Overcoming the Resistance to Warnings or How to Take a Sick Day

I got sick this week. I was on a business trip and early afternoon of day one, I started to feel unwell. Strange. I don’t get sick. I was a little dizzy and a little nauseous.  I attributed it jet lag and dehydration, and drank water.  Three hours later, still dizzy and nauseous. I am perplexed. I don’t get sick. Minutes later, after a bout of projectile vomit, I continue to insist to myself, I am ok. Yes, I am shivering, but it is cold in here. I wash my hands with the hottest water I can tolerate to warm myself up while in the ladies room. Looking in the mirror after brushing my teeth, I notice the fluorescent lightening had rendered me an unflattering shade of green. But, I am good; I have got this under control.

Or, so I thought. My coworkers were alarmed at my pallor when I returned and insisted I leave. A peer said, “Don’t be selfish, think of the rest of us. If you have something, stop exposing 93 people to that something.”  I still felt hesitant about leaving. Which raised the question, why do we often look at “sick” with suspicion and feel the need to keep working?

I prepare for things, especially when I travel, sick isn’t one of them. Sick happens. For me and work, my thoughts are, I don’t want anyone to think I am faking; I won’t pretend to be sick to get out of work. I do not shirk my responsibilities. I do not look for excuses. I want to be thought of as dependable. But, I discovered, sick is sick. Someone had to drive me and the rental car back to the hotel. If you are sick, you need the sick time for good reasons*:

  1. No one wants to be exposed to your germs. Who hasn’t found their inner germophobe when some sniffling, sneezing, coworker who says, of I feel fine as they are try to shake your hand.
  2. You are not at your best. Your stuffy head, achy joints, 8 out 10 on the pain scale are going to impact your ability to do your job, making it more work for everyone else. Yes, you sent out 8 emails after your nap, but no one can really understand what you wrote, you forgot attachments and you missed a couple of meetings so some emails were no longer applicable. Stop being annoying to those who are well. Stop working, get better.
  3. Listen to your body. While I was in Austin, I relied on the navigation system in the rental to get me where I needed to go. I listened. Yet, I wouldn’t listen to my own body that was feverishly screaming for time out. What’s your body saying to you?

It’s the weekend and I’m home. I am feeling a lot better and pretty peppy. Today, my body is saying fluids and sleep. And while today is not a sick day, it is definitely a slow day. Sick is sick and we need the time off. When my car gets a flat tire, I remove the flat, put on the spare and drive a bit slower until I can replace the tire. This week, my body reminded me, the same the same thing applies. Listen to the warnings, take the sick day.


*For some, there is the economic impact of missed work. That discussion is out of scope for this post.


  1. Great post Sheila and always timely! I wonder how many people come into work sick because they are concerned that others may think they are “faking” it and I wonder what impact it has on the bottom line? How much productivity is lost due to people’s concerns about what others might think? I am inclined to think the impact is enormous! It’s unfortunate that as hard as we all work, and the fact that we have sick time so that we can be sick, so many of us selfishly infect others because we are afraid we will be judged unfairly for taking the time to rest and restore. It’s a pervasive fear found throughout our workforce. Many organizations talk about supporting a work life balance but is that really true when across the board, from company to company, when not feeling our best, we worry about taking a day off because we fear being seen as not dependable? More needs to be done to create a culture in which we support each other in taking the time we need when we need it. No doubt, our collective productivity will be better for it. And that is always good for the all important bottom line.

    Liked by 1 person

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