Hello Boss…I'm Sick

Friday, November 2, 2007

Preparing for the holiday season is a marathon these days, with Americans testing their endurance beginning in November and crossing the finish line around mid-January. Given that most companies work in a global environment which operates 24/7, employees are challenged to find time to get everything accomplished.

If you need a few extra hours to shop for gifts, or would like to take the morning off to volunteer for an activity at your child's school, a researcher from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia says to resist the temptation to lie and call out sick.

"The last thing you want is for your manager to become suspicious or angry. A bit of communication and compromise could probably turn a potential negative into a positive if reasonable accommodations can be made," says Eric Patton, Ph.D.

Most companies have policies regarding absenteeism and time off, and Patton says these require refinement around the holidays. In the spirit of helping co-worker, some companies require employees to find their own replacements. "This could bring social norms into play and would also likely cut down on frivolous absences as workers are sometimes less keen on faking to co-workers in comparison to supervisors," notes Patton.

Some companies save money by closing for a few extra days while other organizations enforce blackout periods on personal days during the holidays. Such heavy-handed approaches, however, are probably not necessary for most organizations. Patton says that given today's diverse workforce, many employees would be happy to welcome work during holiday periods if they do not celebrate particular holidays or have no family obligations.

"Whatever your employer's policy, the fundamental question to ask is 'Does absence matter for our company/organization during the holidays?'" says Patton. "If so, honest communication between employer and employee is critical."

Patton is an assistant professor of management at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. He can be reached at eric.patton@sju.edu or 610-660-3178 or by calling University Communications at 610-660-1222.

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