How to explain recent absenteeism (due to depression) to my boss?
August 14, 2007 10:41 PM   Subscribe

How to explain recent absenteeism (due to depression) to my boss?

I can tell I'm about to get a talking-to at work because of the amount of sick leave I've been taking recently. I've struggled with depression on and off, but lately it's been worse than the "lows" I've previously experienced.

(Yes, I am getting help, seeing a therapist, etc. Quitting the job is not an option, as I am a poor student. I don't qualify for FMLA because I haven't been there long enough.)

What can I say and what should I reveal (if anything) to my boss?

Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Don't use depression as an excuse, regardless of the reality of the situation. Just say you were sick, and don't specify. Apologize. And make a concerted effort to show up to work.
posted by Electrius at 10:54 PM on August 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you're a student and this is a university job, see if you can talk to the disabilities office. They can often intervene where necessary as an intermediary to protect your privacy. You give the doctor's records to the disabilities office and the disabilities office gives you an official waver of some sort.
posted by liesbyomission at 11:42 PM on August 14, 2007

I'm not an HR person, but it's my understanding that your employer cannot ask for details about your sickness, so you don't have to disclose depression. They may ask for a doctor's note if your absenteeism seems excessive.
posted by Sabine3283 at 4:45 AM on August 15, 2007

If you really can't afford to lose this job and are worried about termination there's always the other tack: disclose depression as the underlying cause. Under ADA they can't can you for it, though of course that doesn't prevent them from terminating you for a baloney excuse.
posted by phearlez at 8:03 AM on August 15, 2007

This is a toughie, and one I've had to go through many times. I learned to tell as little to my employers as possible, and only in the last few years have I fully disclosed at my current job--and that's after working here for a decade, and building a lot of trust.

Don't expect your employer to understand. Even with people I've known so long, it's difficult to explain. Ask your doctor to write an excuse for you that's as vague as possible, and this should make your boss happier, as there will be some documentation in the file. Tell your boss that you're working actively with your doctor to decrease the amount of sick time you take. These talks are much easier if you charge in with a plan and take over the conversation.

Finally, realize that, depending upon the severity of your illness, this may be a dance you'll have to learn by heart. Do an excellent job when you are able, and smile and nod when you are not.
posted by frykitty at 9:01 AM on August 15, 2007

I can tell I'm about to get a talking-to at work because of the amount of sick leave I've been taking recently.

Check the employment standards where you live. In some places, it is illegal or at least very restricted for an employer to bring up your sick leave.
posted by acoutu at 9:53 AM on August 15, 2007

Also: "I can tell I'm about to get a talking-to at work because of the amount of sick leave I've been taking recently." No you can't! You took sick leave because you were sick. You were doing what was best for all, staying away while sick. How could anyone anticipate that an employer would discourage the most sensible course of action? Madness!

It's possible you're anticipating a dressing down because of depression-related guilt. Assume that's what's going on, here. Stride proudly into the workplace, expecting welcoming cheers and smiles and "so glad you're feeling better" from all you meet. That way if anyone complains you can negotiate from a position of strength--pained surprise at the rudeness you're encountering, righteous anger that anyone would think you were malingering. (After all, you weren't. You were too under the weather to work. That's what sick leave is for.)
posted by Don Pepino at 10:19 AM on August 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

How much sick leave are you talking about here, and exactly how can you tell you're about to get an earful? And what is the company policy?

Without knowing the answer to those questions, I'd still say that if you're certain you are going to be talking about it with your boss, it's mostly for the purpose of finding out whether or not this is just how you work. You say that you haven't been there very long, so I imagine that your boss doesn't know you very well. How are they supposed to know whether or not you're a habitual absentee (and therefore a liability)?

The "talking-to", if it happens, should be an opportunity for you to assure your boss that you're not just some lazy slacker trying to get away with something. It's up to you whether or not you bring up the reason for your absences. It shouldn't really be a factor in this conversation unless you feel that it is definitely going to affect your work adversely, meaning either more absences or being present but not really able to get anything done. If that is the case, I would only bring it up in conjunction with some kind of plan to deal with it, like dropping to part-time, giving up some salary in exchange for a more flexible schedule, or offering to make up the time you have been away.

If none of that is possible, simply stress that this is not typical behavior and you would appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate likewise.
posted by tjvis at 2:42 PM on August 15, 2007

« Older What is this mushroom?   |   Johnny Mathis version of "Always and Forever" ? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.