How to Convince Co-workers You’re Actually Sick

Over the course of a year, we’re all going to get a cold, an upset stomach, explosive diarrhea, or pink eye. It’s virtually unavoidable. Some people will tough it out and go to work anyway, while others will call in sick for the most minor of sniffles. In many instances when you inform your superiors and colleagues that you’re not able to make it into the office, you’re not going to be believed. “Sick, huh, Elizabeth? Sure, uh-huh. Okay. Well you just go get your precious rest and we’ll see you tomorrow, hopefully.”

And let’s face it; sometimes we just pretend to have an ailment because we want a day off for one reason or another. Those instances are even tougher to sell. Oh, what—you’ve never once called in sick when you were fine?

How do you truly sell your sickness so your co-workers truly believe that you’re sick, regardless as to whether or not you really are? There are a number of tips to help sell your sickness so it won’t be questioned.

  1. Exaggerate. Did you puke at 2am and then go back to bed? Say you puked at midnight and were up the rest of the night! Do you have a fever of 100.2? Say it’s 102.2! Whatever level of sickness you’re experiencing, ticking it up a notch will always help to sell your case.
  2. Spread the word! If your co-workers follow you online, head straight to social media to complain about how crummy you feel. “Up all night hugging the toilet. Coming out both ends non-stop. #miserable #someonebringmesoup.” If your co-workers didn’t buy the work email, they’ll have more reason to believe you when you announce it to the world.
  3. Announce that you’re coming into the office anyway; you have too much important work to do. If you first announce yourself as being sick and then have doubt that you were believed, email everyone back and say something like “Check that. I was able to stand up without vomiting, so I think I’m gonna get bundled up and come in. That report needs to be finished today.” Hopefully someone will call you out very quickly and make you stay home. “Debra, I appreciate your willpower but keep those germs away from us.”
  4. Extend the sickness, if you have the time off to spare. You get sick for one day and then, miraculously, you’re 100% the next day? As even if. If there was any doubt about your illness, and you show up healthy as a hamster the next day, your story–true or not–loses credibility. But if you have to miss a second consecutive day, all of a sudden it appears you were being truthful. Go in on that third day and explain how you started to feel better the previous afternoon and are now 100%.
  5. If you’re calling in to announce your illness, sound super sick. It should go without saying, but you need to sell your sickness over the phone even if you’re telling the truth. Just add a little hoarseness to your voice, outright change your voice so it’s almost unrecognizable, sniffle a few times, cough up a lung, or even stop to vomit. Anything that makes you sound less like your normal, healthy, cheerful self is great.
  6. Still haven’t convinced anyone? Get graphic. Whatever is ailing you, go into explicit detail and hold nothing back. Describing blood, pus, snot, vomit, fecal matter, sweat, bile, the manner in which they left your body and the noises that accompanied it will always leave your co-workers disgusted, erasing any doubt in their minds. “Hey guys, I wound up eating that old lunch meat we found in the file cabinet yesterday and I literally vomited so much my throat started to bleed and then I started gagging on that blood and vomited up a bunch of yellowish green bile and then pus started oozing out of my eyes because I also got infected by that stray cat with worms.” There’s your golden ticket to freedom! “Good lord, did you guys see Debra’s email? I think I need to take a sick day now.”
  7. Of course, the very best foolproof way to be believed is to show them in-person. Go to work first, wearing dabs of purple eye shadow and white foundation to show your gaunt complexion. Make yourself cough and sniffle uncontrollably. Still not convincing anyone? Gag yourself. The old finger-down-the-throat is sure to get things moving. Run to a trash can and let ‘er rip, then laugh all the way to your car.

All of these points become trickier if there is any evidence that your illness is self-inflicted with alcohol. Do any co-workers know that you were closing down the bars last night? Well, that’s a post for a different day! But you can sure try to press your luck and call in sick anyway.

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My Hot Take:
No matter how sick I truly am, I always feel like no one is believing that I’m really sick. And I, in turn, rarely believe it when a co-worker claims to be sick one day and then is fine the next. At my first place of full-time employment, I frequently felt the need to use a variety of these methods in order to be believed. One time I really did get graphic, telling about how I was reacting to food poisoning, and the boss just cut me off cold and said “OK! Yes, I believe you, it’s fine.” At my second job, though, management wanted nothing to do with even the smallest of sniffles. “If you’re sick you stay the HELL away from here. I’m not taking your germs home to my kids!”

If you don’t think your sick day will be believed, you should add some flair to your sick email or call.

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