My employee keeps coming in late: What should I do?

You can't solve all your problems with a simple solution, says Jeremy Bullmore.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 22 Jan 2016

Q: A colleague of mine has just got a dog that he absolutely dotes on. He was a bit of a misery, and the dog has cheered him up no end - to everyone's great relief. But now the dog is ill, and he has become distracted and regularly leaves early or comes in late due to some new veterinary crisis. I don't want the old gloomy colleague back, but his behaviour isn't fair on the rest of the team. What should I do?

Jeremy says: The ever-perceptive Charles Handy has written of the sense of relief he felt when he realised that one of the definitions of 'management' was 'coping'.

While 'management' suggests a disciplined and orderly set of procedures, as developed and recommended by management schools and imposed even-handedly on the entire organisation, 'coping' recognises the value of impromptu decisions, each improvised to suit a particular circumstance, that help get you through the odd - and probably temporary - sticky patch.

And that's exactly what you need right now. So don't look for some masterly, single-stroke solution to this singular problem; there isn't one. Instead, try coping. Coping needs to be done on a day-to-day basis. Have a gentle word with this distracted colleague. Show sympathy and offer help.

Rather than apologise on his behalf to the rest of the team, enlist their help: they may have some little ideas of varying merit that will help keep crisis at bay. Coping may not deliver instant resolution but it buys time - and that's exactly what you need. The poorly dog will either recover or it won't. And until you know which, you won't know what further coping may be necessary.

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

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