My Big Mouth: Is it a sign of weakness to take time off work and admit you’re ill?

Comment by Matt Scrafton

You know the story, the proud, reliable middle-aged worker who hasn’t missed a day of work in 20 years.

It’s a common tale, and they’re rightly commended for their dedication.

But it’s the others that are of interest to me; what of those who quite often miss work?

By some they’re painted as work-shy and lazy but is there anything wrong with taking a day off work for being ill?

Of course we’d all like to label ourselves dedicated and loyal souls – I imagine the vast majority of us try and attend work every day.

But what if this just isn’t conceivable?

I often find people who are serial absentees, even those with genuine reasons, are unfairly chastised.

I’ve noticed a hint of snobbery among those fortunate enough to remain fit and healthy, sneering at those who are forced to take a day off for enduring the ‘sniffles’ or a minor headache.

I’ve even found that, in amateur levels of rugby, players often hide their injuries from their coaches so as to save face and not display any sign of so-called weakness.

In such a macho environment as rugby it’s expected that levels of masculinity will be sky-high, but isn’t this going a bit far?

Is it genuinely considered a bad thing to admit you’re hurt – whatever form it takes?

As a sufferer of Crohn’s Disease since the age of 13 I’ve always found juggling this issue quite difficult.

Only my close friends and family are aware of it, not that I’m ashamed, it’s just not something that I allow to define me.

I’m not sure if this is me subconsciously protecting myself, re-enforcing the view that illness is a weakness.

But it’s almost like I feel I’m obliged to keep it under wraps, like it’s a dirty secret, otherwise it would be seen as a major flaw.

Last year I worked part-time at a factory for some extra cash, and before I signed the contract I was asked if I had any illnesses.

Do I tell them, I thought to myself? After all, I was only planning on working there for two or three months.

 Is it worth planting any doubts in their heads that I might not be able to fulfil my shifts?

I didn’t tell them and I only missed one day of work during my three months there – which had nothing to do with my Crohn’s.

I also remember at school, a year or two after being diagnosed, one friend kept asking me every other month whether I ‘still had that stomach illness thing’.

Obviously because I was back at school playing football, socialising and doing all the things all teenage lads do, it must have appeared I was back to normal and magically cured.

But what about others who aren’t fortunate enough to be bestowed that luxury?

Those people whose illness, injury, disorder, disease or psychological problem is carried around with them like a mark of shame; it never leaves their side.

They must go through life being plagued by people throwing scorn at their absence, as if their excuses aren’t quite good enough.

Next time a colleague is off work, before writing them off as a workshy so-and-so, spare them a thought – they might have a genuine reason.

Until this perception changes, there’s no hope for us mere mortals!

Picture courtesy of charbel.akhras via Flickr, with thanks

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles