When employees take time off from work for planned vacations or personal days, you can plan ahead to ensure that their absence doesn’t have a negative effect on productivity, team performance, profits, and work quality. Of course, at any business, you can also expect that people will have unexpected circumstances crop up occasionally and need to call out for a day or come in late.
At a certain point, though, tardiness and absenteeism can become excessive.
What is the best way to speak with employees about poor attendance? How should you go about communicating the way that their absenteeism has been impacting the business as a whole?
When you first become aware of an attendance issue, it’s best to gather information and find out why an employee has been coming to work late or not at all. Once you’ve had the opportunity to talk with them, it can help you work to find a solution and determine the next steps to take.
When Does Absenteeism Become Excessive?
When you’re running a business, absenteeism is something you can’t entirely avoid. Regardless of how reliable and dedicated your team is, there will sometimes be circumstances when they need to miss work. Whether they’re dealing with a family emergency, feeling sick, or needing a mental health day to avoid burnout, it is perfectly reasonable for employees to be absent occasionally.
At what point, though, does absenteeism become excessive?
There isn’t one specific definition of what constitutes excessive absenteeism. To determine what qualifies as poor attendance at your organization, you’ll want to look at the policies and procedures at your company, the typical level of absence expected in your industry, and work to understand the underlying cause of absence for any given employee.
Why Poor Attendance Must Be Addressed
While any business owner or manager expects occasional absenteeism to crop up throughout the month or year, consistently poor attendance can negatively affect an entire organization. Let’s look at some of the ways that having employees that are frequently missing work can impact your company.
One of the most apparent impacts of poor attendance on a company is decreased productivity. Not only is the missing employee not getting their work done on the days they miss or getting less work done on the days they are late, but other employees might lose motivation when their teammates are frequently absent.
Reduced Quality of Work
Not only can absenteeism lead to less work getting done, but it can also reduce the quality of the work that does get done. When people frequently miss days, it can mean they get out of their work flow. They might be less engaged with the projects they’re working on and rush through them to meet deadlines.
As we’ll discuss in the next section, poor attendance can hurt morale in the office. This means that the quality of work can suffer from the frequently absent employee and their teammates.
Working in an environment where an employee is consistently absent can seriously impact the morale of their coworkers. That is particularly true when several employees frequently arrive late or do not come to work. When your coworkers aren’t putting in the same amount of work as you, it can reduce your enthusiasm, confidence, and willingness to go above and beyond at work.
Low morale in the workplace can have a snowballing effect. It reduces productivity, increases office conflict, and creates more turnover. There can also be a vicious cycle regarding absenteeism and morale: frequent poor attendance reduces morale, and reduced morale can make it more likely that employees will call out sick or arrive late.
On the plus side, it’s possible that taking steps to boost morale in the workplace could reduce employee absenteeism. If you are dealing with several employees that are absent more than what is considered normal, it’s possible that low morale is fueling poor performance, employee discontent, and absenteeism.
An employee consistently not coming to work can increase the stress levels of everyone at the office. If the individual has responsibilities they aren’t taking care of, it often means someone else has to take them on. While most employees don’t mind taking on an extra task or two every once in a while, it can start to add up over time when they feel that they are pulling more than their own weight.
As a manager or a business owner, you know that turnover is expensive, time-consuming, and ultimately not great for the company culture. The ideal organization will have a strong core team of loyal employees that help create a healthy, productive, and thriving culture.
When a new hire sees that the entire team is frequently present and happy to be at work, there’s a much higher likelihood that they will want to settle in and stay with the company for many years to come. When your employees see that their coworkers are frequently missing work, on the other hand, they’re much more likely to start thinking about looking for work elsewhere.
How to Speak With Employees About Poor Attendance
If you’ve noticed that one or more of your employees have started to miss work beyond what is considered normal at your company, you’ll want to set up a time to speak with them immediately. Approaching this conversation with compassion is an excellent place to start, as your employees may have valid reasons for their absence or tardiness.
Even if several employees have been missing work recently, focusing on each person individually when meeting with them is essential. While a culture of absenteeism may have been brewing in your office, there’s also a chance that several employees have understandable reasons for showing up late or missing work entirely within the same period.
Meet With Them Privately
When an employee is frequently calling out sick, showing up late, or not showing up at all, the first step is to meet with them privately. Discussing their absenteeism in the lunchroom or an open office space with others isn’t a good idea.
The first time you address the issue, you want to ensure that the tone remains one of concern and information-gathering rather than discipline. You don’t want to put them on the spot or ask them about their poor attendance with all their coworkers watching. Doing so can make people feel defensive and embarrassed, and they likely won’t feel comfortable sharing why they missed work when an audience is there.
If the employee communicates that they will be leaving the job soon for a position at a different company, you at least now have the necessary information to begin the recruiting process. Before you start searching for a new candidate, you might consider whether your organization could benefit from implementing a blind recruitment process.
When an employee frequently misses work or shows up late, it can be easy to assume that they are simply doing so because they don’t care about their job. It’s important to first approach the issue with concern and compassion, though. Something may be going on in their life that is impacting their ability to arrive on time or perform their job duties.
The reasoning behind their absenteeism is very important, and you’ll want to be compassionate towards your employee when you first reach out about their attendance.
Your employee may be having transportation issues or suffering from health problems. Maybe they are dealing with a challenging personal situation, such as a divorce or the recent death of a loved one.
During this meeting, it’s essential to listen and be empathetic. Through open communication, you might find that it is appropriate to give your employee some time off or find another solution that works for them.
Once you have spoken with your employee, you may find that they don’t seem to have a reason to explain their frequent absence from work. It’s a good idea to proactively deal with the issue of absenteeism by working to improve the policies outlined in your employee handbook. If it seems appropriate, given the information you’ve gained from your employee, you can take this time to remind them of the policies written in the handbook and how they apply to their particular situation.
You can also use this time to explain to your employee how their missed work days impact their team and the business. They may not realize the negative effect it has on the company when they call out sick.
Of course, you will want to determine whether or not it’s appropriate to point to the handbook at this time or discuss the negative impact of their absenteeism on the business. If your employee did communicate that they are dealing with a difficult situation that is impacting their ability to show up for work regularly, it might be best to save this part of the discussion for another time. Instead, you can work to create a solution that works both for the employee and for your organization.
Address the Problem Right Away
Like most issues that crop up in a business, it’s best to address the problem of absenteeism immediately rather than let it continue for a long time. The tension between your employee’s work and personal life may be causing them a great deal of stress, and just having the opportunity to explain themselves to their manager or the business owner can be an enormous weight off their shoulders.
The sooner you address the problem, the sooner you can implement a solution.
Are you dealing with an employee that is both excessively missing work and behaving inappropriately? If so, check out this recent post about handling employee misconduct like a pro.
Work to Find a Solution
Once you have spoken with your employee and learned the reasoning behind their frequent poor attendance, you can work to solve the problem. For example, there might be a fairly straightforward obstacle that has been getting in the way of getting to work consistently, such as transportation problems. If this is the case, you might be able to adjust their hours slightly so that it works with a public bus schedule.
If your employee is dealing with a distressing personal situation, offering them some time away from work might be appropriate. Sometimes people need a little bit of time away so they can return with focus, engagement, and energy. When they return to work, you’ll want to monitor their attendance and see if the situation improves. If not, it will need to be addressed again.
Continue to Monitor Attendance After Your Meeting
After meeting with your employee and working to create a solution, the next step is to keep an eye on their future attendance. If it continues to be an issue, you will want to address it immediately. If you notice that their attendance improves, though, this is the perfect opportunity to communicate to your employee that you appreciate that they have worked to improve their attendance.
While many employees might have legitimate reasons for their absenteeism or tardiness, it’s also possible that a frequently absent employee already has one foot out the door. For example, when someone has already started looking for another job, it isn’t uncommon for them to mentally check out from their current position.
If you suspect this is the case, it might signal that it’s time to begin the recruiting process if you haven’t done so already. The more proactive you are in recruiting, the more time you have to find the right candidate to fill the position.
Are you looking for an on-demand recruiting solution built around your needs? If so, feel free to contact us today.
Did we miss anything regarding speaking with employees about poor attendance? Do you have any questions about how to approach the topic with your team? If so, please feel free to leave a comment down below, and we’ll get a conversation started! We’d be more than happy to answer any of your potential questions and clear up any concerns you may be having!
Andrew Greenberg’s roots in recruiting date back to 1996. He has experience both on the agency-side and corporate-side of the staffing business, with a focus in the financial services space at companies like Bloomberg and UBS. He also has core experience with information technology staffing, and has worked for major software companies such as SAP Business Objects and IBM/Informix Software. To get in touch with Andrew, you can reach him by email or by phone at (800) 797-6160.