What are the odds an employee will get away with … ?

What are the odds of your child being born left-handed if both you and your spouse are right-handed? 9 to 1.

What are the odds of catching a ball at a major league ballgame? 563 to 1 (a little higher if your team can’t hit, and higher still if you bought a ticket near the right field light tower).

What are the odds of a meteorite hitting your house? 182,138,880,000,000 to 1.

Seems like there are odds—strange as they are—for just about anything.

But what about what you do? What are the odds? Where are the stats? Since you deal with people, and people are inherently unpredictable, it might seem difficult to pin probability on their behavior and idiosyncrasies.

But we’re talking about people in a workplace, and as you might guess, patterns begin to form that curiously repeat themselves no matter where you work or who you supervise.

We got you covered.

The odds of:

A teleworker responding to your email within 20 minutes: even odds

Go ahead. Send them an email. Whether it’s a real one or a tester, there’s a 50-50 chance you’ll get a response in less than 20 minutes. Why? Most telecommuters are probably sitting in a makeshift home office and getting their work done. They’ll respond within 20 minutes, unless they’re wrapped up in a Skype with a client or are tied up doing some other legitimate business-related task. Just keep in mind it’s just as easy—and direly necessary—to reply promptly to a boss’s email from the aisles of Pier 1.

Everyone showing up to the weekly staff meeting on time: 3 to 1

You think this one’s easy to solve? Just close the door, you think. Unless you lock it, there’s a decent chance a straggler will open it slowly, close it quietly and perform that exaggerated tip-toe walk to a down-table seat, whispering “sorry” to no one in particular. Having fewer doughnuts than attendees will increase the odds of punctuality.

An employee coming in the next day after leaving work complaining of a low-grade fever: 23 to 1

There is one of three things going on here. She’s really sick and (a) she won’t be in the next day; (b) she’s really sick but feels better in the morning and will be in; or (c) she’s not really sick, which means she’s not coming in. The 23 to 1 assumes you provide five paid sick days with no carry-overs and it’s late in the year.

All employees still at work at 4:59 p.m. on a Friday: 75 to 1

Unless you operate and pay employees with a time clock, this one’s really a long shot. And the nice part about this one is you can test it for yourself. Do a cubicle and office check around 4:45. Lights are off. PCs are dark. The number of early-leavers is in direct proportion to the outside temperature, and spikes dramatically if Monday is a holiday. The odds of you fixing this without totally destroying morale? Zero.

Pulling an employee’s résumé, cover letter and your interview notes a year later and finding that he didn’t misrepresent himself: 250 to 1

Don’t be afraid. Dig out those documents. Joel told you during his interview two years ago that he desires a challenge. Last week you gave him a plum assignment and he bellyached mercilessly to his co-workers. Missy claimed on her résumé that she is “meticulous to a fault.” Yesterday she couldn’t find her mileage and expense report in the heap of papers on her desk. This tells you one thing: Employees grow more honest—for better or worse—as they season into your culture.

Any employee telling you, “Gee, you’re doing such a great job”: 423 to 1

Wouldn’t that be nice to hear as a manager? You won’t. And the main reason is this: By pointing out your ability to tease out production, mesh personalities, bridge age groups, dance around employment laws and please upper management, all while keeping up morale, would be akin to telling you that they know how to do your job better than you do; that they recognize the intricacies and understand what it takes to excel as a manager, or even tread water. Your workers aren’t that crass. Though they won’t tell you, “Great job, boss,” they think it. And you’ll see it.

The odds are pretty good on that one.


Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today, Manager’s Legal Bulletin, Managing People at Work and Communication Briefings newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.