Marie G. McIntyre’s Office Coach: To end unfair vacation policy, point out the cost

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Ques­tion: In our com­pany, most peo­ple get away with tak­ing much more va­ca­tion than they should. These em­ploy­ees have bosses who al­low them to keep their own records, while the rest of us work for man­ag­ers who mon­i­tor our use of leave. As a re­sult, we get less time off than ev­ery­one else.

Although pol­icy states that leave re­quests must be ap­proved, most man­ag­ers sim­ply put their em­ploy­ees on the honor sys­tem. Un­for­tu­nately, a lot of these peo­ple aren’t very hon­or­able.

Our boss agrees that this sit­u­a­tion is un­fair. How­ever, she doesn’t want to break the rules and she has no power to change the be­hav­ior of her peers. Human re­sources would nor­mally be ex­pected to en­force the leave pol­icy, but our HR man­ager has his own em­ploy­ees on the honor sys­tem. What can be done about this?

Answer: Through ei­ther na­ivety or la­zi­ness, these mis­guided man­ag­ers have mis­takenly cho­sen to rely on trust in an area where over­sight is re­quired. When­ever some­thing of value goes un­su­per­vised, eth­i­cally chal­lenged peo­ple will al­ways be tempted to cheat. This ap­plies to cash, va­ca­tion time or a bas­ket of candy left on the porch for Hal­low­een.

Since this prob­lem can only be re­solved by top man­age­ment, you will need to raise aware­ness at the ex­ec­u­tive level. Under nor­mal cir­cum­stances, hu­man re­sources would be your ally. But since that op­tion is out, per­haps your boss can convince other com­pli­ant man­ag­ers to be­come ad­vo­cates for en­forc­ing the pol­icy.

While fair­ness is un­de­ni­ably im­por­tant, noth­ing grabs the at­ten­tion of ex­ec­u­tives like fo­cus­ing on fi­nan­cials. For that rea­son, pol­icy sup­port­ers should clearly demon­strate how much all this free leave time is costing the com­pany.

Ques­tion: One of my staff mem­bers con­stantly tells her col­leagues how to do their work. “Tracy” is a good em­ployee, but this dom­i­neer­ing at­ti­tude alien­ates her co-work­ers. I have hinted to Tracy that she needs to im­prove her com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, but that hasn’t done any good. Our dis­ci­plin­ary pol­icy al­lows man­ag­ers to write up dif­fi­cult em­ploy­ees as “un­able to su­per­vise.” Should that be my next step?

Answer: If you be­lieve you are “un­able to su­per­vise” Tracy, it may be time to take a long, hard look in the mir­ror. Iron­i­cally, she seems to be more com­fort­able giv­ing feed­back than you are. So in­stead of drop­ping hints or tak­ing dis­ci­plin­ary ac­tion, you need to put on your man­ager hat and ini­ti­ate some per­for­mance coach­ing.

Start by help­ing Tracy un­der­stand the prob­lems cre­ated by her dic­ta­to­rial be­hav­ior, then work with her to de­velop an im­prove­ment plan. If she makes no ef­fort to change, a for­mal warn­ing may even­tu­ally be in or­der. But you should not con­clude that you are “un­able to su­per­vise” her un­til you ac­tu­ally at­tempt to do so.


Marie G. McIn­tyre: www.yourof­fice­coach.com.


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