Hillary Clinton's pneumonia: When you absolutely, positively, cannot miss work

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Is there such a thing as an event too important to miss?

Hillary Clinton became ill at Sunday's 9-11 ceremonies and had to leave early. Her staff later reported that she was suffering from pneumonia. She's not the first politician to suffer a bout of illness in an inopportune moment. Remember this?

President George H.W. Bush became ill at a state dinner in Japan and ended up vomiting on the Japanese Prime Minister's lap. Clinton, I'm sure, is grateful that she just had to leave early.

In retrospect, neither should have gone to the event. Bush, reportedly, was feeling ill all day. Clinton had been diagnosed earlier with pneumonia, but both decided that the event was so important they could suffer through. Except they couldn't.

When do you suffer through (or attempt as Bush and Clinton did), and when do you go to work? Now, I can't answer from a medical standpoint, as I'm not a medical doctor, but a good hint that you should stay home is if your doctor tells you to stay home. Most of us don't go to the doctor for most things, as we know they will pass and medical care is expensive. Here's a guide to the non-medical side of things.

Will Skipping this Event Destroy Your Company?

If the answer to this question is yes, you've wrapped up too much power in yourself. It's very rare that this answer is truly yes. Usually, we like to think it is yes because it makes us feel special. Would you really stop doing business with a company that had to send a sub because the CEO is super sick? If the answer to this question is yes, then you should work on a plan to make the answer to this no. You can't control when you get sick, but you can create a backup plan.

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Is This a Cold or Something Worse?

If this is a cold, then go ahead and go. If everyone took time off work whenever they got a cold, we'd never get anything done. Something worse? Stay home. We don't want your cold germs, but we really, really, really don't want your norovirus germs. If you'll be in close contact with people, remember that you are inflicting illness on them. Nice people don't do that.

Will It Be Embarrassing if I Do Go?

President Bush probably wasn't contagious--apparently, it was food poisoning. Secretary Clinton was on antibiotics, so shouldn't have been contagious. That's often the consideration given. Don't spread germs around. But would it have been less embarrassing if Bush had sent his regrets saying he had food poisoning and Clinton had sent hers, saying she had pneumonia? Sure, both would have faced criticism, but nothing says bad press like puking in public.

What Will My Boss Say?

Inc. is all about entrepreneurs and founders and managers, so most likely you are the boss. If you are, you better make sure that you have contingency plans for your staff, should they become ill. You better make sure you have paid sick days. If you aren't the boss (or you aren't the big boss), and your boss insists that you come into the office when you are sick, make sure to cough on the boss. When you are better, look for a new job. You don't need a boss without compassion.

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