What do murderers and members of the workforce milking their company for time off have in common? An alibi. Welcome to a discussion about lying to your boss and — sometimes — getting away with it. It's hardly criminal, so pardon the above analogy, but it could get you fired or at least ruin a colleague's day.
Everyone does it, and everyone knows it's shady. But whether or not that's the reason, managers appear more amenable nowadays to requests for these unscheduled days off.
In all likelihood, if you're reading this, you've lied to your employer at some point in your professional life so you could use a "sick" day when you're not actually ill. While you may not feel that you're an indispensable part of the operation, your unwarranted absence can cause a serious problem because someone usually suffers, even if it's not you.
Chances are, your boss has heard all the excuses in the book, so don't think you're reinventing the wheel when you call in before the day starts and say, "I was snowboarding off my roof last night while drunk and broke my leg" or "I'm feeling pregnant ... like my wife."
These are the kinds of responses Careerbuilder.com has gotten in a survey of hiring managers. The jobs Web site has conducted this research on sick-day alibis since 2004. In the last two years, the data have shown that 23% (2005) and 27% (2006) of managers have fired their employees for not having legitimate reasons for their "absenteeism."
After all, time is money to these people. According to CCH, a human resources information company, absenteeism costs large companies (those with 1,000 or more employees) an average of $760,000 annually. CCH no longer tracks what it costs these companies per employee.
The CCH research also tracks the reasons for absenteeism from 1995 to 2007. The data showed a marked decline in "personal illness" as a reason for calling out of work from 45% in 1995 to 34% in 2007. "Family issues" has always remained second, followed by personal needs, entitlement mentality and stress.
Careerbuilder.com offers one piece of solid advice: "Honesty is the best policy," said Jennifer Sullivan, spokeswoman for Careerbuilder.com. "Fortunately, more hiring mangers today and more employers today are much more understanding about needing that extra day off."
Note: "Day" is singular.
That's how the whole faking sick thing became a problem. People abused what had essentially become a privilege in the workplace by turning occasional into often. If you're fortunate enough to have a boss who is a human being, it's best to tell him or her that you're stressed to the max and need a day to use as few brain cells as possible, preferably slumped in front of the TV. Maybe you have other personal matters to tend to.
Addie Johnson will tell you. She's the author of The Little Book of Big Excuses, and she came up with the book idea when trying to juggle a "day job" with her pursuits in acting. She would think of 101 ways to call out of work for an audition.
In the book, she discusses the major pitfalls of calling in sick. Her best advice: "Don't call with every symptom known to man. Keep it simple sicky. If you're calling up with the flu, you don't need to tell your boss that you have nausea, vertigo and the shakes."
"Keep it simple, so you can get in and get out."