My Boss Hates When I Call In Sick

Walking pneumonia takes a toll and six days of work

Crumpled Tissue
I almost (cough) didn't (cough) get a column (sniff) written this week (cough cough). I'm getting over a bout with walking pneumonia. For the past six or so days I've done nothing but sleep and indulge in a sadly appropriate binge-viewing of season three of The Walking Dead. (Rick for Governor!) I ventured out once to meet a friend from the East Coast for a simple breakfast, and felt like I'd run a marathon.

Given that this is my first experience not being a salaried employee, I hadn't dealt before this year with the lack of paid sick leave. For most of my career I had at least two weeks per year. I didn't always use it, but it was nice to have when I did get a flu or even really bad allergies. Nobody wants to hear you deliver the news on the radio with a stuffed nose, but I noticed there were no complaints on those days when my voice dropped to a raspy low-alto.

Why now?
This year, though, I've been severely ill twice already -- this is the third round. It's puzzling, because I'm no longer in a workplace surrounded by potential virus-carrying colleagues (you know that wind screen you sometimes see in front of a microphone? it's a petri dish!), and I'm pretty sure my dogs didn't give me this flu.

After I canceled plans with a friend this week, she wrote back and said, "Sounds like you are not taking very good care of yourself." But I am! I make myself healthy meals, I run, I quit a job that was causing me stress... and yet, I've been sicker this year than any other in recent memory. About five weeks' worth of work-stopping illness just since the start of the year. Uncompensated, work-stopping illness.

Hiding the hack
So now that I've struck out on my own, it takes a toll not just on my health, but on my bank account. Days I don't work are days I'm not paid. And for the first time in my career, that means I feel pressure to work while I'm sick. I'm trying to squeeze in a few Skype interviews for the book I'm writing -- luckily, I found an app that records the interviews on a split track so I can take out my hacking. I'm supposed to fly to Chicago next week to deliver a speech, and I'm really hoping this bug doesn't keep me from doing so because not only do I enjoy speaking, but the event (Chicago Ideas Week) is an incredible networking opportunity.

And of course, there's this column, for which I'm paid based on page views. I don't write it, I don't get paid. I can only hope it goes as viral as the viral load in my body. So here I sit in my green sweats in front of the computer, bellyaching to you about my head aching. Sorry about that (cough). But work is work, right?

Hope you're feeling fit as a fiddle. Share your stories of work without sick leave in the comments section below and email me at

And come back here every Wednesday morning for my next post... next week, hopefully, from Chi-town.

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Although you quit a stressful job and struck out on your own, working for oneself is quite stressful! (There is all sort of pressures freelancers feel that "employees" don't feel. One is not getting paid while sick. Also, when you work for yourself, you're ALWAYS working at generating leads, marketing your business, etc.

Ask me how I know? I have worked for myself before and once, I recall working 21 days straight. That was also the year I caught the worst flu I'd ever experienced - because my body was just so worn down from working (and stressing) so much.

Hope you feel better soon...

October 13 2013 at 12:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


October 12 2013 at 7:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

If you are getting pneumonia/bronchitis over and over: GET YOUR HEART CHECKED! I found out that due to congestive heart disease (helped by medicine, losing weight, and lowering my blood pressure) my heart wasn't pumping the fluid out of my lungs efficiently and that was why I kept getting sick!

October 12 2013 at 5:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I called in dead once. Well guess what????? They caught me in a lie. Right after I felt like a true Obama.

October 12 2013 at 5:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Try working in the higher education field where students and prospective students bring their hacking, sneezing, coughing kids to school without a care about the health of others!!! I used to work as a receptionist at a medical college and let me tell you, I spent most of the day wiping down the reception phone, computer and desk!

October 12 2013 at 4:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Go to work sick and cough and puke all over you're bosses office while you explain why you need to go home.

October 12 2013 at 3:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to lonergan65's comment

And make all of your co-workers sick, while your there.

October 12 2013 at 6:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Who care what your bosses likes. If you are sick then take sick leave. I'm sure your co-workers will appreciate you being considerate by not spreading your germs to them.

October 12 2013 at 12:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Presenteeism costs as much as absenteeism. A company is not going to shut down because an employee is sick for a couple of days. People can't help that they get sick. It's amazing to me how indifferent some people are to the plights of others. Perhaps thats the foundation of all that is wrong with this world.

October 12 2013 at 11:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to dawneeg's comment

You hit the nail on the head with that! Profit restrictions like Germany ran for years will cause change.

October 12 2013 at 3:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder what happens when this lady's boss gets sick? You can not be fired for calling in sick, unless you abuse the sick days.

October 12 2013 at 6:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My boss of 30 years wanted everyone to work no matter how sick they are. Of course he didn't have to be around any of us, since his office was high in the building, at the end of the hall isolated from everyone. Needless to say, from October to March, the flu and colds spread around to just about everyone......except him.
My last job was completely different. If you were sick, felt sick, had any symptoms they ENCOURAGED you to stay home. The sick people weren't at work, and productivity was much higher.

October 11 2013 at 10:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wait. You're a salaried employee who can't work and you're writing a blog? No wonder your employer is pissed?

October 11 2013 at 8:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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