How to Ask for Sick Days

Recently, a member asked colleagues how to handle sick days.

It’s a good question, one that’s frequently asked by many who are new to the business of administrative support.

Oftentimes, the person isn’t yet owning her role as a business owner (what I refer to as still being in employee mindset). She goes about things as if she were still in a subservient role to her clients and feels they must ask for their permission.

If you are wondering about this, too, here is my advice:

Your mindset about your business and your ownership of it is going to be vital as you grow in your business. It’s important to remember that you are not your clients’ employee. You are a partner to them and an independent business owner who makes her own decisions and determinations about your business and operations.

As an independent business, you don’t have to “ask” anyone for permission on whether it’s okay to take a day off. You simply let folks know you are closed.

This is important to understand because the permissions you give clients control over in your own business are doing to directly impact your ability to grow your business in ways that you prefer, to stay happy in that business (and not burn out or become resentful), and to begin to build a business that not only creates profit in terms of income, but also freedom and flexibility.

What also what helps naviigate these situations is to establish your policies ahead of time and make clients aware of them upfront.

If you haven’t yet, now is a great time to devise your office closure policy and then let all your clients know about that policy. People always handle things much better when they know what the guidelines are in advance and what to expect.

This is an example of what is referred to as “managing expectations.” When you set the expectations upfront, things will always go much better for you in practical application.

The problems come in when we let clients form expectations that don’t allow us room to breathe in our own businesses and to take those days off when we need to for whatever reason.

Doing instant, on-demand work (as if you were their daily, beck-and-call assistant) and being in constant, daily contact with clients is one way you  cause clients to form those kind of constrictive, unsustainable expectations. Instead of independent business owners, they begin to see you as their employee, their worker bee who needs to ask them permission to do things.

One way to combat that is to set work request procedures and turn-around policies that give you the freedom and breathing room to take time off and not be chained to your desk day in and day out.

Changing how you talk with clients in these situations will have a huge affect on how they view your relationship. If you approach the conversation from a position of asking for permission, you are telling the client that they control you and are subservient to them. They won’t view you as an equal, independent business partner.

Instead of a mindset seeking permission, look upon your notice to clients that you will be closed for the day (or whatever the situation may be) as a helpful customer courtesy.

Letting them know as early as you can, and when they may expect you to be back open and how or what they can do in the meantime is going to make all the difference in maintaining a healthy respectful relationship of partners AND excellent client relations.

2 Responses

  1. Trudy says:

    You have managed to amaze me yet again! Excellent advice for newbies!!

    I totally agree with what you wrote especially the part about on-demand work. I was guilty of this at first. Now, I just schedule the assignment into my calendar to where it allows me to work on my time without being rushed or chained to my desk for hours. It sure eliminates the stress.

  2. I’m so glad you commented, Trudy. 🙂

    Many new colleagues don’t understand this advice because they think it’s their “job” to respond immediately to every client request.

    But once they have more than one or two clients, as you’ve found, they begin to understand why that kind of operating model is unsustainable. Because the irony is that working in that kind of immediate, on-demand, instant capacity actually makes it impossible to be responsive to clients.

    Quality of work goes down. Quality of service goes down. Balls are dropped. Client trust and confidence is eroded.

    That’s because if you are jumping to respond instantly and killing yourself to take care of every client request the same day, you have to constantly stop what you’re already doing, switch gears, lose focus and waste time trying to regroup and regain your concentration.

    That’s a sure-fire recipe for stress, overwhelm and resentment. A person who responds to everything like that makes more frequent mistakes, dumb ones that would never happen under more reasonable, business-like operating conditions. (I had this reported to me over and over from AssistU trained people in particular, where they are taught to operate like assistants.)

    And trust me, I speak from experience, lol. When I was new in business, I had the same misguided thinking. The way I understood how to provide administrative support, the only frame of reference I had, was to do it in the same way as I did when I was an employee.

    The problem with that, however, is that I’m not working with one employer. As a business, one that serves many clients and needs to earn revenues I can actually earn a living from, from a practical standpoint, I simply can’t operate my business day-to-day like that.

    I got smart about that REAL quick.

    The solution was to rethink what it meant to be an administrative support BUSINESS and how that support is provided. It’s simply not going to be or be delivered in the same way as an assistant/employee.

    The key here was separating the idea of being an assistant from providing administrative support. Administrative support is a business function and specific expertise. Being an assistant is a role. They are not one and the same thing. However, it’s been so ingrained into us the idea of “administrative assistant” that people just accept it by rote—until it is pointed out to them. Then they realize they’ve been putting themselves in a box all along!

    Along with this, I also needed to set different expectations in clients so they understood from the get-go how we would be working together and the idea that this ISN’T going to be the same thing as having an employee.

    And then I created a system of work request management and turn-around that I could communicate upfront with clients before we started working together so they always knew within certain timeframes what to expect.

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