Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 October 2019

Stop suffering for the cause and call in sick

The Life: The workplace doctor turns the table on a question from someone who feels he must go to work even when ill: on your deathbed, will your employer be there to say thanks for sacrificing your health?

I have had a recent run of poor health, catching every cough and cold that comes my way. My job is very demanding so I have continued to work throughout my illnesses but my role is to strategise for the company and my weakened state has left me unable to operate at full capacity and unable to think beyond that day, let alone the next week, month or six months. Also, because I keep working and not resting, my wife thinks I am only lowering my immunity even more. Plus it is embarrassing sneezing and coughing all over my colleagues. So when is the right time to take a break? DB, Abu Dhabi


Hi DB, is there really a quandary in this situation? I'm wondering what is the intention of the letter as I see the situation to be cut and dry.

Fact one: A spate of poor health has you incapable of performing at your peak.

Fact two: Your poor health can contaminate others and possibly affect the organisation's performance level.

Fact three: Your job is a strategic function. The facts are clear. Strategy is your work and you are not in a state to perform that work, so what better time to take a break than now?


Personally speaking, I see you living in the "land of but". The word "but" gives excuses or reasons why something cannot be done, and sends energy into defence.

Time is spent on justification, and much convincing that something is just not possible. I "hear" attempts at convincing everyone around you, rather than believing in your own judgement and physical signals.

If you just decided to honour your human self and know to take a break now, you'd need less time off and others around wouldn't be dragged down physically or emotionally by your indecision. And, believe it or not, the strategic planning would still be there when you came back - yes, that is possible. Or could you be worried others may do it without you - thereby lies another issue.

If you were to relocate to the "land of and", the mindset might change to: strategic planning needs to be completed "and" as it's important for the future "and" as I am not capable of giving it my best currently, I will take a break now. This statement carries an element of proactivity, decisiveness and clarity of priorities, as well as results orientation. It allows for a positive dependency and simply accepts the "what is" as reality.

DB, I really am wondering why such a simple situation is being over-complicated and perhaps dare I say even dramatised. Could you be unconsciously seeking approval or validation from others?

The reality is that others can't feel how bad you feel inside, yet by not taking a decision yourself indicates you will sacrifice your own health for their opinion or approval.Why not start listening to your body - it's surely sending you a message right now, and rest assured if you don't listen now, it will come back louder and tougher next time round.

Let me ask you this question: On your deathbed, do you believe your employer will be there to say thanks for sacrificing your health for the sake of our strategy?

While being loyal and true are noble values, should you consider their disproportionate distribution currently?


Doctor's prescription

Take two shots of courage and listen to yourself and your body.


Debbie Nicol, the managing director of Dubai-based 'business en motion', is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at debbie.nicol@businessenmotion.com for the Workplace Doctor's advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague.

Updated: May 15, 2013 04:00 AM