my boss sent me work questions while I was in the hospital

A reader writes:

A few weeks ago I had a bizarre experience with my usually great boss, and I’m not sure if I handled it right.

I had a medical emergency over the weekend and ended up having an emergency appendectomy on Sunday morning. (Side note: ouch.) Sunday evening, while recovering in the hospital, I sent my boss a text explaining the situation, that I would be out sick for a few days, and asking him to please cover Task X for me on Monday, as it was time-sensitive.

He texted back saying he hoped I felt better soon, and asking me for the exact numbers to use for Task X. I wondered if somehow he missed the “in the hospital” part of my text, so I responded, “I’m still in the hospital and only have my personal cell phone with me, so unfortunately, I’m not able to get those numbers.”

He replied again saying, “Oh, that’s fine, just send me the best estimates you currently have.” I was baffled. He could have estimated the numbers himself, or used the ones from last time we did Task X, or any number of other solutions. But instead, he seemed to be asking me to pull together this information from my hospital bed.

I didn’t know what to say, so I just didn’t respond to that last message. I feel like it was unprofessional of me to just drop the conversation, but I also think that him asking me detailed work questions under those circumstances was fairly insane. He hasn’t brought it up since, but I’m still uneasy about it. Is there a better way I could have communicated about the situation at the time? Should I say something now to clear the air or just let it go? I really don’t know what to think.

Since you say he’s usually a great boss, I bet his thought process was this:
* “She’s in the hospital but she’s lucid enough to text me about a work task, and thus she is probably prepared for a very short work conversation and is perhaps even laying comfortably in a hospital bed with time on her hands.”
* “She will know this info off the top of her head and so it won’t be a major imposition to ask for the estimates.”

In other words, more of a misunderstanding/miscommunication than a boss who thought it appropriate to expect you to perform work during a medical emergency.

It’s fine that you didn’t respond to his last message at the time. You were in the hospital! You could have been dealing with doctors, sleeping, heavily drugged, or in pain, etc.

In fact, you probably could have just sent your initial message and not your second one, figuring that the initial “I’m in the hospital having emergency treatment” made the situation clear … and then anyone not receiving further responses would figure out that you probably weren’t in a position to provide them.

Alternately and only if you were up to it, you could have responded to your boss’s last message with, “I don’t have estimates off the top of my head and have my hands full here so probably won’t be able to respond to anything more until this is all over.” Or, “Not fully lucid right now — just needed to tell you what’s going on” or whatever made sense. And then considered yourself free of any obligation to respond to further work messages until you were in a state where you could do it comfortably and confidently (which might have been after you were discharged and back at home, or back at work.)

Since it’s been a few weeks now, you can let the whole thing drop if you want to. Or you could say, “I realized that when I was in the hospital you asked me for estimates on X and I didn’t reply. I wasn’t in any position to be fielding work questions at the time, which you probably figured out.”

But I don’t think this was about you needing to have communicated differently at the time. And since your boss is otherwise a good boss, I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he misjudged things but was not in fact expecting you to pore over spreadsheets from your hospital bed.

For the sake of thoroughness: If he was a different sort of boss — a bad boss — and was in fact expecting you to do work during a medical emergency, all the responses above would work too. Even bad bosses usually get it when someone points out they’re hospitalized and stop responding to messages. It’s only truly outlier, cartoon-villain-level bosses who would be outraged by that. Good boss or not, sometimes people — being humans with all their mental blocks and occasional slow reasoning and more than occasional self-absorption — just need a nudge to realize, “Oh. Right. Hospital. Not happening right now.”

{ 176 comments… read them below }

    1. What's in a name?*

      “I do not feel comfortable making any guesses or estimation under the influence of the drugs they are giving me.”

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        Too long. It suggests you’re being very thoughtful. “I can’t do that while here” or something like that.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            “Same! why do you think I asked you for those estimates, knowing full well you’re in the hospital?”

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          “Let me ask this pink elephant I just saw fly by, for his best estimate of the numbers, and get back to you.”

      1. SJJ*

        Or “Sorry, last time I looked at those numbers my appendix burst.”

        True Story, did a certain workout class (one with a copyrighted name :) ) with a friend one night and the next day they were in the ER with appendicitis and had to have it removed.

        Was totally unrelated to the workout, but we joke about never doing that class again.

        1. Becca*

          As a teenager I sang in a choir and had one particular friend I sat next to and hung out with during breaks. One night she mentioned that she hadn’t had dinner as she didn’t feel great. She did eat a small packet of sweets.

          The next week she wasn’t there at all (pre mobile and texting) and the week after she was back and told me she’d had appendicitis and had her appendix out the day after she hadn’t felt well.

          Of course we concluded that as she’d only eaten the sweets they had “caused” her appendicitis and joked about it for years after.

    2. just passing through*

      That memetic tumblr post that read:

      “Hey students, here’s a pro tip: do not write an email to your prof while you’re seriously sick.

      Signed, a person who somehow came up with “dear hello, I am sick and not sure if I’ll be alive to come tomorrow and I’m sorry, best slutantions, [name]”.”

      (Can’t include link but the original poster’s username was sisterofiris.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I was gonna say, write something incoherent and that will get the message across!

        1. Mie*

          It is great, all of it. “Slut” does mean “end/ending” in Danish and I think Swedish so I wonder if the op speaks a Scandinavian language and got it mixed a bit.

          1. Ally McBeal*

            “Salutations” could also make sense. This whole thread has me giggling and I’m not even on pain meds.

    3. Nesprin*

      I went thru this exact scenario pretty recently: lucid but painful ED visit + coworker/boss work questions for [large urgent project].

      I just checked my messages- I sent a few texts to boss/close collaborators, set my away message that I’d be out until further notice, and redirected a few urgent questions to other people who could answer, then decided that all further emails/texts were for when I was out, and ignored them.

      One thing to consider is that I’m definitely an “ask” culture type person- I’m usually not offended by presumptuous questions, I just say no. OTOH, I do know quite a few guess ppl who are “guess types”, who’d be horrified by being forced to say no.

      1. Meara*

        Yes, this makes total sense to me. I had a similar situation when I broke my ankle very badly—emailed bosses from ER Saturday night, had surgery Tuesday. In between I was super doped up, and warned them—but also bored, and generally figure if I can say “oh yeah, the file is in X spot” or “Wakeen is the person to contact about that, don’t send an email to his whole department asking” that saves someone else a lot of wandering around, happy to do it. But as someone else said, if I have to pull out my laptop to get you an answer you’re out of luck. And I figure all of it is convenience—if you don’t get an answer because I’m sleeping off the oxy, you’ll survive, just waste a little time.

      2. nobadcats*

        Same thing happened to me about four years ago. I was working as a contract player before I got hired full time in my current job. Ended up in the emergency room for about five hours. Who knew that they blocked cell phone usage in the ER? I didn’t. But I had told my PM and manager I was in the ER and would be out of pocket for several hours.

        My roomie came to pick me up and my phone blew UP as soon as I got into her car with texts from my PM (who was a micromanager). I started trying to answer them or call her back and my roomie took my phone from my hands and said, “Before you type anything, you have to tell her you’re high as fvck on Norco right now and won’t really be able to answer her questions.”

        Good times!

        1. Bear Shark*

          Who knew that they blocked cell phone usage in the ER?

          This must be a hospital by hospital thing, because the last time I was in the ER I was definitely using my cell phone to make arrangements for a ride home after we realized I was going to need treatment that would not allow me to drive myself home.

          1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

            It may be due to type of construction of the building and not an active blocking. Have witnessed myself during times on hospital related jobsites, where there’s “construction use electricity” and not much else.

            And I will add that the one time someone at old-job called me, post surgery, for something important (and knowing that I was going to be out and had taken PTO), I didn’t hear the phone, but my excessively talkative three year old did. Who handed it to MY Mother, who’d decided that I probably needed taking care of, or at least the two under age five did, while I recovered. And lets just say one of the few things I DO recall from that day were that my Mother knew some interesting combinations of expletives that I never had considered.

    4. Media Circus*

      Srsly. If anyone had asked me a detail-oriented (or, really, *any*) question in the first 24 hours after my appendectomy, they would have received a completely worthless, hopefully hilarious response.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      One actual email sent from my Blackberry to a manager who tried to ask for the location of a complex code fix while I was at home on morphine:

      ‘I think the fridge has my stuff because it’s over there and im not’

      1. JessaB*

        It’s even more funny as I remember an American football player nicknamed Refrigerator. So if Fridge has it…

  1. Nonprofit Pro*

    What about a grand boss who gets mad you have your out of office reply on while a family member is in surgery and has your boss berate you about it on your next day working?

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Very different from this. If the boss is a good boss, they just make a mistake in assuming the OP was sitting around, lucid and comfortable, and interested in work. That’s an understandable mistake.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. That’s the next level. For me, if I received that directive from my boss, I’d push back. For one thing I want to know what kind of boss/company I have on my hands. But primarily, “I ain’t doing that! If you have to fire me for insubordination, I guess that will mean that you will have to yell at NP yourself.” Even jerk bosses can kind of figure out they went a bit too far.
        You’ve probably figured this is one of MY hills.

      2. Lady Meyneth*

        My husband’s boss is pretty good, has his back on work stuff, is supportive on time off and flexing time, gets him opportunities for growth, often pays for non-required certifications he wants, etc.

        However, he is not a sensitive guy, and he can only focus on one thing at a time. Case in point: when my husband let him know his granny had passed and he wouldn’t come to work that day, his immediate response was “Ok, you can make up your hours later in the week. But where’s the file for X?”

        This is not a heartless man, but he was really focused on X; he later apologised and was really embarassed, and my husband was able to take all the time he needed for the preparations and funeral. But we do know it took one of his coworkers asking him what the heck for him to get out of work mode and remember human-being mode. And we know it’s likely to happen again if similar emergencies crop up, and husband might need to jar him back into his human skin.

        OP, your boss could be great at being a boss, but he might have a similar personality to my husband’s. You may need to decide if you’re willing to have the first response to your life issues be a negative one (I wouldn’t be, but hubby’s fine with it).

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Had a boss ring me multiple times to complain that I hadn’t answered my phone and my email said out of office and it was during a major system outage and how dare I not be at work:

      I was at my grandfather’s funeral. Which my boss has approved the leave for. His ‘during a severity one outage I expect everyone to come in’ answer the day after was part of the reason I left that firm.

  2. trombonegirl*

    Does anyone have any advice on what to do in situations where the medical emergency lasts months? Fighting symptoms of chronic illness, major mental illness relapse, and so on? What’s appropriate to expect from the boss in that situation?

    1. SomebodyElse*

      If it’s going into months then I think the answer is a conversation, FMLA/Intermittent FMLA (if relevant), and accommodations (if relevant). The answer as to what is appropriate depends on your work situation.

      To me a medical emergency isn’t a months long thing. A medical emergency is similar to the OP’s situation. Fine one minute – hospital/surgery the next.

      1. Weekend Please*

        A long medical emergency would probably need short term disability/a leave of absence. A chronic illness would be FMLA or some sort of disability accommodation.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      It depends. If the employee can’t do any work talk about transferring work or passing on info, it cannot be done and boss and company just need to figure it out. That could include them getting IT to get into employee’s work to find information or turn on an OOO message.

      If the employee has the time and coherence it would be good to have a brief one time talk with an estimate if possible of how long the employee will be out and passing on status of in progress work, where to find it, etc.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      My husband could not report for work at all. They put him on short term disability, hoping for the best and expecting the worst. At the end of 3 months his company let him go. He died a week later.
      Our systems bite.

    4. altheaspectrum*

      Well I don’t know what others should “expect” but I can tell you how my employer and I dealt with an 8 months medical emergency when I had a terminally ill child right on the heels of maternity leave. That said, I am answering from an extremely small business perspective (about 4-5 people total) which has a different context in terms of FMLA, existence of others to cover my work flow etc. (I could fairly say I am a ‘key employee’ to the business operating). I have no baseline or context whatsoever for evaluating how this works/doesn’t in larger more structured environments.

      I feel that in my situation what I personally expected/wanted was (a) continued employment for financial reasons so that my partner could stop working and one parent could always be available and (b) flexibility, so that in addition to continuing to have a salary to live on, I could frequently attend to parenting and medical needs more than a typical parent of a healthy child might do, because we knew we would not have a lifetime together.

      I am a believer that flexibility is a two way street – I want to receive it and am also willing to give it. For me this meant working when I could work and frankly there was a lot of time I could, including shifting my hours to complete work overnight etc., but it also meant reduced hours and the mutual understanding that there would be times the medical stuff would hit the fan and I’d be totally unavailable for hours/days. This was a “both sides are going to do their best” situation and I am very thankful I was able to have it. I was put under very little external pressure but I also appreciated that by truly doing what I could do to the best of my ability.

      So that is what I, personally, would expect/hope for but this is in a situation where there’s not a lot of oversight/rules and we didn’t have a big worry about making concessions for me that many others might later feel entitled to, etc. This is the times when working for a small business is great (if you have a great boss who puts family first).

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        I am so very sorry for your loss. You and your employer both handled this awful situation kindly, compassionately, and effectively. Sometimes, being human must come before everything.

      2. allathian*

        I’m so sorry for your loss, and glad that you had a great employer who understood your needs, including that you wanted to work when you could.

        While I’ve never been in anything approaching your situation, I really appreciate the flexibility my employer offers, and I work for a 2,000+ employee government agency.

    5. Master Bean Counter*

      After two weeks it’s no longer an emergency. It’s a condition that needs accommodations. At that point a frank talk about what you think you can and can’t do, flexibility, and what can/should be reassigned, and where you keep your records so other can jump in is how this should be handled. Uncertainty can be managed to the benefit of both parties.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, even if that accommodation can be temporary. Most people who break a leg will be able to return to a sit-down job on crutches within a few weeks at most, and will eventually recover completely, although commuting to the office by car may be impossible for as long as the leg is in a cast, particularly if it’s the right leg (or either leg, if your car has manual transmission). But if the job involves physical labor, the recovery period that requires accommodation of some kind will be longer.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Oh boy, my topic of expertise! UK based here though, so your milegage may not apply.

      I’ve had full scale nervous breakdowns in the past (most recent 2020), schizophrenia flare ups that mean I can’t do much of anything (thankfully rare), arthritis flareups that have rendered me nearly immobile in pain…I’m basically the human equivalent of a Windows ME install. Also, am a manager.

      The approach has to be then about ‘what can feasibly be done to accomodate this’. For the nervous breakdown I was in a psych ward so I wasn’t allowed any mobile devices – so couldn’t work remotely. The company I was at at the time knew I had something I was hospitalised for, and the consultants wrote a letter to the firm explaining why I wouldn’t be at work. The other problems have usually required me asking for WFH privileges or a temporary reduction in working hours/workloads.

      Mostly, firms have been okay with these kind of discussions and are quite willing to explain what they can or cannot accomodate. For instance at one place I could get 6 months off paid in severe medical situations but if it went one day beyond that I’d lose my job. Another would say that they could let me do WFH but it would have to be for a defined period of time and certain work metrics would have to be made.

      I’ve however had very little luck trying to get any kind of accomodation for my severe depression flareups and limited success in asking for them to not test the fire alarms for ages during the middle of a workday and not let me leave the building (loud repeating noises set off my epilepsy).

    7. Quinalla*

      Mine wasn’t an emergency situation for months, but I broke my hip so could not come into the office for months and the first couple weeks after surgery I was still in a lot of pain. I worked out working from home with my boss (it doesn’t seem so novel now!) and did that for about 6-7 months until I was down to using a cane, then I came back in the office. The first week I just answered very basic – where is this? questions, 2nd week I started working very slowly and then just sort of ramped up from there to back to full time though I took breaks as need to lay down. They kept my salary active as I really was only out for 1 week – just used PTO for that – but I’d been there about 10 years and worked hard, so they better be able to cut me some slack when I needed it too!

  3. Smithy*

    If the boss is otherwise good, I think this advice is very fair. While there are a many hospitalization situations for self or family where someone is out of it/focused on the matter at hand, there are also a fair number of hospitalizations that can include a lot of lucid waiting. And for better or worse, there are people who find work as a desired distraction.

    1. Natalie*

      Yeah, I had an actual conversation with my boss while I was being induced. I went in for a regular prenatal visit and surprise! high blood pressure so time to have the baby weeks before we had planned for me to be out. She’s a good boss, if I hadn’t been in the right state of mind to have the conversation that would have been fine. But the conversation had to happen sometime since I needed to give her the status of certain tasks.

      1. Bee*

        My old boss frequently told the story of negotiating a deal while she was in labor – the person she was negotiating with was horrified when they realized this, but she just found all the downtime in early labor deeply boring and figured she might as well handle this before the baby came for real!

      2. hbc*

        I had a similar conversation during labor at the hospital. Boss wouldn’t have called if he had known, but epidurals are like magic for me, so I was pretty much just hanging around bored anyway.

        I’m guessing some prior experience that lined up more with our situations and a seemingly unstrained text from OP, and the manager here made some bad assumptions. She should have picked up on the soft “I’m done helping,” but otherwise I find it pretty reasonable.

    2. OtterB*

      Yes, I’ve had situations (prepandemic) where I was at the hospital with family members and bored while they napped / watched TV / had physical therapy / whatever. For that matter, I had one for myself where I had to stay in the hospital several days for IV antibiotics but really I didn’t feel bad. My rule of thumb evolved to “I have my work email on my phone and am checking it intermittently. If I can answer a question off the top of my head, I’m happy to. If I will have to use my laptop, then I will get to it when I can.” This worked pretty well.

      1. TiffIf*

        My coworker’s mother (who lives with her) had a stroke about a year and a half ago–Coworker left in the middle of the day when she was informed (obviously) and then for weeks later was available periodically –often just from her laptop at the hospital/rehab but would be very clear about when she was available and when she was not.

        I think communication is the key for something ongoing.

    3. Corporate Lawyer*

      Yep, positions reversed but the same idea: I once had a boss call me about a work topic from her hospital bed, mere hours after she (the boss) had surgery. I think she was bored.

      1. Smithy*

        My dad had a lot of later in life health issues that required off and on hospitalization/heavy medical treatments. He always found great refuge in working while going through treatments that would have had me incapacitated. And on the flip side, there was a surgery I had where I was told I might need 2-4 days to recover, and later that night I was completely done with staying in bed.

        For better or worse, bad bosses often given plenty of examples as to why they’re problematic – while good bosses making an unfortunate misstep here or there is also not unexpected.

  4. Former call centre worker*

    Is being signed off (ie with a doctor’s note) not a thing in the US? Someone I know had their appendix out and was signed off for 4 weeks. Why is the letter writer having to go back after just a few days?! If you’re signed off, generally employers won’t allow you to work even if you feel you’ve recovered (I guess because it’s a lawsuit risk to the company if they let you work against a doctor’s advice and it aggravates your condition?).

    1. Pop*

      Not really. We do have protected medical leave (FMLA) but it is usually unpaid, so there are ramifications of taking that much time to recover. Definitely don’t have “signed off” as a well-understood thing the way you’re talking about.

    2. MissBliss*

      What you’re describing kind of sounds like FMLA, which is unpaid, but I’m pretty sure employers aren’t allowed to contact you while you’re out on FMLA. I would imagine in this case, the LW determined or was told by their doctor they would need a few days sick time to recover, so that’s what they opted to use. They may have also had limited paid sick time.

      1. Former call centre worker*

        Yeah it’s not really a choice here. If you go in for an operation the doctor will give you a note for your employer, signing you off for what they think you need (probably fairly standardised). Same with long illnesses. You can’t really choose to go back sooner unless you can convince the doctor to sign you off for less time or convince your employer to disregard the note, which neither are likely to want to do.

      2. Fergus the Llama Juggler*

        I got a call from my manager when I was out on FMLA for a work-related issue. I had no idea they weren’t allowed to contact me! Is that a state or federal law?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Federal. They can contact you on rare occasions with really simple stuff like “do you know where the X file is?” but not beyond that or it’s considered FMLA interference.

          1. anonafile*

            If asked where the X File was? I’d probably tell them to check with Mulder…or Scully.
            I’ll show myself out….

            1. Jaydee*

              No, that was my thought too. Don’t show yourself out. Grab a drink and let’s talk alien conspiracies and killer cryptids.

          2. LuauCarly*

            I know I’m late to this and might not get a reply, but I never knew this and now I’m curious.

            I was on FMLA a few years ago after a hysterectomy. My doctor had recommended four weeks so that is what I put in on my leave request from the beginning. It wasn’t an emergency surgery, so while I don’t remember exactly how much notice I gave, it was at least a month.

            Two weeks after surgery, I got a call from my boss. He wasn’t asking me for any work information or anything like that, he was basically fishing to see if I might come back to work earlier than planned. I was a bit dumbfounded, and I probably not so gently explained to him that I just had abdominal surgery and I had every intention of following my doctor’s orders for rest and recovery.

            I’ve always known that boss was an ass and his calling me like that was incredibly obtuse, but was it actually illegal for him to call and ask me that?

        2. MissBliss*

          I don’t think it’s a hard line “absolutely cannot contact someone on FMLA” rule but that they need to be really careful the extent to which employees are contacted about work, because, well, they’re not supposed to be working and contacting them for information could be construed as making them work. I assume it would have to be federal because FMLA is federal, but I don’t know for certain. I know Alison has written about it in the past, though, so there’s probably better information in the archives here if you search FMLA!

          1. Fergus the Llama Juggler*

            This makes sense! I work in healthcare (administrative side) and this was involving a possible HIPAA issue that a patient had brought to our attention before I was out. I had been in said pt’s medical record because part of my job is to track pt’s that no show appts and if they’re in the hospital at the time we don’t count it against them. This pt had no showed an appt so I was just checking to see if he was in the hospital at the time. However, they were apparently contacting everyone that had been in this chart since he was claiming someone had released his medical info without his permission so I can understand why they had to do it.

      3. Natalie*

        You can contact employees on FMLA in a very limited fashion – a quick question like the one the LW describes probably doesn’t rise to the level of FMLA interference.

        1. MissBliss*

          Yes, you’re right – I wasn’t really thinking about LW’s situation since they did go back, but more the situation Former call centre worker described about not letting people work even if they feel they’re recovered.

          1. Managing to Get By*

            I’m not allowed to let my employees return to work from FMLA until we get a doctor to sign off and the leave administrator approves the return.

            We’ve had to have IT turn off access for employees on FMLA who refuse to stop working. One in particular who was also collecting short term disability insurance and still logging in every day and replying to email. Not only does it confuse clients who have already heard back from the person who was covering this employee’s work, but it would also jeopardize their disability payments if they are working and it could leave the company liable for interfering with FMLA if the employee decided to claim they were encouraged to keep working.

        2. Bored Fed*

          In Massey-Diez v. Univ. of Iowa Cmty. Med. Servs., Inc., 826 F.3d 1149, 1158 (8th Cir. 2016), the court explained that (in the context of summary judgment), “courts have drawn the line along a distinction between, on the one hand, receiving nondisruptive communications such as short phone calls requesting the employee to pass on institutional knowledge or property as a professional courtesy, and, on the other, requiring the employee to complete work-related tasks or produce work product.”

    3. Andytron*

      Not in the UK sense. A doctor may say “take it easy for 4 weeks”, but it is up to the patient (and their PTO) whether or not they do.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Erm, only inasmuch as the employee can decide whether or not to submit the sick note to their employer. Once the employer has it, you *can’t* work until it expires or is superseded.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Sorry, to clarify, because I have just realised there’s two ways to read Andytron’s comment: in the UK a sick note is all or nothing. That’s so an employer can’t try to persuade/coerce you back to work sooner.

    4. Anononon*

      I don’t think the amount of time that OP took off here should be at issue necessarily, and it’ll just lead to a debate about the norms for sick leave time in the US.

      (For example, for what it’s worth, I think 4 weeks for an appendectomy, assuming it was laparoscopic, seems a lot. I had my gallbladder out laparoscopically, and I would have been able to do desk work within a week, if not potentially shorter.)

      1. Former call centre worker*

        No idea if it was laproscopic. I have had a different laproscopic surgery too and was signed off for 1 week but I’ve no idea what recovery times are like for different surgeries.

      2. Firecat*

        The thing is you can’t know if there were complications though.

        While your laproscopic gallbladder removal had you ready to return to the office in less then a week, mine had me unable to do much of anything for 2 weeks and I couldn’t twist (and thus safely drive) for 3 weeks. But my boss was very huffy that I was “milking” my surgery to work from home.

        In general it would be great if Drs in our country were more empowered to spell out recovery times instead of bosses going off of their limited experiences and hunches about when someone should be good to come back.

        1. Lou*

          “In general it would be great if Drs in our country were more empowered to spell out recovery times instead of bosses going off of their limited experiences and hunches about when someone should be good to come back.”

          True, but depending on what the issue is and which doctor you’re talking to they may have different interpretations (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though). I recently had surgery on my pelvic area and the surgeon was essentially “you can go back to work in a week or two,” but the urgent care doctor I saw very shortly after surgery for a different issue in the same area saw the surgical site during the exam and was horrified to hear I was planning to go back to work the following week, saying they thought I needed at least 8 weeks off. The difference there mainly came down to the fact that the urgent care doctor doesn’t have much experience with the kind of surgery I had, whereas the surgeon routinely does these surgeries and sees the kind of recovery time patients often need. Small caveat here being that I was the average person who was comfortable enough to be ready to go back to work after only two weeks – if I hadn’t been, I would never have asked the surgeon to sign my return to work form for the date I did

          1. All Het Up About It*

            Different Drs having different opinions about recovering time, is absolutely a thing! I recently had a laparoscopic surgery with zero complications and my Dr. held me back on exercise for a lot longer than the literature/research indicates is normal, because they are older/more traditional.

            Also – my Dr. did offer me a Drs note for work if needed, but my office did not require it. Years ago my mother had a similar surgery and her work did require the Drs. note about how long it would be before she could come back, and at what “level” of work she could do upon return. So in the US as a whole there are no hard and fast rules, but the the type of “signoff” you are referring to does happen in some locations or in certain industries.

        1. Anononon*

          Yeah, that’s the whole point of my comment. I don’t see any value in being shocked at OP going back after several days recovery because someone else got 4 weeks off.

    5. SomebodyElse*

      There is also short term disability which can be used with FMLA which provides a percentage (up to 100%) of wages.

      Confused yet? Below are the highlights, obviously not all inclusive descriptions. Your friend who was signed off would have probably used FMLA and Short term disability for that leave if in this US.

      -FMLA- Job protection – some employers/employees are exempt from this federal law (under 50 employees, key personnel in an organization, hours worked the previous year, etc) 12 weeks Does not cover wages.
      -Short term disability- Benefit that some companies offer to pay a percentage of wages usually 12 weeks percentage of wages paid between 60%-100%) can be used in parallel to FMLA. Typically 12 weeks
      -Long term disability- Benefit that some companies offer. Pays a percentage of employees wages usually less than the percentage paid under short term disability. Starts after Short term disability runs out so 12+ weeks. I honestly don’t remember how long this runs for.

      1. FrenchCusser*

        It would depend on your insurance coverage.

        LTD at my company, which I pay out of pocket for, covers for as long as needed up to the time I’d be full retirement age.

        1. Firecat*

          Yes and not all procedures are covered under STD – my gallbladder surgery was not for example. Additionally indivial employers can put rules in place – such as all ESL must be used prior to initiating STD.

          1. Lou*

            Was it the procedure that wasn’t covered, or were you not going to be out long enough for STD to kick in? I was just out for 3 weeks on medical leave, but my company’s STD stuff requires a one-week waiting period that I have to cover with my PTO before STD kicks in. So if I had only needed to be out for a week I wouldn’t have been eligible for STD because of that waiting period, not because of the procedure that I had.

        2. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Unless the company dismisses you. Few carry you until retirement age if you are on LTD.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            There’s usually a cap to it, which is I mentioned it. I don’t remember what the typical timeframe is off the top of my head. If pressed to guess I’d say between 4-6 months.

            The only time I’ve seen LTD be used in practice was with an employee who had a terminal illness.

            We basically told him upon diagnoses is that he could ‘work’ as long as he could. He worked normally for a few months – his choice. Then we started to transition work away from him and focused him on documentation. Then towards the end his ‘work’ consisted of letting us know if was going to be doing anything that that day that resembled work… we didn’t care if he was productive or not. We didn’t care if he logged in or not. When he was ready he told us that he wouldn’t be ‘working’ anymore so we started STD which turned into LTD. He passed away during the LTD phase.

    6. CCSF*

      It also depends on the way the surgery was performed. I had a surgery that was done with full a abdominal incision and was off for four weeks and then half-days for two weeks. Six weeks later, I had a much more delicate, more extensive, and far more lengthy surgery (6 hours on the operating table vs 2 with the first surgery) that was done laparoscopically/robotically and was only off for two weeks.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I have lots of sick leave saved up that I can draw on before I need to utilize the FMLA/disability route. Certainly enough to cover an appendectomy. I would just get a message to my supervisor that I was sick and would probably need a week off or whatever estimate the doctor provided. And then if I needed more I would just tell her I needed more.

        But I don’t think I need to provide a doctor’s not to justify how much time off I am asking for with my sick leave. And it is up to me when I feel well enough to return. My doctor provides advice, but doesn’t communicate with my supervisor. I work from home on a computer all day. It’s not physically demanding job. I could do it from bed if I were so inclined (although it would be hard to type while lying prone). WFH also allows me to decide that I feel up for working a couple of hours a day without having to factor in any commute time.

        1. Bumblebee*

          FMLA isn’t leave, though, it’s job protection. So you are using whatever kind of leave you have – sick, vacation, etc – and FMLA protects y0ur job for a total of 12 weeks. You still have to have the time saved up to use, or use disability.

          And 4 weeks for an appendix seems amazingly long. I had a colleague who had his out on a Thursday or a Friday and was back in the office by Tuesday of the next week.

          1. allathian*

            My sister’s appendix ruptured during her operation, so they had to rinse out her abdomen to avoid peritonitis. She had to stay in hospital on IV antibiotics for nearly a week and had another three weeks of sick leave after that.

    7. Kimmybear*

      Others have covered FMLA/disability but there is also the workman’s compensation side if it’s a work-related injury. Your employer may not let you return until a doctor clears you. That’s about their liability.

    8. Firecat*

      We don’t but that would be so nice!

      Frankly more and more I find that doctors are unwilling to provide hard timelines for recovery and are hesitant to pass out notes (some in the US even charge for them). I remember the paperwork for my miscarriage cost me $20 to obtain to fill out my FMLA.

      1. doreen*

        I think it must be very dependent on area -I’ve never had a doctor charge me to fill out any paperwork ( although I probably haven’t requested any paperwork out of the context of an office visit) nor have I had any trouble getting a note clearing me to return to work on a certain date.

        1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          When I was having several months of medical stuff a few years ago, my husband used intermittent FMLA for my appointments, tests, surgeries, and follow-up therapies. There was a VERY long form from his employer that had to be filled out by the doctor’s office, and there was a charge for that. I’m pretty sure it was a small amount, around $20.

        2. Lana Kane*

          I haven’t encountered a fee for FMLA paperwork, but I know more clinics are charging a fee for a basic dr’s note – the kind that you have your provider send in when your boss insists on it because you were out like 1 day. Those kinds of employer policies place an administrative burden on clinics, so some are charging.

    9. Burnout Phoenix*

      My employer (US) has a policy where if you’re out using sick time for more than 3 or 4 (don’t remember exact number) full days you need a doctor’s note saying you’re ok to come back to work. So that covers things like an emergency appendectomy – mine was on a Wednesday, I came back to work part time the following Monday so didn’t need a doctor’s note. It also covers things like medical leave after a planned surgery – since my leave was more than the 3-4 day limit, I needed a dr’s letter to come back from work after that one.

    10. Snow globe*

      There is no reason to assume the OP is returning so quickly because they don’t have paid leave. Some surgeries can be minimally invasive, and the doctor would approve return to work after a few days to a week.

    11. turquoisecow*

      There’s no mandated paid sick leave in the US. Some places give generously, some places not at all. Some places offer paid short-term disability if you’re recovering from surgery or something like that (maternity leave is technically short term disability) but this is covered by the employer, not the government, and it varies by employer how much is covered.

      FMLA is a law that prevents you from losing your job if you’re out for an extended time for a medical reason, like surgery or maternity leave or even caregiving reasons, but this doesn’t guarantee pay, it just means that your employer can’t punish you for taking the time. If you get 15 days of sick leave a year and you need to take a month off after having a baby, you will only get paid for the fifteen days of sick leave, FMLA will just guarantee that you don’t get fired for missing that much work. (Some places, you have Short Term Disability that kicks in only after you’ve used all your sick time, some places don’t offer it at all).

      Also, FMLA doesn’t apply to employers with fewer than a certain number of employees (I think 15?) and I think there are other limitations as well. So if you have appendicitis and work at a company of 14 employees that doesn’t offer short term disability or very much paid sick time, you very well might lose your job just for being sick. And a place like that probably doesn’t offer paid sick time either.

      1. Natalie*

        There’s no federally mandated sick leave, various states and municipalities do have mandated sick leave (although more on the order of days to a couple of weeks rather than weeks to months).

    12. nonegiven*

      I think someone in the US might be out for a few days over an appendix, then return to work on ‘light duty.’

  5. Rectilinear Propagation*

    Oh man, I was worried this was going to be another “boss harassed me during chemotherapy” type deals. This does seem like a combo of misunderstanding & brain cramp.

  6. Yvette*

    It sounds to me that he either
    didn’t want to do the work or didn’t want to have to take responsibility for the final product. “LW created the content, I just put it together.”

    1. Spicy Tuna*

      I think the boss just figured that OP was well-versed with the material since it was due the next day, and wanted to pick up where she left off rather than starting from square 1.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      That’s weird. It’s pretty for a manager (or anyone!) who covers a last minute task to get a ballpark on what they are expecting.

  7. EPLawyer*

    I think Alison’s reasoning with spot on. then he sent the next message and when you didn’t respond it him “Oh wait she’s in the HOSPITAL. this might not be the time to discuss work.”

    Boss hasn’t brought up since because Boss is probably embarrassed they were so thick headed at the time. he’s hoping you will just politely ignore the faux pas.

    Since this is an otherwise good boss, you can all pretend it never happened.

    1. PT*

      It’s fairly common for people to do a quick handoff when they call in, too. It’s probably just a reflex, not a personal attack.

      1. Weekend Please*

        Yep. My guess is her went on autopilot and asked the normal questions he would ask when he is suddenly covering a task and didn’t think through the fact that in this situation that wasn’t a great thing to do.

    2. PollyQ*

      Yes, this would be my best bet as to what happened, and I agree that saying nothing more about it is a sound strategy.

    3. John Smith*

      Must say, I’m jealous of OPs boss. I’ve just returned to work after 2 months off with pretty bad Covid (with brain fog ongoing that he knows about). Got twenty odd emails from my boss on the first day demanding this and that (first email started “ok John, you’ve not yet given me the report I asked for last month”. No “hello, how are you” or anything like that). Had a huge row with him over his tone more than anything and he started behaving like a school kid hurling insults. And this is someone who holds a responsible official position. So it’s off to the union for me to lodge another fruitless grievance because, as we all know, managers are never ever wrong.

      1. HigherEdAdminista*

        Oh my god, I am so sorry you had to deal with this. That is ridiculous.

        I can’t say what I’m really thinking, but I will say I hope your manager gets everything he deserves.

    4. LizM*

      Yup. I can see myself making that mistake. I totally see getting that text while I’m distracted with something at home, not fully registering the hospital part, and assuming that if they’re responding, the conversation is fine.

      I’d probably have a moment a little later and feel mortified that I was asking them to work from the hospital.

    1. Firecat*

      Eh I’m not seeing any unsually high number. A few assume the worse or catastrophize on almost any letter.

      These are all certainly nicer then any letter concerning weight ever.

  8. CW*

    Since your boss is otherwise wonderful, it sounds like a simple honest mistake on your boss’s part. I wouldn’t obsess over it. Now, if this came from a boss worse the Cruella de Vil, then this will be a whole different story.

    I am sure your boss will understand. It’s not like you flat-out refused to work; you were in the hospital for a medical emergency.

  9. PrairieEffingDawn*

    I had a similar situation happen in May when my son was born. He needed surgery the day after his birth and while he was in surgery and I was recovering in my hospital bed, my boss was texting me asking for some passwords. It did feel irritating to me at the time but I also understood because I had given birth about 5 weeks early and didn’t have all the details of my leave buttoned up yet. In this situation I feel like my boss and I were each right and wrong in some ways.

    1. Mami21*

      I think your boss was very, very, very wrong to text you re work in this situation. Like, mind-blowingly so.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        Also, boss asked for your passwords? Isn’t giving out your password a security breach that can lead to immediate termination? I hope you didn’t give them the passwords.

        1. PrarieEffingDawn*

          It was a password to a program I’d been trying out for some client work I was doing. In order to continue the client work someone on my team would need access to the account. I believe I changed the password before giving it out (but I don’t fully remember because per the OP, I was extremely stressed and exhausted).

          However there was another time this boss asked for my computer login password so he could go through my Slack transcripts to look at chat history between me and another colleague. That I refused to disclose.

        2. Case of the Mondays*

          I can think of a lot of reasons a boss could legitimately need your passwords. My firm has our office manager keep all of our passwords so that if we were out of commission they could access what they needed to make sure nothing fell through the cracks. Someone would have to access my email, put up my out of office, reply to any clients that had emailed before the OOO was up. Same with my voicemail. If I needed emergency continuances they may be drafted for me and filed under my electronic filing log-in. There are reasons we would not want another attorney filing an appearance to do so. We would just note in the motion that it was being drafted on my behalf by another attorney/assistant and filed with my permission.

          1. PrarieEffingDawn*

            I think in the first case I referred to it was definitely a legitimate need. In general I’m of the mindset that in anything to do with work, I should expect that nothing is ever truly private.

  10. Daisy*

    This actually doesn’t seem that unreasonable to me (not to say OP was at all wrong to feel upset by it while they were in the hospital). But since they OP had asked the boss to cover something, I think the boss following up by text to get the information they needed for that task isn’t too out there. A call would have seemed intrusive to me, but I’d OP is up and texting the boss about work a quick question by text on the same topic seems ok (assuming the boss was fine not being answered which it sounds like they were).

    1. BigBodyBill*

      I agree completely! Not unreasonable at all IMO. I wonder if there’s not other things that have happened in the past to warrant this reaction.

    2. Massive Dynamic*

      “(assuming the boss was fine not being answered which it sounds like they were)” – agreed, and I think this is the piece that’s missing here. It’s an ask vs. guess culture mismatch, where a genuinely good boss would probably feel that it’s fine to ask and it’s fine for the recipient to ignore the ask if it’s a bad time. It’s still not a great move because power dynamics mean that the employee may not sense the boss’ implied “it’s fine to ignore” feeling.

      1. BigBodyBill*

        That’s a great point. I didn’t even think of that. Maybe the boss is great boss, but the relationship isn’t very healthy, meaning she doesn’t feel she can challenge her boss. Like you said…power dynamics. I feel empowered by my boss to speak up when things aren’t right. My boss relies on me to do that and rewards me in my reviews for it. But, I understand because there are still times when I feel uneasy about it and just do what she says.

      2. Daisy*

        I think that’s a good point and it would definitely be better for the boss to be really clear. I guess to me the difference was that she was asking the boss to do something and in my mind that is sort of being in work mode and if I were the person she contacted I would think she would WANT to make sure it was done right and feel like asking was the considerate thing. I would feel differently if she hadn’t asked the boss for a task, just said she was in the hospital and would be out full stop. In that case I would think it wasn’t okay for the boss to ask stuff. But I can see how people would feel differently and it’s hard when we don’t have the same ideas about how to handle stressful situations in the most compassionate way.

  11. BigBodyBill*

    I recently broke my arm after falling on the ice. I broke my arm (humerus) in 6 places with 15 smashed pieces of bone while delivering fresh water to my neighbors whose pipes had frozen. I had several things due at the end of the month for work. My boss called and texted me throughout the whole ordeal with questions so she could make sure the work I had already done continued so I didn’t get behind nor hurt the productivity of our group. But, my boss is a wonderful person. She knows me well enough to know that’s what I wanted her to do. Every time she called or texted she always asked how I was doing, if I needed anything, and every time told me that if I wasn’t up to talking or responding it was fine. My boss also sent me a very nice gift basket, and my work sent me a large care package as well. And, if I had just wanted to not talk or let everything wait, then she was fine with that. They just knew I wouldn’t want that, so my coworkers and boss picked up the slack and completed my work. When I came back to work, after missing 3 weeks, I was not behind in the slightest bit. And, I’m back at work with limitations so when I’ve done all I can do for the day or of o cannot work a day, I can take off with no questions asked. Who has a great boss? Me! I do! My point being, I think OP’s boss was just trying to do the right thing and hasn’t said anything about it since because he was perfectly fine with her not responding. It’s hard to help someone complete a project/task without certain information.

      1. BigBodyBill*

        Thanks so much! I am on the road to recovery and hope to start physical therapy in a couple weeks. It has been an ordeal to say the least. My wife has been a saint! Well, she always is a saint, I just very much appreciate her for taking such great care of me.

    1. In my shell*

      “I think OP’s boss was just trying to do the right thing and hasn’t said anything about it since because he was perfectly fine with her not responding.”

      100% agree!

      Best to you for the healing process!

  12. Sparkles McFadden*

    I have answered work questions in some pretty strange situations, including while in the emergency room getting a cast put on. My boss said something like “Tell me if you need to hang up or if you’re going to pass out or whatever.” He wasn’t being inconsiderate. He just figured I’d tell him when I didn’t want to be on the phone anymore.

    On the other end of the spectrum we had the manager who, when I scheduled a day off two weeks in advance so I could take my father for surgery, asked this question: “Do you really need the whole day for that?”

    1. Phoenix from the ashes*

      Or the boss who asked me if I really needed a whole day to go to my granny’s funeral.

      To my eternal regret i ended up taking half compassionate leave and half holiday allowance, instead of having the whole day as paid compassionate leave as I was legally entitled to. But at least I got to go to the funeral.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I had a job . . . I wasn’t scheduled to work on a particular day but agreed to come in to give them more staff flexibility. But then a close family friend died and I begged off to go to the memorial.

        They asked if I could still come in for the late shift. Then I got verbally sorta-reprimanded for “skipping a shift”. A shift that I had taken as a favor to them in the first place.

  13. Dolly*

    I had a co-worker once who I was on deck to provided maternity coverage for. She texted that she went to the hospital (a little before her due date), and had sent a long email. I sent her a couple of questions via text. Less than an hour later I get a text that she’d had her baby – I felt awful. Previously, everyone I’d known lingered for at least half a day in the hospital, so I figured she wasn’t that close.

    So, hopefully boss feels terrible enough on their own. I sure did, and I did apologize later; something like “OMG, I’m so sorry – I didn’t realize it was happening NOW, or else I never would have sent the text. It wasn’t that imminent.”

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      To be fair, some babies come really, really fast. She might not have even known how soon it would come.

      1. nonegiven*

        My aunt’s doctor put her in the hospital overnight, planning to induce her in the morning. He slept in the hospital, too. She didn’t wait to be induced. During the night, she went from having a funny feeling to having the baby so fast, he still didn’t get there in time to catch.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, or my friend who had 9 minutes of active labor with her third child. They barely got her to the birthing room in time.

    2. Lizy*

      To be fair, babies can come crazy fast sometimes. She may have been laboring at home, and only went to the hospital once contractions picked up. A very close friend of mine had her baby on the highway on the way to the hospital because she didn’t think the contractions were that bad and her husband finally convinced her they should go.

      And the long email may have been mostly drafted before she went to the hospital, and she figured “eh – I can finish up and hit send”.

      One of my coworkers came into the office en route to the hospital. She had a routine appointment that morning, and I can’t remember what exactly happened, but essentially they were like “ok so it’s not HORRIBLE but we need to go ahead and induce and get Baby out”. She was at least a week before due date and hadn’t had any labor signs, so understandably had a couple of tasks at work that needed wrapped up. So she stopped by for maybe 30 minutes-1 hour and got it done.

      All to say – based on how Boss for OP is normally, I don’t think this is really all that bad.

  14. Anonymous Because I Need To This Time*

    Sure sounds like a case of just being human and not using his thinking cap. My Dad died last year and I was sitting with him while he was passing. I have many siblings and we were texting back and forth while they were en route to the home where he was. My boss, who really is a gem, texted me with a work question literally 5 minutes after he had passed. She knew he was dying, and really could have just looked at a file to see what the answer was. I think she figured she could squeeze in a quick question because maybe she thought I was just sitting around waiting for the dear man to die???? In a fog, I answered her question, but was a bit flabbergasted later when I thought about it. We’ve never spoken of it. Like Alison says, if your boss is an otherwise great boss, a momentary slip up is understandable. Bosses are human, after all.

  15. Elliot*

    I honestly wouldn’t take this personally, or as a negative reflection of your boss.

    I recently needed a fairly urgent surgery to remove an organ from my abdomen – I was able to schedule it but had to do so in about 2 days. Since I work from home and wasn’t needed to check in for surgery until noon, I actually worked a half day the day of surgery. I don’t say that to say people SHOULD do that or that people who don’t do that are in any way less dedicated (if anything, I need to set better boundaries), I more mention it to show that even semi-urgent or emergency surgeries can come with a variety of attitudes and abilities to also answer work questions.

    Since your boss is generally good, I’m sure that if you had immediately communicated that you couldn’t talk more, they’d feel embarrassed and back off – I don’t think they were being malicious!

  16. Elizabeth West*

    Most of my managers have been good about this stuff. Long ago, I had a DVT caused by an interaction between a new BC and my thyroid medication. Went to the doctor’s office expecting to go back to work, got sent straight to the ultrasound lab, then sent home with a warfarin prescription and STRICT instructions not to move for a week. I had to call my boss and tell her I couldn’t work for a week. I was terrified but fortunately, she was very understanding. It was far from the best job in the world, but at least they were reasonable, caring people. (Actually, they treated me better than my partner at the time did.)

    I haven’t run into too many evil chaos minions, but as we all know, they’re out there. I don’t put this boss in that category; it sounds more like he was more clueless in the moment than anything else.

  17. Lizy*

    I agree – sounds like this is simply a case of Boss Is Human.

    Something that hasn’t been mentioned is what info OP provided in her initial text. “In hospital – all ok but I’ll be out for a couple of days. Can you handle Task X?” is very different than “Hey! I was riding my bike and crashed Saturday. I was doing ok, but then Saturday night woke up in severe pain. Spouse took me to the ER, and it turned out I busted my appendix! They ended up doing an emergency surgery Sunday morning. I’m doing ok, but definitely won’t be in for another couple of days. Most of my tasks are ok, so nothing that really needs covered. However, Task X is time-sensitive – would you mind handling that for me so we don’t miss the deadline?”

    Also, Boss may have been using the text/figures as a reminder to do Task X on Monday, or possibly didn’t even remember how to find figures for Task X. While my boss certainly CAN do Task X that I normally do, it would probably take them a lot longer simply because it’s not a task they normally do.

    1. gyrfalcon17*

      I *think* you’re trying to make the point that one of those could lead a Reasonable Boss to think it’s OK to follow up with a work question, and the other one shouldn’t lead Reasonable Boss to that conclusion, I honestly don’t know which you mean to be which. I *think* you mean the second, long one, to be the one that tacitly conveys “don’t contact me”. But I don’t really see a difference. In both of them the hypothetical texted says she is OK, and in response to the long one I might well think “sounds harrowing, but she says she’s ok, and is ok enough to be sending super-long texts, so it sounds like she’s ok now” — and I might be equally as likely to follow up with a question to the author of either text.

      Perhaps this marks me as a member of Ask culture rather than Guess culture.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        And I read them completely the opposite. Text number one feels like it is sent off in the middle of an emergency where there is clearly going to be no follow-up. It’s terse, to the point, and gives just enough information to convey what’s happening and say don’t bother me. Text number two feels very much like we’re in the aftermath of a situation. Long and chatty and clearly has time for follow-up questions.

  18. Hobbit*

    Of course, you could do what I did… be unconscious for 3 days in the hospital. My Mom called my co-worker, who told our boss what was going on. The boss then blew off a department meeting to randomly show up in your hospital room.

    Thankfully my family was not in the room when my boss was there. I shudder to think of what the interaction between my mom and my boss would have been… so awkward. (and was thankful that I was unconscious.)

    My boss later told me that she wanted my mom to know now to worry about my job… Mom was 100% not worried about my job. I don’t think my boss was checking to see if was really sick, as she never questions when we call out sick. I think she was trying to come across as a warm fuzzy (nurturing?) person, which she is not. (Actually, she scares the crap out of most people, including most of my employees.)

    1. TechWorker*

      Wtf?! Also what kind of job is it where you’d have to worry about losing it after 3 days of being off.. crazy.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Eh, most retail jobs and other low paying jobs. This is normal for a disturbingly high number of people.

      2. Jaydee*

        There’s nothing magic about it, but a lot of employers have attendance polices that treat a certain number of “no-call/no-show” absences as either the employee quitting or as a basis for termination. And three is like a ubiquitously common number in those policies. To the extent that I spent 10 years as a legal aid lawyer handling unemployment cases in my state and I would find it weird to substitute any other number into the phrase “three-day no-call/no-show.”

  19. Dust Bunny*

    This would annoy me, too, but I suspect it’s a case more of thoughtlessness than malice.

  20. TWW*

    A phone call or voicemail would have been better. Over text your boss has no way of knowing your level of pain or lucidity, and texts are too easy to reply to without thinking.

  21. Sleepless*

    I could sort of see myself doing that. I can barrel along obliviously sometimes, plus I haven’t been seriously ill or injured very often. Most of my time sitting around in hospitals has been when I was feeling fine, just bored silly, and I might not have really thought about the person being truly too ill to think. I’d just let it go. When you didn’t respond, he probably had a facepalm moment and moved on.

  22. And they all rolled over*

    What if your boss is the one in the hospital, and summons all his direct reports there to have a business strategy meeting? While doped up to the gills?

    1. TiffIf*

      … and now all I can think of is the scene in the West Wing where President Bartlett is on pain killers and shows up in the oval office in jeans and a sweatshirt and is so doped up.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I was lucky that my boss in that situation understood she should not be making decisions, so she didn’t. She had it right down to, “As long as I am on X and Y, I shouldn’t and won’t make decisions.” Phew. TG for that one.

  23. Way back in the dark ages*

    I ended up in the hospital, almost died (according to the ER doctors who saved me), and was out of consciousness for over 24 hours. I was able to call work after a couple of days. My boss hummed a little then asked if I’d be in for my weekend shift as we were short-staffed. I said I didn’t know if I’d even be out of the hospital by then. He called back a little later and said I had to be in on the weekend.

    When my doctor came in I asked her if I’d be able to go to work in four days. She said I wouldn’t be going back to work for a month at least. She called HR at the company, raised holy hell, and I never heard another word.

  24. Anon (Not Dead, Thankfully)*

    This information comes at a great time for me as well. I was in the same boat about three weeks ago (sudden emergency room visit, had to ask coworkers/boss to take care of tasks) and it’s interesting to see all the thoughts about what a good handling looks like, what a standard mix-up or insensitivity looks like, and what a genuine bad reaction looks like. I’d never been in this situation before so I really had no idea what to expect.

    For my experience: I sent an early morning message to my team that I was in the ER and listing the info for two urgent tasks for the next week or so that I’d need help with (about 20 min total work, primarily cancelling appointments set for that day and sending emails apologizing for me being unable to deliver documents that day). My boss called me while I was en route to the hospital to ask me if I was going to die, which was honestly hard to answer at that point (I did not die; of the 4 or 5 things it could have been, it turned out it was one that is relatively treatable and not one that was fatal). I was out for three days (Friday and then the weekend). Learned Monday that nothing had been done, including not calling someone I was supposed to meet in person and now had inadvertently stood up. People were somewhat more sympathetic about my no-show when they learned what had happened, but coming back into work to see a giant pile of angry voicemails and emails was the exact opposite of what I wanted.

    It feels small in the grand scheme of things especially when I was able to fix most of the damage, but it was frustrating to have first-hand confirmation that the company’s “hit by a bus” plan was exactly as bad as I’d worried. It sounds like questions about work are pretty common during this kind of thing, which makes sense to me (even if it’s not the ideal). But it also sounds like most people’s coworkers/bosses were willing to step up and take care of emergency tasks when someone was in the ER. This entire conversation is making me rethink my low expectations of what can be expected of your work team in a crisis. I’m having to job search anyways (my current job doesn’t offer health insurance) but it’ll be good to keep in mind while looking that not everywhere works like current job and that’s a good thing. Thanks for all the advice/comments/experiences shared above, everyone, it’s been helpful.

      1. Anon (Not Dead, Thankfully)*

        Yeah, it was such a weird question! I think he was trying to be, like, caring? Showing concern? But he’s not very good at it if so. Trying to reassure him when I was already in crisis myself was such a pain. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be at risk of dying, and I knew based on my symptoms that I was at risk for permanent paralysis if I didn’t receive treatment. I wanted to be on the phone with my mom crying, not trying to reassure my boss. 0/10, did not enjoy.

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      OHMYGOD your boss. I’m so sorry you just went through all of that, and with the barrage of voicemails and emails to boot. Best of luck in your job search!

  25. Spicy Tuna*

    My aunt was the legal assistant the main partner at a YUGE NYC law firm. She had her gallbladder out – it was planned and not an emergency, so her boss knew she would be out and my aunt planned her workflow for her absence. My uncle was holding her Blackberry (this was a while ago!) for her while she was in surgery. Her boss did not let up with the emails and phone calls even though he knew she under anaesthesia! We asked her why she didn’t just turn it off and she said her boss told her not to.

    At another job I had, a co-worker was pregnant. Our boss kept pressing co-worker about where she was having the baby. She refused to tell him because she knew he would try to show up there to pepper her with work questions while she was delivering.

  26. TxNy*

    I made this *exact* mistake a few weeks ago! I had a senior staff member who had to be checked into the hospital while tests were being run. I was doing my very best not to bother them. However, at one point they texted me to give me a quick update on their potential timeframe in the hospital. I responded about an hour later with a quick question about timesheets. They did not respond but sent an automatic reply to texts saying they were unavailable. I felt awful because I realized after the fact that there was no need for me to have contacted them and I had all sorts of alternate ways of finding a solution without bothering my poor staff member who really did not want to think about work at that moment. After that I made triple-sure that I did any and all problem-solving without questioning them. I bet OP’s boss made the same mistake I did and feels bad.

  27. Black Cats and Rain*

    I appreciate Alison’s last paragraph so much! This was not a work situation, but I once bailed on a performance (VERY small, done for free, completely unrehearsed [which was adding to my stress], and the director could step in to my role) because I was in the hospital all night the night before. I walked home (alone) at 4am when I was discharged and emailed the director to let her know I couldn’t make it. She was furious and sent me a reply that was so nasty I immediately cut ties with her. I didn’t really feel guilty for bailing–I had just gotten out of the hospital!–but it’s always nice to have confirmation that she was basically a cartoon villain.

  28. DollarStoreParty*

    I have a couple of (amusing now) hospital boss stories.
    When I had my son I let my boss know, and since it was a small business and we were on deadline, told him how to get a hold of me. He gave my hospital room phone number to anyone who asked. Mostly it was just congratulations but it was a lot and I had to have my husband field the calls.
    My sister had pancreatitis and as a result, suffered from temporary ICU delusions. We had to take her phone away from her because she was texting people all kinds of wacky things – she was being held against her will in a hospital in my basement, her dogs were climbing on the ceiling, our aunt was hiding under her bed, and wouldn’t come out…
    My user name here comes from some of her hallucinations. (her doctors were actually dollar store employees pushing illegal drugs on her) We weren’t sure how permanent this was – doctors were perplexed – so we didn’t want anyone to know, and her boss started texting her with questions. I texted him back with exactly what I thought of him texting her in the hospital, making it clear it was me and not her telling him off. . Luckily she came out of it completely and went back to work, where her boss’s first words were “Your sister really loves you, and is very protective.”

  29. Neil*

    I’ve never been in that type of situation but I know that if I were, I would tell everyone who needed to know that I will not be available to answer work-related questions as I don’t have access to the relevant emails or appropriate software (there is absolutely no reason why I would have work-related materials with me or have my work-issued laptop). I would also designate someone at the office who could answer any necessary questions and also give this person permission to speak to others on my behalf. If I’m in the hospital due to a serious condition, work should be one of the least important things on my mind. I will get back to work when the doctor says I can and not a moment sooner!

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