Friday, 3 July 2015
Ah, the trials of work, what with summer holidays, staff throwing sickies and this weather making everybody down tools at the stroke of end o’clock, buggering off to spend a few hours with their kids in the few long evenings before we feel the approaching shadows and mists of autumn's mellow fruitfulness. It wouldn’t be so bad but I’m struggling to maintain progress with a major new project while the new fella, Mike, who is supposed to be sharing some of the load, calls in every other day with an increasingly inventive reason for not turning to.
Monday, he had the temerity to claim some sort of non-specific winter vomiting bug. When I queried the ‘winter’ part he gave me a lengthy string of medical vernacular designed to obfuscate and confuse, but I wasn’t having any of it. I told him he’d better be there on Tuesday or disciplinary proceedings may follow. Sure enough he dragged his sorry arse into work on Tuesday and we got to work. I say ‘we’, but a fat lot of good he was, burping and farting his way through a long and arduous day. By the end I was almost tempted to tell him not to come in on Wednesday; the moaning and groaning was distracting in the extreme.
I’m glad I didn’t; it would have been a waste of breath as Wednesday, what a surprise, I took a call about his continued stomach ache, swollen legs and all-over malaise. I had a word with HR and they said he had some sort of medical condition that manifested itself in such symptoms but they couldn’t tell me what it was, for confidentiality reasons. But in their view my request for a written warning was excessive and I should cut him some slack. I admit to feeling just a tiny bit guilty, so when he called in sick again yesterday, instead of ripping him a new one I offered some advice.
Mike, I said, you need to maybe get de-stressed. All that pent-up guilt at not coming in, the anxiety of wondering what we’re saying about you when you’re not here. The worry of whether or not you will still have a job at the end of the month – it’s got to be preying on your mind. Maybe you just need to relax, unwind, get it out of your system. He agreed that yes, he had been feeling the pressure and asked if I had any suggestions. Well, I said, I’m away on business tonight, else I’d invite you to my local and we could share a pint or two; get to know each other better and find a way forge a good working relationship.
Even on the phone I could sense his shoulders sag, hear his disappointment. I didn’t want to end the call on a low note so I pressed on. Hey, I said, you know what I do when I feel really down? When I feel the whole world is against me I tell my wife. She comforts me, tells me everything is going to be all right and then we have sex. It never fails; you could try that. He seemed to cheer up a little so I bade him goodnight and said, as much as I didn’t believe it, that I’d see him in the morning.
Oh me of little faith! Bright and early the next morning Mike arrived looking energetic and happy. Wow, I said, you look great; how do you feel? Mike shook my hand and grinned, “I feel marvellous!” he said, “all thanks to you.” He continued, “I thought about what you said, about how you talk to your wife and then you have sex and it’s all good again and I decided to take your advice. And now look at me, I feel fine!” I felt good too, it was nice to see him looking positive again. “Yep” Mike continued “it was just what I needed. And may I just say what a lovely house you have...”