Being sick is fun enough,
but I say this all the time to my wife who is past 40 and been at her job longer then 10 years, she is always complaining about the polotics of her job and the ludicrously fine wire she has to walk and her constant fear of what every other employee/boss may or may not think of her and how it will affect her job now or in the future.
It is though High School never ended, it doesnt matter what your job is, how supposedly "respected" your job title is, no matter where you go, if you deal with others, you will have different ideaologies, polotics, clicks and levels of immaturity that are beyond imagination and you are told to sit back and take it for the team more times then not.
I wish I had better advice on social graces at work, but like you, I always just thought showing up and doing my job was a good thing, but apparently your supposed to show up at every office birthday party, or park barbecue, or all laugh at the same persons joke or pretend to hate someone because certain numbers of others fellow employees do.
If others have time for those kind of games, they don't know sick, not that those two are connceted.
I often lie awake at night, wondering where did the old fashioned smile and nod go, a tip of the hat to a stranger, when was it decided that I needed to win over my fellow employees through my personality rather then my skills, knowledge and experience.
Im sure there are jobs out there where people are perfectly happy with all thier co-workers and have absolutley no problems, I would love to hear those stories about respect, honesty and fairness in the workplace.
Here is a stupid tip I picked up dealing with Doctors over the years, I found it works for everyone else as well.
The first time you see anyone, and everyone, notice something about them, anything, a cell phone, a hair cut, cool tie, doesnt matter, honestly pick something you like on them or about them, mention this in a complimentary fashion before you ever start with whatever other business you have with them. Hey Bob, great new haircut, now about those TPS reports...
Yeah it seems stupid, but remember almost all men and I dont really know about women are truly run by their ego's, stroke the ego, then you will see them smile, then you got em.
It isnt dishonest as long as you actually pick something you really like, dont make stuff up or lie, people pick up on falsehooods and equally pick up on real compliments, wether you see the reaction on their faces or not.
GL with my insane advice :)