she’s very senior”?

              1. lnelson in Tysons

                This guy wasn’t senior. He was also annoyed when direct lines were assigned vs. routed through a main number because he associated having someone answer his phone with higher status. For me that translated as how dare he have to answer his own phone (even if he was the only one in the office)
                I had no issues with answering the phones as I knew it was part of the job and yes having the admins there to answer the phones first was very helpful especially since if an important call was expected and the manager wasn’t at his desk on another call, etc. one of us could go find the manager and let him know that the caller was on the line. All part of the job. (this was before caller ID was standard).
                That actually got him into trouble at one point, because he decided that the female accountant should be answering his phone after all the admins left.

          2. Rainy

            If you don’t like this, don’t apply to be a PA.

            Except, of course, that lnelson in Tysons was an admin, not a PA. Those two things are VERY DIFFERENT.

            1. krysb

              Yes, I totally see admins and PAs as distinct job types. One is where you work for a business dealing with business-related needs. The other is where you do all tasks, including personal tasks, for a person. If I were an admin, I would be bothered by doing PA tasks – but that’s me.

          3. EmKay

            You are confusing personal assistant and administrative assistant. I assure you they are different.

            1. RUKiddingMe

              Yup. I am extremely very senior. We have an admin to take care of overall business needs and I have a PA to take care of me.

              I would never ask the admin to get my lunch and I certainly wouldn’t ask a manager to…and I have standing to do so if I wanted to. It’s about respect.

              Also I remember when people are not working on a given day.

            2. Kat in VA

              I have a blend of both, but only because I offer – I’m an executive assistant. To me, it makes no difference to give you a lift to pick up your car that’s being detailed (but I like driving my car) and I have no problem letting you know that X city is supposed to have hella thunderstorms the day after you land…because I get paid the same either way. We also get lunch for our execs – but it’s delivered, and if we order lunch for them, we get it also (a nice perk). The personal requests though, percentagewise, might be 2% of the total job.

          4. lnelson in Tysons

            It wasn’t a PA position it was an administrative assistant supporting multiple people. And yes I have moved into a different career path as it really wasn’t a career for me. I was very happy when I finally got a job where the only phone I had to answer was my line/extension. The only travel arrangements I needed to make were for my travel alone. Well most of the time, I would often pitch in when candidates were brought in for interviews.
            However, I am grateful to the many assistants I have worked with over the years, especially to those who like and are excellent at their jobs.
            I am also of the opinion there whether there is an admin in the office or not: NO ONE is above tossing out there own soda can or paper plate especially is they have to walk by a trash can on the way out of the conference room.
            After reading some of the other comments, management really should know how to print their own stuff, because your AA, EA or PA could not be in the office for a variety of reasons at any given time.

          5. Narya

            What? You do understand that an administrator and a personal assistant are not the same thing, right? If so, I don’t understand your response at all.

        2. Kettles

          Another boss who has confused ‘subordinate in the hierarchy’ with ‘personal servant’.

        1. just a random teacher

          I feel that Teletubbies on Ice would be a better “team building” experience than, say, a rafting trip. Particularly if the company rents a corporate box that comes with alcohol as part of the team building experience.

    2. ClashRunner

      I had a former boss that I would have thought more than capable of a lot of basic work, based on the rest of their output. Not so. They sent me a series of documents to print while I was out of the country on vacation and gave me a thorough and public dressing-down when I returned. Turns out they really truly aren’t able to do a lot of (supposedly) basic office functions.

      1. Janet

        That’s horrible. Did he forget you were on vacation and out of the country? I would have a tough time being dressed down publicly for something that was not my fault.

      2. MJ

        “Turns out they really truly aren’t able to do a lot of (supposedly) basic office functions.”

        In the case of one boss… not even how to plug in a laptop. /facepalm

      3. Gazebo Slayer

        It infuriates me when managers who are paid the big bucks literally don’t know how to do basic things like print documents in a pinch. How did they get to their positions of authority in the first place? How have they maintained office jobs so long in the face of such obvious incompetence and/or plain refusal to learn?

      4. People like shiny things

        I work in healthcare as an office manager, I have literally had to launch Windows for one of our doctors on his computer so he could type a letter.
        We have digital patient charts. It’s kinda scary. I amaze him every week with my amazing computer wizardry copy and pasting, and printing and faxing skills.

  3. Aspiring Chicken Lady

    *Thread on top of the email you sent in the morning to follow up on the phone call you made to call in sick, and to say that you wouldn’t be checking messages.* “Gee, Boss, I didn’t see the messages you were sending me yesterday when I was out sick, because of course, I was not checking email from home while sick.”

  4. NerdyKris

    It’s unlikely any system would allow an auto reply out of office every time instead of just once. You would risk an infinite loop if two accounts kept replying to each other with the out of office reply.

    1. Nancie

      The out of office probably wouldn’t, but it may be possible to configure a rule in the application to automatically email the boss. The rule would have to be enabled/disabled just like the OOO.

    2. Mr. Shark

      The good old days, back in the late 90s, we had that problem at an office at which I was working in basically an admin-type role. They had set up a work group for an outside the office team, and there were 20-25 people on the e-mail group. As it happened, 3-4 were out of office, so it would send an out-of-office to the group (rather than the individual) and then the other out-of-office would send it to the group. We had crashed e-mail systems, and my group and IT had to track down the other companies, call their IT, and tell them to shut off the out-of-office on those individual accounts.

      It was fun seeing 7,000 e-mails received by the one person in our office on the group e-mail in less than 30 minutes.

  5. Jennifer Thneed

    I know this is a re-run, but:

    > an out of office message (which with our email system only gets sent out the first time you email someone who’s out)

    If it’s Outlook, that’s probably a setting you can change, so that it is sent everytime. Also, you might be able to set up a “rule” where anything from a specific person will always get a specific auto-reply.

    Also: STOP CHECKING WORK EMAIL if you’re home sick.

    1. Jennifer Thneed

      Replying to self to say: I just checked my own Outlook and that is not an option. It might be configured by my workplace that way; it might be that M$ got smart. Regardless, it DID used to work this way. :-) (But setting up an automatic rule is still a possibility.)

      1. Michaela Westen

        It was a check box to “reply only once to each sender”, I remember it too. Now it seems to be the default and can’t be changed.
        In the Automatic Replies screen in my Outlook in the bottom left is a Rules button.
        Opens a blank box with Add Rule
        It looks like you could enter boss in the From box and at the bottom Reply With, which opens an email screen for you to type.
        Since it’s embedded in Automatic Replies, I expect the Rule would only execute when Automatic Replies are turned on. I would write an email that doesn’t reference dates or reasons saying you’re out, and see what happens. :)

      2. Jen S. 2.0

        On my Outlook, I only get the whole OOO email once, BUT when I message that person a second time from an Outlook screen*, that person’s name is grayed out, I get a notification at the top of my screen telling me that person is sending auto-replies, and the screen notification tells me what their auto-reply says. MS may have disabled the auto-reply-each-time option, but I see how they replaced it.

        *I see these from my laptop, with regular Outlook. It is very possible that Boss is messaging LW from a mobile device or similar, such that he does not see these indicators (and frankly, MS should have thought of that).

      3. nonegiven

        Can you set up scheduled emails to go to that one person once every hour that says you are out sick and not checking email?

    2. Cat Fan

      Right on the last point, and don’t apologize if he complains the next day. Just remind him you were out sick.

  6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

    I turn off my notifications when I’m on vacation or sick because I’m always tempted to check them. Sick time and vacation are part of your benefits package, so unless you’re in a position that is required to be available in an emergency situation, you need to break boss’s habit of contacting you when you’re out.

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

      This is always assuming your boss falls under the category of reasonable.
      My benefits package includes 28 days leave. My boss has admonished me for taking this leave in a batch of 5 (i.e. a full working week at a time), because it causes disruption. A “better” use of MY leave time would be to only take off Mondays or Fridays.

  7. Observer

    Did we ever get an update on this? The boss didn’t sound like a really reasonable type…

    1. Pilcrow

      Yes there was an update. Upshot was boss got a bit better about it but still kept sending stuff.
      Link to follow.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.

      That’s true, because in for profit organizations, the company pays people to do the grunt work so that people can do the work they are paid to do. And it for profit organizations, these people are paid well because of how much work they allow other people to get done.
      In non profits, everyone does everything. Well, that’s the message from the top, only it tends to miss a few inboxes along the way.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        That really varies depending on the nonprofit! In small ones, yes. In larger but poorly run ones, yes. But in orgs of a decent size with good management, people have clear roles and division of labor.

        1. De Minimis

          I’m currently working at my first larger non-profit and it does seem a lot better in that respect [so far, at least in my department.]

          What I’ve observed in non-profit is people seem really hesitant to leave work at the office, even when they’re sick or dealing with things outside of work. I think with smaller organizations in particular, there’s often this misplaced sense of duty.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch

        It’s a business in general thing that haunts a lot of companies, not just non-profits, I’ve seen it countless times in for-profit organizations. They love to just lump in that “Other Duties As Assigned” and “Team player!” and “lots of hats!” garbage.

        Signed someone who actually likes variety but not when it means I cannot take a day off because someone is so dependent they cannot use their iphone without my help, even though I don’t even use apple products.

        1. AKchic

          Yes. The “other duties as assigned” is the kicker. No matter where I go, that is *always* the phrase used whenever a task is given to someone who has no business doing it and they balk at doing it. “‘Other Duties As Assigned’ and I’ve just assigned it to you, so you’d better get to it!” Add in the “team player” and the possible “wouldn’t want to get a write up for insubordination now, would you?” and an employee will feel like they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

        2. Michaela Westen

          One of my early support jobs was supporting a man who couldn’t print a document or send a fax.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood

            I worked a temp job where we supported a bumbling genius. She was department chair, MD/PhD, dozens of publications… and regularly left her “broken” stapler with a note for the admin “fix” it. It wasn’t broken– it was just EMPTY.
            Then thete was the senior admin in the group. She gave me an 18 page CV that needed a new item added to page 1….and chewed me out when i set up automatic page numbers for her. She deleted my formatted doc and “did it right”–manually moving the bottom item from one page to the top of the next for all 18 pages. That was in 1991. I was so VERY glad it was a temp position.

      3. Feline

        The publicly-traded for-profit I work for eliminated admins for all but the highest execs. If you want admin tasks done, do them yourself. This seems common in for-profits I know since lowered headcount makes this quarter’s numbers shinier.

  8. M from NY

    Are you his admin/assistant or have you taken on task that you shouldn’t?

    If you are his admin then I’d suggest being proactive and designating a “cover” for when you are out. This way if you know there was something time sensitive you didn’t complete or that is expected then on site person can do face time with your boss. Have person be specific – “Jane called in sick and wanted me to check if you heard back from Bob about lunch. Do you still need reservation?: and not generic “do you need anything”.

    But if you’re not his “admin” then slowly push back on the unimportant busy tasks (printing documents and IT help) and only act on actual time sensitive items. So if he forwards lunch request and cc another in house attendee I’d respond to all and ask other admin to complete in your absence.

    Boss has no incentive to change expectations if you keep responding.

  9. LaDeeDa

    Typically most emails won’t let you send your Out of Office message more than one time per sender– but if you use Outlook you can set up a special message just for the boss–
    1. Click File
    2. Select Automatic Replies
    3. Fill in your Out of Office Message
    4. Select Rules
    5. Select Add Rule
    6. Put his email in the From category
    7. Check Reply With
    8. Select Template- this will open a blank email
    9. Enter your custom for him email (DUDE, I AM OUT SICK AND NOT CHECKING MY EMAIL!!!)
    10 Select Save & Close
    11. Then click OK, OK Ok– all the way until you have closed Out of Office message box.

    And if you have someone who covers for you-that same Rules area is where it allows you to forward to emails to that person, so you could also forward any email from him- to that person.

    Good luck!

    1. Yvette

      I would like to add to the custom email to preface it with “This is an automated response” Because you know his thought process will be that if she can send a response she can deal with his email.
      Someone with his apparent level of technical ineptitude probably would not even realize a custom automated response was possible and would think the OP was actually responding.

    2. boredatwork

      I can here to say this same thing – sounds like boss needs his own custom response.

  10. Allison

    At my last office, you needed to list a backup contact every time you were out of the office. Among the junior staff we tried to spread it around so one person didn’t always get stuck covering the high-pressure executive. It’s easier for planned days off, but for sick days you could have a couple potential backup people, text or email them to see who’s willing to cover, and perhaps that person could even walk over to the boss and say that they can help with scheduling as needed? Depends on the vibe and workload of your office.

  11. The Man, Becky Lynch

    He sounds so needy, like he only ever emails you, he cannot simply see you’re not in the office all frigging day? When he doesn’t get a response he doesn’t just drop by your desk to see if you’ve built a fort under it to camp out and ignore him? Then it would dawn on him that “oh snap, she’s out sick! duh.” *face palm*

    He will not change if you keep responding to emails during your out of office time. Especially since none of this is urgent. You need to pause the emails when you’re OOO!

    1. Michaela Westen

      Needy is the word.
      I’ve known a few like this. They don’t feel supported if someone isn’t holding their hand. They’ve never been in a situation where they had to figure stuff out as they went along – they’ve always had support people around them.

  12. TootsNYC

    When you go on vacation, put a big note on your desk/computer.

    Make one for when you’re sick, and keep it in your desk somewhere. Then ask a colleague to put it up for you on the days you call out sick.

    And what the heck with the “just thought I wasn’t responding”–does he think you are that bad at your job, that you’d do that?
    My assumption when I don’t hear from a colleague is that they’re sick, or out on business. Not that they’re being negligent in their job duties.

    Should he ever say that again, maybe respond, “Is that what you genuinely think of my work ethic? I’m alarmed–I thought I had done a better job of demonstrating my sense of responsibility.”

    1. TootsNYC

      Oh, and ask your IT team if there’s some trick you can use that sends repeated “out of office” messages. Maybe you can change a setting or something.

      Or maybe there’s a way to set up an automatic, timed “reminder” email for every day of your vacation.

      1. Zephy

        > Or maybe there’s a way to set up an automatic, timed “reminder” email for every day of your vacation.

        There kind of is – Outlook lets you “delay delivery,” so OP could set up a bunch of “I’m on vacation” emails for each day of her trip and set them to send on a particular time and day. As long as she’s logged in to Outlook it’ll work, but if she has to log out/turn off her computer before she leaves, or if the system goes down due to updates or a power outage and no one is there to log her back in, it won’t.

        1. Cat Fan

          Yes, I came here to suggest this. A daily reminder can’t hurt. Except if this person doesn’t read his email much, he might still miss it.

  13. I'm that person

    In Outlook send a meeting invite to your boss with a Show as of Free (as opposed to Busy which is what you would do with a regular meeting). If he accepts it it will show that way you out every time he looks at his Outlook calendar. He’ll still probably complain but it makes it more obvious that the problem is him and not you.

    1. Zephy

      It sounds like the problem is also that Bossman doesn’t use his Outlook calendar. It’s not clear if there’s anyone above this guy that can drag him into the 21st century, but it seems like the answer is “probably not.”

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Actually, now that you mention it, if the boss accepts Outlook meetings AND this is more carelessness/helplessness than condescension or willful ignorance, use the subject “[OP] ON VACATION” and mark it Out of Office. The time period will show those days in a different color (mine is purple) with those words stretched across the days in question.

      Can’t hurt, although I myself would not bet a plugged nickel that boss cares enough to both use the invitation and check their calendar….

      1. I'm that person

        My boss has everyone in our group do this so that we can all tell at a glance when someone is OOO.

  14. Erin

    My boss does this, also a case of learned helplessness.
    I’ve been ignoring the emails and even calls when sick or on leave, and it’s not an overnight success, but it’s working slowly.
    The period when it was just the two of us alone in the office was actually the best thing ever, because there was no one else to enable the pattern and things still got done in the end.

  15. OhBehave

    I’m curious to know how the original advice differs from current advice on these recycled letters. If anything changed.

  16. Cat Fan

    Yes, I came here to suggest this. A daily reminder can’t hurt. Except if this person doesn’t read his email much, he might still miss it.

  17. Ra94

    This is one of the annoying things my Toxic Boss does! With her, though, it’s a mix of ‘I forgot’ and ‘I don’t really care and want you to do this anyways’, somehow at the same time. As in, she’s not forgetful and she has a firm grasp on her office schedule at all times- but other people’s time and effort are so unimportant to her that vacations or sick time don’t really register for her. It’s not quite intentional, but talking to her doesn’t fix it, because she immediately filters it out as ‘not about me’ and stops listening.

    The worst example was when I had a vacation booked (and as a contractor, this was unpaid leave), which I told her about orally, emailed her about, and marked in the office calendar. She forgot and agreed to take on a really short-notice court date, thinking I’d be in to write the motion, which meant my poor colleague had to stay late drafting.

    And then, for some reason, she couldn’t grasp that this was a ~vacation~ and was utterly shocked when I said I wouldn’t be working while away. Somehow she turned this into ‘I COULDN’T be working’- because obviously I would work if physically possible- and when I came back, the whole office was confused about where I’d gone in Florida that had no phone signal or Wifi…

  18. Snarkastic

    It’s unclear if he is asking you to print financial documents to which the access is limited to your department or if he is incapable of printing documents on his own and is, for some reason, using you as a PA.

  19. Retail

    How do salaried bosses handle hourly assistants/employees? Are they nicer about respecting time off and hours since they can run afoul of laws?

  20. TK

    I feel like I may be in the minority here. As an employee, I always work from home on my sick days, and I expect to do it. An exception would be if I am constantly throwing up or indisposed, or physically at a doctors appointment.

    But I don’t actually see an issue with working from home when I am sick, otherwise. If I’m just feeling poorly and coughing or something, it still allows me to get in a solid 5 hours of good work.

    I am salaried so maybe that contributes to my feeling of responsibility here.

    1. AcademiaNut

      That’s not taking a sick day, though. That’s having the ability to work from home when you don’t feel well. That ability is sometimes useful – I do it myself when I feel a bit under the weather and would be better without the time spent on the bus or walking in the heat, or if there is urgent time critical work. But when I do that I’m working from home, and I don’t take a sick day. If I actually take leave, I turn off the email and don’t work.

      Also – if you are really sick and throwing up and just want to crawl into bed and curl up in a ball, does your boss keep emailing you and phoning you with time critical tasks? Because that’s the OP’s problem – she’s dragging herself into work when she’s too sick to be there, because it’s not worth the harassment she gets if she tries to take a sick day.

    2. Jen S. 2.0

      I would draw a distinction between working a few hours from home because I’m at about 70%, and taking the day totally off because I am too sick to work. Like, on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is feeling great, and 2 involves a hospital, you are describing a 7. OP means she is a 4.

      You’re calling the first one a “sick day.” I’d call that “working, just at home.”

      And indeed, some lucky people rarely experience the second one, where you are in a lot of pain or really, truly, deeply ill. Some people just seldom drop below a 6. But OP means the second one when she says she is taking a sick day. If she’s out sick, she means she is a 4. She does not feel well enough to do any work. At all.

  21. Dre Dre

    If you have access from home, I’d go in and add to his calendar that you are not in that day.

  22. MCMonkeyBean

    To me the letter did actually read as if it was working on the assumption that the boss was failing to remember she was out. The list of tasks he sends (like printing out documents) don’t seem like things you would ask of someone working from home to me!

  23. Michelle

    At my office we used the Outlook calendar to off or out days. If you have access to that type of calendar, could you log in and just add that you are out sick to the calendar and invite him to the meeting? I would do that for vacations as well. My manager also has an old school padfolio calendar, so when I’m going to be off for vacation, I’ll put it on Outlook and invite him and also write it down in his paper calendar (per his request).

  24. Caroline

    I’ve gone so far as to add my vacation or sick time to the calendars of all people I work with directly – my boss, my direct reports, close team members, etc. I pop it on the top of their outlook calendar and mark it as “available” so it doesn’t block their calendar but it says, “Vacation – My Name.” This has become cultural in our team and everyone does it now, and I find it super helpful to see for myself.

  25. Jaelen

    Something weird is happening; when I click through to the Inc.com article, the headline shows up correctly, but the text of the article has been replaced with text that starts “Knock Knock! Who’s there? Iowa. Iowa who? Iowa lot of money for my marketing programs.” It looks like the same thing is happening with a whole bunch of Inc.com articles. If this comment should have instead been reported as a technical issue, I apologize. It’s not a technical issue with this site, obviously, but Allison I figured you might want to know and contact Inc.com support nonetheless.

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