Dear Lola,

I have a problem with a coworker and I’m hoping for your guidance so I don’t lose my job or my sanity. I work in marketing and am assigned to a permanent team. Within those teams, each member has specific duties that must be completed within deadlines. While most of the work gets started at the same time, certain positions require the other’s work to complete their own. I am one of the team members at the end of the line – my work cannot be finished until all other members have finished their parts. 

One of my team mates is a complete hypochondriac. Any time someone so much as sniffles in the office, she takes the day off work ‘just to be safe.’ This wouldn’t make me so upset except for the fact that she misses deadlines. She’ll work from home, but only if she ‘feels well enough’ and that is not often. Her missed deadlines mean that I have fewer days to complete my portion of tasks or else I risk the wrath of the client and our manager. I know the other team members feel the way I do, but Human Resources says that she is within her rights to take sick days as needed. Lola, I want to tell her off but I know that’s not the right answer.

Rushed Rachel

Advice for humans. They need all the help they can get.

Dear Rushed Rachel,

Ahhhh, good old Sally Sniffle. Every office has one, and everyone knows the difficulty in working with her. That isn’t the worst scenario though. Let me remind you of her counterpart, the big brave Flu Frank. He comes to work no matter the illness, and he expects you to commend him for doing so. When you return the favor and come to work the next week, Flu Frank will pat you on the back and offer a cough lozenge to soothe your raw throat.

Sally Sniffle meanwhile is in the hospital thanks to the shenanigans of you all.

My point here should be clear to you by now, but if it isn’t, allow me to further clarify. Sally Sniffle is much more preferable as a team member than Flu Frank. Sally Sniffle can be easily defeated by you all doing your best to stay home when ill. In the unfortunate event that one of your team coughs while in a meeting, plan your deadlines accordingly.

You know Sally Sniffle’s limitations, adapt to them!

I know, I’m expecting a lot of your mere human capabilities – but I know you can do it. If the canine world can identify the need to tread carefully around the perpetually shaky chihuahua, surely you can manage to give yourself an extra day on the far end of Sally’s deadline in order to finish your projects on time.

If all else fails, your team can wear biohazard suits to work so there’s no chance of infecting Sally.

Let me finish this letter with an alternative solution, taking into account that Sally Sniffle has earned her sick days and she’s entitled to use them. As Human Resources has pointed out to you already, she is not doing anything against company policy. Has it ever occurred to you to sit down with your team and discuss this problem candidly? Not as a method of attacking Sally Sniffle, but as a mere way to point out a team problem and seek a solution everyone can live with. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Sally knew of the havoc she was causing and wanted to be part of a team that liked her instead of judging her behind closed doors?!


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33 replies on “Dear Lola – Rushed Rachel has a work dilemma…

  1. I used to work with people like that. They would call in and all the subs were assingned and I would have take over one or two of their classes. If you want to piss them off and get their attention then do part of their job and deal with their clients when they are out.

    Here me out- The idiots who used to call in sick all the time at a former school I taught at and not get subs got pissed off at me because I developed emergency sub plans that I used and the students love it. They were so happy when the regular teacher was out and I was there. Not because I am great but they liked my lesson plans and not their regular teachers lessons. I noticed that she started calling in less.

    Just my two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In my experience as am HR professional everyone knows their rights, but few understand their responsibilities…. That being said it would seem to me that the very strict division of labour is a big part of the issue. Perhaps the team should think about the way it works and plan more effectively so that should someone be unwell tasks can be reassigned, swapped or shared so that the whole team doesn’t suffer. I would also say if someone is sick a lot one would assume that their performance would be suffering so the manager should be looking at this too! #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that the manager would be looking – which is why I was not sure this lady is actually using her sick days in an excessive fashion. It does seem like the team has not set up a format for success – instead choosing to keep themselves separated so they can point the finger at other team members.


  3. Hmmm … interesting one, I am a bit more Frank fFu myself, so struggle with Sally Sniffles types myself … but then I work freelance, where you may be unwell but never ill! #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great advice as always, Lola! You may never know, Sally Sniffle might actually be dealing with a more complicated health issue. It’s always good to sit down and discuss things as a team. #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is best to discuss it as a team. It doesn’t seem that management has a problem with it – Which means it is most likely a problem with the way that the team is dividing their workload and choosing to handle their project timelines.


  5. Unfortunately, there is always one like this in the workplace. I’d be surprised if the manager handling the team doesn’t notice a problem like this where meeting client’s deadlines are involved. Perhaps switch tasks with Sally Sniffer so she does not feel so indispensable. #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many people have pointed out that it seems like the team is not working as a team, instead choosing to do their tasks solo without regard to what happens when someone doesn’t show up. I think the fact that this team member has already been told that Sally is perfectly within her right, speaks volumes. Management is obviously not having an issue with her performance. I agree with you that they need a meeting to discuss how they divide up tasks so that if one person is out, the project can still go forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’d give Sally Sniffle a much tighter deadline than you actually need to – if you shave two or three days off, when she’s a day late, you still have extra time!
    P.S Thanks for hosting #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! There are so many ways to solve this problem, including dividing up the labor so that no one person can stall the project. And like you said, creating a fake deadline will help in the event she is out sick. I have a friend who is always late and so I give her an extra 30 minutes to the start time of anything. If I want to have dinner at 6 o’clock, I tell her 530.


  7. U fortunately, Lola, I think you are right. There is nothing much that can be done about Sally Sniffle. I would avoid her as much as possible, especially if you are not 100% well. I would rather work with 100 Sallys than 1 Frank!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think they at least owe it to Sally Sniffle to have a team meeting and see if there’s anyway to divide up the work in a manner that doesn’t grind the project to a halt because of one person taking a day off. That seems completely inefficient and no business would be able to survive with that type of system.


  8. mhm it seems a bit harsh that there should be strict deadlines but yet very fixed assigned roles to be carried out consecutively. In my view this reflects very poorly on whoever manages such a team – surely there should be cross training within the team so that there are deputies who can step in in case of holidays/ illness etc? #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree wholeheartedly! It does seem as if this team prefers to function solo – whether that is to be able to take all the glory or point the finger, I’m not in a position to say. I do think these team members need to think about what will happen when one of them is sick or needs emergency time off.


    1. Agreed, though I have a feeling these teammates are going to find out very quickly that they are in the wrong for setting up a dynamic where every member fends for themselves. And I wonder how they will all feel when they become ill or need emergency time off and realize the shoe on the other foot doesn’t fit so well.


  9. This is a tricky one but as you point out, if she has been told that her co-worker is within her rights for her sick days then she must not be calling out very often. Depending on another co-worker to do their part before yours doesn’t sound like a great way to be productive. I’d rather do it myself lol. Thank you for hosting #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

  10. In the majority of places I’ve worked being sick is considered a real no-no. The concept of having allocated sick days and not being severely penalised for being off work ill is really not something im use to (people can actually be disciplined and sacked for having too many periods of sickness in a single year)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Most employers in the US that offer vacation time, also offer sick time. That’s not to say that some management doesn’t penalize you for using it, but it’s becoming much less of a problem. I think employers now understand that a sick person coming into the office ends up taking down everybody and ruining productivity. Not to mention the Internet makes it so easy to work from home when you’re sick.


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