Jump to content

Can I ask a coworker to stop asking about my health?


Rihannon
 Share

Recommended Posts

Whenever I come back to work from a sick day, my coworker asks if I'm feeling better or "how are you feeling?" and that bothers me a lot. I don't think he really cares, first of all, and second of all I don't like talking about being sick. I'm not sick very often but when I am, I hate it and I hate the whole situation of calling in and having to tell people I'm sick. If I'm going to be out for the day, I owe an explanation, and I will say that I'm sick because I feel like I have to. (I would rather just be able to say I'm taking the day off and not have to admit that I'm sick but the rules require sick day explanations.) But once I have returned to work, no matter how I'm actually feeling, I would rather he just assume that I am fine. He's not my boss, and it's none of his business.

 

I was out sick the other day and I still feel terrible but I have things to do so I came to work. While walking in, I had it all planned out what to say to him, to say that I would prefer that he not ask about my health. See below. But then I bumped into him unexpectedly at the elevators in front of other people, and I chickened out, not wanting to embarrass him in front of strangers - even though it bothered me even more that he would say that in front of other people. So when he said "How you feelin'?" I simply said, abruptly, "thank you...(pause) for asking."

 

Should I say something the next time he asks, or say something sooner? Or should I just say "fine thanks" whenever he asks, and pretend it doesn't bother me?

 

I want to say: "Hey can I ask you a favor? I would really prefer if you didn't ask about my health after one of my sick days. It's just my personal quirk, but I feel it's too personal. When I'm going to stay home, I know I need to let people know I'm taking a sick day, but once I return, please just assume that I'm fine." Does that sound reasonable?

 

Or maybe in the future I should just tell my boss that I'm sick and tell him that I'm just taking the day off. Of course, if he finds out that I'm sick he's sure to ask.

 

I also really hate that, if I am out sick and someone else comes in or calls, he will tell them that I am out sick. I would prefer if he simply told them I was out for the day. Maybe I can request that as well. Is that asking too much?

 

Maybe this is just my quirk, but I feel so vulnerable about sickness and I hate talking about it. I don't like when people say "bless you" when I sneeze. I don't like when people stop and look, and ask, "you OK?" if I were to cough for a few seconds. I think that is so rude to acknowledge it. I mean, what if I had passed gas really loudly, would it be acceptable for everyone to look at me and ask if I were OK? Bodily functions should be ignored unless I'm in obvious distress.

 

I also wonder how quirky this is, and if lots of other people feel the same way.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 80
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I think you need to chill. You are taking this to a place it should not go. You are being rude.

 

People are doing this out of courtesy, and most would appreciate the gesture.

 

Just say, I am fine. Thank you for asking. Do not do anything else. People will think you are strange if you ask them not to ask how you are.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you need to chill. You are taking this to a place it should not go. You are being rude.

 

People are doing this out of courtesy, and most would appreciate the gesture.

 

Just say, I am fine. Thank you for asking. Do not do anything else. People will think you are strange if you ask them not to ask how you are.

 

 

I agree with this. I feel like YOU would be coming off very rude. People get sick. It's part of life. Asking if someone is feeling ok is just polite and small talk. Instead of making it awkward it's much easier to respond with a "better, thanks" or "fine, thanks." You don't have to go into detail about your sickness or your current state of health. It just feels like you're looking for a reason to be difficult.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you should say "I feel much better. Thanks for asking." Your coworker is trying to show genuine concern or its what people think is right to say. If you came back from vacation and a coworker said "did you have a nice trip?" would that be rude because the coworker didn't know you actually didn't go anywhere? I agree -- Chill. you don't have to tell them any details. just "i am on the mend". "good, thanks for asking".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with the other replies. It's just your colleague being polite and showing good social etiquette.

 

I always ask my work colleagues the same question in passing and to be honest, I don't even take any notice of their reply, which is inevitably "I'm feeling better thanks"..... a standard reply that they probably put as much thought and reflection into as I did asking the question. It's a reflex question in the same league as saying " I hope you're having a good morning?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While I wholeheartedly agree with the concept of setting boundaries, what you propose is an unrealistic expectation placed on others to accommodate a personal preference. Just take responsibility for your feelings around it and shut him down when he asks... what Holly said is the perfect response and will be sufficient to send people on their way.

 

That being said, when I saw this I think you do have a valid concern:

 

I also really hate that, if I am out sick and someone else comes in or calls, he will tell them that I am out sick. I would prefer if he simply told them I was out for the day. Maybe I can request that as well. Is that asking too much?

 

How does this co-worker know you are sick? Is your boss sharing this info with him or are you letting your co-worker know directly that you are taking a sick day?

 

I work in management for a big organization where protection of personal data is a very big deal. We are not allowed to share our employee's personal information, which includes their health and well-being, with anyone. This means if someone calls to tell me they are sick, and someone else asks where they are, all I can say is "they aren't here today" or "they are off today" but it would be inappropriate and unethical for me to tell others they were sick, because that is personal information.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was in the practice of sending in a single message to my boss and my coworker together, saying I was out sick and wouldn't be in at all that day. I think from now on I will only tell my boss if I will be out for a sick day, because my boss is the only one who needs to know my reason for the late-notice absence. I really don't owe my coworker an explanation for my absences, but I feel like it's a good idea to let him know if I am not going to be in the office for a whole day.

 

In the future I will send a separate message to him alone just to say that I won't be in that day. And if he finds out my absence was due to sickness, then I just have to deal with that. And he'll probably tell people I was sick, and there's nothing I can do about that. There's no prohibitive rule that I know of, where you can't tell people that an employee is on a certain kind of leave. I wish there was a rule, or at least an etiquette expectation along those lines.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Do you understand that when anyone asks you "how are you feeling" they aren't asking you about your health and aren't looking for any explanations and would be totally taken aback if you suddenly went into details? It's just a canned social question no different than "how have you been" - the only response required is "fine, thanks."

 

You really need to check yourself because you are creating an absurd amount of drama inside your own head and trying to make it other people's problem. The only thing that will happen from this is that you'll come across looking like you are crazy. Get a grip.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was in the practice of sending in a single message to my boss and my coworker together, saying I was out sick and wouldn't be in at all that day. I think from now on I will only tell my boss if I will be out for a sick day, because my boss is the only one who needs to know my reason for the late-notice absence. I really don't owe my coworker an explanation for my absences, but I feel like it's a good idea to let him know if I am not going to be in the office for a whole day.

 

In the future I will send a separate message to him alone just to say that I won't be in that day. And if he finds out my absence was due to sickness, then I just have to deal with that. And he'll probably tell people I was sick, and there's nothing I can do about that. There's no prohibitive rule that I know of, where you can't tell people that an employee is on a certain kind of leave. I wish there was a rule, or at least an etiquette expectation along those lines.

 

I would do that only if they don't compare notes because that might start to look odd especially if coworker forwards your email to the boss. I agree with the others that this is a highly personal preference that is never going to fly in a typical workplace.

 

For example. Years ago I announced my pregnancy at work a bit later than most people would (because I was older and high risk) - I was worried about miscarriage, etc. At 14 weeks I walked into my HR manager's office because I thought she should know first. I think I forgot to close the door. Anyway she was so excited for me, it was great. But a secretary overheard and when I came out she was gushing - partly I was like "ugh" because I kind of wanted it to be my choice as to how to announce (the secretary wasn't sure but heard the gushing and I guess checked me out more closely for that glow lol). But it's the workplace and I knew I had to put my personal preferences aside and go with the flow. That's just...... work.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think when i call in sick or email in sick that i would say "When someone calls for me, please put them through to my voicemail or tell them that I am out of the office today." That way it heads up any potential for them to mess up based on any rule that you put in place that you never informed them about.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just don't get it. With all the stuff everyone has to do, now they have to be instructed as to what to say for each person when they are not in the office?

 

Just yesterday, I was on a conference call, and 2 people were not on the call. Their manager said that one has a vacation day, and the other has a sick child. Ok, fine. I don't get the big deal, nor do I feel it's oversharing.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just don't get it. With all the stuff everyone has to do, now they have to be instructed as to what to say for each person when they are not in the office?

 

Just yesterday, I was on a conference call, and 2 people were not on the call. Their manager said that one has a vacation day, and the other has a sick child. Ok, fine. I don't get the big deal, nor do I feel it's oversharing.

 

agree!! I just mean that if she says that ("If such and such calls, tell them i am out of the office), maybe she will feel she 'was heard" and will get off of it finally.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Rihannon, it sounds like maybe it’s more than this colleague asking how you’re feeling that’s the issue. For instance, maybe you interpret his questioning as a form of nosiness and it just rubs you the wrong way?

 

To be honest, it sounds like you’re thinking about this way too much, to the point that you’ve made it into an issue when it really isn’t. You’re too much in your own head, I think.

 

Take a step back and make sure to keep this in perspective. Your colleague’s questioning may irk you, but they only have good intentions. In his mind, he’s just being kind and courteous, and maybe it’s his way of just making conversation after he hasn’t seen you following a sick day. Either way, it sounds like he means well.

 

If I can suggest just working on getting out of your own head, OP. Otherwise you’re going to drive yourself silly from overthinking. Overthinking tends to create problems that aren’t even there.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I get it! I'm the jerk! So, I'm not going to say anything. I'm just going to reply "Fine, thanks." When someone says anything. Or when he asks "What did you have?" I'll just say "oh it was nothing, I'm better thanks" no matter what. And it will keep bothering me but I will pretend that it doesn't. This is just me, it's my problem, I'm not going to make a big deal out of it or tell anyone else besides you guys here. You're the only ones who know about my uptight-ness about this. I will have to thank people for telling me that God has blessed me when I sneeze. (Although, TBH I don't get what's so nice about that. It's like basically saying "excuse YOU." It's like saying "I forgive you for sneezing." Why is it only for sneezing and not the hiccups, or a cough, or a burp? Honestly it makes no sense that a sneeze warrants a comment and other functions don't.) I'm a grumbly, annoyed person and I can't help the way I feel but at least I can try to be fake and pretend to be different so people will like me or at least tolerate me in the workplace.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's quite a cynical leap. "Bless you" is meant for blessings of good health. I'm agnostic, but it's never bothered me one bit. In Spanish, we say "salud," meaning "to your health" or "good health." A sneeze is a much more reliable symptom of illness, hence the selectively.

 

You gotta stop looking for excuses to be upset.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't like when people say "bless you" when I sneeze. I don't like when people stop and look, and ask, "you OK?" if I were to cough for a few seconds. I think that is so rude to acknowledge it.

 

OMG, I missed this whole part of the initial post.

 

Rihannon, you're unbelievable. I don't ever say that on this board to anyone, ever. I'm one who usually tries to talk someone through something.

 

But being upset because someone asks if you're ok while you're coughing, or says "Bless You" when you sneeze is just.....unreal.

 

Idea: Get a home-based job where there are no people around. End of.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Because I was raised and I now believe it's good manners to say it -do you know the origin? It has to do with the old notion that sneezing was a sign of danger and bless you was for protection. Not because they're excusing you. Big deal. I say it to strangers and they say thank you unless they're wearing headphones and don't hear me and I'm fine either way. You can help the way you react to how you feel, ok? Especially in the workplace. I agree with LH Girl -we have to be very very careful these days -and no I am not complaining about it -it's reality and I deal with it to my utmost so that I never have to risk any issue at all. I can't react to my feelings either -I am a curious person, I tend to be overly chatty and I squelch all of that when I walk into the office because to me personally it's better than the risk, unintentionally(!) of overstepping. But no, I'm not going to stop saying hope you feel better or how are you. I do not ask "what did you have" unless it's my personal friend and even then I think about timing, environment, etc. And he does -so just change the subject - say "oh you know one of those things". And the move on.

 

And yes, be fake in the workplace if you have to. It's work. People don't deserve to be subjected to our crankiness or our hyper-sensitivities (and yes I realize there is a broad range of what is reasonable and what is not and I'm comfortable saying that what you are complaining about is beyond the pale).

 

The other day I had a really stressful deadline to meet and had to work with others to meet the deadline and I had this mantra in my head that works for me to calm myself down. No, I did not act "fake" as in being all smiley and pollyannish but when I felt the adrenaline going I realized that if I stood near the secretary's desk she might feel my stress and I might express it and that wouldn't help anything. So I walked away, sat on a chair and studied the painting on the wall with a neutral face and sat still. Because it's work. They're not there to calm me down, they're not there to reassure me that we'll meet the deadline and my being stressed around others might hurt their ability to get the work done. Because I'm there to get the work done in a timely, efficient way. Not to express my feelings in that way.

 

Yes, if you are harassed at work, go to HR and file a report if needed or if you are mistreated at work you can express your feelings appropriately. But yes, fake is fine if it means that others will feel comfortable around you to the extent that they can get their work done in at least a neutral if not positive environment.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And yes, be fake in the workplace if you have to. It's work. People don't deserve to be subjected to our crankiness or our hyper-sensitivities (and yes I realize there is a broad range of what is reasonable and what is not and I'm comfortable saying that what you are complaining about is beyond the pale).

 

^^ Yes to Batya's whole post. Our co-workers are not there to coddle us.

 

Methinks you are a snowflake.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It totally galls me that older women face so. Much discrimination in the workplace. Its usually preferable to employers that some poor whingey baby be employed in favor of an older experienced reliable and mature person. How dare that worker ask over your health. Best thing is to resign and lock Yourself away at home so. Your risk of people asking how you are is reduced.

 

BTW, how many sick days do you take??? Sounding like it may be frequent.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share


×
×
  • Create New...