my coworker saw the Excel sheet I use to track his sick days

A reader writes:

I made a mistake and a coworker saw the Excel sheet that I was using to track his repeated absences.

I’m not his supervisor, but I’ve been flabbergasted at the amount of sick days he takes. It started immediately when I started working here 14 months ago, but I started tracking it in January to see how many he takes in 2019. It’s always “I have a migraine” or “I have food poisoning” or “I have a fever and chills.” They are all one-day absences, he’s back the next day, so it’s not like he’s getting cancer treatments or something. It always sounds fake to me. But whatever, right? He gets sick days, so use them, right?

The thing is, I think he’s used more sick days since I’ve worked at this job than I’ve ever used in the 20 years I’ve been in the workforce. Am I a sucker? Is this what people do when they are super healthy and don’t use sick time for actual sicknesses? I don’t have any kids and likely never will, so I don’t save them up for their doctor’s appointments like my coworkers do. Half the reason I’ve been tracking is to see what the pattern is and what I can get away with. I’d like an extra 12 days off a year! (He takes one off every month, exactly the amount we are allocated.)

So I guess my question is twofold: (1) Should I just ignore the fact that I’m sure he saw the tracking? It’s not like it had his name on it or anything, but I think he can put two and two together. He saw it while looking over my shoulder at my computer and I brought up Excel and it was the last thing that was open so, yeah, there ya go. (2) After 14 months of him doing this, it doesn’t seem like an issue with my supervisors. As a matter of fact, he seems to get special treatment and extra projects, which I would also love. This job is so slow! I’ve specifically asked for more to do but they only give it to him (not the other two I work with, either).

I talk with my two other coworkers and we all kind of trash-talk about how much he calls in sick, so I’m not the only one who notices. I’m thinking about calling in sick once a month. If I get talked to, I was thinking of bringing up what I’ve witnessed the past 14 months, so I thought it was okay. Is this what other people do and I’m missing out?

So … it’s not a good idea to track your coworker’s sick time and you should stop doing that immediately.

It’s one thing to discreetly track something that impacts you directly, like the times you’ve had to cover for him or do his work in addition to your own, but in that case you’d be logging those specific impacts, not his attendance overall. And you’d only do that to give yourself data to eventually take to your manager, or maybe to verify for yourself that it’s happening as much as it feels like.

But just tracking a coworker’s sick days to see how much sick time he’s using will come across as a huge and inappropriate overstep if anyone finds out about it. It’s not your business, and it risks making you look to your manager as if you’re not clear on the boundaries of your role and aren’t respectful of your colleagues.

And the thing is, your conclusion that he’s lying might be wrong. He could have a chronic illness he’s dealing with, your manager could be in the loop, he could have formal medical accommodations in place — who knows. It sounds like you’re thinking that since he uses a different excuse every time, he’s clearly BSing, but not everyone wants to share the details of a medical condition with coworkers, and he could be using cover stories with you and your coworkers in order to protect his privacy. Which he’s allowed to do. And if he is struggling with something real, then glimpsing your tracking sheet was a really, really crappy experience for him.

If his absences affect your own work in some way, that’s something you can speak to your manager about. But otherwise, leave this alone.

To answer your questions:

I don’t think you should say anything to him about the sheet he saw. There’s nothing you can say here that would make him feel better. Resolve to do better in the future, and move on.

As for your own sick time … if you hardly ever take any, then yes, go ahead and be a bit more relaxed about your use of it. That doesn’t mean you should use each sick day as it accrues — both because of how you’ve seen that looks and because you need to have some saved up as a safety net in case you do need it at some point. But feel free to use it for medical appointments and an occasional mental health day (meaning like once or twice a year if you’re not taking a lot of sick time otherwise).

But seriously, get rid of the tracking sheet. And stop gossiping with your coworkers about his absence patterns. It’s unkind and it’s pretty toxic.

{ 865 comments… read them below }

    1. GooseTracks*

      Yes. What is even the issue here? The coworker isn’t “getting away with” anything, since he’s using exactly the amount of the sick time he’s accrued. LW’s issue seems to be that the coworker is taking his accrued sick time when he maybe isn’t really sick…? Ok? Why do you care, LW? Take your nose out of your coworker’s business and focus on the real issue – your own performance and why your bosses don’t give you the work you request.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes to allllll this. He uses his accrued sick time. I literally cannot imagine bringing this up with my boss. “Boss, I’ve been tracking my coworker’s sick days in this excel spreadsheet and it turns out… *dramatic pause* he uses his sick days!” This is going to make you look NUTS, OP.

        1. valentine*

          Take your nose out of your coworker’s business and focus on the real issue – your own performance and why your bosses don’t give you the work you request.
          Amen. The guy who uses all his sick leave, in a way that greatly benefits the company and anyone who covers for him, gets coveted projects. The people who are gossiping about him don’t get those projects. Why?

          Rather than trying to game the system, which isn’t what he’s doing and, if it were, wouldn’t work for you, OP, consider whether his (and your) work habits or attitude possibly play into project assignment and ask your supervisor, with zero mention of this guy, what you need to do to qualify for more assignments.

          If the other people gossiping use sick leave, especially multiple days in a row, or if any of you might use bereavement leave, that will have more of an impact than this guy’s one day per month.

          1. Mama Bear*

            Agreed. If the issue is that OP is jealous of the work the coworker gets to do, then that’s a personal performance and career development issue. OP would be better served to figure out how to earn the boss’s trust for greater responsibility than nitpicking how and why and when a coworker takes leave. And please stop trash talking about the guy. That’s really unkind and unproductive.

        2. Jen S. 2.0*

          NUTS. OP’s hair is on fire because a coworker is out one day a month.

          Just, wow. Cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamias.

          You are allowed to use your sick days. Your colleague is allowed to use his sick days. You are even allowed to use them if you’re not inches from death. He’s allowed to use them even if you suspect he’s just sick of coming to work. He’s allowed to use them on a regular basis. He’s allowed to use them as he accrues them. If you’re not there every single day, the place won’t fall apart. He’s not a slacker or a terrible employee for taking a day off every few weeks. 12 days a year is not even the minimum a lot of people take off from work. The time and effort you are spending tracking and thinking about this is as much of a waste to your employer as his days off, if not more.

          For context, OP, I probably take a sick day every couple of months for an appointment (and I still have something like 650 hours of sick leave banked because I’m basically healthy, knock wood), and I don’t even notice when my colleagues are out sick for a day until I get their out-of-office message. Someone taking a day a month, legit, would not even register with me.

          Perhaps OP needs a day off a month for stress relief. Take a mental health day, OP, you’ll feel better. I mean this totally unfacetiously.

          1. Amelia Pond*

            “Cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamias.”

            I nearly died from choking on my drink. I totally want to steal this line!

            1. Flash Bristow*

              Damn you guys have all beaten me to it! Tho I did come to add walnuts for the full Christmas basket.

              Can someone get them open for me?!

        3. Micklak*

          Our office manager tells us to take our sick time first because it doesn’t roll over. Then if I need a sick day late in the year it can be a vacation day. She wants us to use that benefit. It feels very humane and civilized. People should be encouraged to take more time off, especially if it is within the amount granted. Not shamed.

      2. Mazzy*

        I know. Some jobs pay some days forward but at some point, it’s going to be unpaid. So it isn’t getting away with everything.

        1. Andream*

          Not necessarily it depends on how long he’s been there, at my job sick time is accured. Also we get 5 hours every pay period (bi weekly) so there’s like 16 days of PTO. If he is only taking a day a month then he’s ok.

      3. Emily K*

        The LW wants to have their cake and eat it too. They say that the monthly sick leave user gets trash talked for his absences by peers. LW is trying to figure out if they can take the same amount of sick leave but avoid getting a bad reputation for it or personally owning the decision to do it, by blaming it on the co-worker who misled them into thinking it was normal acceptable behavior. They want to take the same amount of sick leave without getting the same reputation as the other guy.

        1. Chidi Anagonye*

          What’s so bananas is that it *is* normal, acceptable behavior– to everyone except the OP and their chatty Cathy coworkers.

          Like, barring a workplace where there are legit emergencies (a hospital?) or a workplace that’s just…woefully understaffed or mismanaged, which happens too often, frankly– generally a company hires and assigns tasks assuming that their employees will actually use their benefits.

          It kinda reminds me of the letter from someone whose workplace was like, “Hey, any way you could get off our health insurance and onto your spouse’s? Because it turns out we can’t actually afford to insure all of our employees, our bad.” And the reaction of everyone was like: that’s some serious mismanagement. That’s a problem.

          OP here is sort-of acting like that, except it sounds like the company is being managed fine and can actually afford for everyone to take advantage of the benefits they offer. Which is a good thing! Not only is all the work getting done while the one employee uses all of his sick days, there’s actually free time left in the day. Nobody is scrambling to cover the one employee’s work, and the employer isn’t running over budget paying for the sick leave.

          Congrats, OP! You work in a functional office. Please don’t become a source of dysfunction in a place that’s currently working well.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      This is the key phrase in Alison’s response, OP: “aren’t respectful of your colleagues.” It’s hugely disrespectful of both your co-worker and his manager to do this.
      1) It assumes that the manager isn’t doing their job
      2) It assumes that you have the right to judge someone else’s medical situation

      I think that Alison did miss one thing, though: your comment that co-worker gets the assignments and you don’t. Instead of focusing on the co-worker, try some of the suggestions we’ve had here about how you can get new assignments and maybe that’ll help you feel better / keep you busy enough:
      Ask your manager for specific steps needed to get more work. Is there training that you need? Is there a new area that the business wants to try, or some automation you could do?

      Focus on making yourself more satisfied in the position, or move on. Don’t make life harder for your co-workers just because you’re bored and frustrated.

      1. Miss Muffet*

        my guess is these two things – the tracking and the not getting work – are related, but not as directly as the person things. The kind of person who is this up in others’ business, who doesn’t have the self-awareness to realize that this kind of thing is out of bounds, is also the kind of person (in my experience) who isn’t doing their job as well as they think they are. They likely lack the same self-awareness to see that.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          I hate to pile on, but this exactly. It could very well be that OP has a bad attitude and it’s obvious to those around her. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the trash-talking coworkers also don’t have the best reputation.

          1. AKchic*

            That’s my thought too.

            I would not be giving extra work to known gossipers. I don’t care about an employee taking a day off if they’ve got the leave time. If they have proven reliable and capable of doing the work assigned, and aren’t causing any problems, yeah, I’m going to trust them with plum assignments and request their help with extras.

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        100%.

        OP, are you sure your work product isn’t suffering from all the time you spend tracking this guy’s sick time and trash-talking him behind his back? He’s clearly getting his work done, and extra projects on top of that, while using a benefit that is part of his compensation package. You don’t mention it impacting your work at all. So why do you care? He isn’t even using extra time, which I could * maaaaaaaaybe * see as something to note because it is could possibly be unfair to others if he is getting extra time that isn’t really needed. But even then, you don’t know his personal medical information so you’d have no way of knowing that!

        I think you need to stop thinking about this dude altogether and refocus your energy on yourself and your job. What can you improve to start getting extra projects?

        Delete this file and adjust yourself.

        1. Doug Judy*

          I had a coworker like OP, she tracked freaking everything. Sick days, number of bathroom breaks, mistakes people made. She spent so much time on that she had to often stay late anywhere from 1-3 hours a day to get her actual work done. But poor management at that job just saw she was working “so hard” because they didn’t know what she was really doing all day. I had long suspected she was doing this stuff and one day I saw the spreadsheet (much like in the letter) and told my boss I noticed she was tracking what people were doing. He addressed it with her, and she claimed to stop, but I never trusted her at all.

          1. Exhausted Trope*

            She tracked the number of bathroom breaks?!! *sound of jaw hitting keyboard*
            Some people just have waaaay too much time on their hands…

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              That’s downright creepy, IMO.

              I have IBS. On a good day I go to the bathroom twice. On a bad day, I can end up running for the bathroom twice an hour. I’m exempt, as long as I get my work done, who cares how often I use the loo. I will even answer questions on Slack from my phone while on the throne.

              If I found someone tracking my potty time? I would flip.

              1. JayNay*

                right? If I were the coworker and saw that a colleague was *tracking my sick days in a specific spreadsheet they made just for that use* I would be so mad. I’d absolutely go to my manager with that, and I’d hope the manager has a serious talk with that coworker.
                The whole attitude behind it is so egregious. “This person is using benefits we all get, but that I don’t use, therefore they don’t deserve them!!!!” That’s like saying libraries shouldn’t be publicly paid for because you personally don’t like books. Good lord.

          2. Narvo Flieboppen*

            Sounds almost like we’ve worked with the same person. Except it turned out our version wasn’t even doing her job. She had managed to offload so much stuff because of being ‘overworked’ and management trying to be sure no one was staying late that her malicious tracking of peers and reporting every minor mistake up the chain had become her entire job. When she was fired we sang a chorus of “Ding, dong, the witch is dead”.

            Incorporating her actual work tasks into the rest of the department wound up being such a small list that we didn’t have to replace her. She works for one of our vendors and keeps trying to recruit us to come work for the department she manages.

          3. Immersang*

            I shared an office with a person like that at a former job. I don’t think she physically tracked things, like in an Excel sheet or writing it down. But apparently she constantly checked when people (even in other departments) came and went and how long their lunch breaks were.

            And then she would complain about it to me, and no matter how often I clearly told her that I DON’T CARE what other people do (as long as it doesn’t affect my work load, which it didn’t, and neither did it affect hers), she wouldn’t stop bothering me about it. Although at some point she realized I wouldn’t respond the way she wanted me to, so she found other people who were happy to gossip about it in the kitchen.

            Just from that it was clear that she didn’t actually do half of the work she pretended to do. I was working in the same position (just responsible for different client accounts), so I had the same responsibilities and that was a job you had to concentrate on once in a while. You can’t possibly manage it when you concentrate on your co-workers comings and goings.

      3. Marthooh*

        Yep. Since this guy is getting the assignments you want, OP, stop tracking what he does wrong and try to figure out what he does right.

      4. Kat*

        I am willing to bet that coworker gets plum assignments because he comes across as a reasonable person who can be put in front of clients, whereas OP comes across as, shall we say, overstepping.

      5. Bx3*

        1) It assumes that the manager isn’t doing their job
        2) It assumes that you have the right to judge someone else’s medical situation

        Amen, hallelujah! As a manager, this would really rub me the wrong way if I were to learn of it. As someone who endures chronic illnesses that are very much ‘invisible’ to others and unpredictable for me, I would be upset enough if someone did this to me to take them to task with my boss and/or HR in the room.

        1. Wintermute*

          I would be worried about what they’re saying or doing that may let on that they disapprove of this, and whether that’s creating a legal liability I have to worry about, if there is a disability or other accommodation in play.

          I would also be very worried this person simply doesn’t respect my authority to make decisions about workload based on performance and capability. The only people whose business it is how I handle PTO is HR and my boss, not my employees.

          While I can’t say that I would simply fire someone for this, unless I discovered their attitude and behaviors is a risk for creating a legal problem in which case my hands are tied, but it would be a very serious conversation, HR documentation and a magnifying glass being put on them in case they’re doing anything that’s going to cause me headaches or undermine me.

      6. wittyrepartee*

        I have a friend that takes pretty regular sick and work from home days. She has a panic disorder. She takes them so she can go home, hang with her dog, and recharge.

      7. Mystik Spiral*

        I can’t help but wonder if OP isn’t getting more assignments because the boss is aware of how much time they spend gossiping and trash-talking with co-workers. You may think people don’t notice that kind of thing, OP, but they do.

    3. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      As a person with an “invisible” hereditary chronic illness, here it is.

      YOU. DON’T. KNOW. SQUAT. ABOUT. HIS. ILLNESS.

      And you know what? Go ahead and talk to his supervisors about all the sick time you’ve tracked — and see what happens. I dare you.

      Also, go to this website: https://butyoudontlooksick.com/

      and LEARN something. I can’t write anymore because I will start swearing left and right about what an awful person you are, if you really think your behavior is just fine.

      1. Amelia Pond*

        If I got a nickel for every “But you don’t look sick.” I’d be a millionaire. It’s infuriating and if you show the frustration of that attitude, you’re not being a Good Sick Person.

      2. Alanna*

        This! As someone with chronic illness, I live in fear that someone will do this to me. I am sick. I cannot help it. It’s a damned miracle that I can actually hold down a job. Yes, I probably take more sick time than you. But unless you are my manager, in which case you know exactly what’s going on, that’s none of your damned business. I do my job well and I go above and beyond. While managing an illness that could be a full time job in and of itself, easily.

        Not to mention that FMLA is a thing, and your coworker could be on a modified schedule or take those days under FMLA and it’s still none of your business!

        And we need to get rid of this idea that it’s not okay to use your allotted sick time. That’s what it’s there for! I’ve heard of so many people who get written up if they use it up. I worked at a company (which started out great and ultimately did not work out for me) that had unlimited PTO and we worked remotely. I got all of my work done and no one ever commented on my time off, they knew exactly what was going on with me and I always communicated it. And then at my review, they felt the need to tell me I’d taken the most time off. Uh well, I knew I probably had but if it’s not a problem, why tell me? And I never took vacation or anything so it was all in the same bucket. No one ever said “hey you take all this sick time but maybe you should take a vacation, it’ll be fine!”

      3. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

        THANK YOU!!

        I as a person with an (invisible) dissability fear having a co-worker like OP. Yes, I can be really bad one day, and perfectly fine the next.
        (And 12 days a year? That isn’t a lot, you know)

        1. uh*

          People get fired for 12 days a year. . . depending on the area of the company they work in at my megacorp.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Your megacorp sucks. At the megacorp where I have worked for the last 15 years, unlimited sick time, and I’ve never seen it abused.

          2. Call me St. Vincent*

            Cool it sounds like your company is probably violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

            1. Chidi Anagonye*

              Unfortunately, it probably isn’t. I mean, it might be? But…they’re probably following the law.

              If consistent attendance with, say, no fewer than ten excused absences per year is a requirement for all employees, it’s not a violation of the ADA to apply that same standard to a chronically ill or disabled employee. [source: https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/performance-conduct.html#perf ]

              Now, offering so few days off and mandating such a high attendance standard isn’t a good practice in the first place, even for more-or-less healthy employees. It’s just not illegal.

              Beyond that, many employers decide to allow more absences (either paid or unpaid) for a chronically ill employee because the employer wants to retain them; the work they do is valuable to the company, regardless of their absences. Or, sometimes the workplace’s culture and values incorporate include things like diversity or work-life balance, so they’ll grant an accommodation that incorporates more days off to stay aligned with their values, regardless of their employee’s performance (assuming they aren’t on a PIP or something).

              So, sometimes a chronically ill person who transitions from an accommodating workplace is surprised if their new workplace only meets the bare minimum legal standard for accommodation. That standard is very, very low. It isn’t hard for an employer to defend themselves in court with the claim that the denied accommodation would have caused undue hardship.

              IANAL, but I do struggle with chronic illness and I’ve done a lot of research into the matter. Lawyers I’ve talked to have advised me that for most cases, someone who is fired due to poor performance (which can include failing to meet attendance metrics) after being denied a request for accommodation typically doesn’t have grounds for a lawsuit, because it’s too easy to defend the position that their accommodation would have caused undue hardship on the employer or other coworkers. Not in all cases, of course; employees do win ADA lawsuits sometimes. It’s just challenging.

              1. Call me St. Vincent*

                Without doxxing myself, I will tell you that I am a lawyer who works for the government and this is my area of expertise. You are not reading the EEOC standard correctly. I assume you are pointing to # 20 on the list. The EEOC standard is talking about chronic absenteeism without advanced notice. The “advanced notice” part is a critical aspect of the guidance. Employees who need time off and who engage in the interactive process required by Title I of the ADA generally have to be accommodated unless it is an undue hardship on the employer. Therefore, leave beyond what is offered to non-disabled employees is often (but not always) a reasonable accommodation. But mostly, for this particular situation described by “uh” above, the bigger problem here is the potential for a claim of hostile work environment based on disability. Firing people for taking sick time is a big problem when it becomes known throughout the company that you fire people for taking sick time. Bad optics and great fodder for a lawsuit or EEOC complaint.

      4. Anonomoose*

        As a slightly spiteful sysadmin with a genetic condition that means I take a lot of sick days, if I found that spreadsheet, it might, through some bizzare coincidence, end up pasted in as the last slide to the presentation you were going to give to your grandboss.

        (But, seriously, what were you going to do with this? Take it to your manager, and assume they’re just unable to count without your help?)

      5. AnonANon*

        AND not only this but what if he is a caretaker for someone who is sick and uses his days for that?
        I am a caretaker for someone with mental illness. Sometimes I know in advance of an appointment I need to be out for and other times it is an emergency and I have to fly out of work. My boss and I have an agreement and she knows what is going on. I have one close co-worker who knows my situation but I do not tell my department what is going on.
        I would be really upset if someone tracked my time not knowing the pain that I live through daily taking care of my loved-one.

      6. Antjobert*

        Thank you for saying this. I also have an invisible illness that I have no control over, and I would hate working with this person. Sounds very toxic to me. I suspect her motivations are jealousy of the co-worker getting more work assigned. LW needs to grow up and focus on improving their own performance.

    4. bluephone*

      I can’t believe (or maybe I can because people are awful) that OP has supposedly been in the workforce for 20 years and is *this* het up about someone else’s sick day usage–to the point of tracking it!– when:
      1. it sounds like it’s an office environment/white-collar job
      2. they do get paid sick time
      3. she’s not directly impacted by coworker’s absences, i.e. his work doesn’t get dumped onto her plate all the time with no thank-you or reciprocity
      Yeah, OP, you don’t have nearly enough to do in your job but OMG this is NOT the way to fill that time. You’d honestly be better off writing a novel on company time because even if it were a 50 Shades ripoff, it’d be 1000 times less creepy.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      This is far from the most egregious thing I’ve seen on this site… but I think this is the most times I have ever said “oh my god” out loud while reading a letter because each sentence somehow sounded worse than the previous.

      Tracking a co-workers time, gossiping behind their back… but then wanting to see if you can “get away” with the same thing that you think is bad? Not a good look at all!

      1. A*

        Yup! I kept checking the date stamp (I had previously been reading through archives) thinking it *must* be from April 1st! So much to unpack here…

        Stay. In. Your. Lane!

  1. Kiwiii*

    My thought is perhaps before OP started he may have hit his cap of sick days, so now he uses one each month to not waste any.

    1. aebhel*

      Yeah, my workplace has a pretty generous cap (and I’ve taken two maternity leaves in the past 6 years so I’m nowhere near it), but people who have been here for decades still hit it, and a lot of them just take a day a month so they don’t lose them. As long as it’s not affecting anyone else’s work, who cares?

      1. Kiwiii*

        mine is about 2 years of sick days. i haven’t been here very long yet, but i can’t imagine it’s difficult to hit.

      2. Trisha Turnbull*

        I used to be really concerned about other people’s sick leave and would not use it myself for years. But then I started to feel resentful and burned out. When I started taking some myself, I noticed something interesting , it made me seem more human at work! My managers have not treated me any worse since I have opted to have the odd mental health day.

    2. P.C. Wharton*

      Right?! It’s so odd that OP is wondering whether their employer is OK with him taking that much time off. Of course they are. Thats why they allocate that amount. There’s no inherent virtue in giving up your time off.

      1. Jessen*

        I mean, I have had jobs where you’d get chewed out for using your sick time. Not healthy jobs, mind. But it is definitely a thing to have jobs that don’t actually want you to use the time they give you.

        1. OfOtherWorlds*

          Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever worked at a place that was actually OK with people using the sick time that we were given. If you arrainged to use sick time/PTO in advance for a doctors visit that was fine, but calling in sick was a problem.

          1. Decima Dewey*

            It’s the opposite where I work. Sick time is the one time off that cannot be denied. All other time (vacation, the 4 Annual Administrative Leave days we get each fiscal year, comp time) is granted at the discretion of the branch manager.

            That is, if Gretchen calls out and says she’s sick, that’s what goes on the timesheet. If Gretchen wants to use other time, the branch manager can say “no, you have to use sick time).

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            At the university where I work, you can use a combination of sick time and WFH (work from home) if you’re sick. Even if it’s caring for a sick kid, you can use sick hours for any doctor’s appointments and WFH for the rest. Everyone on my team does this. People WFH and be afk for part of the day. As long as we communicate, it’s all good. Our work gets done.

            Because of this, we tend not to have “the office plague” come around multiple times a year. We also get free flu shots, and reduced price flu shots for our dependents. The fact that the university also has a teaching hospital may have something to do with the sane sick time policy.

    3. Melissa*

      I’m lucky enough to work where are a certain number of hours you can start converting sick leave to vacation. Union negotiated benefits ftw.

      1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Oooooh, what a great idea. We start bargaining soon and I’ve got over 50 days of sick time accumulated. A conversion would be a sweet thing.

        1. Jennifer*

          I just negotiated this as a shop steward on a recent contract. The management was tired of paying out unused sick days so they said if we want we can convert them to vacation for the following year. Everyone loves it.

        1. valentine*

          I initially thought the supervisor asked them to track, and I still would like to know how one might navigate such fallout.

    1. Atalanta0jess*

      I feel like if I were Alison, I’d have to work so hard to not just write “NOOOOOPE!!!!” to so many of the letters. I have two variations on this.

      Dear letter-writer – NOOOOPE!!!
      And

      Dear letter-writer’s manager – NOOOOPE!!

      This is one of the many reasons why Alison is Alison, and I am not.

    2. juliebulie*

      Took the words right out of my mouth.

      Though momentarily I wondered if this letter came from me, via a time machine, because around 2005 or so I had a coworker who was tracking MY sick days and reporting them to our boss.

      My boss knew about my issues because I disclosed stuff, so my coworker’s meddling didn’t matter except for the way it changed my opinion of him.

      I don’t know whether or not my boss bothered to tell the coworker to mind his own damned business, or if he just brushed off the periodic reports of my alleged malingering.

      But anyway… yeah, wow. OP, if you are healthy, thank your lucky stars and stop being so resentful. There are many of us who don’t ever take a single day of good health for granted, much less feel cheated by it.

    3. Phoenix Programmer*

      I can also guarantee you that, if said “slacker” does come in and get everyone sick then suddenly that’s the new toxic gossip chain about him.

      Living that myself!

    4. Batgirl*

      Uh, yeah…wow. OP your co-worker is not the slacker here, you are. Your co-worker is not scanning (and tracking!) his co-workers to see how much he can ‘get away with’. Either he has a chronic condition, gets sick more easily or even has just misjudged how much sick leave is appropriate. But he’s not deliberately scamming as you plan to.

      You even plan to admit it if called out! Please don’t. Trust me, that admission does not go well. I’ve never heard that excuse from an adult, but I hear it a lot teaching high school. ‘I wanna get away with what I think he is doing’ is not a good look, even on a 13 year old. And stop trash talking people for the love of sanity. How is that helping you with anything but bitterness?

  2. Andrea*

    I understand your frustration but as Alison says you have no idea what this coworker is dealing with. It’s none of your business and not impacting your work. It’s unkind at best and could be quite hurtful/cruel to someone who realizes this is happening.

    1. Darcy Pennell*

      I was coming to say this to. LW, you’re probably going to get yelled at a lot over this one. I just want to say that I get feeling frustrated because someone seems to be getting a perk that you aren’t, I really do get that. But in my experience, learning how to recognize when an issue doesn’t affect me and therefore isn’t my business (and this *really* isn’t your business) made me so much happier in my job. If it’s not causing me problems and my boss is OK with it, I don’t care. Really. I’m much better off not caring too much about other people’s business.

      1. MadLori*

        But LW DOES get that perk. Presumably they receive the same number of sick days as the coworker. It isn’t his fault that LW doesn’t avail themselves of them.

      2. Darcy Pennell*

        I know the LW isn’t actually being denied anything. I was just trying to say that I know how it feels to think someone is getting away with something, and how poisonous it is to dwell on it, especially if you’re wrong. The LW should stop thinking about the coworker’s sick time because it’s disrespectful *and * for their own peace of mind.

        1. Avasarala*

          Yeah the big issue here is LW thinks their coworker is “gaming the system” by doing…exactly what the system allows and was designed for…

          LW, which do you think is worse: someone lies about being sick about once a month to take a day off of work, or someone who is sick about once a month can’t take the time off they need? You have some soul searching to do about who needs your judgment and who needs your pity.

          1. iantrovert (they/them)*

            This. So much this.

            My office lets us earn just over a week of sick time over the course of a year, but heaven forfend you get sick in the first pay period, or really the first month, because you haven’t earned any yet. I had pneumonia early this year and had to use vacation time since I hadn’t earned enough sick time.

            Personally, I get migraines, more than once a month, even with medication–my doctor is trying to find an effective preventative but we haven’t had any luck yet. If I also get sick with a bad cold or pneumonia or something? That’s a tough choice. If I have a particularly nasty migraine, with things like tunnel vision and tinnitus along with the pressure/pain and light sensitivity I normally get, I should be resting in the quiet and dark so I can get better, not staring at a computer screen and sitting on conference calls. If I’ve got pneumonia or even just a really bad cold and am struggling to breathe and stay awake, I’m probably not going to be very productive either, and not resting means the duration of the illness will likely be longer. My immune system tends to be highly reactive (thanks for that autoimmune disorder, body!) and when I’m sick enough that I should be in bed resting, having to think about “is this bad enough to take off work?” can be a tough position. Needless to say I don’t take mental health days even if I need it.

            In comparison, my partner lives in a country where sick time over x days requires a doctor’s visit (national health care system) and as long as that particular bout of illness been certified/treated by a doctor, as much time off as required to get well is paid. It’s an entirely foreign concept to me (pun intended!).

        2. MsSolo*

          It reminds me of the letter from someone who was obsessed with not spending the company’s money and was deeply concerned that her colleagues were expensing taxis instead of walking up to an hour to off site meetings and eating pizza the manager ordered for them when they worked late. No one is getting away with anything, you are denying yourself something you’re entitled to in order to judge coworkers for behaving perfectly normally. Your judgement is completely compromised and you know your superiors are going to wonder where else it’s compromised as well.

    2. Sally*

      Truth. I could be this person. I have issues with my immune system so taking a day here and there can prevent big bad things from happening. Some people are more impacted by little sicknesses that others can ignore.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I honestly don’t understand OP’s frustration. If someone is out frequently but it’s not affecting me directly, I may make a random comment about it, but as it falls under the category of “none of my business”, I wouldn’t put more than 2 seconds of thought into it. What OP is doing is so inappropriate and could possibly bite them in the ass if anyone found out about them.

      And as an aside to OP, unless you’ve had a migraine, don’t be so quick to brush that off as a valid reason to not come to work. No, it’s not just a bad headache.

      1. Nic*

        So much this. I mean, migraines do vary quite widely from person to person – and my sister somehow manages to function (at least to some degree) with a migraine while I have to get myself away from all sources of light and sound, take the biggest pain pill I have and try to fall asleep before the pain actually kicks in (because if the pain gets there while I’m still awake, I will wind up vomiting repeatedly into the bathroom sink) – but they are always (ALWAYS!) pretty damn disruptive to you getting work done. And the best way to get them gone is to stop everything and give yourself a proper recovery time.

        1. Maddy*

          And the migraines a person gets can vary in intensity each time! Sometimes I get one that is so bad I can’t function at all. And sometimes I get one that is about half the intensity and yes I’m not happy but I can work through it. I have flex time so I can leave early if I need to. It all depends. Chronic migraines are very hard to live with.

      2. Sleve McDichael*

        Or even if you have had a migraine, actually.
        (My SO gets migraines but only the visual symptoms, not the pain)

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          I get the same thing! I always feel so useless when I get the just-aura kind. I don’t otherwise feel particularly sick, I’m not in pain, but I need to go sit in the staff room for an hour until the fuzzies go away because half my visual field is gone and I can’t even safely walk home.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        “…unless you’ve had a migraine, don’t be so quick to brush that off as a valid reason to not come to work. No, it’s not just a bad headache.”

        Very much this!

        Migraines just plain suck. Tinnitus like the sound of a CRT TV with no signal with the volume turned up to max is the only warning I get. Then I get the light sensitivity, scatter blotches in my vision, and pain that’s like a kid with an axe chopping on my head. All I want to do is take my meds and go to sleep, not try to do work. Even if I try, my ability to type drops off into omni-typo land (It’s been so bad that I would type a sentence, and then go back and correct each word.) Plus really bad ones end up with almost traces (echoes) in my vision when I moves my head.

    4. Sleve McDichael*

      Also, some people really do have a lot of different medical problems. I know someone who has:
      -migraines,
      -vision so bad they can’t wear contacts,
      -recurring heart attacks,
      -an antibiotic resistant infection that won’t leave,
      -regular dislocated joints from over flexible tendons,
      -a knee that is undergoing surgery because it was dislocated too many times;
      -and just recently a blood test showed they have undiagnosed liver problems.
      (Note this person is a non-drinker, non-smoker and vegetarian.)

      Between these and the normal ration of colds and stomach flu, this person does use all their sick days for what may seem like unrelated reasons. Honestly, my friend would love not to have to use all their sick days to be able to actually bank some for the next serious health event. The grass is always greener on the other side – which is not to blame you for your feelings OP. If you’ve never met someone like that, it might seem great in theory to have all those days off. I thought that way too before I met my friend.

    5. MistOrMister*

      It is quite possible that the coworker has ongoing issues where they come in while not feeling well a lot of days and those days when they call out are the ones where things are so bad they can’t function. Maybe they take exactly 1 sick day a month because that is all they’re alloted and they would give their right arm to have 2 or 3 a month so as to not have to drag theselves in when they’re only operating at 25% but they know they have no choice because a 5% day is coming.

      Honestly, unless the coworker is bragging about gaming the system or using sick days for hangovers or shopping sprees, I don’t see how anyone can approach this type of situation with anything less than compassion. Maybe the coworker is not sick and is abusing the leave, but it really doesn’t cost OP anything to err on the side of caring and kindness here.

  3. Lance*

    Just to add, regarding the slow work: when and how did you ask? Did you pose examples of what you might want to work on, or ask them what steps you might be able to take to progress in any downtime you might have? Or heck, if you have any sort of relationship with this coworker, then maybe you could ask him for any help/advice on where to go from where you’re at (I give this a fairly big maybe, because it depends both on the relationship, and if he really did put together what the Excel sheet was).

    All in all: focus on yourself and what you can do, not what your coworkers may or may not be doing that doesn’t affect you.

    1. Nancy Pelosi*

      I agree, the LW should be focusing on getting more work and not tracking the coworker. The LW definitely has an opportunity to continue talking with the manager about taking on more projects, and should prioritize that concern over all else.

      I get that it can feel demoralizing to see others getting perceived unfair treatment. However, as AAM said, that’s *perception*. There could be a whole host of reasons why a coworker is getting different treatment. Also, if the LW ever needed or wanted some sort of accommodation, I’m sure s/he would hope for some grace from his/her coworkers too.

      1. Quickbeam*

        We have a buddy system at work and I began to notice that I had to cover for my “buddy” far more than our allotted time (we get the same amount). I asked my manager and was told I was mistaken. So a few years ago, I did what OP did, starting 1/1 and ending 12/31. It was twice what we are allowed. It was not illness just days out of the office. My documentation helped and it stopped.

        It was somewhat different in that my work load doubled on days I covered. It directly affected me. Otherwise I don’t care.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Quickbeam, I agree that your situation sounds completely different.

          It’s in-line with AAM’s point, “It’s one thing to discreetly track something that impacts you directly, like the times you’ve had to cover for him or do his work in addition to your own.”

          You weren’t tracking sick days, you were tracking days you had to cover and thus deal with a doubled workload.

          1. Idril Celebrindal*

            Ok, so I’m a long time lurker, first time commenter, but I have to break the silence because I am just that much of a nerd.

            I am very happy that Analytical Tree Hugger is supporting and possibly giving virtual hugs to Quickbeam. The most impulsive of the Ents deserves some hugs. Hoom Hoom, root and branch.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              HI!!!!! That is great. Just to share the nerdness – my car license plate is Bregalad. The last one was Balrog, and my husband’s last one was Angmar. He got independent on this one, with Tachikoma. Nerdz Rule.

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      It’s also possible that your coworker really excels otherwise and that’s why he’s being given the extra projects. And frequent trash-talking, besides being something no adult should be doing to pretty much anyone, doesn’t help make you the kind of employee people want to promote and help. If you’re letting yourself become a mean, petty person, other people can tell, even if they don’t see what you’re specifically doing.

      1. S*

        I was thinking the same thing. Being petty, tracking co-worker’s sick leave, and knowingly and unabashedly gossiping sounds like someone who values the wrong thing, has too much time on their hands, and is not a team player.

      2. Classic Rando*

        Yes, I was thinking the same thing, management has probably sensed *something* is off, even if they haven’t heard the gossiping or seen the spreadsheet.

        That said, if IT ever has reason to look at OP’s computer, that file could be brought to management’s attention, so that’s another thing to consider.

      3. Alex*

        Right, there is so much valuable advice to be given about the second half of this letter that Alison did not say.

      4. mark132*

        Seriously just not getting sick isn’t much in the way of qualifications. And if that’s all the OP has going them, well that may not be enough.

      5. Emily K*

        Yep – I have a high-performing direct report and I’ve been quite liberal with her time off. Not just the PTO she’s entitled to, but I’ve let her take comp days the day after a full day of travel without marking it as PTO, let her block off time every day for her trip to the gym, and have been flexible with appointments as needed and never really add up the hours to make sure she’s working enough. She’s been with me for years and I know her work ethic is strong. She’s never had any issues with meeting deadlines and has always had a good attitude when we get slammed during our busy times and she frequently ends up working in the evenings. At this point, as long as she continues performing and achieving at her current level, I literally could not care less how many hours she’s officially clocking – she’s doing a full-time job’s worth of work and doing it well, and that’s all I need from her.

    3. ampersand*

      Tracking a co-worker’s sick days without a good reason is definitely not a good look, but I wonder if it’s also a side effect of being bored at work. i.e., if OP had enough to work on and were staying busy and felt more satisfied at work, maybe they wouldn’t feel the need to track someone else’s sick days.

      1. Margaret Liepmann*

        I’m reminded of the OP who was super super intense about a coworker not recycling properly, who was getting paid basically pennies for their work. Projecting their stress about work onto a minor issue because it was something they could control about their life.

        1. valentine*

          if OP had enough to work on and were staying busy and felt more satisfied at work, maybe they wouldn’t feel the need to track someone else’s sick days.
          OP can look for a job that keeps them busy.

      2. AKchic*

        It doesn’t matter *why* the LW is doing it, really, because it needs to stop. It’s not benefitting the employer, it’s not benefitting the LW, and it was unasked for. If the LW is having job satisfaction issues and it’s manifesting in control issues, that’s something to possibly discuss with a professional. Or start looking at ways to make the job more satisfying. Or find a more satisfying job. Nobody can micromanage another person in order to make their own existence more satisfying.

    4. SierraSkiing*

      Yeah- it jumped out at me that the coworker is getting lots of project when the OP isn’t. It seems likely that he’s a high performer, so the boss gives him extra projects because they know he’ll do it well. OP might want to shift their focus from a “butts in seats” mentality of what makes a good worker to a “measurable accomplishments” mentality.

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        Yeah, this. It’s pretty telling that the LW’s focus here is on parity– HE takes 12 sick days off a year, how do I get that and how can I prove to my boss I’m just getting what they approve for the other guy. And then at the end, we find out LW is also annoyed that coworker is getting plum assignments and has expressed frustration over that.
        This feels more like “I perceive being treated equally to mean we get equal things and I’m now concentrating on the area where I haven’t been told no.”
        But, uh, I’ve worked with people like LW. Usually they’re not getting plum work assignments because they’re focusing their energy and efforts on the wrong areas. Like their coworkers sick time.
        (Also, seriously, if you have a workplace that is sane about sick days why the hell would you try to undermine that?)

    5. designbot*

      Also if it’s so slow there, why on earth is him using his sick days a problem? He’s finding a way to benefit from the slowness, and if anything OP should too.

  4. IrishEm*

    I once had a manager who would ask for incredibly gruesome details about why I was calling in sick. I eventually asked if he needed to know the colour and consistency of my effluvia. Sounds like you need that level of info, too, LW, and that is Not Cool. That dude had a thin veneer of Need to Know because he was a manager, but he was also my least favourite human being.

    If your coworker has a chronic illness or is in some way immuno compromised is that your business? Is it mine? No. Make like Frozen and Let It Go.

    1. Nicholas C Kiddle*

      Hehe, I like to say “Make like Elsa and Let It Go” to my teenager.
      I am quite angry at the LW on the coworker’s behalf because all the reasons for time off sound exactly like me when I was depressed and ashamed about it. I would claim to have the flu, nausea, sometimes even a hangover because that felt less shameful than saying I was mentally ill. And if I found my coworkers were trash talking behind my back … let’s just say it would not have helped my recovery.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        I had a coworker at Old Job that frequently called out for migraines, and based on some of her comments I’m almost certain at least some of them were severe mental health days. My coworkers would complain a lot about her absences, and when I told them her health is none of my business they would counter with, “Well it becomes my business when it impacts the whole team.”

        It didn’t impact the whole team. None of her work needed to be picked up by others when she was out, and she used the exact amount of PTO she was allotted (sick and vacation time were in one pool), so I started asking the complainers what I could do to help them cover her work. Silence. They stopped complaining to me after a few rounds of this.

        1. Oranges*

          As someone who has mental health issues and had to take time off for them. Thank you from the bottom of my strange little heart.

      2. Llama Face!*

        I know what you mean. Actually, when I had severe depression I really did have physical symptoms like those. Apparently plenty of other people (and not just me) start thinking they may have a brain tumour when they repeatedly get severe nausea, headaches, and exhaustion instead of realizing it’s depression. Who knew?

        I’ve experienced that same judgey attitude in the workplace with my other* chronic medical issues and it is So Hard to endure, especially when I am already worried about the toll my unable-to-avoid absences are taking on my job security and reputation.

        LW you need to really work on cultivating empathy because that is a terrible attitude to have towards coworkers. If you want to track anything on excel, maybe a sheet recording how often you gossip about your colleagues might help you to cut down on that bad behaviour.

        *Not just a one-trick pony! I multitask chronic health issues!

      3. san junipero*

        I do this too, both for mental health days and for chronic illness days (because my chronic illness is very misunderstood and if I explained the real issue someone would inevitably ask, “What do you mean you have to stay home because you’re tired?”).

  5. Penny*

    Have you ever considered that he uses exactly what he is allotted for sick days not because he is trying to game the system but because he has a genuine need for even more than that, but can only use what is allotted?

    1. Penny*

      Also, this is so ignorant: “They are all one-day absences, he’s back the next day, so it’s not like he’s getting cancer treatments or something.”

      Actually, it could be cancer treatments. Or treatment for any of a large number of chronic illnesses. Or he could have a close family member who he is transporting to treatments on a regular basis.

      1. jamberoo*

        As a migraine sufferer I take mostly single days off — and I’m glad because they used to be three day marathons. OP needs to stop speculating about other peoples’ health.

        1. Maddy*

          Migraine sufferer too. I get anywhere from 4-10 a month. I don’t take a sick day every month for it either. I do if they are really, really bad and yes they last for one day. Although I have had ones that lasted for 3-4 days. I manage as best as I can. And yes I blew through our yearly allotment of sick time and take unpaid leave. I manage as best as I can. It’s a chronic condition with no cure. (Yes I know there are drugs to manage it but it’s not worth it for the amount I get. I’ve made that decision. ) so yeah I am sick a lot but I can’t help it.

          1. Alianne*

            I’ve discovered, that if I take one day off when I feel mildly blah, that tends to nip a nascent cold or whatever in the bud. One day off now means I’m not missing three or four days due to bronchitis or strep or similar. Maybe that’s what he’s doing? Because he doesn’t want to make you and his other coworkers sick? Which is a nice human being thing to do?

            1. Clisby*

              Same here. Even when I was a child, my mother would keep me home from school for 1-2 days if I was getting a cold. It could make the difference between feeling bad for the next week, and feeling bad for the next 3 weeks.

              1. Allison*

                Lucky duck, my mom was very hesitant to let me stay home with a cold! Apparently the student handbook discouraged it, and she worked full-time so I think childcare was an issue as well. Still, nowadays I very much enjoy the flexibility to take a day off when I’m first sick, so it doesn’t get worse.

          2. BbCoke*

            I am a Migraine Sufferer as well and I can always tell whenever someone I work with, or interact with, doesn’t believe me when I say Migraines are something I would never wish on my worst enemy. They are absolutely debilitating when they come on and by the time they pass, you feel like you are hungover or recovering from the flu. I feel that OP needs to understand, and maybe reflect a little, that just because someone doesn’t appear outwardly sick, you have no idea what they dealing with on the inside. See, I was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor that has been causing my Migraines and I don’t look outwardly sick. Instead, I look like the same ‘healthy’ person I was before my diagnosis. I am now facing a really intense and terrifying situation and I would be devastated if I found out that one of my coworkers were tracking all the times I used ‘sick days’ because they didn’t understand that these days were for doctor’s appointments that last hours on end. So please, take a moment to reconsider your opinion and your view as you never know what someone is dealing with.

              1. BbCoke*

                Thank you, Picard. I just told my team today, as I will need their help to maintain my responsibilities, and some made comments like “I’ve noticed that you have been coming and going more frequently.” People are naturally curious when someone starts behaving in a different manner, but there is polite way to react (leaving them alone) and an impolite way to react (keeping a spreadsheet of their attendance).

            1. heatherskib*

              There are youtube videos that are migraine simulators. I tend to show them to people who don’t understand along with a harsh explanation of the pain. (Ice pick between the left temple and eye for me.)
              The visual understanding seems to help with many people.

            2. Amelia Pond*

              I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with that. The removal of a brain tumor is what set of my migraines and a totally different tumor kept them going. It’s a scary place to be in and I wish you luck going forward.

            3. Product Person*

              BbCoke, I join others offering you my best wishes, and want to say I have two friends with a similar medical history. Both had brain surgery and decades later are healthy and migraine-free, hopefully your outcome will be exactly the same!

              1. BbCoke*

                Thank you everyone for the well wishes! I am an avid reader of AskaManager and Allison’s posts about handling medical conditions in the workplace have been a godsend for me. They helped me formulate a professional and concise dialog for my meeting with my boss and my team. They now know and I am so grateful for them as they have really rallied around me over the last 24 hours.

                OP, I was thinking more about your letter last night and I truly hope that this is just a bump in the road for you. I hope that you are not as toxic as this situation makes you seem to be; that the views you hold are just really outdated/not commonly held anymore. You need to focus more on yourself and your actions as I feel that this is what is keeping you from being assigned the same opportunities as your coworker. You cannot control other people’s actions or decisions, so stop focusing on that; FOCUS ON YOURSELF. If you spent more time improving yourself, you will probably find that your managers are more inclined to assign your projects. Managers notice more than what we give them credit for, so they probably already know that you and your other coworkers sit around moaning and complaining that they are favoring your other coworker and maybe they are. Maybe they see you guys sitting around gossiping, instead of working, that they don’t feel like you can be depended on to complete a project. One more thing, if you are sitting around thinking about what you can get away with at your place of work, then maybe it is time for you to sit down in front of a mirror, take a good hard look at yourself, and decide if it is time for you to move on to something new.

        2. aebhel*

          Yep, and that’s not particularly unusual for people with chronic migraines IME. Or he could have appointments. Or he could be caring for a sick relative. Or he could be sitting on his couch watching TV–the point is, LW isn’t his manager and it doesn’t seem like this is affecting their work, so they should knock it off.

        3. Jadelyn*

          Honestly, I count myself blessed for the fact my migraines are almost always one-day affairs. But I’ve learned that, when I start feeling the beginnings of one, I need to act IMMEDIATELY to minimize its impact. The last time I tried to “tough it out” for a little while before going home, I wound up having to call my partner to come drive me home because I wasn’t safe to drive.

          But yeah, if someone’s tracking, they see me just “leaving early” once a month or so, and it would be easy to assume that I’m faking because I just want to go home early. I really hope I don’t have any petty busybody coworkers who are tracking my attendance in Excel or something. *pointed stare*

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Mine are one day primarily because I try to get medicated when they first start, then sleep it off. I’ve still dialed in to video meetings while trying to kick them. My coworkers don’t say anything when the room behind me is dark. I’m also still mentally scrambled the next day, IMO, but I’m functional. (The very first one I had, though, lasted three days. Ugh.)

          1. WomanFromItaly*

            I’ve been to urgent care/ER about 10 times. Suckez pour moi, left untreated I have migraines 4-6 days a week. With treatment I have…much less severe migraines 4-6 days a week? It is non optimal.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Actually, it could be cancer treatments.

        That’s exactly what I thought when I read that line. Not all cancer treatments are the same, and hardly any of them look like movies and TV would have us expect. There are dozens of potential long term medical conditions that could involve a one-day flare-up or treatment and allow a person to go back to work the next day.

        1. Dare*

          I get monthly injections for my back pain, and have learned the hard way I can’t work after. And when I was getting infusions, those were an hours long affair.

      3. StrikingFalcon*

        Or it could be exactly what he said it was! Migraines can be completely debilitating (where you need to curl up in a cool, dark room for entire day, they are not just a bad headache), and you can be completely fine the next day. Being out sick is not taking a vacation day. It’s not restful, and it’s not fun.

        1. Maddy*

          Exactly. Migraines are excruciating and hard to treat. Despite what the commercials on tv say you can’t just take an otc pill and be cavorting in an hour. It just doesn’t work that way. They are also unpredictable and hard to avoid (despite what everyone seems to think).

        2. Yvette*

          So true. Anyone who thinks a migraine is just a bad headache has never had one. And yes, you can tell when one is coming.

        3. Marmaduke*

          I used to have very frequent partial seizures, and while I could function at work, they were VERY hard on my body, which meant I had frequent migraines and caught just about every bug that went around. It’s never a good idea to assume you know what’s going on with a coworker’s health.

          1. WS*

            Yes, after I recovered from cancer I was partially immunosuppressed, which meant that I caught absolutely everything for about four years before it started to improve. I wasn’t taking days off for the cancer, I was taking days off for all the horrible little follow-up illnesses that generally wouldn’t bother a healthy person.

        4. Lynca*

          Word.

          And he may not be coming back to work feeling fine. I usually get 48-36 hr. migraines. The worst pain is usually gone in 24 hrs. but I’m still in some low to moderate level pain when I go back to work. I’m more sound sensitive after the worst has passed so that’s more manageable than the light sensitivity and vomiting I get in the first 24 hrs.

            1. juliebulie*

              Yep, after the migraine I feel like I was run over by a truck. The good thing is that my head isn’t in crazy agony any more. The bad news is the rest of me is exhausted, and I’m dumb as a box of hair.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              Verily and truly. Sure, the pain is gone, but sometimes the tinnitus stays for days, and the general mental tiredness definitely lingers for at least a day. “Migraine hangover” is an excellent term to describe it.

          1. BeckySuz*

            Yeah that’s exactly how my migraines are. After the really bad day where it hurts to be alive I have a couple of not great days where I feel really rough and wish I didn’t have to be a functioning adult with responsibilities. Anyone who thinks it’s the same as a headache just does not understand. Although I suppose they really couldn’t unless they had experienced it.

            1. Amelia Pond*

              They may not be able to understand, but they definitely should take us at our word. Too many people refuse to do that, though, no matter what the health problem. (Frankly, I think the people most likely to blow you off are actually doctors. Especially if you’re young, female, overweight or a person of color. God save you if you’re more than one of those at the same time.)

      4. pleaset*

        “They are all one-day absences, he’s back the next day, so it’s not like he’s getting cancer treatments or something.”

        Whoa.

        1. Spreadsheets and Books*

          For real. My brother has a form of cancer that involved a chemo pill taken daily with minimal side effects and, now that that’s done, an MRI and a clinical trial infusion once every two months or so. He doesn’t always take a day off work but sometimes he does, and he’s fine to go back to work the next day. Sure hope none of his coworkers are tracking his absences and making assumptions…

          1. pleaset*

            My sister-in-law was doing chemo every few weeks, taking one day off for the treatment, then back the next day.

      5. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, I have a former coworker with RA who requires regular infusions which means she needs a day off every couple months.

      6. Quill*

        Yeah, it does really sound like regular treatment of some sort… and hey, chemo will give you an upset stomach and several other symptoms.

      7. Anon for this one*

        What Penny said, exactly. I spent three months taking mornings off and working from home because my husband was going through chemo and radiation treatments. I still take time off for ongoing doctor appointments and screenings. I did not broadcast this to the company, only my boss, a project manager and HR knew what was up at first. Some people eventually asked if I was okay and I let them in on the situation too. But I’m sure there are those who think I’m faking something.

        Seriously, OP: you don’t know what’s going on in your colleague’s life, and you’re being a jerk about it, to be blunt. Tracking his sick time so you can see what YOU can”get away with”? Trash-talking your colleague publicly? That behavior is likely why you’re not getting extra projects. Please knock it off. Even if he is gaming the system, it’s not your problem. Find the high road and take it.

      8. MK*

        It’s also totally possibly that he is just of a sickly disposition. Some people just get sick a lot.

      9. refereemn*

        I’ve been out of work for just over a month now. I came down with a sudden case of encephalitis with seizures and ended up in the hospital for six days, which has turned into getting follow-up testing at Mayo Clinic. Thankfully, my boss has been extremely understanding. I can’t believe a c0-worker would be so petty to have tracked my time away. I want to get back to work, but I just can’t yet.

      10. mcr-red*

        The one-day absences made me roll my eyes too. I have RA and so have chronic pain every.single.day.of.my.life. and I take off single-day absences when I just can’t take it anymore and just lay around all day and watch trash television and hope and pray that the pain will ebb just a little. So I could come back and people like OP be like, “Oh see she doesn’t hurt, faker” and NO. I still hurt. There’s never a not hurt day. I just forced myself to come back.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          I have RA, Fibro, and a host of other things.

          I know he was trying to be a positive force for me but one day, after one too many “did the pain go away” type inquiries it culminated in me telling my husband “there will *never* be a pain free day…ever, just the intensity will vary.”

          Fortunately that convo was early in the relationship and not 15 years on…

          1. Former Academic Librarian*

            Also have RA and fibro – there are days I just ca’t move. My previous job was not cool with it, and I got a lot of grief for needing to take time off. It took a sudden hospitalization to realize that job was not sustainable.

            Current job? They could care less how much time I take off, as long as I’m feeling good.

            And man, was it a brutal day when I realized this was my “normal” and pain was just part of my existence. :-( Most days I can deal, but others I just want to rail at the universe screaming this isn’t fair.

      11. MistOrMister*

        I have a weird stomach thing where I feel like death on a stick for a good 6-12 hours. It comes on unexpectedly and very early in the morning. I take a sick day and the following day I am well enough to get to work. Unfortunately for me this can happen anywhere from once a week to once a month. It can also not occur at all for 8 months at a time. A lot of times I go in and attempt to work through it but some days I have no choice but to call out. Maybe it looks suspicious, but yeah, 1 day illnesses are definitely a thing!!

        And to say it’s not cancer treatment…OP knows this HOW exactly? Not to mention, the coworker might have FMLA, special accomodations from the boss and/or even be using up all of his PTO for doctor’s visits or other sick days.

        Plus, what does it even matter when you get right down to it? Their office allows a certain number of sick days so that should be the end of it. I know people who use ever sick day as it accrues for mental health days. I think that’s foolish as you never know when you will need them for an actual illness, but as long as it’s not negatively inpacting my ability to do my job,I honestly dont care.

        1. Une*

          Not a doctor, but familiar with migraines, and interestingly, there’s a type of migraine (abdominal migraine) that causes stomach pain and other gastrointestinal symptoms (and no headache), lasts for hours or a day or two, and then as migraines do, just disappears. Bodies are strange and can do all kinds of thing to knock you off your feet.

      12. emmelemm*

        Yeah, the minute I heard that, I was like, “They very well could be cancer treatments.” A friend who had cancer had intensive weekly chemotherapy treatments, then I think for some time had a monthly chemo treatment. That’s like, a thing.

        And when she was getting the acute chemo, she probably did not look very well even when she did come to work, but by the monthly treatments, she probably appeared reasonably fine to anyone who did not know about the cancer.

      1. Stormfeather*

        Or he could be prone to even more-than-minor illnesses, really have a need for more sick days at it is, but just stay home on the one worst day and tough it through at work for the less.

        Granted if that were the case it would probably be more obvious either through him being blatantly ill or other people catching illnesses – unless it’s a chronic health condition that he generally manages stoically and stays home on just the very worst flare-up days. Or one of the various other things people have already mentioned. (And I’m not even sure why you’re figuring people have, like, multi-day cancer treatments or whatever.)

        And even if it’s NONE of this and he just takes a lot of days off because his manager lets him get away with it…? Not your circus, not your monkeys. Maybe the manager is just lax and you can in fact get away with taking more time off (which I cannot imagine you need an actual spreadsheet to figure out just how much he’s out in general). Maybe the guy is a rock star and gets more leeway (along with the cushy assignments) because he’s really good and valued. Who knows? But scrupulously tracking his absences and gossiping about him behind his back is going to get you exactly nowhere, and is unkind. Please don’t.

    2. Aaron*

      I have separate pain and neurological diagnoses, both of which are the cause of one-day absences from time to time. Mind your own business, OP.

    3. Anon for this*

      Yeah, I have blood in my stool. I went to two specialists, got a colonoscopy, had an outpatient surgery for hemorrhoids, am going back to the specialist, and will likely have another colonoscopy in two months. Each of these took one day and I was back the next day looking just fine but in some pain. This is the last thing in the world that I want to talk to my co-workers about.

      1. Leslie*

        Had to chuckle. I have ulcerative colitis and I have similar absences. Everyone I work with is cool about it. I don’t think anyone really wants me to go into detail!

    4. AKchic*

      Yep. I’m a chronic (okay, constant) pain sufferer. With bipolar depression. And migraines. Plus three kids still in the house.
      There are some days where pain immobilizes me. As in “if you touch me, I will vomit while screaming”. Days where I’m so medicated that my husband has to text my boss to say I won’t be in because I’m too medicated to coherently form sentences.

      I’ve had someone monitoring my time because she didn’t like that I had more vacation time than she did (sorry I got hired 5 years before you did?). It is absolutely ridiculous to have a non-supervisor, a coworker (especially someone who is lower on the org chart) try to act like your unofficial nanny. I am so angry on the coworker’s behalf.

    5. knead me seymour*

      That’s what I would have assumed. Also, one sick day a month doesn’t seem all that excessive to me? If the LW has really taken fewer than 14 sick days over a period of 20 years, they should consider themselves fortunate for having such good health.

  6. IT Department Relationship Manager*

    I’d like to issue one big “yikes”.

    This comes off as a very bad mental exercise for OP anyway. You shouldn’t be using someone else’s absence allowance, especially if they are only using what everyone else is being allocated. Even if they were confronted about using absences and they tried to use this spreadsheet to justify that another employee is “worse”, that would instantly be a reprimand or serious talking to by their manager.

    It’s also just kinda creepy. I feel bad for this person that they found out someone was tracking their health problems.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Yeah, if OP is imagining being called into their manager’s office for a talking to about overusing sick leave and getting off the hook by pulling up a spreadsheet proving that other people take as many or more sick days, this is not going to go the way they think it is.

    2. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      I’m going to put my amplification right here.

      OP is thinking about taking sick days – sick days that are a part of the benefits package – as ‘getting away’ with something, and the nitpickery is shocking. This is petty and toxic, and no matter how long they’ve been in the workforce, it’s a attitude that needs an excision.

      1. IT Department Relationship Manager*

        It’s super childish in the very least. “He gets to do it and I want to as well!”

        I mean, you can. You get the same time off so just do it if you really need to. Anyone who holds off using sick leave when they need too because they don’t want to “look bad” is a bit off. Take a mental health day, sounds like OP might need one.

        At my job, the company line on sick leave is “it’s none of your business” It’s something discussed between them and their manager and that is it. It’s a private matter and it shows some real issues when you take time out of your day to track a person for doing something that is allowed and normal.

    3. Fish Microwaver*

      It’s a crappy thing to have a limiting and unpredictable condition like frequentl migraines. I have had years where I used my entire allocation of sick days with migraines and then had to worry about unpaid leave if I needed time off for minor surgery, family members health issues, funerals etc. It’s bad enough to have a chronic condition without financial stress on top.

  7. CaliCali*

    So Alison’s given you the answer you need, but I would also push a little further to ask yourself WHY this is something that bothers you and your coworkers so much — especially since it doesn’t seem like you’re getting extra workload as a result of his absences. Is the overall environment bad? Do you feel unnoticed and underappreciated by your bosses? Is it the kind of environment where you only bond over things that mutually annoy you, and you’ve almost glommed onto this guy’s meaningless absences as a talking point? (This is not to judge you — I’ve been there. Sometimes we find unhealthy ways of trying to form connection). It may just be time to move on, to find something else y’all can gripe and bond over, or to see if you can form a relationship with this guy and see him as a person and not just a target of ridicule.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In fairness, the letter writer says a lot of it is this: “…to see what the pattern is and what I can get away with. I’d like an extra 12 days off a year!”

      1. GreenDoor*

        That’s what stood out to me. Honestly, OP, you sound like my two little kids: “If he gets it, I want it, too!!” The workplace isn’t apples to apples across the board for all employees and acting like it should be is a really childish approach. So is “seeing what I can get away with.”

        I actually have a coworker who uses her sick time as soon as she earns it. Believe me, the department head knows about it. And as the department manager, I know for a fact it has come into play many times in terms of assigning projects and giving promotional opportunities. There could be a lot going on behind the scenes relative to your coworkers standing in the company that you simply don’t know about. Don’t ruin your own standing by monitoring something that isn’t your business to monitor.

        1. DJ*

          This exactly. The OP shouldn’t be worrying about their coworker, they should own their own behavior, which means if you want to be the type of person who takes random days off when you’re not sick, then just do that. You don’t need to use your coworker’s behavior as an excuse for your own. However, you will have to deal with whatever consequences come your way. Maybe there won’t be consequences. Maybe there will. But if there are consequences to it, I guarantee you’re not going to be able to prevent them by pointing to your coworker and saying “He did it first!”

        2. Glitsy Gus*

          Yep. if you feel like you’re working yourself into sickness, then take a sick day even if you don’t have the flu or whatever. There is no moral high ground or cosmic bonus points that come from stoically never using your sick time, you just don’t take the time, or you do. That’s literally it. That said, this coworker is not “getting away with” taking “12 extra days.” He’s using his sick time for it’s intended purpose. If it isn’t impacting your work, why do you care? If you feel you need a couple of mental health days that you haven’t been allowing yourself, or bending over backwards to avoid having doctor appointments during work hours, just take your own sick days for that and move on.

          Keep your eye on your own knitting. Set up a meeting with your manager and specifically ask for extra work, or what you need to do to get more, better opportunities. Also, stop trash talking. You don’t know the story, and being kind is always the better option when it’s available.

        3. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

          Yep. When I see that he gets more interesting work, plus nobody’s micromanaging his sick days, my first thought is that he’s a valuable employee and management is treating him accordingly. If you do good work, the odds that your manager is going to take issue with one sick day a month are considerably lower. Conversely, keeping tabs on someone’s absences when it’s not your job to do that isn’t exactly the kind of use of company time that screams “reward me with your trust and good faith.”

        4. Mama Bear*

          OP also hasn’t stated the seniority of the coworker – if she’s been there 14 months, and he’s been there a lot longer, maybe that’s also why he’s getting different tasks or perhaps has more PTO to spend. Either way, one would think someone who mentions 20 years in the workforce would know better.

      2. GooseTracks*

        I don’t understand how it’s “extra” if the coworker is only using his accrued sick time. Presumably LW could do the same, if he wanted to. (Maybe it’s bad optics to use up all your sick leave one day at a time at regular intervals, but honestly the gossiping and tracking and overall bad attitude make me think LW has bigger issues than how he uses sick time.)

        1. annony*

          Yeah. 1 day a month doesn’t seem excessive to me, especially since work is so slow. It doesn’t sound like it is inconveniencing anyone. But I get sick a lot and with weird things, so I might be biased. I think my coworkers probably would have thought I was faking if some didn’t start during work.

        2. doreen*

          I think when the LW says she’d “like an extra 12 days off a year” she’s referring to her own use of sick leave. In my experience, most jobs with separate buckets have different rules for different types of leave and my guess is when the LW refers to “extra 12 days off ” she’s sort of implying that she follows the sick leave rules ( whatever they are) and her coworker is treating them as if they are 12 additional vacation days. One sick day a month is kind of unusual in my experience- but just because its unusual doesn’t mean it’s not legit and in any event, it’s not the LW’s concern

          1. Jen2*

            Yes, it sounds like LW is trying to calibrate what the criteria is for using sick days in this office. Maybe in previous offices, you were expected to come into the office unless you physically were unable to, which meant that most employees only took a couple of sick days per year.

            If I started working at an office where people took significantly more sick days, I’d try to figure out the implied rules, if I didn’t feel comfortable explicitly asking.

      3. Hamkitten Tom*

        Isn’t it also WILD though that OP goes on to say “He takes one off every month, exactly the amount we are allocated.” … so if OP wants 12 days off it sounds like …. they could just …. take them? And not needs this weird justification of “I tracked my coworker to prove that they took the 12 sick days they’re allowed to take, now I can take them also!”

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          It’s not ‘WILD’ that OP feels this way because OP isn’t actually sick (presumably) and assumes their co-worker is just using the allocated days off on a technicality so co-worker can use all the days they are ‘entitled’ to. For whatever reason (legit or not ? dependent on culture ?) OP feels that they can’t use those 12 days in the way the co-worker does (for mental health recuperation days or something like that).

          1. Hamkitten Tom*

            I … guess? But then can’t OP just use the technicality too? They claim they “want” what the coworker has, but it sounds like what they REALLY want is to keep working, and for coworker to not take days off, because if all they wanted was the days off, the path to “just tell everyone I have a stomach bug even if I didn’t” is so obvious.

          2. Avasarala*

            Sounds like OP thinks coworker is faking sick and being Ferris Bueller, wouldn’t I like to take a sick day and just goof off. But you can! Just call it a mental health day! And if the only thing keeping you from it is “your integrity” then maybe you need to recalibrate yourself and stop worrying about your coworkers.

      4. Allison*

        Ugh, love the “must be nice” attitude here.

        I wouldn’t blame someone for trying to feel out a new company’s general attitude towards sick day usage – whether you can use them liberally, or whether you need to be seriously ill to justify using even a few of them a year – but there are less creepy ways to do this.

        1. knead me seymour*

          Yeah, I think the LW is assuming that everyone is either (a) taking very few sick days a year, (b) lying about being sick, or (c) so sick they aren’t able to hold down a job? It’s not really all that fun to get sick so often that you use up all of your sick leave every year. I think the LW is really taking their unusual good health for granted.

      5. ArtsNerd*

        I definitely had an “it must be nice” and “can I get away with this?” train of thought when my supervisor was out of the office for weeks on end. It was a coping mechanism so I didn’t have to admit I was totally floundering and lost as to how to handle events. Turns out my boss was not in a good place, mental health-wise, and kept pushing the boundaries of what they could get away with — so they *were* slacking in one sense. But that wasn’t actually the problem.

        Whether or not OP’s attitude is primarily envy or if it’s a secondary reaction like I had, tracking absences isn’t helpful. It wasn’t helpful for me and my coworker, and it’s not helpful to OP. What is helpful: identifying a) if there is actually a problem at the office, and b) identifying what that problem is — I suspect OP is resentful for other reasons that don’t have to to do with this coworker, and those are the things they need to address.

      6. Rainy*

        I was home sick yesterday with a violent bout of food poisoning (I treated myself to Taco Bell for dinner the night before because my husband was at a death metal show–poor decision :( ).

        Unless OP thinks that going double-dragon between periods of sleeping like the sweaty, nauseated dead is a day at the beach, it was NOT what I would consider an “extra day off”!

        1. Koala dreams*

          Yes, I think it sounds very sad to wish to be sick (or have a medical appointment, or take care of sick kids) just to get a few extra days off work. It’s not that fun to be sick or to spend the day in the hospital, and if you seriously consider it preferable over working, maybe it’s worth thinking about how to make your work life better.

    2. Rockin Takin*

      My company gives 6 sick days a year to everyone. We allow our employees to use it for whatever they want. The company has a strict use it or lose it policy- at the start of each year any time you didn’t use is lost without compensation. So usually at the end of the year we have folks scheduling their sick days to use them up.
      We also have up to 5 weeks of vacation time, based on years of service. So it’s highly encouraged that people take time off each month, but that’s just our company culture.

      1. doreen*

        I’ve seen people talk about this before. Do you happen to know the reasoning behind it ? If it’s “use it or lose it” and the company lets employees use it for any reason they want, I don’t understand the point of the separate buckets – whats the difference between 5 weeks of vacation/six days sick time and 6 weeks plus one day of vacation?

        1. Kendra*

          For us, it’s because every FTE earns the same amount of sick time, regardless of position, exempt/non-exempt status, or years of service. Vacation time, on the other hand, increases for every 5 years of service, plus exempt employees earn more than non-exempt. I think the thinking was something along the lines of, “Vacation time is a privilege you have to earn, but sick time is a right.”

        2. Rockin Takin*

          So for sick time, everyone gets the 6 days, and you can call in at any time. For floating holidays and regular vacation time, our team is required to give 48 hour notice of needing it (we have a schedule and need 48 hr notice to plan for work).
          But if you want to schedule your sick days like you would for vacation time, we allow that.
          Not every dept in our company (there’s over 2500 staff in our city alone and it’s a global company) does this, but it works well for our team.

      2. Allison*

        Same with my last company, and I never felt guilty about taking a mental health day or two around Christmas, especially since my line of work slowed down around that time and I was mostly doing busywork anyway.

    3. emmelemm*

      “Sometimes we find unhealthy ways of trying to form connection”

      This is a very good point, and believe me, I’ve been there. But focusing intensely on one co-worker’s perceived short-comings is not going to make your life better. Full stop.

  8. [Cloaking Device Engaged]*

    Really truly, friend: Not. Your. Problem.

    And frankly the bit about not having kids?
    It’s stuff like this that makes me hesitant to ever refer to myself as child-free by choice.

    1. CMart*

      I didn’t see anything egregious about noting that OP doesn’t save up sick days for doctor appointments like their colleagues with kids.

      My employer gives unlimited sick time so I don’t have to bank days for kid appointments/random daycare illnesses, but I would if I needed to. And I wouldn’t bat an eye at coworkers who use their days a little more freely, even if it is a once a month “mental health day” (wherein it’s a “I just want a break” kind of day). That’s how I’d be using them too given the option, probably.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Ditto – I was so happy that the ‘major illness after every 3-day weekend’ seems to ease up by 3rd grade, but those first 6 years of not-in-house care (day care to 2nd) were rough.

    2. CheeryO*

      I think it’s a fair point, but I don’t see why LW can’t use sick time for their own appointments. I get a generous amount of sick time that can be used in hour increments, and you better believe that I schedule all of my regular appointments during the day. I think of it as freeing up those precious early morning and evening slots for people who really need them.

    3. ChildFreeeeeeeeeeeeeee*

      The comment about not having kids is not problematic at all. I’m child free by choice and will gladly tell anyone, I don’t care how it makes me look, you shouldn’t either.

      1. Seifer*

        Well. I think it’s an issue when you start working for a dysfunctional workplace that expects those of us that are childfree to pick up the slack for those that have children because, “you can’t possible have any REAL commitments, right, you don’t have children!” and other beliefs along those lines. That’s usually why I hesitate to say so.

        In this situation specifically, OP implied that having kids to take to the doctor or who might be bringing home illnesses from school would be a legitimate use of sick time. And as her coworker is childfree, he is not justified in taking this much sick time. Another reason why I hesitate to say so. I don’t care what other people think, but it just gets pretty ridiculous to argue with other people over the legitimacy of… sick time.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          OP didn’t say whether he has kids or not, I think “her co-worker is childfree” may be a misreading. Admittedly all the uses of sick days she mentioned (migraines etc) seem to relate to the co-worker rather than illness of his children.

    4. Jennifer*

      I think I understand what you mean. The entire tone of the letter sounds like the stereotype of a childfree by choice person, which most childfree people are nothing like. But stuff like this helps enforce that stereotype.

      1. [Cloaking Device Engaged]*

        Thank you for putting it into better words.
        And, I want to live where you live because those are the people I met when I went to CF events.

  9. Person from the Resume*

    I don’t take sick days I don’t need to. Admittedly my organization’s sick leave plan doesn’t inspire me to do so. I can carry over my sick leave and it’s never lost.

    But I’m a cautious person and if I were to plan to use up my exactly allocated sick days, I would save them up in the first part of the year and then take them slowly one to two days at a time. I mean people are more likely to get sick in the fall and winter anyway. I’d hate to have one sick day left in December and get the flu and need to take a week off.

    1. Feline*

      Having sick days left at the end of the year was huge for me last year. I had accrued lots and rarely taken any. So when en unexpected, serious medical crisis struck in December, I had sick days to ensure I had income that month. If OP’s coworker is using every minute of sick time as soon as they accrue, it’s shortsighted behavior that will bite him in the end. OP, being responsible about how she uses her leave, is in a better position in case of emergency.

      1. Torgo*

        You have no idea for what purpose the co-worker uses the sick time, nor does OP, and OP certainly isn’t being responsible, considering the desire to ‘get away with’ taking the same amount of sick time off.

  10. RC Rascal*

    What did you plan to do with this information? Even if it was for your own benefit, the optics are terrible. You already know your employer is OK with generous use of sick time, so why do you need the exact data? This is troubling. Secondly, you don’t know that he doesn’t have a doctor’s note on file or an arrangement with the manager. He may have an ongoing medical condition the company is aware of, and the absences are part of his condition.

  11. Bostonian*

    I’d like to add: it sounds like you’re focusing on the attendance in part because you’re frustrated with not getting the projects you want. That IS something you should talk to your manager about. The key is to make sure the tone of the conversation isn’t “why is he getting all the good stuff”, but rather “I’d like to take on more of X: what do I need to do to get there?”

    1. ACDC*

      +1
      It also sounds like OP and her coworkers don’t use their sick time as liberally, so my question would be why? Are they simply not taking the time but are resentful of the coworker who does? Or are they trying to take the time but having it denied whereas it doesn’t appear other coworker ever has the time denied? Either way a conversation with her manager would do a world of good.

  12. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Manager here!

    I would be furious if I found out you were doing this because:

    A) that’s my job to track. Are you saying you don’t trust your boss to do her job?

    B) chances are good that your boss knows what the real reason is and keeping confidentially. Don’t you want that for yourself if something bad happens?

    C) do you not have enough to do? Because you’re tracking and gossiping so I would be inclined to give you some data entry then.

    D) project assignments are a lot more complicated than you think because your boss usually has more information than you do. To think you know otherwise is very risky.

    E) if you’re not getting what you want, it’s your responsibility to find out why. Don’t blame someone else.

    1. Also a Manager*

      +1 on all of this!

      With an added:

      F) I’d start paying a lot more attention to your interactions with all team members because this is the kind of behavior that leads to big culture problems and makes good people leave bad teams.

    2. BethRA*

      Another manager here – even if I don’t see your spreadsheet, odds are that I’ve picked up on the fact that you spend time gossiping with those other coworkers, and that’s factoring in to my decisions about who gets what projects. Most humans are a lot less discreet and stealthy than we think we are.

      Allison’s right about the gossip being toxic and mean, but I bet it’s hurting you in ways you don’t realize, too.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      99% agree

      Only 1% disagreement is that they mentioned that they have mentioned wanting more to do and not getting anything. So that’s pretty annoying but seriously, use the time to do things that are productive in some sense. Even if it’s just hanging out on AAM and getting some much needed advice on how to be a good business professional.

    4. IHerdCatsForFood*

      Another manager here. All of this, plus do you really think your manager doesn’t know what’s going on? They know what you’re doing, and I would be absolutely livid if you were tracking a coworker and gossipping about it. You have no idea what other people’s struggles are, nor should you. Stay in your own lane. If I managed you I would be seriously considering firing you right now. Your toxicity isn’t worth the value, if any, you bring to your company.

    5. Annie Porter*

      Yeah, I’m with you here. As a former manager, I had one direct report who was just hell bent on pointing out what everyone else was doing. It started out with some legitimate issues, which I made great strides to correct. But, the employee’s outlook/behavior didn’t change.

      She was one of my most frustrating DRs, and she frustrated MY manager as well, often putting me in an uncomfortable position. She was an excellent worker otherwise, but it definitely hurt her reputation (and didn’t reflect much at all on those she was focusing on).

    6. Goya de la Mancha*

      A) As someone who was in a situation where co-worker was abusing any and all things at work and it WAS affecting my job. Once I started tracking, my boss saw just how much had gone down that she had NO clue about.
      If she’s in a meeting and co-worker is out of the office for a 2 hour lunch how would my boss know that? If boss is out of town at conference and co-worker didn’t come in that day, how would my boss know that? Maybe OP doesn’t trust their boss, but tracking things from a co-worker does not necessarily mean that someone doesn’t trust their boss to do their job.

      C) I document a lot of things that I probably don’t need to to cover my own ass after being burned in the past.

      I’m not saying OP is right here, just that there are valid reasons as to why someone might be attempting similar tasks.

      1. serenity*

        From the letter, it appears that this colleague takes a total of about one sick day a month. That’s not tantamount to co-worker “abusing” anything and we should be throwing cold water on OP’s paranoia, not feeding it.

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          I wasn’t feeding anything to the OP. My response was to Snarkus Aurelius and even clearly states that I don’t think the OP is in the right.

    7. mark132*

      I have to say in response to A) I really frequently don’t trust my boss current and past to do their job. (Of course that’s not a reason to track coworkers absences)

    8. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Yet another manager here. Odds are not only good I’ve noticed that you gossip and are judging other team members harshly, they’re also good that is the exact reason I don’t give you stretch projects. Why would I trust you with a delicate project or something that requires good relationships or strategic judgment when you’re showing me the opposite every day?

  13. Rugby*

    If I’m reading this correctly, he takes about one sick day a month. That doesn’t seem excessive to me. I’m not sure I would even notice someone being out one day a month.

      1. Kheldarson*

        I wonder if the OP comes from a retail background. I rarely take sick leave during the majority of the year because of how bad I get hit in the winter, but if someone was taking a sick day off every month when I first started office work, I would have boggled. Retail basically says you can take 3 days off in a rolling six month so good luck with that! It can take a while to get out of that mind set.

        1. NW Mossy*

          Even if that’s not the case, the OP may simply be at a point in her career where she’s still gaining professional maturity. Achieving “professionally mature” status is a process, and sometimes we have to stumble along the way to realize that we’ve still got things to learn.

          One of the things that takes time to learn is that just because two employees are treated differently, that doesn’t inherently make it unfair. There’s often a reasonable business rationale for the difference, even if that reason isn’t shared with you or you don’t personally find that reason compelling.

          1. Zillah*

            The OP says they’ve been in the workforce for twenty years – I agree that it’s a process, I just think that they should hold themselves to a higher standard given that.

            1. MsSolo*

              There is definitely something that feels very “been in the workforce twenty months” about this letter, that I keep having to go back and remind myself the OP is not a wide-eyed graduate comparing sick days to skipping lectures because you’re hungover.

      2. Anon for this one*

        Calling out “one day out of 20” a month is 5%! Is it acceptable to be available “95%” of the time?

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          It is if that’s the compensation package your company has chosen to provide you with. I’d be giving some real side-eye to any company that allowed staff to accrue 12 sick days a year, but only take 8 of them.

        2. Jennifer Thneed*

          But if the company is giving you the time, what’s unacceptable about using it? You sound like that Dilbert boss complaining that 40% of people’s days off are on Monday and Friday.

        3. Zillah*

          “Acceptable” is a really weird word to use here – it makes it seem like the focus is on the principle rather than what actually has an impact.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think one day a month is certainly on the outlier end of sick leave use — enough that I’d notice it if I were the person’s manager. (And it means that if you accrue one day a month, you’re not going to have any for illnesses that last longer than a day.) But it’s not outlandish like he couldn’t have a legit reason for it, which the manager might be aware of and fine with.

      1. Elenia*

        Do you think this is just sick leave use? I try to take one day off per month….but I don’t do it in months that have holidays. So January, February, no, but I usually take one in March and April, June, August, etc. I like having one day off and it also sets an example to my staff that I expect them to take their time off.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If you’re talking about vacation days, not sick leave, that’s a whole different thing. Sick leave can be more disruptive because it’s not scheduled in advance.

          1. Elenia*

            Right, that makes sense. No, I always schedule my vacation, and I rarely take more than one sick day a YEAR.
            (First time I typed that I put one day a WEEK. That would be excessive!)

      2. Choux*

        But if he’s allowed 12 days, why is weird that he’s taking 12 days? I have six sick days at my job. I take every one of them because they don’t roll over.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          A couple of reasons.

          -Sick days are supposed to be used for sickness not to supplement your vacation (Combined PTO obviously excluded).
          -As Allison said, they are more disruptive to the business
          -My experience and it has contributed to my opinion on this. When I have an employee who uses a sick day as soon as they accrue it, they have generally not been great employees. I don’t automatically jump from sick usage to bad performance, but it does usually come with other issues. I’ve also had these employees end up in trouble when they are sick and don’t have any sick days left. Note this isn’t an otherwise good employee who happens to use a lot of sick time. This is the employee that uses the sick day the minute it’s available.

          1. Sunny-D*

            But it sounds like that’s not the case here, if this person is still getting projects and assignments. Or even if they are “gaming the system” a little, maybe the manager is fine with it because they’re a rock star employee.

            1. SomebodyElse*

              I was explaining my experience. Not necessarily the case with the LW’s coworker. And that’s why I phrased it as “Generally” because I’ve had good employees who take a lot of sick time. But generally they use a lot of sick time, they’re not the ones that use it as soon as it’s accrued.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            It’s for sickness and/or medical appointments. If the sick days this guy is taking are all last second (such as in cases of unexpected illness) that’s more disruptive than if, say, 6 of these are for scheduled-in-advance appointments and 6 are unexpected. OP doesn’t seem to know so neither do we, but that goes back to the whole “if the manager doesn’t mind” thing.

        2. DJ*

          I mean if you take one a month and you accrue sick days at the same rate then it’s pretty evident that either you need a lot more sick time than you currently get or else you just take each day as soon as you get it (which implies you’re probably not using it for sick time). I don’t think the OP is right to worry about it though since she’s not his manager .

          Also, I am just guessing, but I would assume their sick time rolls over if they accrue it over the course of a year. Like you, my workplace doesn’t roll over sick leave, but that does mean I get all my sick leave at the beginning of the year and scheduling sick leave (we call them personal days) isn’t a big deal since you either use them or lose them. However, in workplaces where sick time rolls over, I’ve noticed it seems like it’s expected that sick time should be reserved for when you’re truly sick, need a mental health day, or for medical appointments.

        3. Llellayena*

          It’s somewhat unclear in the letter, but I was reading it as the coworker taking 12 MORE days than allotted. So more like 12 extra (unpaid?) sick days. OP talks about wanting an “extra 12 days off per year.” So either they get X number of days and the coworker takes X+12 (which could be FMLA) or they have “unlimited” sick days and the perception is “only take them if you are deathly ill” and coworker is using them a little more loosely.
          But yes, the OP should stop tracking…and start taking the occasional (once a season maybe) mental health day, sick leave permitting, to meditate and release the resentment that other people do get sick sometimes.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            I think the “12 more” comment comes from the LW not using their sick time so because the coworker does, they are getting more days off.

        4. Anon for this one*

          But do you take them even if you’re not sick? (‘Sick of my co-workers’ notwithstanding!)

          1. Choux*

            I have. This year I took all of them due to actual illness (migraines and a particularly nasty cold). But in the past if I hit Decemeber and I’ve got one left, I’ll just take it.

        5. Blue Anne*

          It’s weird that he’s taking them one at a time and on a pretty regular schedule. Potentially, he’s taking them as soon as they accrue, rather than letting any of them build up in case he gets the flu or something.

          But it’s not THAT weird, and definitely not something OP should be interested in.

          1. Oryx*

            I don’t know if it’s that weird. It’s possible to have a monthly standing doctor’s appointment.

            1. Lemon Squeezy*

              Definitely an option. Due to my history with depression and anxiety, I have monthly check-ins with my psychiatrist and schedule the next one at the appointment. While I’m fortunate enough to be in an environment that now doesn’t penalize me for that, I have definitely worked at places where I had to be vague or lie about why I was taking the day off.

            2. Sabina*

              When I was getting allergy shots my maintenance plan was one series of injections once per month. I often felt crummy that day so I’d just take the whole day off. Not weird really.

          2. Julia*

            You should have told me that when I was still suffering from undiagnosed (well, self-diagnosed, but unable to get proper treatment) endometriosis. Before a doctor finally took me seriously and gave me proper treatment options, I was glad if I only needed one sick day a month.

      3. sadbutnotbad*

        In the last 6 months, I’ve taken a lot more than that (fingers crossed tomorrow will be the first week in a looooong time that I’ve actually worked five days in a row in the office without any sick leave or work-from-home compromise). I have bipolar depression and had a really, really, really bad flareup, have started a new medication for it (which is very taxing, physically and emotionally) and have had a host of appointments following up on my treatment plan. It was hard enough to justify to myself taking the time I need for mental health care, without worrying about the optics or any nosy coworkers wondering if I’m really “sick” when I use my sick leave. Fortunately my office has a really generous sick leave policy. But yeah, OP’s colleague might also be struggling with an “invisible” chronic illness.

        1. Not a cat*

          Sorry to hear about your flareup. My roommate is bipolar and sometimes she has a really hard time of it. She calls out at least once a month and she’s in retail, I really hope her colleagues aren’t tracking her time.

      4. Please update the post*

        He might be telling the coworkers it’s a sick day, but he has arranged something with his manager for mental health reasons. I gave my manager a doctor’s note that said I was required to have one mental health day a month where I could WFH and no one would bother me/schedule meetings etc.

    2. Joielle*

      Agreed! I have a couple of minor but ongoing health issues that mean there’s generally at least one weekday a month that I can’t go in to work. Luckily I can work from home if it’s just a cold or if I’ve thrown out my back again, so I only take a few actual sick days a year. But if I didn’t have that option, I’d be taking WAY more.

    3. paperpusher*

      I get 15 days a year, although we don’t have a short-term disability program so we are encouraged to bank some time. 12 days would be considered responsible use!

      A dark part of my brain understands where the OP is coming from. I had a manager who banked leave for years until she had young children. She was able to take a day or two a week off for almost a year, plus 20 days vacation, and many of those sick days were spent playing with healthy kids when she took a day because her daycare was closed. I understand that this is the kind of flexibility that parents need, but I still remember feeling like a chump for going to work every day when she could take so much time off.

      1. 2 Cents*

        Yeah, but she didn’t take leave for YEARS while you could take it as you please. As someone who banked all her leave to pay for a maternity leave, let me tell you how not fun it is to not have a day off for 6 months.

        1. paperpusher*

          This was following a one-year mat leave – I’m not a complete savage!

          And of course she earned it. I now have something like 13 weeks banked already, and while I think my current manager would want me to put some plan in place before basically dropping to a part-time schedule, I appreciate that I can use the time when my good fortune runs out.

          I did say it was a dark part of my brain.

      2. CheeryO*

        If you can bank leave for years, I’m guessing it gets paid out in some form when you resign or retire. She’s losing a benefit that you’re still going to get.

        1. chipMunkey*

          Not necessarily on the pay out piece. Some employers consider it a benefit, rather than an entitlement.

        2. doreen*

          Not necessarily – I’ve had three jobs where I could bank sick leave up to a very high cap ( in one case, there was no cap). None of them paid out in any way if you resigned and only one gives you extra pension credit if you retire. The only benefit was that if I needed to be out sick for an extended time , I could stay on the payroll for months.

        3. I heart Paul Buchman*

          This isn’t the case in my country. We have mandated sick leave for full time employees (pro-rata for part timers) of 20 days per year. These build up over time, you can’t cash them out, they roll over every year. When you leave a job you lose the leave accrued. It is one of the reasons we seem to have longer tenure than the US.
          My hubby didn’t take much sick leave for years and then had one bad year with influenza and pneumonia when he had nearly two months off (much hospitalized) and we were very grateful that he didn’t ‘waste’ his leave by chucking sickies whenever he felt like it.
          When he left the job he had literally months of sick leave accrued which wasn’t paid out. I don’t think he lost anything though – we had a safety net which allowed us to save on our insurance etc (with 6 month waiting periods to claim we paid much lower premiums). Also, I feel like sick leave is something that should be used in good faith by all involved for the health of the overall economic system.

      3. biobotb*

        But if watching other people take banked leave made you feel like a chump, why didn’t you bank your leave?

        1. paperpusher*

          I did – I have about 13 weeks banked. I am fortunate to be very healthy, and I never had the chance to have children. I am overall very very grateful for my employer’s generous policy and very very grateful for my good health.

          But showing up every day to deal with all the crap that came in, and then logging onto Facebook and seeing my manager out to lunch with her kids on a sick day (which I could not do, because without kids there’s no excuse to take sick days when you’re healthy), was a bit annoying, even as I repeated the above facts to myself.

          1. Choux*

            I don’t have kids and I’ve certainly taken sick days when I’m not actually sick. Sometimes I just need a break.

          2. The New Wanderer*

            I have kids and I have taken the odd sick day when I’ve technically been healthy enough to go to work (i.e. not contagious, no symptoms) but just don’t feel like it. I have to be a little more careful about it because I do need to reserve sick days for actual illnesses (mine or kids’) but yeah, sometimes I just need a break too.

    4. annony*

      I was surprised when I read that it was 12 days. That is highish but doesn’t seem like it would result in someone being “flabbergasted”.

    5. pamplemousse*

      I probably would notice it from a direct report, but almost certainly not from a coworker, unless I worked really closely with them and the unexpectedness of the absence made my life more difficult.

    6. Art3mis*

      To be certain, I don’t think the OP should be doing this. However, if I took that much unplanned time off without an intermittent FMLA in place, I’d be fired. And I don’t work in retail.

  14. StressedButOkay*

    Wow, this is so incredibly inappropriate. I worked at a job where it was pretty clear the person whose work had an immediate impact on my work was abusing sick leave and left me holding the bag each time…and this is not the way to handle it. The way to handle it is to ignore it and delete the spreadsheet.

    Impacts on your workload are a conversation you need to have with your boss. Your coworker and his sick leave are conversations he and his boss need to have if there is an actual issue, which there might not be.

    You say work is slow and I feel like this was just a way to pass the time. But you need to find another one.

  15. Mrs_helm*

    First I thought about people I know who have multiple minor chronic issues (like migraines + arthritis, or back injury + digestive issues). Then I saw “one day a month”. OP, ONE DAY is NOT a LOT. It may be more than you take – and it is more than I take, too. But it isn’t unheard of even in moderately health people without a chronic illness.

  16. Barbara Eyiuche*

    I have to agree with the above comments. You do not know why he is taking days off. It might be for medical appointments; he could actually be sick. He doesn’t have to tell people the reason, and he might be embarrassed about this. I take all my sick days, but frankly I am often sick and often come in sick. I never tell people why. I hope they are not irate and gossiping about me. Just ignore it.

  17. EPLawyer*

    When and why he uses his sick days is None of Your Business.
    Seeing what “you can get away with” is also a bad attitude.
    Gossiping about your co-worker with other co-workers about things that None of Your Business is also a bad attitude.

    I am betting dollars to donuts your manager is aware of your bad attitude. Which is why you aren’t getting special projects or more work. Why give extras to someone who 1) had only been there 14 months and 2) already had a bad attitude and is contributing to a toxic atmosphere? Concentrate on your own work and your own attitude. Spend less time worrying what everyone else is up to.

  18. Carrie Oakie*

    OMG why do people think they should police others attendance?? If it’s impacting your work, I can understand that; I can understand noticing someone who’s out a lot, because I too work in an office. But creating a chart and documenting it is…such a waste of time.

    People have “invisible” illnesses. Some are open about it, some are not. I have medical things I’m dealing with that cause me to be late, take “long lunches” (cause one of my doctors is 45 mins away) and sometimes I just need a day where I stay home alone while everyone else is gone and just allow myself to feel frustrated in private and not have responsibilities. But through all that, my work is still getting done.

    So if your coworker is getting work done and not putting an undue burden on you, make like Else and let. It. Go.

  19. Mid*

    I feel like this is less about the sick days, and more that you feel like coworker is getting special treatment and perks that you aren’t getting.

    Have you and your other coworkers approached your manager about how slow work is? How you’d like more projects? Don’t bring up the sick days at all. That’s not relevant. Bring up your workload and how you would like more challenges at work. Ask if you can collaborate with coworker on one of his projects or something similar.

    How long has coworker been here compared to you? Is there a reason he’s getting these projects and you aren’t? Does he have a different skill set? Is he the most senior member of the team? If he has a specific skill, can you acquire it? Ask yourself those questions and then see what you conclude. Approach your manager about getting more work that will help you grow, or at least keep you busier.

    And stop gossiping about your coworker. I bet you would feel crummy if someone was doing the same about you.

    1. Boomerang Girl*

      To OP: If coworker is out sick regularly and still is trusted more by the boss to handle special projects, it might be time to look in the mirror. Does the immaturity you displayed in this letter come out in other ways? Is coworker so much more efficient/focused that s/he is able to get things done in less time?

      Focus on what you can do to gain respect and responsibility in your job.

  20. Mike C.*

    OP, you’re one of the big reasons why it’s difficult for sick people to participate in the working world.

    Oh, and thinking that you can just hold on to this information as professional blackmail? That’s even worse.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s nothing in the letter that says that. She says if she gets in trouble for her own absences, she would say she thought it was okay because of his. That’s a bad idea but it’s not blackmail.

      1. Mike C.*

        Very last sentence of the letter says this:

        If I get talked to, I was thinking of bringing up what I’ve witnessed the past 14 months, so I thought it was okay. Is this what other people do and I’m missing out?

        The bolded part feels like blackmail to me.

        1. Mike C.*

          Ok, it’s missing a demand/expectation for remuneration to keep the information private so it’s only the half blackmail but there’s still a plan of, “if I don’t get what I want, I’m going to bring down my coworker in the process”.

          1. Anon for this one*

            I don’t think its “blackmail” exactly but I can see where you are coming from — to have something about the co-worker to bring up if the manager questions the OPs use of sick leave (i.e. there’s a precedent set by the co-worker so how is this situation different).

        2. Don*

          I guess we could haggle over whether it’s using other people as shields and ammo rather than blackmail but either way it amounts up to “throwing other folks under the bus for my own ends.”

        3. BeckySuz*

          Honestly if I was her manager and she came back at me with a “but so and so blah blah”, I would not think well of her. I would say the same thing I tell my children when discussing their behaviors, which is that I didn’t ask about so and so I asked about you. You are only responsible for your behavior so mind your business. Especially since this doesn’t impact her job at all!

    2. CoveredInBees*

      Not quite blackmail, but the thing is it’s not as if the colleague’s manager doesn’t know about the sick days. At least one person is tracking them because it is their job to do so. The fact that this person is taking these days off isn’t a *secret*. I don’t understand why OP thinks this would even be useful.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        My guess is OP either thinks the manager isn’t doing a good job of seeing the ‘bigger picture’, or wants to have some kind of concrete backup in the case that she (OP) decides to also start taking “random” days off to the tune of an additional 12 days a year and then gets called out on it.

  21. Eliza*

    Wow, OP. As somebody who struggles to work due to multiple serious chronic illnesses, I am deeply offended by your actions. Not only do you not have any idea what’s actually going on with your coworker, it is none of your business. You are not entitled to know anything about his health or the arrangements he has with his employer. The fact that you don’t get that to this level is disconcerting.

    1. AGD*

      I have a demanding job and six chronic illnesses (one gastrointestinal, one vascular, one endocrinological, one pulmonary, one mental-health, and one no one’s sure about yet but we’ll see how treatment goes). Most of it is under control or comparatively asymptomatic at the moment. Still, if I take a day off a month, I’m probably doing incredibly well.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I mean, really OP? “What I can get away with?” Good grief.

      I can only imagine what you would have gossiped about me earlier this year, when I took a month of FMLA suddenly to care for a very ill family member. Only three people knew why: my supervisor, my manager, and the head of HR. Everyone else was only told that I was taking a leave of absence, my return date, and who was taking over my work in the interim.

      I’m sure a few people may have wondered, but everyone was incredibly respectful of my privacy and welcomed me back warmly.

      That, OP, is how adults behave in the workplace.

  22. DonnaNoble*

    Yikes. We never know what’s going on in this person’s life, and it’s not great to assume that you do. I appreciate Alison’s response and encourage you to take her advice immediately.

  23. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    And you all “trash talk” about him…

    This is toxic behavior all over the place. He’s getting put on projects because he’s good at his job, despite needing to take a day off each month for various problems. You’re probably not looked very favorable upon or trustworthy since you’re probably known to be trash-talking central and pulling this kind of mean-girl move.

    You don’t know he doesn’t have a medical accommodation on file either. That’s none of your business.

    At least the interns who got themselves fired about the dress code shenanigans could use the excuse that they were new to the workforce. Instead you’re going to sit there bullying a guy that you have no idea about. He could have chronic migraines or a compromised immune system so he gets ill easier.

    It’s also really none of your business to know his reasons. Whoever is sharing that with you is in the wrong. If he’s sharing it, then I hope he realizes soon that it’s again, none of your damn business.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Or he could have no reason at all. It’s his time off. It’s between him and his manager.

      If I had a high performer that got his work done, plus all the special projects who also took a day off a month, I would say he earned it. The work is getting done, no one is picking up the slack. That’s all that matters.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, we’re in a state with mandatory sick leave as well. So we can’t even ask unless it’s more than 3 days in a row. And we don’t want to know, it doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. Most people do give an excuse of some kind but many are vague about it since really…it doesn’t matter.

        If you have performance issues, that’s going to be addressed. If you’re absolutely unreliable, that’s going to be addressed. But using your allotted sick time, either some or all of it isn’t even an issue.

        I grew up with a mother who trusted me when I said I didn’t feel good and didn’t force me to go to school on those days. She didn’t chain me to the bed in that “If you’re too sick for school, you’re too sick for tv!” kind of thing I heard from other kids and future stories when I grew up.

        Shockingly most people aren’t trying to game the system in the end and trusting people to be adults is pretty easy!

      2. CMart*

        Yep.

        I have sympathy for people who see others doing or getting things they want – taking perhaps arbitrary “sick” days, never staying late in order to pick up kids etc… It can stink to look around and think “I wish I could leave early sometimes. I wish I could just take random days off.” But that sympathy stops because the followup is well… why don’t you?

        In some cases it’s justified resentment, where management truly gives certain people special treatment and have blatantly said so. But in a lot of cases it’s just that they simply just don’t take initiative themselves. What’s stopping OP from going on and having a “migraine” next week on a day they know is going to be slow and no one would miss them? Why do they feel like they “can’t” do that?

        1. Qwerty*

          Encouraging the OP to fake a migraine in order to use a sick day just plays into their opinion that the coworker isn’t really sick. Migraine sufferers have spent years fighting for migraines to be seen as valid sick day reasons – please don’t treat it as a false use of sick time. Alison already told them to relax their standards and consider an occasional mental health day – there’s no need to take it further into “lie so you get time off”

          I don’t have sympathy for people who see someone ill and think “I wish I could have time off”. I wish I had better health! Being sick is not fun and games! For every sick day I take, I’m usually struggling through work the rest of the week (and yet somehow still outperforming the rest of my team). The people who are healthy enough to not need all of their sick days and don’t have to triage every illness are the lucky ones.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Preach!

            Seriously, if you want to use a sick day and aren’t really sick, use! a! mental! health! day! Don’t lie though.

            It’s telling in the OP’s way though that they’re debating how to use their sick leave despite feeling they don’t “need” to because they’re never “sick”. And in return they’re being told to go ahead and “Fake it” like they are claiming this coworker is doing! Yuck.

            1. CMart*

              What if your workplace wouldn’t allow use of sick time for “mental health days”? It’s been suggested on the site in the past (maybe by Alison? Definitely by commenters) to just be vague, like “I’m not feeling well today”. Which is ostensibly faking it.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                To be clear, “mental health day” isn’t where you call and say “I’m taking a mental health day.” You say you’re under the weather or something else vague.

                1. WhatIsTheRuleHere*

                  I’m autistic and have a long history of depression/anxiety. I do legitimately need to take mental health days from time to time.

                  When I take a mental health day (using PTO or sick time, depending on how much I have left in my accruals), I tell my manager that I’m taking a mental health day.

                  Am I… not supposed to do that? I’m seriously asking (probably because of the autism bit…).

                2. J.B.*

                  To WhatIsTheRuleHere – mental health is a totally legitimate reason to take a sick day! However there’s a pretty strong bias against mental health (even stronger than the bias against physical health problems) and people avoid saying it for fear of being judged. If your boss is a good person and gets it don’t worry about it. But many of us are vague out of fear.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  @ WhatIsTheRuleHere: Yep, don’t say it. Just say “I’ll be out sick today or something similar.” Same as you wouldn’t (presumably) say “I’m having explosive diarrhea.” You don’t need to give the details.

                  Plus, “mental health day” is commonly understood to mean “can’t face coming to work today” so you don’t want to inadvertently convey that!

              2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                Well that’s illegal in this state, it’s literally written into the legislature that mental health days are included.

                Mental health is exactly what it is, the state of mind you’re in is not at it’s peak performance. So therefore you call in because you’re not feeling “well”.

                I’m sorry you’re in an area that allows employers to abuse employees and demand an “Excuse” for using your sick leave. This is slowly being phased out at least.

          2. CMart*

            I was operating under the very charitable assumption that OP is perhaps right, that their coworker is just making up excuses to take some rest days – aka, “mental health days”. And I think it’s natural to see someone “getting away” with something that you wouldn’t do and feel grumpy about it.

            Based on the OP and their other coworkers trash talking this guy, my impression is that using sick time for “mental health days” wouldn’t be considered a valid excuse, since they’re pissed off that they suspect he’s doing exactly that (instead of truly having migraines or fevers etc…). So if OP wants a mental health day, they’ll likely need to cite a “migraine” as well.

            1. juliebulie*

              CMart, if you think “mental health days” are “fake” or simply fun “rest days,” perhaps you’ve never had the need for a true mental health day. Count your blessings.

              1. CMart*

                I think there is a huge spectrum of what people mean when they say “mental health day”. Anywhere from just wanting to take a break and rest a bit to recharge (which a lot of people, perhaps like the OP, would deem as “fake”) to you know – actually truly needing to take time off in order to maintain some kind of baseline of mental wellness.

                Many, many, many people use it to mean that lighter end of the spectrum. That does not make the concept illegitimate or mean that other people are not using the term for more serious and necessary reasons.

          3. Not a cat*

            The CIO of a former employer thought migraines “weren’t real” when one of his employees frequently called out for that reason.

            UNTIL he saw me in the hall coming back from the ladies’ room after an hour of migraine barfing. (I could have gone home but I was too impaired to drive) He said to me (later), “I’ve never seen anyone actually turn green before… THAT was a migraine?…Ugh!”

            Nonetheless, he stopped giving the employee a hard time.

    2. Zillah*

      He’s getting put on projects because he’s good at his job, despite needing to take a day off each month for various problems.

      This!

      OP, I think it’s really important not to fall into the trap of conflating appearances with skill. Being there more often than your coworker doesn’t make you (or the other two people who “trash talk” him with you) inherently better at the job any more than the person who stays until 7pm every night is inherently better at their job than someone who leaves at 5. That’s especially true when we’re talking about one sick day a month – if 14 days is genuinely more sick days than you’ve taken in 20 years, you’re either incredibly healthy or often come into work sick. If it’s the latter, then yes, take more sick days!

      Because here’s the thing – often, taking time off can actually make you more productive. If you can rest up for a day and kick a nasty cold rather than suffering through it for a week, you might end up being more productive in those four days than you would have been in five, and the cumulative effect can be really helpful in preventing burnout in the longer term. Your coworker isn’t doing anything wrong here.

      Perfect attendance is not a virtue. It is just perfect attendance.

  24. bellwetherr*

    Wow one day a month has you bugging out so badly you need to make a spreadsheet? I really wish people would mind their own business.

    1. Rayray*

      I agree. If he has the accrued time, or if it’s a case where he has a medical condition or something where the employer has agreed to give the extra needed time off, why in the hell does it matter? I can’t stand those holier-than-thou “I work so hard and never take a day off” types. Go ahead and waste your life sitting at a desk, but if others want to travel, take care of their health, or just play hooky, that’s up to them.

  25. annakarina1*

    “It’s not your business, and it risks making you look to your manager as if you’re not clear on the boundaries of your role and aren’t respectful of your colleagues.”

    Agreed. It also makes it look as if you’re not focused on your work, but rather focused on tracking your co-workers whereabouts and trying to micromanage them without even being their manager, or looking to tell on them to make them look bad.

    1. Shan*

      Yes! I had a colleague who constantly complained about being overworked (she wasn’t, and I know this because I took over her job) and took to doing up spreadsheets charting how many of ‘abc’ each of us had, without paying attention to ‘xyz’ or how these numbers varied year to year. It wasn’t a good look – if you have time to do keep score, you have time to play the actual game.

  26. Heidi*

    This actually doesn’t even sound like that much sick leave, really. Not enough to be flabbergasted about. My friend had a colleague who would call in sick so frequently it totaled to being out one of every 5 days (she got fired for that and a lot of other reasons). Some people get frequent minor illnesses and will totally use that much sick leave and still be fine at their jobs.

    1. CMart*

      I’m not even sure I would notice someone I work closely with taking a sick day once a month. It makes me wonder what’s going on that it became something the OP started paying attention to. Because even if it’s more than the average worker, it’s infrequent enough that it’s weird to notice.

      1. mcr-red*

        Especially if them taking off the sick day didn’t impact you at all. If every month you have to fill in for them or get extra work to do because they are sick, OK. But their absence doesn’t affect you and you notice they are off one day out of 30?

      2. ACDC*

        I guess it depends on the size of the team. When I worked on a team of 4 (myself included), we noticed if someone was gone, but we didn’t care. However, the team I work on now has about 18-19 people and there’s always someone on PTO, WFH, sick, whatever and there’s no way I would notice an absence pattern with one of my coworkers.

  27. Funbud*

    I thought the OP was going to say something about how his absences were impacting her, how she had to cover his work, etc. But no. I get that she is trying to assess if she can get away with requesting the same amount of sick time but since she doesn’t (and shouldn’t) know the full details of her coworker’s life (he may have a chronic illness, for instance) she really should cut this out.

    On a related note, if you really do have a legitimate reason for tracking a coworker’s behavior, never do this sort of thing on company software on a company computer. Buy a little notebook that you can conceal in your purse or wherever and make discrete notations (don’t write down their actual name for instance!)

    1. VictorianCowgirl*

      I was just about to comment on your related note as well, OP for sure do not keep private documents or incriminating documents on work computers. That could have been your manager looking over your shoulder instead of the coworker.

  28. Celeste*

    So the job is slow, you are bored, you’ve asked for more projects but don’t get them, and you’re using your time to track your coworker and gossip. It’s all so negative!

    All of this adds up to a problem with your own life that you need to solve. I would start with a talk with your boss about why you aren’t being chosen for extra projects. Maybe there’s a gap in your knowledge you can fix, or a perception of your work product that you can improve. Maybe you’re just really fast at your work and need more to do.

    This job may or may not be able to accommodate your need for more to do or more stimulating work. I suggest you work on figuring that out and see if there is something else, either internally or externally, that you can apply for. Tracking this guy and thinking of yourself as a “sucker” for coming in…that’s not really what you want out of a career, is it? Spend some time thinking about what would make you feel good, and get after that instead.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      So they are a team of 4 and the co-worker gets additional projects and is keeping up with them (I assume, since I think OP would be all over it if the co-worker had ever missed a deadline or such like!) which leaves 3 people working on slooooooow stuff. Is it possible that at some point the company / manager may decide they only need 1-2 people rather than 3? I wonder if there is some sense of insecurity about that, and how that might play out.

    2. DCompliance*

      This. I have been at jobs that where slow and requests for more work gets ignored. It does lead to pettiness and resentment and trying to find ways to get out of being there. It will only build and build. Celeste provided good advice.

  29. Jackie Techila*

    Had to comment for the first time because this letter is a trip. Not only you’re tracking his dick days but you’re also resentful that he gets them and you don’t; as this would be his fault somewhat?

    You are so invested in checking if they really “need” those sick days or not that you have created explanations for your behavior (‘he’s not getting cancer treatments’ etc). As you could possibly know!

    If you treat your sick days as sacred and have the belief that using them is bad in some form, for your employer may think you’re lazy/BS-ing excuses not to work: those are your beliefs. Your company doesn’t forbid sick days and your coworker uses them. That is all this is.

    Your comments on how he is not scolded for taking “so many” sick dayspaired with “he gets the projects I wanted to work on” reflect very poorly on you as a team member and employee. Maybe he is a high performer that your boss can trust to do the work even if he doesn’t put in the same hours. Maybe your boss knows about his condition and found better fitting work for him. Who knows! Definitely not you.

        1. Commenter*

          Agreed! I just assumed “dick days” was a phrase similar to “playing hooky” that I just hadn’t heard before :)

      1. That Would be a Good Band Name*

        I got a good laugh out of it! I had a manager make this typo once when I was in a department that was responsible for tracking attendance and we had to write a comment next to the reason for the unscheduled absence. She meant to write “out all day sick” but her fingers and brain had a miscommunication and she wrote “out all dick sick”.

        1. Anon for this one*

          Ha! At my old company they would have probably been put on the official reprimand process for writing something like that.

      2. Jamie*

        This made me laugh out loud and no person in office across the hall…I’m not going to explain why!

      3. [Cloaking Device Engaged]*

        Yeah, that’s a rather specific subset of “calling in sick when you’re not really sick” day. I remember taking a few of those in my 20s… and 30s.

        1. Anon for this one*

          I hope you’ve grown out of that — I had a report who did that kind of thing to me, but there wasn’t enough evidence unfortunately. I learned to take my responsibilities seriously when I was 17.

    1. CMart*

      Yeah, I agree. The attitude of “he is taking too many days! How dare he!” is odd when you could just as easily think “gosh, maybe I’m being too rigid about how I use my own sick days”.

      That’s where the OP seemed to have ended up (“is this what other people do and I’m missing out?”) but the chagrin and resentment is still very much there

      1. Parcae*

        It took work, but I loosened up my interpretation of “sick” (e.g., calling out when I have a bad cold rather than working from home like my coworkers do), and hoo boy, it really improved my quality of life. I mean, we’re probably talking about three extra sick days a year, but being able to crawl back into bed when I’m feeling crummy? Priceless.

    2. Andy*

      last week our elementary school sent out a flyer advertising the sale of school themed ‘porn porn’ hats.
      This is better.

  30. Kella*

    I agree with everyone that this is not your problem to track and pretty disrespectful to your coworker.

    I also wanted to contribute that it’s totally possible your coworker *isn’t* lying about the reasons for his sick days, or is giving you a diluted version of the truth. Because the thing with chronic illness is it can absolutely give you all those different symptoms (and much worse), and it can sometimes last just one day and then be better the next day.

    But regardless of whether they are telling the truth or not, it’s not your responsibility to determine whether they are being truthful, whether they are using their sick days “legitimately”, or whether they are “sick enough” to need a sick day.

    It sounds like you might be better off putting your time and energy into talking with your manager about why you’re not getting projects and how to better fill out your time.

    1. Amelia Pond*

      This is an excellent point. Chronic illnesses are also comorbid (which means the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions in a patient), which means there could be even more symptoms. On top of that, all medications come with a risk of side effects (plus, there’s always the possibility of medications interacting in a bad way). There really are just so many very real potential possibilities here aside from “he’s faking it.”

  31. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

    OP, take a sick day for mental health once or twice a year, the place will not go up in flames. But stay in your lane! You have no idea if your coworker is giving fake excuses for real illness to avoid more questions or is worried about people exactly like you thinking their reason isn’t “good enough”. Everyone will never take the same amount of sick time, it’s one of those things you just have to deal with in exchange for the privilege of being the healthiest person in the room. We should all be so lucky to never need sick days!

    1. ACDC*

      Heck if you get 12 sick days a year (assuming OP gets as many days as the coworker), even take a mental health day once a quarter if you are otherwise healthy and don’t anticipate needing the days for other things.

  32. Rayray*

    I get that this is annoying, I had a job where I frequently had to cover for a coworker whenever she or any of her three children were ill. It was a lot. But… It’s none of your business. If they have arranged with their boss, then that’s that. He could have a medical condition that mean he needs all these sick days. If the boss is fine with it, that’s that.

  33. Shan*

    Agreed with everything everyone else has already said, but also… I’m honestly kind of blown away by the fact you apparently made this spreadsheet so obvious he’d know it was about him. Was it labeled “Bob’s Sick Day Tally” or something? Not that I’m saying you should ever do something like this to begin with (because, yuck), but at least be discreet about it.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I got the impression the sheet itself (ie the contents) was open in Excel and then popped up on the screen when she flicked to the Excel window (she said “it’s not like it had his name on it or anything”) so I’m imagining it with something like 10/31/19 – migraine, 9/27/19 – food poisoning etc.

    2. Elizabeth Proctor*

      OP probably included the “excuses” for being sick. Something like, November 6, 2019. Migraine. Wouldn’t be hard to put that together if you read the whole line.

      1. Shan*

        I guess I just can’t imagine not using a code or something… “Nov 6 – M,” at the very least.

    3. Captain S*

      Not to mention that if Bob could tell, it’s pretty likely the IT guy or your boss could tell too and this could get a lot worse than pissing off Bob when they find out.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        The “IT guy” doesn’t care what’s in your documents — in fact in IT it’s ingrained in us not to see whatever the contents are of the stuff you have on your computer. Whatever it is — we didn’t see it!

        1. Captain S*

          I’ve had IT report sketchy internet usage and tons of personal documents on laptops to me before so…

      1. juliebulie*

        That’s what I would have named it!
        So it’s a good thing I know better than to keep a spreadsheet like that to begin with!

    4. AnonyNurse*

      And why was it open on a day when coworker was in attendance?? Like how much time are you spending tracking the comings and goings of your colleague that you have it open on days when he is there?

      If you have any files you have to rush to close on your work computer … they shouldn’t be on your work computer.

  34. lekkerkoffie*

    Alison – if he does not have a medical condition and he simply uses all of his balloted sick days (1 per month), what are you thoughts about his usage? As his manager, would you be concerned?

    Clearly OP should not be tracking colleagues sick days… but just curious about what does seem like a high count.

    1. Kiwiii*

      If he’s accrued the time, is getting all his work done, reliably showing up to important meetings, and has any sick time banked for a longer illness, I can’t imagine a good manager would care.

    2. BethRA*

      We have to pay out unused vacation when people leave the organization, so if he were using sick time (which we do not have to pay out) in lieu of vacation days, I would not be happy – but for that reason, not because he was out too much.

    3. Zillah*

      This framing is really problematic, though, because it assumes that 1) someone has to have an identified medical condition to take a sick day once a month and 2) they have an obligation to tell their manager. Neither of those things is the case, though – someone could just have a weak immune system or be around small kids a lot, or they may not want to talk to their manager about their mental health or digestive issues.

    4. chipMunkey*

      For what it is worth, our organization has sick day accrual but we also have an attendance support program with set thresholds to trigger a conversation with the employee to ensure they have the support they need to manage their illnesses. So conceivably you could take hundreds of hours off, but get an exemption because of the particular nature of your illness (our benefits provider vets the medical documentation). And you could have one employee whose absences are being managed, and a second employee with higher absenteeism that is not being managed because of the nature of the absences.

      We have also had employees tell others they were sick because they didn’t want people knowing they were off work dealing with personal family issues, and they felt it was easier to deflect questions, comments and glances. Just because someone says they are sick doesn’t necessarily mean that how it’s been going in on the payroll end.

      Last, it may also be worth mentioning that people should recognize that business norms for use of sick time may be different, as I know the readers of AAM are a varied community around the world. Any employer I’ve worked for is clear that sick time is for your personal sick time, not medical appointments, your kids illness etc. but I know that I’ve also been fortunate to have understanding bosses out there that granted me time off to deal with urgent issues, whether I was entitled by law or not.

      1. Atalanta0jess*

        This is definitely true, what is a “legitimate” use of sick time varies from employer to employer. My employers have always explicitly defined it as sick time for your own illness or appointments AND for caring for family members or taking them to appointments. I take a day off twice a year to take my whole family to routine appointments, my boss clearly knows that’s what it’s for, and it’s completely cool with her and explicitly defined as ok by agency policy.

      2. Zillah*

        Along with business norms being different, there are also just differences in the laws themselves. For example, in NYC, employers have to let you use sick leave to care for family members.

    5. hbc*

      I think someone mentioned above that it’s not a huge issue unto itself but usually goes hand-in-hand with other issues, and I’d agree with that, though it might be kind of a confirmation bias. I’m just not going to notice that a drama-free, timely high-performer goes through all of their sick time. When I *have* noticed it, it’s the guy who also burns through vacation by March, seems to be “just checking something” on their phone a lot more than average, shows up at 8:14 every day if 8:15 is the cut-off for the grace period, missing from his desk/station more often than others, “forgets” to clock out but insists he worked a full day, and/or somehow gets the projects that have all the unverifiable delays.

      So I would never notice or address it as its own issue, but it has come up as part of a pile of minor issues that point to them not wanting to work.

  35. Duchess of Pie*

    I think the part about good projects going to the coworker and not OP even after OP asked is reeeeeally telling here. First, management clearly likes him and trusts him to do the special stuff. Second, he’s getting it done – once-a-month sick day notwithstanding, or they wouldn’t keep giving it to him. Third, they aren’t as impressed with OP as they are with the coworker. Aside from the OBVIOUS ETHICAL AND MORAL REASONS (ahem) to not track someone else’s sick time, all of these points suggest that keeping this info is a *terrible* idea, politically speaking. They already don’t give you good and interesting work; how are they going to view you if they find out you’re spending your time obsessing over your much better coworker’s absences? Good lord.

    1. Kendra*

      My thoughts, too. In fact, if the office is so slow and the rest of you are just sitting around gossiping all day, I’d be reconsidering whether we actually needed all of you or not. Finding out one of you was tracking someone else’s sick leave and planning to use it as an excuse to start gaming the system would be a HUGE red flag, and it would take one of your coworkers doing something even worse to get the target you just painted off of your back.

    2. I edit everything*

      It’s also worth noting that the coworker is *senior* to the Letter Writer, if I’m reading the letter right. The LW was hired 14 months ago, and it was going on already. It makes perfect sense that the senior, trusted employee would get the special projects that might call for more experience or specialized knowledge.

      So not only is OP trashing a colleague, but trashing a senior team member who may well end up being OP’s supervisor one day. The mind boggles.

  36. Rugby*

    “Half the reason I’ve been tracking is to see what the pattern is and what I can get away with. I’d like an extra 12 days off a year!”

    It sounds like you do have access to the “extra” 12 days off a year (assuming that you have the same benefits package as him). Take advantage of it! Lower your standards of what you would normally take a sick day for, take a mental health day if you just are not feeling up for going in, or you could even play hooky! As long as you’re smart about it and none of your other coworkers have secret Excel trackers, you’re not gonna get caught.

    1. 2 Cents*

      Yeah the line “taken more sick days than I have in my 20-year career” or whatever smacks of “I’m WAY more dedicated at work and no one appreciates it.” Good for you for not getting sick, OP? You sound like a mean girl, Karen. Dial it back and use one of your sick days to get a massage.

        1. Don*

          Just that sense of deep satisfaction on your deathbed that you spent as much time at work as you could manage.

    2. CheeryO*

      Right. It’s still wise to bank some time in case of a prolonged illness or unexpected surgery or whatever, but there is a WIDE gulf between “12 sick days per year” and “less than 14 sick days in 20 years.” Take some mental health days! Stay home when you have a mild cold or need a day to sleep in! I know it’s hard to get over the guilt, especially if you were raised by no-sick-days-ever parents, but if you just start doing it, it’ll start feeling more normal over time.

  37. Princesa Zelda*

    I’m a fairly healthy person, and I probably take a sick day every 4-6 weeks. I have migraines, sneaky food allergies, and an ankle that swells up and makes it impossible to walk down the stairs. It’s less noticeable because I work part-time and go to school, and before this semester worked multiple part-time jobs, so it seems more occasional than it is. If I was working full-time, though, and someone who wasn’t my boss was tracking my sick days to prove I was “gaming the system” I would be absolutely humiliated that my coworkers had such a poor opinion of me and my work ethic, and my relationships with them would be severely damaged.

  38. Justin*

    This is like when I used to count how much time my classmate spent goofing off and disrupting class and not getting in trouble whereas I would get in trouble immediately. And then the teacher found out, and told me to stop tracking the time.

    Also I was 11.

    Stop this.

    1. Rayray*

      Lol! Maybe LW is still salty that they didn’t get to be an official hall monitor back in middle school, and now as an adult the bottled up suppressed desire to boss people around finally popped.

  39. Kiwiii*

    I keep thinking about how weird this letter is — OP sees someone using sick time frequently and doesn’t think “I hope there’s nothing else going on” or “oh, it’s nice that management doesn’t push back on him using so many sicks days — maybe i can use one the next time i’m kind of sniffly or for a long weekend”

    but rather “i can’t believe he’s doing that??!?!??!?! better track and see what he’s getting away with??!?!?!”

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      We’ve actually had someone come in from the co-worker’s POV, saying ‘my co-worker is tracking my time’, so it’s not completely unheard of. Though (dig dig) that was some years back (2014, 2015), so I guess it’s not strange that OP didn’t run across it. But the entry just last week about ‘my mom is tracking my time’ might have been a clue.

      1. Kiwiii*

        Yeah, i had thought of that too. But it being not completely unheard of doesn’t make it not a bananas reaction.

  40. NW Mossy*

    Oh, this letter is giving me such intense flashbacks to the time when my boss/company owner mandated that I (as the receptionist) track my colleague’s in/out times in secret. My colleagues quickly figured out that I was doing it and were PISSED at me, and let’s just say that they did not find “Owner explicitly told me to” a compelling rationale. It took many months to recover the damage to my relationships with them, and I can’t imagine that it would have been faster if I’d be doing it of my own volition.

    There’s just no way to do this without looking like a gigantic jerk, and doubly so if you’re layering behind-the-back talk on top of the tracking. Even if your beefs are legitimate, the way you’re trying to solve them massively undercuts your credibility and casts real issues as petty nitpicking. Set this down, right now. And frankly, you’d probably be well-served to tell your colleague “Hey, I know you saw that I was tracking your sick time, and after thinking about it more, I realize that wasn’t fair to you and I’m not doing it anymore. I get now that I need to handle my concerns in a better way, and I’m sorry.”

    1. Amelia Pond*

      It’s pretty sucky they were still mad after finding out you’d been ordered to do it. Did they expect you to lie for them, potentially putting your own job at risk? (Under normal circumstances, with a normal boss, I don’t think a job would necessarily at risk, but with a boss that mandated you track colleagues in secret, I think it could be a risk.) Because that’s pretty awful, in my opinion.

    2. juliebulie*

      Hey, some years ago I interviewed at a place that was notorious for stuff like that. There was actually a window in the elevator, and the elevator would pause in front of the receptionist’s desk (if it wasn’t stopping to let people on/off anyway) so she could write down (not at all secretly) what time each person came and went.

      Or if they took the stairs they had to walk past her desk anyway, I guess. I dunno. Sadly that was one of the LESS crazycakes stories going around about that place.

      Later, I had a boss who had spent the formative years of his career there, and he took every single dysfunction with him and often said he didn’t understand why that place had such a reputation. (Like, regarding a rumor that employees showed up to work bald when they were told there’d be a drug test, he said “only two people did that.”)

      Anyway, not to derail, but what a memory that brought back. I agree that maybe OP should speak to the coworker, but only if she’s SURE the coworker recognized the spreadsheet for what it was, and only if she can apologize sincerely.

        1. juliebulie*

          They owned the building. You (the building super) can make the elevator always stop at the whatever floor even if no one wants to get out.

  41. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    This is some seriously rookie stuff.
    He saw the spreadsheet, but believe me, he and your boss and everyone else knew how you felt already. Three people are not having secret discussions in an office.
    Really 20 years in the workforce and you still have such a disconnect in your mind between being at work and being a good employee?
    You wonder why his boss gives him respect and autonomy as well as his pick of plum projects even though this guy uses his corporate assigned benefits?
    You wonder why your relationship with your boss isn’t as strong while you gossip about coworkers and use company time and software to track the attendance of your peers.
    Stop thinking about him and about your sick days. Talk to your boss about taking on better projects and then kick ass at them. That’s really what work is about.

    1. Ninotchka The Intrepid*

      First time poster, here.

      I have several chronic health conditions: migraines (sometimes lasting up to 3 days), endometriosis, fatigue from Hashimoto’s Disease (despite taking replacement thyroid hormone), and irritable bowel syndrome. I take medications, vitamins, supplements, keep a strict sleep schedule, and I exercise but still get sick. Although each year I exceed my sick days, when I’m in the office I am very careful about time management and I am very productive: billing far more than my billable hours goal each year and administering a profitable client-facing program. Fortunately, my employer and my co-workers value me and I value them. Flexibility and compassion are two of the reasons I remain where I am. And that’s a win-win situation.

      OP, your employer respects your sick co-worker otherwise that co-worker would not be given interesting assignments. What are you doing to earn respect? Twenty years in the workforce and you’re still counting the number of cookies mommy hands out? When you go to work in the morning are you asking yourself how you can bring value to your position? If not, if instead you’re spending time figuring out how to scuttle other people’s careers, you’ve wasted the last twenty years of your work life. You’re still a kid and it’s time to grow up.

    2. Jen*

      “ Three people are not having secret discussions in an office.”

      This, 100%. My assumption is always that if people are gossiping with me about others, they’re likely also gossiping with others about me. So I have little doubt that everyone in the office already knows about OP’s secret spreadsheet.

  42. Classic Rando*

    OP, to be blunt, the tracking and the gossiping about your coworker’s sick time says more about you than it does about him. Your good fortune with regards to personal health over the last 20 years doesn’t have anything to do with your coworker’s health, everybody is different. And if you start “testing the waters” to match his absences, your boss will probably get concerned that something is up with your health, and then what? I guarantee that if you then said “he calls out all the time so I thought I could too” it won’t end well for you. Use your sick time when you need it, stop gossiping about other people’s health, and leave the management to your managers. If you focus on your work, and adopt a more collaborative attitude about your team, you may even start seeing more assignments for yourself.

    1. It's a No From Me*

      No, OP’s good fortune with health won’t last. None of us emerge unscathed from life and it’s extremely rare to make it to retirement age without a serious health crisis. Your time will come OP, so best save up those sick days because you will need them one day.

  43. Allypopx*

    I don’t want to be unkind, but OP if this is the kind of attitude you approach interpersonal problems with – if you can even call it that – and you’re engaging in this kind of gossip and scorekeeping, that could likely have a lot to do with why you aren’t getting the kind of work you want to be doing. It isn’t mature or professional. Really step back and take a look at your behavior, and if you’re projecting the kind of persona you want others to associate with you. Even with your gossip buddies, you could be losing some professional reputation. Sure people want to get a beer with the person who gives them the juicy vent sessions, but do they want to be managed by them, or recommend them for anything?

    Also, yikes. I have chronic migraines and asthma. I don’t necessarily miss a day every month but I was in bed for two days this month after an asthma attack, and had gone home for a migraine the week before. I definitely use most of my allotted sick time in one form or another – and am often back in a day or two just fine. My boss understands this. You don’t know what’s going on with someone from the outside.

    1. BigRedGum*

      Right? You don’t have to actually be sick. It’s your time. Do whatever with it. I used a sick day on Monday because I had a busy weekend and wanted to relax. No one cared. I am happy.

  44. Potato Girl*

    Congratulations on your great health, I guess?

    This letter is almost as rage-inducing as the small business I used to work for, where the owner didn’t offer sick days and the health care was abysmal because “you have to take responsibility for your health; just eat right and exercise and you won’t get sick.”

    Look, some of us get shafted in the genetic lottery and aren’t as healthy as you. It’s not a g.d. moral failing. MYOFB

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      SERIOUSLY? I’m a freaking runner and eat similar to Whole30 and I take about one sick day a month because I also happen to have PCOS and it can be debilitating.

    2. emmelemm*

      Not using one’s sick days is not a VIRTUE. It is merely good fortune, with possibly a dash of the wrong attitude about sick days altogether.

    3. JustaTech*

      Gad, that’s like the letter I got from my 401K company telling me how to save money on health care costs: don’t get sick.

      *screaming*

    1. Justin*

      Oh ppl gonna get mad about this one. The “ok boomer” discourse has been ugly (I agree with you though).

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          ditto.

          There’s good people of every age, and jerks – generations are right up there with Meyers-Briggs as false social constructs.

        2. ...*

          SO SICK OF IT ALREADY. Also most boomers are like 75. Not 43. If you’re going to use generations to denigrate people at least learn them.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      But if they’ve been working for 20 years…they’re probably closer to Gen X

      =X

      Shitheel-mode is fully activated, I’m gonna take a walk.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        As far as I can tell, the new definitions are as such:
        Boomer – anyone older than me (who does something I don’t like)
        Millennial – 1) anyone 20-25 years old (who does something I don’t like), or 2) anyone younger than me (who does something I don’t like)

        Gen X and Gen Z apparently don’t exist…

        1. Quill*

          Lol, I’m what should probably count as among the youngest millennials, therefore my parents are Boomer/genX cusps… a lot of gen Z has millennial parents because apparently the 80’s counted for that.

          1. juliebulie*

            I mean, it’s absolutely true that we get overlooked a lot. If memory serves, the Gen X years were very low birth rate years. I’ve heard more about boomers and millennials separately than I’ve heard about all the other generations put together. Because numbers. Sometimes, it feels really lonesome. But also special and superior, lol.

    3. AKchic*

      Most people don’t understand that “okay boomer” is not about the age, it’s about the state of mind. It means “okay person born into a uniquely prosperous set of circumstances built on the backs of colonialism, slavery, and white supremacy; who believes that this prosperity was not only normal, but legitimately earned and who is doing everything in their power to dismiss and disempower those not born into similar circumstances, for fear of even slightly encroaching on the immense privilege that they’ve only used to enrich themselves at everyone else’s expense.” (Thank you Jules Suzdaltsev @jules_su)

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You’re likely not. Especially if you actually worked your tail off to be where you are and you don’t expect your children and grandchildren to miraculously turn their college degrees into piles of spun gold upon graduation!

          My parents are boomers and they loath the stereotype that is spoken about here. They’re also hippies who believed in equality from the time they were pre-teens, despite being born into racist families, go figure.

      1. Observer*

        Which makes it worse – a LOT of people who are called “boomers” don’t come close to fitting that stereotype / definition. The idea that if someone is of a certain age bracket and has ANY idea that your don’t agree with, that makes them this horrible, entitled jerk with these specific beliefs is sick.

        And we have zero evidence that any of this applies to the OP.

    4. Observer*

      Please stop this. I don’t care which “generation” someone is in, and I don’t care if you are tagging the person correctly. This kind of thing is just GROSS.

    5. It's a No From Me*

      You seem confused about the generations. Boomers are either retired or close to retirement after 40 years in the workforce, not the 20 years this person has. Your anger focused on the wrong thing suggests your personality may not be that different than the OP’s.

    6. BigRedGum*

      ok boomer was my exact thought. This person is probably around my age, maybe a little older based on the 20 years in the workforce thing, but that mentality! big yikes.

  45. Buttons*

    In the last 5 years, I have not had so much as a cold *knock on every possible piece of wood* The only sick day I have taken for a medical reason in 5 years has been when I broke my ankle and needed to see a specialist that was an hour away. But I have and will continue, to take a mental health day whenever I want. I am fortunate and lucky that I am in good health, but those days are mine, and I will use them. A mental health day every other month does me a world of good and I am a better employee for it. I also work more than 40 hours a week, I am a top performer and my work is highly visible throughout our company.
    Please just worry about your own performance and work. If you aren’t getting more projects or more interesting projects, and he is, then obviously his attendance isn’t a problem. Gossiping, having a bad attitude about someone, the work, the company, etc- that is noticed by people. Leaders often write those people off as not being a good fit in the culture or not being positively engaged, and will by pass them for more high stakes or highly visible work.

    1. remizidae*

      Do you not have vacation time…? I take random days off too, but it seems the ethical thing would be to use your vacation time before pretending to be sick.

      1. RS*

        Can you explain how using a sick day for one’s mental health is equivalent to “pretending to be sick”?

      2. Oryx*

        Taking a mental health day isn’t “pretending” to be sick. Taking care of ones mental health is just as important, if not more so, than taking care of ones physical health.

        1. mcr-red*

          Mental health and mental illness are real things and it kills me that so many people think it’s not.

      3. CheeryO*

        That’s not how PTO works in many places. Vacation days often require pre-approval, so you can’t just email work in the morning and say that you’re taking a vacation day. Sick time is meant to be used without prior approval, and mental health days are a totally fine use of that time, with some discretion. Sure, you could schedule a staycation day, but at least for me, I’d rather be able to take them when I actually feel crappy and want the extra sleep.

      4. Buttons*

        I am not pretending to be sick. I will email my manager and my team “Hi everyone, I have decided to take today as a mental health day. It has been a stressful/busy/hard/whatever week. If you need me, send me a text and I can jump online.”
        If I have had a tough week and I am not feeling like I can be productive or be my best self, then it makes sense to take a day off.
        Next week I am going to be in a 4-day long meeting, and I know by Friday I am going to be wiped out- so I have scheduled that day off, using my PTO. But if I wake up one morning and don’t feel like I want to or can do it, it is no different than a sick day.

      5. Agnodike*

        It’s perfectly reasonable to use sick time for preventative healthcare – doctors’ appointments, dental cleanings, physiotherapy, mental health days. In a well-run company, “sick time” isn’t just for “I’m too sick to work right now,” it’s a benefit that recognizes that your workers have human bodies which need to be maintained.

  46. Archaeopteryx*

    Also someone feel free to correct my math, but it looks like you’d only been working there a few months yourself when you started tracking him? That’s… extra wow, for sure.

    1. Rayray*

      Not to mention, usually newer employees wouldn’t have accrued as much PTO as the long timers anyway.

  47. Precious Wentletrap*

    Every single time this comes up, the answer’s the same:

    IF YOU’RE NOT THEIR SUPERVISOR, AND IT’S NOT KEEPING YOUR WORK FROM BEING COMPLETED, MIND YOUR OWN

  48. Quill*

    LW: don’t.

    Seriously, it does not matter why he’s out: either he’s faking (in which case you still look suspicious and petty) or he’s genuinely just getting sick (which makes you look even more suspicious and petty) or he’s caring for sick family (ditto. Children are germ magnets.)

    There was no scenario prior to him seeing the sheet where tracking him would make you look good to anyone, and now that he has seen it? At the very least you’ve damaged your working relationship with him. Worst case scenario you’ve undermined your credibility to other coworkers.

  49. Seifer*

    Wow. That’s ridiculous. I had a coworker that did this to me and fortunately my boss and her supervisor were in the loop about me and my mental illness struggles, so they told her to back the fuck off, especially because none of our work overlapped and it was never any kind of burden on her when I called out sick. She was just like this, envious even though she had the same amount of sick time as I do and could use it whenever she was sick, just like I did.

  50. Quake Johnson*

    “We all kind of trash talk him…”

    Seriously, OP, did writing that sentence not make you pause?

    1. Rayray*

      It’sike when the mean kids bully the well behaved and hardworking kid who gets good grades and never gets in trouble. These guys sit around and gossip and make spreadsheets for matters that don’t concern them and then get mad when they haven’t earned the projects they think they deserve. They sound mean and entitled.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        He likes to READ BOOKS and has GLASSES, neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerd. Oh and he’s a sickly little thing too!!!!

        Talk about grade-school flashbacks.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      So very much this.

      OP. You and your coworkers are trash talking someone because he is sick. There is no possible interpretation of that where you look reasonable or even okay. Really stop to think about that. Is this truly who you want to be?

  51. Third or Nothing!*

    Here is an example of why a person would use one sick day every month: I have PCOS. I take a sick day about once a month when Aunt Irma comes to town because I’m so exhausted and nauseated and in pain that I’m useless at work anyway. After the first day I’m totally (ish) fine and back at work. Aside from my chronic illness I never use sick days for anything else as I have a ridiculously good immune system (so far at least).

    This is one of those instances where you need to trust that your manager is handling sick leave in the way she sees best and chill out with the monitoring. And take a sick day once in a while when you’re feeling blah and could use some extra rest. It’s OK. Promise.

    1. Nancy Pelosi*

      ^^^^this. I also have PCOS. I’m lucky that my period isn’t always debilitating, but when it is, it’s REALLY difficult to explain why I’m taking sick leave to a supervisor without sounding like a teenager who can’t handle cramps. Luckily my supervisors aren’t too invasive.

      1. Allypopx*

        I had an employee at a job where part timers didn’t accrue enough sick time for her to reasonably do this and she’d ask if she could curl up on the floor of my office during her lunch break and begged me not to send her home because $. I let her stay as long as she needed. I hate how this stuff is dismissed.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          I hate it too. One of my friends has pain so bad she throws up. And I have birthed a child and it was still less painful than some of my cramps used to be before I cut out dairy and sugar. Peeps need to take us seriously when we say it’s bad.

        2. Amelia Pond*

          This made me want to ragecry. It’s nearly 2020 and we (the general we) are still treating women’s health problems- especially ones related to gender- like they’re nothing. As if we’re overreacting, or making it up entirely. It’s particularly horrible when it’s other women doing it. “I don’t have a problem with my period aren’t bad, she just wants attention/time-off/whatever-other-BS.” As if their experience is universal. But the worst is when DOCTORS act that way… even OB/GYNs. Like, it’s their actual job to know that stuff. Did they miss that day in medical school?

          I think I need to go scream into a pillow mow.

          1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

            This is why I don’t bother going to the doctor for my invisible symptoms anymore. What’s the point? Male or female, the doctor never believes me, refuses to help me and yet will charge for the appointment. Doctors go to ‘medical’ school to make money for themselves, not to help people. I’d even argue they don’t see women as people.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              I wish I could reach through the computer and hug you.

              Are you in an area that has midwives as an option? I started going to a certified nurse midwife practice for my first pregnancy. They do regular well woman type stuff in addition to prenatal care. CNMs tend to have a more holistic approach than OBGYNs so maybe you could get some answers there.

              1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

                Thank you for your kind response! This is actually a really good idea. My issues aren’t pregnancy-related, so it never occurred to me to try asking someone like a midwife. I know a few other patients who have also decided to stop going to doctors as it’s just too stressful, triggering and financially draining. I’m going to suggest your idea to them as well. We take care of certain issues on our own, without a doctor, because we can’t find anyone willing to help. But I think this approach could work for us, at least regarding certain issues (apologies for keeping it vague).

                Many thanks again and hope you are doing well!

            2. SierraSkiing*

              So many hugs through the internet. I might also suggest Planned Parenthood, if there’s one near you? I’ve had really great experiences with their doctors when I’ve come in for my reproductive system related chronic illness.

              1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

                Thank you, and hugs back! I’m not in the US but am looking into my local version of this. Very glad you’ve been able to get the help you need, that’s wonderful. I will recommend this to my US friends who are also having trouble with doctors.

                Hope you have a good day!

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        My line is “my chronic illness is flaring up again but I should be fine tomorrow after some rest.”

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Argh and then you get people who think that you should just power on through those “bad cramps”, “we all get cramps! Power through it, gurl!” *vomits*

      Mine isn’t the cramps it’s the explosive butt that is tripled after my gallbladder was evicted.

      So yeah, maybe bro gets explosive butt. I assume not being at work means you hurt too much to deal with human BS as well. I can work…just leave me alone in my dark cave or grouchiness and don’t give me access to email!

      1. Quill*

        Ooof, don’t let me on social media while in pain, SOMEONE will be on the wrong side of my typing fingers.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        Heh, my runner friends try to convince me to go out for a run on the first day to help with cramps. Yes, exercise does help with cramps, but I’ve got more issues than just pain.

        Oof to the poopsplosion. That’s tough to deal with.

      3. Amelia Pond*

        No one ever told me about the period poops. Nothing I read mentioned it either (I researched about periods and sex beyond the minor Sex Ed in school, because I was determined to be prepared. I keep it current, too, since we learn new stuff all the time). I thought I was abnormal for ages. I didn’t learn it was totally normal until like five years ago.

        1. JustaTech*

          Slightly OT: but I’ve got to recommend The Vagina Bible by Dr Jen Gutner. It’s just out and I learned so much stuff, including a whole lot of specific phrases to use when talking to a doctor about pain. (She’s a specialist in vaginal and vulvar pain.)

    3. Quill*

      I’ve got the same but instead of the usual symptoms it messes with my arthritis.

      Though on this schedule I should be getting a baker’s dozen days because this is a once a lunar month occurrence…

      1. juliebulie*

        Oh, that Aunt Irma. I know her as Aunt Flo. I think mine’s dead now though. I don’t miss her.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          I first heard Aunt Irma while watching The IT Crowd and now it’s my favorite euphemism, along with “I’ve fallen to the Communists” and “The flag of Japan flies over our house today.” OOOH and “A red sun rises. Blood has been spilled this night.”

  52. Shay*

    LW neglects to say if Co-Worker gets his work done thoroughly and promptly whist using lots of sick time. I’m guessing that Co-Worker is successfully handling assignments if ‘special treatment’ and ‘extra projects’ are coming his way. LW may need to focus on his/her own performance and assess whether sufficient effort is being made to earn ‘special treatment’ – I’m guessing not if there is time for this foolishness.

  53. Nancy Pelosi*

    One positive of this letter: AAM gets so many letters from the perspective of the coworker (because people who do things like this aren’t usually the most reflective folks…). It was fun to read the thoughts of the perpetrator!

    1. JustaTech*

      I’ve nearly done this with one of my coworkers and the first thought I had after I opened a new Excel was “what would the AAM commentariat say?”
      I imagined a huge chorus shouting at me “don’t do it!”
      And I closed that spreadsheet.

      Today’s letter did get me to reflect on why I get irked when my coworker has a sick day or works from home and it’s 1 part I had a probably unhealthy work ethic drummed into me by middle school, and 1 part if my coworker isn’t in then I’m kind of lonely and end up eating lunch at my desk which I *hate*.

      Neither of these things has anything at all whatsoever to do with my coworker, who is smart, hard working and a good (if occasionally irritating) complement to my work style.

      So next time I have the urge to track my coworker’s out of office days I will bid that thought “adieu” and read some more AAM.

  54. Fikly*

    WOW. Just wow OP.

    This is classic “I’m sorry because I got caught, but I don’t think I did anything wrong.”

    Your mistake wasn’t your coworker seeing your spreadsheet. Your mistake was thinking you had any business having any concern whatsoever about your coworker’s use of the benefits coworker was entitled to.

  55. Larry Nyquil*

    This grinds my gears sooooo freakin’ hard.

    So let’s say these reasons were true.
    1) Migraines are dang near impossible to express just how painful they are at their worst. When I get them it’s almost always sudden, and within a few hours I’m begging to just die (or when I wake up with one… woof.)
    2) It’s more comfortable to “have food poisoning” in your own bathroom (as well as deal with any potential aftermath)
    3) If the dude actually has fever and chills, would you want him to come to the office and get everyone else sick? I never understand why people who look & feel sick and are actively shedding bacteria/viruses everywhere decide to forego sick time and come in anyway.

    So now let’s say these reasons are false– oh wait, it doesn’t matter, because you’re not HR, nor his supervisor/manager, nor are his absences directly affecting you or your performance.

    But the last part alarms me the most. It’s indicative of an INCREDIBLY toxic mindset that you, and your co-workers, need to put a stop to NOW. Toxicity like this has a way of affecting a lot more than just an office environment. I wonder if you’ve considered that the reason he gets things done and gets new projects etc. despite taking time off is actually a RESULT of taking the time off. I wonder if you’ve considered the reason you DON’T get these new fun things is because you’re seen as a high-school clique of gossiping children instead of as professionals, emphasized by the below:

    > I talk with my two other coworkers and we all kind of trash-talk about how much he calls in sick, so I’m not the only one who notices. I’m thinking about calling in sick once a month. If I get talked to, I was thinking of bringing up what I’ve witnessed the past 14 months, so I thought it was okay.

    You’re threatening to BLACKMAIL the guy by (poorly) attempting to force yourself into a situation where you can talk with a supervisor. And for what?

    > Is this what other people do and I’m missing out?

    Grow up. :)

    1. Don*

      Migraines don’t even need to be painful to be debilitating. Mine manifest about 95% as visual disturbances. At their peak I can’t discern things in the places where the disturbances are. I once, because I was under deadline, debugged and deployed a project exclusively reading things off-center vision. Deliberately reading things that aren’t centered where you’re pointing your eyeballs is not easy or fun.

      I’m lucky that for me it’s rarely more than a few hours long and the follow-up is just a few more hours of feeling drained and out of sorts. But why should anyone have to feel that way at work when their work is done on time and they have benefits that allow them the time off?

      1. Amy Sly*

        I get the “silent migraines” where I don’t get the headache so much as visual problems — the first time was in law school writing a paper when I lost the ability to see my cursor. By the time I finished, I was trying to drive home when it felt like half my field of vision was gone and I had to keep my eyes moving to drive by peripheral vision. Absolutely terrifying, and I most definitely should have been at home.

      2. TechWorker*

        Me too! Okay well I get these and also ones that are ~2 day headaches – I can work through some of it but when you get barely any sleep cos of the headache then I reach the point where I’m not functional to be at work.

        The visual ones mean I can’t focus on a screen well at all and on a particularly bright day I had to get my partner to come and get me because the pain on opening my eyes enough to walk home was too much. Last time it gave me a panic attack too (would not recommend, I hyperventilated/cry sobbed all the way home and I think the people I passed were disturbed). BUT hey I am lucky that these don’t last as long as the headaches – the panic attack was at the end of a long day and I was in work the next day. I can’t imagine how unfun it would be if the visual stuff dragged out for days :(

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      As someone who doesn’t get migraines, even I can understand that they’re debilitating. So it blows my mind and sets me off how flippant people can be about them.

      The whole POINT of having a chronic illness of some kind is that you are ILL and ill means that you are not operating on all cylinders. That you are suffering in some way. Being curled around a toilet. Being bed bound or just need to be secluded in general for various reasons.

      We shouldn’t need those of you who suffer from these things, who are already suffering ffs!! to explain to the jerks out there that “just don’t get it” and want to act like you’re just playing a game of some sort to get sympathy or a extra days off [when lots of time it’s at a determent to you, most people prefer to have their lives not interrupted by pain and suffering flare ups.]

    3. Someone Else*

      “Begging to just die” – This is so true during a migraine, the pain coupled with visual disturbances is awful. I’d gladly give anything to make them go away, and my meds for migraines have horrible side effects, so its a struggle.
      I’ve had to pull over when I couldn’t see to drive, and have my spouse come get me. Luckily, my current job and last job, both had managers who get migraines, so I can take the time when I need it, and don’t catch any flack. I’m very grateful I didn’t have any coworkers tracking my sick time, since I miss mire than 12 days a year sometimes due to chronic illnesses. I’d trade the time off for 100% health in a heartbeat.

  56. Leela*

    OP….i AM getting cancer treatments, and frequently come back to work a day after calling in sick. Just looking at cancer alone, regardless of any other illness you decide is legitimate enough to warrant the sick days, there are loads of forms of cancer, with loads of treatments that all have different side effects. I generally tell people something like “I had a migraine” (which is true, that goes along with my illness/treatment) or say I had food poisoning if food was making me sick, because I don’t tell my coworkers that I have cancer unless I need to. I would be furious beyond words if I saw this, and your behavior here is exactly what people like me who have invisible illness have to deal with ALL THE TIME; dodging the incorrect assumptions of other people who think I’m getting special treatment/abusing the system/lying. I get harassed when I sit in priority seats on transit (I have osteoarthritis in my back as a side effect of chemo, and have had surgery on both feet recently), my sick days get questioned, even when people know I have cancer the validity of that gets questioned because I don’t fit what they’ve decided a cancer patient looks like because I still have my hair. Now open up that scope to the many other health issues someone can have.

    Drop this immediately. If his sick days are directly impacting your work, fine, absolutely bring that up like you would bring up anything else impacting your work. But I guarantee you that if you start calling out sick once a month and when you get questioned go “but my coworker gets to do it!!!” they will never give you interesting projects and will probably not be very excited about ever promoting you, either. Also, if I was a coworker of yours who got to choose people on my own for an exciting project, I definitely wouldn’t be choosing the one who tracked someone else’s sick days on an excel document, I’d be wondering what else you’re deciding to track about coworkers and what other boundaries you’re comfortable pushing – this document is hurting you a lot more than it could ever hurt the coworker you’re tracking!

    1. Tinybutfierce*

      Nothing to add to your comment, but just wanted to say I hope your treatments go as speedily and smoothly as possible. Sending you all the good vibes.

    2. Jamie*

      I am so sorry you’re going through this, I can’t imagine dealing with all that and then getting crap at work on top of it.

    3. Leela*

      Thanks for your support all! It’s an incurable cancer that will be treated for life, so you don’t get a huge round of chemo at once because they can’t “kill” the cancer, you get less chemo but forever.

  57. Shadow Moon*

    Curious what the advice would be to the manager of the timekeeping employee in this situation? (Or I can save for open thread.) I have an employee who’s doing this and all kinds of “focus on your own work” fall on deaf ears because it’s “just unfair”.

    1. Allypopx*

      I’d personally say that I would worry about attendance and he needed to focus on his own work, and if it continued I’d say his job was in danger if he didn’t stop. If I found out about the gossip it would be a PIP at minimum.

    2. Lana Kane*

      If an employee keeps timekeeping against your instructions, then that’s a performance issue and you’d be within your rights to use your company’s procedures around this.

      I think managers can be reluctant to manage behavior because “it’s not the actual work”, but behaviors can be a part of the employee’s larger performance appraisal. Especially if those behaviors involve ignoring their manager’s instructions.

    3. NW Mossy*

      “Jane, we’ve talked about you needing to stop policing other people’s time. I’ve been clear with you that this isn’t your responsibility, and it’s inappropriate for you to try to manage your peers in this way. Even so, you’re continuing to do it even after I specifically directed you not to.

      Now, I’m concerned about both the behavior that started this and the fact that you’re not taking feedback about it either. This is a serious performance issue for you. Knowing that, can you commit to stopping this behavior?”

  58. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    So. I have a coworker who did this. She had an entire Excel workbook dedicated to people’s time off.* As well as when they came and went (for the day, breaks, bathroom, etc.). She used to send it to our boss and grandboss if they were out for a day. Or if she thought someone was doing something egregious.

    And you know what happened with it?

    Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They told her to knock it off and that it was none of her business. OP – I don’t work in your office, but it’s a safe assumption the reaction will be the same. The most you stand to gain from it is being told to use your allocated sick days. That’s it.

    *it’s relatively safe to assume the Excel workbook lives on

    1. Czhorat*

      YEah, “Knock it off” is the response she’d get the first time.

      If it came up again, this is the kind of thing for which people get fired.

    2. CheeryO*

      I would be so tempted to circulate my own spreadsheet with an estimate the time that that person spent creating their spreadsheet.

  59. ThatGirl*

    I sympathize a tiny bit because in my last position here, I had a coworker I had some supervisory capacity over who took a lot of sick days. She had migraines and seemed to be out 2-3 days a month at least; we only get 5 sick days (any more are typically PTO or FMLA). I actually did track them sort of unintentionally because it was a customer-facing role and her absence directly affected the rest of us. I never thought she was faking, but it was still kind of frustrating.

    That said, man, if I had 12 sick days a year, you better believe I’d take a few more mental health days. I don’t get truly sick a lot but sometimes you just need a break.

    1. Newbean*

      For your information migraines can be considered a disability and if she needed accommodation and work gave it to her, then that’s great for her. I wish people who didn’t know what a migraine feels like (and are insensitive to those who do) could experience at least one in their lifetime and see if you wouldn’t need some compassion.

      1. Louise*

        Yeah I’ve had one migraine in my life and it lasted three days and ended up with me in the hospital. Migraines are no joke and it’s very likely she had accommodations. Frustration is one thing, pain so severe you puke every two hours in another.

        1. DJ*

          I had like two back-to-back when I was in middle school and they were horrible. What a lot of people don’t know is that migraines can cause symptoms other than just pain. Not only was it the worst headache of my life, but in my case I got this distortion in my vision to the point where I physically could not see anything except in a small part of my normal field of vision. Plus the horrible nausea. I cannot imagine putting up with something like that on a regular basis, much less trying to work through it.

          1. Don*

            I get almost purely visual distortion migraines. And even knowing that my mother and brother tend towards migraines I was in my thirties before I realized what they were! Because culturally we think a migraine is just “bad headache.” Which is so wrong as to be laughable.

            1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

              My pharmacist told me that tunnel vision is the only obvious effect of her migraines. It goes away fairly soon, but it’s debilitating (and sounds terrifying to me) when it happens.

        2. Rosa*

          Oh my goodness yes…I’m a chronic migraine sufferer (as in I have several a week at its worst). This means I’m practice I’m at work every week in pain most people would find unmanageable and when I do take a one day off for a migraine it’s because it’s truly awful. People who don’t have migraines don’t get it…

          1. ThatGirl*

            I understand how bad migraines can be. I was never dismissive of my coworker’s migraines. I just said that I understand the frustration a teeny bit. (My coworker had many, many other issues that were much more frustrating and she no longer works here. Also she was new, hadn’t worked out accommodations at that point, and wasn’t eligible for FMLA yet.)

      2. ThatGirl*

        I’m not remotely insensitive to migraines – my husband gets them although thankfully very rarely. I understand how debilitating they can be. She had a lot of performance issues that were a much bigger problem, but I didn’t want to get into all of that. And she didn’t have accommodations, though she was I think working toward them when she got fired.

        1. VictorianCowgirl*

          If it helps, I didn’t read insensitivity in your comment; you just stated the facts, so I’m sorry you’re getting piled up on a bit (i.e., Good Grief).

        2. Amelia Pond*

          I didn’t see it as insensitive either. There’s a difference between being frustrated at someone and frustrated at the situation. I’m guessing for you it was the latter.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yes, for sure. I did have moments of frustration with her, but that’s because she was rude to customers.

      3. fposte*

        FWIW, there are also mild migraines. I think because for a long time the severe ones were the only ones that garnered much medical attention the fact that there’s a range of severity never really got discussed.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Yeah. I’m starting to get a little tired of all the performance around “ZOMG migraines are TERRIBLE they make you want to CHOP YOUR OWN HEAD OFF” and how nobody can possibly understand the terribleness of migraines. Jeez louise.

          I’ve been getting migraines since college. They were severe when I was younger, but now they’re basically a visual aura followed by a pretty normal level of pain. I’ve had migraines that didn’t hurt at all, and caffeine headaches that prompted me to go to bed for the rest of the day. “Migraine” isn’t a code word for “extremely painful headache”.

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I had some supervisory capacity over…track them sort of unintentionally because… her absence directly affected the rest of us…kind of frustrating {[because it directly affected you and people you oversaw]
      Still very, very different.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It is different, I was offering it as a reason someone would be aware and care more. In the OP’s case, not so much.

  60. Hedgehug*

    This whole letter grosses me out.
    Like, the next AAM post is going to be “I saw my coworker keeping a spreadsheet of my sick days, wtf.” You’re keeping a spreadsheet to see what you can get away with? Um, no. You’re keeping a spreadsheet as fuel for your trash-talking because you are prejudiced against him for taking the sick days he is allowed to take. This whole letter is an attempt at justifying your own inappropriate behaviour. If I were you, I would be worried right now that he is going to your supervisor to file a formal complaint about what he saw over your shoulder.

  61. voyager1*

    The bigger question is, why do they favor him over you.

    He could have a chronic condition or he could BSing them. Either way they favor him over you. Tell your management you need more challenging work. If they push back, time to move on OR just learn to deal with the favoritism.

    1. Newbean*

      Right. And also, the favoritism might just be in your head. It might not actually be happening and there could be many reasons he gets more work; such as he is very capable and a great employee.

    2. Louise*

      This is pure speculation, but something about this makes me think OP probably doesn’t have the, er, healthiest relationship with their coworkers and I wonder if that’s what’s holding them back….

    3. MistOrMister*

      It’s not necessarily favoritism though. OP has been in the role 14 months. Depending on the position, there can still be a ton of stuff they don’t know how to do. It is possible that the other coworker gets more projects because he’s been there longer and/or has a proven track record. OP should definitely ask what they can do in order to get some of these projects, but going in there crying favoritism is, in my mind, not the way to do it. There is nothing in the letter to suggest favoritism other than the sick coworker getting projects and we don’t know how strong a worker OP or the 2 other coworkers are.

      1. Amelia Pond*

        I ahree, there’s nothing in the letter that suggests favoritism. The fact the LW is keeping a spreadsheet like this and spends time trash talking their co-worker makes me question if they’re all that great at their job. Instead of asking management if there’s a reason they aren’t getting projects and if there’s anything they can do to improve so they are assigned other work… they blame the co-worker and make a spreadsheet. And gossip about their coworker.

  62. Terese Hale*

    Oookay. If anyone wonders where I am, I went to the garage to find a rake to see if I can pull my eyebrows back down outa my hairline. Unbelievable.

    1. Wintermute*

      you should get one of those new water-based eyebrow cleaner roombas, you’ll never be up on a ladder raking out your eyebrows again!

  63. Tinybutfierce*

    Wow, OP. His absences don’t affect you at all, your supervisors haven’t raised it as an issue with him (as far as you’re aware, and you rightly shouldn’t be aware even if they have), and clearly his performance is fine, given that he’s assigned additional work. And you’re this bothered because your coworker takes ONE day off a month? Your energy would be better spent worrying about things that actually impact you, like assessing why your supervisors aren’t willing to give you additional work even when you ask. I’d be surprised if it didn’t have something to do with your attitude, given your entire letter and the admission you trash talk one of your peers (again, WITH NO REASON) with other coworkers.

  64. Mike*

    STOP. KEEPING. SCORE.

    This is the single worst thing can happen for office culture, and creates tension when there is literally no reason for tension. People hate feeling watched and judged, and it makes them resent going to work every day.

    Does this person get their stuff done on time? It sounds like they do so get out of their beeswax.

  65. Louise*

    Ya know this is the exact type of behavior and attitude that makes it hard for people with chronic health issues to take the time off that they need. I deal with some pretty serious mental health stuff that I’m mostly able to keep in check…. IF I’m able to take about a day off every month. I’m lucky that I have a very generous package of sick + vacation days, and through a combination of that I’m usually able to make that happen without it affecting my productivity.

    And yes, I absolutely make up excuses about not feeling well or having a stomach bug because I’m not exactly thrilled at the prospect of telling my coworkers “I was so anxious that I literally couldn’t leave my bed” or “I haven’t eaten a real meal in two days and need to recharge and take care of myself.” Even still, I have to gas myself up to believe that I’m entitled to that time off, and people like this are exactly why it’s so hard.

    OP, please rethink this.

  66. Anon for this one*

    I agree with the official answer to ‘keep your eyes on your own paper’ from a pragmatic workplace point of view but I can also understand and identify with the impulse to do this kind of tracking.

    (Assuming the OP believes he is faking it – OP probably thinking something like:) Must be nice to get an additional 12 days of PTO per year compared to those of us who are actually conscientious, right? What would it be like if everyone called in unexpectedly (I assume, since things like migraines can’t be predicted in advance so the sick day wouldn’t be scheduled in advance) whenever they felt like it? And isn’t it convenient that he just happens to be sick the exact amount of time our policy allows for; what are the chances of that?!

    I can see how you feel that “he’s hardly ever here and still gets all the good projects while we are on a slowdown doing routine stuff”.

    OP, if this Excel sheet hadn’t been (possibly) ‘discovered’ today and you’d continued tracking his sick time — what’s your intended “endgame” with this please?

    1. Newbean*

      And he probably only “coincidentally” takes the exact amount of time the policy allows for because it’s not a coincidence. He’s mindful of the policy and doesn’t want to abuse by taking more than is “allowed” even though if he has a disability, he could. So to me it seems considerate.

      1. Don*

        Probably no coincidence at all. Likely he takes the exact amount of time the policy allows because that’s how much the policy allows and he’s struggling through on other days. Maybe if he coworkers weren’t the kind of people to gossip and snark about him when he’s not around he’d open up a little and they’d know about those hard days. (Or not; he doesn’t owe them personal information. But no surprise he wouldn’t share here even if so inclined)

      2. pamplemousse*

        Or, honestly, maybe he’s faking. So what? If the business gives 12 sick days the business has decided it’s capable of absorbing 12 unexpected absences from each employee each year. The important thing here is it’s none of the coworker’s business.

        If I were the sick person’s manager and this were a concern for me, I would probably say something like, “I noticed you’ve been calling in sick pretty regularly. We want you to take care of yourself — if you feel you need more time than our policy allows, you should talk to HR about your options. Here’s the card for the person to reach out to.”

  67. Lana Kane*

    As a manager, but not your manager, I’ll echo the sentiments above around you not knowing if this person has an accommodation in place. Lots of people forget that this is a thing that exists. Its easy to forget, or not know, because an employer is not supposed to let anyone know if an employee has one. It is a very confidential thing.

    As to getting an extra 12 days off a year, my suggestion would be to read your employee manual and what it says about taking sick leave. And then stick to that. If you end up having a medical need for more as an accommodation, you are free to start that conversation with your manager. And if he is taking the maximum sick time allowed, then there’s no reason for that to be a problem as sick days are part of your compensation package. He is entitled to them, and any discipline that he may face for taking that time is not for anyone else to be privy to.

  68. Czhorat*

    On tracking your colleague’s sick day, it’s all been said: no, don’t to that. I needn’t repeat it.

    I’ll add that gossiping/trash-talking his sick time is also a really bad look. In reality, the two of them put together are enough to risk getting fired over; you’re creating disharmony in the workplace.

    So far as taking sick time? I take mine fairly rarely, but do have kids and will take a day (or WFH for a day) for ill kids (not so young that they need constant supervision) or a doctor’s appointment. My philosophy is to take what I need; if I’m really miserable and unable to function reasonably, stay home. If not, go in. Don’t look at it as a system to game; look at it as a benefit you’re offered in good faith to allow for minor illnesses and similar.

  69. This Could Be Me*

    So does the same hold true if you have a coworker that is up to 66 missed “sick” days for the year? This individual routinely misses 2-3 days per occurrence and has only worked full consecutive weeks 5 times this year. It’s annoying and often affects other people’s work, so yes we do talk about it. And most of the non-management staff keep a running tally or spreadsheet.

    1. Louise*

      Yes. They likely have accommodations and it’s absolutely none of your business. If you need more support when the person is out, ask for that. But you don’t get to be the judge and jury of other people’s health needs.

    2. Lana Kane*

      What is the spreadsheet going to accomplish for you? Is it there for any reason other than to fuel gossip around this coworker? I can’t think of any reason that a spreadsheet would be a positive thing, because if someone I manage were to bring me one, I’d be correcting that behavior really quick. As righteous as it may feel in the moment, this isn’t healthy for the team.

      What you can do is approach your manager and ask how to best handle the workload. No recriminations or finger pointing, because, again, you don’t know if the person has an accommodation. So the best look would be to assume that there is one, and bring up the impact on the work in a matter-of-fact way. The thing about an accommodation is that it does have to be reasonable. So it’s important to ask questions about the workload as a way to flag that there is an impact.

    3. Czhorat*

      Same advise. Trust your manager to manage and cut the gossip. Keeping a tally is really childish, and non-productive. It leads to all manner of workplace culture issues and will end up making everyone involved hate going to work every day.

      Also, read through the replies about chronic illnesses; in some ways I’d be MORE undsterdanding of someone who took that much sick time because it would feel liklier to me that they are suffering something serious or chronic. You don’t know. Not knowing, the best thing to do is to be generous and give benefit of the doubt.

    4. Amber Rose*

      That’s just as gross. Stop it. Work flow issues should be brought up with managers, not taken out on sick people.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      So someone is probably physically and/or mentally suffering and you think that gossiping is the answer?

      If it effects your work, you discuss it with your manager. Your manager needs to step up and find a way to make it less painful on the rest of the team. That’s their job. If they don’t, then you need to find new jobs instead of resorting to talking behind someone’s back who’s probably very much in a cruddy situation.

      Most people don’t want to be gone that much. It’s not a pleasure trip. They’re not on a cruise. They’re not being fanned on a beach while being fed snacks. They’re suffering and trying to survive.

      Compassion will get you a lot further in this world than degrading others.

    6. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      That many days is probably FMLA (if you’re in the US). Those would be unpaid, meaning that the coworker is not exactly swanning off thoughtlessly since their pay is impacted, and also mean quite a lot of paperwork to substantiate a medical need for them or a family member.

      And the answer is the same. Butt out. If it’s causing a work problem, raise the work problem with your manager, but if the only problem is you feeling salty, then suck it up and deal.

    7. NW Mossy*

      I have direct experience managing someone in your colleague’s situation, so in some sense, I’m the potential audience for all your tracking and bean-counting.

      You’re better than this, you’re more professional than this, and you’re more compassionate than this. You make a lot of assumptions when you tally – that they’re not committed to the work, that they don’t care about the impact on you, that your management is overly indulgent. Those assumptions are likely far less true in reality than you perceive.

      I see a different perspective. To me, they’re a chronically ill person who still adds a lot of value. When I ask them to own something, they do. When I give them feedback, they listen and act on it. They bring perspective that the group needs to hear. When they are able to work, they’re highly productive, and more so than others with better health. So am I being indulgent? Yes, maybe. But it’s what I’m doing to keep someone on my team despite their health. No regrets.

    8. Lemon Squeezy*

      Yes, it does. Speak with your manager about how it affects your work, and see what you guys can do to remedy that specific issue. The issue isn’t the absences, it’s the effect on your work. You don’t know that person’s life or why they’re out.

    9. This Could Be Me Too*

      I’ve been in the same situation, and he most definitely did not have approval from management nor was he using any of his leave. Even after being told that he needed to be in the office unless he was using sick time or vacation time, he continued coming in for a maximum of 10 hours a week for a full-time job. Our manager thought he’d lose his house if she fired him, so she refused to do anything. You’d better believe some people were tracking his time (not sure if it was in a spreadsheet), and most of us were complaining about him–pretty openly too. I feel no guilt.

      1. Lemon Squeezy*

        And what did tracking his time specifically do for you? Did it improve anything? At that point, the problem isn’t the time, but again, him pushing his work onto others. AND ineffective management, if open complaints about another coworkers personal situations were allowed and not addressed by your manager to you and your coworkers.

        (Also, did you mean to reply to yourself? It kind of comes off as trying to set up an agreeing voice and forgetting to change the username, but I’m going to assume the kinder interpretation where you meant to put it somewhere else.)

        1. This Could Be Me Too*

          Different person, different user name ;-)

          Also, I didn’t track his time. Others did, and they reported him to HR. By that time, I had already left due to the lack of morale in our department because of him.

        1. This Could Be Me Too*

          I’m not sure why you think you get to decide what’s relevant, but I wasn’t replying to the OP; I was replying to the post above, which pertained directly to the OP.

      2. Amelia Pond*

        If management knew but refused to do anything, keeping a tally was extra pointless, because again, they already knew. Bringing up the issue to management and HR is one thing. After that, it’s in their hands.

    10. juliebulie*

      That describes my former coworker, who took care of two parents sick with cancer while undergoing Round 3 with her own cancer. Eventually she went on FMLA, buried both of her parents, then short term disability and then to the hereafter. Yeah, that was “annoying.”

      Please let go of your envy. I cannot emphasize enough just how much of this is none of your motherforking business. I wish your coworker the best of luck, and to you I wish whatever it is that you deserve.

    11. Roller Girl 09*

      I have had a rough year medically and I am on an accommodation. I had a coworker scream about it on the floor when a PTO day request was declined. She was written up for disability harassment. So yes, it is still a bad look no matter how many days they’ve taken.

  70. Nicole Stamas*

    So he takes a sick day every month, but still does a good enough job to get more work than you. Perhaps you’re not getting more work because you’re too busy being a nosy nellie instead of focusing on getting your job done to a quality that would make the higher ups want to assign you more?

  71. BurnBurnBurn*

    This is an aside because I saw a lot of comments mentioning migraines. I used to be a chronic migrain sufferer too, and would take one off sick days for when it gets really bad. My doctor’s only suggestion was to take more painkillers…

    Then I started lifting weights a few years ago and noticed that my migraines were happening less often. Now I include regular strength training in my workouts 2-3 times a week and maybe get a migraine once every 3 months. It’s insane how much better my quality of life is, and I stumbled onto this ‘cure’ randomly. No idea why it works or if this will work for other people, but just thought I’d share in case it helps someone else.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      Diet and exercise help manage symptoms for a lot of things! It helps with my PCOS. Also I felt like Wonder Woman when I could finally add weights to the deadlift bar. Maybe it could also help OP’s attitude. :)

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I got sent to core strength PT because my migraines were triggered by neck pain. Maybe you had a similar trigger, but stumbled upon the cure yourself?

    3. Ginger Baker*

      My migraines stopped almost completely after I got pregnant but uhhhh for obvious reasons, it’s not a solution I recommend people attempt, even if it would work for them! Yours sounds much more easily experiment-able, hah.

  72. MYOB*

    “Dear AAM,

    A little over a year ago, I finally found a job I like that is near to my home, offers flexible benefits including generous sick days, and I’m acknowledged for my good work by being given additional responsibilities. During my negotiation, I disclosed that I have a chronic condition that flares up randomly and manifests as relatively common ‘sick’ symptoms like headaches and stomach illness. They said that it would be fine, and I could use my sick days whenever I need to.

    Of course, with any job, one is still always learning new things. Yesterday, I asked my coworker to show me something on his computer and when he switched screens I briefly saw an excel file titled, “MYOB’s ‘sick’ days”. It was a listing of days that I had called in sick. I was completely horrified that he was tracking my attendance. To be clear, he is not my boss and does not have any supervisory responsibility over me. In fact, he’s been here a lot longer than me, and I think he’s jealous and bitter that I’m given extra projects and he isn’t.

    Of course, I’ve been following the sick leave policy and taking as much as they will allow, even though I often feel terrible many days. It’s a balancing act trying to figure out when I’ll be the ‘worst’ and saving the sick days for then. I get it wrong a lot, sadly.

    Now I’m wondering what to do? Do I have to disclose my illness to my coworker? Should I go to HR? Should I go to his boss and explain what I saw? Should I confront him about this and tell him to mind his own business?

    Thanks for any advice,
    MYOB”

  73. HelenofWhat*

    I used to live with a partner who got sick this regularly. Weird throat things, mostly. Not strep, and he could work from home so it wasn’t that much of an issue. But sometimes he’d have a feverish day and be ok the next day. I just assumed I had the better immune system.

    It wasn’t until I finally talked him into going to a dermatologist for a seemingly unrelated issue that he learned he had an infection that required a long prescription of antibiotics (vs taking them for only a few days as he had before). He stopped getting sick so frequently! This was affecting him for YEARS and he had no idea.

    Also, as someone who suffers from depression, I sometimes take a sick day and blame a vague physical thing because no one wants to tell their manager they’re too depressed to leave bed that day.
    So have some empathy!

  74. SaffyTaffy*

    A family member of mine has Crohn’s Disease and doesn’t want everyone in the world to know. He takes off 1-2 days per month, and may need intermittent FMLA leave in the future. He tells his coworkers that he had a cold, a migraine, or other excuses because the idea of people knowing he has a disease that makes him poop until he faints is embarrassing. His supervisor knows the truth and she’s apparently been supportive because he does good work.

    If he knew someone in his office were doing this I think he would be deeply embarrassed. More than that, he would think the person tracking him has poor judgement and a myopic view of interpersonal relationships.

  75. Amber Rose*

    A sick day isn’t a day off. It’s a day where you’re physically incapable of working for one reason or another. You want an extra 12 days off to not be at work, but this person may be using that 12 days to undergo serious treatments, hug the toilet and vomit, or any number of other miserable things. I have terrible health and a terrible immune system. I would happily work an extra 12 days a year to not have to take as much sick time as I do.

    People like you who just want to abuse the system is what causes employers to give those of us with bad health crap about it all the time, and it’s the reason why using my sick days actually impacts the amount of my bonus each year.

    LW, you’re incredibly selfish and privileged. This is a good time to take a good look at yourself in the mirror and think about whether you like the person looking back at you. I wouldn’t.

  76. Justme, The OG*

    I am the person in my office responsible for leave sheets and I don’t track sick days. OP, you definitely need to stop.

  77. Nini*

    Wow OP. Just… wow. This is awful behavior. If I were your coworker and found out you were doing this, I would be bringing it to the attention of our manager so that you could be reprimanded for it. It’s very far outside the realm of things that are Your Business.

    You say you’re doing it to see “what you can get away with” which honestly is a horrible attitude to have and I think you should examine that more closely. If you’re allowed 12 days of sick leave a year then by all means use them when needed just like your coworker is (for doctors appointments, headaches, mental health, etc.) but there’s no need for this animosity. Have you considered that this attitude towards work might be why your coworker isn’t having issues getting extra work from your supervisors but you are? I really think you are focussing too much on other people being the cause of your problems, and not on things that you can control yourself.

  78. Spek*

    I would be interested in knowing the percentage of letters Alison gets that could be answered with, “Mindja bus’ness!”

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Well that’s from the ones she publishes! Imagine the other ones she gets since she def doesn’t publish them all!

  79. Anon Here*

    Man. Why not just call in sick and go to the beach? Call in sick two days in a row. Chill by the water where no one will see you. Sleep twelve hours a night. Come back refreshed. That would really be better than what’s going on here.

    1. Louise*

      Right? Like if you have the sick days and you never use them… start using them! Go see a movie! Sleep in! Go to the store and buy an entire box of chill pills and take two a day with food or milk! Get a massage!

      1. Anon Here*

        “I’m doing something horrible to see if I can get away with an arguably slightly dishonest thing that people do all the time and that doesn’t affect anyone.” Priorities.

  80. Don*

    “He takes one off every month, exactly the amount we are allocated.”

    It’s fascinating to me that someone looks at this fact and thinks “this person is pushing the envelope to the limit in a morally lacking way” and not “this person needs every one of the limited days they have and are forcing themselves to rally all the other times they are suffering.” Particularly accompanied by the statement that the quantity of work is so low!

  81. Bx3*

    You needlessly track your coworker’s days off that in no way are your place to address, AND you trash talk him with your other coworkers?

    OP needs to realize the “sick” (or, truly sick) guy isn’t the only/biggest problem in that office.

  82. peach*

    So, attitudes like this are one of the reasons why people with chronic health conditions don’t like to share their health information with people. I have a chronic illness that causes chronic pain– some days I wake up feeling like I’ve been hit by a garbage truck and I can barely walk. I call in sick about once a month. And yes, I usually feel a little better the next day and can go into work. Aside from needing to take sick time, I try to be a great employee. I make sure that I am helpful, hardworking, and kind to my co-workers.

    If I found out that my illness was causing my co-workers to trash talk me and seethe with resentment, I would be devastated. It’s really mean-spirited. Living with chronic pain is hard enough. I shouldn’t have to also deal with people judging me and suspecting I’m malingering. You don’t know what’s up with your co-worker, but try to have some empathy. He obviously needs the time off, for whatever reason, and it’s not your job to police his health.

    1. yala*

      One factor for me is anxiety-induced insomnia. I can usually power through a day after a bad night, but when they start to stack, I know I’m going to be useless (at best) at work, and the best thing I can do is to stay home and knock myself out for several hours.

      But “I’m tired/didn’t sleep well” doesn’t sound like a good excuse, and I know plenty of people would sneer at it, so I don’t really volunteer the info.

      I appreciate where I work now, as opposed to my last place, where my boss would grill you and ask why you couldn’t just take tylenol and come in with a sore (possibly strep) throat (and then punish you if you did and the meds made you sleepy).

      1. Anon for this one*

        Ah the application of the “unfit to work through drugs or alcohol” policy! I know it well… (I shouldn’t have been at work at all on those occasions but we had deadlines we Had To Meet Or Else and was chastisted for appearing “antsy”. I asked if I should go home then? – oh hell no, we’ve got a deadline to meet and need you but if you could be a little less ostentatious that’d be greeeat.)

  83. Xxxx*

    At my work for a large corporation, vacation days are meant to give you a break from work. Sick days are meant for doctor appointments and illness for you or those you need to care for. I’ve never understood why calling a day you feel you need a break from work a “mental health day” would be charged to “sick” rather than “vacation” – it just seems like a way to skirt the definition and take more time off than you negotiated for (unless you’re really going to visit a mental health specialist). I’ve gone to work many times when I’d rather stay home because I didn’t want to use a vacation day – but I wasn’t sick (except sick of working) so couldn’t morally charge it to sick leave. Our company handbook distinguishes between sick and vacation leave and specifically calls out the circumstances when you can use sick leave – and it doesn’t include “mental health day.”

    1. Nini*

      Taking a “mental health day” is more than just feeling you need a break from work, and it’s not a “vacation”. For someone suffering from depression or anxiety, it can mean a day that you literally can’t get out of bed, or that you know you’d just be useless if you did try to go in to work because you can’t focus. I’m sorry that your workplace doesn’t have a good system in place to care for mental health.

      1. remizidae*

        That’s not actually how people commonly use the term. A “mental health day” is a random day off. If you’re truly struggling with mental illness, use sick leave–if you just would like time off, that’s what vacation time is for.

        1. JimmyJab*

          That’s purely your opinion perhaps based on experience. Nini has a different take, so telling them they are wrong is not helpful?

      2. Koala dreams*

        That’s not the definition I’ve seen. Most of the time people talk about taking a mental health day when they are exhausted, and it’s not related to any illness. If you couldn’t get out of bed, it would just be called a sick day, no matter if the illness is mental or physical.

        It’s great that you are trying to change the meaning of a mental health day to something that makes more sense (a sick day for mental health reasons), but I’m afraid you are still in the minority on this.

    2. CheeryO*

      Vacation days are pre-planned and sick days are unplanned. In most workplaces, if you get your work done and don’t call out when there’s anything super important happening, you can absolutely take 1-2 mental health days per year, especially if you don’t use much sick time for actual illnesses or appointments. It’s not a moral failing; it’s a form of self-care that will ultimately make you a more productive worker. Everyone needs to sleep in and veg out from time to time.

    3. CheeryO*

      I will say since most people are assuming that the absences are legitimate – even if they aren’t, it doesn’t matter! Clearly he’s a good performer, since he’s getting good assignments. He’s the one who’s going to suffer if he needs an unexpected surgery or comes down with a prolonged illness and doesn’t have any sick time banked. He’s not getting any benefit that the LW is not also entitled to, assuming that the time gets banked and/or paid out in some way (and I sort of assume that it does, since 12 days is a lot, and everyone would be mysteriously ill all the time if it didn’t). It’s an eyes-on-your-own-paper situation regardless of the reason for the absences.

    4. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

      This is where I fall too, but that may be because my company pays for all overtime. If you’re doing unpaid overtime, I can see why a company might want to be more generous about those days in exchange for that.

      1. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

        Oh, and to clarify, I’m not talking about time off for mental health conditions, etc.; I’m talking about when you just feel that you need a break from work.

    5. nora*

      I am saying this with all the kindness I can muster. It. Is. None. Of. Your. Business. How. Other. People. Use. Their. Leave. Stop.

    6. Lemon Squeezy*

      Handbook aside, vacation days are generally expected to be known and shared in advanced, while sick days are more random.

      1. Xxxx*

        Actually, at the 3 big corporations I work for, this was not true and all had basically the same rules for sick leave and vacation. If you had done all your work and could take an unplanned and unscheduled day off, you were considered professional enough to make that decision and charge it appropriately.

        It is demoralizing to me to follow the rules, and then have my co-workers tell me they had taken a mental health day and spent it at the beach – of course, i don’t know how they really charge as it is not my business, but their inference in conversation is that it is charged as sick.

        1. Lemon Squeezy*

          Maybe this is regional? I’ve also bounced around a few large corporations, admittedly all based in my state (SE USA), and the general implication was if you knew you were going to take a day off for something nonmedical, give some headway to your team so that you can make sure things are covered. Whereas sometimes it doesn’t matter if there’s an important meeting that day, if a person is sick, they’re sick, no warning. It’s part of dealing with people.

          1. Xxxx*

            I’ve worked SE, midwest and California – basically the same all three. If you were sick, you were supposed to call in sick, and if you knew your schedule and could stay home without impacting your team you were supposed to call in a vacation day. But always those few that would call in a mental health day when they just felt like goofing off. And I have to say that most companies were pretty good about sick leave – one even initially didn’t have a written limit on how much sick leave you could take so that if you got a serious illness, they could let you take as much time as you needed with no bad ramifications.

    7. Louise*

      Do you know what mental health is?? Saying that someone needs to see a mental health specialist if they’re taking a mental health day is the same as saying someone needs to bring in a doctors note because they’re out trying to nip a cold in the bud. I take sick days for my illness — my mental illness.

      Like, that’s great that you’ve never had mental health problems so severe that it’s never been debilitating, but there are a LOT of us who do on a daily basis. This kind of stance only further stigmatizes those who suffer from mental illness as lazy/slackers/not trying hard enough and make it harder for us to ask for the help we need and deserve to be well.

      1. Xxxx*

        I don’ remember saying any of the things you ascribed to me in your first paragraph. Maybe the lesson here is that there should be a better term than “mental health day” to describe when you take a day off because you just don’t feel like coming in – maybe call it a vacation day? Then people who are taking the day off because of mental health would just call in a sick day – they wouldn’t need to describe it as anything more than that.

        1. Louise*

          “it just seems like a way to skirt the definition and take more time off than you negotiated for (unless you’re really going to visit a mental health specialist)” I mean, you literally did though. And regardless, people who don’t have diagnosed mental illnesses still sometimes need to recover! Whether it’s burnout from a hard project, or an non-work related stressful life event, sometimes people just need to chill.

          I think the lesson here is to mind your own business and stop policing how other people use the benefits and compensation they’re entitled to.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Maybe you should re-read your own comment instead of trying to rely on memory then? You literally said that going to see a mental health specialist would be the only valid reason to use a sick day as a mental health day.

          And FYI if someone feels so crappy they can’t even make it in to work, that is NOT a vacation. Even if what’s making them feel crappy isn’t a physical illness.

    8. Anon Here*

      I’ve always used “mental health day” to refer to taking a sick day when you feel so insanely stressed, emotional, or overwhelmed with other stuff going on in your life that you would be a mess at work. It’s somewhere in between just needing a break and having a mental health diagnosis. You genuinely feel awful, you could come to work, but you would really benefit health-wise from a day of rest. Only to be used when you’re caught up on work and you haven’t used many of your sick days.

  84. yala*

    Wow.
    Just.
    Wow.

    Yeah, there’s a lot I’m not saying because I can’t figure out how to say it while still being kind, but wow, this is all manner of levels of Not Okay.

    It’s not really ANY of your business.

    He could have a chronic illness. He could have depression or insomnia, or any number of things that he doesn’t feel like sharing because 1) it is not your business and 2) he’s all too aware of people like you who gossip, and who would undoubtedly think that whatever his reason isn’t “good enough” (a common song with depression, which can just be…awful, really).

    Stop it.

    And stop GOSSIPING about him, sheesh.

    He knows. I promise you he knows.

  85. bookartist*

    “Am I a sucker?”

    Well, you are wasting your limited time on this earth on something that doesn’t matter. You’re on the right track, asking for advice, and I hope you keep walking this path. At the end is being at peace with how you spend your days at work.

    1. Marthooh*

      You’re on the right track, asking for advice, and I hope you keep walking this path.

      I was planning to give a much harsher answer to the same question, but yours is better, bookartist. Please, OP, pay attention to this!

    2. fposte*

      Yes, this is such a good response!

      OP, I genuinely do understand the impulse to make sure somebody else isn’t illicitly getting more than they’re supposed to (I was a youngest sibling, so it was a survival method :-)). But ultimately it’s better for the world if a little extra gets provided than if people get overpoliced on getting what they’re entitled to, and your spreadsheet gets you nothing but a bad time, no matter why the co-worker’s out.

  86. Parenthetically*

    Stop. Badmouthing. Your. Coworker.

    Jeezy creezy, the SECOND most egregious thing about this is the petty-ass gossiping behind this guy’s back about his sick leave. Y’all ALL need a big dose of Grow-Up.

  87. EnfysNest*

    In addition to all the obvious problems everyone has already discussed, it occurrs to me that they’re also potentially scaring their other coworkers off from using sick leave if they need to. If someone is feeling under the weather and are considering whether or not to take leave to recover or to push through a miserable day, knowing that their coworker has a history of criticizing others for taking “too much” sick leave could likely contribute to their decision and make them come in against their better judgment to ensure they don’t become the next target. With this as the office culture, it makes everyone else more likely to come in to work when they feel terrible or when they might be contagious.

    1. yala*

      Was just thinking this. The problem with gossiping about coworkers with coworkers is…well, you know that when you’re not around they’re gonna talk about YOU, right?

  88. Chellie207*

    While I agree with AAM’s advice and the general “stay in your lane” feedback, I want to send some compassion to the LW. Although it is *possible* that the coworker has an actual medical problem, it is also possible that the coworker is a lazy sack and that LW has a real management problem. It certainly easier and less appropriate to complain about the manifestation of that problem (the coworker) than to investigate the cause (does the management tolerate sloppy work habits from some while not noticing professionalism from others, what else might be going on that is causing the LW to react so strongly to this situation, etc). So, LW, please consider looking at the bigger picture of your work life to see if there’s more to the story.
    I used to have a coworker who was enabled to do this. She reliably used every hour of a generous sick time benefit. One time she called out because her “mother’s cat is sick”. It was none of my business and, while I was grateful to not be her, it could be absolutely enraging.
    Then she was gone, and I spent 18 months cleaning up the mess. Which was fairly horrible, but at least while it was going on I didn’t spend even one minute wondering how many hours she wasn’t going to be there on a given week.

    1. Don*

      From the actual letter writer:

      “After 14 months of him doing this, it doesn’t seem like an issue with my supervisors. As a matter of fact, he seems to get special treatment and extra projects, which I would also love. This job is so slow! I’ve specifically asked for more to do but they only give it to him (not the other two I work with, either).”

      Sounds more like he’s cleaning up other people’s mess and doing it with one day a month tied behind his back.

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s why I really don’t get why she’s complaining. It’s not like she’s bitter because she has to pick up his slack. It sounds like envy.

  89. Lexi Lynn*

    I don’t get sick days – only a combined time off bucket. I’ve taken 9 sick days so far this year. OP seems to think sick days are fun, but if I’m lucky, I can spend the day sleeping the headache/dizziness/fever away. On bad days I take naps on the bathroom floor in between episodes. And sometimes it takes multiple days to recover, but others I go from a high fever (104) and too dizzy to read to perfectly fine the next day.

  90. Delta Delta*

    Not clear – is this the kind of work where you get sick days, and if you don’t use them you lose them? Why not use them? In fact, everyone ought to use them. Schedule appointments, go to the dentist, whatever. If you get the days, use them.

  91. Aggretsuko*

    Being out sick once a month? Feh. I used to work with someone who called out sick every single Monday (or if we had Monday off, Tuesday). For every vacation she took, she called in sick just as long as she’d been on vacation for when she was supposed to come back. But clearly she had some kind of health issues that meant she shouldn’t be working, and eventually quit because of that.

    Also, nobody’s going to do anything about your spreadsheet, so why bother.

  92. I edit everything*

    Am I reading this letter right and seeing that the coworker OP is tracking is *senior* to her? The coworker was taking sick days when OP was hired, and has used more sick days in the year+ since OP was hired than she’s used in her entire career. So…wouldn’t it make sense that a senior employee/team member would get the special projects that might require more experience and specialized knowledge?

    And OP and her clique are trash talking someone they should be learning from. Someone who could be a professional mentor. Someone who may well end up being OP’s supervisor or boss at some point.

    And wouldn’t it make sense that their management is well aware of coworker’s sick time usage and be OK with it or have some accommodation on file? The sheer gall of noticing a senior employee’s sick time usage from day one, as a new employee, is mind blowing.

    1. Hedgehug*

      No, you are not reading the letter correct. Nowhere does OP say the coworker is senior to her in position, just that he has been working there longer.

      1. I edit everything*

        That’s what I meant. Has more seniority. Senior in terms of time at the job. Bad phrasing on my part, but still relevant, I think.

  93. bubba g*

    My late father had advanced Alzheimer’s, but also suffered from a congenital kidney illness that necessitated him going on dialysis the last 10 years of his life. The first 8 years, he could take himself, but then he had sudden onset, advanced Alzheimer’s requiring someone to sit with him while he did dialysis, lest he take to tubes out in the middle of treatment (yes, he did that). My mother (who had myriad health issues) took him three times a week, and had to sit with him for the HOURS of dialysis due to his Alzheimer’s. As we could, my brother and I would take days off work to sit with dad. I didn’t broadcast this widely at work, just took some of my accrued time as I could to give my poor mother a break.
    Their combined health challenges took a lot of energy and time to manage, and we all did the best we could. Work was a refuge from talking with and dealing with these issues, which were quite sad considering how strong and smart my dad had been. I was fairly quiet about the issues, because it was so sad. If someone had been keeping track of my time without knowing what was going on, I would have been gutted. When the family and doctor decided to end dialysis, meaning death in 3-14 days, right before Christmas, my co-workers told me not to worry about a thing and they would take care of lesson plans, do grades, etc.
    That’s how to be a co-worker. Assume the best and offer help. Keeping “score” brings nothing but bitterness and unhappiness.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      F’ing Alzheimer’s.

      I’m so sorry you had to go through that and I’m relieved that your coworkers were supportive of your needs.

      This kind of story and having dealt with people being ill and somewhat silently suffering is why I’m so offended on everyones behalf when they’re accused of “lying” and are tracked like wayward naughty kids.

  94. Lemon Squeezy*

    OP, I forgot where I heard this, but there’s a phrase that sounds like “The only reason you should be looking in another person’s bowl is to make sure they have enough.” Run your own race, OP. Being the office gossip and nitpicker is a bad look.

    Let’s assume your coworker is a liar, and in fact spends those sick days at a luxurious spa, getting pedicures and sipping martinis. That does, what, for you exactly? Are you directly covering his work? Is it significantly and negatively affecting your ability to perform your job? Considering you mention he gets extra projects, it doesn’t seem like that’s the case.

    Gossiping is a hard habit to break, but you should try, OP. If you want to be a person with extra projects and responsibilities, act like a person who can be trusted with them.

    1. Jennifer*

      “Let’s assume your coworker is a liar, and in fact spends those sick days at a luxurious spa, getting pedicures and sipping martinis…” and laughing an evil laugh like a villain in an 80’s soap opera.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      “That does, what, for you exactly?” — there’s no direct impact but there is the concept of equity and it doesn’t seem equitable if the co-worker gets an additional 12 days a year “at a luxurious spa, getting pedicures and sipping martinis” or similar but the OP doesn’t get that opportunity.

      “Is it significantly and negatively affecting your ability to perform your job?” — you didn’t include the word ‘directly’ to which the answer is no, but I think in morale and longer term effects it would definitely have an effect!

      1. Lemon Squeezy*

        Ugh, sorry to respond in two comments, accidentally moused too early. If the coworker in question is in fact performing well enough to be trusted with extra projects, what would those longer term effects be? And how does a person using a policy in place that OP also seems to have access to a morale buster?

      2. Jennifer*

        The OP DOES have the opportunity. She could take a mental health day and go to the spa. She chooses to come to work and track this guy’s absences instead.

      3. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

        Agreed. LW should be aware that there are lots of genuine reasons for needing sick time that she’s not privy to, but if a colleague is using sick time in bad faith (as opposed to using it in good faith and going to the spa because not all things that warrant sick leave cause you to be bedridden) then it is inequitable and it is shitty if your choices are either “put up with bad-faith behaviour or act in bad faith yourself”.

        1. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

          And I recognise that there’s no evidence at all that LW’s colleague is acting in bad faith; I’m talking about the analogy here.

        2. Lemon Squeezy*

          I guess my point is, the OP did not make an argument that the coworker’s absences were effecting(affecting?) them negatively, so I fail to see what she had to be putting up with? If the problem was “this coworker I work closely with is absent regularly and it is causing me to be backed up on work and/or picking up his slack,” that’s definitely an issue I can see–not because of the absence, but because it is negatively effecting the coworker. Given that she mentioned that work is incredibly slow, I don’t think that’s a reasonable inference to make.

    3. Anon Here*

      Job = what they want you to do in exchange for money they are paying you.

      If you’re uncertain or concerned about something, ask about it. But, ultimately, you either do what they ask in a professional manner or you leave. If someone else is getting more projects and also doing things that bother you, either ignore it and do your own work or leave. There are lots of options. There are many jobs and sources of income out there.

  95. Dysfunctional Deb*

    I’m guessing OP doesn’t know this tracking thing is a bad thing. I know: That sounds dumb. But maybe he or she learned this sort of thing from a parent. It happens. As someone who spent a lifetime doing stupid things, I can identify.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think that it could be taking “document everything!” to that extreme as well.

      Especially since they’re thinking they can use this data as leverage if they’re ever counseled on taking time off if they decide to fake sick once a month and follow this guy’s “lead”.

  96. Jennifer*

    Also, is he volunteering the reason why he was sick, or are you asking for a reason? “I needed a sick day,” is a sufficient reason.

  97. Qwerty*

    Wow. Just….wow.

    Has it ever occurred to you that you might be responsible for your manager not trusting you with more work? You say that you are trying to find out what you “can get away with” and spend your time maliciously gossiping about your coworker. Why on Earth would your manager want to give you more responsibilities? You still haven’t mastered the task of treating your coworker with basic respect.

    Not one of those reasons sounds suspicious as one-day uses of sick leave, especially since you obviously aren’t friendly enough with your coworker to know how well he is truly feeling in the days before/after his absences. If I take a day off for a migraine, odds are that I’m struggling for days before or after and just hiding it with a smile. But even if he was giving reasons like “unicorns are on my lawn” or “mercury is in retrograde”, It Is Not Your Business. This is not impacting you, so stay out of it.

    It sounds more like you and your coworkers are just jealous. You want the work he’s doing. You want his time away from the office, but without actually having his symptoms. So you trash him. You can’t accept that maybe he earned the projects that he’s working on, so you are finding superficial ways to tear him down rather than looking inward at what you could do to improve. When one person is doing “extra work” and the other three people don’t have much to do, it sounds more like work would be available if you could handle it. Are you sure there’s nothing about the quality of the work that you are creating that makes your manager not want to give you additional responsibilities? What does your manager say when you ask for more work?

  98. Karyn*

    I know for a fact that there was a group of people at my office (the other secretaries, specifically) who would gossip and complain about the number of absences I had while I was there. I overheard them in the break room once when I was about to walk in. Something about “Karyn was out again yesterday” followed by “I wish I could take that many sick days.” It was really disheartening and colored the way I looked at them for a long time. What they didn’t know was that I have chronic migraines and had FMLA coverage in place to protect my need to stay in bed and sleep them off while under the influence of barbiturates. Thankfully all my supervisors were clued into it and were kind, supportive, and didn’t look at me as a slacker – when I was at work, I was AT WORK, and my work didn’t affect any of them (one of them covered for me when needed, but she was a good friend and knew the situation). But knowing that my coworkers were making judgments like that made it hard for me to want to work with them.

  99. A Simple Narwhal*

    When I read the title I thought it was going to be that the coworker was out every week, or some other large amount of time that was affecting the OP. (There was an old letter where a coworker was bouncing between crisises/health issues and the LW always had to cover, and then got sass from the person about not covering all of their work while they were out.) But one day a month? That’s hardly a noticeable amount, I’m not sure I’d even pick up that there was a pattern if one of my coworkers was doing it.

    1. Anon Here*

      When I read the title, I assumed the OP was the person’s manager or someone else with the authority to do this (HR, etc).

      I’m not a saint, but I can’t imagine doing something like this.

  100. CoveredInBees*

    This stood out to me: “After 14 months of him doing this, it doesn’t seem like an issue with my supervisors. As a matter of fact, he seems to get special treatment and extra projects, which I would also love. This job is so slow! I’ve specifically asked for more to do but they only give it to him (not the other two I work with, either).”

    OP, please focus your energies here. Talk to management about what you could be doing to get more work. Do they have concerns about your current work product or maybe you need to develop specific skills? I had an internship where I was constantly juggling assignments while other interns were hanging out in the conference room, bored. It was because I had experience in a specialized subsection of what the organization did and for other work, I was quick to turn around accurate work.

  101. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    I get migraines and I just want to point something out. Migraines can be debilitating (I’ve had those, the sort where in the space of 20 minutes you go from healthy to lying down in the silent dark with a heatpack over your eyes wishing for death as the room spins around you), but they are not always debilitating. I often get ones that are uncomfortable, or unpleasant, but not debilitating, and some of the milder ones can be cured by OTC meds.

    I am saying this because I’d hate to see a migraine sufferer with less extreme symptoms think that it’s not a real migraine if it isn’t excruciating, and thus they would not benefit from migraine treatments. Migraines come in all shapes and sizes, from silent migraines with aura symptoms but no pain, to multi-day trials of pain and vomiting so severe they require hospitalization. I suffered for years having frequent dull headaches and weird body aches and a touchy stomach and random insomnia, before I put two and two together as to what the root cause was and was able to get medication that was more helpful in preventing and treating them, which really improved my quality of life.

    1. Gidget*

      Absolutely. There are some migraines where I can be semi-functional. Some I absolutely cannot. They are both migraines just with very different severities. And sometimes the exact same migraine can very in intensity so I can be functional until I am not. I had many years of not-so-bad migraines that turned into into very bad migraines which is when I figured out they were truly migraines. Now that I know that it is much easier to handle the ones I get. Also easier to figure out how to handle things like unexpected sick days.

  102. pally*

    Yeah, it is hard to see someone taking off when you can’t. I can understand feeling like it’s not fair.
    But you never know what someone is going through. It may be all he can do to just show up to work when he does show up.

    If you are interested in doing special projects, like your co-worker gets to do, why not offer your assistance to him for one of these projects? Can he funnel off a couple of tasks to you -that might be delayed because he’s gotten sick that day? It might make things a littler easier for him too.

    See, down the line, when you approach management for a special project, you can show that you’ve assisted co-worker doing task X and task Y pertaining to special projects he’s been assigned. That might help convince management that you can tackle a special project of your own. Maybe co-worker can be your ally for getting those special projects given to you.

      1. pally*

        You are correct.
        I SHOULD have written “It is hard to see someone taking off when you FEEL like you can’t”

        Better?

  103. empress_of_forever*

    “This job is so slow! I’ve specifically asked for more to do but they only give it to him (not the other two I work with, either).”
    “I talk with my two other coworkers and we all kind of trash-talk about how much he calls in sick, so I’m not the only one who notices.”

    Hey, OP, read these two sentences again and have a think about what the connection here could possibly be. You spend your work time tracking the sick days of another co-worker and trash talking said coworker with your other two coworkers. You think, maybe, the reason you’re not getting extra responsibilities could be that your manager has eyes and ears and is giving the stuff involving more responsibility to the person who DOESN’T spend their time at work trash talking their coworkers and spending time on personal projects instead of their actual work?

    Just a thought.

  104. palomar*

    OP, you seem to think that not taking sick time is a virtue for which you should be praised, and that your coworker’s single absence each month is something to be outraged over. Why? Did you spend a long time prior to this job working in toxic workplaces where you were shamed for using your sick time? Do you have a habit of coming in to work even when you could and should be staying home, because you think that it’s important to show management that in your life, work takes priority over your own health or that of your coworkers?

    I would encourage you to make some changes to the way you view the use of sick time. For one thing, it’s part of your total compensation package. For another, it is completely legitimate use of sick time to take a mental health day now and then, but work culture in so many countries is so toxic that employees often fear being honest about their need for time off because they’re certain someone is watching them and judging them (*clears throat pointedly*). And for a third thing, if you have a habit of coming in to work with a contagious illness because you think it makes you seem more valuable to the company… knock that off immediately. That’s how the flu became an epidemic at my company several years back — a few employees who should have stayed home instead came to work out of a misguided sense of duty, spreading the illness to about 40 other people. It was an utter nightmare, and it could have been prevented if people would have JUST. STAYED. HOME.

    1. Miranda DeVille*

      @Palomar – YES to your suggestion to please stay home when you have the flu.
      It is a ridiculous “old school” mentality that says you must prove your commitment by showing up no matter how contagious or sick you may be. I had a boss once who was so holier-than-thou about this that she came in even with pneumonia. It was incredibly disturbing to many of us who were also afraid of catching what she had.

      Not to mention, many have family members who are at high risk of complications from flu. We can all help by minimizing others’ risk.

      Managers who can’t tolerate people working from home, when you KNOW they can get their work done from anywhere, knock it off. Treat people like adults and you might be pleased with the results!

    2. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, this stood out to me too — coworker has used ~14 days of sick leave since OP started at this job, and it’s more than OP has taken in TWENTY YEARS in the workforce? I mean, almost sick one day in 18 months and at no other time, so either OP is a major outlier or goes to work under the weather several times a year.

      Truly, OP, stay home when you have a blistering headache instead of popping four advils and suffering through it. And DEFINITELY stay home when you are contagious. There are no prizes in adult life for perfect attendance.

  105. !*

    OP is putting their energies in the wrong area, and what you put out into the universe is what you will get back. Delete the Excel spreadsheet, get out of your cubicle (and your head), and open yourself up to those juicy projects.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      OP has tried to “scrub in” on those projects, but it’s not only OP but also the other 2 “unfavored” colleagues who are being given grunt work while the colleague who is the subject of the question gets all the good projects. It seems like their mutual manager is unequally (I’m not saying ‘inequitably’) assigning the good projects, with no stated motivation.

  106. Miranda DeVille*

    OP, what you’re doing is weirdly obsessive and creepy.

    I don’t see you mentioning that anyone has concerns about this colleague’s performance, therefore I conclude he’s getting a lot of work done even with one day out per month. Perhaps you can learn something from him.

    Perhaps you don’t get these assignments you covet because they already know you are petty, you waste time gossiping, and you are tracking others’ activity when it’s not your place. You do realize that your computer is company property and the existence of this workbook may already be known to management?

    Given the amount of effort you’ve put into this little project of yours, you probably come across as petty and weird in other ways, which may be giving management pause about you as someone they can trust.

    Maybe if you put all that energy into identifying a way that you could add value to this team or company, you’d get some better assignments. Or maybe it’s you who needs to move along and find something that is more interesting.

    In any case: People are entitled to medical privacy in the workplace. It’s a law and everything.

  107. House Tyrell*

    I’m sure your manager is aware of the trash-talking and maybe that’s why you and your coworkers get less special projects than him. Also, consider offering assistance to him instead of trashing him and then you can point to that as experience on larger projects that you want.

    And delete the whole spreadsheet and MYOB. This is pretty gross behavior. Two of my coworkers with different roles than me commented on me being out of the office more than them and coming in “late”/”leaving early” because they didn’t understand that my manager role had me offsite for different client meetings. I was livid that they were tracking my time. And I’d be livid if one of my employees was doing this to their coworker as well.

  108. QEire*

    At a previous toxic job, I was dealing with a chronic illness that resulted in me being out of the office quite a bit. I had worked with my supervisor, and we were able to work things out. The week of Thanksgiving one year, my car happened to break down. Because of the short week, and the expense of a rental and/or cabs, my supervisor and I agreed that I would work from home.

    Now, at this time I had recently (like, the week before) taken on most of the job duties of a fired employee. In all the chaos, I had forgotten to have someone cover it, and it did involve some extra work for my coworkers. My supervisor brought it to my attention, and I personally apologized to the people it directly affected, and we made a plan so that this wouldn’t happen again.

    That night, I receive an email from a coworker who was a) not my supervisor and b) not remotely affected by the issue. that outlined in great detail just how precisely I screwed up, along with dictates about how I was to behave in the future. He copied the entire department on this multipage diatribe.

    When I confronted him about it, his excuse was that, I “never” come to work, and that if I just showed up, he wouldn’t have to do things like this. He also gave me the, “I didn’t realize you were so sensitive” line.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      And nobody who was CC’ed on this went to HR on your behalf?

      I would have been running up every flag pole and demanding this dudes head on a platter.

      We’d fire this piece of trash for this nonsense.

      1. QEire*

        Sadly, the toxic phone call was coming from inside the house. He got a talking to, but that was it. He’d been there for 30 some odd years, and was apparently valuable. HR was worse than useless. I’d gone to them about sexual harassment about a year before (guy cornered me in the mail room, and tried to kiss me following an office party). He got fired, I got his work, and HR said if I had a problem with that, I should “start considering my options.” Note, this is a different termination than the one mentioned above.

        The good news is, I got laid off about six months later and found a much better job where people are normal, plus a reasonable severance. He’s still there, making others miserable. I assume still making judgments about other people’s health needs.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I know it’s too late now because statutes of limitations.

          But if this ever frigging happens again, run, don’t walk to file an EEOC claim for harassment and retaliation. They fired him and it could probably be something worth sniffing out by a lawyer if it would be classified as retaliation for dumping his job on you after the fact. That sounds like they did it on purpose to get rid of you and that’s illegal. I forget the name right now, so tired…but there’s a name for stacking duties on top of someone to effectively get them to quit because they reported illegal behavior.

          On top of your chronic illness…that sounds like they’re begging for the EEOC to eat their faces. But sadly someone has to report it to them.

  109. yllis*

    Maybe theyre not giving the special projects to the OP because a special project of “butting into someone’s personal business” hasnt come up yet. Im sure they’ll give the OP a call when it does.

  110. Boom*

    I could be the person OP is keeping track of. I’ve taken more sick days this last year then is probably considered normal. While I was physically sick for a number of them, a lot was due to mental health issues I’ve been having. My company isn’t mental-health day friendly and so it was the only way I could cope at the time.
    You don’t know someone’s circumstances.

  111. Monday*

    This sounds familiar. Wasn’t there a letter to AAM from someone whose coworker was tracking her sick days, and she saw the spreadsheet on their computer?

    1. MistOrMister*

      The one I’m thinking of, one coworker insisted that everyone in the department give them their leave schedule so they could track their days off. Apparently just for their own nosiness and pleasure. I cant remember if that OP opted out but apparently no,one else had a problem with it.so weird

  112. Lemon Squeezy*

    Also, OP, as someone who also had a job with WAYYYY too much downtime to be comfortable, focus on personal development! See if there are any committees you can volunteer to help with, or trainings you can sign up for during the emptier times. It’ll demonstrate initiative, build up your skill set, and keep you from being bored.

  113. Catabodua*

    I understand the impulse. We had a person who had every the dog ate my homework excuse in the book and we all got so tired of it. So, I really, really get the annoyance and frustration and gossiping.

    But, as others have said, it’s best to MYOB and treat this as something that you can’t control and have to stop worrying about.

  114. hbc*

    I think I’ve hit this here before, but: I wish people would stop thinking about sick leave as a benefit they lost out on if they don’t take it all. It’s one thing to broaden your view of how you can use it to improve your health (mental health day, going to get a new glasses prescription, getting a massage, etc), but it’s not intended for you to use like PTO. Otherwise, it would be PTO to use as you please.

    Most workplaces put some trust in their employees that they’re following the policies and not trying to max out all potential benefits. Unless you want them to start demanding a doctor’s note for sick leave or a family tree and death certificate for bereavement leave, just congratulate yourself for being lucky enough to not need it and moral enough to not fake the need.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      At my previous job, it *was* PTO to use as we pleased. All days in one bucket. I miss that.

  115. Coldbrewinacup*

    Oh, OP…*sigh*
    I’ve been there. I know the frustration of when it appears that your coworkers are gaming the system. It’s all so unfair and you work so hard and…

    But this really isn’t your business, and you are working on assumptions that may not be true. And you’re causing yourself unnecessary stress by tracking your coworker this way. The best thing to do is let your manager handle it and cut yourself a break. Stop policing your coworker and you might find yourself feeling less stressed and happier.

  116. anon4this*

    IMO favoritism is just part of the workforce in many cases. Humans are incredibly flawed and often our biases toward certain employees create favoritism.
    I’d try a different approach if I were you. I would try to befriend the sickly coworker. The hope being that you find out if he has a chronic condition (which explains the constant stream of absences) or if he’s maybe friends with the right people (nepotism) or doing something differently than ya’ll (special skills) to warrant extra work and special projects. In whichever case, copy him. Make the connections and then show you can succeed better (because you won’t be out sick all the time like him).
    Good luck with this.

    1. Anon Here*

      Or do something outside of work to advance your career. Focus on the options you have and things that are within your control.

  117. specks*

    Wow, OP, instead of being grateful for your amazing health, you spend your time dumping on someone who’s not as lucky? I really hope you realize after everyone’s responses what a horrid, unkind thing that is to do. Some of us would kill to not have to take sick days off for chronic conditions to spend the day balled up in pain. And maybe your boss assigns this person more work because despite being absent once a month, they have their priorities straight — i.e. not spending time being resentful of others for not being as fortunate (and trashing a coworker for being sick with others, too!). Stop this toxic behavior now, you’ll be a much better person and employee for it in the long run.

  118. DataGirl*

    As a person with chronic illnesses (migraines, IBD, fibromyalgia, idopathic hypersomnia, multiple food allergies, sinus problems, and more) let me just share that it is possible to be sick A LOT and for a variety of reasons depending on what is flaring up that day. If his managers are fine with it and he’s getting his work done then what business of it is yours how often he calls out?

  119. MoopySwarpet*

    The only thing I would find suspicious is if every sick day was taken on a Friday or Monday and he came back with a fresh tan . . . otherwise, be glad you don’t need to take so many sick days.

    1. Louise*

      This is super anecdotal, but I know someone who had Lupus and absolutely needed multiple days of rest to fully recover so they would often take a Monday or Friday off to have that three day stretch. No tan to be seen, but still, all the more reason to myob — you never know what people are going through.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      For a lot with chronic illnesses, flare ups come at the end of a hard tiresome week. So making it four days, by Friday things start breakdown. Then as Louise mentions, it can take 3 days instead of 2 to bounce back.

      Heck I’m pretty healthy and if I have a hard week, I find myself getting sick on a Friday afternoon as my body is “winding down” and usually I’m better by Monday but not always. So you call in on Monday because you need an extra day.

  120. kali*

    Personally, I have two FMLA-qualifying disabilities plus two more chronic conditions (could qualify for FMLA but I haven’t put in the paperwork) that can potentially cause me to miss work. Two of the conditions are socially stigmatized enough that I’m more-or-less required to lie about the exact reasons I’m missing time, too. I am fortunate in that I work for a university, so I have lots more sick time than 12 days a year. But I almost always miss at *least* a day a month (plus more to the regular doctor’s visits needed to keep me from having flare-ups) even though you’d look at me and think I’m perfectly healthy. I try very hard to minimize the impact on productivity and my coworkers and would be so devastated to discover that a colleague had been resentfully tracking my time off.

    LW, if your coworker’s time off is actually causing you trouble, maybe talk to him (or if you can’t do so constructively and politely, his manager) about strategies for reducing the negative impact when he has to take sick leave. Otherwise, stop, stop, stop what you’re doing and re-evaluate your general level of empathy for others.

  121. Luna*

    As a migraine-sufferer, please do not think that taking one day off for migraine is somehow an indication of faking it. When I have migraines, it generally is a one-day thing, where the only thing I can do to fix it is take some medicine, put a cold pillow on my head or under my neck and try to sleep. I’m capable of working the next day, though I might be taking basic painkillers to take the edge of the rest of the headache off or seem more tired, in general.

    1. Zap R.*

      My vision and speech go wacky and can go wacky *very suddenly.* So not only does it make it impossible to do my client-facing job but there’s no reliable way I can plan ahead for it. Sometimes I get an aura and can head it off at the pass with coffee and Tylenol and other times I need to go home immediately. I’m certain people think I fake them but that’s just how mine seem to work.

    2. Frea*

      I sometimes wonder if my bosses think I’m just using a migraine as an excuse to sleep in sometimes. I’m lucky in that my meds work quickly, but those 1-2 hours it takes are sheer misery. It’s just easier for me to be asleep during that bit. So if I wake up with a migraine, I immediately take drugs, text my boss, and pass out as quick as I can. It would be preferable to take the whole day, but I got dinged for using too much sick time (missed out on part of a raise) a couple years back thanks to a surgery. So now I try make it in by 11 a.m. and avoid people because the migraine hangover reduces all verbal filters.

      The people who scoff that those with migraines are faking it have never had a migraine, and it shows.

      1. Zap R.*

        You missed out on a raise because you had to take time of for surgery? Jesus Christ. Your work sucks.

        1. Frea*

          I got short term disability for the recovery, but I was sick A LOT in the months leading up to the surgery (hence the surgery). I did end up getting the raise later after we had a bunch of layoffs. So that bit was nice, but everything else not so much.

  122. Earthwalker*

    I feel like I know the OP’s coworker and their manager. I struggled with hall-pass level strictness on attendance while my peer was extremely often late or absent without notice. She got all the great assignments while no work came my way. I was tied to my desk for ten hours a day bored to death except when she was AWOL and I covered for whatever duty she had left hanging. Of course, like the OP, I was up to here with frustration over the unfairness and wanted so badly to speak up about it! But as Alison always says, if it doesn’t interfere with your work then it’s None Of Your Business, so I kept my mouth shut. Thanks to Alison I avoided the reputation for drama that I was so very tempted to make out of the situation. Suddenly there was a PIP and a summary firing and my coworker was gone. After that I was treated like she had been, like an adult with respect to attendance and as the go-to for new projects. So to the OP, while you’re keeping your nose out of the situation as Alison says, grit your teeth and hang in there! If the situation is what you think, then it’s likely to work out by itself in time.

  123. BasicWitch*

    I think it’s telling that OP jumped right to the conclusion that the coworker is gaming the system… which OP is aiming to do as well. Almost as if the OP was already looking for ways to slack off at work without facing consequences, and is using this coworker to justify it, hmm? Sort of like the way cheaters commonly accuse their SOs of cheating…

    I had a boss who always used his sick days as if they were vacation, going on weekend trips and such (though he would still come to work hung over afterwards, oddly enough, and just sleep it off in his office while on the clock). He assumed everyone else did the same thing. A few weeks after I had called out with food poisoning, he denied me a vacation request. I had “partied enough already”, according to him. I told I spent the whole day praying for death’s sweet release while hugging a toilet, not going to concerts or whatever. He winked at me playfully and told me my request was denied.

    I think some introspection is in order here, OP.

  124. mcr-red*

    OP: Pray to all the real and imagined deities that you never get a chronic illness.

    I suffer from anxiety and depression disorders and on top of that have RA. So I get to deal with chronic pain and mental issues every single day of my life. And I don’t take near the amount of sick days your coworker does, but I have a flexible schedule that helps with my issues. And I’m pretty sure I have a coworker just like you. My boss works with me because, honestly, I carry the heaviest workload in my department, and it GETS DONE. My coworker who I’m sure whines and complains about me would cripple under the pressure of what I do daily and he’s not stuck in this body!

    I had a coworker that worked in a different department (same company) who suffered from chronic pain due to a birth defect. Had to have major surgeries trying to correct this most of her life, and the chronic pain never went away. Had a lot of times she’d work from home, leave early, take sick days, etc. Her immediate co-workers in Teapots didn’t complain about the times she’d be off for surgeries, they complained about how she took too many sick days or left early sick too much. I didn’t care what she did because her stuff GOT DONE. Her Teapot coworkers? Not so much. They never turned in the amount of teapots she did. I’d need a teapot from Furgis: Oh, sorry I didn’t get to it yet. I’ll try to get to it tomorrow. Maybe. I’d need a teapot from Dolly: I’m home sick, I’ll get it to you in an hour.

  125. Not Me*

    Wow. This letter is especially gross to admit doing something obnoxious, for a crappy reason, and then try to defend it.

  126. Jaybeetee*

    Seriously, I’ve never understood the type of person who tracks their colleagues’ comings and goings, sick days, etc. I mean, it’s one thing if it impacts your own work if they’re out a lot, but otherwise – who on earth cares?

    If one of my colleagues is later than usual, or leaves earlier than usual, or is away for awhile, or whatever – assuming I even notice – I literally think, “Must be worked out with the manager somehow. I don’t know what it is.” It would never occur to me that I somehow was catching something no one else was. Why go there at all?

    1. pope suburban*

      Yeah, this letter is striking on odd tone with me, and I’ve actually had to track a colleague’s comings and goings when they were also taking a large amount of sick leave. The issue was, in that case, blatant and sustained wage theft (Wildly inaccurate clock-in and -out times, two-and-a-half-hour lunches being reported as 45 minutes, that kind of thing daily; I knew I had to report it and that is when our supervisor asked me to keep an eye on the clock as he is not often in our office), which strongly related to essential work for that role not being done or properly assigned to another staff member so we could meet deadlines. I didn’t give a fig about the sick time, and I still don’t. The PTO people accrue is part of their compensation package and they are entitled to use it. If there is an issue, it is up to the manager to communicate and deal with that. If OP is feeling that invested in what someone else is doing with their earned benefits, I think that’s a sign of some deeper issues. Are you dissatisfied with the job? Is there a cultural mismatch here? Do you feel that there is favoritism in the office? Are you feeling bored or underemployed? Point is, the reason here comes from within, OP, and that’s where your efforts are best focused.

  127. SMH*

    “It’s always “I have a migraine” or “I have food poisoning” or “I have a fever and chills.” They are all one-day absences, he’s back the next day, so it’s not like he’s getting cancer treatments or something. It always sounds fake to me. ”

    As someone who has anxiety and depression and sometimes does call out with a stomach ache because I don’t feel like telling my manager that i am so anxious or depressed to the degree that it is affecting the rest of my life. It’s difficult enough to manage those symptoms without busybodies TRACKING THEIR TIME.

    On behalf of your coworker and the rest of us, please mind your business. Also, screw you. I would hate to have a coworker like you

    1. Saraphina*

      Agreed. “Food poisoning” is my code word for “I feel so low I literally can’t get out of bed today.”

      1. Louise*

        Chiming in with some solidarity. My go-to line is the very vague “Not feeling well and need to take some time to recover,” and luckily my boss respects that.

    2. juliebulie*

      My awesome boss actually discourages people from describing what kind of sick they are unless he needs to know (i.e. gonna come back to work three feet taller and they’ll need to raise the doorframes to accommodate me).

      I can’t tell you how much stress that takes off of me, because sometimes, especially when migraine or mental health related, it’s hard to put the issue into words.

  128. Ludo*

    Once a month doesn’t even seem like that much to me

    I had a co-worker who would call out sick at least twice a week (it was typically a fifty/fifty chance on if she would show up any given day) and that certainly raised eye brows

  129. Ms Cappuccino*

    I had a manager who suffered from chronic fatigue to the point she often had to take a sick day or had to leave in the middle of the day. Your co-worker could have something like that and not wanting to disclose it. There are lot of misunderstanding and judgement about chronic fatigue.

  130. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    OP, I can *kind* of sympathize with you on some part of this. I have a coworker who is a known abuser of their sickleave; they regularly use their sick days as they earn them for non-serious reasons like being hungover, or wanting to take a last minute trip and they didn’t have enough vacation leave so they take sickleave instead, etc. When they do this, it leaves the rest of us in the lurch for that day because the person that is gone is the only person that can do their job, and customer service suffers as a result. Good managers are supposed to stay on top of this sort of thing, and actually manage the known abusers of leave policy, but given how far and few between good managers are, unfortunately people get away with this kind of crap. And, it’s even more frustrating when the person is in the office but they still don’t do any work even when they are there. Slackers are the worst. (And managers who tolerate them.)

  131. Zap R.*

    OP, I won’t sugarcoat it: what you did was straight up cruel.

    For people with chronic illness, finding out that our coworkers are tracking our absences so they can talk smack about us is the ultimate nightmare scenario. People with chronic illness live in constant fear that they’re disappointing everyone around them; it’s very possible that your coworker is gaming the system, but if he’s not, you’ve just confirmed to him that he’s being judged and stigmatized for something that he has no control over.

    Also, maybe you get passed over for special projects because you act petty and judgmental at work? If my employee was always trash-talking their colleagues and sulking about how “slow” the job was, I wouldn’t trust them with anything important. Just a thought.

  132. MsChanandlerBong*

    Sorry, OP, but this makes you look terrible. I know we are supposed to be kind to OPs, but I find it difficult to muster much kindness for someone being so unkind.

  133. MercyOnUsAll*

    The pearl clutching in AAM comments can be a choking hazard. Goodness, s/he’s the weird analytical type who’s collecting info. If s/he wants, s/he should start taking “mental health days” or tummy grumble or elbow aches days or whatever. More power to ‘em.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am the analytical type too, but I am also the type that would lose my sleep and possibly start looking for another job, if I saw a teammate maintaining a spreadsheet called “(my name) use of (whatever the heck they think I am abusing)”. Are you saying that you would be okay with your coworker tracking your comings and goings in writing?

      As far as people calling out sick, I honestly don’t care or notice how many times a year my teammates do it and why, as long as work gets done and as long as I do not have to cover for them on last-minute notice because they called out sick again. Personally, we only get 3 sick days a year and most years I only get to use one or two, so in case my comment looks like I am covering my sick leave-abusing butt, I’m not.

    2. Observer*

      Sure, if the OP wants to take “mental health days” or whatever, no one would be saying boo. Being analytical is not an excuse to track information that is not your to manage, and it’s not an excuse to decide that someone is lieing about their time.

    3. Amelia Pond*

      Oh please. This has nothing to do with being “the analytical type.” The LW is being a busybody and a jerk, who needs to stop blaming the coworker for their own isssues.

      Saying other commenters are pearl clutching, simply because you don’t agree, is immature at best, as well as completely unnecessary.

      1. I agree with mercy*

        I agree with pearl clutching. Because, seriously….. who cares? The excel wasn’t meant to be seen by anyone. If I saw a sheet like that about me when I knew I was in good standing with my manager, it’d roll off my back. If I wasn’t in good standing, maybe it would be a wake up call about how I was being viewed by the office. I sure as money won’t be offended by it. Because….. why would I?

        1. Amelia Pond*

          Ah, I understand. Because it wouldn’t upset you, anyone else that gets upset is just too sensitive.

          It’s upsetting because it feeds into a culture of shaming towards people who are sick, be it from a minor illness, to a mental illness, or to a full-blown chronic illness. Reading through the comments makes it abundantly clear that’s what a good portion of people are talking about and not what you’re referring to. People are also talking about how immature it is. Calling it pearl clutching is dismissive and implies people are acting more shocked than they really are, which is just really rude.

    4. Kella*

      It doesn’t matter what their motivation for creating the list was. The point is that they have no reason to be collecting that info and analyzing it and they have no reason to use that information to come to conclusions about their coworker’s performance at work. It’s invasive and weird.

      And you skipped the part where the OP says they frequently gossip and complain about their coworker’s absences with other coworkers. Is the group complaining just sterile information collection as well?

      1. MercyOnUsAll*

        This is just one heck of a pile on for something that is just not a big deal. It’s a spreadsheet and the author looks dumb for it. Does the person who it’s about even care. If he’s reasonable sensible, he will shrug it off. If he’s good at his job, he shouldn’t care.
        500+ comments and there seems to be a lost sense of proportion.

        1. Mia*

          I mean, it is a big deal though. This attitude is the exact reason why there’s such an intense stigma around invisible illness in the workplace. Even if that’s not the case with LW’s coworker, she’s getting into a really awful, borderline ableist mindset.

        2. yala*

          you seem weirdly invested in insisting that this isn’t a big deal (it is. it’s toxic and gross)…

    5. yala*

      Think the only “pearl clutching” is the OP, who’s so concerned that a coworker is “getting away with something” by just using his sick leave in a way SHE doesn’t like that she’s being invasive and creepy, and contributing to a toxic office atmosphere.

      Most of us are telling her that she probably SHOULD take some leave if it’s upsetting her this much.

    6. Former Academic Librarian*

      Nope. Maybe if it just the Excel spreadsheet, but the “trash talking”? OP is either incredibly immature or mean or possibly both. And as others have said, it is a big deal. Attitudes like this make it harder for people with chronic illness to take the time off they need.

  134. cmcinnyc*

    I have one coworker who low-key tracks everybody else’s latenesses/leaving early/sick days, etc. We have a coworker dealing with something serious, and I get the whispered “What is up with Jane?” a little too often. I do like our Busybody mostly, but this is a crap habit. I push back on her gently because a) she’s right that I do know more than her about the situation but b) it’s none of her business–both the situation AND that I know. I know because I needed to know. And I only know WHAT I need to know for job reasons. BusyBody has zero need to know.

    Last spring BusyBody had a family emergency and needed to take time. Tended to come in late/leave early, too. Wasn’t at her best. And we all let it slide. She stopped being so nosy for a few months but is back at it. Bad Look. Someday you will need some slack. If you’ve spent all your time gossiping and being petty about other people’s time use, the slack may not be there. Maybe that’s why you don’t get the fun projects, either. You’re not trusted.

  135. tired anon*

    OP, while you 100% need to chill, I just want to say that I get it!! idk about you but I am a total rules follower and it can be SO FRUSTRATING to feel like someone else is getting away with something!!! (I mean, in the situation you describe that is not actually what’s happening – it sounds like he’s just using sick days as he accrues them, which is actually totally fine – but I’m sure it FEELS that way.)

    But if you have noticed this, than chances are his manager has, too. Which means it’s either a non-issue because it’s not actually breaking the rules, or a non-issue because of the accomodation reasons Alison mentioned, or it IS an issue… that is not at all on YOU to deal with. Either because their manager will deal with it, or because there’s some kind of dysfunction and it won’t get dealt with at all…but then it’s still not on you.

    The way you describe wondering if you could get away with that…do you want to be someone who sinks to getting away with stuff? If this behavior is so irritating and terrible, doesn’t that make *you* irritating and terrible if you do it, too?

    (I have dealt with this – I had a coworker who was chronically late. Like, an hour plus late, three or four times a week. It drove me CRAZY, but did not actually impact me in any way. But as it turned out, it was part of a pattern of serious underperformance…and eventually he was fired. Not for being late, but for said underperformance, of which lateness was a symptom. So if you’re working somewhere at all functional and what your coworker is doing is actually a problem, it will probably be resolved…but not by you. In the mean time, remind yourself that it’s ~not about you~ and try to focus on your own work.)

  136. Harvey JobGetter*

    There are a lot of explanations for why co-worker might be saying he has “a migraine,” “food poisoning” and “a fever” in Alison’s answer. All of them make sense. But the most likely explanation was that he had a migraine, food poisoning, and a fever, all actual illnesses people deal with.

    1. ijbouv*

      All requiring exactly one day off, all spaced exactly a month apart. It’s always mild food poisoning requiring only a day off. Not food poisoning that is a day in the bathroom praying it’s over soon, then another day of being weak and light headed and shaky. It’s one day off for fever, and never fever because of flu or other ailment that requires being out 2-3 days (or more). Etc.

      1. yala*

        Did OP say they were spaced exactly a month apart? I didn’t get that.
        Different kinds of food poisoning. I’ve definitely had the “weak as a kitten the second day” one, but sometimes it also just means “I’m in the bathroom pooping all day because I had a bad reaction to something.”

        I guess coworker could tell OP the gritty details. Or she could mind her own business.

  137. Rachael*

    OP, I laughed out loud when I read your letter. I might be in the minority, but I sympathize with you. At my last job we got 2.5 days of sick per year (very generous) and it accrued quickly. I had a couple of coworkers who were suspiciously “sick” frequently on Fridays or Mondays. I had temptation to track their absences out of irritation, mainly because when they were sick I had to double up on my own duties and add theirs to mine. I never got around to tracking their ridiculous absences, but I can tell you that I was rewarded for not being a slacker with a promotion. I was also there to take on more difficult tasks and be the “go to” when there was an issue.

    Focus on your own work and try to take advantage of the fact that they are not there when things need to be done. People notice these things. Plus, you don’t want to feel like a jerk if that person has a medical reason why they are out all the time.

    1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      2.5 days a YEAR is generous? And yeah I have the sick leave abuser coworker too, it’s the worst when you’re busting your butt to work hard and want to just be treated fairly but others slack off and abuse the system with no consequences.

      1. gumpop*

        Yeah, it’s weird that the OP formally tracked his co-worker’s absences, and I’d be pretty weirded out if I was his co-worker and saw that. (I’d wonder what else he was tracking about me. Maybe he’s a stalker?)

        HOWEVER–I’m going to venture that wondering whether your co-worker is taking advantage is a pretty human thought to have. (Huge emphasis on “wondering.”) Again, making this list was wrong, but I’d be surprised if no one in this dog pile has had similar thoughts.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t think that most people are piling on because he wondered. People are piling on because he is making statements of fact when he has absolutely 0 evidence of those facts on the one hand, and on the other hand he’s using those so called “facts” to denigrate the coworker and really blow past the boundaries of a reasonable workplace. Furthermore, he doesn’t even have the excuse that is work is being affected – he’s complaining that he doesn’t get enough!

          1. gumpop*

            I didn’t say that people are piling on because he wondered, and if it wasn’t obvious from me saying “it’s weird,” I’m not sticking up for his actions.

            However, I worry about the dehumanizing effect of internet pile-ons and mobs. I’m guessing the OP got the message after the 500th comment. A few people have said something to the effect of, “I get it, but no…” and I guess that’s what I wanted to do as well.

            1. voyager1*

              SOme of the comments are pretty mean. I am sure people will bring this letter up next year for an update… and opportunity to judge and pile on again.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Hopefully there’s a typo in your comment, but if not, I’m completely gobsmacked at your description of your coworkers frivolously blowing through a whole TWENTY HOURS of sick time PER YEAR. How do you even abuse such a tiny amount?

    3. MistOrMister*

      But…..it doesn’t look like the coworker isn’t there when things need to be done. They are being given the more complex assignments. This seems to be someone who is clearly valued by management, in spite of their monthly absences. (Which is what leads me to suspect they have an actual illness that management is aware of and not that they are calling out for something frivolous). But it looks like this coworker is managing to get everything done despite being out one day a month – I think OP would have pointed out them being out was causing things to get missed.

      Also, while I agree that always calling out sick on Monday or Friday can look bad, it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here. OP is taking issue with the one day nature of the call outs and the once a month, not the day of the week. I am assuming the coworker is calling out randomly.
      Regardless, the situation with OPs coworker doesn’t seem to be the same as yours. OP is not saying they are impacted at all by the absences, other than it apparently makes them,want to track ir and disparage the coworker behind his back…

    4. Kisses*

      I hope the 2.5 days is sarcasm. Other countries sometimes offer up to 30 days.

      My husband gets 2 days after being with the company for FIVE YEARS. Any time he misses (and it has been for workman’s comp related issues because it’s a risky field apparently) he is required to make it up the same week on Sat. Good luck getting better at a job like that!!

  138. CrookedLily*

    This made me think of a situation I had a few years ago… Slightly different because it wasn’t a peer tracking my time, but actually a horribly toxic manager I had, who tried to write me up for “excessive use of sick leave”, when I hadn’t exceeded anything.

    Our leave time is all awarded on the first of the year to be used at any time needed throughout the year. That particular year I had used up a chunk of it fairly early in the year, but had not used all of it yet let alone exceeded the allotted amount. In addition to my ongoing chronic health issues – I’m a migraine sufferer, have a disability which comes with chronic joint pain that can range from mildly annoying to can’t-effing-move – at the time I was going back and forth to multiple specialists trying to get new things diagnosed, including a heart condition (SVT) that put me in the ICU just a month or two after this run-in with this manager. And he was aware of all of this. Yet he wrote up a formal counseling for excessive use, then after pulling me into a meeting, decided to do me the favor of keeping it off the record. Good thing for him, because I would have been at HR’s door so fast he would not have known what hit him.

    1. Kisses*

      I’m so sorry you had to put up with this. From your health and your management. I am not a medical professional, but after dealing with issues like yours for over 30 years, I was finally given some relief with autoimmune diagnosis. Please, I’m not trying to assume your healthcare routine or like I know better cause I don’t. But it did help me start to feel a little better. Most days.

  139. Earl of Lemongrab*

    As someone with a chronic illness who’s out a day every 4-6 weeks and dip out for appointments in between, I know people do this kind of thing to me. I get gossipped about and sort of an overall negative, often vaguely hostile (in the social sense) tone from coworkers at most every job I’ve ever had once people start to notice. I discovered early on that actually telling people I had a chronic illness made the gossip worse, so now I hide it and tell a new vague lie every time, which actually makes the reactions I get way nicer than they are when I’m honest. People start tallying immediately when you tell them it’s a chronic thing, when you tell assorted fibs some people never notice and others just take way longer to start thinking about it.

    So, anyway. This is shitty, and it’s one of the biggest shittiest things about being disabled. I feel like it’s the biggest thing stunting my career and it keeps me from being able to take certain kinds of jobs where I know my absences will be more visible, even though it wouldn’t necessarily impact my work itself. Aside from that it really blows to spend your whole career walking on eggshells and knowing that a lot of the people you work with at every single job vaguely hate you and won’t work with you the way they would with anyone else. You’re always kind of the odd one out. So like, that’s just something I wanted to put out there.

    1. VictorianCowgirl*

      I’m so sorry this has been your experience. I really wish people would just mind their own business. It is free, after all.

  140. SuperAnon*

    OP, you are exactly the type of employee who makes a workplace toxic.

    It take huge brass ones to come here and complain about something that is A) none of your damn business; and B) makes you look like the worst kind of revengeful, petty and extremely childish person.

  141. Zennish*

    FWIW, I have never met a manager who was pleased when a report took it upon themselves to start managing their co-workers. Just saying.

  142. YoungTen*

    Heres an exclusive project for you to work on, ready? Work on yourself! Sitting around and trash-talking another coworker? Do you think he doesn’t know you all do that? Maybe he needs a mental health day just to be civil with a petty, tab-keeping coworker like you. You are not doing yourself any favors by behaving in this way.

  143. MistOrMister*

    This really smacks of enviousness to me. I wonder if OP would have started the spreadsheet if the coworker wasn’t getting what is considered the best assignments. And trash talking the guy for being out is such an unkind thing to do. Maybe they would do it anyway, but again I wonder if the probable enviousness over the assignments doesn’t play in there.

    I have a coworker that seems to be out quite a lot. I don’t know when she is using sick days vs vacation days but I do find myself thinking, wow, she is out AGAIN. But, it is a passing thought. I would never dream of tracking her leave. I don’t know why she’s out, all I know is she apparently has the leave and takes it. Long story short, no one should just randomly track a coworker’s sick days. And OP will feel might foolish if they start taking days, get talked to about it and bring up the coworker only to be told he has a legitimate need for those days.

    Please stop tracking this, OP, at the least it makes you look petty, insecure and unkind. And also consider how this might be impacting your relationship with your coworker. It’s not easy to talk smack about someone behind their back and treat them courteously and professionally to their face. Your attitude about this might be bleeding over into your interactions with your coworker.

  144. VictorianCowgirl*

    OP, I used to have an agreement with my manager that I would take each sick day as accrued as a 3-day weekend if all was well or I hadn’t used it for actual sickness. I was a happy employee and she couldn’t care less as long as my work was done.

  145. AutoimmuneWarriorGoddess*

    LW,
    I may look healthy and like I am not sick. But I am in fact quite ill with an autoimmune illness. Beyond my smile, I am hiding aches and pains that you would not enjoy having yourself. But that’s my normal! Us folks with hidden illnesses become masters at hiding how awful we feel!

    I take more sick days than a well person like yourself. Those are the days I can’t hide my pain. And those are the days I recharge so I can face a long work day.

    My manager full well knows my health issues. She understands. I keep it quiet because I don’t want to hear the “you don’t look sick” comments or hear idle suggestions on how to cure an incurable illness with . And frankly– it’s no ones business. I am just front with my manager to get the accommodations I do need.

    Your colleague might have an invisible illness. And what you are doing is shameful. And exactly why someone like myself and possibly your colleague isn’t open in the workplace about their health condition. It’s judgmental people like you.

    1. Kisses*

      I’m just learning about autoimmune issues myself this year, after dealing with problems my whole life (since 2) and finally connecting the dots that everything was autoimmune and if you have one, you probably have 3 (!) including one skin disorder.
      I wish everyone could be more considerate, because some of these can be debilitating. I’m glad to finally start down the path of healing myself, but there is not much in the way besides very expensive injections (humira) so I am taking the homeopathic route.
      Stay healthy, friends.

  146. Ban the BCC*

    Is this the same letter writer who lost an employee because she let her direct reports go on beer runs, gossip on Snap chat and have interpersonal relations with one another? It has the same direct pettiness and toxicity to it.

        1. Kisses*

          But she got better, I think I remember. Therapy and living back at home I think. So maybe there is hope here too? Allison has a great way of connecting I think and I feel like the comments section here is always helpful. It’s the best one online!

  147. Observer*

    OP I want to highlight 2 things.

    Firstly, being honest with yourself and others is going to be necessary to dig yourself out of this mess. You claim that you are just trying to understand what’s acceptable, but that’s OBVIOUSLY not true. Between trash talking your coworker, throwing shade at him for taking his time and deciding that he’s making all of this up, while never even thinking about what he does right, it’s pretty clear that this is not about understanding workplace norms.

    Secondly, making wild assumptions based on nothing but your annoyance is NOT a good way to operate. Not in relation to other people, not in relation to moving up the ladder.What in heaven’s name is your basis for deciding that his absences are for made up excuses. Aside from the possibilities that Alison and the other mentioned, it’s actually quite possible that these absences are EXACTLY what he’s saying they are. Some people’s bodies operate differently than other people’s bodies. Calling him a liar because his pattern is different than your is stupid.

    If you want to get ahead, start watching what he does RIGHT, stop spending time trash talking ANYONE and talk to your supervisor about what it will take to get increased work and responsibility.

  148. Thankful for AAM*

    Dear Alison,
    I am frustrated that I have to do more of the more difficult projects at work because one of my coworkers never seems able to do them despite asking for more responsibilities. I just saw a spreadsheet on the coworker’s computer and now I realize that the reason they cannot get all the work done is they are tracking staff sick days on a spreadsheet – who knows what else they are spending their day tracking! Should I talk to the boss or my coworker?

    Seriously though, that is what it might look like to your coworker, OP.

    I see a lot of posts saying that the coworker taking the 12 days of sick leave might actually have a chronic illness. That is a good point and it still is not the OP’s concern. It can be really difficult to realize that you will be most successful by focusing on yourself and your work and on talking to your boss about your work and the things you need to do it well – like taking the time off you are entitled to.

    I wish you well, OP.

  149. LGC*

    …I almost feel bad for OP. Almost.

    I’m also getting shades of this guy being their BEC – kind of like the letter from the archives yesterday about whether the manager could cite their low-performing salaried employee for lateness (in a position where it didn’t sound like his presence was time-sensitive).

    So, aside from that, the red flag here is…what’s the structure, and what’s the culture in the office? OP’s been there since August of last year, OP is…attentive enough to build a spreadsheet to track this (I am being overly measured here, I admit), I imagine that OP would probably be aware at how much other people on the team call out sick. It also sounds like sick time is in a separate bucket from vacation time – and perhaps the amount of vacation time granted per year is low.

    In this case – given the letter – I’m tempted to say that…yeah, he’s likely using his sick time inappropriately, but if one of my employees came to me with that sort of allegation about another employee (and it wasn’t directly affecting them) I would be frankly appalled on three counts. First, I’d be bothered that an employee would think it would be appropriate to track another employee in this manner. Second, I’d be bothered that they’d think I would be pleased to know about this (hi guys, if any of you are reading this: DO NOT TRY THIS WITH ME). Finally, I’d be annoyed that an employee would think their opinion of attendance policy outweighs mine. (For what it’s worth, at my job we don’t generally flag people until they get up to four call-outs in a month. This is pretty lenient, I’ll admit.)

    To be clear, I would consider the possibility…but I’d also think far less of the accusing employee, especially with the approach given here. (And I get that OP is venting, but also – they’re venting on a website with high readership.)

    1. Dysfunctional Deb*

      I’m not defending the OP, but as I said in another response, she learned a bad habit, and doesn’t know it’s bad, or she wouldn’t be admitting it on a popular site like AAM.

      I was that person many times in my life. I do feel a bit bad for OP because she’s learning a painful lesson today. It will do her good, I hope, and maybe change her life for the better.

      OP, focus on your own life and performance and send us an update some day.

      I wish you well.

      1. LGC*

        That’s a good point, and part of the reason why I almost felt bad for OP. She (or he) did come across as proud of her handiwork, which shows that she really does not know her audience here. I think they’re a jerk, but I’m not sure if they’re a “get 600+ comments on a blog telling you you’re a jerk to your face” jerk. (And yes, I’m adding to the problem here.)

        On the other hand, OP’s likely at least in their 40s. This site has taught me nothing if not that age is nothing but a number (how many letters have been written about middle-aged or older coworkers behaving badly here?), but they’ve been working for at least 20 years. You don’t learn specifically to not track the comings and goings of your peers in school, but…I thought that was pretty common knowledge!

    2. TechWorker*

      I don’t really think there’s even any indication the sick time is being used inappropriately – there’s a whole tonne of valid medical reasons you might need a day off a month that aren’t cancer.

      1. LGC*

        To me, the “red flag” is not only the pattern, but that the employee uses different excuses.

        It’s always “I have a migraine” or “I have food poisoning” or “I have a fever and chills.” They are all one-day absences, he’s back the next day, so it’s not like he’s getting cancer treatments or something.

        …(He takes one off every month, exactly the amount we are allocated.)

        On the other hand, I don’t think it’s conclusive. It could just be that this guy just gets sick a lot (which sucks), and OP is hearing correct information. It could be that this guy does have a chronic condition, but is hiding it from OP. I do think it’s likely that he’s misusing his sick time, but that’s not the same as that he’s probably misusing it. (That is, I’d put it between…25 and 50% chance of malingering.)

        And again, I think there’s about a 0% chance that OP showing up at their bosses’ office triumphantly with this Excel spreadsheet is going to go over well. I’d honestly just go ahead, delete the spreadsheet, salt the sector it was on so no other bad ideas can grow on it, so on and so forth.

  150. Andream*

    Please stop tracking his time off and immediately stop gossiping with the other co-workers. I have been on his side. I don’t think my co-workers were tracking my hours however a comment was made to my supervisor about why I always call in sick the Monday after I’ve had the day off. There was only one other instance where I had called in sick after having a planned vacation day off in the entire three years I had worked at that job. It is mean and inconsiderate please stop!

    1. Diamond*

      Yes. And the fever and chills could even be attached to the migraines. They have a lot of different weird symptoms for different people. I sometimes become unable to recognise words.

      1. Kisses*

        F migraines. There are few things I think would be worse. I always tell my family if the world goes to hell and we must scavenge, for the love of God, get the excedrin and generics because once they’re gone, I’m gone too.

        Maybe a little dramatic, but damn.

        1. Millie*

          Yes! I’m procrastinating, but I need to arrange a tornado/disaster plan. My supply of meds is #1. Tornado season = migraine season.

  151. MissDisplaced*

    Oh my! This falls into the not really your business category.

    I use my sick time for doctor and dentist appointments, and occasionally to interview for other jobs! And occasionally because I really am sick. It’s not 1x per month, but this year I was preparing for a minor surgery and there was a month or two where I was definitely out more often.

    So… use some of that sick time if you want to, but I wouldn’t be as frequent as your coworker. I’d say 5 days per year wouldn’t be noticed.

  152. BEEPboop*

    Anyone else think OP isn’t getting more of the “better projects” because the insane entitlement and incivility is palpable in the office? This was an icky read. Obviously the manager has no problem with your coworkers off days, especially if they still get great assignments. File those claws back!

    1. Needaname*

      Yep. OP, your actions and email show you exercising poor judgement. Your manager will have picked up on at least some of this. That’s why you are not getting what you want.

  153. KP*

    OP, why don’t you just talk to your supervisor about the company’s sick leave policy?
    Ask if they can be used for the personal shit that comes up or if they are strictly intended for illness. Then go forth and worry no more.

    And if you want the projects your coworker has, have you tried wording it like “Fergus is currently working on a project that looks really interesting. What type of development, training, experience, etc would I need to make me successful?”

  154. His Grace*

    OP, you were wrong to keep tabs on your coworker like that. It makes you look the office gossip/busybody (at best) and a slacker (at worst).

  155. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    Oh, OP. Please stop tracking your colleague’s suck time. You don’t want to be “that” co-worker. I’m sure what you perceive is annoying, but just stay in your own lane and focus on your own work. You’ll be a lot happier.

  156. Mayflower*

    The coworker could also be a caregiver for someone else who is sick or disabled. A lot of people I know use their sick days to help their elderly parents.

  157. Things Are Much Better Now I promise*

    A few years ago I had a very big job managing a large division of a hospital. I also have small children, and my dad — who has since died — was declining rapidly. I am very lucky to live in a place where sick time also covers family illnesses, so I could use sick time to take my dad to his appointments. Mostly, these were scheduled days, but sometimes he would end up in the hospital or the ER, or some complication would develop abruptly where he needed a more urgent appointment. I was also, of course, trying to keep up with caring for my kids and myself, and for the first few months my associate was also out on leave. It was rough, I spent a lot of time checking email and making work calls from hospital lobbies and doctors office waiting rooms, or stepping out of meetings to take calls about whether my dad could go to hospice, etc. I probably looked frazzled most of the time, and my “Days off” were not restful. My point is that if I had found out that people I worked with were keeping some triple secret spreadsheet on my whereabouts while I was going through all of that, I would have been pretty upset. You have no idea what anyone else is going through unless they tell you. Thankfully the people I worked with and who worked for me were supportive. Of course my manager and HR contact knew what was going on because they had to approve the time off and had to know who was covering me, etc. They did have a spreadsheet as to my days off, because it was their job. They were unfortunately kind of crappy about it the whole thing, which is another story. This kind of gossipy, petty stuff at work generally ends up isolating and then driving out good people.

  158. Siege*

    I’ve been your coworker in a similar situation. I have IBS (and a small bladder) and need to use the restroom a lot. This can affect my coworkers as we’re in a coverage based role, and I’ve tried my hardest to minimize the stress it places on our operation. Things seemed better for awhile, and then I found out my coworkers were tracking my bathroom usage behind my back. It hurt, it completely undermined my trust in them, it made me (more) self conscious about using the bathroom, and to top it off, I had to wonder which co-workers were in on the “joke” and which were not. I know you didn’t make the spreadsheet to humiliate your coworker, but that is probably the affect it had. You are dismissing what you did in a lot of ways, but as an exercise in empathy I think you should consider if some of your assumptions about his sickness or lack thereof may be untrue.

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Your coworkers sound absolutely horrible. Tracking someone’s bathroom usage is so incredibly petty. And a bad deposit into their karma account!

    2. Siege*

      Rereading my comment, I came out more critical and less constructive than I wanted to be, OP. I’m sorry about that. What I really wanted to get at was just to try put yourself in your coworker’s shoes. Imagine you absolutely needed every one of those days, and tried really hard not to let it affect your work, but found out your coworkers were tracking it and angry at you for it anyway. I can say from this side, it’s deeply unsettling and guilt inducing. I don’t want to be doing this either! But its either that or get very sick.

  159. Needaname*

    Could the reason your co-worker gets more work be because they are proactive and effective, use part of their remuneration package (sick leave) rather than be a resentful martyr, and not waste time and lower morale by obsessing over others and gossiping? Just a thought.

  160. Camille McKenzie*

    LW, you sound like the kind of person people write to this column to complain about, and frankly, quite awful. If this guy hasn’t exceeded his allotted sick days and his absences aren’t affecting you, this isn’t any of your business.
    Be prepared for him to complain about you and to be reprimanded.

  161. Aeki*

    I’d consider firing someone for doing that. It’s bullying and toxic and I don’t need that in my team.

  162. Kisses*

    When I first read it, I thought the coworker was going to be out like, once or twice a week. But once a month? And he’s getting all his work done obviously because he gets more assigned to him.
    I suffer from migraines, autoimmune stomach and skin issues, anxiety, and bipolar. Sometimes I wonder how when I have a job why I’m not “that one”, because I frequently have trouble and have to call out short notice, or leave midday. It IS frustrating, and as frustrating as it is for you, if he’s struggling, it is for him too. As a migraine sufferer, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone and if he’s anything like me, he would not use that excuse lightly. I just hope people don’t think I’m faking it. Sometimes my husband even looks doubtful when it’s the 16th time that month (chronic migraine) but even he figures that as miserable as it makes me, there’s no way I’m exaggerating. It’s just that bad.
    Please have more sympathy on the fellow. You come across as a real busybody, and considering other countries give paid leave in the 30’s of days, I’d say not even 2 weeks is NOTHING.

    1. Lx in Canada*

      Dude, same. Chronic migraines and GAD and depression over here, and I often wonder as well how I have a job. It’s a real accomplishment for me to work a full week without calling in sick, calling in late, or leaving early! I would be so upset if I knew someone was tracking my absences this way. My bosses are aware of my issues and understanding, and I get my work done and done well, so it’s really none of others’ business. Not to mention, once a month is nothing.

      1. Kisses*

        Yes! It can be a real nightmare dealing with one health issue, or as I like to call it, the trifecta, because the anxiety, migraine, and vomiting always come together. I wonder how I get a job either, and then I figure maybe it’s because I put in a lot of effort when I’m well and try to do ‘favors’ like volunteering Black Friday and other undesirables.

        I hope you get to feeling better one day. I cannot imagine one day with no damn ailments.

  163. Elenna*

    OP, if you really want to understand workplace norms about taking sick days, have you considered directly asking the boss “hey, what are the norms about sick days”? Seriously, ask if it’s okay to take them for appointments or mental health days or whatever. I promise it will be more useful to you than tracking other people’s days.

    1. Wake up call for you*

      THIS.
      Don’t you have some medical appointments? (General check-ups? Dental visits? Eye exams?) Feel free to schedule them so that you can take a half or whole day. My MIL’s former workplace actually made (an entirely BS) policy that if you were going to take any type of appointment time then you had to use an entire day of leave, so it’s not totally out there.

      Depends on your organization culture whether mental health days are considered ‘approved’ time off, but that’s not a reason to sort of plan ahead and then call in and claim a sick day. I’ve been at the point this year where I was wishing to get sick just to stay home and I realized how unhealthy that was. So I took a day before that crash-and-burn of illness happened and I feel loads better without a nasty recovery period. I think that resentment may be linked to burnout.

  164. Anon time*

    Yeah, you really need to stop that tracking shit. My friend has a chronic illness and regularly uses those amount of sick days. You wouldn’t know it to look at her. I’ve literally been with her when she parked in a handicap space and someone was an asshole to her about it because she didn’t look handicapped. It was awful.

    And I also used all my sick days this year, and then some, because my kid has been sick a lot, and I have too. Please don’t judge. It’s not cool.

  165. DiscoCat*

    I thought this was a joke letter, that effusive, breathless, gossipy tone and exclamation marks!!1! Terrible behaviour….

  166. RJ Lupin*

    I’m really surprised nobody’s mentioned the obvious answer– LW’s coworker is clearly a werewolf!

  167. TechWorker*

    I get stress migraines (superbly useful in a stressful job) and I reckon I’m at about half a day a month. I would be so pissed off if someone assumed I was lying about it…

  168. Libby*

    OP – You have no idea what he’s dealing with. It could be an invisible disability. You also have no proof that he’s getting away with anything. He might be taking unpaid days, or is in the negative on PTO so he may have to repay the company at the end of the year. Or maybe he’s on FMLA. So you’re tracking his time to do “research” on what YOU might be able to get away with?! Why not pray for a chronic illness that’s invisible to others and see how many sick days you can ‘get away’ with taking. I hope you coworker saw your spreadsheet so he know what an immature asshole you are.

  169. Libby*

    Me again. My child has a chronic health condition that causes me to be off work unexpectedly at times. My coworkers don’t know about it (I’m still traumatized and not comfortable sharing – especially bc I’ve worked with judgmental people like OP). However, my manager knows and is fine with me making up hours remotely and at random times to ensure that I don’t run out of leave.

  170. Nym*

    OP is both creepy and doing something that’s probably illegal, and your issue is someone finding out rather than your stalking?!

    1. LGC*

      I can speak for just the US and my own state, but I don’t think the spreadsheet itself is illegal. (First rule of thumb with US labor law: it’s not illegal just because we don’t like it.) I assume that actually holds for most of the rest of the country and probably the world as well – OP is logging information that they’re presumably given, which they have a right to do.

      That said, I can’t speak for the European Union definitively, even though they’re very pro-worker compared to the US. But I think making what OP did illegal would be too much even for the EU.

    2. Observer*

      In the US? Almost certainly not illegal. Why would it be illegal?

      The OP is doing something they shouldn’t but let’s not make up stuff to beat them over the head with.

      1. MSK*

        California based employment attorney here. Maintenance of this type of “chart” and allowing him to see it (even accidentally) could be considered harassment based on medical condition and/or disability, if he has a chronic or ongoing illness, and creation of a hostile workplace. This also goes to OP and their coworkers discussing their coworker’s medically necessary absences in the workplace. If her co-worker came to me with this, I would take him on as a client immediately.

  171. Spooncake*

    OP, I know your situation is frustrating, but please put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a minute. If you had a chronic illness, or a sick family member, or even just caught every bug that was going around, would you want your coworkers to gossip about it? What if you had a chronic illness that had messy or embarrassing symptoms- something like IBS, for example, where pretty much every manifestation is kind of gross (and I say that as a sufferer myself)? You’d probably want to be vague or even flat-out lie about what was really going on, especially if you knew other people were already being mean about it. Please have some empathy and reconsider your actions.

  172. Put the Human back in HR*

    In the mid-90s, I worked with Lois. She kept a log with everyone’s call ins. Interestingly, she didn’t track her own extended smoke breaks. She snooped in her supervisor’s office, and found evidence of his affair with the married employee relations manager, who’d recently had a baby. Lois also found the note about a DNA test ordered by the affair partner’s husband. This was in the post-Twin Peaks time. We called her Lois the Log Lady.

    When I run into former coworkers from that time, we always talk about Lois the Log Lady.

    Don’t be a Lois the Log Lady.

      1. Kisses*