Cinders McLeod for the Globe and Mail

Cinders McLeod for the Globe and Mail

Reposted from the Globe and Mail’s “Nine To Five” advice column

Reader Question:

My new manager is giving me a hard time about how many days I’ve missed over the past year. It was a horrible year for me, health-wise. I’ve had pneumonia, laryngitis, pink eye, and a severe allergy attack that required me to take Prednisone. I remember every one of those sick days: I missed my birthday, a concert by my favourite singer and I nearly missed Christmas. In addition, after being away for 10 days near the end of last year, I used up a week’s holiday time to help my boss. My boss knows I do great work, as I’ve won three awards in a row.

Recently, when I was ill at work, coughing like crazy and looking green, my boss took me aside to show me how many days I was absent last year. (I got doctors’ notes for all those illnesses.) He wrote it on paper, signed it and hand delivered it to me at my desk, as I coughed away.

My previous department had no issue with my illnesses because they were legitimate. Doesn’t my new boss know that I already feel awful when I’m sick? Does he think this attendance reminder will make my bronchial flu symptoms go away? Bully them out of me? How do I deal with this kind of manager? He’s a robot and I hope I gave him my cold.

My Answer:

You were right to make your health your priority. What you need to deal with now, though, is your disappointment. You missed happy occasions, were unappreciated for giving up holiday time and you’re not getting any sympathy to soften the blow.

If your “robot” boss is an unquestionably cold, cruel human being, prepare your exit plan. But it’s more likely he was tactless as a result of being affected by the difficulties your absences caused – and whether or not it’s fair or conscious, he holds you responsible.

Some people abuse sick days, but you know you are not one of them, so there’s nothing to gain by apologizing for your time off, defending yourself or criticizing your boss. However, you could let him know that you’re aware your illness has affected both of you, and your intention is to have a healthy and productive year ahead. This might sound obvious, but reminding him that you’re on the same side can influence how he treats you.

Also, make a request: That he trust your dedication to continuing your track record of excellence. Move forward with optimism and bring him along.