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Can I be penalized for using a benefit?

Can I be penalized for using a benefit?

Q. My boss recently criticized me on my evaluation for taking “too much” sick time. I’m still well within my limits, although I seem to have had a lot of colds and flu symptoms this year. Is he allowed to penalize me for using a benefit the company offers?

A. Some organizations have policies and a culture that anticipate each employee will use his annual paid sick time. Such organizations view these days as paid personal time, used at the employee’s discretion. Other organizations approach things quite differently; they have an approach that sick time is to be used if it is necessary, yet its use is expected to be minimal and only for cases of inability to work, not a preference not to work. Your situation is likely the latter and I expect that what your boss is really saying is two-fold: 1) He doesn’t really believe you were so ill that coming into work was inadvisable; and 2) he doesn’t believe you have an “appropriate” commitment to work. In the world of work, your supervisor gets to define “appropriate.”

In your case, if this job is one to which your commitment is partial, i.e. it is just a job, and not a career with a commitment attached to it, then I understand how you may be thinking. On the other hand, if you foresee a future with your organization or you are on a career path important to you, then it may be time to reassess your attendance habits, as others may perceive them.

I am thinking of a reader’s response to a former column wherein she mentioned awareness amongst co-workers of those employees who put in the extra effort and those she labeled as “slackers.” She made an excellent point that the perception of other employees is another factor employees may want to consider. Do others see you as an “extra-effort person” or a “slacker?”

So, then, what is the perception of your work habits by others? Is the perception of your boss important to you or not? Are the perceptions of your co-workers important to you or not? Is your self-perception important to you or not? Be careful with your answer to that last question – today’s self-perception may become tomorrow’s reality.

The bigger issue than your attendance pattern, I believe, is, “How dedicated are you to excellence at the important things in your life.” Excellence, at least the attempt of excellence, drives many parts of my life. Someday, “Well done, good and faithful servant …” (Matthew 25:23) are the first words I hope to hear after I pass on. The hope of those words also may affect many choices in your life. Excellence at who he made you to be is the greatest way we can say “Thank you, Lord.”