Nobody wants to be the kind of employee who abuses sick-day privileges. Or, rather, nobody wants to look like one. In a recent poll conducted by job website CareerBuilder, 29 percent of workers took a sick day this year when they were feeling just fine. This, of course, calls for a skill set that won't show up on your yearend evaluation: coming up with a believable fake illness. It takes talent, cunning, and a willingness to lie through your teeth to the people who pay you. It also requires a sound game plan. So next time you do it, take your cues from the experts and choose the option that best suits you.
Option 1: Be Frighteningly Contagious
Dennis DiClaudio, author of The Hypochondriac's Pocket Guide to Horrible Diseases You Probably Already Have, explains that there are three things that matter: contagion, contagion, and contagion. "Make certain your supervisor puts their best interests above those of the company," DiClaudio says. "Make them believe their health is at risk." However, keep it practical: Avoid excuses like "I have a nasty case of gonorrhea." Also, keep it airborne. Tuberculosis is good, but it could lead to awkward conversations about why you're not dead. Try whooping cough instead—no one will want to talk to you.
Option 2: Pick a Name-Brand Disease
Don't take on an illness that requires an Oscar-worthy performance. For beginners, DiClaudio recommends the pleasantly titled disorder necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria. "It has a couple of things going for it," DiClaudio says. "One, it originally presents itself as little more than a sore throat, a fever, and a mild case of nausea," all of which are easy to fake—even for the cast of House. And two, it was mentioned on House, "which gives it an air of legitimacy." Since the disease requires surgery, be sure to use it for a long vacation this winter.
Option 3: Don't Actually Get Hospitalized
Dr. Samuel E. Gandy, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine, suggests subjective ailments rather than symptoms that could lead to an actual elevation. "Back pain, neck pain, and headache are among the easiest to fake." It's a good lie for those looking to catch up on sleep. "Bed rest is the best prescription for back pain," he says. "If you want to trick a doc into sending you to bed for a week, that's where you should start."