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Is two days off so very much to ask?
October 5, 2010 10:32 AM   Subscribe

On verge of burnout: can I justify time off? How? Apologies for mass of special snowflake considerations inside

Context:
I have been in an intensive French language school for the past 9 months without break (save for standard public holidays). This training is for my job - in fact, learning French IS my job for the time being: classes M to F, 7 hours each day. Class sizes were 2 people in beginning and I have been in private tutoring for the past month since starting prep for the oral French exam (see below).


Goal:
Pass the 3 Government of Canada language exams (comprehension, grammar, and oral) at C/C/C levels (C is the highest) within 12 months. I have passed comp and grammar and am currently working on oral proficiency, C = functionally fluent in the workplace. I had zero French when I started school in January.


Conditions:
My department does not permit those in language training to take leave; exceptions may be made. The department also repeatedly emphasizes the importance of minding our "corridor / office reputation" and that our behaviour during French training factors into our reputation.


Problem:
My brain badly needs a break. I haven't progressed in class for the past month due to language fatigue; having studied other languages before, I know that all I need are a few days away to relax and recharge anew. My stress is compounded by the fact that the language school has already requested an exam date for me on Oct 28. This took my by surprise as in the past, dates were requested only when students indicated that they were ready. Neither me nor my professor believe that I will be ready by the 28th. My prof also believes that I need a break from class.

I have a family event coming up that would provide the perfect opportunity for relaxing as it will be held in a fancy secluded out-of-town hotel. I would need a Monday and Tuesday off but my leave request has been rejected as being outside of policy ("exceptions" were identified specifically as the wedding of a close relative, your OWN wedding, or family emergencies).

I didn't realize that I don't just want time off, I need time off, until my leave request was rejected. I literally burst into tears in class upon reading the rejection, a reaction that made me aware of how exhausted and stressed I am by French. I've had intermittent insomnia the past month and also couldn't sleep last night, knowing I had French today.

I have been told that it is possible to push the exam date back (pending an evaluation next week). However, I still need a break - the mere thought of pushing straight through until my exam, whenever it is, makes me cry anew.

While I can take sick leave - at this point, I think I can legitimately chalk it up to mental health - I would still want it for the days I requested originally because of being out of town in a secluded hotel is exactly what I need. But I'm afraid that taking those 2 days off sick gives the impression that I'm deliberately flipping off the department for rejecting my original leave request ("corridor reputation" remember) by using sick leave as an excuse, even if there is actually a justifiable mental health reason. This is especially given that in my reply to the rejection, I (regrettably) expressed that, while I understood the rationale, I was also "disappointed in the policy" definition of permitted leave.


QUESTION:
AskMefites what do I do? Should I just take those 2 days off sick, eff all department impressions? Should I preemptively try to get a doctor's note (but if I do, I can't justify those specific days can I)? Or am I overly concerned about the way my actions would appear to the department? I'm new to this department, office politics, and am too weepy/ exhausted to think of this rationally anymore.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total)
 
But I'm afraid that taking those 2 days off sick gives the impression that I'm deliberately flipping off the department for rejecting my original leave request

This. Since you've already made a request that was denied, if you're suddenly "sick" on those exact two days, no one's going to believe that you're actually ill. I'm afraid there's no way for you to take those 2 days off as sick days without being seen as a liar with no regard for company policy. (I know that's harsh, but I say that as an HR person who sees this happen all the time.) Can you choose another day?
posted by pecanpies at 10:50 AM on October 5, 2010


It doesn't sound like you're going to be able to get those specific two days at this point, given that you've already asked for the leave and been denied. My dad refers to this as "rum sickness", calling in sick when it's apparent that you're taking the time off for other reasons.

This is not to say, however, that you can't call in sick for two other days and check yourself into a secluded hotel. Particularly if you know that this is what it will take to get you back on track. Go, get that doctor's note and ask for the mental health day you know you're entitled to under the collective agreement. Then book yourself a night in some secluded spot and do what you need to do to unwind.

Best of luck, me-mail me if you'd like a shoulder to lean on. I work in the Canadian government too.
posted by LN at 11:06 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I'm afraid that taking those 2 days off sick gives the impression that I'm deliberately flipping off the department for rejecting my original leave request

Echoing pecanpies, not only will your department KNOW this is what you are doing, they have probably already prepared for you to do it. When I had to decline an employee's leave request, HR and I prepared for What To Do If The Employee Calls In Sick. It was a standard thing that HR helps supervisors prepare for all the time.

My prof also believes that I need a break from class.

If this is the case, can your prof speak with your work on your behalf?
posted by rhapsodie at 12:24 PM on October 5, 2010


Is there no possible way to appeal the rejected time off by asking your professor to come with you to speak to whomever would be the appropriate person? Possibly speak to a doctor, get a letter suggesting that you need two days off for mental health? I don't know if either of those would sway an appeal (if that's even possible to do?), but I'd try it if I were you. Problem is that if they then again deny the request, you're stuck, with likely no way out.
posted by kirstk at 1:26 PM on October 5, 2010


HR and I prepared for What To Do If The Employee Calls In Sick. It was a standard thing that HR helps supervisors prepare for all the time.

So what is the plan in that situation? A reprimand? A note in the employee file? Termination?

A mental health break may be worth a slight reprimand from HR if you're breaking down and crying on a daily basis, this could be a justifiable time to put yourrself above the company. I wouldn't think they would fire you over two days after just investing a significant amount of time and money into your language training, but you're the only one who can make that call. Try really hard to enlist your professor to go to bat for you against the faceless HR drones.
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:32 PM on October 5, 2010


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