How to Call Out Sick to Work

Every now and then you need to call out sick, but doing it properly is key. Learn the 3 easy steps to calling out sick.

Richie Frieman
4-minute read
Episode #162

First of all let me make one thing clear: This is not an article about how to cheat the system and fake your way out of coming to work by pretending to be sick. That’s highly unmannerly, but let’s face it, we’ve all been guilty of faking an illness to get out of work at one time or another. However, there is a way to properly handle calling out sick when you really are (or had one too many margaritas the night before).

How to Properly Call Out Sick to Work

I’ll admit it -- I’ve been guilty of faking an illness to get out of work. A mismanaged evening led to my waking up at 8am, fully dressed in the clothes from the night before, and realizing that I’m already late. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. For those instances when you are legitimately unwell, there are ways to properly handle calling in sick. By following my 3 easy tips, you can guarantee that you won’t be handed a pink slip come Friday… unless you do show up to work disheveled, late, and vomit all over the boss’ desk. Highly, HIGHLY unmannerly.

Tip #1:  Don’t Do the Fake Cough

How many times have you called someone – be it your boss, coworker, or a friend – and while telling them how sick you are, you throw in a cough or a sniffle? It’s like seeing someone yawning and even though you are not tired, you yawn too. Sometimes you just can’t help it. However, inserting the fake cough is a sure sign that the person on the other end of the conversation will know you are lying. So, tip number one is simple – don’t lie!

Lying never works and is the most unmannerly thing you can do to fellow coworkers or an employer. A lie always spins bigger and bigger as you go on with it. One minute, you’re “so sick” and the next thing you know, you’re not coming to work today is because the government has hired you as an international spy. If you are going to call out sick to work, simply tell them the truth. I know it sounds unpleasant, but in the end, your boss and coworkers will appreciate it.  Simply say something like, “Look, I’m so sorry but I ate something awful last night and can’t even get of bed. I’m not going to make it in.” Or if it IS your fault say, “I know this sounds immature but honestly, I drank one too many last night … I guess I’m not in college anymore, right?” Adding a touch of humor never hurts and they will know you feel crappy about it.

Whatever you do, don’t add the fake cough, as in “Hey boss, I think I’m coming down with COUGH-COUGH something bad here COUGH-COUGH and it’s best if I stay in bed today.” They will see right through it and you will be able to spend plenty of time in bed when they fire you.

Tip #2: Cover For Yourself

If you are going to call out sick to work, you are – even for a short time – taking one cog out of the machine. Even if you hate your job, the proper thing to do is to manage your absence so that it causes as little inconvenience to your colleagues as possible.

Now, I’m not expecting you to hammer out a five page costs report while doubled over the toilet bowl, but hopping on email just to see what you missed or to delete some items so you are not swamped the next day, is very manageable. Plus, it shows respect for your work. Again, making conference calls at 9pm is not necessary, after all you are sick, but all of us can muster enough strength to check our BlackBerry or iPhone and see how the day went. Better yet, shoot an email off to the team letting them know when you’ll be back and that you did read “Person X’s” email and will get back to them in the morning.

Tip #3: Bounce Back With a Vengeance!

I’ll admit that I am a workaholic and missing my email for an hour turns my world around, So when I’m out sick, I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things.  The proper thing to do when returning to the office after being sick is to make sure people know that you truly did feel bad for being out. I mean, hovering over a bucket next to your bed or pumping your body with antibiotics is never fun and they know you didn’t do it on purpose (hopefully). In spite of that, you have responsibilities and getting back to them is very mannerly.

It comes down to respect for your coworkers who had to pick up the slack for you. When someone was kind enough to stay a little late for you or attend a meeting in your place, it’s only polite to show them the gratitude they deserve.  Bring in donuts for everyone to thank them for helping you out. That never hurts! After all, not appreciating someone else’s effort and kindness is by far the best way to become the “office jerk”. And no one wants that.

Do you have a great story about how you handled calling in sick to work? Post all the details in Comments below.  As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Check out my Modern Manners Guy Facebook page, follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips.

 Sick Businessman image from Shutterstock