How can I feel like less of a schmuck by working while on sick leave?
March 13, 2013 9:31 AM   Subscribe

I am taking sick leave while my kid has had some appendix issues. (He was in the ER yesterday and we have surgical consults coming up tomorrow.) I have time this afternoon to catch up with work but am feeling vaguely annoyed at being put-upon by a certain department. Office drama and snowflakes inside.

On a few major projects, I work with (but do not report to and am not evaluated by) a manager in a different branch. Her boss, who is not my boss, "owns" the end result.

This other manager has a very lax management style. When one of her key people gets sick, everything grinds to a halt while we wait for her to return. And when she attended a week-long conference and went totally incommunicado (leaving the rest of us in the lurch), that was fine with her chain-of-command.

Bottom line, I am realizing that if I worked for this other manager, the assumption would be, "Sorry, I'm unavailable until next week, please adjust the deadlines."

Oddly, even though I sent emails yesterday afternoon informing everyone I work with of my family situation, I have received numerous "we need to meet the Friday deadline" messages from her and her team this morning. I feel unwilling to just blow this all off, so I am grinding out things with a sick kid about to have surgery, and am feeling somewhat put upon.

(Other wrinkle: In this other branch, none of the employees has young children.)

Part of my problem, I think, is that I'm coming at this with the perspective of 10+ years working in BigLaw, where 24/7 responsiveness is expected of everyone, and that's what I did for my clients back then. So maybe what I'm really asking is outside of that BigLaw bubble, how far beyond the pale it is for someone to be imposed upon by work when dealing with a sick kid about to get surgery for appendicitis?
posted by QuantumMeruit to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you are out on PTO, oh well. You're forfeiting your time off to be with your kid. If you are "working remote" then you'll save the PTO for later.

I would send a terse email back to folks saying, "I am out on PTO and will be unavailable by phone or email until date."

Anyone has a problem with it, send them to me.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:41 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are these emails directed at you or mass emails relating to the entire group? If they aren't directed at you (or even if they are) and if this won't get you fired:

"Sorry, I've been picking at pieces during my sick leave but my son is about to go into surgery. I will not be able to help further in achieving this deadline. Here is where all my work stands and here is where to find the work product. Perhaps XYZ can finish it up. If the deadline is extended I will be able to take a look at it again on A/B/C date."
posted by rocketpup at 9:42 AM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

Reply to her messages and cc your own manager, saying something like "Sorry, am on sick leave and unavailable until XX date." If you think your manager would be cool with it--or if you think it is worth a call to discuss first, you could add "If you are not able to adjust the deadlines, please speak to (your manager) to see if someone else can cover."

The bottom line is that you are legitimately unavailable, and if this person doesn't evaluate you, don't worry too much about what she thinks. (And next time, decide up front that you will not work when at home on PTO. People will only respect the limits that you set.)
posted by rpfields at 9:45 AM on March 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

Ah I am sorry. Here's what you maybe could do:

Since PITA Manager is not your boss, you could get together with your boss and pretty much tell them what you told us here: Very Stressed, Crisis in Immediate Family, Must Disengage from Work Immediately for X Amount Time.

Boss can then have your back and work with PITA Manager to either a) delegate the work to others if deadline is so important (this is the major advantage of working in numbers rather than as an individual ... that there is a pool of others that could cover your work!) Or, if PITA Manager is just being, you know a PITA, can tell them to f**k right off until such time that you return to fulfill your tasks with the same wonderful competence you bring to work when it's your first priority.

Keep breathing. Best of luck.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:47 AM on March 13, 2013

They don't need to know the details. Your kid is very sick. The words emergency, hospital, surgery and child should be enough for them to know they're not your first priority right now. There's never a good time for an emergency to happen. They need to deal with it.

You are taking your PTO or sick leave that is a part of your benefits--that gives you the right to be out of communication. Another option is for your employer to allow you to work remotely and not use your PTO (YOUR CHOICE, not theirs).

In writing, confirm with her that you are taking emergency PTO or whatever you are using, and let her know how long you'll need to be gone. Put an out of office responder on your e-mail and out of office message on your voicemail saying you'll respond when you return.
posted by dottiechang at 9:49 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Why are you checking your messages while on PTO? Set your away message to, "Due to a family health crisis, I am unavailable between X and Y. I will return your message when I am back from leave."
posted by xingcat at 9:49 AM on March 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

Where is your own manager in all of this? What does he/she say? (I'm thinking that you're probably hearing the sound of crickets chirping - the usual shuffle it off to Buffalo.)

Taking cues from previous comments, I would let your own manager via email know where your work stands, where it can be found, and your planned return date. Save the email somewhere safe. Then put Outlook on auto-reply with your planned return date and take care of you and yourn. Don't respond to phone calls or emails unless it's your own manager.
posted by Currer Belfry at 9:49 AM on March 13, 2013

As a couple of people have mentioned, the mechanics of this depend entirely on whether you are working remotely or using your PTO or official sick leave benefits.

If you are working remotely and unofficially "sick" but out of the office, and not using your pto/vacation/allotted sick hours, then you absolutely should be available and complete the project by the deadline (but maybe not during office hours).

If you are taking pto/sick days/using your benefits for this period of time, you should treat it like you are on vacation with no access to a computer and absolutely not be working AT ALL. Send an email to your manager and cc the other one letting them know when you expect to return and what the status is on your current projects.

These are both entirely standard processes.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 10:20 AM on March 13, 2013

It's not necessarily your manager's job to be sending out a message that you should have sent out yourself when this started. While of course your manager should have your best interest at heart and come to your defense when appropriate (perhaps like now, but that isn't clear to me), it's your responsibility to manage your work load and to provide information to people when necessary. You should have made it clear in a auto-reply that you aren't available until you are. You may need to consider that you haven't done this already because you fear they can manage to get the project done without you, and how would that make you feel? If they can't finish the project without you, well then your value will become even more apparent to them.
posted by waving at 10:26 AM on March 13, 2013

I wouldn't bring your child into it. You're either on PTO or you're not, and it's nobody else's business why you're out. If you're on PTO, then block off your time on whatever shared calendar you use, don't reply to emails, have someone designated to respond to critical requests, etc. As stated above though, if you're working remotely, then have your PTO adjusted so you can use it later, because you're not using it now.
posted by headnsouth at 10:26 AM on March 13, 2013

1) Don't think about how this would be if the shoe was on the other foot. Nothing ever got changed by bringing that sort of thing up and all it does is make you feel crappy. You're you and your boss is your boss and everyone else just does what they do. It isn't always or maybe even often fair but dwelling on it us as useful as swearing at the tides.

2) In fairness to them, you sent notice in the afternoon yesterday; not a lot of time to make alternate arrangements. That doesn't mean they don't need to suck it up and accept that Shit Happens and you deal. But they're not being any less sudden in their reactions than you were (by very reasonable necessity) in your notice.

To answer your concluding question, yeah, it happens. It doesn't always happen with consistency, as you're seeing. Some of that is bullshit unfairness but I honestly think that most of the time it's based on the expectations people set. Sometimes it's awesome to be perceived as the go-getter who always comes through and your employer shows their recognition of this effort come bonus/request/whatever time (and the slackasses get as little extra consideration as they give). Sometimes it just means you're the only one doing the hard work and making sacrifices.

Only you know what sort of place you're working in. Balance your effort and your expectation accordingly. You can't control what sort of people they are but you can control how much you encourage or discourage it and you can decide if you want to stay there.
posted by phearlez at 10:46 AM on March 13, 2013

I would add to xingcat's message:
"Due to a family health crisis, I will be out of the office until X date and not checking email or voicemail. If this is an emergency and you cannot reach my supervisor at [555-1212], my phone number is [555-1212]."

By leaving your phone number, you show that you are willing to be there in case something huge happens but the message also makes it clear that things better be burning if you are getting a call.
posted by JuliaKM at 11:13 AM on March 13, 2013

I would set my away message to, "I am out of the office and expect to return on $DATE. If you need immediate assistance, please contact $SUPERVISOR at $NUMBER." Only $SUPERVISOR has my phone number, and I only answer my phone if s/he has proven competent at differentiating between true urgent situations and bogus ones.
posted by disconnect at 11:22 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

You may want to check the labor laws in your area/state. Where I am, if you are not working and are on 'time off' (PTO, FMLA, Vacation, Sick, etc.) you cannot work. If you work, you and your employer are liable and there are some hefty fines that go with that.
posted by Leenie at 1:33 PM on March 13, 2013

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