Sigh. Cough. I wish I could stay home today.

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Even the healthiest people occasionally have to go to work when they feel under the weather. Well, they don’t have to, but usually responsibility considerations such as work load, falling behind, even saving that sick day for a sicker day usually help drag tired achy bones and sore throats out the door and into the queue for the bus or train. But if you are having more off days than healthy ones it could be your job that’s making you sick.


I read an article in another of our (MediaTec Publishing) magazines, Workforce Performance Solutions ( recently. WPS is geared toward senior-level human resource executives, and this piece discussed the difference between acting professional and acting like a phony on the job. If you’re sick, and want to spare your sore throat the pain of continual explanations for your lackluster stride or down-in-the-mouth face, you may want to pull your work façade out of the closet, dust it off and wear it. But it’s never a good sign if you’re still wearing that old coat after your physical symptoms have faded.

In countless interviews, I’ve heard the words “Do what you love” in one context or another, and like most clichés, there is more than a grain of truth you can extract from the familiar words and phrases. But these words, for all their common sense and “mother” wit, often discount something that’s not as popular a discussion topic: the need to work. The average American holds a considerable amount of debt. That means credit card payments to make every payday—if not to pay off balances, then to stay out of debt collection and preserve that all important credit score.


Creditors these days are ruthless, too. They’ll write you off to the sharks for relatively teeny amounts. I was once informed I had been placed in collections for less than $15! The price of a magazine subscription I know I declined with a firm, red CANCEL that went through for whatever reason anyway. There are often practical considerations that prevent most intelligent, ambitious people with untapped energy reserves and the next great idea from flying high in the face of creativity and fulfilling that quietly kept dream. Rent and mortgage payments, for instance, come around like clockwork.


Whether you’re sick one day, or simply marking time in a position while you scout around for something better, it’s up to you to make the best of your current situation. Don’t be one of those people who comes to work to take a lunch. If you’re there, you should give if not 100 percent of discretionary effort, at least 90 percent. Do your job to the best of your ability. There is a certain satisfaction in working hard and doing a job well (another cliché, I know!). Daily, perhaps even hourly, remind yourself of any and everything that you like about the job: the company’s acceptance of you checking your personal e-mail whenever you like, the transportation reimbursement plan, the funny jokes that your coworkers share with you, even the annual company holiday party where the big wigs always get tipsy before they pass out bonuses. Making the best of an off situation is the next best thing to having something new and exciting to look forward to in the workplace. Professionally, doing your work well is the right move as it will give your next employer something positive to reflect on when you come calling. Personally, doing your job to the best of your ability even when the thrill is gone can motivate you to look for something better.

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