new hire is frequently out of the office, should I start job-searching if my boss is leaving, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Talking to a new hire who’s been frequently out of the office

I have a question about how to handle a relatively new hire who is having some attendance issues.

We are a five-year-old, fast growing company and we hired him on ful-time as director of marketing in January after having worked with him on a contract basis for 6 months. He has 4 direct reports and is responsible for managing a team of 10 people. Over the last 4 months, he frequently emails same day asking if he can “leave early” to do something with family and has come in “late” several times for a variety of issues – car problems, sprinklers broke so there is flooding in his yard, kids were late getting up, etc. Today he emailed again asking if he could take this Thursday off because his stay-at-home wife is just came down with a cold and she was supposed to take the kids on a class trip to the zoo on Thursday…he is asking to take them now.

He is doing a good job so far – we are close to hitting demand targets – but my concern is that his frequently being out of the office will have a negative effect on the rest of the team. He is in a leadership position in the company and constantly coming in late or leaving early does not set a good example in my opinion. I don’t want to come off as inflexible (he is the only employee in our office with kids). How would you recommend I handle this situation?

Well, the first thing I’d think about is whether it really does matter. If he’s performing at a high level (I’m not sure if “good” means that or if means something closer to “okay”), why does it really matter? But if he’s more okay than great, or if it’s making him less accessible to people than you want him to be, those are legitimate reasons to be concerned. In that case, you should just be straightforward about explaining that to him: “Bob, I’ve noticed that you’ve been out of the office a lot — leaving early, coming in late, or taking days off at the last minute. This is a role where you really need to be here during business hours most of the time, because there’s so much interaction with people throughout the day, and it can be tough when you’re not around when someone needs you.”

But make sure it really matters. If it doesn’t actually impact his work or other people’s, giving this kind of flexibility can be a good way to retain good people (and you should offer it to all high performers whose jobs wouldn’t be impacted by it, not just him).

2. Would it be weird to suggest a flexible start date?

I am about to have a third round interview with a startup in late May/early June. We had previously talked about a potential start date in mid June being mutually beneficial, but the hiring manager mentioned they don’t currently have the work available and their time frame may change (and has already shifted out about a month or so from their initial projections). Would it be weird to discuss some sort of flexible start date if the hiring manager brings up start dates again?

In my mind, I’m picturing some sort of written agreement included with a potential job offer that says something along the lines of “Start date no sooner than 3 weeks from now, but no later than 3 months from now, to be finalized with at least one week notice from the start date”? It seems like a win-win to me, as (1) they’re a startup and don’t necessarily know when they need this particular position filled (2) I want to leave my current job, but not before getting a new job offer. At the same time, I would prefer at least a week off between jobs, but would not mind even multiple months off.

Does this ever happen? Or would talking about something like this just make me seem undesirable/weird?

I don’t think it would be weird, and there are cases where it would be really helpful. My only caution is that if you set up an arrangement like that, you might be opening the door to the start date getting pushed back further and further and possibly never materializing (despite the “no later than 3 months” clause). Because of that, I’d be inclined to get a firm start date if you can.

3. Should I start job-searching if my boss is leaving?

What do you do when your boss is leaving? I work on a small team, and the idea of reporting to someone new makes a big impact on me. Is this a good enough reason to start looking for another position? I’m just wondering how people navigate this kind of thing.

Why not wait and see who the new manager is? You could end up loving the person, so it feels premature to start planning to leave before you even know that. There’s no harm in putting out feelers now so that you’re not starting from scratch if it does turn out that you want to leave, but I’d keep an open mind about the new manager for now.

4. Does this second interview mean the first group of people thought I was a “yes”?

So many jobs lately have me come in for a second or third interview. My last interview, I was scheduled to first meet with HR, the assistant manager and then the manager. I guess I did well because I was scheduled for a second interview with the group director the next day. This is a corporate job. Now my question is, does this mean, I got a “yes” from those 3 people and the group director is the deciding person?

You’re looking at it as more yes/no than it probably is. It means you’re still in the running, but it doesn’t necessarily mean an unqualified yes from the earlier people. I’ll sometimes move people forward in a hiring process even if I have reservations, if they’re otherwise strong enough; I’ll flag those reservations for the other people involved, or simply give myself more time to mull over my assessment and/or compare them with other candidates.

5. Can I ask my references how strong of a reference they’ll give me?

You have written about making sure your references are strong, but I was wondering if there’s a way to find out how good a reference someone will be. I usually ask my references if they would feel comfortable being a good reference for me, but is there something else I should be doing? I don’t want to be blindsided and get a bad reference.

The big thing is to be honest with yourself about how strong the work you did for them was and how they likely regard you. Ideally, you know them well enough that you should have an idea of what they thought of your work. But yes, it’s always reasonable to say, “I’d like to offer up references who will feel comfortable really speaking glowingly of my work. I’m hoping that’s you, but it’s of course okay if it’s not. Are you able to give me a sense of how strong a reference you’d be comfortable giving me?” The key here is to make it really safe for them to say “not that strong” — which means that you have to sound genuine and sincere in asking this, and you can’t react badly if someone gives you a disappointing answer.

{ 100 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric

    #2, start dates:
    Another option would be to agree to a start date a couple months out (say August 1st), but also let them know that if they need to move up the start date, you would be open to those discussions.

    1. M-C

      And #2 I know I’ll sound like a terminal pessimist here, but I wouldn’t quite stop the job search yet. A job in hand vs in the bush etc. I know I’ve been fine, even happy, at flaky startups, but there’s a limit to how flaky you should allow them to be just because they’re startups. Yanking you around on the start date could easily slide into yanking you around on the paycheck.. And who knows, the ideal job might be the next one to hire you, for real that time :-).

  2. katamia

    OP1: Does he need to sign off on the work of the people under him? (Honest question; I’ve never worked in marketing.) If so, are you sure he’s not holding people up by not being available to check whatever needs to be checked? Even if that’s not the case, though, I’d probably resent the fact that I’d be stuck in the office working normal hours while he was out doing…well, I probably wouldn’t know what he was doing because it probably wouldn’t be shared with me, but that would be very frustrating. Not enough on its own to have me looking for a new job or anything, but I think you really need to address this.

    OP2: Are you sure that they’re going to have work for you in a three months?

    1. OP #2

      I’m not sure they’d have the work three months out… The position is more customer facing, and it’s more a question of how many new customers they will get in the next few months.

    2. Sam

      Totally agree with your second point here for OP1. If he’s the only person getting this kind of flexibility, odds are high that some resentment is going to build elsewhere in the office.

      1. Merry and Bright

        Yes. I’ve seen this when more senior staff are seen to work unofficial flexi-hours. It does create resentment and a feeling of “them” and “us”. Correct or not, managing bad feeling amongst staff is challenging. Not a manager myself but seen it happen.

        1. Snowglobe

          Also an issue is that this is the only employee with kids. The perception could be that this guy is given way more leeway just because he is a parent, which can be really, really irritating to the childless who have their own problems to deal with.

          1. Jazzy Red

            He *is* getting more leeway than everyone else.

            It may not be a big deal with his performance, but it will cause resentment within the office. If anyone on his team needs him when he’s gone – bam, “he’s out AGAIN when I need him for whatever”. Pretty soon it becomes “he’s NEVER here when we need him”. Other people hear this and Mr. Marketing Director is the guy with kids who’s never in the office. It gets ugly real fast.

            OP #1, you do need to have a talk with him and clearly state that he needs to be in the office when he doesn’t have appointments with prospective clients.

        2. Green

          But Allison’s point is that employers should offer that kind of flexibility for ALL employees whose job performance is exceeding expectations and whose role allows it. If they expanded the policy, then there shouldn’t be resentment.

          Also, if this role involves any nights and weekends or client development on “off” hours then work-week flexibility can do a lot to make an employee really happy even if salary isn’t the best.

          1. snuck

            I’m with you Green…

            Flexibility is a great perk you can offer that can be worth a lot more to an employee than a $1k payrise (or even a $2k payrise).

            Let’s look at this another way… is this employee a stellar performer in other areas… and is he worth keeping? If he is… then why risk driving him out/away by denying his time off – because he is making it clear that those other activities are higher priorities for him at that time.

            If he’s only just getting to standards and you feel he isn’t worth team resentment and you don’t want to open the flood gates to flex time for lots of others then pull him in and have the chat, but in having the chat you are suggesting that you could replace him over this (even if you don’t say or mean it… right now)… and if he feels strongly he might job hop off elsewhere.

            And why not look at everyone’s flex time possibility… use it to reward high achievers or retain specialists etc – not just for people with families… others could well like flexibility too – whether it be for personal hobbies, to take care of appointments at convenient times, or just to sit in the sun somewhere without hordes of people because they can go on a weekday.

            And definitely look at flex time as an alternative to overtime if that’s what people want (and your employment law allows it)… I know I’ve loved roles with Time Off In Lieu where I can save a few hours and take them off when I have a doctors appointment or a desire to hit the sales or whatever.

            1. Green

              Except for high income jobs, flexibility and/or work from home can be worth a lot more than $1-2k! I took a $55,000 salary cut for a more flexible job.

      2. Stranger than fiction

        Well I can see it being an issue in some places but the Op admits he’s the first employee with children and it sounds as though they haven’t given much thought as to how “family flexible ” they are yet. It sounds like mostly late ins and early outs so far and one last minute out for the day on that thursday. It doesn’t sound that unreasonable to me for someone at a director level since he has four managers under him. Likr Alison said if it’s not negatively impacting deadlines and such i wouldn’t give it a second thought. I’m just an individual contributor but at all the corporations I’ve worked for, leadership has this flexibility

        1. Green

          Whether one has a family or not shouldn’t impact the flexibility offered, but offering this kind of flexibility to ALL employees where possible is something good employers do.

          1. Ruffingit

            Absolutely. I’m working in a place where there is no flexibility and no reason not to have it. We are given 30 minutes for lunch and that is it and we have to clock in/out if we leave the building. It’s ridiculous considering we’re salaried. I’m just so over employers who do things for the purposes of “rules” but which actually make no sense in terms of maintaining a good working environment.

        2. Green

          Oh, one more pet peeve. Just because I don’t have children doesn’t mean I don’t have a “family.” :)

        3. snuck

          That’s a good point Stranger Than Fiction… if he’s a director with four managers below him… and he’s not skipping out when there’s a crisis and the office is falling apart… then it shouldn’t be that big a problem… he’s not front line, he’s not going to cause major issues by leaving 20mins early etc… his management team should handle the day to day, and he handles the big stuff.

          The rest of the office doesn’t have to know why he’s out… for all they know he’s off to a meeting.

          He should give more notice where he can… and book the time out in his calendar ahead of time if possible… talk to him about the professional norms required? In explicit detail if needed?

          I assume at that level he’s checking email and reading reports at night and on weekends… and the lower direct reports probably aren’t. His payoff for that is getting to go out for a Friday afternoon coffee/watch his kid play baseball/drop the library books back.

        4. EvaR

          Hi. Disabled person without kids here. My disability has a stigma, it is often considered one of the “invisible disabilities.” I agree with Alison that if it doesn’t effect productivity, everyone should be able to do things like this occasionally. But you can bet that people notice when suddenly it is totally fine for someone to miss work for childcare purposes and not for other reasons without jumping through more hoops. You can’t assume that people without children don’t have real struggles going on in their lives that can impact their attendence. And it shouldn’t matter, but when there is one rule for the people with kids and another for the people with medical issues, or who are caring for an elderly family member, or who just had a pet get hit by a car, or who had their car break down or whatever, it does. Especially when the person with kids also outranks all those other people. Just saying.

    3. ExceptionToTheRule

      We’ve recently had a new chief marketing guy start who was billed as “the kind of guy who will come in early & stay late” and it turns out he’s actually “the kind of guy who comes in late & leaves early.” It’s killing the morale of the guy who’s been doing all the heavy lifting in the department since the last chief marketing guy left.

      1. Stranger than fiction

        Well yes in that case the person is perhaps taking advantage. I should add that even in work places with flexibility to come in late and leave early, the employee should make it up on the other end and/or be available and put in time from home in the evening. I remain a bit puzzled as to the industry the op is in. Don’t the other employees have the option to say have a dr apt in the morning?

  3. Graciosa

    Regarding #4, sometimes you can just ask. In my case, I’m very clear with candidates about our interview process, including the fact that they are not passed on to the next phase / level of interview without getting a recommendation from the previous interviewers. I’m also very clear about the fact that candidates are rejected at higher levels, and that additional interviews are not merely a matter of courtesy. However, this is information about my process and others differ.

    I say *sometimes* you can ask because you don’t want to do it in a way that makes it seem as though you’re insecure and looking for reassurance. You can ask for information about process and anticipated timelines, but not for reassurance or estimates of your chances of receiving an offer.

    You have an offer when you actually have an offer – so there’s no point in tying yourself up in knots trying to calculate your odds or decode every little gesture for secret meaning. You know when you know.

    1. Artemesia

      Being passed to the next level doesn’t mean ‘yes we want to hire her’; it means, ‘yes, we should keep her in the pool of possible hires.’ It is good news but not close to an offer ‘if and when the boss signs off.’ When I was hiring we sorted applications into rejects and met bare qualifications, the committee read the second pile and identified about 10 to get serious consideration, the committee met and chose 6 to phone interview although if there were 5 or 7 that was okay too), we did the phone interviews and then flew in the final 3 for the whole complex interview process where they did a demonstration, met with committees, with colleagues, with key managers etc over a two day period.

      The phone interviews were enormously helpful; almost always a couple of people would simply be dropped as ‘no way’ at that point, a couple of people would be ‘possible if we can’t get anyone better’ and a couple would be clear standouts. The last hiring round I did we only brought in two for the final round and hired one.

    2. OP #4

      Thanks for your reply. I just wanted to get the jist of how corporate hiring works. I know that obviously by the 3rd round of interviews, I am ONE of the possible hires. I’m just curious if they all sit down in a meeting together to discuss who is the strongest candidate or if a candidate is just passed onto the next level and the last interviewer is the final decision maker. All in all I’m thinking of different scenarios since I really want this job…

  4. Recent Engineering grad

    Re: #3

    My boss is also leaving my workplace for a better position and I also have the same issue. I’m still currently an intern as I was brought on to work part time while I finished up my last semester of school. Well, I wasn’t sure if I would have a permanent position at the company after his leave so I applied everywhere, got a job offer that was double the pay that I currently got, went back to my boss and let him know if they could match or beat the offer since I love working there. Turns out there wasn’t a full time position available for me at my current workplace so I went ahead and accepted the offer. It’s a business at the end of the day. And plus, I don’t think they would be able to afford me since my offer was pretty damn ridiculous lol.

  5. NutellaNutterson

    Op#1, I think *frequently* leaving early is what’s standing out here. Morning car trouble or other unforeseen stuff is more reasonable to me (I’m a parent and sometimes a child’s random mood will totally mess with your schedule). And if he’d simply said he needed a sick day because the primary caregiver was sick, you’d have not been the wiser.

    But the same-day leaving early is a different kettle of fish. How often do you mean? Once a month? Once a week? I’m wondering if he oversold his flexibility and now he’s trying to attend afternoon soccer practice or something?

    1. MK

      Also, there is the fact the he was working there as a contractor for 6 months before he was hired. How was his attendance during those months? Did he consider it a “trial” period and put in his best behavior? Or is it that you didn’t mind flexibility in a contractor but you expect more regular attendance from an employee? Conversly, is it possible that he thinks he has more flexibility as an employee? There might be some miscommunication there.

      I think the real issue here is the frequency; if this is happening 2 or 3 times a week, it will probably end up being a problem somewhere along the line, even if it isn’t now, because he will get into the mindset of “Oh, I can always arrange things with work”. That being said, it sounds as if he always explains about coming late and asks persmission for leaving early. Have you tried expressing reservations about this in the moment? If you always agree/ take it in stride, it would be reasonable for him to assume it’s fine.

      1. UKAnon

        My first thought was that as a contractor he was on a contract where meeting deadlines/targets mattered and otherwise he basically worked for himself. If so, that may be a deal breaker for him and finding out that that flexibility won’t continue will mean that he bows out of the job. I think OP needs to consider what happens then, and maybe factor that into any conversation with him.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Hey, I went on further down thread about an issue I had but, then I’ve read your post again and I see exactly the mistakes I made in launching my Grabby McGrabberson employee.

        This:

        * If you always agree/ take it in stride, it would be reasonable for him to assume it’s fine.

        I’m a nice person and if it’s not screaming outlandish, I’m going to say yes. I like to say yes. So I said “yes” way longer than I should have while thinking “I cannot believe you are asking me again”.

        and this:

        * because he will get into the mindset of “Oh, I can always arrange things with work”

        That was the bafflement with this woman. Her mindset seemed to be how to fit work around her social life vs just, you know, working a job in the hours you’ve promised to work the job. This is unlike anybody else in our teapottery. IDK if things would have changed if addressed much earlier, but it’s absolutely true that I at least let that mindset grow/stick because I didn’t address earlier. I never quite got that until right now.

        1. Jazzy Red

          True that! There are so many people who don’t have the same idea as I do of what “once in a while” is. And I would rather say yes to people, especially when I’m caught unaware, and then that person thinks it’s always OK to do this or that. Trying to stop it after the 2nd or 3rd time could clear up the problem, because you can see that it *is* turning into a problem by then.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      I think if someone’s job is mostly self contained, the hours they log and when they log them aren’t important.

      I think if someone’s job is highly interconnected with other people’s jobs, being available during expected hours is important.

      I’ve had that drip-drip-drip-drip this thing, that thing, another thing, need to leave early, need to come in late, need to borrow a flex day ahead, need to skip lunch and change my hours, car broke down, dog ran away, boyfriend’s car broke down, boyfriend’s dog ran away, best friend’s car broke down, best friend’s dog ran away, have a shower I’m planning and need to take an emergency half day, one thing after another person on my team and — in case you can’t tell — it drove me **batty**.

      I’m running a business that sells teapots, not a support for your social life.

      We ARE flexible but we’re interconnected so when one person adjusts their schedule, a whole bunch of other people have to accommodate that, even if in just minor ways. When one person is Grabby McGrabberson about flexibility, it is a problem.

      I don’t want to be the jerk who comes down on someone about asking for what, on one offs, aren’t crazy requests, but as some point, I did say “enough!” .

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        er, I was in the middle of a flashback and forgot to address the OP. (That person has left my team, btw, and even though she did good work, I am still happy every day that I’m not cringing at an email from her thinking “what next?”)

        Anyway, to the OP I recommend you do what I didn’t do to start off with this employee (because I didn’t conceive how bad it could get, I thought it was just a weird run with her to start). Think through what your reasonable expectations are for flexibility. Think through how important it is, or isn’t, for the employee to be available during expected hours. Once you have your “why it is business important to be available during the hours that you’re expected” together, just have the conversation.

        My employee never got it, even when I frankly and bluntly told her that she asked for at least 7 times the number of exceptions of any other person in our division (not just my direct report team). It ultimately led to her leaving because her high exception level impacted her raise and she left for more money. (It was a friendly parting. I was happy she was leaving and she was happy she was going to a job at a higher salary.)

        IDK if I had started her off with clearer “some is okay but this is all too much and here’s why” conversation if we’d have been able to change that outcome and she’d still be with us.

      2. I'm just anon so I don't get fired

        OMG, this is our current data entry person and “front desk receptionist.” I shit you not, the most butt-in-chair job we have and the boss staffs it with the most in-your-face slacker I have ever encountered in many decades in the workforce. He laid off the other person on my team and dumped all her work on me, AND removed the responsibility for answering the phones and put that on me and a staff member from another area so Miss Thang doesn’t have to interrupt her web-surfing, socializing and personal cell phone calls to, you know, answer the company lines. She doesn’t even bother to tell us when she’s leaving early, coming in late, “working” through lunch – she just leaves. And anyone who speaks to her in any way she doesn’t like is reprimanded.

        But wait, you said your “take ALL the time off” employee did good work. So this can’t be the same one. When she is in the office, ours is usually not in her work area; she’s flitting around socializing or pacing the grounds fighting with her SO on her cell phone. She does *not* do good work. I do our metrics. I have the numbers to back up that statement.

        TLDR: Not the same situation as OP’s, but the impact on operations (and morale) can be huge. On the bright side in my story, her bully-boss will very soon be moving on to greener pastures, so there is a possibility that this nightmare may end soon.

        1. Mary Terry

          Did you get our old receptionist? When her new boss told her she had to use her vacation time for these issues, it eliminated the out if office time.

          There’s being flexible, then there’s flexing yourself out of a job

      3. Chickaletta

        The offices with flexible work hours who are successful at that tend to compensate with technological connectivity. For example, internet, skype, messaging, texting, etc so that the employee can work from home or elsewhere just as if they were in the office. Of course, this doesn’t work for all types of businesses. But it lets employees be accessible and productive even if they’re not physically present in the office. So, a parent for example, could log on to work from home from 6am-7am, log off and get the kids off to school, show up at the office around 9am, and work until 5pm, and still get a full working day in. Or if they leave early to attend their child’s soccer game, they can still be reached if needed. Or perhaps someone who has a long commute could work Fridays from home. These days, it’s not always necessary to be physically present in the office to get work done, and with schedules getting busier than ever it’s helpful for companies to recognize that and reinvent they way they get work done.

    3. Elsajeni

      What stands out to me about the leaving early is the same-day notice. Maybe he does want to attend afternoon soccer practice — would it be as big of a problem if he just leveled with you, OP#1, and said “I’d like to leave at X:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays to pick my kid up from school” instead of always asking/telling you at the last minute? If he’s using that time off to do stuff with his family, I doubt that it’s all being planned at the last minute; I wonder if part of the irritation is just that he’s always bringing up stuff that’s happening today but that he’s obviously known about for three weeks.

      1. Jazzy Red

        You know, if he did ask for that time off every week, his staff would know when he would be out and that they need to talk to him earlier on those days. I know how much people hate being tied to a schedule, but this is the reason schedules were invented. (Can you tell I used to be a secretary and had the devil’s own time trying to schedule meetings for my boss because he would wait until he was ready to leave to tell me, each time.)

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

          I’m a big fan of expected work times. People can set their schedule from 6:30am thru 8pm. Being available when you’ve set yourself, your own choice, to be available makes everything run much better.

          Everybody needs exceptions, but if everybody needed exceptions 3 times a week, how would anything get done. “Where’s Bob?” “Bob’s not in until 3 i think, or maybe that’s gwen. No, gwen is in at noon today” “How about Fred?” “I think I saw Fred, I’m pretty sure, but he might have had to leave again” “Is there anybody here who can run a TPS report for me?” “I could but I’m out in 10 minutes for the rest of the day. Try Gwen when she’s in at noon. I think it’s noon.”

          OTOH, as you say, if everybody knew Bob was out Thursday afternoons, it’s NBD. We’ve got a healthy handful of returning mothers who are working abbreviated schedules, operative word being schedule and it’s no trouble at all.

        2. Margaret

          I’d definitely agree with this. My firm is pretty flexible, they just set 9 – 4 as the “core hours” at which you should be in the office so there’s sufficient overlap to coordinate with other people. And even within that, if you need an exception, all you have to do is ask (and be relatively consistent) – there’s a guy who comes in closer to 9:30/10 because he drops off his kids in the morning, and at any given season there’s probably at least a couple people leaving at 3 a couple days a week to coach some kind of kids practice.But people are generally pretty consistent, people know not to look for me until at least 8:30/9, and there’s a guy I work with that I know I need to talk to before he leaves at 4 if I need him.

          This works, in large part because people are fairly consistent with their self-set parameters, the set schedules that are too far out the norm are approved, and the exceptions to the set schedules – because they were set to meet each person’s needs in the first place – are kept to a minimum.

          I also suspect for the OP at hand, that the switch from contractor to employee is probably a factor too – the expectations for schedules are likely different and that might not have been communicated.

          1. Jessa

            Especially since the definition of contractor vs employee is that the contractor sets the rules (with or without an actual contract about them.) This person may be used to being a contractor where they get to mostly manage the work. Unless by contractor you mean the alternate usage of “employee hired via temporary service.” That’s one of the biggest differences barring a contract that says “person will work 8-5” or whatever the agreement is. because becoming an employee means they now have to do it all the company’s way.

      2. katamia

        Having it scheduled as time out in advance would make a huge difference. If his employees are having trouble getting ahold of him (doesn’t say that they are, but if he’s out on short notice that often I have a hard time believing that it’s never happened), then they’ll know not to look for him at X:00, which will decrease the negative feelings and help the people under him plan out when to ask him questions and such better.

    4. neverjaunty

      Also, the fact that he has a stay at home spouse who apparently is the primary caregiver. Why is “the kids got up late” and “we had a sprinkler break” something that requires him to miss work frequently?

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

        Ergh, “whys” is not where you want to go when you are managing someone. It’s too easy to treat people unfairly because you bring your own prejudice as to what’s “valid” or not.

        If you found out his wife had MS or a drinking problem or had packed up and left in a huff for her mother’s that week or or or, would that change your perception of the validity? Likely, but should someone have to tell you that? (Lemmee put it this way: I sure don’t want to know.)

        You’ll hear single/childfree folks complain that they perceive parents are granted more leeway than they are because the single person’s needs aren’t considered as valid as the parent who needs time off for family. That ain’t right.

        1. neverjaunty

          I’m not really following you. The issue isn’t whether one person’s time off is or isn’t “valid”, it’s that this guy seems to have an awful lot of parenting emergencies for somebody who supposedly has another person covering the home front, and I wonder how much of his gotta-cover-this-today is work ethic.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

            Let me say it the other way around. Grabby McGrabberson I’m referring to in another post here was single. She didn’t have children, she didn’t have ailing parents. I’m conscious to not stamp somebody else’s emergency as valid or not. I don’t think that’s fair My problem was she had way too many of them, and in a never ending string of asking for exceptions. (Good god, she got engaged and married during that time too. You can apparently have a LOT of dress emergencies that take you away from work.)

            I think what’s fair is to give everyone the same amount of leeway over a period of time. So dude in the OP, whether he was a single parent, one of two working parents, or with a stay at home spouse, I think that status should be immaterial.

            1. neverjaunty

              But I agree. The SAH spouse thing doesn’t make his emergencies invalid; it’s just that in the context of this dude’s never-ending string of home and kid-related emergencies, it makes me wonder about his credibility.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

                ha ha. me too.
                but I’m not supposed to think about that. Good manager hat on. (I try!)

              2. Green

                That still requires assumptions about his emergencies though. It shouldn’t matter whether he has no kids or 12 kids or a SAH spouse, a working spouse or no spouse.

                1. neverjaunty

                  If he has no kids and calls in late because “the kids are sick” you don’t see an issue?

                2. Green

                  OP said it is a “variety” of issues (and then mentioned two kid-related-issues, including once when his wife wasn’t feeling well), and it’s kind of bizarre to speculate that he’s lying just because his wife doesn’t work and should therefore (apparently?) handle all kid- and home-related issues while never getting sick…

                  But generally the reason shouldn’t matter and, really, neither should whether it was “white lies” — who cares if he actually has raging diarrhea or didn’t sleep well the night before and says the kid is sick instead?

                  The gist is that it’s either OK for him to have the flexibility to be late, leave early or take the days off for personal reasons or it’s not. (And, for what it’s worth, I never e-mail or call my manager if I’m going to be late or need to leave early unless I need to cancel a meeting or other set obligation. It’s an expectation of many people in salaried jobs requiring after-hours work at a relatively senior level to have some discretion on hours.)

                3. neverjaunty

                  Right, it’s a variety of home- and family-related issues that are constantly leading to this guy being out of the office a lot (and some of those issues are apparently just saying that he wants to do something with his family that same day, rather than being emergencies he couldn’t have predicted). Flexibility is one thing. Frequently showing up late, or asking to take off early, on short notice, seems less like flexibility than the guy not really grasping that there’s a reason they want him at the office. (that is, the team he manages.)

                  I get having a lot of flexibility at a senior level, but being a senior manager means that other people are impacted by your absence. Routinely leaving early same-day and having multiple ‘sorry, coming in late’ sounds like OP needs to sit down with this guy and have a talk about expectations.

                  And I don’t know that he’s lying. Just that the type of employee who tends to use fake/overstated emergencies to blow off work is the type of employee who seems to have a never-ending string of random back luck.

                4. Green

                  It’s not really clear in the post that he *needs* to be in the office at those times. Some days I come in at 8 am. Some days at 9:40. If I’m done with work, I may leave at 4:45. If I’m not done, I may leave at 8pm. I may go run to the gym (on-site) or the post office or the pharmacy from 10:30-11:30 AM. I may take a long lunch sometimes. I plan around appointments/meetings I have on my calendar. If there’s a time I *need* to be in the office, managers should communicate that, and I’ll plan around it or get a job with the flexibility I like.

                  Allison asked OP to (1) determine whether he *needs* to be in the office at those times and then, if so, (2) communicate those expectations to him. That’s a pretty reasonable first and second step and should come before speculating as to whether the dude is lying or a bad worker. He’s coming from a contractor position and is new-to-role. If there are mandatory parts of the job he’s confused about, it’s the employer’s job to explain it.

              3. Melissa

                But that’s pretty much the definition of validity. If you don’t believe his home- and kid-related emergencies are credible and that it’s more a reflection on his work ethic because he has a stay-at-home spouse, that 1) involves assumptions about what his stay at home spouse does and 2) is questioning the validity of his emergency claims.

            2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

              p.s. knowing the reasons for the exception requests did me a disservice and I don’t think I’ll listen to them in the future. I kept saying yes in the beginning because, I like to say yes, and it didn’t seem possible that the stream of friends with lost dogs (she’s out by highway! I have to go help look for her! she could get hit by a car! I’ll make up my hours tomorrow!!) and other freak minutia would continue.

              It’s friendly to listen to why if someone wants to tell you but, I don’t think I’ll do that in the future.

              1. neverjaunty

                There’s a point in THE GIFT OF FEAR about how people who lie tend to give too many details, because they know what they’re saying is false and they throw in more information to make it sound convincing,

  6. 960 bpm

    #2: I understand your thinking, but this just seems like a really bad idea to me. I think it’s a matter of human psychology: we think of a job offer as having certain well-defined characteristics (or properties): your salary will be $X; your title will be Y; your start date will be Z.

    But when you go futzing around and making these properties vague and uncertain, you run the risk of people beginning to think of it as something other than a job offer. Perhaps something less than a real job offer. Without the obligations and responsibilities that are part of a job offer.

    *shrug* maybe it could work. But to me, it seems like you’re just taking something simple and relatively fool-proof and adding unnecessary complications and failure modes to it.

  7. Coach Devie

    #3 A new manager is someone new. Looking for a new job would also have a new manager and be someone new. I also agree with sticking it out and seeing who it is/ how it feels.

    But it doesn’t hurt to update your resume and start seeing what else is open just in case.

    1. danr

      Yes, stick with the company and see how it goes. Brush up your resume, but don’t be too eager to leave. A new manager can mean that things will be better.

    2. pinky

      I was thinking this exactly – if you look for a new job, you’ll get a new manager, if you stay, you get a new manager. So stay and see, because really what difference does it make?

  8. 960 bpm

    #1: the words “my concern is that his frequently being out of the office will have a negative effect on the rest of the team.” are a Red Flag to me: the OP simply doesn’t like it that this person is flexing his time. I’m not saying that it is wrong to feel this way. But the stated concern smacks of self-deception, and self-deception is never a good thing.

    1. MK

      While it’s perfectly possible that the OP doesn’t like the employee’s flexibility and is projecting on the rest of the team, this is concern is not self-deception, it’s a very probable reality. The AAK archives are full of people complaing about managers and coworkers being out of the office all the time, even when this doesn’t directly affect their work. When you are making an effort to be on time and put in your hours, at the expense of your private life, it is demoralizing to see a coworker always coming in late and taking off early. Also, rightly or wrongly, when someone isn’t in the office a lot of the time, it creates the impression that they are working less and not pulling their weight.

      And while I agree self-deception is not a good thing, it unltimately doesn’t matter what the OP’s motives are here. It only matters if there is an objective problem to deal with.

      1. CatDog

        Hmm, hate to say it but it’s likely already started to affect the team if you’ve also noticed it. I’ve been in this situation, and while I usually understood that Senior Manager probably worked in the evenings to make up for leaving earlier, it was sometimes extremely frustrating to deal with. Eg a fairly concerning problem arose with an area of work last thing on a Friday. It was Manager’s responsibility to resolve, but he delegated to me as he wanted to go to swim class (there were other slots he could have gone to). So I had the joy of staying 90 minutes later unpaid, my plans (I had a pre-existing commitment which was embarrassing to delay) literally on hold whilst the person earning almost double my salary swanned off for the weekend. I didn’t stay much longer at this job and it was because this person expected his staff to stay in the office until whatever time it got done, but afforded himself the flexibility to leave early for x, grab dinner and carry on working at home with a fresh mind.

        Has the company made it clear during 1:1s/team meetings that flexibility is typically only/mostly granted to specific roles/high performers/senior staff? The company could help the situation by explaining the rationale: “Jane has a more flexible schedule because, as Senior Manager, she often has to be available outside of work hours”

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

      I’m not sure where you see a red flag or where you see self deception.

      In many cases, time flexing comes a cost to other people. How many times to do we hear about the frustrations of folks whose manager is here, there and the other place and they can’t get simple approvals, or decisions or whatnot. Often this comes with the additional info “and her boss looks the other way and won’t do anything about it, help”.

      Here you have the boss who isn’t looking the other way and is saying, is this a problem and what can I do about it. It would be great if everybody could work whenever it was convenient for them to work but most jobs aren’t set up to accommodate that.

      1. Colette

        There’s also the mindset that if my boss comes in sometime between 9 and 11, I probably don’t have to be there right at 8. And sometimes someone does need to be there at 8, but since the boss is unreliable, things fall apart when I hit unexpected traffic or take a day off.

  9. Merry and Bright

    #2 Putting the start date itself to one side, their reason for not having a firm plan in mind would make me pause a bit. They are interviewing multiple rounds (normal these days), but don’t actually have the work at the moment. So they are interviewing because they hope to have work later on. OK, it’s a start-up and maybe things haven’t fully taken off yet. But it sounds like most of the flexibility is on their side at the moment and hiring works two ways: Alison is right. A firm start date would be good. But it feels like I wouldn’t want to put too many eggs in this basket at the moment.

    1. Looby

      Had a similar thing happen to me. Two rounds of phone interviews and I was then told the third round in-person interview wouldn’t happen until they had a vacancy. They put me on a waiting list and checked in every month to see if I still wanted to be kept on the list. After 6 months, I told them to take me off, I was no longer interested.

      It’s fine to discuss a flexible start date at the interview stage, but once you have an offer, pin down a date. They shouldn’t be stringing you along at that stage.

    2. Jessa

      Even if they hire you, if work slows down again, will they let you go? Either they think they have a valid right now business reason to bring in someone new (so they’re ready when they get this business,) or they don’t and should not be interviewing now. Good candidates are not going to be able to wait indefinitely, and won’t leave other jobs for a possibility down the road, unless the good candidate is between jobs (and that does happen to good candidates, not everyone out of work is out because they are a screw up,) maybe they can afford to say “okay x months,” and keep looking on the understanding that if something better comes up they’re going to back out if they don’t have a firm start date

      The other issue is at this point even if they said “start in two weeks,” I’m not sure I’d trust them on it.

  10. carlotta

    #1 – I think you just set the expectations for high performance very clearly, including his being as responsive to his team as he needs to be, and stop policing this stuff. Surely, you do not want to be doing that? At my workplace no directors are emailing people about car trouble unless they are running late for something scheduled, in which case they email or call the person they are meeting.

    #4: your wording reminds me of UK X Factor: “It’s a yes from me!” I always think you’ve got to get through the cv screening, then first interview etc to get to second, and so on; each one is a hoop you’ve got to jump through (and jump well; you have to impress at each step). It’s not a democracy, usually: if one person wasn’t so keen on you that could be it, or they could be leas important as a stakeholder. I’d expect to meet quite a few people in interviews and often people will ask others in the company to accompany them to these to get a feel for fit and attitude from the candidate. The other thing I always think is that they work there, so they know better than you if you’d be a good fit or not. If you have the rights skills but they can tell due to speaking with you that the work style wouldn’t suit you or felt youd be unhappy there, they are probably right and youve dodged a bullet which you just cannot see from the outside. Good luck with getting the offer!

    1. snuck

      Yup Carlotta, on #1

      I would assume at the employees level he is considered senior, capable of managing himself, and driving to his own set targets.

      Instead of managing the minutae of his day with him, let him deliver to his goals, and include some goals around employee satisfaction and team availability and management style/approachability…

      and then let him run with it. Regular reviews will show if it’s working…

      And don’t stress about the family stuff – his status as a family man isn’t really relevant… if he was an elite sportsperson who was wanting time off for travel to marathons or early morning multi kilometre training sessions would it make a difference? Whether his SAHM wife is coping or not, or he is a doting very involved father etc or not… is he delivering, is he available when he needs to be (I assume you have this defined in your head already?) and is he accepted by the workplace?

  11. BananaPants

    He’s a director and he’s expected to email when he has car trouble and is running a half hour (or whatever) late? You say he’s in a position of leadership and where I’ve worked, senior management expects and is given substantial leeway in working hours due to their jobs requiring very frequent travel and early mornings/late nights working from home or on teleconferences. If a director in my organization wants to leave at 3 PM every other Friday to go to his kid’s soccer game, no one’s going to quibble about it because he’s going to be on a 2.5 hour teleconference later that night and he missed his other kid’s school play because he was on a business trip.
    I’m also curious what his attendance record was like during the 6 months as a contractor. Unless expectations for attendance were made clear, how is he to know that he is not really accorded the small amount of flexibility that would be typical of a senior manager in a company?
    If others are depending on him being in the office to do their work, then a conversation needs to happen about being in the office or otherwise being more available to work with his team. Otherwise I’m on Team Alison on this one – all of your high performers should have this sort of flexibility if it fits with the needs of the business.

      1. Green

        The managers who are really picky about “face time” (in jobs that don’t really *require* it) probably wouldn’t appreciate it if employees were similarly protective of 5 p.m. until 9 a.m. and weekends. Just saying.

    1. Stranger than fiction

      Yes this exactly. I’m also comcerned that the Op is concerned as to the “why” aka that the reasons are for Los related things, like this is a foreign concept. If they think he needs to talk PTO for some of these things than communicate that.

  12. AdAgencyChick

    #3, how’s the rest of the company? If your company is dysfunctional but your boss has been awesome about insulating you from that, then yes, for sure I’d start looking, because at a minimum you’d have to spend some time building a relationship with the new boss before she would be able/willing to do that for you.

    If you’re at a generally good company, I agree with others — whether you stay or go, you’ve got a new boss to get used to. You might as well see whether this one is any good. And, if you can, get involved in the hiring process. Most companies I’ve interviewed at don’t have the soon-to-be direct reports interview candidates, but once or twice it has happened. If some candidates are sticking out from the crowd to you as ones you might work well with, I think you can express your enthusiasm — “she sounds like someone I could learn a lot from, and who really cares about our mission” in a way that the higher-ups will pay attention to, although your input probably won’t be the deciding factor.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      That being said, update your resume now. When things change over your head it can indeed turn your working life upside down — a situation I’m in at the moment — and it never hurts to be prepared.

      1. OP#3

        The rest of the company is strange. While my boss didn’t insulate me from it, she did have history and insights that the new manager won’t have. I know that a new job will also have a new manager, but it just feels like my current company changed the deal – like, this isn’t who I interviewed with! I also think I might be happier on a bigger team, where something like this doesn’t feel like such a shake up.

        1. AJS

          Your company didn’t really change the deal–people come and go all the time (if you’re a baseball fan, just think of the roster today vs. 5 years ago!)
          However, if you’re sure you’d be happier on a bigger team, then start your job search.

  13. Purr purr purr

    OP1: I’d let the results of his absences dictate your actions. If it’s having a negative effect then it’s time to say something and if it’s not having an effect, i.e. work is being done on time and his team aren’t feeling the pressure of his absences, then just leave it. To me, it’s important that a company recognises that an employee has a life outside of work that will sometimes need to be made a priority. Most of us spend 40 hours of our lives at work, if not more, which is a HUGE chunk of time so some flexibility for a few hours here and there is usually appreciated by employees.

    From my perspective, I have a colleague who’s constantly ‘leaving early for an appointment.’ This happens about twice a week. We’re good friends and perhaps she’s going through a medical issue she doesn’t want to talk about but it’s also having a huge impact on our team because when she leaves early, the rest of us have to pick up the slack so we end up staying late. In this situation, I’d love for management to pull her aside and ask what is going on and then take appropriate action based on whether these appointments are urgent or can wait for outside working hours.

    1. Sam P

      “In this situation, I’d love for management to pull her aside and ask what is going on and then take appropriate action based on whether these appointments are urgent or can wait for outside working hours”

      OK, let’s say this happens – what next? Management pulls her aside, finds out it’s truly something serious, personal, necessary, urgent, and doesn’t tell you about it because it’s none of your business. Does it affect you any more or less than if management pulls her aside and finds out it’s serious but the appointments are flexible? Or if management never pulled her aside at all?

      1. OhNo

        It may not affect her fellow employees more or less, but it will have the benefit of making her aware that others are being affected by it. Oftentimes we tend to run on a “no news is good news” mindset, so having management pull her aside to discuss it may be the push she needs to finally realize the impact this behavior is having on her coworkers.

        Besides which, there’s also the chance that these appointments could be scheduled in advance, that she could adjust her own schedule accordingly, rather than just leaving early all the time and presumably leaving things for her coworkers to do. As several people have mentioned, if you do this for a while you tend to get into a “work can adjust their schedule to make this happen for me” mindset rather than a “I can adjust my schedule to make this happen for me” mindset.

        1. Artemesia

          Throughout my working life I scheduled appointments so as not to conflict with work responsibilities. This was not always possible, but it was mostly possible. I am always surprised that people expect to take so much time off work for personal business, much of which could be done on their own time if they wanted to do so.

        2. Jessa

          Also if the appointments are regular, then it’s on management to come up with how to cover during those appointments. They don’t even have to talk to her (they may already know,) and they certainly shouldn’t tell anyone else about it. But it’s still on the bosses to work it out. When Jane has an appointment, this is how we’re going to handle it so that you all don’t have to stay late. Maybe Jane stays late the night before and does the things she can do so you have less. I dunno, but if it’s impacting work it doesn’t matter whether bosses are addressing the appointments, they need to be addressing the workload.

      2. Purr purr purr

        You seemed to have missed the bit where I said I have to stay late because of this. So yes, this does affect me regardless of what situation it is. But…

        – If management pulls her aside and it’s necessary/urgent then nothing changes for me but I know they’re aware of it, have decided not to take any action and since I trust management then I know that it’s something they’re OK with and I probably would be too if I knew what the issue was.

        – If management pulls her aside and it’s not urgent or necessary then she can take those appointments outside of work hours and complete the hours she’s required to do in her contract and then I don’t have to work UNPAID overtime trying to get our work finished to the deadlines (our work is sent *daily* to our clients by 3pm). In my province overtime is unpaid up to 44 hours and I’m sick of doing 43 hours a week finishing her work.

        1. Green

          But how do you know whether management has taken her aside? Or whether she’s sent them a confidential e-mail saying that she has chemotherapy appointments for herself or her elderly parents or her kid or some other FMLA-qualifying event and she’s still able to work the majority of the time, and the company prefers that to nothing? There’s no reason to think you’d be privy to whether that conversation has occurred and what the outcome is.

          1. Purr purr purr

            I don’t. That’s why I said I’d love for it to happen. Maybe it already has and I’m not aware of it so I’ll keep on ‘loving for it to happen.’ In any case, if management has spoken to her then it would be lovely if they could send an email explaining to the rest of us that we need to pick up the slack without telling us the exact reason why. Right now we’re feeling pretty damn hard done by. Today as a case in point: she didn’t bother showing up at all. I had to stay late by 90 minutes to get everything done and so did the rest of my team. None of us are OK with that. If management knows, they’re better off giving a vague explanation instead of ignoring it because it’s hitting morale pretty badly.

            1. Green

              I would think telling you guys to pick up the slack and work harder (when you’re already picking up the slack and working harder) wouldn’t exactly improve morale…

              Plus, they really shouldn’t tell you anything about what’s going on with the other employee (nor should they tell you if she’s being disciplined for the no-shows or if she has a special schedule she’s worked out with them). You should just mentally assume the most compassionate reason possible and that your employer is legally required to accommodate it to help you cope with the situation and do your job as best as you can, assuming that sometimes it requires 43 hours a week to do it.

              1. Purr purr purr

                Yeah, except it’s not ‘sometimes,’ it’s turned into every week because our colleague always leaves early. In any case, it doesn’t matter anymore because I’m quitting.

    2. Lindrine

      It would be ideal if knowing she has certain time she can’t be available, that she could be held accountable for getting her work handled and better balanced so she does not impact the rest of you so much. Recently I’ve had a situation where I needed to leave earlier than usual, that means I still need to be on top of my projects and deliver stuff on time.

  14. Blergh

    OP #1: A very similar situation occurred where I work. It resulted in this manager’s employees coming in later and later every day and leaving earlier and earlier. None of them, including the manager, are working a full work week at this point. It all came to a nasty head this past week, and I think is going to result in the manager’s termination or demotion next week.

    Don’t let it go this far for your employee’s team. It is terrible for morale and causes a lot of unnecessary drama in the office.

  15. notfunny.

    #3: A new manager buys you some more time and an adjustment, so you may as well start the process of updating your resume and thinking about what makes sense next, but it doesn’t necessarily mean LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. That being said, the two leadership changes that I’ve lived through have made me leave within… 6 months, but those are not the norm, as far as I can tell.

  16. Kara

    Re: OP #1: I’m with BananaPants on this one to a degree.

    I was kind of surprised (and I guess honestly a little uncomfortable) to read of a DIRECTOR level manager asking “can I take the afternoon off”. In every company I’ve ever worked in, Directors were expected to manage their own time as well as the time of their staff members, and not have to constantly ask “mother may I?”

    IMO, as long as he’s reachable via phone or text to his staff in case of emergency, and as long as he’s actually doing the work that needs to be done, then it shouldn’t matter. And it shouldn’t cause “resentment” in his staff. That’s one of the perks of rising to that level of management – the flexibility to manage your own time and workflow. Now if he’s not accessible or if he’s clearly not flexing the time, just taking it off and not making it up or not using vacation or PTO, then you might have an issue. But otherwise, I think this kind of rings as though you were treating a your 30 year old like a teenager.

    1. neverjaunty

      It matters when that “flexibility” isn’t available to others, and when others have to bear the brunt of that “flexibility”.

      A senior person asking for time off in this context may not really be asking. “Hey, it’s OK if I do this, right?” is often not really a question, it’s “I’m going to do this and I can confirm your buy-in, right?” because hey, how can you have a problem with my not being here, I asked you.

  17. interchangeable

    OP#1 Call me cynical, but I can’t help but wonder if this guy is having an affair. I’ve seen this sort of thing a lot. He has a stay-at-home wife who knows his schedule so the only time he can see his mistress without raising his wife’s suspicions is to see her during work hours. Not sure what that says about my work history that I’ve seen this so often it was the first conclusion I jumped to.

    1. Sadder and Wiser

      My HR suggested that this sort of pattern might indicate substance abuse. Yikes!

  18. voyager1

    #3
    I am going to be the minority vote. Everytime I got a new manager, I left in 6 months. Agree with others, start getting the resume ready.

  19. Sadder and Wiser

    Re OP#1. It cheers me up to see this scenario in a misery loves company type of way. We have a very flexible workplace but one person has an endless stream of emergencies large and small that require late arrival, early departure, and sudden absences. These started slowly at first and each one seemed legit. My cat is sick, my allergies are acting up, my car battery died, I slipped on the stairs at my sister’s house, I had to babysit my niece, I have a migraine, my car got rear ended , etc,etc,etc!!! Because this is a nice person with great contributions when present, the team feels sorry for her and it took me far too long to see the big picture and the big problem. Still working on it with HR. The random specificity of OP’s excuses sound very familiar. I think you may have a person who is inappropriately prioritizing non work life over work life. Best case scenario is that they might not realize this and a heads up will get them on track. The problem isn’t flexibility, it’s unpredictability and unreliability. A manager has to get on top of this.

  20. Jaydee

    For OP #1 I think there are a few things to consider here.

    First, is the problem with this employee or with the leave/flex time policies?

    If your workplace doesn’t have set leave and flex time policies, maybe it’s time to set some. Nothing crazy and reactionary, just a simple “This is who approves leave requests and this is how far in advance you have to request time off. You are responsible for rescheduling or arranging coverage for any tasks/meetings/appointments scheduled during your absence. If you will be absent from the office during regular business hours for any reason, you must convey that to others by: [methods].”

    For flex time, figure out who approves it for short-term or ad hoc requests and who approves long-term flex schedules and how far in advance requests must be made.

    If you have good policies in place, but this employee isn’t following them, then talk to him about that. “Wakeen, you have made a number of last-minute requests for time off over the last few months. White Chocolate Teapots Inc. prides itself on having generous leave policies and being flexible with employees, but it important that your manager has enough advance notice when you will be taking time off. The leave request policy is on page 6 of the employee handbook. Any requests for time off of one day or less must be made to your direct supervisor at least 48 hours in advance except in an emergency. Going forward, please be sure to submit all leave requests to Esmerelda sufficiently in advance per the leave policy.”

    Second, figure out if the frequent absences are having a negative impact on his work performance or the work of others. Even if he is getting proper approval for absences, if it means he’s missing deadlines or not completing his work, then that’s a problem. Likewise, if his absences are impacting others, then you need to address that. In the first case, it’s a straightforward performance issue. “Wakeen, I’m concerned that you have been late to meetings/ turned reports in late/ not met performance goals the last two months. I also notice that you have been requesting a lot of time off on fairly short notice. Is there a connection? What do you think you can do to make sure you are on-time to meetings/ meeting deadlines/ achieving performance goals?”

    If his work is fine but others are frustrated that they can’t find him when they need him, then you may need to set up a way for employees to communicate their absences to everyone. This is especially helpful if employees frequently have off-site meetings or if multiple employees have flex schedules or work part-time. Have a shared calendar, an in/out board at the front desk, set “core hours” for everyone, or have each person set daily or weekly “office hours” and convey them to their colleagues. It’s frustrating not to be able to find Wakeen when you need his signature on the TPS report. It’s much less frustrating when you can check the communal calendar and see that he’s out this morning but will be in at 10:30.

    Third, if you have good leave and flex time policies, this employee is following them, and his absences are not causing performance issues or problems for others, then figure out what’s bothering you.

    Is it that his absences seem somehow tied to his family status? Anyone can have car trouble or an emergency home repair. “The kids were late getting up” could easily be “the dog got out and I spent 20 minutes chasing him around the neighborhood before I finally caught him.” A child’s field trip on Thursday could easily be a buddy in town for a conference who wants to meet up before he flies out Friday morning. So if it wouldn’t bother you for single guy to be absent that often for those reasons, it shouldn’t bother you for family guy to be absent that often for those reasons.

    On the other hand, if you start thinking about single guy and think “no, that would still be a problem,” then the issue is probably more that these absences seem like a sign of poor planning or poor prioritization. Kids dawdle in the morning. Dogs sneak out the door when you take the trash out. But if it regularly makes you late, you need to wake the kids up earlier or lock the dog in the bedroom when you take the take trash out. Cars break down. Sprinkler systems flood the yard. Emergencies happen. But if they are happening weekly, it gets suspicious. Spouses get sick on field trip day. Buddies come to town. But sometimes you have to say “Sorry, I can’t take off work on such short notice. Maybe next time/after work instead.”

  21. TootsNYC

    “If his work is fine but others are frustrated that they can’t find him when they need him, “

    If others are frustrated that they can’t find him when they need him, then his work ISN’T “fine.”

    Because “being there when other people need you” is a big part of “your work,” especially if you’re a manager and director.

    Sure, you can’t be there all the time, literally, but you need to work so that other people aren’t -frustrated- when they need you. You need to be telling them how to how to get your input, etc., so they can continue to do their jobs.

  22. No Longer Passing By

    Re Question #1: I’m not the OP but I wanted to thank you guys for the detailed analysis and sample language. I am having a similar problem with a new manager that I hired and was trying to be flexible but was getting annoyed and trying to determine how to handle it especially when his schedule was developed by himself. It was embarrassing when upper management would ask where he was and I would say “I don’t know” and couldn’t even say when he’d be in. It was working but I know how to bridge that gap between seeing the problem and then terminating. I’ve told him in the past that I need him to set a schedule but I don’t think that I was clear in expressing the problems as well as my expectations. You all helped me to see that the problem is his unreliability and unpredictability as well as the need fit him to be present to manage his direct reports.

    In the advent that he needs to shift his schedule weekly, what would you suggest? Have you worked in places where that was successful? He is the only employee presently who works this type of shifting schedule as he is both part-time and a manager.

    1. Green

      I have no idea whether his problem is unreliability and unpredictability, but if you haven’t made it clear that it’s a job requirement that he be in the office for set hours and that those aren’t subject to change except for a legitimate emergency, then I’d argue that you may not know whether his problem is actually unreliability and unpredictability or just a mismatch in expectations.

      I take a pretty cavalier approach to schedule since I often work nights and weekends, but if my boss set clear expectations that this wasn’t OK (most people in my department are similarly flexing their schedules), then I would be butt-in-chair from X until X (until I found a new flexible job!).

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