updates: getting sick at a new job, condescending employee, and more

Here are three updates from people who had their letters answered here in the past.

1. I was late my first week — and now I need to call out sick

When I called my boss to explain the situation, she was completely understanding. It probably helped my case though that I was still hacking, coughing, and crying when she called me.

She told me to make sure I make arrangements with my professors to get my classwork taken care of in person. She also said that I should by no means come in when I’m that sick, and that she could tell on the day I was late that I was embarrassed by it.

And finally… I DON’T HAVE COVID-19! No idea what I’m actually sick with though, and the doctor was not helpful. Because of my mystery ailment, the university says I still have to quarantine for 14 days. I’m still sick as a dog, but at least my job is safe and I don’t have COVID.

2. How can I get my employee to stop condescending to me?

When my letter was published, some commenters rightly criticized me for admitting that I was reacting to a male employee differently than I would a woman. I seem to have done a bad job of conveying this in my letter, so to be clear, I do NOT think my behavior at the time was okay – I knew it was unfair to my employee, which is why I wrote in for advice and strategies to cope. And everyone’s comments were extremely helpful! I just needed some outside perspective to see what was going on more clearly, because I knew I was reacting from emotion and felt I couldn’t trust my own judgement. Fortunately, the situation resolved itself when my employee took an exciting job opportunity for him, and he left on good terms.

I wrote in the comments section of my letter that I believed I would have reacted differently had it been a woman condescending to me. But the other day, I was emailing with a female coworker and she said something quite condescending. I was absolutely *incensed* for a moment. Then I had to laugh! I guess I proved that I can take offense from condescending behavior when it comes from someone of any gender!

As far as my managerial skills, I don’t have any great updates to report. Since I wrote in, I have encountered a few other situations where I should have addressed minor behavioral issues head on, and I was too afraid to have a tough conversation. So, I still have some work to do there. (But at least I didn’t get emotional about them.)

3. How can I get my staff to sign up to work after-hours events? (first update here)

2016 and 2017 were really, really difficult and I had a lot of problems with burnout and exhaustion. But in 2017, the stars happened to align and we were able to split my department into two departments and move one of our full-timers into a newly created management role for the new department. Instead of managing one department that is responsible for Task A and Task B, my department is now responsible for Task A and the new department covers Task B.

It is so, so, so much better. I look back on how things used to be and I’m not really sure how I did any of it before this.

I still have a lot on my plate, but it’s manageable. Now that my department is focused on Task A, I enjoy my job a lot more than I did previously—Task A was always my favorite part of the job, but I usually spent most of my time on Task B, which I didn’t find as enjoyable. I still fill in on Task B when needed and I can be a resource for the new manager. I find that I like Task B a lot better when I don’t have to spend all my time on it.

I also got a fairly substantial raise when these changes were made, which was helpful.

Anyway, I thought I would share that update, as everything turned out really well and I thought maybe people would like to hear some good news. Thank you for all that you do — this site continues to be a wonderful resource.

{ 25 comments… read them below }

  1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

    OP#1- the false negative rate for COVID testing is fairly high. Please proceed as if you have it!

        1. Windra*

          #1 even if you 100% did not have covid-19 you could still pass your mystery illness on and even if it is harmless anyone who caught it would get crazy worried it was covid since the symptoms are similar. They would then need a test etc so best for everyone to stay home. As flu season approaches it will be interesting to see how the world handles the influx of flu-like symptoms.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I came here to post the same thing! It has to do with how much virus they were able to get on the end of your Qtip. So if the person didn’t swab you correctly, you didn’t have a heavy viral load the day you took the test, or COVID decided to camp out somewhere else in your body to multiply, you will test negative while still being COVID positive.

      The same goes for the COVID antibody test. You can test negative for antibodies but still have had a case of COVID. Apparently a lot of people whose antibody levels are just below the amount required for a positive test actually had COVID, when researchers interviewed people for symptoms and exposure.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      Yep, the latest I’ve read is that the false negative rate can be up to 30%, which is pretty significant! And for anyone else reading that may have been exposed but isn’t symptomatic, asymptomatic cases are even harder to get positive tests for. It often takes 5-7 days after exposure to get a positive test and sometimes even up to 14 days!

    3. MK*

      In my country the recommendation is to quarantine for 14 days if you came into contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case, even if you test negative; also that you should take a second test if the contact was significant. My uncle tested negative on the first case and positive on the second (without any symptoms), but he was actually living with confirmed cases.

      1. KateM*

        If I don’t know about having a contact but had several symptoms and now a negative test, then what? These symptoms could have been for whatever, right? And where I live, the rate of covid is relatively low (but it means that people mostly do not wear masks).

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          That’s why we all need to wear masks, distance, and avoid unnecessary group activities. You end up with Schroedinger’s COVID.

    4. pcake*

      I came here to say the same thing – one of my friends testing negative four times before testing positive due – in part – to the test taker’s issues with the swabs. Luckily his doctor was SURE he had the virus and pushed to have him retested and retested. Otherwise he could have infected many people.

      Btw, did the OP actually say they were tested? I’m not seeing that. The letter says “And finally… I DON’T HAVE COVID-19! No idea what I’m actually sick with though, and the doctor was not helpful.”

      1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        You’re right, I made the assumption that they’d been tested based to their surety that they didn’t have it, despite having all of the symptoms. I wanted to speak up in case I was right!

      2. Aleta*

        Yes, this, OP! I’m waiting on my third test results, but my first two were negative and the doctor thinks they were false negatives due to other symptoms. While I don’t have the results yet, the third test was CLEARLY more thorough than the first two, like, the nurse took three times as long in each nostril (and it didn’t hurt like the first two did!). Definitely proceed as if you have it.

      3. OP 1*

        I was tested. The symptoms are finally starting to alleviate, and I’ve basically proceeded as if the test was positive anyway.

    5. Risha*

      Yep! My Ob today told me his brother tested negative one day, positive the next, and then negative the day after that.

    6. Minocho*

      I am pretty sure I was one of those false negatives, myself. As it took two weeks for me to get those negative test results, at which time I was still experiencing minor symptoms (and would continue to for another four weeks!), I was quarantining anyway.

      I hope you get better soon, OP!

      1. SpicySpice*

        I also think I was a false negative. I had a fever and tiredness for 12 days back in April. Got tested on day 7. When it came back negative, I asked them what else could have caused me to have a fever for that long for no apparent reason and their answer was basically *shrug*. And yeah, I quarantined anyway until I had no fever.

    7. JSPA*

      It’s also, already, the start of flu season.

      Some of the influenza viruses persist a lot longer, airborne, than COVID, and/or are infectous in lower doses. Which is to say that COVID masking precautions don’t eliminate flu risk.

      Finally, while it’s been a hundred-plus years since we’ve had a flu bug as lethal as COVID, a bad flu can also put people in the hospital, and kill the unlucky few.

      Take care of yourself!

      1. allathian*

        Influenza kills between 30,000 and 60,000 people in the US each and every year, so while it’s not quite on the same level as COVID, it’s not just an “unlucky few” who die. In the 2018-2019 flu season, about 490,000 people were hospitalized because of it. This with a working vaccine.

  2. Bookworm*

    #1: I don’t know where you are or how accurate the tests are, but there have been multiple cases where people who actually do have COVID are testing negatively. So it’s probably a good idea to continue quarantining and what not. Do hope whatever you have goes away fast. Thanks for the update! Glad it worked out (mostly).

  3. OrigCassandra*

    We’re all works in progress, OP2. Hang in there, and keep progressing. :) Thanks for writing back in.

    1. Malarkey01*

      This and it’s always fair to say “I know I am doing this wrong, help me do it right”. Sometimes we even know we aren’t doing something right, but aren’t sure exactly what we’re doing wrong and it’s hard but helps when unbiased outsiders can point it out (although it stinks to read about yourself).

      Kudos for recognizing a problem and getting help to improve!

      1. Minocho*

        I just experienced a little of this the other day. A coworker pointed out a place I could improve, and I was upset and offended at first. I took a few moments and realized they weren’t really wrong, and it honestly pointed out a whole area where I’ve been coasting, and I shouldn’t. We’re working remote, so I had time to deal with the emotion before responding (rather than having the emotion possibly written on my face or giving me attitude the coworker would then have to deal with) – because if we’d been working together in person and they saw the annoyance / offense on my face, I’d then have to explain that I’d examined their advice and agreed with it after processing the emotion – having the distance inherent in work remote spares me having to admit to that, at least. :)

        The thing I want most to avoid is getting to a place where I decide that I don’t need to improve anymore – because I’ve seen people like that, and that’s not where I want to be.

    2. Xavier Desmond*

      Agreed. OP2 seems to have great self awareness, which will definitely stand her in good stead as she seeks to improve her managerial abilities.

  4. Mostly just a lurker*

    OP1–based on your mention of your boss reminding you to talk to your professors, I’m guessing you might be a college student worker? If so, take it from this employer of student workers that you are 1,000% doing the right thing staying home, covid or no. Glad you’re proceeding as if you have it, as it’s the best thing you can do to keep your school and the office you’re working for open for business. Don’t feel guilty!

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