I've been the manager of the dept for 2 months. I'm one of those promoted because I was good at the tasks (and had been there longest), not necessarily because I showed managerial promise :wink:

2 of my DRs are married to each other. Wife has been in the dept 7 years; husband hired on at entry level when the company moved last year, partly to help persuade her to move.

There was a flurry of upset over the way the previous manager handled the transition. He recommended someone who'd been with us 6 months. The couple filed a complaint saying she should have been considered. But I also piped up and said "hey what about me?" The VP over our dept preferred to promote me - all he needed was for me to express interest. So he made me manager and the other guy assistant manager (because mgr had already been offered to him).

The couple's complaint didn't get them anywhere. Meanwhile, as the mgr was training me for his position, he showed me a calendar for recording absences, tardies, etc. and said he hadn't been keeping up with it, but I should. So I did.

First, they're consistently tardy, and I've spoken to them several times about it.

And then, the husband calls in sick a lot. (Actually he has his wife call in sick for him.) It's always a bad headache. Other employees scoffed - "Yeah, it's spring break, he's just keeping an eye on the kids." Or, "He's pissed off and out looking for another job." After I said, "So you're saying they're LYING to me?" nobody says stuff like that in my hearing any more, but they probably still think it.

At first, I too thought it was an attitude problem. But gradually I came to believe that he really is having debilitating headaches. For instance, I went to the wife one day and told her so-and-so had recommended a chiropractor, I hadn't tried the guy yet, but maybe you could ask her if she thinks he could help your husband. As soon as I walked away, she was off like a shot to that person's cubicle. And other comments that tell me they're searching for a cure.

In a one-on-one, I told him I'd contact HR and find out about FMLA. Seemed like he was absent even more after that. When I did contact HR, I found out this DR isn't eligible yet. So I told him in another O3 that sorry, I was wrong about that FMLA thing, and your absences are getting to the point that your job is in danger.

Meanwhile the guy in HR is like, How many absences? Ooh, that's excessive, I'll talk to him. I don't know whether that's happened yet - I took Tu-Fri off last week for outpatient surgery.

I'm sure I've done a few things wrong here. Attendance is important and I know it has to be addressed, but I also feel like the evil stepmother, coming down on them for things the previous mgr winked at. Or seemed to wink at. Actually he used to get PO'd about it but never say anything to them about it. He was an absolutely wonderful manager as long as everyone under him was conscientious. :D

I want to be caring about this DR's health. I do sympathize... my husband has lost several jobs because of his chronic ailments. But I always kind of sympathized with the companies too, even as I adjusted yet again for the loss of DH's income... after all, they hired him because they had work to get done. (He's now pursuing disability.)

Sorry this is so long. I even tried to edit it a little, as per the recent 'cast. :wink:


Mark's picture
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It sounds to me like you're doing a damn fine job in a tough situation. Keep holding to a standard, and keep talking to him (as he will allow) about his condition, and being sensitive to it. There's no shame in assuming he's being truthful even if later you find out he's fibbing. The world of a manager is very lonely and sad if you only look for lying and cheating and stealing.

Standards and concern. If the standards really drop, and you have to escalate, do so knowing you've done your homework with regular conversations and documentation.

Nice work. Don't change anything. Good note, too.


terrih's picture

Wow! Thanks!

I've always tended to give people the benefit of the doubt. I don't want to live in a lonely and sad world. :)


terrih's picture

My DR with the attendance problem showed up more after his verbal warning a month ago, but has slipped back to his habits of missing a day or two per week. Someone in HR just contacted me and said it's time for a written warning. He went on to suggest that unless this guy is particularly valuable, he'd be inclined to just let him go ASAP. :shock:

The DR in question would become eligible for FMLA a week from today, although it would still have to be approved with the appropriate medical documentation and all that.

I spoke with my assistant, who does most of the covering for this guy when he's gone. The assistant is inclined to let him go too, but acknowledges the messiness of the situation with the guy's wife also working for me.

Thoughts? Opinions? HELP!!!

davefleet's picture

I advise you not to follow your HR person's advice and "just let him go ASAP," although from your previous posts I don't think you would do that anyway.

Letting the direct go when they're just about to become eligible for a benefit would put you in a sticky situation if you didn't have sufficient documentation to back up your actions.

It sounds like you haven't spoken to the direct about this since the conversation a month ago. As M&M mention in the coaching podcast, regular feedback is important in situations like this.

Your first post showed that you were handling things well to that point - I would continue with the coaching model (you may be into the late-stage coaching part now).

As always, I stand to be corrected, but that's my two cents.


terrih's picture

You're right... :oops: I felt like a broken record. The feedback model feels awkward and unnatural to me... I know, no excuse.

He's been absent 28 days in 2007... technically, according to our employee handbook, I could have terminated him after the 8th absence. The absences are all documented on his time sheets. But still.

In our last O3, he "dumped" on me for nearly the whole half hour about how he feels like there's no chance for him to advance even though our prevous manager told him to "expect" it, because the company gives preferential treatment to employees from the local area over longtime employees who moved up here when the company was bought out. (He and I both moved.) I asked him if he could name someone who got a higher salary or a promotion just because they were local, and he couldn't. It boiled down to gossip he heard from someone who moved up here, didn't like it, and quit and moved back.

I guess I'm thinking he will misinterpret the reason if he gets canned... and I can't control how people interpret situations.

I'll go back & listen to the late-stage coaching 'cast again.


TomW's picture
Training Badge

Putting his interests first... I would tell him that if his attendance were better, say missing a day a month instead of a day a week, his chances of advancement are better!

colleen's picture

So extrapolating, you could expect him to be absent approximatly 70 days out of year (~30% of typical working year). That is a lot.

Is this in addition to vacation?
Do you know whether this situation will be chronic?
Have you asked him if he might want to work part time?

I think you need to be candid with him that he is barely holding down his job, much less advancing, with all of his absences. You are not doing him a favor by avoiding or soft-shoeing the situation.

JohnGMacAskill's picture
Training Badge

"Attendance is important and I know it has to be addressed, but I also feel like the evil stepmother, coming down on them for things the previous mgr winked at. Or seemed to wink at."

I think that Mark gave good advice regarding standards and concern. I think you have enough data yourself now, to disregard perceived winks from the previous manager.

If the behaviour has lapsed back, then it is just not the attendance, but the inability to improve after previous coaching/O3's, etc that is at issue.

Mark mentioned that "If the standards really drop, and you have to escalate, do so knowing you've done your homework with regular conversations and documentation". Reading between the lines of your subsequent posts, it reads that you are at that point.

The fact that your direct is pushing back about promotion is odd. You will have to be very candid, that the issue is not working on performance/behaviour with a goal of possible promotion, but working on performance/behaviour suitable for the post he is in.

If you are not already, you need to counter this particular line of comment. Do not comment at all on the contextual issues relating to his reasons for his complaint (local preferrence, etc) and state that this is academic at this point as there are serious overriding issues barring this discussion even starting. You need to discuss his existing role and performance/behaviour.

Hope this is helpful and I wish you all the best in a challenging situation.

terrih's picture

Thanks, very helpful comments.

I listened to the late stage coaching 'casts again, but coaching doesn't seem applicable here. Either he shows up or he doesn't. Or do I coach him on how to seek appropriate medical care? I COULD... I've certainly dealt with the medical community a lot since I married my chronically ill husband. But is that within the purview of a manager?

I want to speak to my boss before making a final decision, and he's out of pocket until Friday. That's reasonable, isn't it? HR seemed okay with that.


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

I think you're avoiding the elephant in the room. How can you have a conversation about advancement at the same time as you're having a conversation about whether or not to get rid of him?

In the O3 I'd be direct about that. "Honestly Joe, advancement isn't my biggest concern for you right now. HR policy is to terminate an employee after 8 absences; you've had 28 in less than 6 months. When you are absent this often

It sounds like you have the same instinct I do - too nice. Someone once clarified for me: "The opposite of nice is not Mean. The opposite of nice is Real."

That's my .02.

terrih's picture

So very true. I've ALWAYS been too nice. Lots of stuff to discuss with him... if he ever shows up. He hasn't been in since Monday. :?

He will supposedly come in after lunch. (I've heard that one before; we'll see.) My assistant and my husband and the HR person I've been working with all think it's time to cut our losses. The HR director is leaving it up to us. He's sympathetic to my pain and says it wouldn't be completely unreasonable to keep him on and keep trying to work with him... but frankly the more he doesn't show up the more I go the other way.

I think part of the advancement conversation was the fact that his WIFE got passed over for advancement this last go-around. But still. That's a separate issue.

Honestly, I have a headache and tummy rumbles today over all this. :(

Mark's picture
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[b]If you worked for me, your job would now be in danger.[/b] As Mike once said to one of his directs while I was working with him as a client, "don't make me come down there and do your job for you."

HR is wrong, and not JUST because you haven't done your duty.

You have allowed an expensive program, FMLA, to become a potential shield that will cost the company twice - in increased costs, and in lost productivity.

Call him and tell him to come in because his repeated absences have become so problematic his job is in danger. Inform his wife as a matter of courtesy.

In the meeting you have with him, list his absences, and what the policies are, and what you expect going forward. Tell him exactly what the consequences will be for his failure to achieve the standard. I recommend the standard be EVERY DAY a full day of work.

If he can't/won't/doesn't improve within 30 days, be able to fire him. That means knowing what HR would expect, and work backwards from there with full documentation.

If you came to me telling me that you knew of this problem 30 days ago and did nothing, knowing what would work but being too nice and not wanting to be mean, and that he has now gone out on disability, I would doubt your ability to carry through on this issue, and I would probably meet with the direct personally, after having you brief me on the situation. I would tell him I was to be given daily reports of his attendance, and would support a termination if it didn't change. I would also encourage him to make the changes he needs to, and wish him well in his efforts. "We'd love you to stay, but on our terms, and even though those terms were not previously enforced, they will be now, even if I have to do it."



Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

And one more comment: "tummy rumbles"?

I am reminded of Churchill's comment to the Canadian Parliament in 1941:

"We have not journeyed across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy."

Step up, even if it makes you throw up.


terrih's picture

Don't misunderstand; I'm not letting physical discomfort stop me. Used to get the same thing in college speech class when it was my turn to speak. I still gave my speech.

I wish I'd seen your post before I saw my boss. He's in full support of firing. But you are right; I haven't done enough -- I haven't done NOTHING, but I should have said something every time he was absent.

OK, I just called his house to ask if he's coming in, and he says he is. (If he had said no, I would have said what you suggested.) Will get with him after I get back from the morning ops meeting.


Mark's picture
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Well done. Stick with it, and keep us posted. I believe in you.


terrih's picture

We had our chat. If attendance doesn't drastically improve, he won't have a job. Told him he does good work when he's here, but he's gotta be here.

Asked what we could do to help, he just kept going on about how he was passed over for promotion and how some people get hired and "shoot straight to the top" unfairly and he feels like there's no opportunity for him to advance.

I told him the first thing he's got to address if he wants to make more money or whatever is attendance... if that doesn't get fixed it's a moot point, because he won't be working here any more.

It looks to me like he's in a vicious circle... he feels resentful about being passed over last February, so he gets a headache, so he doesn't come to work, so he undermines his chances of being considered for anything in the future. I said "You're only hurting yourself," and "this could become a self-fulfilling prophecy." But I don't think he gets it.

You can talk, but you can't make people hear you.

juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

True, but you've given that late-stage coaching and everyone knows exactly what must be met, by when, and in what fashion. 'Before promotion comes proficiency at your current job...which you cannot do if you aren't at work.'

WillDuke's picture
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I hate to be a cynic, but I'd be done with this guy. He's sapping energy you could be feeding into the rest of your team. Make no mistake, this guy isn't on your team. It's unfair to everyone else.

What did Mark tell us makes a team? Communication, Performance, and Trust. Given that understanding, how does he measure up? What is he offering the team that you have to have?

If you lose the wife too, then you do. It's not what you want, but this guy's an anvil tied to your ankle.

To clarify it all for yourself, imagine that he's gone. Not going, but gone. The whole mess is over and done with, one way or another.

Did you just heave a sigh of relief?

Mark's picture
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Will's response is understandable, and it's not the best course, because you represent the company. The company has an unspoken contract with folks that failure to meet standards will be communicated. Policies exist not only to be enforced, but to communicate the organization's values. You get a bunch of HR policies, you get the delays that go with them.

Do it right. It will work out better.


Mark's picture
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And, well done! Now follow up, follow up, follow up. No sense in putting your best foot forward if you drag the other behind. Stay on top of him, do not change the standards, and see what he does.

Either way, you win.


WillDuke's picture
Training Badge

I get your point about the contract with the employee. I was under the impression that the failure had been communicated to him. There was a mention of tardiness, a discussion in O3, and a verbal warning. Looking back now, I didn't pay enough attention to the progression.

I was extrapolating from a similar situation we had here. We had a new hire who was absent a lot, forgot to visit clients, and had strange excuses for missing work. (Tripped over the dog and hit his head on the table and knocked himself out for 3 hours.) Despite ongoing communication through O3s from his initial hire, the situation wasn't improving. We let him go before his trial period ended and the situation became more difficult to handle.