Justin Bieber is not a role model -- go home if you're sick

Oct. 2, 2012 at 7:30 AM ET

Bryan Steffy / Getty Images /
Sure the show must go on for a performer. But work can probably get by without you if you're ill.

It’s easy to make fun of teen heartthrobs, but let’s face it: You don’t become a pop star unless you’re willing to work really hard and make all sorts of sacrifices.

Still, the news over the weekend that Justin Bieber threw up onstage during a concert -- and then continued the performance -- was a bit extreme, even by the fame-at-all-costs standards of the entertainment industry. 

We may not all be pop stars, but most of us can relate to the feeling that you have to power through your work day even when it’s the last place you want to be.

Here’s the deal, overachievers: No matter how much work you get done that day, your staff, co-workers and customers are not going to appreciate it if you pull a Bieber in the cubicle farm.

“I don’t think anybody would argue with me: There is a rule that says, ‘Don’t hurl on your teammates.’ I think most people would agree with it,” said Jim Webber, who does workplace training on preventing harassment and runs an advice blog called Evil Skippy at Work.

It’s not just the “ick” factor -- one sick office mate can quickly create a germ factory that can kill productivity for weeks.

“You definitely are doing a disservice to your employees by coming to work sick,” said Rachel Wagner, a corporate etiquette expert who does consulting work for companies. “Nobody wants to get sick from somebody else and when you’re throwing up, obviously, it’s usually something that can be passed along.”


Wagner acknowledges that plenty of driven, career-oriented people -- including some that she knows personally -- will head to the office almost no matter how sick they are.

Some also may feel like they have no choice because they don’t have paid sick leave. And in other cases, she notes, people may be afraid to call in sick because they are worried about job security.

“They can be fearful of using too many sick days. That it shows, in today’s economy, that maybe you’re not loyal,” she said.

Webber said that mentality is often the product of bad management. A company with a strong corporate culture might make an extra effort to remind employees to stay home if they are sick, or work from home if they absolutely must.

But, he lamented, most employers don’t do that. Instead, they push people to come to the office no matter what.

It can be tricky, Wagner said, but there are polite ways to suggest that your colleague, or even your boss, might want to head home for the day. She suggests framing it as a question.

“I believe sometimes you just have to be upfront,” she said. “If it’s a peer (then) you can say, ‘Bill, I’m so sorry that you’re not feeling well. You should probably just go on home and get some rest because you don’t want everybody else to get sick.’”

If that fails, Webber said it’s appropriate to go to that person’s supervisor and suggest that the person be sent home.

It’s one thing to be Bieber, Lady Gaga or any other performer who has it drilled into them from day one that the show must go on. But many people may not want to go home because they think the office just can’t function without them. Webber advises against that sort of thinking.

“Do you really think you’re that indispensable? A lot of people … they’re just not being realistic about what’s going to happen if they’re not there,” Webber said.

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