You Are Your Desk Accessories
I once worked with some real party animals. One guy, one girl. Both were prone to call outs and missing time from work as a result of their hard living weekends. But what’s really weird is the perception of work call offs. And that is the purpose of this piece. To talk about the view and reaction of coworkers and employers when a man calls off work versus when a woman does.
Let me just say it’s not equal. So this story is 100% true though the names have been changed.
Brad was a 24 year old guy who liked living like a rock star. He wasn’t in a band, but partied like he was. He was a few years younger than me so he was sort of like a little brother, calling me for help and guidance from time to time. One night he called me because he was throwing a party with coke and hookers – literally. I had to pass, I mean it was 10pm and I had to work the next day. Really, I just imagined cops raiding the place so I was too afraid to go. I wished him luck and said I would see him at work.
Well he didn’t show up to work the next day. Everyone asked where he was and the boss came out furious and said “Brad just doesn’t care about his job. This is unacceptable behavior and we are considering action”. They meant they were thinking about firing him. Now no one had any idea why he wasn’t there, but he was known as a bit of a party boy.
The assumption here is that he was partying, and yep he was. And the behavior, just not showing up for work, was inappropriate. He had a couple of lateness occurrences on his record. Something like an hour or two here and there which is why everyone was making the assumption that he was passed out on a floor somewhere.
Just a desk away I had another friend. Sara was a 26 year old single mom who partied harder than just about anyone I ever met – Brad included. We were pretty close and she was pretty open and honest, telling me a lot of things about her life as friends will do in time. I had been to a few of her parties, large affairs with 50+ people and bottles of flowing tequila.
Like I said she partied hard, and it usually lasted the weekend. It started becoming a trend that she would call off Monday mornings. The first time she did it I texted her and asked if she was ok. She said yeah….”we did some crystal last night and I’m still feeling it”. Next time she called off was when she decided to have a tequila drinking contest on a Sunday night … which of course meant waking up mid Monday afternoon and another missed day of work.
The thing is, when Sara called off she was smart – or at least deceptive. She made up excuses like “I’m having issues with my kids” which was 100% untrue. She was just as drunk or stoned as Brad was but since she was a “brave single mom” no one thought anything different.
So it became almost like a competition between Brad and Sarah. Who could party harder and call off more often. Being that I was pretty close friends with both I was in the middle of it all. I got the texts when they were not coming in and a recap of what left them in their withered, beleaguered state by Monday morning.
What I noticed was that Brad, he partied on occasion and would end up missing a half day of work. He did this maybe once a month. Totally unacceptable if you knew why he was calling off – partying. But let’s say you didn’t know why he was calling off? A half day off of work once a month. I mean that’s a pretty reasonable request. Many employers offer much more time off than that as part of their benefits packages. So from the outside looking in – Brads time off was completely normal. But when you know why he can't make it to work, suddenly it's unacceptable.
With Sara, she started calling off every Monday alternating excuses between “kid trouble” and the other favorite escape route of women “it’s my time of the month”. The thing is her “time of the month” occurred 2-3 times per month.
Now if you were to call a woman on this bs, you’d be in the HR office for sexism. Then, she also started needing Friday afternoons off to start getting ready for the weekend party … or as the boss thought – “to pick up my kids because their dad can’t anymore”. So now Sara was missing most Mondays and half of Friday - talk about an abbreviated week.
Yet no one bothered to confront Sara on her absenteeism. Instead she was viewed as the brave single mom who did her best, but who sometimes just couldn't make it to work.
Sure, there were a few rumblings about needing the time off - but it was mostly sympathy for Sara and her tough time as a brave single mom. Virtually zero questions about her flakiness. For Brad, he was constantly under the microscope. The boss looking over to his desk at 7:59 and saying out loud “I wonder if Brad’s showing up today.” Now if you knew their personal lives both of these employees would be on the do not hire list. But looking at their performance I would say they were pretty equal.
Brad was the type to make the occasional big sale. One big order a week. Sara did the slow and steady – a bunch of orders that added up. By the end of the month, usually the two were just about equal in performance. Which one would you choose to hire?
Base your decision on this: Brad misses one half or a full day per month. Sara misses most Mondays and half of every Friday just about every single week. From a raw numbers standpoint, they are equal in performance. You make your own decision, but should these two make the same salary? Brad is there more often overall, makes the occasional big sale with big accounts. He probably has the chance of landing and selling to more accounts overall. If you’re looking for steady performance that probably has little chance of ever really being standout, then Sara makes sense.
What is the lesson in all this, my grasshoppers? People judge you by your desk accessories.
A picture of kids on a desk is unfairly the standard by which your boss is going to decide if your work place call off or lateness is acceptable. In the current climate of sexism and discrimination being blamed for everything, it makes sense for you, the single male, to make sure your desk accessories and story up up to snuff. I do not advocate for calling off of work to party, and I don't advocate for partying so hard you can't make it in to work the next day. But if you're a guy living life to the fullest - a little preparation can make or break you at work the next day.
What missing in the photo above? A picture of the family. Now if you don't have family it's going to be hard to put one in a frame on your desk. But just about everyone has a niece or nephew and that can be your saving grace. Get a picture with a kid, put it in a frame on your desk and voila - an excuse for missing work that no one will ever question. Hell, if you have to use a little Photoshop. Sure it's a little shady, but why have to explain your lateness when the single mom at work does not?
Keep in mind, you will need a backstory. Perhaps you have custody of the little one. Maybe you're a single dad who only gets part time visitation rights - and it just happens to be the weekend of a big party is also the weekend you have your kid (wink wink). Keep the story simple - don't offer many details, but make sure everyone knows how their mom will randomly change plans on you, necessitating you leave to get them at any moment.
Now in all honesty, I don't think an employer should have the right to question a lateness or tardiness if it falls within company guidelines. Many work places use a point based system that tracks lateness's in a time period. But I have even seen this system fail the single man. I've witnesses a few single moms get one more "last chance" to improve their attendance and performance due to the 'tough personal issues' they are facing.
A single guy will not get that same saving grace. Preparing yourself with a little 'family photo' on the desk and some vague details along the way will set things up perfectly when your buddies want to hit a strip club at the spur of the moment.