Do you work with a “sick again” type?

You know the type: the ones that work part-time but have a full-time job. It’s a common problem when co-workers manipulate the sick-day policy leaving others to pick up the slack or do double duty in their absence. The problem is compounded when management turns a blind eye. Whether your co-worker calls in sick with the Monday morning migraine or long weekend laryngitis, it’s difficult to work with the show/no show co-worker, especially if their absence affects your productivity or workload. If you’re working overtime or not able to do your best job as a result of you co-worker’s absence, then it’s time to take action and speak with your boss. Here is an approach you might consider before you’re the one calling in sick for real.

1. Can I meet with you? Meet one-on-one and face-to-face, and, if possible, in a private room or setting. Booking a meeting sends the message that this is a serious issue that needs resolving.

2. Stick to the facts, hide your feelings. Although you may be seeing red and your feelings are close to the surface, you will have a much better chance of being heard by sticking to the facts. By stating facts and not feelings, you set the stage for problem solving. State up-front the purpose of the meeting – that you want your boss to know the full impact of how your co-worker’s absence is affecting your work and that this situation needs resolving. Be specific, (e.g.: during the planning period between June and August, he/she was absent 8 days). Don’t pass judgement even with your body language like eye rolling or using a sarcastic tone. The last thing you want to do is put your boss in a situation when he/she feels the need to defend your co-worker.

3. What is the impact? Describe how your co-worker’s absence affects you and the company. Use as many data points as possible (e.g.: the project was late, I worked overtime, etc.). If you provide your boss with a document, you’re making it easier for him/her to escalate the problem or at least share it with the other members of the senior team. They may not be aware of how this issue is affecting the bottom line.

4. So, now what? Ask for a resolution but don’t expect one on the spot. Give your boss the benefit of the doubt that he/she will do what’s necessary to resolve the situation.

If your co-worker’s absence is annoying but you are not directly affected then here are some tips you may want to consider.

1. Are you being a Judge Judy? Not passing judgement isn’t easy but no one ever knows what goes on in another person’s mind or life. I have friend who is struggling with depression but on the outside you would never know it is as she is articulate, well pulled-together and expressive. It’s only because I know her so well that I know just how difficult her life is and how, some days, going to work is an insurmountable task. Maybe your co-worker is abusing the system but only he/she knows for sure.

2. Mind your own business: This is especially difficult if you have a strong sense of fairness or if you feel protective towards others. “Accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can and have the wisdom to know the difference”.

3. Don’t feed the morale sucking monster: Nothing can appear more galvanizing for a team than to have a common complaint but in the long run, it can ruin morale. Take the high road and do what you can to keep morale up but at the very least, don’t participate in the negative talk. By staying positive, you’ll have a more positive impact on others and will feel better about yourself and your job.

Do you have a similar problem at work? Comment below or email Elevate.

Barbara Morris-Blake

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