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Tired of covering for a late co-worker?

by on
in Your Office Coach

Question: “One of our co-workers, “Bob,” regularly comes in quite late. Until he gets here, the rest of us have to answer his phone and deal with callers’ problems. Bob is taking advantage of a nice boss who is not a micromanager. Our boss knows that Bob is usually late, but he hasn’t said anything to him. What should we do?” — Tired of Bob


Marie’s Answer: Bob is not the only problem here. Everyone is also supporting his habitual lateness. If you want Bob’s behavior to change, consider these points:


·         Your “nice boss who is not a micromanager” is a major part of this problem. By tolerating Bob’s tardiness, he sends the message that being late is acceptable. Your boss may be a lovely person, but he’s a wimpy manager.


·         Bob’s slacker behavior is also being reinforced by you and your co-workers. While he sleeps late and has an extra cup of coffee, you’re taking care of his job. As long as other co-workers cover his calls, neither Bob nor your boss will feel the effects of his absence.


·         Nothing will change unless someone talks to Bob. One option is for you and your co-workers to flatly state that you are tired of his tardiness and will no longer cover for him. Alternatively, you can go as a group to your nice manager and ask him to address the issue.  


·         On the other hand, you could all just start arriving at the same time as Bob. That should get your boss’s attention pretty quickly.


For some Office Coach pointers on discussing performance issues, see Ten Steps to an Exceptional Coaching Discussion.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

celt365 June 5, 2009 at 10:35 am

I agree in part to Marie and Bola’s comments, however, showing up later than Bob seems petty and unprofessional to me.

I’m not sure what industry you’re in but the client should come first. The client is not responsible for Bob’s lateness. They have a problem and your company is paid to fix it. Therefore, Bob’s calls still need to be covered.

Speak as group with the manager and Bob together. Let them know how Bob’s lateness affects overall productivity and client relations and that covering Bob’s calls is taking a toll.

Ask Bob directly if there is a valid reason for his lateness. He may only say “yes and it’s personal/private”. Make it clear that if it is ADA or FMLA related, you don’t need details only understanding.
If however, Bob is enjoying his coffee while you all scramble to cover his calls as well as your own, then the boss or the boss’ boss needs to step in and handle the situation. Perhaps Bob’s hours can be adjusted? Perhaps Bob just needs to grow up, put on the big boy pants and get to work on time?

As much as pain it is (and growing resentment), good client relations mean that Bob’s calls get answered and handled just like any others. Good luck!


Bola June 4, 2009 at 5:41 am

I think you are all contributing to Bob’s lateness. Stop taking his calls, stop covering him, if there is no law against it in your working place, let his phone ring out.

Study the time Bod usually arrive office, the rest of you should all arrive office 10 minutes later on a set day. Lets see if your boss will complain. If he did then let him know how he has been indulging bob all the while.


Stella June 3, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Perhaps the reason is ADA or FMLA related and he has clearance from the boss for being late. If one of my employees were in this situation, I would not discuss it with any of the other employees, which may make it look like I was being taken advantage of.

It may be a good idea to discuss how this impacts your work day (and leave any comments about being taken advantage of, fairness, or personality out of it) and see if your boss has any other solutions to cover the customers in your coworker’s absence.


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