Is it OK to call in sick after a breakup?

Linda Le Phan

You’ve just experienced a breakup and not only might you feel sad, angry, disappointed and emotionally and physically exhausted (or numb!), you might also feel like you can’t possibly go to work in the morning.

Now what?

In the perfect world, we could all take as many days off as we need to mourn the end of our relationship. But we don’t, so as much as you might want to tell your boss that you’ll be MIA for the foreseeable future, your options are likely much more limited. How limited though? The answer is “it depends”.

Whether or not you can take a day off of work to cry it all out and try to regroup…or if you instead have no other choice than to get straight back to work without missing a beat, depends on two things:

  1. What kind of employer you work for, and
  2. What kind of employee you’ve been

Let’s delve into those two things:

What kind of employer you have

Good employers understand and support the fact that their employees are human beings. And what that means in practice is that your boss or manager will realize that sometimes, things will happen in your personal life that’ll end up affecting your work life more than it usually would.

In such a case, a great employer would give you ample space and freedom to pull yourself together when whatever personal life issue knocks you down…whether that’s a breakup or any other possible personal issue (family emergencies, having your property damaged or broken into, etc.) This space allows you to think and / or grieve in a healthy, private way.

Without having this bit of breathing room away from your everyday work grind, you’ll likely carry your stress and emotions to work with you, which (as supportive employers know) will ultimately impact the company in a negative way – either by impacting your own work or others’ around you.

Here are some signs that you’ve got a great boss or employer who would be supportive of you taking the day off after a breakup:

  • you have a workplace wellness program
  • your employer offers an employee assistance program (EAP)
  • your boss cares about your well-being on a regular basis and asks how you’re feeling
  • your boss and/or coworkers encourage you to go home when you’re distracted by something that’s going on in your personal life
  • your employer has consistently had positive reviews from current and former employees 
  • your boss talks about how they’re feeling and/or takes a day off when they’re facing personal battles
  • you get personal days (or other paid time off, such as sick days) that you can use without explanation each year

On the other hand, if you’ve observed your manager making disconcerting or unsupportive comments about other employees who’ve taken days off for personal reasons, or have seen a fellow employee go through a breakup too and not get support from their manager, you might want to go to work tomorrow…and then look for another job.

What kind of employee you are

Even the best employers have to set expectations for their employees and then hold them accountable to those expectations. As a matter of fact, it’s almost impossible to be a great employer without clear guidelines and consequences.

While most workplace guidelines are indeed pretty clear and straightforward, great employers typically allow some room for crises in your personal life, self-care, mental health issues, and more. There’s one catch, however – great employees don’t abuse the privilege they have.

So if you’ve missed work unexpectedly more than a handful of times, are on a performance improvement plan, or received less-than-stellar ratings on your most recent performance review, you might not be in a position to call in sick after your breakup. If this is the case, approach work with a positive attitude. Consider it a sanctuary…a welcome distraction from the chaos you’re experiencing in your personal life. Go to work, work hard, choose not to talk about what you’re experiencing, and enjoy the break.

 

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Linda Le Phan is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu US, a place where job seekers can get an authentic view of life at a company and where employers have a trusted platform to better engage talent. When she’s not creating content about the modern workplace, company culture, and life & work hacks, she is probably going out to get an iced coffee (even in Boston winter), raiding the snack drawer, or jamming to kununu’s Spotify playlist.