Dear Nonprofiteer, I’m sick

Dear Nonprofiteer,

I have a meeting scheduled tonight but I’m horribly sick.  There’s no one else who can cover the meeting for me.  What should I do?

Signed, Indispensable

Dear Indispensable:

No one is so essential he has to infect other people.  Charles de Gaulle said it best: "The graveyards are full of indispensable men."  Cancel your meeting and eat your chicken soup.  The Nonprofiteer, who’s sick as a dog herself, will be doing the same thing.

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2 Responses to “Dear Nonprofiteer, I’m sick”

  1. anonymous Says:

    The Nonprofiteer’s answer is very black-and-white.

    Some non profits DO have everything riding on one person, with deadlines that won’t wait.

    Then, there are illnesses that aren’t contagious, but very real, nonetheless, such as migraine. Migraine can be quite debilitating, but since “you don’t LOOK sick to me” or “it’s just a ‘headache'” are some common retorts, the staff member can receive perilous professional ramifications for cancelling.

    Other “invisible” ailments, such as back pain, etc. have similar penalties.

    Your answer falls way, way short.

  2. Nonprofiteer Says:

    I’m a sole practitioner; I know all about having everything riding on one person. That still doesn’t require–or entitle–me to go to meetings when I have the flu; there’s the well-being of other people to consider.

    Moreover, nonprofits are not sole proprietorships; they’re community agencies, even if they’re agencies with only a single paid employee. If that paid employee is ill–contagious or not–s/he should contact the people who have legal responsibility for the operation of the institution (that would be the Board) and tell them s/he’s temporarily disabled by illness. If deadlines have to be met, the Board must figure out how to meet them.

    We’re not living in Dickensian London: sick employees are entitled to paid time off to recover, whether they work for nonprofits, the government or the Fortune 500. If your Board of Directors regards your genuine incapacity as a species of malingering, and is prepared to punish you for it, it’s time to find a new employer. The sooner nonprofit employees stop tolerating being treated like indentured servants or lazy slaves, the better the sector will operate.

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