The Right Way to Call Out of Work Sick

Your boss doesn't need to know what color your tonsils are.

calling out sick
If you're sick, stay home. (Getty Images)
Getty Images

Whether you’ve been lying on the bathroom floor with a stomach virus all night or are coughing up myriad colored phlegm, your boss doesn’t need the details.

Some people might think they have to prove that they’re not playing hooky, but that’s really not the case, CNN explained.

“You don’t have to prove your illness to anyone,” career expert Vicki Salemi told the news site.

If you’re writing an email, say something like this:

“Hi [manager’s name], I am sorry I can’t make it to work today, I have a fever and am in bed,” or “I am not feeling well and will not be at work today and I hope to be back tomorrow.”

Explaining the details isn’t necessary, and the more specifics you add, the more suspicion it can cause. “If you are over-explaining, you can make it sound like you are trying to convince them and make excuses,” according to CNN.

Sometimes we get sick at seriously inopportune times — like the day after the Super Bowl or an office holiday party — but if you’re legitimately ill, that shouldn’t take away from it.

Acknowledge the coincidental timing, but hold firm. Say something like: I would love to say I had too much fun last night, but I am not even an NFL fan, suggested Patricia Rossi, author of Everyday Etiquette.

Don’t forget to be realistic about any expectations your manager may have for your sick day. If you feel able and up to responding to emails and taking care of tasks from home, great; but if not — don’t.

“If you have a really bad sinus headache and have to do work that requires thinking and analyzing and reasoning, you probably aren’t bringing your ‘A game.’ Let it go to a colleague or let it wait,” said Anderson.
If you think this might be the start of something bigger that may keep you out of the office for a few days, tell your boss you will check in before the end of the day about tomorrow.


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