MT agony uncle Jeremy Bullmore

How do I deal with a napping colleague?

Our in-house accountant takes lengthy lunch breaks and naps at his desk. How can I make sure he doesn't set the wrong example to the rest of the team?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 28 Oct 2013

Q: Our in-house accountant recently retired but we've kept him on part-time, as he is brilliant at his job. However, since 'returning', his attitude towards work appears to have changed somewhat. He takes quite lengthy lunch breaks and has started having a mid-afternoon nap at his desk. As his manager, I don't really mind as he gets the job done, but I think it's setting the wrong example to younger members of the team.

JEREMY SAYS: I imagine the lengthy lunch breaks and the mid-afternoon naps are closely related. And I suspect that both can be explained by his change of status and the effect that it has had, almost certainly subconsciously, on his sense of himself.

When he was your in-house accountant, he would have been a senior, full-time member of your team, almost certainly with additional responsibilities for budgets and juniors and generally acting as a bit of a role model.

Now he's more than half-retired; indeed, I expect you gave him a retirement party. He has no departmental responsibilities and no sense any longer that he has a career to promote.

All he feels he has to do is complete his work satisfactorily, which you say he does. (Has he stopped wearing a tie, I wonder?)

All this could be seen as irresponsibility - and, in a way, I suppose it is. Rather, I suspect, it's a simple failure on his part to see himself through other people's eyes. You have a choice. Either a gentle word with him: praising his work but asking him, because of the possible negative effect on younger people, to stick to more conventional hours and habits.

Or, with his agreement, to have an open word with those younger people in which you simply remind them of all that he's done, his continuing excellence, and that he's more than earned the right to his own pattern of work.

Either approach is likely to work. On balance, I think I prefer the second.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at:

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