How To Call In Sick And Not Make Your Boss Suspicious

When you call in sick, you may feel as though you’re letting the world down and the office will collapse without you. But you’re really doing everyone a favor when you stay home, protecting them from exposure to your illness while sparing the office from your mediocre, exhaustion-spawned work. Once you decide you’re going to accept your homebound plight, you’ve got to confront the dreaded task of calling in.

Health.com offers tips to telling your boss you’re begging off work, suggesting making the call over the phone rather than sending an email in order to convey directness and honesty. You’re best off keeping the call short and under no obligation to reveal the details, and it doesn’t hurt to add an apology for the inconvenience your absence will cause.

Leave the contingency planning to your boss, and don’t offer to be on call to field problems that arise unless you want to waste a sick day working from home. If you’ll miss more than one day, keep the office updated with your expected return and any accommodations you’ll need when you return.

Check with your human resources department for policies that apply to your situation. Some employers require notes from medical professionals or other documentation.

How to Call In Sick Without Jeopardizing Your Job [Health.com]

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  1. GrayMatter says:

    You mean my Grandfather cannot die more than three or four times?

    • Gman says:

      Death is always a iffy one. You have to pretend to be depressed, sad, etc. Can’t do that while posting social media photos of you at a Pizza Party.

      Better to use your or your sibling’s offspring. they have a cold, a dr’s appointment you cant reschedule, etc. That way when you come in the next day hungover you can complain about being up all night taking care of a sick kid.

    • DrPizza says:

      I actually work with someone whose father has died 3 times over the past 15 years.

      • jefeloco says:

        My grandfather died 3 times before it was final, not common yet not unheard of with modern CPR techniques. The last time he was “out” for almost 30 minutes.

  2. Cat says:

    He says his name is “Ralllphhh”!”

  3. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    I never call in sick over the phone if I can help it… my last supervisor tried to guilt-trip, and the threaten me when I did.

  4. DJ Charlie says:

    That’s easy. I look in the mirror and say “Boss, I need a day off.”

    And then my reflection reminds me that the weekly reports are due to be sent to the labels today, and I go on to work.

  5. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    “When you call in sick, you may feel as though you’re letting the world down and the office will collapse without you.”

    Don’t feel this way Phil. We understand you need to get better, and working while you’re sick can only delay your total recovery and affect your work quality/performance. Take as much time off as you need.

  6. sendbillmoney says:

    The Jedi master sickness call-in phrase is simply: “You don’t want to know the details.”

  7. Doubting thomas says:

    Or you can be a reliable and honest employee who the boss knows he can trust and count on. On the rare occasion when I am sick I send my boss a text message letting him know that i am sick and that I have texted a couple of my co-workers and asked someone to come in early to cover my opening shift.

    • VintageLydia says:

      Be thankful you have a decent manager. I’ve had bosses that would force you to come to work to prove you were sick and then unless you were constantly vomiting or had an extremely high fever, would not let you beg off. This was in retail where I was working with the public, often at the registers touching money and products left and right.

    • jesusofcool says:

      Yeah, but the downside of having a manager like this is that other people take advantage of it. My work is pretty lax about sick days and most my coworkers will just text my boss to let her know they’re not feeling well (and often seem fine the next day). This annoys me because I’m someone who is generally healthy and very responsible, and therefore haven’t taken a sick day in nearly a year, so in the end I’m working more for being honest. On the plus side, it cuts down on super germy people coming into work and complaining about how terrible they feel (this has always irritated me because regardless of how much you have to do, if you’re truly sick you shouldn’t be at work spreading your germs to others).

  8. milkcake says:

    maybe you just need to quit a job where you call in sick and all you get is suspicion.

    • GrayMatter says:

      Or, as mentioned in another comment, you could avoid being labeled a goldbrick, thus earning suspicion.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Normally the suspicion is because of past behavior, and avoid the denials as those who abuse the system are also the first to take offense when someone is suspicious of their excuse.

      I’ve had a guy spend all Friday night talking about how his wife wanted him to call of Saturday to go to a party and then call off Saturday night because he was sick and then actually got irate when I didn’t sound like I believed him.

  9. La Flama Blanca says:

    Text works fine

    • LightningUsagi says:

      This. My boss hates talking on the phone just as much as I do, so I shoot her a text whenever possible.

    • tbax929 says:

      That’s what I do. I send a text to my boss and the other two employees who will be affected by my absence. Nothing specific – just an “I’m not feeling well and won’t be in” type of text. I usually get a couple of “feel better” texts beck in return. No suspision; no derision; no guilt. Is that so hard?

  10. kobresia says:

    Be sure to have your head near the toilet bowl when you call in sick. The porcelain echoes make your sick call sound that much more authentic.

  11. Bagels says:

    tell him your shoes are worn out

  12. bassbeast says:

    Misleading headline is misleading.

    If you’re legitimately sick, then don’t go into work, no apologies.

    If you want to play hookie, your call.

    And Phil… I’m not really sure what to say to this anymore.

  13. Benny Gesserit says:

    I just make sure I call as early as possible – the first hour I’m awake I always sound like a Walking Dead extra.

  14. Cat says:

    “My pussy is sick”.

  15. Coffee says:

    Stop calling in sick only on Mondays and Fridays. I notice these things.

    Signed,

    Your Boss

    • Platypi {Redacted} says:

      I concur with the validity of this statement. We have seen and heard a lot of crazy stuff. I for one would rather they level with me and say they need a day to rest/recharge. Of course, we don’t use sick time and vacation time differently (one big pool of paid time off).

      • StarKillerX says:

        Or at least not try and lie, thinking they will pull one over on me.

        Your only required to let me know you wont be in, you don’t have to provide a reason so if your going to spend 5 minutes spinning some elaberate story, when I know it’s the third friday in a row you’ve called in , you can save yourself the trouble as I already know your full of shit.

        • PHRoG says:

          What about those poor folks that suffer from the dreaded Monday and Friday disease? It’s not like they can help it!

    • weave says:

      Statistically, 40% of sick-leave call-ins happen on a Monday or Friday (assuming a M-F work week)

      (I heard that claim in some HR supervisory meeting, and was like — er, WTF, you serious?)

      • mtaylor924 says:

        So people don’t call out on Mondays or Fridays any more often than other days?

        (Monday + Friday = 40% of a Mon-Fri work week)

    • proliance says:

      At one place I worked people on the following shift liked to call in sick on Friday. My first year there I had to work 10 double shifts, all on Fridays because of them calling in sick. Management wouldn’t do anything about it so I found a better place to work.

  16. Corinthos says:

    I just use FMLA. I would miss work for migraines and my doctor got tired of the BS my job gave me so he filled out the paper work. Kind of hard to prove that I did not have a headache.

  17. falnfenix says:

    this one’s easy for me – have a disorder that places an individual in protected status within one’s company/institution, and only call out when that disorder acts up.

    …then again, i enjoy going to work so i avoid calling out unless i absolutely need it.

  18. DerangedKitsune says:

    My place of work is micromanaged. They require a papertrail to be in place to prove you’re actually ill, and are penalized if you can’t provide it.

    Really very irritating :/

    • homer2324 says:

      how do females provide papertrail for PMS or menstrual cycle related issue?

      oh wait… nevermind, maybe i don’t want to know.

  19. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    Diarrhea and throwing up are always good excuses. No one wants to be around that, and the boss can’t prove it happened one way or the other unless he or she visits you in your bathroom.

  20. southpaw1971 says:

    Things that make your boss suspicious:

    - Calling in sick on a Monday or Friday via email
    - Calling in sick on the first day back from your vacation

  21. Arcaeris says:

    I feel bad for people who don’t have a good relationship with their boss or feel bad for calling in sick. I’m close with my boss, he’s a cool guy, so I tell him the truth. “Yeah, I’ve been shitting all morning, I’m not going to let you pay me to shit the day away at work.” Comes up a lot, I have stomach issues.

    • southpaw1971 says:

      As a boss, I have a good relationship with my team. That said, I think at least one has been full of it when they’ve called in “sick” this past month. Having a good relationship doesn’t mean they aren’t still going to try to BS me, I’ve learned.

  22. PercussionQueen7 says:

    So I have a dilemma and I’d love some input.
    I’m the night caregiver for my brother 6 nights a week. We’re having a problem with the day caregiver taking too many “sick” days. The real issue is that besides me and the day guy, there’s only one other person at the moment who can do his care as it’s rather comprehensive and complex.
    The “manager” in this situation is my mother, and she’s so afraid to lose him that she just lets him walk all over her, letting him leave early and having no consequences for when care items are missed.

    Anyone have any idea on how to remedy this? He’s rather confrontational and my mother is afraid to call him out on his issues because she’s worried he’ll just walk out of the shift (and job).

    (Sorry if this is kind of off topic; he called out “sick” Sunday and my mom had to work all day. She’s 60 years old and really can’t do it by herself.)

    • caradrake says:

      Find/train someone else?

      • PercussionQueen7 says:

        Obviously, working on that, but until then, when he calls out she has to cover his shift – on 10 minutes notice. I need an interim solution to stop him from taking so many days off. Do we make him get a doctor’s note every time he’s sick? I know I’m not typical as I’m the sister, but I have never called out without a replacement.

        • StarKillerX says:

          Well the problem is that until you find a replacement he has you over a barrel. You could ask him for a doctor’s note, but what if he doesn’t have one?

          It’s a tough spot, and I feel for you, but you might be better off calling an agency for a fill in and ditching him now before his attitude gets worse and he decides to walk off with half the house.

    • RandomLetters says:

      Get in touch with an agency that provides this kind of care. If you’re already paying someone at least pay someone that can act professionally. And if they can’t the agency will be happy to send someone else who can.

    • Sian says:

      how many paid sick days does he get?

      If he somehow still has some, or has no limit, that’s your boss’s fault. Stop paying him for sick days, and he’ll likely miraculously stop taking them.

    • OttersArePlentiful says:

      I had a boss like this at a movie threater a decade ago- he would threaten to fire people all the time (we were all teenagers back then, and my coworkers constantly “forget” to charge their friends for tickets and concessions, or sneak their friends in the back door for a new release [meaning that people who paid for tickets would come back complaining that no seats were left, even though we never sold more tickets than we had seats]), but he never actually fired anyone. He caught a girl red-handed pocketing cash from the till, and it took him weeks to fire her (despite that her till always came up at least $10 short at the end of every night, even after the incident… she blamed it on being bad at math, then bragged about it at school).

      When he finally tried to fire her, all he said was, “Ummm… it’s been a little slow, so I don’t have any hours for you… but, you know, I’ll call you if they pick back up” and just never called her back. I used to have talks with him about growing a pair and following through with threats, since everyone literally laughed behind his back after each meeting.

  23. SerenityDan says:

    My place requires me to call out at least an hour before my shift starts. Since I am the first one in every day and no one ever checks the voice mail but me I have no choice but to send an email.

  24. Lyn Torden says:

    What if I work from home?

    I know, I’ll tell my boss I’m having to deal with BoA again, today.

  25. tungstencoil says:

    As a boss:

    I don’t want details. If you tell them to me, I will most likely tell you to never – ever – do that again. “I won’t be in today, I am ill” is sufficient.

    If you are tardy or absent outside the parameters of what HR says is acceptable, that’s a separate issue. Makes no difference why – if you require FMLA or short-term disability or some other consider, I *still* don’t care why.

    I hate the excuse pandering and trust my employees. They appreciate not being grilled about what is ultimately their own assessment and decision. I have only had to track “abuse” by someone probably twice in more than a decade.

    • Coffee says:

      This is well put. I like my employees. They’ve accrued sick leave, and as long as it doesn’t interfere with their work, they can use it however they see fit.

    • MikeM_inMD says:

      Hear, hear. I had a co-worker who I knew entirely too much about the interior health of her body – maybe more than I know about my wife’s insides – and it was rather uncomfortable at times.

  26. Browncoat says:

    Two words…..Volcanic Diarrhea

  27. geetarz says:

    I wish Phil would call in sick.

    Permanently.

  28. gparlett says:

    I always call, it’s crap to be passive aggressive and send an email, but beyond that the boss doesn’t need any details, I don’t make vomiting sounds, I don’t even say that I’m sick.

    “Hey boss, I’m taking a sick day today. I am planning to be in tomorrow and will call to let you know if that changes.”

    We’re adults, not children, I don’t need to lie nor do I need to ask permission from my boss. My sick days are mine, I can use them the way I see fit and today I am choosing to use one. I never said that I was sick, because whether or not I’m sick is beside the point and frankly not my bosses business. In fact it’s illegal in most cases for my boss to ask whether I have a headache today or whether I have cancer, all he needs to know is that I’m taking a sick day today.

  29. qualia says:

    I have a ridiculous workplace.

    1) There are chronic call ins all over the damn place because we’re frequently called to do sixteen hour shifts with little to no notice, and then you’re back less than 8 hours later for your 6am shift. It’s a very physical job. After doing that enough times? People get SICK.

    2) We’re required to give doctor’s notes every time, even if we have the sick time accrued.

    3) They haven’t approved vacation time in MONTHS, even though you will easily accrue enough comp time in a month to take three or four days off. No, they do not pay out for comp time. You have to have worked a full shift before they approve it as over time.

    4) Call in sick the first time, your boss will call you into the office. And she does want details. And she does make it clear every damn time that the world will end if you are ever sick.

    Yes, I am looking for another job. Why do you ask?

    • cbutler says:

      What I going on at your work place is illegal as shit if you are in an American workplace. Even in the military. My command cannot ask me details on what is making me sick or why I have arrival appointment no matter how little or extreme an inividuals condition is. Can you volunteer it ? Sure. But outside of that if someone asks what is wrong with you other than medical, you do t have to give that info up and you are protected for reprisals. But that’s not only for the military, thu are simply practicing what is law.

    • RStormgull says:

      Yeah, that’s super illegal (if you live in the US). Call the labor board, seriously.

  30. cbutler says:

    This is one of the things when it’s awesome to be in the military. If you are legitimately sick and medical deems you so, no ifs, ands or buts. You go home and sleep it off. What sucks is usually you have to show up to the command at 5:30am to let ten know youre going to sick call at 6:00am… and there is no way you can play hookie. Lol.

    • Syncop8d1 says:

      I appreciate your sentiment. However, being sick while on field exercise can be a whole different ball o’ wax. Years ago while on FTX, I had horrible food poisoning (B rations), waking up to barfing at 3 am. Oh yeah, did I mention that I was in food service? So the E-7, tells me that “since you’re already up” let’s start prepping breakfast. He begins frying the potatoes; the smell sends me into a vomit attack. His response? Try to throw up further away from the MKT (mobile kitchen trailer). I threw up 8 times before 8 am that day. I asked to go to emergency sick call and his response was that he didn’t want to “wake the medics.” (There were other cooks available to work, but they were still sleeping).

      Once I got to sick call (5 hrs and 8 barfs later), I was told that I had food poisoning (duh), given Tylenol and sent back…to…duty!!! WTF? Forget that working near food while sick runs counter to Army regulations.

      I’ve had a lot of horrible experiences while in the Army, but this was by far the worst! In the field, you’re completely at the mercy of your immediate chain. If they don’t have your best interest at heart, then you’re fucked.
      Just my 2 cents.

  31. Sian says:

    N cmmnts bt hw Phl shld tk hs wn dvc? y gys r slppng.

  32. giax says:

    My previous boss recommended taking two days off “sick” when you needed time off for a job interview in some other company instead of taking only one.

  33. kobresia says:

    Uh, yeah. I have an eye problem today. I just can’t see working!

  34. aaron8301 says:

    I always whine about how sick I am on Facebook, so all my coworkers see it and can concur. Of course, I only call in sick when I’m actually SICK.

  35. DarkPsion says:

    Yeah right! At my old job, the bosses were a brother and sister. The sister was a germaphobe, If you were sick, she didn’t want you in the same zip code. The brother? Let’s say if you were in an accident and broke both arms and a leg, you still got one good leg to hop in on.

    Several years ago on a Friday, I came down with the stomach flu. All night long, every two hours like clockwork it would hit again and again. By 5am I was checking for internal organs because that was all that should be left. I called in sick and an hour later, the brother called.

    “It’s going the be a busy day today, so we need you to come in.”
    “I have the stomach flu.”
    “Yeah, but we need you here today.”
    “……….” I was far to tired to care about anything at that moment and said;
    “Is there a particular part of projectile vomit and explosive diarrhea you do not understand?”
    Then he went passive aggressive;
    “Well, everybody is going to be disappointed if you are not here today.”
    At this point I was afraid to walk to the other side of my house because I didn’t want to be that far from my bathroom, I said;
    “No, they will not be disappointed at all that I am not there today.”

    He let me go after that but called back Sunday;
    “You are not coming in today either?”
    “I had a can of soup at 6am and that was the first meal I have had since lunch on Friday. I have had nothing but Gatorade, Sprite and Water and sometimes the water would not stay down. I am dead tired, sore in places that should not get sore and most importantly, HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS!”

    After that, he said I could have off till Wednesday.

  36. HogwartsProfessor says:

    My exjob didn’t give sick time, just two weeks vacation for the whole year. So unless I was deathly ill, I would show up and work a half day until my backup came in, and then leave. If I didn’t get better I called in before my shift the next day. They were pretty good about letting people go home or whatever if they were really ill.

    I’ve worked many food jobs where you went in sick because there was no other way to get paid. I think that’s outrageous, when you’re serving people’s food, but there was no other way around it. I couldn’t afford to miss work.

  37. scoosdad says:

    And remember, when you bring in the note from your ‘doctor’, be sure to fold it at least once. You know how when your ‘doctor’ gives you the note, the first thing you do is fold it and put it in your pocket.

  38. Talisker says:

    I work for a major health care system in the Pacific Northwest, and we have a dependability policy that can result in you getting written up for calling in sick too often. Yes, this hospital encourages people to come to work when they are sick to avoid being written up.

    A couple of years ago during a flu scare, anyone with respiratory illness symptoms was sent home for at least seven days, or 24 hours after their symptoms went away, whichever was longest. Even with that mandatory sick time, the health system had fewer sick days taken by staff. Our infection control department attributed this to the aggressive stance on forcing people with respiratory illness symptoms to stay home.

    So, even after this experience, the hospital is back to writing people up for calling in sick too often.

  39. DriveByLurker says:

    Does no one read Pedro Pietri anymore?

    Woke up this morning
    feeling excellent,
    picked up the telephone
    dialed the number of my
    equal opportunity employer
    to inform him i will not
    be in to work today.
    “are you feeling sick?”
    the boss asked me
    “no sir,” i replied:
    “i am feeling too good
    to report to work today.
    if i feel sick tomorrow
    i will come in early!”

    Telephone Booth #905 1/2 by Pedro Pietri

  40. skloon says:

    I like to phone in stupid, suggest that any contributions I may make that day will take an equal effort or greater by another to rectify