What to Do about People Who Infect Workplace with Illness

Ashley writes:
Sometimes people at my office come into work on days when they are very sick.
One recent incident in particular involves a woman I work for. She has been
walking around for the past week or so hacking and coughing all over things
including paperwork for me to do. She never misses work! How can I ensure
my health around a person like this? Should I wear a mask or something?

The Career Doctor responds:
The workplace is a funny microcosm of life isn’t it? Some of us spend more time
at work with the people we work with than we do our own families. That’s why I
try and stress to job-seekers the importance of finding a corporate culture that
matches your values; otherwise you may find yourself miserable.
In your situation I can’t tell the enough about the culture of the organization but
I can tell you that while just about all employers offer some sick-day allotment
none of them ever really want you to take sick days.
Somehow over the years the norm in many organizations has become that workers
who don’t “tough it out” and work while they are sick are somehow not loyal to the
company. And I find this attitude just sad. Are there employees who abuse sick
days? Sure. Of course. But these folks are in the minority.
So I am not sure what to tell you. This woman might just be making a statement
might be trying to lead by example (I don’t ever call in sick so I don’t expect my
employees to do either) or perhaps does want the payoff from cashing in her sick
days (although I don’t think many employers do this anymore; personal days and
vacation days yes but not sick days).
The best you can do in your situation
is to take precautions. Wash your hands often throughout the day avoid direct
contact with her and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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