To have a grumble about my employee

(36 Posts)
InventedThePostItNote Thu 14-Nov-13 20:56:27

I'll keep this as vague as possible, but I am a small business owner and employ a personal assistant 4 days a week She is generally good, but she seems to get sick quite a lot (as in, 2-3 times a month at least- migraine, back pain, exhaustion due to insomnia, heartburn - always something different and usually not a 'visible' condition). She doesn't call in sick, but rather drags herself in with a grimace and does the whole martyred, sick voice thing all day long. I've suggested, many times, that she goes home, take a walk, go for a lie down etc but she always steadfastly refuses, but at the same time manages to make me feel like a horrible slavedriver! I think she gets some sort of perverse pleasure from it...does that make sense? Like I owe her or something.

It's not affecting her performance and she's rarely actually off sick, but I'm fed up of somehow feeling like I'm forcing her to be at work against her will. Don't really know how to approach it either.

She's good at what she does and I do think I'd struggle to find someone quite as efficient and knowledgeable as she is, but my stomach just sinks when I ask how she is, and she says 'well...I'm ok...but...'

drspouse Thu 14-Nov-13 20:57:48

Don't ask how she is??

FiveExclamations Thu 14-Nov-13 20:58:57

Sounds like she's desperate for attention and has found something that works for her, how do you react when she's doing it?

Icepilot Thu 14-Nov-13 21:01:18

I understand this. It was a nightmare. Complete mood Hoover. Nobody could ever be off as somehow she'd be worse. Difference was she was off LOADS. Made her occ health record a nightmare.

Do you have a supervision or appraisal process?

xCupidStuntx Thu 14-Nov-13 21:04:04

Next time just tell her you think she should visit her doc and get a fit to work note because she often seems unwell and you don't like seeing her "push herself"

That'd drive me mad!!

inkyfingers Thu 14-Nov-13 21:06:47

She does a good job, and turns up. She wants to carry on. I'd politely express concern if she complains about something, then ignore her. She can take sick leave if she is unwell, but She doesn't want to.

She sounds difficult but you value her work. Don't feel guilty.

InventedThePostItNote Thu 14-Nov-13 21:10:25

Yes have appraisal process, I just don't really know how to bring it up constructively, I'm sure she'd see it as a good thing that she drags her butt in when sick...I guess I don't want to imply that I don't believe she's unwell (no comment!) but not say, on the record, you need to take time off when you feel you are sick...as if she did that, I'd never see her!!

cantheyseeme Thu 14-Nov-13 21:25:20

Can i ask what kind of business youre in?

InventedThePostItNote Thu 14-Nov-13 21:34:22

Small agency

InventedThePostItNote Thu 14-Nov-13 21:34:45

Sorry to be vague

cantheyseeme Thu 14-Nov-13 21:36:47

Does she have direct contact with clients?

Jolleigh Thu 14-Nov-13 21:39:56

I personally think YABU but only a bit.

I get how it's annoying but just because you're her employer doesn't really mean you have the right to pull her on this. She's not doing anything wrong really.

To deal with the irritation though maybe have a word and advise her that if she can't say for sure that she's not contagious, she should stay home as you don't want to get sick?

I have a weak immune system and digestive problems so frequently feel quite unwell. If my boss passed anything more official than a casual comment about it, I'd be majorly annoyed. And on the flip side, if I took time off each time I felt crap, I'd have been sacked years ago.

MammaTJ Thu 14-Nov-13 21:40:55

Do you pay for time off? If so, then do not ask how she is. If not, then send her home whenever she moans she is unwell. It may make her rethink her moaning.

Jinsei Thu 14-Nov-13 21:41:39

Do you pay decent sick pay? Could she be trying to make a point of some sort?

FunkyBoldRibena Thu 14-Nov-13 21:44:11

Sorry to hear you are unwell, but if you are ill then go home.

Repeat ad infinitum.

Or...sorry, you can't have one of these (things she likes, cakes, coffee etc) as you are so ill...never mind. Perhaps next time.

InventedThePostItNote Thu 14-Nov-13 21:45:42

Yes full sick pay! And yes she has some dealing with clients/public but is generally fine, maybe occasionally lacks enthusiasm but it's pretty much just to me that she does this

InventedThePostItNote Thu 14-Nov-13 21:46:59

I know I seem a bit bitchy but it just creates a bit of an atmosphere, I don't really know what I'm supposed to do when she's like this!!

cantheyseeme Thu 14-Nov-13 21:48:23

Could you not raise a point like it reflects bad on you if your staff are coming in unwell?

ImperialBlether Thu 14-Nov-13 22:59:17

Why are you asking her how she is? Does she ask you how you are?

If she moans, say, "Oh yes, I have that, too. Never mind, eh, it's better to stay busy" and then move swiftly away from her.

PasswordProtected Thu 14-Nov-13 23:07:09

Call her bluff, if that is actually what it is.
Arrange for staff check ups.

InventedThePostItNote Thu 14-Nov-13 23:10:15

Someone upthread asked how I react,
Sorry forgot to reply

Well I guess I am a bit mother hen-like, even though I'm only slightly older than her. You know, can I make you a hot drink? You poor thing etc. I just don't want to look heartless if she is genuinely ill!

Probably need to grow a pair and ignore it!

Gallen Thu 14-Nov-13 23:13:57

You're rewarding bad behaviour by engaging with her on it. Quit the mother-hen behaviour, ignore her moans and be brisk and business-like. She's feeding off your attention.

RevoltingPeasant Thu 14-Nov-13 23:14:24

Sorry but unless this is affecting her performance with clients or her efficiency then you need to suck it up. Some people are difficult, that's life. Presumably you didn't employ her for her sunny personality? The professional thing to do is skate breezily and politely through the small talk that is necessary and then crack on with work.

Unless you think she might be genuinely ill. That's another thing. But this sounds an awful lot like "there this woman in my office who talks about slimming world a lot"..... It is annoying but you as a manager cannot discipline her for crap conversation and a mardy face.

HeeHiles Thu 14-Nov-13 23:15:48

Can you just be honest with her and tell her the constant whining about her health problems are making you feel uncomfortable - Tell her if she needs sick time all she has to do is ask!

chuck some berocca on her desk and call her bluff and suggest she might like to voluntarily reduce her hours (and therefore pay) as clearly she is unwell a lot and you are worried it might be the stress of the job, that you really care about her and no job or amount of money is worth making yourself ill for grin.

I reckon you would get at least two weeks of good health out of her before she goes back to usual. Unfortunately for some people being 'ill' is the only way they can get the feeling that people care for them or have sympathy for them. They probably don't even realise how often they are claiming to be ill and like that you are being nice to them.

InventedThePostItNote Thu 14-Nov-13 23:28:13

I worry if I tell her to just take time off in future, then she will be off A LOT. I think she's exaggerating the extent of her illnesses (perhaps not a coincidence that it's never a cold or a sprained ankle or, I don't know, conjunctivitis, but always things you can't actually see and assess). Although my gut feeling is she would have done this already if she really wanted to.

HeeHiles Thu 14-Nov-13 23:31:56

Drop in to the conversation how you 'met a friend's PA yesterday she was so healthy and enthusiastic - like a breath of fresh air!' Oh and smile

MoldieOldNaiceHam Thu 14-Nov-13 23:38:02

Adopt the same annoying sick voice when she does. Then see how long she keeps it up <<juvenile or genius idea>>

MrTumblesKnickers Thu 14-Nov-13 23:46:18

I agree with Westmorland, tell her that you're concerned she's not up to the stress of the job as she is sick so often and can you work together to come up with a solution - fewer hours etc??

I have a friend like this, it's almost funny but I don't see her as much as you see your employee. Her husband confided in me once and said that she has had every illness under the sun - including one mysterious time when she contracted blindness for a few hours.

Mimishimi Fri 15-Nov-13 01:47:09

Don't ask how she is, problem solved.

paxtecum Fri 15-Nov-13 06:42:24

YABU. You don't like her saying she feels unwell, but she does a good job even when she feels unwell.

If she took time off sick every week you would have something to moan about.
If this woman was registered disabled the replies would be different.

Some people do have niggly health conditions and continue working through it all.
It's your problem that you feel like a slave driver.

paxtecum Fri 15-Nov-13 06:43:17

Mr Tumble: maybe the blindness was a migraine.

Trifle Fri 15-Nov-13 07:58:22

I would be inclined to get rid of her. She's probably far more draining than you realise.

Bumblebee333 Fri 15-Nov-13 09:12:52

I would suggest going to the drs and having some general blood tests because there may be an underlying issue. Say it because you care and you want her to feel better.

I used to feel unwell a lot and if there was an illness going round I would get it. So I did as suggested above and it turned out I was slightly anaemic. I started taking vitamins c and iron tablets and adjusted my diet to include more iron and I feel great. In the past 6 months I have had a slight cold.

Ultimately you either need to have a conversation with her, or ignore it and suck it up.

If you choose to have the conversation, then I would suggest bringing it up at her next 1-2-1 - assuming you do these periodically. Something along the lines of "I am concerned that you have had a few periods of illness recently <name dates and illnesses at this point>. Your work attendance is great but obviously I want to ensure that you are fit to work; is there anything we need to review or do to try and support you?" That way it puts the ball in her court.

Unfortunately some people are more prone to being ill than others and as long as you are satisfied that she is genuinely unwell, then you'll need to live with it - she is still coming in to work after all. You need to weigh up how effective she is in her job - if she is good and gets it done, then living with the attitude might be a worthwhile trade off. However if her performance isn't great and the attitude is on display to clients, or causing a problem for other colleagues, then you might need to look at a formal performance management programme.

Above all, you need to make sure that you comply with the law - managing ill health issues can be a minefield. If you have legal expenses insurance (as an employer) then check your policy to see if there is a legal advice helpline - these are usually free to call and can offer advice on employment related matters and what your legal position is.

InventedThePostItNote Fri 15-Nov-13 11:07:02

Thank you haunted above advice is great.

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