Bite-size Case Study

Handling employee complaints: attendance

Published on October 29, 2020 Originally recorded 2017   3 min
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Hi there. My name is Catherine Mattice Zundel and I'm a Strategic Human Resources Consultant in San Diego, California in the United States. My consulting firm focuses on helping organizations build positive workplace cultures so that employees can thrive. One piece of that is ensuring managers know how to take complaints from their employees and how to resolve those complaints.
You are aware that your employee, Susan, was in rehab for drinking a few years ago. One of your employees complains that lately, it seems Susan is missing a lot of work on Mondays and Fridays. Pause the video for a minute and write down what you might do in this scenario.
First off, you have to investigate for yourself. Check Susan's attendance records, for example. Don't jump to conclusions about her former issues unless she gives you a reason to, while it's easy to tie in her history, if you do that, you could risk being discriminatory. If she shows up smelling like alcohol, then she does give you a reason and you can go from there. But, in this case, that's not what's happening, she's just missing work. You'll need to meet with her and we'll talk about that on the next slide. But, ultimately, after you meet with her, if the behavior continues, then you would go down the path of discipline.
Let's take a look at what you might say in your meeting. First off, saying, I noticed you've been calling in sick a lot lately is better than you've been calling in sick a lot. Starting with you makes people defensive, so provide examples. In this case, you might just show Susan the attendance records, then you want to ask what's going on. You don't want to be accusatory. You might say, I noticed you've been calling in sick a lot lately. You already know that I expect people to be here at work and part of the team. How can I help you get back on track? From there, you can collaborate with the employee to find solutions. All of this is focused on coaching rather than being a micromanager or disciplining her right away, you'll get so much farther with coaching. Then you will if you say, I'm your manager and I'm coming down on you. Coaching means collaboration on solutions and being respectful. If you need an offer to check-in: once you and Susan come up with a plan and she agrees to stop calling in sick, then you can suggest that you meet every other Friday for the next few months to help ensure she stays on track. One final comment is that if she's calling in sick all the time because she truly is sick, then you may want to call your HR department to find out what's next. The employee may need to take sick leave or get a doctor's note if she's going to continue to calling in sick, your HR department would help you through that process.