I am a fan of my company. They allow you to bring a child that is not disruptive to work with you on occasion. Today a co-worker brought in his son, and he is hacking all over the place. ( for the sake of the question assume the child is sick, I am not a doctor, but have raised two of my own and I would bet a paycheck this child is ill )

To me this is very unprofessional and should not happen. This is compounded even further in that this person has the ability to work from home.

I do not want to get sick because they could not arrange for childcare. I will keep my distance and use hand sanitizer to minimize my risk and probably just let it pass.

If however I was so inclined, how can I politely address the situation? Should I discuss it later with the co-worker, or bring it up to HR?

  • 6
    And some children have asthma which is not contagious and they could could be coughing for that reason. If your kid coughs all the time, you probably no longer hear it and don't realize it may be affecting others.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 13:52
  • 3
    @HLGEM - Aw, diddums just cough then?? Sheesh, this isn't a daycare center for people with inadequate social skills - it's a WORKPLACE, though one the employees apparently can't tell the difference between the two.
    – alephzero
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 18:45
  • 3
    @MisterPositive "diddums" is a slangy variation on "did you", used in "baby talk".
    – mkennedy
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 20:33
  • 5
    @alephzero - if that was your approach I don't think you'd have to worry too much about having to work in that environment for much longer - in fact, I suspect you might not even have to walk back in the next day...
    – HorusKol
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 5:03
  • 3
    @alephzero: there are places and jobs where leaving without noticing a manager or authorization would be a big professional mistake. In addition, there are probably very few diseases where you can be affected after a 5 minutes discussion with the father of a sick child. Leaving without any effort to solve the problem and/or understand the situation IS a real lack of social skills.
    – Taladris
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 4:58

4 Answers 4


It's best to deal with this situation at the time, either by asking the coworker outright or taking it to the manager.

It can be as simple as saying 'What's wrong with your kid? Has he got a cold?' if you're on good terms with the chap.

If not then your manager should be asking the question because a team all catching something and being unable to work is his responsibility. I have sent people home who are visibly sick and would do so if they bought a child with a cold.

It's like visitors showing up with a sick child, I'll send them away because if my four kids catch it, it's a major headache. Schools work the same way, a visibly sick kid will be sent home for the sake of the rest.

  • 2
    I cannot do that with his child by his side. I may later though.
    – Neo
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 14:01
  • 7
    If you're shy, then tell the manager. Later may be too late.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 14:01
  • 2
    I don't think it's just a question of shy, it's also a question of politeness. It could be rather offensive to the child and the parent to ask "What's wrong with your kid?" when the child is present. But I agree, talk to a manager if you're going to do it right away.
    – anonymous2
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 14:03
  • 1
    Fair enough, don't take chances with your health though, keep your distance might be the best way to handle it and let others complain. I'd just ask myself, but I'm like that, others are not.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 14:03
  • 2
    Upvoting this answer, because going to the manager is the way to go. This isn't a meer one-on-one personal dispute, its someone potentially getting that manager's entire team sick.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 19:40

Obviously we don't know for certain that the child is sick/contagious but as per the OP I'll assume that he is.

That being the case and with the fact that he has the ability to work from home I would say your co-worker is being massively unprofessional, he is unnessecarily exposing his coworkers to the disruption of the noise at a minimum and to potentially getting sick at worst! And frankly it's pretty mean to the child as well, I'd bet good money that the kid would be much happier/more confortable at home with his toys etc than bored out of his skull at an office!

But getting back to the point...

It's a thorny subject to try and raise - bring it up with the co-worker directly and you risk him getting defensive if he sees it as you denegrating his parenting skills or worse - denegrating the child himself (people can be a bit hypersensitive with their kids!) So to my mind your best bet is to approach it with him a little bit sideways - express concern for the child and go from there, something like:

Is [Typhoid Billy] okay? Sounds like he's really suffering with that cough, I'm sure [The Boss] wouldn't mind if you worked from home while he's ill.

Of course the putative reason you imply was behind him bringing the child in (i.e. that he was avoiding any awkwardness with asking to work from home) may well be a million miles off base but that doesn't really matter. What is important is that you have raised the issue in a way that doesn't say anything negative about him, his parenting or poor old Typhoid Billy, and you are planting the idea of him working from home in case he genuinely missed it or giving him an easy "out" if he did think it would be a good idea but had gotten locked into the weird presenteeism phenomenon that seems to infect workplaces the world over.

Of course he might not pick up on your suggestion or he might reject it out of hand, you're probably better placed to know how he would react. If you don't think it would be productive to approach him and you have a decent rapport with your boss then you could try having a slightly more frank conversation with your boss instead:

Hi [The Boss], I'm a bit concerned about [Typhoid Billy] - he sounds like he's really suffering and I'm a bit worried about potentially carrying it home to my kids or getting sick myself. I know it's not easy getting childcare for sick kids but is it worth you asking [Billy's Dad] if he could work from home?

Whether you can do this really depends on your relationship with your boss though!

NB: Something else that occurs to me is that the company's work-from-home policy might have exclusions preventing people using it for childcare purposes. It's probably unlikely given they allow kids in the office but contradictory policies do happen!


There are a few thing to think about:

While your co-worker is allowed to work from home - do they? If you know they do work from home sometimes, it might make perfect sense to say something like, "Wow, it sound like your kid's sick! I'm surprised you didn't just work from home today!" This might prompt a reason ("I would, but I really have to be here for that client meeting today"), an action ("You know, you're right - I didn't even think about that! [Typhoid Billy], pack up you backpack; I'll go let the boss know I'm finishing out the day from home"), a sarcastic remark, or something.

If the co-worker never works from home, they either may not have thought of the idea at all, or may not be comfortable working from home. Talking to the manager may make more sense in that situation.

Longer term: Get a clarification of the policy. "Disruptive" children may have been primarily intended to avoid crying infants, kids who throw temper tantrums or yell, or even well-mannered children who will walk around and ask adults questions. However, that doesn't mean that "sick and possibly contagious" shouldn't count as disruptive. From this perspective, it doesn't matter if they are contagious or not; the possibility is disruptive to you. Again, talking to the manager is utterly appropriate here; everyone doesn't have to know that you're the one who finds others' sick kids disruptive. This option also allows the company to make a formal announcement, which would (one hopes) avoid recurrence of the situation.

However, a note: do realize that child care for sick children is problematic. Just like the school doesn't want your kid there if they are sick, neither do child care centers. If anything, the likelihood of others getting infected is worse than at school, as activities aren't usually as structured at a daycare center.


I think you have to start by defining what "not disruptive" means. To me, this child is being very disruptive. But who set the rule? Is it officially stated, and if so, by whom? If there is no official statement, you may have to go directly to the parent in question (like you said, when the child isn't there) and say something like,

Say, I'd really appreciate it if you could arrange for childcare while your child is sick so we don't spread it all over the company. Would there be some way I could help you arrange for that?

If there is a manager who has specifically stated that non-disruptive children are welcome, I'd go directly to him / her and make an official complaint. I tend to prefer this approach in any case, since it makes the complaint less direct. A parent with a sick child will likely feel less bad about having a manager come to them and saying, "We've received complaints about..." than about a coworker directly complaining.

Hope it helps!

  • No official policy in this regards. Its just a real nice perk. ( Well, usually )
    – Neo
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 13:57
  • 1
    @MisterPositive hmm, unfortunate. You may end up having to make a personal complaint in that case.
    – anonymous2
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 13:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .