EXPLAINER: The 'sickie selfie' people are sending to their boss.


There’s a particular feeling you get in your gut just after you send the, “Sorry, I’m sick” text message.

Mostly, you feel a distinctive mix of guilt and anxiety, followed by the fear that whoever just received your message might a) hate you or b) think you’re lying.

It doesn’t matter, of course, that you’re telling the truth. You know deep down that your absence will be an inconvenience, and the distance of text makes it impossible for someone to gauge your authenticity.

This fear predated the mobile phone. Twenty years ago, employees mastered their very sick phone voice so their illness was adequately and convincingly performed. But how on earth do you perform sickness in a text message?

POST CONTINUES BELOW: We discuss on Mamamia Out Loud… is it ever okay to text in sick?

Well, you can make a few typos so it looks like you’re disoriented and so unwell you can no longer see.

Or you can include superfluous details about the frequency of bowel movements or the heaviness of your 12-day-long period. Perhaps you need to identify what you ate last night that has caused you to vomit four times since 1am. But with all the descriptions in the world – you could still be lying… and no one wants to be thought of as a liar.

So – a former colleague of mine came up with a solution.

The ‘sickie selfie’.

I can recall every one of them, mostly because they were traumatising.

The first was during a bout of food poisoning. She texted our boss, apologising for her absence, and there was no issue whatsoever. And then came the picture.


There was vomit in the toilet. It wasn’t the right… colour… not that vomit is ever the right colour. Her face was in the foreground, white and drawn, to prove it was HER vomit, and she hadn’t just googled a picture of vomit on the Internet and sent that through.

Lily Allen from her hospital bed. Image via Instagram.

None of it was mildly necessary. 

A few months later, she had an allergic reaction. Our boss replied "OK NO PROBLEM GET BETTER SOON," in an attempt to convince her to please not send a selfie.

I will never forget her bottom lip. And her tongue that no longer fit inside her mouth.

... Why?

Luckily, in the time I was there she never had diarrhoea, or an open wound, or an abscess. For that I am forever grateful.

According to a 2014 survey, one in five adults have uploaded a picture of themselves in bed or in hospital as evidence of their illness. Of those adults, 26 per cent did so to prove specifically to friends or coworkers they weren't faking it.

Whether it's on Instagram, Facebook or to a manager specifically, people feel the need to provide evidence of their sickness to justify a day off. This is absurdity.

HR business partner Nicolle Stuart says this kind of behaviour is completely unnecessary. "We're all adults," she said. "If we're sick we should be trusted that we're genuinely sick, and not need to send 'proof'".

Send the message or make the call. But please, for the love of managers everywhere, refrain from taking a photo of the toilet bowl.

You can listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud, here.