It's flu season and the sniffing and hacking is making me sick!
I work in a large open office, which as we all know has its challenges.
One of our seasonal challenges is that we have people presenting when they are clearly too sick to be at work.
We have tried reasoning with them, pointing out that they are not helping if they reduce everyone else's productivity by making them sick, but a few of our "soldiers" only point out that if they can still attend, they expect everyone else to as well. A few of these roles can be performed from home, but this option has also been refused.
I am in a "sandwich" situation outside of work, caring for my family and the oldies (including the in-laws) and can't seem to get through to my colleagues that for me, catching their germs is about more than just "soldiering on" through a week of sniffling, snorting and hacking – it can compromise how well I can care for the others in my life.
Any advice welcome!
Dear Any advice,
Unfortunately, you are dealing with a small group of narcissistic sociopaths. They don't give two hoots for your sick relatives. What do they care about? Their own image and their own little universe. Sure, they might say they come to work when they are sick because they need the money. Or they have too much work to stay home. But that is all about them. They are incapable of understanding that the rest of us also need the money and have too much work to stay home. Plus we actually look after others.
How can you tell if someone is a narcissistic sociopath? Here is a simple test. On approach they will immediately start to cough, sniff, snort and reach for tissues, spraying you with their germs to let you know just how sick they truly are. Unfortunately, you can pour your heart out to these types until you are blue in the face but it won't help. They can't even imagine your life or how tough it is. It is simply too big a leap for them to understand that they are compromising the health of others and affecting the productivity of the workplace.
What you have to do is work away at their self-image. Call it cruel but so is spraying you with germs.
First step: tell them they look really awful. Not sick, as that will satisfy their sickly needs. Instead say something like this: "OMG. I have never seen you look so unattractive. You look disgusting! Your hair looks so stringy. And your skin has broken out. You really should hide out under a doona." Reel back whenever they talk and yell: "Ahhh sick breath!!" And tell them that their nose is dripping all day even when it isn't.
The next thing is to get them to understand that in three days time they will have to do a LOT MORE WORK because their germs would have been effectively spread throughout the office to everyone else by then and you will all be home in bed. Do this by scheduling a meeting for three days time and then cancelling it... just in case. Don't forget to point out how hard it is going to be for them to carry out their job in a few days because not only will everyone be sick but they will feel worse because they didn't stay home and rest. In fact, it is likely that the simple virus they had has now got a grip on their immune system and they could be laid up for months with compromised health systems. Imagine the effect that is going to have on their bank balance and workload!
The next thing is to make them feel like selfish pariahs that are really walking, killing machines. How do you do that? When someone comes to work sick, immediately borrow the hard hat from the fire warden, make ambulance noises and offer them and all in their immediate vicinity anti-bacterial hand wipes. Post notices around the office warning that the flu has entered the workplace (use Grim Reaper images or faces of your union officials – only if you hate them at that moment because you are in the final throes of negotiating something and you feel they are being really unreasonable of course. Or you could use the faces of your external web developers who treat you like shit but make sure you take the posters down before they visit and don't get caught out like we once did.)
Urge all people to wash their hands and not to touch infected peoples' computers or phones. Put a few scientific facts on the sheet like lots of people with flu actually die. And that if you have a temperature you are spreading germs and therefore you are a germ bag.
Put up lovely drawings of people shaking hands and kissing and then draw big red lines through the happy pictures. Write in scary writing stupid things like "Pariahs not heroes".
Finally, when these people are sick and stay home, give them lots of positive attention. Ring and text them often. When they hack into the phone reassure them that everyone knows they are really truly sick.
When they come back to work, treat them like heroes. And don't forget to lie and tell them how great they look.
Your Aunty B
To read more Aunty B advice, click here.