Being Honest with Your Employer

Last night you spent the evening watching your favorite NFL team. You drank a little too much beer, partied later than you should have and felt nowhere near close to going to work on this particular Monday morning. So, you set the alarm in time to wake up and call your boss, knowing full well that you have already used up all of your vacation time.

“Hey man, my daughter is sick and I need to stay home with her today!” Heck, just for value you even say, “If I get a chance I will try to come by the office after lunch,” knowing full well of course, that your hangover won’t be going anywhere. Then you drive your daughter to school and return home in the hopes of spending an uninterrupted day sleeping. Little did you know, your boss’s wife sees you at the school, and to make matters worse, a bunch of people from the office saw you on the big screen at last nights game toasting the night away with friends. Can someone say, “Busted?”

Or, let’s say you have found out you are pregnant. The first thing your boss wants to know is whether or not you intend to come back to work after the baby. And of course, you say, “YES,” because quite simply you need the income. But the truth is you and your spouse have already talked it over, and you will be a stay at home mother – hopefully working from home and maybe even recruiting some of your current clients. But of course, spilling all of this NOW…would NOT be a good idea!

In many professional forums, the question has been raised about how honest employees should be with their employers about situations like this – as well as other circumstances that may involve other employees or even your opinions at work. Do you tell the boss what they want to hear, or do you try to mind your own business and fly well under the radar? Is it okay to lie about being sick or having a family emergency just to get an unscheduled day off of work?

Collectively, there are no clear-cut rules on the matter professionally – however, lying in life is never recommended. Lying is not necessarily a good thing to do professionally, because if caught – it greatly reduces your credibility. However, at the same time, you may feel that some things really aren’t any of your boss’s business.

A survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 66% of unscheduled absenteeism in the work place is due to other reasons rather than illness. Yet 90% of the employees call in saying that they or a family member are ill, when the truth is they are not. The most common reasons for these absences are burnout or stress, personal needs, and even feelings of entitlement for a day off. And there are certain things in life that may truly require a day off, such as an interview for a new job, or the aftermath of a heated fight with your spouse, that are personal matters indeed.

The problem is that excessive absenteeism which is unscheduled costs employers millions of dollars each year in lost productivity and paid out benefits. Essentially, calling in sick when you really could have been at work, diminishes the bottom line and even more frightening could be the root cause of disciplinary action taken against you in the long run.

In order to decide whether to tell the truth or not, you first – must have an honest assessment of your boss. Some are simply hard nosed, and will not take lightly to you needing a day off for personal reasons. So faking an illness, while morally wrong – may feel like your only option. However, if you have a great working relationship with your superiors and feel that they would understand your reason for needing time off, then your best bet is to be truthful. As long as you are able to manage your professional commitments and make arrangements with your boss, you are likely better off telling the truth.

Another idea, is to see if you can use your vacation time as flexible time. This would allow you to take off when unexpected circumstances such as a sick child, or a much needed ‘mental health’ day rear their ugly head. This also ensures that you aren’t taking advantage of your employer’s flexibility when it comes to getting time off, and that you don’t end up taking more time off than other employees, which will definitely hurt you come review time.

Additionally, if you are going to lie to your employer about taking a day off, do so wisely. This means not always calling in on Mondays or Fridays, after holidays (so you can get an extra long weekend) or putting yourself in a precarious position by being caught. In other words, no posting on FaceBook about the job interview you have scheduled that day! Your credibility is definitely important in the work place and risking it by lying like a teenager is definitely not the responsible thing to do. Plus, remember that there may come a day when you need your current employer to be a stellar reference, and them saying that you aren’t reliable – is definitely not a good thing for you.

Remember, you are an adult. There WILL be situations that require you to miss work. Doing so as responsibly as possible is important. You should also make sure that you have a firm understanding of your company’s vacation and absentee policy, so you can ensure that you aren’t pushing the envelope when it comes to your job security. What you decide to divulge about your personal life however – is certainly up to you. Most professional career development resources advise employees to keep a line drawn between your personal and professional life lest your over honesty or personal turmoil be used against you later.



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