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Ever since I returned from a substantial timeoff due to serious sickness, my manager has been very critical of me. I still complete my tasks and get my job done but because I'm still sick and not yet back on my feet I'm not yet back to my previous form. My manager criticizes and castigates me and nitpicks everything I do, and I don't feel like I have his support. His behavior towards me is draining and causes me a lot of stress.

What do I do about my manager not being considerate of my sickness and not giving me the support I need while I get back on my feet? I want to tell him, "Hey I have a serious sickness and was off sick because of it and I'm still sick, you've been very harsh on me, I need your support while I get back on my feet" but I don't know if this is the best way to confront him, this manager might call my sickness an excuse. It's almost as if my manager is angry that I was off sick and is punishing me for mistakes and not being at the level I was pre-sickness. He hasn't accomodated me in any way.

Additional question, would it help if I told my manager details of my sickness?

To be honest the whole team has been indifferent towards me since my return.

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    Additional question, would it help if I told my manager details of my sickness? There’s really no way for us to know whether that would make things better or worse as far as his attitude. Does your condition legally entitle you to accommodations? If so, is this something you have requested formally?
    – BSMP
    Jun 9 at 4:21
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    Why does your sickness have to impact your work? Physical symptoms like pain or nausea?
    – Kilisi
    Jun 9 at 5:35
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    @Kilisi mostly pain. There are other symptoms but pain is the most disturbing.
    – Duzii2
    Jun 9 at 10:38
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    I wonder how much discussion you had about going on sick leave before you went? If it was sudden and without explanation and if in your country it is common that people simulate illness it is no wonder that they are suspicious. IMHO if the illness is serious, concealing details may do more harm than good, apart maybe from mental health. Was the relationship with the manager and staff friendly beforehand? If so maybe it's worth giving some details into the nature of illness. Jun 9 at 13:13
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    @JoeStrazzere why don't you come into the office?, is this aggressive? As for what kind of support, well for a start I want him to give me positive feedback instead of nitpicking everything I do.
    – Duzii2
    Jun 9 at 18:25

5 Answers 5

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I don't know where in Europe you are, but I think the general expectation is that if you are no longer on sick leave, you are fit to work. If it was longer you maybe need a day or two to get back into your tasks just like you would after a longer holiday or other absence, the expectation is that you will return to normal capacity in a short time.

You said you are still sick. Why are you not on sick leave? If you are not at 100% capacity, you need to communicate that to your manager and find a solution for it. Some European countries have something like a partial sick leave, where after a serious sickness, you get to work part time until you have recovered enough to be good for a full time again. Some have doctors being able to place restrictions on your work, say you are able to work full time, but given a doctors note saying you are forbidden to lift more than 5kg for example.

You need to get advice from your doctor and then you need to communicate that clearly to your manager.

Their expectations are problably black and white. Sick leave: zero capacity. No sick leave: 100 percent capacity. You said that is not the case, so talk to them. Most European countries will have laws providing your employer only with the minimum neccessary details about your sick leave. In my country for example the sick note literally only says "Not able to work from date X to Y.". The only vague guess they could make is the doctors office itself. So if that notes comes from a ophthalmologist, it's a good guess it's something with my eyes, if it comes from a general practitioner, it's a good guess it's something common that needs no specialist. But if that note went through HR, your manager probably knows only the dates of the sick leave. And that it's over. And their expectation is you are back to work 100%.

Your manager is not some omniscient being. If you are still sick, you need to talk to them and find a solution. If you need ackomodation, you need to tell them.

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    An update to this question is that my manager is now asking me to give my reason for not coming into the office. We are a remote team and everyone works from home, him included. How should I answer this question?
    – Duzii2
    Jun 9 at 18:37
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    Answer "Well aren't we a remote team?" - My rule of thumb is stupid question, stupid answer.
    – Trueman
    Jun 10 at 9:13
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It's possible that your manager wants to "manage you out the door". That means they want to fire you, but can't do so directly without violating legal constraints. So they make your life miserable by nit-picking, micro-managing, over-loading and tracking performance against harsh deadlines and expectations. The idea here is that you either quit by yourself or they build enough of a performance-based case against you so that they can work around your sick-leave protection.

Of course that's technically illegal in most jurisdictions but if it's done reasonably well any wrongdoing is impossible to prove since all of the individual actions are perfectly legal and normal by themselves. Hence it's fairly common practice.

Even so, it is not my fault I got sick

Of course not, and I am sorry you got sick. However, it's not the company's fault either and someone has to pick up the slack. From the company's perspective, your illness has created a lot of extra work for other people. It still does, since you are not at full capacity yet. They probably would like to replace you with someone who is at full capacity but can't do so while you are still around.

To be honest the whole team has been indifferent towards me since my return.

Probably because they had to work off their tails to cover for your absence. Don't blame them for not being happy about it. You probably wouldn't be either.

What to do about manager who's hard on me because I'm sick?

At this point, I would start with an open and honest conversation. You do not need to disclose any medical details, but I think your manager needs to understand what the time-line to full recovery could be like or if more permanent accommodations are required.

You have two choices here:

  1. You can dig in hard and lead with your legal rights. You definitively have these rights but rubbing them into your manager's face will not make you any friends and it's pretty much a career ending move their.
  2. Be flexible, accommodating and grateful. Chances are many people had to work overtime to cover for you and saying "thank you" for this doesn't harm. Think about some ideas that would help the company as well: For example volunteer for a pay cut, consider part time while you are still in recovery, find assignments that are most compatible with your current abilities, etc.
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  • My manager is now asking me why I don't come to the office. We are a remote team and everyone works from home, him included.
    – Duzii2
    Jun 9 at 15:24
  • Did you ask him why he said that, when everyone else works from home? @Duzii2 Jun 9 at 18:06
  • @mattfreake I'll ask him tomorrow.
    – Duzii2
    Jun 9 at 18:16
  • It's not up to the OP to thank the other employees, it's the employer that should thank them as it's them that's benefited from hard work not the OP FWIW, I've never once had ill feelings about any colleauge that had to stop work and concentrate on real life for a while, and wouldn't want to work anywhere that was expected
    – CurlyPaul
    Jun 10 at 8:38
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First things first, it is not really your managers job to accomodate you, he is not your friend, he is your manager. Now I know that sounds tough, that's because it is.

Why your team is so indifferent to you is another question. Do they maybe think that you let them down? Did your sick leave happen when there was an extraordinary amount of workload? Or worse, do they know that you will not be part of the company much longer?

If I were you I would proceed as follows: When your manager criticises you for your work again, tell him that you are sorry, you are still recovering and hope to be back to your old form soom. If you do anything to speed up that process, you might tell him that too, but be cautious. If you indicate that your recovery will take a long time, they might just let you go.

I don't see any advantage in telling him specifics about your sickness with one exception: when they indicate that you will be back to your old form quickly.

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    In most of Europe, letting someone go because they became sick will get the company in major and very expensive trouble.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 9 at 9:29
  • @gnasher729 letting someone go during sick leave - yes. But letting someone go after sick leave is perfectly legal (afaik in every european state) as long as they respect the notice period Jun 9 at 9:57
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    @gnasher729 actually a quick internet search discovered, that at least here in austria, you can also let someone go while he or she is still in sick leave, as long as you follow the right procedure. Maybe google translate can get you through my german languag source for this: wko.at/service/arbeitsrecht-sozialrecht/… Jun 9 at 10:14
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    Yes my sick leave happened when there was a lot of work because my company was developing a new platform that required all departments to be heavily involved. Even so, it is not my fault I got sick.
    – Duzii2
    Jun 9 at 10:46
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    @gnasher729: you can always let someone go. Their will only be legal trouble if the company is excessively stupid about how to do it.
    – Hilmar
    Jun 9 at 12:40
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If you are not well enough to do the work that is expected from you then you are not well enough to do your work. See your GP (medical doctor) and ask him for a sick note.

Your manager should be happy with you since he doesn't have to put up with your reduced productivity anymore (this is sarcastic). But it seems he has to learn the hard way. If he can't be happy with 80% performance due to recovery, he has to be happy with 0% performance due to sickness.

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    You said "sarcastic", but it's actually true. Their manager is probably measured by how much output the team produces in comparison to their team size. So if they have 5 people, they might indeed be happier with one of them officially "out", because then their team are at 80% strength and expected to produce 80% products, while being nominally 5 people with one not pulling their weight makes them look bad because they are officially at full strength but don't produce full strength output.
    – nvoigt
    Jun 9 at 10:01
  • Very good point, I have already been on sick leave for many weeks because I was incapacitsted. I wanted to avoid extending my sick leave because my condition is not as bad as before.
    – Duzii2
    Jun 9 at 10:49
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In some jurisdictions, what you describe would be actionable.

Isn't the real point: "Should I tell him (the details)"? Why doesn't he already know the details? This suggests that perhaps the company also doesn't know the details.

I suggest you first meet with the personnel/human resources manager and if you get no help there, request a joint meeting with your manager and union representative. If that goes nowhere you must consider leaving - in consultation with the union and your lawyer.

Even then, a resolution might be possible through a joint meeting of all of the above… but whether any such thing is worth considering depends on details we don't have here.

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