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Definition: An employee's deliberate or habitual absence from work

Everybody misses a day of work now and then. But it's a problem when an employee misses too many days of work. Not showing up for work can cause serious problems when other employees have to cover for the missing worker or, worse, the work simply doesn't get done. Here are keys to controlling absenteeism in your growing company:

  • Find out whether the absent employee missed work voluntarily or involuntarily. Involuntarily means illness or another unavoidable reason--this is the kind of absenteeism you shouldn't concern yourself with as a manager, unless some kind of counseling or assistance could help the employee regain his or her health. Voluntary absenteeism is the kind you need to worry about. This occurs when an employee is absent without good reason. Get documentation--for example, a doctor's note--to ascertain whether an absence was involuntary or voluntary.
  • Decide whether the absenteeism is excessive. Compare the employee's attendance record with other employees' records. If one employee's record is way out of line, unless there are extenuating circumstances, that's probably excessive absenteeism.
  • Meet with the employee to explore the absences. Keep your discussion friendly and oriented toward understanding and solving the problem, not placing blame and dispensing discipline.
  • If things don't get better, explain the problem to the employee and request improved performance. Employees may not know their absences are affecting others unless you tell them and ask them to improve.
  • Put the problem in writing. Make sure you give the employee a copy of the written notice. In addition, you should also put one in his or her personnel file.
  • Most employees will straighten up and start coming to work regularly during this process. If they don't, however, you'll be prepared to terminate them, if necessary, if you follow these guidelines.

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