If you're a conscientious worker, it can be easy to assume that your office will somehow be offended by your absenteeism. This may be especially true if you are one of many people who call in sick when you really aren't.
You may be sure your boss or coworkers can see right through your lie. But don't assume anyone's getting the lie detector ready. In my experience, the first thought on everyone's mind is probably, "How will this affect me?"
You can still call in sick and keep your job. The key is to first understand what your boss is thinking when you make that call.
Here are four possible lines of thought, and what you can do to keep your standing as a valued part of the team:
1. Will the work get done?
Any conscientious leader will first think about how your absence will affect business. Will clients continue to be served and will projects remain on track? While you're worrying about everyone thinking you're unreliable, they're probably rearranging assignments to minimize the impact of your absence.
If you can make sure everything's covered while you're gone, those around you may not even mind that you're out at all. Be careful with that, though. If your team can easily manage your duties along with their own, leadership may eventually decide you aren't necessary.
2. How will this affect others?
Even if you know others will cover for you, your boss may still worry that the extra workload will be too much. This is especially true if everyone's under pressure due to an upcoming deadline or staff shortage.
However, if what you have is contagious, pointing out that you could get others sick can make a big difference. Having one person out sick is bad enough, but if that person comes to work and spreads a virus to multiple coworkers, it could severely impact the business. If you're contagious but able to work, consider offering to work from home until you're no longer contagious.
3. Is this a pattern?
If you're that person who is at work every day, without fail, nobody will mind the occasional absence. Everyone will probably be more concerned than upset.
If you've been absent multiple times in a given year, you may raise a few eyebrows. However, if you have a chronic condition that forces you to miss multiple days of work each year, you may not be able to help it.
The best thing to do in that situation is to be honest with your boss, as well as HR, and talk to your doctor about whether your condition qualifies you as having a protected condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Some of these conditions include blindness, diabetes, cancer, and many others.
Long-term, a multi-day setback like a bad case of the flu or bad back pain likely won't affect your position at the company, especially if you've worked there for many years and it doesn't occur often.
4. Is the person lying?
From the start, your biggest fear might be that your boss will think you're lying. Again, if you don't make a habit of calling in sick, there probably won't be questions about it.
If you begin feeling under the weather before you need to call, make sure you let your coworkers know that you're not at your best. Then, nobody will be surprised if you do need to take a day off.
Everyone gets sick occasionally. When it happens, there's no need to feel guilty about it. If you're a reliable and hard-working, everyone will understand and wish you a quick recovery. After all, the quicker you get better, the sooner you'll be able to get back to work.