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What to do when the boss won’t discipline

by on
in Your Office Coach

Question: Two people in our small office consistently come in late, leave early, and take two hours for lunch.  As the human resources manager, I’ve told my boss that we need to put a stop to this, because other employees are starting to complain about unfair treatment. My boss gripes about this tardiness, but if I ask him to confront the employees, he always says “It won’t do any good” or “Maybe we should just get rid of them.”  His refusal to deal with performance issues is driving me crazy.  What can I do?  Frustrated HR Professional

Answer:  When faced with performance discussions, many otherwise fearless managers turn into complete cowards. If your boss dreads the idea of an unpleasant conversation, you could offer to talk with the employees as part of your HR responsibilities. However, he must be willing to impose appropriate consequences if the tardiness continues.

If your office lacks personnel policies, you might also draft some basic guidelines and present them to your boss for approval. Explain that written rules will not only help to clarify expectations, but will also provide legal protection.  To cover the current situation, be sure to define standard work hours and include a “progressive discipline” policy.  

Should your boss still continue to tolerate these transgressions, then you must bring in more firepower.  Have your rule-abiding employees describe how their absent colleagues create business problems, like unanswered phones or neglected customers.  This might finally prompt some action.

But if all else fails, wait for the next time that he proposes to “just get rid of them.”  Quickly reply that you absolutely agree, and then offer to process their termination papers after one final warning.


Do you need to have a performance conversation with an employee? Here are some tips that might help: Ten Steps to an Exceptional Coaching Discussion

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Melanie June 7, 2012 at 11:01 am

If you are the Human Resources Manager you should have policies in place regarding attendance. You could help your boss find the middle ground between doing nothing and abruptly firing people. Draft a counseling form for the boss to issue to the people with poor attendance. Have him tell the person that any more occurances within six months will result in a three day suspension without pay. Then any additional occurance in that time period may result in termination. This should solve the problem

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