Thursday, February 07, 2013

A Letter to a Sick Co-Worker

Dear Co-Worker,

I want you to know I like you. I really do! You're nice, hardworking, passionate about our company, and have some really good ideas. You're usually pleasant to be around and, even though you're never the go-to-gal for chocolates, people seem to like stopping in to visit with you on occasion chocolate or no.

Bob in accounting, Mary in sales, Debbie in reception, Les in operations, Carol in IT, and Ben in marketing...they* all think you're swell too!

So you know how you came to work yesterday and today looking as though you were an under-cooked turkey, hacking, sniffling, sneezing, and blowing your nose every 20 seconds? We could all tell you weren't feeling well and we encouraged you to go home. Because we care, yes. We want you to feel better! 

But also...

Bob's got severe asthma. When Bob gets a cold, which is rare thankfully, Bob goes to the emergency room and then is on oxygen for a month afterward because that cold automagically turns into pneumonia.

Mary's undergoing some pretty heavy duty chemotherapy treatment to get rid of that pesky cancer. If Mary gets sick, they'll have to stop treatment right in the middle of the cycle...and then the chemo won't likely work so well. 

Debbie's going on a trip of a lifetime next week - one she and her partner have saved and scrimped and planned for over the course of the last 3 years. If she gets sick, she can't fly and, even if she can fly, she'll be hunkered down in her hotel room for the first several days too exhausted and sick to sightsee. All that time, effort, and money going to waste.

Les's got a brand new little baby - a baby conceived after years of trying and tens of thousands of dollars spent on IVF treatments. A brand new little precious bundle of joy, born 10 weeks early and who has spent the first 6 weeks of her life in the NICU while her wee little lungs develop. He rushes from work right to the hospital to be with his wife and daughter, holding her for just a few minutes is easily the best part of his day. If Les gets a cold, he won't be able to see or touch his daughter for possibly weeks.

Carol, well...remember how Carol had that organ transplant awhile ago? That life-saving organ transplant she'd been waiting for for more than a decade? She's on some crazy immuno-suppressant drugs to keep her body from rejecting that organ. If she gets sick, she's on her way to the ICU. 

We, of course, can't forget Ben. He's HIV positive. Enough said.

And then there's me and the rest of your 90+ co-workers who just really don't like being sick. We don't want to be sick. Being sick you well know.

Yet, there you are, sitting at your desk, hacking, sneezing, sniffling and blowing your nose just before you use the copy machine, the printer, the shredder, the file cabinets, the door handles, the microwave, the refrigerator, the restroom, the faucet handles. There you are, in my office, multiple times a day, handing me a stack of invoices to review...invoices you've been coughing all over for the last 3 hours. I know because I listened to you attempt to hack up that lung every couple of minutes and cringed outwardly knowing you'd eventually be standing just where you are saying, "Here you go!" as if you've handed me some incredible gift you're so very proud of.

You aren't winning any medals or awards or even friends by working while you're sick, you know. Management isn't watching you and thinking, "Wow! What a dedicated, wonderful employee!" Management isn't actually paying any attention. If they were, they'd likely tell you to go the fuck home because they don't want to get sick either and the work you do, while extremely important, can wait a day or two until you feel better. It can even be re-assigned to someone else who would gladly take it on as long as they didn't have to say, "Gesundeit!" to you one more time without really meaning it.

Just so you know, while you're crawling through your day thinking you are such a trooper, the rest of us are fantasizing about featuring you as the dunkee at the carnival dunking booth where those of us with a good arm (and my arm can be lethal when necessary) could douse you in a pool of Lysol. And when we aren't thinking about that, we're wishing Human Resources would install a Silkwood Shower we could all partake in at the end of our work day.

Right now, we don't really like you. Right now, we all think you're an asshole.

So just stop it and go home.

The Staff

* Fictional characters


Unknown said...

I love this. I have a friend who is often sick and, when she is, never hesitates to join us at restaurants without first warning us, come over for social occasions and other things like that. I'm rather sympathetic. If you're often sick, I expect you get used to doing what you can.

However, if I catch a virus my fibromyalgia will quickly make my life a living Hell. I don't get sick easily. It's just that when I do, I suffer terribly and it can set me back for weeks. I don't want to hug sick people. I don't want to sit next to them. I want them to stay the fuck away from me. Especially, this last time, when she had the goddamned flu. So, yes. GO HOME.

Masked Mom said...

I wish I could figure out some anonymous way to pass this on to my boss--who makes us all feel like crap for calling in sick and actively plays the braggy martyr role when she's sick and comes to work anyway. It drives me up a flipping wall--especially because we work in a residential facility where many of our clients have compromised immune systems for a variety of the reasons you mentioned. Ugh.

Unknown said...

Yep, Jane, there's a reason that a lot of us have sick leave, so we can stay HOME when we're sick.

Since my mom has an un-treatable lung condition, when she gets sick it can be dangerous. Her "invisible" illness has raised my awareness of how inconsiderate it is to spread germs unnecessarily. If you're sick and don't need to go out, please stay home.

Management really does not give awards for coming to work sick.

a.eye said...

Well put. I can't stand all the sick students that come and breathe in my face to tell me they aren't feeling well. Stay home. Write me a note.

Now they have me with laryngitis from sinus drainage.

Not nice at all.

Unknown said...

Jane, I am nominating you for two blogging awards with the usual requirement that you cough up a bunch of nonsense about yourself and choose others to do the same. I do not necessarily expect you to do this, but I like your blog, so I wanted to name you anyway. Do with them as you wish.