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How to deal with a coworker who's ALWAYS sick?


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Sep 12, 2009, 2:01pm   #31
miSsxhuStLer's Avatar
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I agree and what you said is exactly the point that I've been trying to make. I feel compassion for my coworker because I can't imagine how miserable it would be to always be sick, but at the same time, what about the rest of us? I'm concerned about her health, but I'm also concerned about mine as well. It's one thing for her to keep coming into work sick, but she could at least try and be more careful. It doesn't take much common sense to realize that coughing and spitting into a trash can is inappropriate and absolutely disgusting.

Originally Posted by exotikittenx
What I don't understand is why people think it's a lack of compassion when someone's angry that a sick person is not practicing good hygiene. Of course it's sad that the person is sick, and I would hope she is okay, but that's not the issue. The issue is the way the woman is spreading her germs around and having ZERO consideration for others. Perhaps if she were taking better measures to prevent the spread of germs, there wouldn't be an issue. The point of this thread is not that the woman is sick, but that she is reckless about it in a workplace environment where there are other people we have to think of, too.

What about the compassion of this woman toward other people??????? What if another coworker had a poor immune system and could easily catch her germs because she doesn't wash her hands or cough into tissues? What about the other side? I have a little niece who is four years old who has a compromised immune system, and if someone was so negligent as to cough all over her and get her sick, that is just wrong! So just because she is sick, she gets a license to hack all over everything, not try to keep her germs contained, and not wash her hands, and then we can only feel sorry for her? Of course we feel bad that she's sick, but that's not what this is about at all.
Sep 12, 2009, 2:06pm   #32
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I don't think I'm naive for thinking my company is going to take action regarding my complaint, but thanks for your opinion.

The HR rep was the one who actually called ME back into her office before they spoke with my coworker to make sure I was aware of what was going to be discussed. She also said that even if I changed my mind and decided to not take any action, she would have still said something, because my coworker's behavior isn't appropriate. You're right - I don't know what happened in that meeting, but neither do you. If it was such a minor issue that was going to be let go, I don't think the HR rep would have requested a second meeting. I went to her with my concerns and the issue was handled right away. I thought a lot about even going to HR and have tried really hard to be patient. When someone else's actions are making me feel uncomfortable at work, then I feel I have the right to speak up and say something. I've been at my company for over 4 years and this is the first time I've ever gone to HR with a complaint. Obviously I view it as a serious problem.

If I had a chronic disease and was coming into work sick, then honestly I would understand if others were concerned about getting sick. I also have more common sense and courtesy than to cough all over the place and spit into my trash can.

Originally Posted by TrainPapercut
From my personal experience, I think you did the wrong thing and it's going to backfire. I think you are very naive thinking that your company is going to act against a sick person.

Effectively, you have trouble being compassionate towards her because she is sick. You complained about her hygiene because she is sick. You don't like that she touched paperwork because she is sick. See where I am trying to get to? There's a big difference between what we aim to do and what we actually do. I know your intentions were good and you are a good person but if you keep pushing the issue, your actions could be seen as harrassment. As you said, you do not know what went behind closed doors. A HR manager would never single out a sick person like that. Sorry to burst your bubble, but they probably just had a catch-up with her hoping that you'd think something's being done and let it go.

Think of it in reverse: Imagine you have chronic disease. One day you come to the office and the HR manager tells you that you have hygiene problems and people are complaining about you. Would you be OK with that? I know I'd be dialling my lawer's number right there and then.
Last edited Sep 12, 2009 at 2:10pm.
Sep 12, 2009, 2:17pm   #33
k
Member
Originally Posted by exotikittenx
What I don't understand is why people think it's a lack of compassion when someone's angry that a sick person is not practicing good hygiene. Of course it's sad that the person is sick, and I would hope she is okay, but that's not the issue. The issue is the way the woman is spreading her germs around and having ZERO consideration for others. Perhaps if she were taking better measures to prevent the spread of germs, there wouldn't be an issue. The point of this thread is not that the woman is sick, but that she is reckless about it in a workplace environment where there are other people we have to think of, too.

What about the compassion of this woman toward other people??????? What if another coworker had a poor immune system and could easily catch her germs because she doesn't wash her hands or cough into tissues? What about the other side? I have a little niece who is four years old who has a compromised immune system, and if someone was so negligent as to cough all over her and get her sick, that is just wrong! So just because she is sick, she gets a license to hack all over everything, not try to keep her germs contained, and not wash her hands, and then we can only feel sorry for her? Of course we feel bad that she's sick, but that's not what this is about at all.
I don't think anyone meant that being upset at a co-worker for not practicing good hygiene when sick = lack of compassion. This issue of compassion towards a sick person was mentioned in addition to being in agreement that if the coworker is careless with hygiene, it could and probably should to be addressed. I can only speak for myself, but in general I think the reason compassion was brought up was to comment on another layer of this situation in reaction to the original post, a layer that HR has to consider because of the risks associated with discriminating against an employee who's sick yet doing her job. IMO, given the complaint to HR, which is not just about washing hands but also about the coworker working while sick, the reason and nature of her illness will likely come into play.
Sep 12, 2009, 3:27pm   #34
k2sealer's Avatar
I only wear live fur
I would like to point out that allergies can cause all of the symptoms the OP described. Persistent and/or chronic cough, sniffles, etc. Also, a lot of people don't realize that allergies and cause coughing. I used to have this same issue with a persistent cough that would last 2-6 weeks several times a year. I almost never get these episodes anymore since I started taking an over-the-counter allergy medicine (the generic version of Zyrtec). Trust me when I say, having a persistent cough is miserable. If you are friendly with your co-worker, I would suggest that she look into or start taking something for allergies. It probably wouldn't hurt, and it might help.
Sep 12, 2009, 3:51pm   #35
exotikittenx's Avatar
Ooh la la!
Originally Posted by k2sealer
I would like to point out that allergies can cause all of the symptoms the OP described. Persistent and/or chronic cough, sniffles, etc. Also, a lot of people don't realize that allergies and cause coughing. I used to have this same issue with a persistent cough that would last 2-6 weeks several times a year. I almost never get these episodes anymore since I started taking an over-the-counter allergy medicine (the generic version of Zyrtec). Trust me when I say, having a persistent cough is miserable. If you are friendly with your co-worker, I would suggest that she look into or start taking something for allergies. It probably wouldn't hurt, and it might help.
It could be allergies, it could be a chronic illness, or it could be she just keeps catching colds, but whatever the reason (and it's no one's business but her own, really), I would hope this woman would choose to practice good hygiene out of consideration for others who also work in the building.
Sep 12, 2009, 3:55pm   #36
exotikittenx's Avatar
Ooh la la!
Originally Posted by karmenzsofia
I don't think anyone meant that being upset at a co-worker for not practicing good hygiene when sick = lack of compassion. This issue of compassion towards a sick person was mentioned in addition to being in agreement that if the coworker is careless with hygiene, it could and probably should to be addressed. I can only speak for myself, but in general I think the reason compassion was brought up was to comment on another layer of this situation in reaction to the original post, a layer that HR has to consider because of the risks associated with discriminating against an employee who's sick yet doing her job. IMO, given the complaint to HR, which is not just about washing hands but also about the coworker working while sick, the reason and nature of her illness will likely come into play.

I didn't read it as such. I see this thread as being about a lack of good hygiene and spread of germs in an office. The OP said she has put up with it for a very long time, and I don't blame her for not being able to take it anymore, especially now with swine flu going around. I don't see the OP as being insensitive, because it seems she has been quite tolerant of all the coughing and the way this woman has been behaving for quite some time. It's funny that when people say it's a lack of compassion, they fail to see this woman has having a lack of compassion toward those who could also be very prone to illness, when she could just take a few simple measures to keep her germs at bay. The OP seems frustrated and just tired of what's happening around her, it doesn't seem like she is being insensitive. No one wants to have someone coughing all around them with no regard for anyone else. Even if it's a chronic condition, it is not polite to cough without covering one's mouth, sick or not.
Sep 12, 2009, 4:34pm   #37
k
Member
Who's saying the OP is insensitive? I didn't interpret anything anyone here said about compassion, myself included, as such. What I do see is a lot of people agreeing with the OP that watching someone sneezing and coughing into her hands and not sanitizing them, and spitting phlegm into a trash can would suck BIG time. We're in agreement, and even if we were not, that would be OK too.

IMO, given how the OP described the coworker -- "...always sick. I'm not exaggerating at all...for the past 1.5 years that she's been here, she will get a really bad cold that will last 2-3 weeks, get better for a week or two, get sick again and the cycle repeats itself. I don't understand how it's possible for someone to get sick so often and unfortunately it's really hard to feel sorry for someone when they are always like this." -- I think it's reasonable to expect comments about the coworker's health because it's part of the situation.

Sep 12, 2009, 4:40pm   #38
exotikittenx's Avatar
Ooh la la!
Originally Posted by karmenzsofia
Who's saying the OP is insensitive? I didn't interpret anything anyone here said about compassion, myself included, as such. What I do see is a lot of people agreeing with the OP that watching someone sneezing and coughing into her hands and not sanitizing them, and spitting phlegm into a trash can would suck BIG time. We're in agreement, and even if we were not, that would be OK too.

IMO, given how the OP described the coworker -- "...always sick. I'm not exaggerating at all...for the past 1.5 years that she's been here, she will get a really bad cold that will last 2-3 weeks, get better for a week or two, get sick again and the cycle repeats itself. I don't understand how it's possible for someone to get sick so often and unfortunately it's really hard to feel sorry for someone when they are always like this." -- I think it's reasonable to expect comments about the coworker's health because it's part of the situation.


I didn't say you were thinking she was insensitive, hope you didn't think I meant that, but what you typed, I thought was related to that, but probably read it too quickly. Other people said she had a lack of compassion though (feel too lazy to go back and quote it all, but someone said they were shocked by the lack of compassion in this thread). Maybe I missed something, lol. No worries, though!
Sep 12, 2009, 4:42pm   #39
exotikittenx's Avatar
Ooh la la!
Okay, here it is:

And a few others backed her up...

That's what I was referring to. But people have their own health to worry about when someone is coughing and spreading germs everywhere, and their own health takes precedence. So I can understand why the OP is angry. Even if it is a chronic sickness that is not contagious, this person should not be coughing everywhere and all the other things that she was doing. It's very unsanitary, and before anyone can feel sorry for her, they need to worry about their own health because she could be putting them at risk if there are any germs. So I find it outrageous, and just because she has a condition in which we might feel sorry about does not excuse her from acting the way she is. How do you feel sorry for a person who doesn't care about anyone else? When she stops putting people at risk, then we can look at the woman differently. But who's going to have only compassion for someone that is freely spreading her germs everywhere with no consideration for others? We can feel sorry for her but be aggravated, too.

Originally Posted by jburgh
I am dismayed by the lack of compassion here. People take good health for granted.

There are two things going on. One is the spreading of germs, and that is indeed troublesome, she should be taking better precautions so bacteria and viruses are not spread. This is something that HR should address for the health of all workers. You should speak with HR. Even at the dinky little place I work, there are Purell dispenser stations.

The other is the person who is sick. How do you know her problem is contagious? Maybe she has COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is very expensive to manage. Or she may have a chronic autoimmune disease that weakens her system. Has anyone spoken with her? Is anyone concerned? Her life must be total hell, being sick all the time. Can she afford medical treatment?

You said "I don't understand how it's possible for someone to get sick so often and unfortunately it's really hard to feel sorry for someone when they are always like this." Perhaps you should take the first step and show some compassion and understanding. There is always more than one side to a story.
Last edited Sep 12, 2009 at 4:54pm.
Sep 13, 2009, 10:02am   #40
A
Member
First of all: D I S G U S T I N G!!!! Especially the part about her hacking up fur balls and spitting into the trash can.....poor janitor! That would be enough for me to want to barf. Carry CANS of Lysol and spray your cubicle every time you hear her hacking! Hopefully she'll get the message.........if not....send an anonymous note to HR.......good luck!
Sep 13, 2009, 1:45pm   #41
ShimmaPuff's Avatar
Sentient IMBUSILE
Originally Posted by jburgh
Can she afford medical treatment?
That's the first thing I wondered.

What other sources of income does she have besides this job?

It sounds like a "social cost" issue, and one that is well within the bounds of what your employer - and the larger business community - have determined is not one that presents any potential threat of reduction of profits.
Sep 13, 2009, 2:04pm   #42
PurseXaXholic's Avatar
Pretty Young Thing
I have a teamate who is ALWAYS sick. When I say always, I mean like 90% of the time. She misses a lot of important stuff when she's sick, and, personally, I think she should suck it up and come. its like the girl who cried sick, or hurt. something's always wrong with her and she always has an excuse.
but, it seems as if your person is acctually sick! She should stay home. Is there any way for her to work from home when she's sick?
Sep 13, 2009, 2:54pm   #43
k
Member
^ How do you know she's not truly sick?
Sep 29, 2009, 6:34pm   #44
Rockysmom's Avatar
Member
We had a co-worker who literally caughed for 3 months, 8 hours a day. I thought I was going to lose my mind. It's terribly inconsiderate to others to come to work sick. I understand the struggle when you feel like you can't take all of that time off.
Someone should be sending her home. Can't they give her a laptop to take home so she can work?
I would ask to be moved if you can.
Sep 29, 2009, 7:59pm   #45
bagnshoofetish's Avatar
Think Blue.
Originally Posted by karmenzsofia
I don't think anyone meant that being upset at a co-worker for not practicing good hygiene when sick = lack of compassion.
agreed. compassion goes both ways.
if I had a chronic condition that I knew could infect others, I would either find a job where I would not be in such close contact with others or try to work from home.
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