Spot the liar: How to deal with an employee who constantly calls in sick

Spot the liar
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Missing work because of a sudden flu epidemic before a long weekend, food poisoning next Friday morning, or an unexpected fever on Monday after a much-talked-about coworker’s wedding –Either your very sensitive employee needs to run to the doc ASAP because they have a seriously deficient immune system, or your fellow worker is hiding something.

Why is it so important to address the matter?

Sure, people do get sick. Especially between seasons and during epidemics, but these things don’t follow a calendar pattern nor do they always affect the same people. When one of your workers starts developing the tendency to get “sick” on very specific and convenient dates, it’s time for you to step in.

Giving your employee a day or two off to rest and recover is not a sin and, if everything is going smoothly, you can actually afford it. However, that is far from saying that it should become a habit, because this absenteeism does have an impact on your business by affecting your team’s general productivity and morale.

How should you address the issue?

While some are easier to spot than others, identifying the employees who follow this “modus operandi” is only the first step of the process; what to do with that knowledge is the tricky thing. Check out this list of tips on how to deal with absenteeism at the office:

1. Establish solid policies: before you decide to become a “control freak” about the days your employees miss work, make sure you are doing so within the parameters of the law – both state and local. Also, when they join your company, do not forget to inform your new employees of your own policies to manage absences.

2. Check for performance problems: this type of employees will ask for a break even within the first few weeks of joining the company. If this behavior continues to show up more frequently and it is left unattended and unaddressed, said worker will feel they have the right to do as they will.

3. Keep open communication channels: Let your workforce know they can trust you with what is bothering them. Missing work because of a hangover is not the same as skipping a day because they are grieving a relative’s death. Promote open communication and help your workers if they find themselves in need. Giving someone a day off to get over a difficult situation can benefit everyone in the long run.

4. Do not micromanage: You can’t be everywhere at the same time, but you can have eyes wherever you need them. Train your managers and coordinators to identify the signs of this behavior pattern and keep you and the HR department informed about any case that arises.

5. Address the matter ASAP: Be as fast as possible when addressing the situation. If you see any signs that a worker might be falling into this bad habit, keep a close eye on them. Make sure you confirm that it is actually a case of irregular absenteeism and not an isolated situation before you approach the person involved.

6. Back it up with evidence: Ask for proofs to back up the missed days. Be fair and understanding, without being too permissive. As long as you have established solid policies, your staff will know exactly how to proceed to justify their absence.

7. Be wary of social media: No matter how blatant or obvious it may seem, that picture you saw on FB is not the best approach. Social media is a delicate subject, even the way you “bump into” the information is important. Unless the information is of absolute public domain and you have accessed it directly, stay as far from it as possible.

8. Reach out to your worker: Talk to them. Clear things up and make sure it is not a misunderstanding. If they actually have fallen into this behavior pattern, let them know you are aware of it, instruct them on how to proceed with the situation and keep track of their habits. Best case scenario they will fall back into line when reminded of your company’s policies.

The key to solving the issue

This might be a one-time thing that can be solved through some counseling and a “slap on the wrist”. However, when it becomes recurrent, a warning is in place and some disciplinary measures will come into play.

Productivity, team morale and even interpersonal relationships can be affected by absenteeism and disrupt the regular performance of your business. The best way to foresee and prevent this issue is to make your workforce aware of the impact such behavior can have on everyone. Make sure your team is informed of your leave guidelines and keep an open-door policy so they can trust you with whatever is affecting them.

Grace Cattini
Content Editor & Copywriter