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Calling In Sick Is a Job That Should Never Be Left to the Amateurs

Lesson No. 1: There's a difference between being sick-sick and being work-sick.


I'm on hold.

I'm waiting to talk to the boss.

The level of tension is, as might be expected, excruciating.

I'm calling in sick.

It's not that I'm not sick. I am. It's just that whenever I call in sick, I always feel like I'm telling somebody the check's in the mail.

I mean, I could be two beeps short of flat-lining, but the minute the boss gets on the phone, I sound like a guy with a new fishing pole and another dead grandmother.

I think this is because there is a difference between sick-sick and work-sick.

Sick-sick is kind of like when you have tickets to, say, a New York Giants game but are too ill to go even in a chartered ambulance. This level of sickness is also known as near-death experience.

Work-sick is not as debilitating as sick-sick. Work-sick would almost never keep you from sitting in the stands at a Giants game in January with a large blue G painted on your bare chest. Work-sick is more like you just don't feel up to dealing with work.

There are a lot of things to consider before calling in work-sick, chief among them being the thickness of the ice upon which your career is supported.

Another major factor is whether your boss is male or female, because men and women tend to define sickness differently.

In general, man-sick is when the upset stomach, congestion or headache is such that it mandates couch (rather than recliner) rest and limits television viewing to no more than two sporting events at a time.

Woman-sick usually involves delirium, loss of consciousness, an inability to provide more than two side dishes with supper and the repeated mumbling of either of the following phrases:

"If I don't do this, who will?"


"Who's going to do this--you?"

(Note: It is not uncommon for this latter raving to be accompanied by high-pitched, derisive laughter.)

The nature of the illness one is claiming is also gender sensitive.

When you call in sick to a male boss, the key thing to understand is this:

Men view illness as a competition. They only want to know what your symptoms are, so they can try to top them.

Thus, all you have to do is let the big guy win.

Calling in sick to a female boss is much trickier, and it is imperative that you do your homework. This is because women always know what's going around. So you don't want to be claiming a sinus infection when everyone has a stomach virus.

Personally .... (phone click)

"Oh, good morning boss (cough-sniffle-wheeze) .... It's a flu kind of thing with a ....Wrong bug, huh?

"No problem, I'll get my little red wagon right in there."


Jim Shea writes for the Hartford Courant, a Tribune company.

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