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LeadingEdition: E-Newsletter for Purdue University Supervisors

Eye on attendance � An Employee Relations case study

�Well, look there, Robin decided to come in today only five minutes late, instead of 10,� Beverly whispers to Anna as Robin rushes in at 8:05 a.m. �Maybe I should sleep in more often. Chris doesn�t seem to care if she�s late all the time. This has been going on for six months and he�s done nothing about it.� Anna, tired of hearing Beverly complain about her friend Robin, decides to bring the issue up to their supervisor, Chris.

�Since my office is not in direct view of her area, I�ve only noticed Robin coming in late once or twice,� Chris responds to Anna. �I can�t address this issue with her based on hearsay that she�s late every day.� Chris agrees to pay more attention to Robin�s tardiness. He recalls that her job performance has been satisfactory, so this appears to be the only issue of concern at this time.

Over the next week, Chris notices that Robin is between five and 15 minutes late on four out of five days. He is shocked that this has been happening without him noticing. On Friday, Robin rushes in at 8:10 a.m. Chris immediately calls her into his office (in front of Anna and Beverly) and tells her that this has to stop � if she is late for work one more time, she will be terminated. Robin leaves Chris�s office in tears, speechless. Alone in his office, Chris ponders the brief, uncomfortable interaction that just took place. He decides to call the Employee Relations consultant for his area.

Following a conversation with his department�s ER consultant, Chris decides to acknowledge his poor handling of the interaction with Robin and arranges a time early the next week to meet with her privately. At the meeting, he states that although their previous conversation did not go so well, he is concerned about her tardiness and needs to address it more professionally. He describes what he has observed and explains how his observations supported information he received from others regarding her tardiness. Chris asks Robin for her perspective and then just listens. Robin describes problems with her daycare provider and personal issues she was facing recently with a divorce. She says she feels overwhelmed just to get up in the morning, and making it to work on time is becoming more and more difficult.

Chris empathizes with Robin�s life concerns, but refocuses the conversation on the need for her to be to work on time and the problems it causes when she is late � others needing to cover her phone, division among the staff, and reduced morale in the work area. Chris states he expects Robin to be at work at 8 a.m. every day, and he will review her attendance in two weeks. If her prompt attendance is satisfactory, he will review again in 30 days. He understands that all staff may have reasonable cause to be a few minutes late on rare occasions, and he tells Robin she may discuss any special circumstances with him directly. Chris then offers the Employee Assistance Program to help Robin work through her personal issues and refers her to WorkLife Programs for child care resources. Chris follows up this meeting in writing.

Key points


Manage by walking around � be present and observant of your employees� behaviors. Address unacceptable behavior promptly.


Hearsay that supports directly observed behavior may be used in the context of discussing a problem at hand. Hearsay by itself may be weak evidence, but may be used as a starting point in discussion, e.g., �I�ve heard this has been happening. I don�t know firsthand, but if it is going on, it needs to stop."


Set private meeting times to discuss performance issues with an employee.


Listen to what your employee has to say. The cause of the performance problem may be very different than what you expected.


Maintain focus on the situation, issue, or behavior that is of concern.


Set a timeline for improvement, and stick to it.


Provide resources for your employee, such as the Employee Assistance Program and WorkLife Programs.


Call your Employee Relations consultant early on to discuss strategy in addressing troublesome situations. Don�t know who your ER consultant is? Call 49-41679 or find the information on our Web site.

- Kathy Peters
Employee Relations

Gold rule

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LeadingEdition is an electronic newsletter for Purdue University supervisors.  It is produced and distributed by Purdue University Human Resources four times annually.  If you have questions, comments or suggestions relating to the newsletter, please call 49-41679 or email us.  Thank you.