Tricky employee(104 Posts)
Hi - I'm just after some different perspectives/advice. I work in local government and manage a small team. One of the team members has a track record of poor performance and a general attitude problem. The biggest issue is his attendance/working hours. It's a regular office setting and flexible working is welcomed but this employee seems to think it's perfectly acceptable to turn up to work at 11am most days and to be completely vague about his working patterns. I took over management of the team about 3 months ago and confronted him with this issue then and made it clear that I was on to him in terms of working contracted hours, being visible during core office hours and also discussed general performance. He was in the office by 10 the next few days (miraculous for him) but it gradually started slipping back. A few weeks ago his wife had a new baby, their first, and he took a week's annual leave and a week's paternity leave - all fine. Since returning to work his working hours have been even more random than before. Now, I know how tricky things are with a newborn so did try to encourage him to take longer off and but he insisted he was ready to return - except he's not worked a full day in the 4 weeks he's been back. The situation is further complicated by the fact the baby has been in and out of hospital for tests/treatment. It's obviously been a really stressful time and I do feel for him but he has been 'playing it by ear' on the work front for weeks now which basically means being generally AWOL, turning up when he feels like it, if at all, "working from home" but not actually being contactable etc. Ive suggested he takes annual leave or parental leave and have offered to support him with a request for 'special leave' - he's ignored all this. I've had to keep a log of all the ad hoc time he's taken off and will have to ask him to book it off and I can't imagine that's going to go down well. I've been really patient and not put any pressure on him during this time - I can imagine how worrying it all is - but I feel that he's really taking the Micky now. I'm also getting pressure from my boss to sort it out. I'd be really interested to hear people's views on how to handle this one - should I keep up the "softly, softly" approach until things with the baby are a bit more settled or do I start getting firmer with him? Thanks for reading!
You need to be firmer. You also need to start communicating in writing so you have a record, have a meeting with him to discuss then send him an email setting out the position, that as discussed his working hours aren't up to requirements and further action will have to be taken if this pattern continues. I favour setting out the options available (that you are aware that due to personal circumstances he may neeed additional time away from work and the options available are annual leave/parental leave etc) and the consequences if improvements aren't made to attendance.
Piss takers are always piss takers and while he has some personal issues that you are obviously sympathetic to you can only give him so much leeway. A good employee wouldn't approach things in this way.
Also where is your HR is this? Have you no recorded time & attendance system? One of the options in our place is pay being docked if contracted hours aren't met, flexi time or no flexi time.
Thanks. I definitely feel like I need to be firmer. If he'd always been conscientious up until recently then I'd feel differently I'm sure but he's always been a piss-taker. The trouble is he's been allowed to get away with it by previous managers. I'm documenting everything and have a log of his working hours each day. Whatever, I'm pretty sure he's going to make things very tricky. He's not an easy character!
No, no formal time-recording. It's pretty outrageous really when you think about it. When I told him that turning up at 11am wasn't on and that he needed to work core hours he claimed nobody had ever told him that!? He's very tricky!
It's never nice having to tackle things like this but as a manager it's what you're paid for.
Just be clear and stick to the facts. Also discuss the situation with HR as he may need a written warning etc
You need to be firmer and moving to an attendance and performance improvement plan. You are right to keep a log. You need to be able to track back to policies and procedures that apply to him so you can be clear how what he is doing breaches those.
Disciplinary policy, now.
You might need to go through the process of setting the standard now, then performance managing him against it.
Are his colleagues annoyed that he's getting away with it? I would be.
I would advise involving HR from the very start to make sure that you are doing everything by the book. Record everything including all the support you are giving. It's really time consuming, but it is the only way.
I bet the rest of the team get fed up with this.
Starting work at 11am in very unacceptable!! Personally I'd take him to my office. Ask him if anything was wrong and his absenteeism has been noticed and cannot continue. He can either do part time hours for a short period, apply for flex working as to whatever your local policy is. But now you need to be tough and manage him properly as urgently you're not doing your job ether to be completely honest.
Good luck!! Be firm but fair
Thanks for all your views. It's reassuring to know I'm on the right page. The rest of the team are frustrated by it to varying degrees. I've been promoted from having worked alongside him and was hugely annoyed by it as his 'equal' and can't help but bring that perspective into the mix too - hence feeling the need to test out my thinking as I'm pretty biased on this before I've even started. The working hours issue is just one of a long and varied list of issue too - but I won't bore you!
Flumpybear - I've had that discussion with him. That's what led to him turning up by the 'bright and early' 10am for a whole 4 days!! Then the whole baby thing kicked off and now we're back to square one. I totally get the fact that I'm not doing my job unless I address this and as I said, my boss is on to it too. Our HR approach to this sort of thing is pretty low key and nothing happens fast but we do have performance management process and I think that's the route this will have to follow - he'll kick and scream all the way though!
I agree with pp's you need to tackle this now with recording and starting your company's disciplinary procedure , getting advice from HR.
It may seem harsh with him having a new baby with health issues, and it would have been better to have been more proactive from the start, but it has to be done and from what you say this behaviour is nothing new.
The other members of your team will be looking to you to deal with this and if you don't you may have other staff starting to 'take the piss'.
Your boss will expect you as a manager to manage this difficult member of staff, if you do not it will reflect badly on your ability to do your own job, regardless of how awkward the person is.
You work in local government so there will be very clear procedures for you to follow. There will be very little you can do about his previous timekeeping if it has not been raised as an issue and properly documented by previous managers, but you can make a start on the current issues. Have a frank 1-1 meeting with him and raise all the issues you have mentioned calmly and non confrontationally. Suggest ways they can be resolved and set a timescale for improvement and review. Agree date for follow up meeting. Send record of the discussion in an email to him and to HR. Make sure that all team members are aware of how flexible working is managed in a friendly team email.
You say he is a tricky character, if you feel that he might kick off then ask a supportive member of HR to support you during your meetings with him, that way the record of the meeting is undeniably accurate and you are protecting yourself from physical threat(it happens!) and accusations of bullying behaviour.
Read the HR policy for managing poor performance (presumably he is also not completing the tasks required in his role, so it's not jsut a time-keeping issue?)
Remind him - in writing - about core hours and the process for requesting leave (paid and unpaid). Cover these issues at a team meeting too, so that everyone understands what is required of them.
Do you have a proper HR function any more, or is it all "delegated functions" so that managers have to do everything except when it escalates to legal problems? If so, you have my deepest sympathies...
Thanks. All very helpful. I think part of the problem here is that I took over management of the team just before the baby was born and he went off on paternity leave. I had that initial frank and honest 1 to 1 with him when I set out expectations but I know I now need to do that again, and more forcefully in light of recent behaviour. We do have very clear HR policies but it's not always easy to get the advice and triggering the performance management process is seen as pretty serious. Informal discussions suggest that they wouldn't be keen to do that until his personal issues have calmed down a bit, but how long do you give someone!? He's very tricky but in an awkward, difficult way, rather than anything else. It's going to be a bumpy ride however I play this that's for sure.
Meant to say this is advice from family member in a similar position, it has taken a long time to clamp down on historic very lax attitudes and practice in the team . Several members were very upset when their regular TOIL claims were stopped when it was pointed out that since they were not actually managing to work their allocated hours overtime claims were not on! Another was miffed when it was pointed out that she habitually went sick on all Fridays before bank holidays and on the two days following her birthday..............
Look at it this way. If the manager should change, and he hasn't started pulling his weight, he could get fired. Turning him into a dependable, contributing member of the team is good for him. Losing his job when he has a sick child would be awful. You're helping to protect him from that.
Olenas - we do have minimal HR support but most of it is 'manager self -service' - not helpful at all in a situation like this. I've read and studied the performance management policy already. I think what I now need to do is start putting it all in writing to him. Given that he's been largely absent for a few weeks I'm going to schedule a 'back to work' meeting with him next week (assuming he shows his face) and start the ball rolling with that. Definitely doesn't help that he's been allowed to get away with it for so long and he's one of those people that clearly thinks he can make his own rules up. That's why I know this isn't going to be easy!!
Like that approach kickassangel!! He seems to have no concept of where all this could lead. He seems to think the world owes him. Can you tell it's driving me nuts!?!?
What kind of job is it, where so much non-attendance can happen? Isn't he needed for meetings etc? Does he have a calendar that you can look at - and tell him to use - to record where he's going to be and when?
Obvs there are jobs where time-at-desk is less important than completion-of-tasks - but it sounds like he's not getting the job done! Firm action def required.
I'm assuming that he has several decades of working life ahead of him... or maybe not!
Don't want to give too much away about nature of work in case it outs me (!!) but it's basically an executive support function. The work is relatively reactive but the team supports the most senior people in the organisation. He is in a well-paid position. The team has been under-utilised but is now very much at the corporate centre and very visible. It doesn't take a super-brain to work out that we all need to up our game to meet the new expectations. He's showing no signs at all of being either willing or able to do this. It's intensely frustrating. I have to admit that because he's been so flakey since baby was born I've avoided allocating him any meaty work. I've spoken to him about this and said it was very temporary until things calmed down. It certainly can't go on!
And yes he has roughly 4 decades of work ahead of him - not that you'd know by his attitude!
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