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I work as consultant in multinational corporation even as I do the same work as regular employees. Recently I've got ill. Nonetheless, I worked with it for a month before going on sick leave but my condition worsened steadily and likewise worsened my work efficiency. So I went to a doctor and due to fever and persistence of symptoms I've got antibiotics for a month. I was aware that long leave from work will be a problem so I asked the doctor for sick leave for a week, but had to extend it for another due to weakness after antibiotics. I informed my superior each time and on this occasion asked how is situation in our department, is there any emergency. Each time I was replied with "it's ok, get cured."

But after I came back to work I noticed that nobody took on my duties while I was absent. More to it, during my absence I was assigned 3 more tasks, one of which became due when I was on leave. Coincidentally, I come back on a week that had planned so many first-priority tasks that upon my return I warned my co-workers that I'll be unable to do lower priority jobs.

Then I was told that if I'm unable to keep pace with my duties then probably I'm unfit for the job. I turned to my superior immediately only to hear that if I'm getting this seriously ill and need so much leave then perhaps they should get a replacement. He stated that while in bed I should work remotely instead of browsing Facebook, because I was given notebook and nobody forbids me from getting overtime hours. If I'm unable to keep up with duties then they can take it over from me easily but it will result in firing me.

As a side note: in our department during last few years we've lost 40% staff while getting 50% more duties. So I'm unwilling to believe it's my fault I can't keep up.

But the question is: given the situation, am I mobbed into submission or should I change my point of view and really submit because it's my superior who is right because it's period of peak workload and we are in crisis time?

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This is a labor relations issue with possible legal ramifications. We don't know details of your contract arrangements, nor can we provide legal help. P.S. I don't like terms like mobbing or submission. Don't get emotional; it rarely helps at work. –  Deer Hunter Jan 20 '13 at 13:44
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I don't understand what mobbed into submission means. –  enderland Jan 20 '13 at 14:21
    
Yes, I'm trying to stay rational in spite of feelings that situation sparks. To this end I asked the question: I want to know if this can be considered mobbing (and perhaps I should turn to legal help) or is it only my feelings. "Mobbed into submission" means "work more and harder or you're fired. your sickness is no excuse to us" –  Forseti Jan 20 '13 at 14:36
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I think your answer is in your question: "during last few years we've lost 40% staff while getting 50% more duties" –  DA. Jan 20 '13 at 21:44
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The word you are looking for is 'bullied', not mobbed. Mobbed implies a gang of people. –  DJClayworth Jan 21 '13 at 4:20
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closed as unclear what you're asking by jmac, Michael Grubey, Paul Brown, RhysW, bethlakshmi Sep 9 '13 at 18:24

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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I would not consider it bullying. Bullying is personal and implies malice, and this sounds more like a misunderstanding based on unclear communication and failure to set expectations. What your boss means with "it's OK, get cured" is "you can work from home until you are well enough to return to the workplace".

So, what should/could you have done?

  • Make it clear that you are going on sick leave
  • Don't ask "is there any emergency". If you are sick, you are sick. Your health-status is not subject to the level of emergency at your job.
  • If you are going to be out for long enough that you won't be able to catch up when you get back, if you have issues that are approaching their deadline, you need to immediately start a conversation with your boss on how to handle this in your absence. Plan ahead, be very clear and if you don't foresee being able to work during your absence, be very clear about that as well.
  • If you feel that you might be able to do some work from home while recovering, agree on a fixed ratio and match expected deliveries to that. If you agree to work 40% of the time while recovering, don't commit or leave an impression that you will be able to deliver more than 40% of your results.

As for the question of your boss/company expecting people to deliver 100% even while sick and threatening to fire people for getting sick, I personally consider that despicable. Although I realize that this differs a lot between different countries and some places have different attitudes and expectations in this matter.

I realize also that if you are in a country where the prevailing attitude is that if you get sick, you get fired, it's hard to try and fly in the face of that. But regardless, you should always strive to be clear in your communication and get confirmation from your boss that you agree on what's expected. And try not to put all the burden on your employer, be clear that while you won't be able to fulfill your obligation due to your illness, you want to be helpful in making sure that your tasks are offloaded and picked up by someone else in your absence. Don't assume that this will magically happen when you are absent. Make sure your boss and your team knows:

  • What you're currently working on and when the different deliveries are due
  • What are priority items
  • When you think you might be returning to work

I've not touched on legality here at all. This is because that differs widely between jurisdictions. What you have described here would not only perceived be unethical in many countries, it would be illegal in some. But that is a question for someone knowledgeable in relevant law where you are. Another option is to explore what unions exist that might be able to help you.

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+1 for "Your health-status is not subject to the level of emergency at your job." - Blurring the boundaries of being sick or not-sick is not a good idea for both parties. –  BunjiquoBianco Jan 21 '13 at 15:08
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My Suggestions are

First review your organization policies on leaves, and get to know what it is saying about replacement and workload adjustments while you are on leave. If your work adjustments and replacements are not totally conforming with policies discuss with your superior about the same, and if he still insists on the same politely tell him that you would like to take this issue above him and take the level above him or HR. Please take a note that this will have a potential danger of burning bridges with your superior.

At the same time consult lawyer and learn about what is labor law is saying about replacements and work adjustments while employee is on leave.

Hope my answer helps you. All the very best.

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