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Laying down the law as the new boss

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in Your Office Coach

Question:  “After my supervisor retired, I was promoted to fill his position. He had a special arrangement with one employee, allowing her to come in early and leave early. No one knew exactly what time she arrived. When the owner promoted me, he said I must put this woman on the same schedule as everyone else. However, I’m not sure how to approach her.  How can I fix this without losing the employee?”  —Caught in the Middle

Marie’s Answer:  Like many new supervisors, you’re suffering from “imposter syndrome.”  Because you don’t yet feel like a manager, some basic supervisory tasks seem rather daunting. Here’s how to handle this one:

•    Your boss has made his expectations clear, so you must tell the employee that different work hours are no longer allowed. You can attribute this directive to the owner, but you need to explain and support his decision. 

•    Here’s what you might say: "I know you had a special arrangement with our former supervisor.  But since varying schedules create confusion, the owner wants everyone to work the same hours. I’ll need for you to start coming in at 9 and staying till 5."

•    If the employee complains, remind her that this is the standard work schedule. If she has unique and unavoidable circumstances, consider discussing them with the owner. 

•    Give her a week to adjust child care or transportation plans, and then monitor her hours to be sure she complies. If she refuses, talk with the owner about the next steps.

Unless this woman has irreplaceable abilities, don’t worry about losing her. If she chooses to leave, you’ll simply find someone who can work the required hours. 

To see a 6-step process for handling disciplinary issues, check out How to Resolve Serious Performance Problems.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Des March 25, 2010 at 2:41 pm

I’d meet with her privately and inform her that she needs to work from 9-5 p.m. and give her a start date as to when that will need to happen.

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Mohan M Prasad February 22, 2010 at 5:21 am

Well, there is a clear mandate to you from the owner.

So the decision that you have to take is very clear.

May be you would like to have a chat with this lady and get to understand the special reasons for this special arrangement. This will help you to understand the circumstances and the context in which the concession was granted.

This will also give you inputs on whether the reasons standing in good stead then has been extended indefinitely. In my experience this is the case in 9 out of 10 cases.

Once you have a grasp of the background, it makes it easier to strategies your approach and without losing the empathy. You need to put it across as an issue of discipline and that you would like discipline as a well demonstrated conduct across the peer level; with no exceptions as a general rule.

Your firmness will send the message across.

Caution: Please do not make it as if your decision is owner driven nor should you make her feel that the change in the guard has caused this to happen. Both can lead to bad blood.

Take responsibility for the decision and same time, tell her that when any future situation warrants special consideration, you will be open to considering it on a case to case basis depending upon the home and work exigencies; but NOT AS A GENERAL RELAXATION OF OFFICE RULES.

Mohan M Prasad

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Samantha February 17, 2010 at 1:30 pm

As a working mother to my 9 month old, I would like to add that you could also talk to the owner about the positives of allowing employees to work a flexible work schedule. My supervisor allowed me to reduce my work week to a 4-day week when I returned from maternity leave. This has made a huge difference to my life. I would argue that varying schedules do not create confusion as long you have a plan in place as to how you will do your job in a non-standard work schedule and communicate this to staff so they know when you will be in the office e.g. have another staff member provide back-up support when you are not in the office, and set your voicemail and email messages to let people know your schedule. Flexible work schedules are progressive, save costs (higher productivity/lower turnover), and recognize the diversity of the people employed and the diversity of their many different needs.

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