Tuesday, October 31, 2017

You don't owe them an explanation

When I first entered the work force, I worked in retail.  If anyone has or does work in retail, you just groaned or rolled your eyes in empathy.  Working with the public in any capacity can be maddening and some days you just can't face it.  Hell, just the thought of going in and dealing with some co-workers regardless of the workplace has you saying "uh yeah...not today."

A behavior was learned at that time for both the Mr and myself...you can't call off without a good excuse.  Like if you had sick days, you'd better actually be, or at least fake, sick or it wasn't a legit reason to be off work.  You'd try and get your voice nice and gravelly, put that pathetic sound to it that gave off the vibe of sick or tired and pray you'd get lucky enough to leave a message for the boss or HR.

"Hi, this is Jane.  I can't make it in today, I've been up all night with:
  • a migraine and it won't go away
  • the stomach flu
  • a cold
  • female issues (which is all you have to say if it's a dude.)
  • kidney stones that won't pass
  • hemorrhoids hanging out
Then you'd either hang out around the house all day in your PJ's eating cereal or gabbing with your friends at their work to make it sound like they were working but you were just getting caught up.  If you were feeling brazen, you'd go out in public to a restaurant, shopping or a movie.  The rush of getting caught was palpable because even if you were on the other side of town from the office, that doesn't mean you couldn't run into someone else who already had a scheduled day off or the boss running errands.  There is nothing quite as sweat inducing than running into a co-worker when you've taken a hooky day and they call your name.  You both kind of look at each other like deer in headlights, exchange hellos and never speak of it.  (Of course these days you have to worry about absent minded idiots tagging you on Facebook.)  Or you might also see a co-worker in the wild and make eye contact for 1.3 seconds and then spend the rest of the time avoiding each other taking the "I saw nothing and no one approach."

I always felt when I called in, I needed an excuse otherwise I thought I was being judged.  Especially if you came back in the next day and people were like "oh are you feeling better?" with that hint of "you weren't really sick were you?" tone to their voice.  But then I started noticing something from two of my older co-workers at my third job that I had the longest.  If they called in they just said, "I'm not going to be in today" and left it at that.  No made up illness.  No distant relative that bought the farm.  Just the facts...they're not going to be there and I don't need to tell you why.

It was hard for me to break this mentality because it was called sick time so you felt like you needed to be sick for it to be excused.  Well, at least we did.  But at this place of employment they didn't separate vacation from sick time, it was "personal time off" regardless of why.  I followed their lead and if I needed a hooky day, I took it.  I didn't do it often but there were days I would wake up with the weight of all I had to do on my shoulders and knew I was unable to deal with it.   It was actually really liberating.  The pressure of not having to make excuses or contend with the questions of how you were feeling the next day knowing you lied just to have some peace was so freeing.  I have mostly broken the Mr of this habit as well.  I kept reiterating he didn't owe anyone an explanation of why he wouldn't be there.  Now if he has a doctor's appointment, he will say so just so it's not always like "I won't be there, deal with it."  None of his co-workers feel compelled to do so, well except one and now it's to the point it's actually a joke with everyone to see how wild and out there the guy's excuse will be.  As a result, everyone always think he's lying.

I'm sure many of you heard about the girl who recently emailed her team that she was taking two mental health days so she could bring her best self the following week.  Here's a refresher:

I mean wow.  How wonderful would it be if bosses could understand that you're doing no one any favors by not stopping to recharge your batteries once in a while.  If your mental health day includes staying inside, going out for a walk in a park or going shopping to get done what you couldn't finish over the weekend, that's your business.  You don't owe anyone an explanation as to why you're taking a day off.  You owe it to yourself to recognize when you're feeling burnt out and need a day to clear the cobwebs.

Obviously, you can't do this all the time or abuse the days given to you.  You also need to recognize if every day you're feeling like you can't deal that it might be time to talk to your doctor for some blood work to make sure everything is good with your health.  If physically you're okay then you might want to consider talking to a therapist if you're going through a rough patch.  "Sucking it up" will not make it better.

Do you take hooky/mental health days?  How is your favorite way to spend them?

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  1. Yeah I used to take it so seriously, as if they'd require some doctor's note or something, when I first started working. After awhile I realized the importance of that mental health day from time to time but still could not fathom just telling them that. Now I have a supervisor who is kind of old school, and she will sometimes ask what was wrong if I took a "sick day" but once she retires I think I'm in the clear, since my actual boss is a straight shooter and would totally support me just saying, "hey I am burnt out today, see you Monday". I am glad this is much more acceptable nowadays. There should be no shame in needing some time to refresh without actually being sick. Happy Halloween everybody!

  2. We used to have "sick days" and "personal days". I loved that because I could actually be sick and still have days to take at the end of the year when I need a mental health day. Now they've lumped them all into "personal days off" and given us less of them. Apparently "some people were abusing their days". Ugh. The proverbial "some people". I try to request days in advance unless it really is an emergency because it's hard to find a sub and I don't want to make the secretary's job harder than it has to be. I usually just lounge around the house in my pajamas, or get chores and/or errands done that didn't happen over the weekend. I think it is important for employers to offer the mental health day option, but employees need to recognize when it's appropriate to take one of those days. So, for me, I probably shouldn't take one the day of a field trip - as much as I'd love to.

  3. I absolutely would take mental health days, but I do admit I'd plan them out. I haven't called in to work in about 15 years, but if I was having a bad week, I'd go to my boss and say I was taking Friday off (or whatever day that worked for me) for a mental health day. If they tried to ask for details I'd simply say, "I need a day", and leave it at that. My motto is don't complain/don't explain. Just pay attention to what my body and mind need and go with that. My days off consisted of lots of reading and puttering around and that's about it.


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