Too scared to be sick

TNS says we're too scared of our managers to take sick leave. Maybe that's why it rebuffed WPP...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Here at MT, we’re nothing if not realists. So when we woke up on Tuesday morning after a long bank holiday, to see London bathed in glorious sunshine, we couldn’t help feeling that less conscientious types might be tempted to prolong the weekend a little further by calling in sick. But if the thought did cross your mind, it was probably fear of authority that persuaded you otherwise. According to market research firm TNS, about two-thirds of us come to work even when we’re ill because we’re worried ‘what the boss might think’ if we stay at home.

And it’s not just fear of the boss that is dragging us off our sick bed. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they’d come in regardless because they have too much work to do, while 54% are worried that sick days will spoil their chances of climbing the greasy pole (Scots were particularly concerned about wrecking their promotion prospects, believe it or not).

Now you be perfectly happy to hear this. After all, surely a bit of healthy respect for authority is a good thing, right? Well, yes and no. Discouraging unjustified sickies is obviously great, but dragging people in when they’re actually ill might do more harm than good. For one thing, they’ll probably spread their evil germs across the rest of your workforce. And that’s not all – according to TNS, staff who don’t dare to take time off ‘risk their own mental health’. Its theory is that we work hard enough already – scaring us off sick leave might push us over the edge…

It’s interesting to read these results in the light of the bid for TNS by Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP, news of which emerged over the weekend. The market research firm promptly ‘unanimously rejected’ WPP’s £950m approach, saying that it ‘substantially undervalues the company’ – but perhaps we can identify another motive? After all, Sorrell is famous for his blunt, no-nonsense approach – just imagine how scared the TNS top brass would be to call in sick if he was in charge...

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