Why are we scared to talk to our employees?
Recently I received a call from a long-term customer of mine who was dealing with an employee with excessive absences and wanted some guidance on how to deal with this situation. Now this is a very common question, in fact it’s possibly one of the most common questions we get at HR On-Demand, and no matter what the circumstance, my first question is always the same – have you asked the employee why?
The response I get to this question can vary, but more often than not it’s ‘no, am I allowed to do that?’ It’s true – in this age of Unfair Dismissal, Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination claims, we are more afraid than ever to simply speak with our employees for fear that we’ll end up in the tribunal. Now don’t misunderstand me, the risks are real, and unfortunately in this new landscape of employment a poorly handled situation can put you at risk for some or all of those claims, but with effective questioning, the benefits of open communication with your employees will not only minimise this risk but potentially be of huge benefit to your business.
Why is the employee absent so often? Is something happening at home they’d like to talk about? Perhaps something has changed – a divorce, a child care arrangement fell through, a sick family member? All of these potential scenarios can be explored by simply sitting down with your employee privately and asking “I’ve noticed your absenteeism has increased significantly over the last few months, is everything okay? Is there support I can offer you?”. Simple, effective questioning can give an employee a chance to explain their absences, get something off their chest, or ask for help; all of which will help you as the employer identify ways to reduce the employee’s absenteeism and the impact it’s having on the business. Additionally, it will help you decide what action should be taken, because knowing if the issue can be fixed or not will point you in the direction of what to do next – start performance management or look at potential other solutions.
Perhaps they need to move to part-time employment? Perhaps life changes have left them unable to work regularly and they would prefer to be a casual employee? Perhaps they need to take some annual leave? Whatever the answer may be, and whether or not you can accommodate the employee’s needs, reducing absteeism or dealing with performance drops will always come down to understanding the cause and discussing openly with the employee what the best solution/s will be moving forward.
If you’re facing excessive absteneeism or dealing with performance management matters, don’t sit back quietly and wait for the matter to reach crisis level. Speak with your employees openly about what your concerns are and let them guide you to a solution that works for both you and them. When this isn’t possible, speak with an expert and get guidance on how to performance manage the employee by calling HR On-Demand on 1300 55 99 62 today.