My colleague keeps pulling sickies

A worker is tired of her colleague taking time off. How can she stop it?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 28 Mar 2014

Q: A member of my team constantly takes time off - sick days, pillow days, appointments, long 'work' lunches. Whenever our boss is out, he sneaks off, mumbling excuses about dentists or needing to let the plumber in. He gets away with murder and no one says anything. I don't want to be a squeal but I just don't think it's fair on the rest of us. Should I have a word with my boss?

A: Probably. But first have a word with the culprit. It's possible, if extremely unlikely, that there are respectable reasons for his truancies. You don't want to sneak on him to your boss only to discover that he's heroically looking after his consumptive grandmother.

By the sound of it, you haven't yet raised the subject of his timekeeping with him directly; you've probably just exuded silent disapproval, which he's chosen to ignore. If so, now's the time to be more direct - but don't let it become dramatic and accusatory. Make it clear that you're speaking on behalf of all the other members of your team, not just you. The key point to make is not that he's getting away with murder, which might simply sound envious, rather that his continual absences directly affect the rest of you: both your workload and your concentration. Be as factual and specific as you can - and try not to sound too schoolmarmy.

Tell him that it has got to the point where you all feel the need to go to your boss, which is what you're planning to do, but you didn't want to go behind his back. Present this not as a threat but as a firm decision.

His reaction to all this, whatever it is, will be instructive. But unless he pleads with you and promises to mend his ways, you should certainly carry through your decision to speak to your boss.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems on editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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