Is there such a reason calling in sick but it’s not a sick day it’s a “mental health” day?
As in this employee is too depressed, having extreme anxiety, a mental breakdown of sorts. Managers are no psychologists to determine the level of mental health sickness an employee is going through. It’s actually a private ordeal which is why individuals speak privately to therapists and/or psychologists and they cannot utter any words that have come from said individual, so this makes the situation very tricky and at most times uncomfortable to even deal with. How many times has an employee even called in saying “I need a mental health day”? Or “I’m severely depressed right now which is making me weak and tired so I cannot come into work today”? Or “My anxiety level is extremely high and I’ve been having panic attacks off and on all day so I can’t come into work today”.
I had gotten this whole concept to write about through reading on our Facebook page (which you should all go check out) that an employee consistently calls in because they are “tired” and a lot of comments said maybe it’s a mental health issue and to ask that employee to elaborate on their situation. So the idea itself stemmed from just a few comments like that, but then a lot of managers said they’ve never even had that type of call in happen, a “mental illness” sick day. I assume this doesn’t happen because like I’ve said before, it’s a very private condition and most only want to speak about it to their therapist or psychologist so it remains private. And let’s say we ask the employee to elaborate on their situation of why they’re tired? There’s quite a bit of stigma surrounding the issue, so do we just throw it out there like “hey are you depressed? having anxiety?”. Also, I’m assuming there are certain policies surrounding the entire Mental Health issue of calling out of work.
All of the managers I witnessed commenting in our Facebook group on that particular post hadn’t dealt with any Mental Health call-ins. Well as soon as I thought about putting my own two cents in the comments, I thought to myself, this would be a great topic to write about. But I was going to put in my two pennies because I actually had dealt with an employee who would text or call me because of her Mental Health issues. This particular employee was hired right before I had taken over the store from being an ASM to SM and was told she was a great worker and from what I had witnessed in a week, she was wonderful. Now there’s a back story to this employee, or it could be considered gossip as well, however you take it. There are about 9 stores currently in my city and this new employee of mine happened to be the niece of another Store Manager, so she was very familiar with how the store operated already.
So long story short, I was in training at another store with a training Store Manager who is “best friends” with said Store Manager’s Aunt and began to tell me that the niece was messed up in the head to watch out for her, that she’d abuse the policies and if I wrote her up and/or terminated her that the Aunt would try to retaliate against me. All that kind of talk came from my training Store Manager about my employee and her Aunt. While I was training my employee called me to call in sick because she had a mental breakdown and hadn’t slept in a day or so; I’m extremely understanding to any form of Mental Illnesses because my Mother happens to be on every medication to help her Mental Health there is and I was, at the time on anti-depressants dealing with my own Mental Health. That being said I was very understanding and told her no problem, I hope she gets some sleep and feels better and I’ll cover her shift. That was the first of many episodes dealing with this young lady while being employed at my store.
I’m out of training at this point which was shortly after her first call in due to Mental Health reasons, so I go and find her and check-in, make sure she’s doing alright, she says yes and seems very enthused to be working there. A day later, she’s scheduled to come in around 9:00am and I always try to get to the bank to drop deposits and get change orders complete early on in the day so I was at the bank when she arrived to work right. I come back and my ASM tells me she had a “mental breakdown” while being on the register checking out a customer. That she just went blank and wasn’t “there” and walked off outside to smoke a cigarette and left customers waiting until my ASM witnessed her being gone. She proceeded to tell my ASM she can’t be on the register anymore or she’ll have another “mental breakdown” and that she wanted to work freight.
So this is all backtracked while I’m still at the bank and my ASM calls me to confirm that it’s good to go that she just works freight and I confirm yes. Of course, I go to her and make sure everything is alright and she said yes but she doesn’t want to be on the register anymore. I had to tell her that is part of her job description and she will be on the register a majority of most of her shifts. She complies but still says she’d rather not be on the register. So let me tell everybody one thing about this job at this store; nobody likes being on the register, period, including myself but it’s part of the job.
Anyway, a few days go by and she texts me asking if she can come in a few hours late because she’s tired and needs to sleep. I have extra hours in the budget at this time so I don’t mind and tell her that’s fine. She texts me the day after and after for the same exact thing for the same exact reason and I give her hours to someone else who wanted overtime, no big deal but the last time she asked, I told her that was it and I wasn’t doing it anymore. Days go by and she’s working a night shift and my ASM is working with her, she’s on the register so my ASM is on the floor working and cannot see upfront. My ASM goes up to the registers to drop off an item that is damaged and notices a long line and she’s missing, completely gone, she’s not outside smoking, she’s not in the break room, she’s absolutely nowhere to be found. I had to call in another employee to close with my ASM and I call and text the girl who just left without telling anybody, I get no response. I cover her next shift ahead of time assuming she just walked out and quit.
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Finally after texts and calls the next day, I call her Aunt to get in touch with this girl to see if she quit or what is going on with her. I have to be cautious because I am afraid to just terminate this employee because what if the Mental Illness comes back as an excusable reason to act out like that and she can sue or receive unemployment etc. The Aunt gets in touch with her and she tells me, she will call me in 4 hours(which I thought was weird that I had an actual set time that she was calling me).
She calls me 4 hours later and tells me she’s sorry that she just walked out and left, she was having a mental breakdown but she had something she wanted to talk to me about. What did she 4 hours later need to talk to me about so bad? Apparently, her reason for not wanting to be on the register is because numerous guys would continuously flirt and hit on her and it made her extremely uncomfortable. That’s why she was calling in and that’s why she wanted to show up hours later, that’s the reason for everything she did. My store does happen to be in a bad part of the city and yes the men that come have no shame at all and do hit on the girls at the register so I completely believe that happened. But why all the “mental health” excuses and not just telling me straightforward that was the issue?
So I’m left confused on the phone with her but come to an understanding(as I am keeping in mind that I do not want any drama with her Aunt) so I ask her if she’d like to be transferred to a store that’s in a better area of the city and that I could make it happen easily, she complied and said yes that’s what I want. I call my good SM friend at another store and we get her transferred over there. Now I’m finally done with the whole situation and another SM can deal with it, hopefully, at a better store area, she will be good to go. Again, long story very short, she continued the same mental breakdown problems and issues at this other store that she did with me and that SM ended up terminating her because she did the same exact thing to her and just walked out one night. Which is job abandonment obviously and grounds for automatic termination. I was just being pretty damn understanding about the situation and cautious than this other Store Manager. No backfire happened with the termination at all, everything went smooth.
So the question remains, is Mental Health call-ins a real situation to take seriously and not question? Most can agree that depression, anxiety and bipolar diseases do exist in people and can have outbreaks even taking their medication correctly. Some do not agree and think it’s all in their head and can be treated by just sucking it up as “normal” people do. Everybody is entitled to their own opinions but do we place our own opinions on a mental health call in at work? How far and extreme do we become to get answers from the employee calling in with that reasoning? These are all questions we’re not trained on answering much. As I’ve stated, I understand the mental illness situations because of my own history with myself and my family but should have I been so compromising with her?
Let us know in the comments what you would have done. What would you do in that situation? Do you believe in a “Mental Health” call in? Give us your opinion on the entire issue which isn’t talked about much in retail nor any employment in fact. Should there be separate training on how exactly to deal with an individual employee calling in sick for mental health reasons? I believe there should be, in my opinion. What’s your opinion?