My Employee Doesn’t Work Enough Hours

1. My employee doesn’t work enough hours — and isn’t finishing her work

I supervise a very good employee. She is exempt and full-time. She is very efficient, but she rarely puts a full day in at the office. I haven’t had a problem with this because of her efficiency, and I don’t think hours worked is as important as productivity.

Lately she has been telling me that she does not have time to take on projects. But I know she can fit in more work because she isn’t working the full 40 hours she is supposed to. How do I approach this without making it seem as if my concern is that I don’t see her in the office from 8-5 every day?

Be direct! “I’m happy to give you the flexibility to work shorter work days when your workload allows it, because you’re so efficient. But when we have additional projects that I need to steer your way, I need you back to working full-time.”

If she still balks, say this: “From my perspective, it looks like you do have time to take on X and Y since you’re often able to leave early/come in late. Tell me more about what’s making you feel that you don’t the room for it.”

2. Is it okay to cry when firing someone?

I have to let an employee go and I don’t want to because I like her quite a bit. But she isn’t capable of doing the job and she’s on an improvement plan that isn’t going well.

The problem is that this isn’t really her fault. She does have some interpersonal issues, but the bigger problem is fit with our current needs. She was hired many years ago into a role that was much different then, and she was successful under former leadership. When our new CEO came on board a few years ago, the job expectations changed and she was unable to change with them, even with a lot of guidance.

I am planning to let her go in the next month and will give her severance. But I’m afraid I will cry when I’m firing her. My gut says that if I feel that way, I should fight it and try really hard to stay professional and not cry. But then part of me says that my tears would show how much I genuinely don’t want to fire her. What do you think?

Try hard not to cry. This conversation is going to be much worse for her than it is for you, and you want to avoid doing anything that risks making her feel (a) like you don’t know that or (b) that she has to console you.

3. My interview got canceled because another team is interested in me

I recently applied for two similar positions at the same company but at different office locations. I got interviews with both teams right away. My interview with team #1 went really well, and they scheduled a follow-up interview. This morning, I got an email from team #2, canceling my first interview with them. They said they knew I met with team #1, team #1 is really great, and they’d be in touch to interview me if that didn’t work out.

I assume that team #1 asked team #2 to back off because they’d like to hire me. It’s also possible team #2 felt awkward enough about the situation to cancel my interview.

I’m frustrated because I was looking forward to meeting with both teams and having some options. I actually think that team #2 is a better fit for me, based on my phone interview. I feel like I should have been allowed to make the decision of which team is the best fit for myself, but now I’m limited. Did I do something wrong by pursuing interviews with both teams? Is this scenario in itself a red flag?

You didn’t do anything wrong; this is a thing that can happen when you apply for two jobs in the same organization. It’s not a red flag; it’s legitimate for them to decide to let one department pursue you and have the other back off.

Sometimes this happens because you’re an excellent fit for #1 and only a so-so fit for #2, so they decide it makes sense to put you on a track for #1. Or #2 is flooded with great candidates, while #1 has fewer. Or, #1’s manager tells #2’s manager that she’s really hoping to hire you and so #2 backs off out of professional courtesy.

There isn’t really much you can do about it, because it’s their call. At most, you could say something to #2 like, “As interested as I am in team #1, I’m really intrigued by the position with you as well, so I’d still love to talk if you think it might be the right fit.”

4. Can I tell my employee she might need glasses?

I have an employee who is great: responsible, has amazing customer service skills and is knowledgeable in her field. Unfortunately she continually makes typos and transposes numbers. We have had conversations about this many times, and every time she promises to try to improve.

Over the past several months, she has made comments that she may need glasses, because she has noticed things have changed when she’s commuting, etc. I think it’s possible that vision problems might be contributing to her inaccuracies. As an eyeglass wearer myself, I know I didn’t realize how badly my eyesight was affecting my schoolwork (I was a child) until after I got glasses.

I casually mentioned this to her after her most recent mistake, and she agreed it may be time to see a doctor. However, she tends to drag her feet on things in her personal life. How much urging can I do? I don’t want to lose her because she made a mistake on the wrong person’s assignment, when it could have been prevented.

Does she realize how serious your concerns about her mistakes are, and that if they continue, it could potentially lead to her losing her job? If you haven’t been very direct with her about that, you owe it to her to let her know — and if you do, she might take the idea of glasses more seriously.

Sit down with her and say something like this: “We’ve talked before about the mistakes you’ve made in records. I need to tell you that my concerns about this are serious. While you’re great at other pieces of your job like X and Y, continuing to make mistakes in this area would be serious enough that it could jeopardize your job here. I don’t want to see that happen, but I need you to take this very seriously. You’d mentioned that you might need glasses and if you think it could be playing a role here, I urge you to investigate that soon. If it’s not that, let’s talk about what else you might need to help you resolve this — but I need you to know that it’s a serious issue that we’ve got to find a fix for.”

5. Asking why a job is open again so soon

Last year, I applied for a position but received a form rejection. Two weeks ago, I saw the exact same job posted again and applied again. Yesterday I received a call from the CEO asking me to come in for an interview, which of course I am going to do.

Can I ask what happened to the person who was hired back when the job first posted? I’m curious to know if it was a personality conflict or the person got a new job or was just unsuitable.

You can ask why the job is open again, but I’d keep your wording focused on the job, not the person who filled it, so that it’s clear you’re seeking information to help you better understand the history and context of the role. I’d say it this way: “I know you were hiring for this position last year as well. Can I ask why it’s open again so soon?”

You may not get the full story (for example, if the person was fired, they might not choose to share that with outsiders out of respect for her privacy), but it’s a reasonable question to ask.

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to alison@askamanager.org.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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