Friday, May 04, 2007

Why Don’t They Fire That Employee?

I know someone who has worked for umpteen years. During those years this person has arrived to work late more times than not. The person says they just cannot make it on time no matter what. The company has even tried changing the hours, yet the person will still arrive late.

This person also took off three months of work when things went wrong at home. No, this person did not go out on personal leave, this person just called in sick everyday for three months.

When work slows down, and this person does not have enough to do in the afternoon, this person reads their paperback novel for the rest of the day. I asked, "Don't you get in trouble?" and the response was "They like me."

Anyone one else would have been fired. Please explain how this person keeps their job? I just do not get it.
-- Diane

by Ronnie Ann, Work Coach

Hi Diane!
I can understand how unfair that seems! While ideally I’d want to know a few more facts, I’ll do my best to give you some answers.

Let’s look at the issues you raise one by one:

Arrives late: While some jobs require a person to be on time with absolutely no give whatsoever, many places understand there’s more to a job than just punching in on the dot. In this case, it seems the person (let’s assume it’s a she for this answer) has a flexible employer. The fact that she continues to arrive late and still has the job could simply mean the company understands she has personal issues – possibly health problems or problems at home – and is still willing to cut her some slack as long as she gets the work done.

In her post Always Late for Work? Melissa Dylan suggests ways for negotiating an issue like this:
“If you really can’t make it in on time—and some people really, truly can’t, no matter how hard they try—sit down with your boss before she has a chance to approach you…If you show that you’re working on your weaknesses and indicate a willingness to make it up in other areas, it will be easier for your employer to accept tardiness.”

As long as you have something to contribute, a good company will work with you to resolve personal issues.

Reads paperback novel at work: From what you write, it seems she gets her work done. Maybe that’s enough for the company - especially considering how long she’s worked for them. Also, there are companies or departments with unsteady workflows that expect people to keep themselves occupied during slow times so, when things speed up, they have ample trained help available. Not knowing her job or industry, I can only guess this could be part of the thinking.

But I’m also curious whether this is accepted practice for everyone in her department or only this one woman? If it’s only this one woman and she makes it obvious, that would be horrible for morale and show there’s a management problem that needs to be addressed. Otherwise, if this is accepted behavior for anyone, then it’s ok.

Three months off with no leave: As for being allowed to call in sick every day during a tough time, without knowing more I’d say this may be a reflection of a very understanding company with informal policies and room for special arrangements. But if this company requires others to follow strict rules and only makes exceptions for this one woman without good reason, then there’s clearly a real management problem here that’s bigger than just the decisions surrounding this one person. (I kind of doubt that’s the story here.)

What you didn’t tell us is whether you work with her or you’ve simply heard about her work habits. If you actually work with her and are not being treated fairly yourself, then you might want to speak with your supervisor. But please know you’d be most effective if you don't make the discussion about her, since you don’t know what might be behind her “special” and unequal treatment. The real issue is: How can you make the job better for yourself? Is there something you need that you aren’t getting? Keep the discussion focused on you and stay away from what an employer would see as “sour grapes” since that would probably come back to bite you in the end.

But if you don’t work there and are only hearing about this, my guess is that even though it seems she’s getting away with something, in actuality, she may be within the bounds of acceptable behavior in her particular company.

This reminds me of a woman I worked with who always seemed to be on the phone or talking to someone in her office about personal matters. She also came in late almost every morning. It looked like she was getting away with murder just because the boss liked her and she knew how to get around him. But the more I found out, I realized she was getting a lot of quality work done – faster than most - and her boss understood this and let her do things her own way. As far as I’m concerned, as long as the work is getting done and the company is satisfied, a good boss (and there are plenty out there) shows flexibility where possible.

For me it’s mostly about perspective. We can never know what another person is going through until we walk in their shoes. If someone has a job that cuts her some slack but it doesn’t take away from me at all, then why should I worry about how she’s being treated? If I like her, I should be happy for her. If I don’t like her, well… then I think there’s more going on with my feelings than with her work habits.

Best advice is not to worry about what she is or isn’t doing and focus on improving your own job conditions if you aren’t getting everything you deserve! If she weren’t serving the company in some way – no matter what – she wouldn’t be there. That’s how business works – management makes room for certain quirks as long as they get what they need.

Of course, we don’t really have enough details to know what the actual story is… but if what she says is true and the real explanation turns out simply to be that - a la Sally Fields - they really like her, then the company might very well be cutting her some extra slack. So what? It happens. After all those years, she’s probably earned it. And if this bugs other employees she works with, their most effective “revenge” would be to focus their energies on getting the company to like them too!

Hope that helps a little, Diane.

Susan Ireland’s Two Cents
Job Lounger, do you have a question? Email ( it to me and I’ll post your question and an expert’s answer here in The Job Lounge.


Diane56 said...


I am responding to the Why don't they just fire the employee?

Actually I know this because she is a so-called friend, and she brags about coming late to work, reading at her desk, and staying home for three months. I have attended her company picnics, and other coworkers informed me they do not like what she does.
As for stay home for the three months it was because she was robbed, and her got in trouble for not taking care of her Mom. She fell into a deep depression and just could not get herself to go to work. Her coworkers were concerned for her, and could not understand why she was not reaching out for help. But that is not the way she does things. I guess I am a mean gal for even saying anything.
Yeah they do like her (the bosses). I have no place to say anything. I have been fired from five jobs over the past 25 years. Why, I just cannot stop make expensive mistakes. I cost the last company I worked for $500,000. I had worked there for 12 years. I was told they planned to get rid of me from the first year I worked there. But I would get whiff of it, and start putting my nose to the grid.
Why? I start doing well at work, the boss offers me a promotion, and I start sabotaging myself, I always have. I unwilling start making mistakes, all kinds of mistakes. So, the boss takes off the new position, and tries me with another position. There I will start doing well, and along comes the promotion. Once again I start sabotaging myself. The last position I had, I was offered the position of being in charge of what was called "Address booking" (dot ask, I do not remember exactly what that was) I would be in charge of at least 50 employees and cover 7 divisions. I freaked, and started making so many mistakes they had to let me go.
Then I returned to college to pursue my graduate degree. I hold a BS degree in Speech Communications, with emphasis in nonverbal behavior. Because my grades in the undergrad program were below what was needed to get into the grad program (once again I sabotaged myself) I was told if I was able to get all "A" in classes at a Community College, I would be allowed into the grad program. So I returned to Community college. There I took classes I knew I could get "A" in Theatre and Astronomy.
I took several theatre classes and was cast in several plays. I really enjoyed myself, and I changed my mind about the MS degree speech and decided theatre instead.
I got accept in the University. Once again the sabotage demon returned. I just could not get myself do to well in the classes. I did well in the upper division undergraduate work, but not in the grad level work.

What the devil is the matter with me? I really what this to stop. Plus thank you for letting know I need to concentrate on myself, and not worry about my friends.


Ronnie Ann said...

ello again, Diane!

Glad I could be of some help. You summarized it well. We get a lot more back from working on ourselves than we could ever get from worrying about what others have! you also said regarding your friend...when things get tough, it's good to let ourselves reach out to others for help. I have. Many times.

In my own life (after many many missteps)...I've finally learned to wish others well in whatever they've worked out for themselves (we all have our burdens) and instead concentrate on creating something wonderful for myself. It looks like you're ready to do that too - for yourself!

Good luck.

Ronnie Ann