A reader writes:
I have an employee who is constantly leaving five or ten minutes early every day. She is the receptionist/admin assistant for our office but was hired by and reports to me.
If someone brings her something to mail or send out via FedEx at 10 minutes to 4:00, there is total panic about how she won’t have time to do it. And I constantly hear how she came in 10 minutes early. I don’t want an employee sitting at her desk with her keys and pocketbook ready to go for the last 10 minutes of her day.
Of course, if I mention the fact that she spent the first half hour she was here chatting with people, she denies it. And then she leaves the office for a full hour at lunch time, comes back and spends 20 minutes making her lunch in the kitchen, and then eats at her desk. I think this is totally unfair to everyone else. I don’t understand her point of view at all, and I’ve had it with her not working till 4:00.
So … tell her, and stick to it, and enforce consequences if it continues.
You’re her manager. You get to set standards for what flies and what doesn’t. You have to, actually.
You’re treating this like you both have to agree. It’s better if you both agree, but it’s not required.
So: Tell her that she needs to work all the way up until 4:00 and that you don’t want her getting ready to leave until her work day is actually over. Tell her that if she takes an hour for lunch, she needs to be back to working at full capacity when that hour is over, not preparing lunch in the kitchen. And tell her that you need her at her desk working when her work day starts in the morning, not socializing with coworkers.
If she denies she’s doing any of this, say this: “I regularly see this happening. But we don’t need to debate that; I just need you to understand that going forward, it needs not to happen.” And then, if you see it happening again, you ask her in that moment to come talk to you in your office, where you say, “What I just saw was what I was referring to when we talked about how you need to be at your desk working at the start of the day, not chatting with coworkers. Can you commit to that going forward?” (You should give a certain amount of slack on that, though, because practically speaking, most people chat with their coworkers at some point during the day, and some of them do it in the morning. I’m assuming the issue with her is that it’s way too much, but it’s worth noting that.)
If any of this continues to happen after you lay out your expectations, then you handle it like you would any other performance problem — up to and including replacing her if you decide the behavior is serious enough.