A co-worker is off on stress leave, but I am suspicious. I think he is just taking a paid vacation. I want to share my concerns with somebody: would you recommend I speak to his supervisor (our boss)?
Stress is a significant factor in today’s workplace and, in fact, many experts believe more people are experiencing stress than even a decade ago.
Some statistics suggest that up to 40 per cent of workers believe their job is very stressful. In addition, about a quarter of the people in one survey feel their job is the greatest stressor.
We spend so much time of our waking life on the job that it is not surprising that so much of our stress originates there. Our employment gives us regular compensation, security, and relationships with many colleagues – it is precious to us.
We all know people who are unprepared for the strains of life. A traumatic situation suddenly presents itself and the result can be extremely self-absorbed behavior. The impact on individuals varies dramatically.
In the case of the co-worker who has selected to stay off work, he may be experiencing genuine stress and is not emotionally capable of performing his work responsibilities.
He could have opted to take stress leave – which is no doubt a recognized HR category for time off – because he sincerely believes he cannot function at this time in the workplace.
He might even be afraid he could “blow up” and act in such a manner that would be embarrassing for himself and others: this would be especially relevant should he have any customer contact.
Stress leave, then, can be a legitimate reason to be excused from work although if it is taken somewhat regularly, there could be a greater concern that will need to be addressed by management.
You are suspicious of this employee’s behavior, I would suggest your attitude to him probably transcends his absence; perhaps you and he are not collegial and there may be a mutual lack of respect.
In addition, if you have little regard for his work performance, you will see his stress leave as another example of a lower work ethic. This will be particularly relevant if you have been required to assume some of his responsibilities.
I’d recommend you give him the benefit of the doubt, at least if his absence is an isolated occurrence. If he is genuinely stressed out, it would be good to show him so understanding and welcome him back when he returns.
He might be simulating some of the characteristics of stress, but he still may be unable to perform at an acceptable level at this time. Don’t mention your concerns to others – which could become gossip – and instead focus on your duties and be prepared to be sympathetic once he is back on the job.
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