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Picture this, a woman sits at her desk coughing and sneezing into a soiled piece of tissue. As she does, looking sick and miserable, her co-worker tells her that her appointment (a customer) is here to meet with her. For a moment, she sighs in anticipation of the ghastly prospect of meeting while feeling sooooo sick. Suddenly the Alka Seltzer cartoon character appears to assure her that with him, everything will be just fine. “Yes, Ms. Office Cubicle Hero, you too can be the strong trooper for your company and even sick, can grind through your day – because Alka Seltzer will ease your symptoms!”

What the ad fails to convey is that Ms. Office Cubicle Hero will most probably infect over half the office with her illness, not to mention her customers! Now how irresponsible is that??!! Unfortunately, many companies still don’t get it.

Pressuring people to come in sick only worsens the level of productivity and loyalty. Customers don’t like it either. For many, it is almost akin to doing business in a dirty rest room. You wouldn’t  want to meet there, would you?

While conducting employee interviews designed to improve motivation and performance, we run across this issue and concern too often. “Why, personnel will ask, are we expected to come in sick and infect our fellow workers?” Not only is this kind of policy short sighted from the perspective of productivity, but it is also a policy that breeds resentment and passive aggressive behavior.

Customer surveys reflect an equally negative perception, particularly in food service sectors. Wrote one customer, “I am glad to have had the opportunity to fill out this survey today. I really have a problem with your establishment having my food served by someone who is obviously sick and should not have come to work. Consider this note as my “never to return again notice. My money is better spent on businesses that actually care about their people and customers alike!”

It is time that this be a hero by coming in sick mentality be stamped out once and for all. Let’s begin with responsible HR policies regarding sick leave (even in a bad economy), and hope that the proprietors of items that mask the symptoms, but not cure the illness will get the message as well.

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