Meeting the Client… While “Heavily Drugged” with Cold Medicine

Coffee and Sudafed, originally uploaded to Flickr by BrittneyBush.Should you network while sick? Reader M wonders, particularly when it comes to clients she already has…

I haven’t seen this covered in your advice column and have just bumbled my way through a client meeting while heavily drugged with Sudafed and wanted your take on what a better approach would be.

I work in medium law, we have major corporate clients that come in once a year or so. As a mid-level associate, I get to attend small luncheons with the individuals handling the files I work on. Of course, the day before they arrive I come down with a horrible cold. Not the death flu or anything, more of an “i can work through this but I sound horrible” cold. I made it through the lunch trying to minimize sniffling and throat clearing and maximize hand sanitizing- but should I have backed out once I realized I was sick? Even if that means missing out on an opportunity to develop the client relationship?

Fabulous question. We’ve talked about how to work while you’re sick, but not on networking while sick. (Pictured: Coffee and Sudafed, originally uploaded to Flickr by BrittneyBush.) Ultimately I think it depends on the relationship — as well as how sick you are (does “sneezing violently” enter the picture? how many tissues do you need by your side to get through lunch? are you 100% positive it’s just a head cold and not something more contagious?) — but I’m really of two minds:

A) You’re a big girl, and you know when you’re too sick to network. If you’re up for it, and taking reasonable precautions that you’re not getting them sick as well (and to me, this means not shaking hands while sick), carry on. I will say that being “heavily drugged with Sudafed” might suggest you weren’t up for it, but then I have an odd dislike of any drugs that make you drowsy. (I normally just take an Advil and a store-brand decongestant when I’m congested, in part because the combo doesn’t make me drowsy.)

B) Well… it’s a bit rude, isn’t it, to go to lunch without at least warning the client that you’re sick, right? How about at least a head’s up to them, as you’re making lunch plans — something along the lines of, “I’m so looking forward to discussing __ and getting to know you and the company better over lunch. I should warn you, I’ve got a little head cold, but I’m up for it if you are!” Some people may have suppressed immune systems (the elderly, the pregnant), others may just be weird about colds.

If you do go through with the meeting while sick, do an extra bit of work to make sure the meeting goes well despite your foggy head.  For example, before the meeting, make a list of three things (and only three!) that you want to accomplish or learn about during the meeting.  Take copious notes for yourself after the meeting, including things that you might remember otherwise (such as the name of Client’s husband).  I’d also suggest following up with the client afterwards to make sure you both agree about any action items, as well as anything else that might not have been covered.  (For example:  “Dear Jane – I’m so glad we got to talk more over lunch on Tuesday!  Just to review, I’m now going to do Y and Z, and you’ll be looking into A and B for me (thank you for that).  Was there anything else we didn’t cover that you wanted to, or any other questions I can answer for you?”)

Readers, how do you handle networking and client development things when you’re sick?

Comments

  1. One of my biggest issues at work is people who come to work when they are sick. Coughing, sneezing, sounding and looking like death … and trying to cover it up with DayQuil or other medication. We have sick time for a reason, and I ALWAYS encourage those who report to me to STAY HOME if they are sick. I find it rude to co-workers to bring illness into the office and … inevitably … get everyone else sick, too.

    I would extend the same thoughts to working with/meeting with clients.

    • law talking girl :

      I do not have sick time. I cannot be taking 3-4 days off every time I have the sniffles, which for me is about 3-4 times per year. That would be 9-16 days per year of leave without pay. Sorry, can’t do it unless I am spending that time in the hospital. I won’t sneeze or cough on you and I won’t shake your hand.

      • wellington :

        Same for me. Plus, my sense is that by the time you are exhibiting symptoms, you are no longer contagious. I have a slight cold today, but I don’t have a fever, and I have a lot of work to get done, and I am not going to use my precious few vacation days to sneeze at myself in my apartment.

    • This I AGREE with. The MANAGEING partner came in sneezeing and sniffleing all winter, then came to MY desk and was bloweing his NOSE all over the place.

      It was disgusteing! And I could NOT say anything because he pay’s my Salary, so it is NOT a good idea.

      But then he wiped his nose with his dirty hankerchief, and then buffed his BALD head with it! FOOEY!

      If he did NOT pay my salary, I would tell him to dissapear and blowe his nose some where ELSE! FOOEY!

    • same here. I really get upset when people come into work sick. In most (I get it, not all) professional jobs, there is usually a way to work from home so please do that if you don’t want (or have) sick time off. It’s so unfair to the rest of the office when people pass their colds/flus around.

    • Ekaterin Nile :

      The staff at my firm don’t get sick time. If they stay home sick, it comes out of their PTO time and reduces their available vacation time. Obviously, this creates a huge incentive to come to work sick, and I can’t really blame them. I wish we lived and worked in a culture when staying home while contagious was supported rather than discouraged.

      • Another Zumba Fan :

        Where I work PTO is paid time off for any reason, you’re sick, kid’s sick, vacation, mental health day. It all falls into one bucket. Only jury duty and berevement are separate.

      • PTO is the same at every accounting firm I’ve worked at (any time you aren’t working it comes out of the same bucket). As a result, I only stay home when I am very sick and the rest of the time come in and just try to stay away from people. Also as a result, I think that I am usually sicker a lot longer than if I could just take a day or two off when I start getting sick, but when it comes down to taking a couple of days off for a cold and not having enough PTO to take the vacation I have planned or coming in sick and then enjoying my vacation later, vacation always wins. I get 20 days of vacation a year and those are very carefully planned in advance.

      • You’ve zeroed in on the real problem– part-time workers and employess paid on an hourly basis rarely have sick leave. Legislation that would require employers to offer sick leave to all employees (because, let’s face it, most companies will not do it without being forced to do so, they will claim that they cannot afford it) seems to be the leading solution to the problem. As it is now, people working in health care and the food industry and coming into work sick and putting us all at risk.

    • I went to a series of meetings in January and one of my colleagues was sick. Red nose, sniffling, the whole thing. But these meetings were scheduled far in advance, everyone flew in from around the country for them, and they weren’t going to be rescheduled just because she was sick. And her participation in the meetings was crucial and one of the reasons were all there.

      I admired how she handled herself. She took some kind of super medicine, let everyone know she was sick and did good social distancing (no hugs, no handshakes.) She sat in a corner of the room until it was her turn to present. At dinner, she sat a chair away from the rest of us and left early.

      None of us got sick. I think she did all the right things.

    • I come into work like that regularly and it’s not from a cold- it’s from allergies. If I missed work every single day my allergies acted up, I would not have any sick/vacation time left. However, if you’re an outside observer, you can’t tell if it is allergies or a cold and will just assume I am some awful person with a virus that is going to spread it around. Don’t worry, you can’t catch my asthma.

      • But allergies aren’t contagious, so it’s not the same thing at all.

        • Yes, but sometimes it can *look* the same, and people tend to make assumptions that all people who are coughing and sneezing really are sick.

          • I agree about allergies … it’s the people who come into work saying “I’m so sick … I have a fever, but don’t worry I took some medicine and should be okay”. That’s when I find it rude.

      • then you should make a quick announcement that it’s allergies. if not, you are stressing out immune-compromised people.

    • One point here is that it was not a time-sensitive meeting or brutal deadline, and it was a meal, which significantly increases the chances of infecting others, so I would have erred on the side of staying home. But my heart goes out to people who don’t have an appropriate sick leave policy. I think it’s so wrong and basically inhumane. I’m the director of my department, and folks know that if they are sick, they may as well stay home, because if they come to work, I’m going to send them home anyway. I can afford to be down one person, but I can’t afford for everyone else to get sick. I’m even more strict on this now after seeing that movie “Contagion.” Scared the heck out of me!

    • I work for the federal govt and we are thinking about starting a family in the next year or two. Since there’s no maternity leave and I haven’t been here for years to bank a ton of time, I have to weigh a sniffly day against a potential extra day of maternity leave (or prenatal checkups, or sick kid days, or whatever). As long as I can handle the work with a clear head, I keep the purell and tissues close and hope for the best.

  2. Love your blog!!!! I wish I found this sooner. Being sick, you should never engage in client networking. However, I have worked with numerous clients in my own business. While being sick, I could not give up meetings or work because time is crucial.

  3. While one can “work through” the cold by staying at her desk all day and minimizing contact with people in the office, I’d say pass on networking, because you _have_ to shake hands/talk/breathe on people and the possibility of them catching your germs is much greater.
    There is also a chance that a VIP/client feels strongly about keeping illness at home and will be unhappy about a sneezy person attending. Then you’ve defeated the purpose of networking for yourself and quite possibly for your colleagues.
    I don’t think Kat’s point B makes sense. A client should not be put on the spot to decide how little “a little head cold” is.

  4. I wanted to thank everyone for the support yesterday after the interview scheduling snafu and let you know it went really well. Now to wait for two weeks. Joy!

  5. Threadjack: MOTHS!?! What do you do about moths? They are eating all my sweaters! How have you deal with this. I live in the Boston area, in case climate matters. I have tried to use ceder blocks, sachets, etc. I still keep finding holes. I just bought 6 new wool sweaters at end of season sales and I do not want them all destroyed before next winter! Please share any tips you have. Thanks!

    • I hate to say it, but are you sure its moths? Sometimes rodents chew holes in clothes. Also, sometimes if your washer/dryer is particularly rough on clothes, holes can arise.

    • I keep all my wool in a plastic container (think one of those long flat ones that you can get a target with lids that snap tightly on) under my bed with some cedar in it. Never had any issues.

    • If it is moths, anything that you store should be airtight. I don’t trust plastic storage bins so I put mine in those airlock plastic bags that you press or use the vacuum to suck the air out. Then I put the bags in the freezer for a few days before storing. Other tips include not storing anything that could be dirty from food or whatever.

      What I’ve read is that the wool-eating moths like 1) no light and 2) no disturbance. So if you are storing in those conditions, be careful.

      • Six Feet Under :

        I have to ask: I read all the time about how you are supposed to put large items in the freezer (bags of clothes, bags of items that are being de-bed bugged, trays and trays of cookies that are rolled out). What freezer is big enough for that?

        I live in the suburbs with DH and SD. We have two refrigerators: one in the kitchen with a freezer on the bottom third and one in the garage with a freezer on the top third. Neither one of our freezers is even CLOSE to being able to accommodate all this stuff.

        My grandparents who lived in small town Michigan in the 50s and 60s and 70s had one fridge in the kitchen and then in the garage they had a freezer that was bigger than the indoor fridge. It was about the size of a twin bed except as high as my hip. Almost like the freezer section at the supermarket. Or like a really big casket. Is that what all of you have in your garages? If so, is this zombie prep? Do I need one? I don’t hunt or cure meat . . .

        • Totally hear you on the freezer. I can’t fit a single sweater in mine.

          On moths, have you tried a pheromone trap to see if you really have them? That can also cut down on the population – but the traps only catch the males.

          I’d probably call an exterminator if you really are losing lots of items to them.

          Knitting forums I’ve belonged to said moths are more attracted to woolens with body oils or scents on them, so you could also try handwashing your woolens and putting them away somewhere airtight.

          I’ve also heard that moths hate lavender scents, so I bought some of those cheap, extra stinky bars of Yardley Lavender soap and I keep them in my yarn storage area.

      • The freezer is an urban legend. You’d have to carefully time it with the reproductive cycle of moths, and basically it’s been proven to do nothing better than select for cold-resistant moths. Try this instead:
        http://www.fuzzygalore.biz/articles/moths.shtml

    • Clueless Summer :

      Could also be carpet beetles, in which case I don’t know if cedar will affect those. My understanding is the remedy to those is basically vaccuming a lot and never allowing piles of clothing to sit around…

    • If you currently have them, you need to clear out your whole closet, expose all the clothes to light and air and shake them around, etc. Anything that is currently getting holes should probably go to the dry cleaner to kill all the eggs that have been laid. Once you see holes, the eggs have been laid, so killing the adults isn’t good enough, the eggs are there. Clean the closet, sweeping, cleaning shelves, etc.

      Then, you can start putting things back in, in the conditions others are talking about. containers w/ cedar, etc in them, protected from getting new infestations.

      The cedar keeps moths from coming to the closet, it doesn’t kill them once they are already there. I read one place that you should shake out/air out/expose to light all of your natural-fiber clothes every quarter, or at the very least every 6 months.

      I will stay, instead of plastic, I really like using canvas garment storage bags for hanging things, and canvas boxes that zip close for other things. I stuff them full of cedar, and keep them zipped up. They keep moths out, but they also allow things to breathe so they don’t get musty, and i don’t have to worry as much about mildew, etc.

    • PharmaGirl :

      I had a terrible mist infestation in a former apartment. I inspected all sweaters, paying close attention to the seams, for any evidence of moths. Anything that looked like there were potentially eggs (sometimes you can see a cocoon), was bagged and tossed immediately. Everything else was sealed in bags and went through 2 freezer cycles. Freeze overnight, room temp over night, freeze again. The first freeze-thaw forces the eggs to ‘wake up’ and the second freeze kills them.

      Clean out all of your drawers and closets. When I went through this, I was not thorough enough the first time and then found some disgusting infestation points during the second go around… let’s just say, if you have a cat, search your closets for any toy mice made of real fur. That was a horrifying discovery, to say the least.

      Once you get everything cleaned out, start using cedar and/or lavender sachets to prevent any future problems.

  6. Threadjack – do you have people at work who, every Monday, like to mention that they came into the office during the weekend? I have an office neighbor who does this – an otherwise very nice guy and long-time coworker who does not do this to brag or be malicious. This is a government law office, so it’s not like we are bucking for partnership. He lives 10 minutes away from the office, his kids are grown, and I think his wife takes care of a lot of the house/chores stuff. I get irritated because 1) I live further away and would lose close to an hour just in commuting time; 2) even though both I and my husband work full time, I’m the one that does the laundry and ironing, runs errands, cooks and cleans up for us and the kids, and runs our teenage daughter to wherever she has to go (hubby has his own non-work stuff to do). I frequently bring work home, and actually do it most of the time, but as I often complain, we pretty much have to squeeze all of our non-work life into the weekends. The only time I go into the office is if I have a trial coming up and I have to do stuff like assembling exhibits. I sense that my neighbor has less to do at home on the weekends and so he has more time to come into the office. When he does his, “I was in the office on (Saturday, Sunday)” comment, I say, ” Good for you. I brought work home and tried to squeeze it in between loads of laundry, meals, etc.”

    • Former MidLevel :

      Wow, he sounds really obnoxious. I would ignore him, as if he were a misbehaving animal: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/25/fashion/25love.html?pagewanted=all

    • job hunting :

      It’s not a contest! You work for the government! People usually choose to work for the government because the hours are good (a perfectly reasonable choice). Anyone who works on weekends when he doesn’t have to is clueless. Life is short, I say enjoy your weekends to the max.

    • My boss did that for a very long time.
      She also claimed that she was in the office at 4 or 5 in the morning pretty much every day.
      When I was allowed flex time I started coming in an hour early and she was never there, she always came in a few minutes before everybody else and quickly stopped telling us that she was in early.

      Now she supposedly works from home since 3 in the morning. Funny though, how every time she is doing something from home she has network issues and has to do it all over when she is in the office, because all she worked on is miraculously gone.

    • Coworker: I was in the office all weekend!
      You: Thanks for sharing (shrug)

    • Woods-comma-Elle :

      I have a co-worker like this ‘so I didn’t go home last night’ is a particular favourite.

      Much of the trouble is that he is too inefficient to get all his work done and then has to stay all hours of the day.

      I LOVE the NYT article!

    • You say he does not do this to brag or be malicious, so I wouldn’t do anything. Maybe tell him what you did over the weekend (I did a bit of work on X case from home, drove my kid all over the state for various activities, etc).

      My initial reaction to your post was: (1) she seems to be subconsciously projecting her own work-related guilt or competitive nature onto an otherwise innocent comment (because you acknowledged you didn’t think he was being malicious), which is in no way his fault, and (2) he is probably a little jealous that his kids aren’t around to occupy all of his weekends anymore, and he might also be a bit bored.

  7. Associette :

    I once interviewed while I was sick. Not a good idea! It was a 10:00 a.m. interview and I woke up that morning with the flu… I thought that a last minute rescheduling would look bad on my part, so I tossed on some extra blush to wipe out my paleness and tried to just suck it up. I did not mention to the interviewers that I was not feeling well, but the whole time was sweating and shivering. I must have looked like a nervous idiot (though I was not nervous at all). I did not get the job, but now work at another firm in the same practice area so I see my interviewers all the time at court and depos. I always want to say…”you that interview…well I had a 102 temperature..sorry about that.”

    • During one of my summer associate interviews, I was very sick (hadn’t eaten enough/was coming down with something) and I was clearly just completely out of it. So much so that the interviewer followed up with Career Services later to find out if I was okay!

      So yeah — you’re not alone. (BTW…did not get a call back on that one. :-P)

    • I was just going to post a threadjack on this! I have an interview tomorrow (biglaw lateral) and I have some sort of respiratory ailment (i.e., sore throat, fever, congestion, can’t hear out of one ear). I’m concerned that it would look bad if I rescheduled the interview, plus I’ve already arranged to be off from my current job. Thoughts on how to cope? Or should I just reschedule? (Oh, and most cold medications are off the table for me because I can’t take decongestants.) Anyone want to share stories where they did get a job when interviewing while sick?

      • I would be completely annoyed if I had to sit in my little office with the door closed for 30 minutes with a clearly sick and germy interviewee. Reschedule, your interviewers will appreciate it.

    • I had a series of out of town interviews that were all group dates, no flexibility in timing, and I came down with a god-awful hacking cough. It was horrible — I was obviously not at my best, and the ridiculousness of being sick while interviewing in hospitals kept distracting me. After the first one of three interviews on the trip, I went straight to the drug store and asked the pharmacist to give me best thing to keep me from doing any more coughing in interviews. Mucinex works wonders to contain coughing, which helped, but I still wasn’t anywhere near peak performance. If there is any way to reasonably avoid interviewing or networking while sick, I’d do so.

  8. I feel like the whole “working while sick” issue is the one where the gap between reality and conventional advice is the greatest, at least for lawyers in big firms. The conventional advice: don’t come to work when you’re sick! Work from home! Take sick time, that’s why we have it!

    The reality: first, we have sick time, but taking it doesn’t reduce your billable hour requirements, so it is, in effect, unpaid time that ends up reducing my vacation days or requiring me to work much longer later. Second, if I turned down a client lunch because of a cold, even the nicest partners that I know would consider that irresponsible or an indication of unseriousness, wimpiness, etc. I could probably decline shaking hands, but that’s about it.

    And finally, I’ve never taken a sick day. Not because I’m so tough, but because the partners would end up calling, emailing, etc. just as if I were in the office. I’d have to be in the hospital for it to make a difference. I’ve worked from home when sick – taking multiple conference calls supine on the couch with an 104-degree fever – which spared others exposure to my germs, but didn’t actually facilitate my recovery at all. But I can’t work from home every time I have a cold, because working from home a lot also creates an impression of unseriousness/unreliability.

    I collapsed at a marathon last year and spent a day in the hospital (after being defibrillated in the ambulance, yay), and I still came to work the next day because I didn’t feel like I could take a day off. And I work at a what’s generally considered to be a *nice* firm.

    • This. I work for a really nice firm and I’ve taken exactly one “sick” day in the three years I’ve been here. And I ended up having my assistant email me a bunch of things because I was getting emails asking for things all day long.

      Once, when I was first admitted, I was invited to sit in on a deposition — my first — and I had an unbearable cold. It was so stupid of me to go to the deposition. My presence added nothing and my constant getting up to blow my nose was so distracting and unprofessional. That’s one of those things that I always look back on and cringe with absolute embarrassment. I was sniffle, sniffle, sniffle, cough, cough, sneeze, get up, blow, sniffle, sniffle, sniffle.

      • This reminds me of a deposition I defended not too long ago where, in the middle of questioning, I got this crushing pain in my chest (I am NOT kidding) and I had to stand up to try and walk it away, which it did after about 5 minutes . But the attorneys, the court reporter and the witness all went white, because they thought I was having a heart attack (so did I, but I didn’t want to summon an ambulance and have it turn out to be nothing), which would not be unusual for someone my age. The pain never came back – I have no idea what it was.
        On this thread generally, when I was in law school, one of the instructors told us about this lawyer who worked for a big firm, who was in the hospital giving birth and was still on the phone negotiating a contract. I thought the story was depressing – is there NO time in your life where you are allowed to put your work aside and take care of yourself?

        • Woods-comma-Elle :

          A partner I met at a networking event told me how she was having knee surgery and a client (who knew about the surgery) called her straight after, totally glossed over the fact that she was IN HOSPITAL and just started asking questions about his work.

          Although I can’t help but wonder how this person had her cellphone with her/on in the hospital right after surgery.

          • My best friend was at the hospital w/her mom who was having emergency surgery, and a partner called her to talk about a case they were handling. And yes, he knew where she was.

          • Man, turn those cell phones off! I don’t take calls when I’m in the hospital. Or at least not ones from non-family members.

        • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle :

          While it may be slightly depressing, hearing stories about women fighting through terrible pain or illnesses or rarely using a sick day to get their work done is inspiring. While we may not always love what we do, we want to be really good at what we do. I respect women who not only do so much at home but also do so much at work. Makes me want to work harder.

          • “While we may not always love what we do, we want to be really good at what we do.”

            Or we just want to keep our jobs.

            This depressing thread is why I left the practice of law. Are we living to work, or working to live?

          • It makes me think that people need to do a better job at getting their priorities straight and setting boundaries. Guess what–things will get done without you. And better by someone not in the middle of terrible pain or personal crisis. And life is short. If you can’t figure out how to eek out time for yourself, then what is the point? I work really long hours and crazy hours–and yes, have done some crazy things like hold work calls from a hospital room. But as I’ve gotten older (and after a serious health scare) have come to realize that in many ways you control how much balance you’re getting. The true pride comes from working–and also making time to relate on a personal level with family and friends–as best you can.

        • I get this feeling from time to time – I have chronic costochontritis, which is basically chonic (and intermittent, in my case) inflammation of the cartilage between my ribs/around my sternum.

          You could have had an acute case of that. When I have a particularly bad attack they’re usually fairly short, and feel like heart attacks.

    • Sometimes I count my blessings on dodging the law school bullet. You all are superheroes. Of course, what I want to know is if your male colleagues make you suffer through “man cold.”

    • I’m so glad I work for the government. I’m not doubting your story, but this sounds totally unreasonable.

    • While I worked at my Big Law firm I never took a sick day where I wasn’t actually in the hospital or actively recovering from surgery. For all the reasons cbackson listed above.

      When I was a paralegal, I also worked through the first two-three weeks of mono…but that was just because I didn’t know what was wrong with me and didn’t have any sick leave yet. Different story entirely.

    • Walking Dead :

      This. Over the last 10 years (at 3 different firms), I have gone to trial with pneumonia, had work couriered to my ICU room after emergency surgery, and gone to trial 3 days after a bad car wreck that left the upper left quadrant of my face literally black and blue (that was awesome – the jury panel thought it was a personal injury case at first – very disappointed to find out it was patent infringement and I wasn’t the plaintiff). No rest for the wicked and definitely no sympathy. Non-law friends/family are always horrified; lawyers generally understand. The cases and work is still there whether you’re sick or not, so taking unplanned time off is a luxury that is rarely possible.

      • Couldn’t count on a little jury sympathy? My first jury trial came when I was 8 months pregnant, and I thought I would have the jury sympathy, but noooo . . . My adversary came rolling down the aisle in a wheelchair.

      • The only reason I’ve ever actually stopped working for illness is when I’ve gotten a migraine, because when I have one, I can’t see, and at its height, I can’t speak. It’s not that it hurts too much, it’s that I actually cannot get words to travel correctly between brain and mouth.

        And TBH, I did once dictate a five-page memo between the onset of the attack, through the blindness, and wrapped it up just before I lost my ability to put sentences together.

    • Agreed. In my line of work, if the transaction has to close in 48 hours, it is closing in 48 hours, come h*ll or high water, and you had better be there and working with everyone else, unless you really can’t think straight. No excuses accepted. You can always take a personal day in lieu afterwards.

      Of course, when there isn’t a deadline coming up, things are slightly different and I strongly believe that one day off earlier in the cold will eliminate 2-3 days off later in the cold, if you can manage it. But this has to be reasonable. If I had a junior who was constantly telling me she was going to work from home because she didn’t feel well, I would question her commitment.

    • I agree that most working people need better sick leave benefits — and also that the same considerations don’t necessarily apply to lawyers and other professionals; we usually have to suck it up and do the work that has to be done. E.g., I developed Bell’s Palsy in December, causing sudden paralysis of the entire right side of my face. (At first I thought I had had a stroke, it was very scary.) I had some trouble speaking and swallowing and just seemed a little drunk; the worst part was that my right eye would not close or blink so it watered nonstop and I looked like I was crying constantly. I had a long-schduled hearing the next morning and happened to mention to my husband in the ER that the next day at work would be tough because of this. The doctor heard this and offered to write me a note to let me off work. Yeah, that will take care of it. I went to the hearing, just mentioned that I had a minor and non-contagious medical problem and went through a half box of kleenex and took some extra breaks.

      I also have had contract negotiations or hearings scheduled and then developed a bad cold or respiratory virus. These sessions usually involve out-of-town travel for opposing counsel, arbitrators or other participants and they are very hard to reschedule. I have never cancelled but have showed up and mentioned that I have a cold or bronchitis and therefore am declining to shake hands. If I’m coughing, I leave the room until it passes. I try to sit a bit farther away from colleagues and use copious amounts of hand sanitizer. I do this where everyone can see me — and espcially frequently when I am handing around proposals and documents that other people will touch — so the people in the room will know I’m trying to be as non-contagious as possible.

      On the other hand, I got strep in January; I had nothing outside the office scheduled and was so sick I couldn’t be productive anyway so I stayed home and didn’t work for two days, with only minimal guilt. I am so glad I don’t work in biglaw where that would be looked at askance.

      I think it’s a balancing act. If I were sick enough to be coughing and sneezing and looked sick, I probably would go to a hearing that really couldn’t be cancelled but I would not do a client lunch or other rainmaking/networking event.

      • I had Bell’s Palsy few months ago and I know how scary that it.
        Thanks to corporette’s clever suggestions I just told people it was an allergy to a medication I took while in the US.. which could be true (I had Excedrin before the sickness).
        I still went to work back at my country and avoided talking as much as possible because I sounded weird.

    • Yeah, I’ve never taken a sick day, though I have worked from the couch in my sweats in between bouts of fever where I was shaking so hard I felt like my bones were coming out. But normally, I couldn’t even take an unplanned day off, my schedule was always packed 1-2 weeks out.

      Occasionally in my line of work with a new case we could get another attorney to cover. I did that once for a senior attorney who was literally in the hospital and the hospital refused to discharge her. She eventually had to go out AMA.

      Also, one of the non-equity partners in my firm had a heart attack. When he woke up, the head partner was there. Nice, right? Not exactly: “you had a quadruple bypass, this isn’t work related, is it?”

      Same thing happened with a senior attorney who had a stroke. He still tells the story of opening his eyes with absolutely no idea what happened and the first person he sees is the boss “this wasn’t work related, right? Do you have a history of blood clots?” The boss actually grabbed the senior attorney’s chart and started paging through it!

    • I usually work from home when sick. Yes I know not an option for many, but you can log billables from a computer. Very different than networking events where you are shaking hands etc.

  9. ThreadJack- Too good not to share, J Crew has a sale on their Drea pumps in store only. They are a dead ringer for the most perfect low pump ever- the Joely. They are low to mid heel and insanely comfortable. The solid patents are $119, patterned $139. Worth it. I wear my Joelys almost every day in the summer, so I know these will be worn just as much.

  10. Sudafed (with pseudoephedrine) actually makes you more alert, not drowsy. Check what the active ingredient of your medication is. It’s so stimulating that my doctor tells me repeatedly not to take it after 5pm bc I won’t be able to go to sleep.

    This is all well and good for that one time event but what about a chronic condition that affects your daily life? I have ridiculous allergies, that trigger sinus headaches and migraines. I literally cannot think when I get these headaches, and I sit at my desk and do nothing, all day, sometimes. You know what my trigger is? Dust. Yep, it’s all over everywhere and I’m kind of considering telling my boss to special request the cleaners to vacuum all the shelves and walls and ceilings. But I don’t know, it feels really high maintenance to do so but it’s also outrageous how I can’t get ish done because of allergies (yes, I’m treating it with sprays, pills and injections with my doc, so it’s not like I’m thoughtlessly whining).

    • Pseudophedrine is the bomb yo.

      (That’s all. I’m figuring out the chronic thing one day at a time.)

    • Can you get a mini air purifier for your office? We have three people working in a dusty file room who got one recently and say it has made a big difference in how they feel. You may also be able to get a mini dehumidifier if it’s too humid.

      I have to disagree about pseudoephedrine. It makes me really tired and out of it and then 4-5 hours down the road the stimulant effects seem to kick in.

    • The people who clean my office will dust if I leave them a note asking them to. (I leave the note in Spanish but a Spanish speaker can help you write it if needed.) That way I don’t have to involve my boss. Although recently I discovered that our office supply catalog includes some cleaning supplies, so I have ordered some dust wipes with my office supply budget and have been dusting my office myself.

      • I get along great with the housekeeping staff but I work in a cube farm, with architectural models surrounding me and random towering shelves of contract drawings along the corridors. If I walk down a certain portion of an aisle, I get hit my an invisible dust cloud and this itchy pain travels up my nose, through my sinuses and eventually my entire skull. It’s so uncomfortable. I can’t dust the entire floor. Aaaaaaannnnddd the one time I did dust a small lab I was working in, everybody got horribly offended that I did because I’m one of the few women here and they don’t want people to think that they’re making me clean stuff. So like reverse-s3xism? But yay for scheduling a field trip today – so sunny and delicious outside.

    • For allergies, I take stinging nettle as a supplement to my daily zyrtec. It has greatly reduced the number and severity of “bad” days.

      For the dust, can you get some sort of hepa-filter air cleaner for your office? Seems like an accommodation they’d have to make.

      • Interesting. Is that to acclimate your body to pollen or something, for seasonal allergies? I’m taking allergy shots (still in the once a week phase) and it has reduced the occurrence of OHMYGODBAD days but I’m hopeful that after a year, it’ll be better.

  11. I don’t understand this statement, “are you 100% positive it’s just a head cold and not something more contagious?”

    Head colds are very contagious, not to mention miserable. I’ve had one for the last week that has made it impossible to sleep at night, and I’m completely wiped out. Even if you “just” have a head cold you need to take apporpriate steps to avoid spreading your germs, including staying home if you can.

  12. If I were your client I would have been so so pissed that you came to lunch with a cold, I would have cut it as short as possible, and in my head you would always be the girl who had a cold. So instead of thinking of staying home as missing an opportunity to network, think of it as insuring that your client won’t hate you. Stay home when you’re sick, people! No one wants your germs.

    I am recovering from bronchitis, which I caught from my officemate who insisted on coming in with a cough even though she knows I have asthma. Needless to say it has been much, much, much worse for me than it was for her. I haven’t been to work in more than a week.

    • yep that happened to me. colleague had a ‘cold’ few years ago. came in. i got it, right as i left for my only real vacation in a 2-year span. spent half of it in miami emergency room next to haitian earthquake victims- mucus plugs, bronchitis with complications. started a new job right after that, so as a result, got no rest, and no vacation for another year. ever since then, i don’t care how rude i seem: i will not get near sick people in the office. i avoid my boss when he does this all the time. you may not realize people around you can get far sicker than you are for whatever reason.

  13. anon for this one :

    As someone with a lowered immune system due to a chronic illness, I am very careful about protecting myself as best as I am able. To know that someone chose to show up and sit in a room with me and others while they’re contagious for a meeting or interview or who wouldn’t at least contact me to offer to reschedule seems really selfish. It’s one thing to know I need to be careful with myself because everyone could be a carrier for an illness but I think it’d be fine (and even great) to send an email that says, “I’m feeling a bit under the weather and am able to make it if rescheduling is a problem but that I wanted to leave the option open.”

    It doesn’t make you look like a champ to show up sick, it just shows that you lack the insight to know when you need a break or that you don’t care about others enough not to expose them.

    • asthmaticus :

      I am not trying to look like a champ for showing up at work with the sniffles. As others have said, some jobs just do not offer sick time. You can catch a cold from anyone you come within a few feet of or who touches the same surface you do. You can’t always blame your co-workers. I think it’s a little unreasonable to expect people to stay home from work and suffer lost income (or perhaps even job loss) every time they have a cold. Catching a cold is simply a factor of living and working in society with other people around us. For the vast majority of people, colds are harmless though miserable. For the rest of us, we have to be more careful with our own actions (washing hands, not touching things, not rubbing our eyes, etc.). I have asthma that is sometimes triggered by mild upper respiratory infections. As much as I would like to never come into contact with a sick person and thereby avoid the asthma attacks, I just can’t, and I don’t think other people are selfish for wanting to keep their jobs.

      • I agree with this. Its not about being a “champ.” Its about having responsibilities that cannot be foregone whenever you come down with a cold. I also agree with the part about the reality of living in a society with others. You can’t monitor and control each and every interaction. You have to control your own actions rather than others’ actions. You have to learn to protect yourself in the best way you can. Because how far does it go? Can you tell restaurant patrons that they can’t frequent restaurants when they are sick? Use public transportation? Grocery shop?

      • well- the post is about an optional networking thing though. obviously there’s a balance to be had- you sick people can try to keep it to a minimum (stay in your office etc., don’t touch my stuff); us compromised people need to minimize contact with you when you do it. i can’t take meds while pregnant, can cause serious complications due to underlying thing. it isn’t selfish, it’s very real self preservation. if you just have asthma that isn’t contagious, just communicate that.

        i’ve had sickies come into my office and grab my mouse to ‘show me something’- No.

  14. Anon for This :

    My office is at the opposite end of the spectrum. I work in a small office with 3 attorneys and 4 staff members. Although we give the staff 5 sick days plus vacation time, the attorneys I work for have no backbone so the staff takes as much sick time as they desire, in addition to their vacation time. As a result, sick days are taken monthly. Drives. me. nuts. I guess the upside is my staff never makes me sick.

    • Anonymous :

      I’d gladly trade. My small office (7 attorneys and 2 staffers) has an “unlimited” sick policy, but the attorneys all come in when they’re sick, no matter what, meaning that when one of us gets something, the rest of us do too.

    • Oh yes, I love this. Especially when all the sick leave magically falls on a Friday or a Monday (or Tuesday if a 3 day weekend).

      • This. And when they are in the office and are asked to do something, you get snapped at because they are “so busy”. Hmmm, wonder why. I have worked with several people like this, at different jobs. And admin staff who are on drugs and semi-functional.

  15. So the other day, I was speaking with my 25 year old neice and she thought I was being too conservative and old school for suggesting she take out her conch and helix piercings. She works in a business casual enviornment but people may have the wrong assumptions about her/work. Am I being too old school and it actually doesnt matter? I thnk a few posters here before mentioned that they have gotten away with non traditional piecings but she’s junior so I’m thinking it’s a bit different.

    • I’m definitely more conservative than most 24 year olds as a law student/clerk who works in-house in the same office as the senior executives (where we have a formal dress code, but most interns — not me — tend to flout it). However, in my pre-law school days, even as a lowly entry level analyst in the back office of a Fortune 500, I don’t think it would ever have kept piercings like that in. Although it was perfectly acceptable to show up in khakis and a non-logo hoodie at this job, there was woman slightly older than me who had a much more edgy dress style than everyone else with funky hair and weird piercings. I think her work was just fine, but I don’t think anyone her seriously as a professional because of the way that she looked and dressed.

    • Salit-a-gator :

      I have no idea what a conch and helix piercing is, but it doesn’t matter – it would not fly at all in my business casual law firm. At. All. I think your advice is right on.

      • Ditto. No clue what it is but if it’s visible and not a single (or maybe subtle double) ear piercing it would not fly.

    • Basically, she’s the one who works there and she can probably read her co-workers better than you can, so if she feels comfortable keeping the piercings in then you probably can’t talk her out of it. However if she were going to interview at, say, a BigLaw firm, I’d advise taking them out (assuming as she can put them back in later).

    • Anon-tastic :

      Aren’t those piercings in the cartilage part of the ear? Unless the jewelry she wears is particularly outlandish, or she six of them or something, I don’t think it is unprofesional. I have two piercings in the cartilage portion of one of my ears, and I occasionally wear very small CZ studs. I think it’s perfectly fine.

    • I’m a Biglaw first year and I have a helix piercing, and not one with a delicate gauge, either. I actually wore it to all of my interviews (granted I only got one offer but I don’t know if this was the cause, it was 2010 after all). I took out an orbital before law school started, but I wore that as a Biglaw paralegal and the senior partner I worked for told me it was fine. Conch piercings might a bit different because they’re pretty visible no matter what your hairstyle, but my SO has them and works office jobs.

      Anyway, I can’t say I haven’t been judged, but I am still employed. The problem is, with most cartilage rings you can’t put them back in once you take them out. So I am willing to risk a credibility hit with random people around my office when the “appropriate” alternative is permanently getting rid of a totally inoffensive piece of jewelry that I’ve had for a decade. I think most people who have this kind of jewelry realize what fuddy duddy people might think of them, so ultimately it’s up to your niece where to draw that line.

      • Whoops “OP” was my moniker in a prior post–I’m not the OP of this thread.

      • this this this… I think the stats are that 1/2 or 2/3 of people under 34 have a tattoo or piercing (not counting regular earrings), although there are some senior people who might judge, they’re the minority and one’s work should outshine her/his extra earring or a small wrist tattoo… so sad that great workers could be overlooked for such in today’s society.

    • phillygirlruns :

      for reference, i am 30. i took out my tongue and tragus piercings during law school – the tragus i removed permanently when i began working for a federal judge my 1L summer, and i removed my tongue ring permanently sometime during my 3L year. when i interviewed and during my time as a biglaw summer associate, i took the tongue ring out for work but wore it the rest of the time. at some point the tongue ring started to feel silly, which is when i officially decided i was too old for it – i think i was about 24.

      while it’s probably much more common for people “my age” (born in the late 70s/early 80s) to have nontraditional piercings, i don’t think that has made it in any way acceptable in a business casual work environment. i still have second holes pierced in each of my earlobes and would never consider wearing two sets of earrings at once (though i have occasionally used the second holes instead of the first set for heavier earrings, since 25+ years of continuous earring wear has made my first holes begin to stretch out).

  16. I think a lot of the mindset about toughing it out and working while sick comes from years of school – from kindergarten through graduate school. Not only do schools discourage absenses for any reason, but making up work and quizzes and tests when you’re in school is quite difficult. Add to that the pressure to perform through illness when you’re in any kind of extracurricular, and it’s no wonder as adults we feel the need to drag ourselves to work no matter what.

  17. Anonymous :

    When I was pregnant, I never considered myself someone with a “suppressed immune system.” But now I have a disease that requires taking immunosuppressant drugs. Is there a polite way to decline a networking meeting under these circumstances (when someone discloses a cold) without going into the gory details? I am diligent about handwashing but I caught a cough this winter that lasted 8 weeks. And as inconvenient and uncomfortable as that was, I am also at greater risk for serious infections that people with normal immune systems may not recognize as more than a “cold.” Short of being a germ freak or wearing a surgical mask, what can I do?

    • I don’t think you can do anything. Its unfortunate that you have this health issue. As I stated above, though, you can only do what you can do. You can’t control others’ actions. Also, you have recognize that everyone has their own “issues.” Everyone has a reason for doing what they are doing. In fact, most people that are sick would probably rather be at home with a soap opera and some soup. But, they have a (real or perceived) reason why they can’t be. Just as you have a reason why you are extra sensitive or susceptible to germs.

      • she was asking what to do “When someone discloses they have a cold.” I am assuming she meant, if she gets the email Kat mentioned above that says: I am feeling under the weather. I am happy to do the mtg today if rescheduling is a problem, etc.

        I think in that case she being perfectly reasonable to take the person up on rescheduling, and she doesn’t need to go into the whys.

        I am not sure if you mean it this way, but your responses to this seem really harsh and defensive to me. If someone has immune system issues, I think they are within their rights to take some additional steps to protect themselves from people with illnesses/germs. It seems like you are saying that is some kind of selfish, unreasonable thing.

        • agreed, anon seems to have an attitude that s/he has every right to show up to an office full of people and risk getting everyone there sick because s/he doesn’t feel like staying home.

          -this- is why people get sick so often, because the single person with the illness doesn’t rest his/her body (which is what the body needs) and instead decides to put everyone else at risk (which is bad for the entire office).

          you’re not doing yourself or your company any favors by coming in and you’re not helpful here by being so harsh and snarky.

        • Anonymous :

          That was my question: how to respond to the approach Kat suggested above. I am accustomed not to say no, rather to accommodate the other person. But I am realizing that, beyond my responsibility to take care of myself, it’s not fair to my coworkers or clients for me to get very sick, particularly given my lengthy recovery time.

      • they don’t need to be 100% off with a soap opera and soup. many tasks can be done remotely.

        pregnant people do have repressed immune systems- that is fact- you are lucky if nothing hit you hard! plus you can’t take most drugs so are at higher risk for it getting worse/longer etc.

    • dont need to overshare, just get to the point. “Oh, I am sorry you are feeling under the weather. I would prefer to reschedule, how does ___day at Xpm work for you? Hope you feel better soon!”

  18. anon in tejas :

    I have a coworker who is super obnoxious about getting sick from others. she’ll just flat out tell you to go home. And then she’ll scold you on covering your cough inappropriately. seriously.

    I work at a nonprofit legal aid agency. I have ton of sick time banked. I use it regularly, but am at excess hours. Also, I don’t have kids, and I think that if I did, I’d use it a lot more (like my coworkers do)

    • I have a co-worker like that. If I have a brief due, or a hearing that can’t be rescheduled, I have to come in unless I’m at death’s door. I can just imagine the reaction of a judge if I tried to reschedule a hearing on a motion because I had a cold. Or get an extension on a deadline for filing a brief. Sometimes, you just have to work sick, and try not to infect anyone else. If you wash your hands a lot, and use hand sanitizer, I really don’t think it’s that big of a risk. It’s not like I go around coughing in people’s faces.

  19. karenpadi :

    I am late to the party today but I’m hoping that someone might be hanging out.

    Re: networking lunches. Our office manager insists that business etiquette requires that the restaurant be “not exotic” (i.e., American, Italian, French). We are in the Bay Area (lots of food choices) so this seems arbitrary.

    I’m noticing that more and more people are vegan, gluten-free, or some other diet where the traditional cuisines may not be ideal. In these instances, and according to the philosophy that etiquette exists to make guests feel welcome and comfortable, a more “ethnic” cuisine might be preferable. I’m thinking Thai, Vietnamese, or Middle Eastern where there are naturally more vegan or gluten-free options.

    I am starting to invite business guests with a choice of one of each. I figure that a person with a strict diet can choose choice B without explaining her dietary restrictions, or propose another choice B-type restaurant that does meet her requirement.

    In my experience, it’s been 50/50 and completely unpredictable which choice the guest will choose.

    What does the hive think of this?

    • Oil in Houston :

      hi,
      as someone who is : vegetarian, gluten intolerant, and allergic to cinnamon (ie no Indian food), I’ll give my $0.02…

      First and foremost, I need a restaurant with choice, I don’t care if we go to an American, French, or Thai, as long as I am going to be able to find veggie food, wit no gluten, and no cinnamon. So going to a steakhouse that does not offer shellfish is horrible, similarly, doing to an Italian that doesn’t do risotto means I’ll eat salad…
      But – ‘exotic’ restaurants might have everything pre-prepared (sauces pre-made for instance), so they might not be able to cater for specific needs (e.g. someone allergic to garlic or chillies), or even know what is in their food (with or without MSG for instance?).

      Bottom line for me: is the restaurant offering enough choice for people to navigate around their preference, is it of high enough quality that the chef can improvise something if need be?

      So that’s my answer on the type of food.

      The other thing I’d think about is what type of people will attend: chances are, if they’re American and of a certain age, they might not enjoy exotic food. If they’re younger, they won’t care.

      hope it helps!

      • Why do so many “vegetarians” call themselves that when they eat fish? Is this why I got served so much fish and chicken back when I was a vegetarian?

    • I’m surprised to hear that this is your office manager’s take, because easily half or more of my business networking lunches here in the Bay Area are with contacts who by ethnicity and/or heritage are Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Southeast Asian, Asian-American, from the Indian subcontinent, Middle Eastern, Iranian, Persian, Turkish, Latino/a, Mexican, etc. etc. etc.

      I do think your solution is a good one (proposing one of each). If I’m making the reservation, I generally ask my contact/guest whether they have any food restrictions or preferences. And I wouldn’t normally book somewhere that I know has a very limited menu (like five entree options) or has only one vegetarian/vegan option other than a salad.

    • I’d be really enraged if someone took me out to lunch in the Bay Area and all I got was a hamburger.. Do give people options. Collect statistics. In a year or so, you may be able to demonstrate to the office manager that she’s out to lunch herself. Is she from the midwest or something??

    • Liz (Europe) :

      Asian food venues often have their sauce pre-prepared, and it’s likely to contain soy (a common allergy) without them knowing it.
      Really great for those with allergies is if the food venue cooks from scratch and has the menu on their website with all of the ingrediënts just listed. Otherwise, typically something can be arranged if you can call a restaurant in advance and talk to the head chef to explain your needs (the more serious food venues take allergies very seriously). So reservations in advance are necessary, as is communicating the websites and phone numbers of the restaurants you’re considering to those who will attend; if that can’t be arranged, try for a food venue with as accessible a chef as possible (so any needs can be addressed on the spot).

      If you’ve found a good food venue that accomodates people’s needs: stick with it. When you have allergies, it feels very re-assuring to eat at a place that you know won’t “poison” you. There’s nothing like the fear of being “poisoned” to take the joy out of even the best of foods.

  20. I just want to add a vent to this thread. The whole “coming into the office when you’re sick vs. not” is such a “dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t” thing that it almost makes me angry sometimes.

    I’m in Biglaw and I think cbackson’s post above is right on when she said — “But I can’t work from home every time I have a cold, because working from home a lot also creates an impression of unseriousness/unreliability.”

    This is exactly the problem with the Biglaw culture. (And yes, I really wish I could get out, but I can’t, right now.) If you stay home when you’re sick, you’re uncommitted; but if you come in while sick, some people think you’re rude for bringing your germs into the office. And my particular vent is that there is generally no accommodation made for anyone with chronic health issues — if you have any sort of chronic condition, or simply just get sick more often than some other people do, then you’re seen as uncommitted or unable to work at this unrealistic level that, frankly, few people can sustain for very long anyways.

    So here’s my question for anyone out there who wants to give their advice. Imagine you’re a midlevel associate in Biglaw, and have a chronic health condition (and can evidence this with doctors backing you up on everything), and are considering asking for accommodation (like under the ADA) so that you could work from home 1 day/week, or so? Or, hell, what about asking to work a reduced hour schedule — like 85% or 80% — but indefinitely, not just for some X period of time while you recover from giving birth or something acute/temporary). How do you think this would be received? A career killer? I suspect so, but I’m hoping someone will tell me otherwise. Has anyone ever actually asked for something like this, and gotten it, and not had any bad consequences later on down the line that made them regret it? In addition (and I hesitate to even add this), would the advice change if the chronic medical condition is mental health related?

    Thanks in advance for any responses… Definitely interested to see what people’s opinions would be on this. Thanks.

    • Can you tell us why you can’t get out of BigLaw? Is it because of money? Because when I went from BigLaw to in-house, I found the culture to be a lot more accommodating, from no billable hours to HR trainings on how to be a good manager. I was shocked by the number of people in the HR department (in most corporations, recruiters are different from HR training people, who are different from the people who run the summer programs). SO, my in-house manager (a male) worked from home every Wednesday in order to be able to take his son to his therapy appointments on Wednesday afternoons. I was surprised because the manager also has a SAH wife and parents nearby. BigLaw is very much an exclusive club where it’s “survival of the fittest” and if you’re not “in” with the best of them, you will not make partner. That’s my 2 cents.

  21. I haven’t read the comments yet, but find it surprising this is a post. The answer is no. There is NO ONE who wants your illness best case, worst case you are exposing people you don’t realize may have compromised immune systems to illness that could have serious consequences. Call it in or reschedule.

  22. I just was in a townhall meeting where my colleague sneezed 27 times behind me.
    I am hypochondriac.. nightmare.

  23. I have a son in daycare, and he’s has the sniffles at least 50% of the time during flu season. For example, we’ve had at least two bouts of colds in the last month. Regardless of how much time off I get, it will never be enough if I take off every time I’m contagious. This doesn’t even include the time I lose when the baby is sick, and I have to stay home with him.

  24. Liz (Europe) :

    Speaking as someone with an allergy to not one but several types of antibiotics: if you give me something like a strep throat knowingly and nearly on purpose, I will likely spend the several weeks sick at home searching for even more spamming lists to subscribe your e-mail address to.

    My point is, share the love – don’t share the disease. If you have to work, try to work from home, if you have to go to work, use desinfectant on everything, wash your hands, avoid sneezing at colleagues and look to limit, not broaden, your contacts. Others will thank you.

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