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I recently started a new job. I work in the IT department. There are no shared calendars and no ticket management system. It is very common for people to CC the entire department as opposed to sending an email to a single individual of it. The manager thinks this keeps everyone on the same page. The manager seems to feel group communication is always better than one on one communication in general.

There is one specific situation I'm concerned about. Whenever someone is sick they CC the entire department and include a description. For example "I have a stomachache and would like to take the day off" or "I have a dentist appointment but will be in at noon". I would like to take a half day off in a couple weeks time, but it's for a reason I do not wish to elaborate on, at least not with the entire department. What should I do? Also how would I learn these types of things about a workplace in an interview, what kinds of questions should I ask?

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    Why can you not just say you are taking time off for some generic reason - i.e. a medical appointment (covers a lot, including dentistry and opticians for me). In fact medical appointments are about the only valid reason for taking time off work without booking holiday time in many places. If it's non-medical then just a book a day or half-day holiday against your leave allowance.
    – Charemer
    Sep 8, 2023 at 20:06
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    @Maximothe1: can't you say it's a funeral than? In many places, you'd get a special holiday for a funeral of a relative.
    – guest
    Sep 9, 2023 at 8:55
  • What country is this in? Rules for time off for various reasons vary a lot from one place to another.
    – jcaron
    Sep 9, 2023 at 12:08
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    @Maximothe1: Your company might have "bereavement leave"; have you looked that up?
    – user541686
    Sep 10, 2023 at 7:27
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    @Maximothe1 'Medical appointment' was one example. Obviously a funeral isn't a medical appointment. If it's just a case of not wanting to let the whole department know then just say a personal matter has come up and you'll be away. I take it you're ok in telling your management you need time off to attend a funeral? Even then you could just say an important personal matter and use some annual leave.
    – Charemer
    Sep 10, 2023 at 8:33

10 Answers 10

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I'd just not give a reason. If anyone asks, look at them like they said something weird, because they did.

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    Simple as that. Unless management has specifically ordered everyone to include a reason with their notice, people are likely just doing it on their own because they feel like they need to justify their time off. All that is actually needed for your coworkers/boss/etc's sake is "I will be out of the office from <start> to <end>".
    – Herohtar
    Sep 8, 2023 at 14:52
  • @Herohtar looks more professional. Like you're at work, not on twitter. Sep 8, 2023 at 16:32
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    Pro tip: You can avoid the awkwardness by ensuring this isn't the last sentence you end your notice on. Instead of just finishing with "I will be out of the office from <start> to <end>", say something like: "I will be out of the office from <start> to <end>. If you need me for anything, contact me when I'm back at <time>. For anything urgent, please contact my manager." If anyone asks why you're out after this, they're being severely... gauche. Just telling them you have to leave for a personal matter should convey that it's none of their business.
    – user541686
    Sep 10, 2023 at 7:31
  • Depending on if your work splits vacation leave and medical leave, you may also want to say you'll be taking off for a medical appointment so that they know you are using the appropriate leave time - otherwise though, you don't have to give any excuse.
    – Zibbobz
    Sep 11, 2023 at 12:57
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There is no law against an employee publishing this information themselves.

If your company would require this, it would be illegal in any GDPR jurisdiction and probably many more that have their own privacy laws.

What is needed in this message for the company is from when to when you will not be available. And if you suspect it will take longer.

For example if you go to the doctor with an acute illness, the appointment might only be 08:00 to 08:30, but you will get a sick note for three days. While a dentist's appointment might take the same time, but hopefully will let you work afterwards.

People are lazy and just write "dentist's appointment" and you can infer that they will be back after that, or "need to go see a doctor with $specificPain" then it is obvious for readers that it might result in more days missed.

You can just put in the information the company needs to function properly, without any medical details. "I will be out tomorrow (Monday), but I will be back on Tuesday" is all it needs. Doesn't matter if it's PTO or a medical appointment.

Do that and see if anyone objects. If not, great. If someone does, talk to your boss. If it is your boss, talk to a lawyer.

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I don't think any of the other answers have discussed the following point:

I would like to take a half day off in a couple weeks time, but it's for a reason I do not wish to elaborate on, at least not with the entire department.

(Emphasis added)

To me that really is two separate issues:

  • Getting permission for the leave.

Being out sick often doesn't need permission at all. Vacation on the other hand usually does. Some things (e.g., routine dentist visits) may or may not need advance authorization, depending on the company and the specific details. But like to, to me means that this is an optional thing, whether medical or otherwise. Maybe it is something personal and can only happen that day and if you miss it then you are disappointed but don't need to (or can't) do the same thing another time. Maybe it is something medical that has to get done sometime soon and you would prefer that day but another day would work. And many other possibilities.

Getting permission typically requires talking/emailing/etc. your boss. Depending on the organization there might be a few people who need to be involved for scheduling reasons. But not the whole department. So you ask the initial question only on a need-to-know basis. If there is relevant information (e.g., the rules may vary for sick vs. vacation vs. other types of leave) then you include that information there.

  • Notification of the Department

Without a shared calendar, it is quite reasonable to email everyone to let them know you will be out on certain days/times. Even if there are no scheduled meetings, it could be that coworkers might want to collaborate with you and knowing when you will/won't be can be very important. But once you have permission, you don't need to say why. "I will be out on X, from Y to Z". No need to say why. If it is relevant to your particular situation, you may want to add whether you will be reachable by phone and/or text and/or email. But there is no need to say why you are out - that is your own business, with limited relevance to your supervisor but not to the rest of the department.

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    One issue with a shared calendar is for silent updates-an email pushes it up to the department for people to filter if they need to know about the absence.In my personal experience, when I broke an ankle while leaving work, once I had hospital confirmation that I'd be unable to work, I sent a notice to the department sick email thread - while my managers and team members needed to know,others may not have needed it - but a manager followed up and mentioned I should follow up with benefits about the injury. Emergent responses like that work with email, and a shared calendar doesn't. Sep 10, 2023 at 6:39
  • While your explanation for "I would like to" is grammatically sound, I know a lot of people simply use this formulation to try to sound more polite/less forceful/etc. So personally I would not read it as seeking permission unless it were followed by some kind a question mark or question/confirmation word. E.g.1 "I have a stomachache and would like to take the day off" = not asking permission. E.g.2. "I would like to take the day off. OK?/what do you think/how would that be/all right?/etc." = asking permission or seeking confirmation.
    – Brandin
    Sep 13, 2023 at 7:51
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It does make sense to notify your coworkers of an absence. But in the office, it's not really bright to always share the reason for the absence -- even with your boss -- and here's why.

You may have other people, including the boss, who don't prioritize the reason for your absence in the same way as you. You might be absent for a medical concern, but the severity of that concern in your life is only known to you. You might need a personal day to deal with a toxic work culture. You might be caring for others. There are myriad reasons, but when you share the reason, you risk getting into what's known as a pissing match on what's more important. That's stress that you don't need.

When you take time out, simply state that you're going to be out for a "personal appointment". If someone seems determined to know what that means -- bosses, too -- stand your ground, and reiterate that it's personal. This is the rationale for modern companies no longer to referring to such instances as "sick" leave, because they don't want managers telling employees that they're not sick enough to take time off. Employees who are sick or injured (for whatever reason) who show up to work can be attributed to expensive workplace incidents that end up in court. It's now called PTO ("paid", not "sick") and you need not give a reason.

If you're earning PTO, be willing to use it when you need it. You can't use it if you're dead :)

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    I've never heard of this. My company clearly distinguishes between sick time and vacation time (but with a fairly reasonable "please do not come into work if you are sick" policy). I've never had a problem with management challenging me on a sick day - I once offered to get a doctor's note for something that lasted multiple days, and my manager told me not to bother.
    – Kevin
    Sep 9, 2023 at 7:41
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As several other excellent answers point out, you don’t need to give any reason in your public message if you prefer not to. At the same time, we’re human — we often feel uncomfortable violating a group’s social norms, even in ways smaller than anyone else would likely notice — so you may well feel that giving no reason at all feels too blunt. This is an ancient problem, so it has an ancient solution: give a generic reason that reveals little or nothing specific. There are many well-established phrases for this: you’ll be away for personal reasons, or for family reasons, or due to an external commitment, or on planned leave, or similar. These fill the social/pragmatic role of giving a reason, and make the email feel less blunt, without either revealing anything you don’t want to or stretching the truth at all. And as mentioned in other answers, if anyone presses you for more details afterwards, then they are the one violating a social norm, so you have a solid footing to say it’s a personal matter you don’t want to discuss.

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In most jurisdictions your employer can’t force you to disclose the reason for a medical absence. As long as you have a doctor’s note and inform your employer as early as possible everything should be fine.

As for the automatic e-mail reply or status message: I don’t think anyone would complain if you simply write “out of office until x”, “sick leave [until x]”, “doctor’s appointment” or something similar without disclosing an unreasonable amount of details.

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  • Out of curiosity what do people think of needing a doctors note? Some consider it a waste of medical resources.
    – Maximothe1
    Sep 9, 2023 at 2:38
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    @Maximothe1: I think it keeps people honest, especially in countries with paid sick leave. Here in Austria lots of companies allow you to take up to 3 days without a doctor’s note, which is a good compromise. 5 days would maybe be better since it would be enough for the common cold and most other minor illnesses for which 3 days might not be sufficient.
    – Michael
    Sep 9, 2023 at 5:37
  • @Maximothe1 In the UK, doctors will not provide a note for anything that is under a week, and employers would not ask for one. Sep 11, 2023 at 10:58
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My workplace has an In/Out Phonelist app. Every employee's name shows in their team (department) with their phone number, whether they are In or Out, and a comment. When they sign on to their PC, they are marked In. When they sign off, they are marked Out. They can mark themselves (or anyone else) out and in with a comment. They can say they (or someone else) will be out and for how long, and optionally, why.

It is a simple app and solves a lot of problems. Every workplace should have one. In the days of physical workplaces, it was a little whiteboard with everyone's name on it (for small values of 'everyone') and a little magnet you slide from Out to In and back, and a little marker where you write your explanation: lunch, or, vacation until Wed.

Asking your manager for time off in the future, and putting your future off time in your shared Outlook calendar (which you also should have) are different issues.

Yes, your team should have a shared Outlook calendar.

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I'll be out for a medical leave starting next Friday. I'll be gone at least 10 days, possibly longer.

That's exactly what I've told most of my coworkers. My boss and others that I work very closely with, I've given more info because I feel it's appropriate that they know. That's also going to be my out-of-office auto-response message which I may or may not update when the 10 days is up.

If your boss/coworkers demand more info than that, tell them it's personal and you're not up for sharing.

After you've worked there for several years, you'll probably have more in-depth personal relationships with several coworkers who you would feel comfortable sharing personal info with. But since you've started "recently", you probably haven't built those relationships yet.

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No one is required to give any medical information as to their condition. However, they are allowed to.

There is a reasonable train of thought here that people feel better protected against any potential pushback (even if only imagined) if they've made their reason for being absent clear, as opposed to providing a vague excuse.
Again, this is not necessary, but some people prefer to provide some context as to why they're taking sick leave, and that's allowed.

I can actually use your words to somewhat prove this case:

I would like to take a half day off in a couple weeks time

Would like to? So it's a choice that you're making, not a necessity? Well sick leave should be for unexpected necessary absences; so this totally sounds like this person's just avoiding work!

The above is an example of how other people think others will respond when they give a vague reason for being absent, hence why they instead state the reason for their absence, so that this kind of pushback can be avoided from the get go.

But you don't have to do this just because others do. Simply stick to the facts that you feel confident in sharing. Something along the lines of:

Due to a medical appointment I won't be able to come into the office [tomorrow].

or

I am feeling sick today so I'll be taking [a day] of sick leave. I expect to be back in office [tomorrow].

Change the words in [brackets] to reflect the information that accurately describes your scenario.


Also how would I learn these types of things about a workplace in an interview, what kinds of questions should I ask?

I wouldn't bother. The negative implication about an applicant fishing for these kinds of questions is more impactful than the actual thing you're fishing for, so it's a lossmaking proposition.

From the other side of the table, if an applicant really drills down into the sick leave procedure, that suggests to me that they intend to be making heavy use of it, which makes you an undesirable applicant. Is that ironclad logic? No, but I'd still feel more comfortable hiring an applicant that did not display this potential (not proven) red flag.

In principle, there's nothing wrong with what your manager is doing by having a team-wide discussion. This would be no different from all of you being in the same room and being able to overhear another.
I'm not a fan of this system but I just don't think it's inherently wrong.

If you need to communicate something in private, then do so and only send the email to the manager. Your question does not lead me to believe that the manager will willfully reject you doing so, but rather that that usual default position is to communicate across the team; which is not unreasonable.

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Clearly, this makes you uncomfortable, so I think you want to try to get your manager's back.

Discuss it with your manager one to one. Maybe not in a dedicated meeting, but do bring it up. Explain the situation and be constructive:

  • you've noticed people tend to explain the personal reasons for time off
  • you're not comfortable doing that
  • you don't want to be a spoke in the wheel or make other team members uncomfortable
  • what to do?

If they're emphatic, they will come up with something that makes everybody happy and they will defend you if anyone else should have an issue with it.

If they say: I don't see what the big deal is, just share your personal reasons every time like everybody does, that's a no-no. You can just nod and then keep the reasons very generic, like another answer is suggesting.

In either case, you will have done the best you can to deal with this and the rest is up to your manager.

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