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Absenteeism: It’s not beyond your control

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

There are many reasons why employees don't come to work. They have the flu. Their cousin got married. The car wouldn't start. The baby-sitter quit. The cat died. The moon is full.

Of course, most sick leave is legitimate: people stay home because they are sick. But abuses do occur. People are more likely to call in sick when they don't feel their attendance really matters, when they find their working conditions unpleasant or stressful, or when they feel taken for granted. Anything you can do to prevent or offset such feelings will have a positive effect on attendance.

Here are some guidelines:

- Stick to the policies. Is sick leave unpaid if it comes directly before or after a paid vacation? Is a doctor's statement required after three days' leave? Employees need to see that you're serious about sick leave. They're more likely to call in sick only when necessary if they know that someone really cares about their attendance.

- Talk to sick workers directly. Tell workers they have to call in to you when they're sick. When you get their calls, tell them that they will be missed and that you hope they get well quickly. If you are sincere, your comments will have a positive effect on attendance.

- Keep an eye out for patterns. Is an employee taking sick leave every Friday during hunting season? Is someone else gone one Wednesday afternoon every month? If you do find a pattern, see if it's related to a recurring job duty. The employee may have a particular responsibility that he doesn't like or is trying to avoid.

- Stay informed about what is happening in each person's job. You'll be better able to arrange to have duties covered, and you won't be caught unaware if some work-related problem is about to cause an absence. People will feel more responsible for their jobs — and minimize sick leave — if they know you're genuinely interested.

- Welcome back each person who's been gone. Greet him in the morning or at the beginning of the shift. Tell him you are glad to see him back and well. Ask how he is feeling and listen if he wants to tell you about being sick. Listening says you care.

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