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I am managing a 20 member team. My best employee is currently looking for another job. What is worse is that he has completely lost interest in working and is now using office hours to prepare for job interviews with 3 other employees. They seem to be using up to half of the time they are in the office preparing for job interviews. I have been noticing this behavior, but not commenting (yet). Recently, the above employee lied to apply for medical leave, and was granted the leave. I have confirmed that the reason for the leave was a lie. This leave period is more than one month, which he intends to use to prepare for interviews (from what I can tell).

How can I avoid other people following his way of using employee privileges and other office resource for these kind of activities?

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    Since the OP indicated that he hasn't discussed this with the problem employee in question yet, firing would be perceived by others as a draconian first move. It would further lower morale in the office especially since the person in question is/was the "best employee". The first thing to do is have a serious discussion with this person. I would add that once someone indicates a firm intent to leave, the best thing to do is to coordinate a specific transition time to close/transfer projects, after which the employee leaves. Just keeping them around indefinitely isn't good for anybody. – Angelo Feb 9 '14 at 17:58
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    @Angelo - My morale would improve if I worked at a company that fired people for wasting 1/2 days and taking a month off for a fake sick leave. No reason for anyone to believe you need explicit instructions to do your job. – user8365 Feb 10 '14 at 14:25
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about disciplining your reports which is about performing a specific job function and not about navigating the workplace. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Feb 10 '14 at 21:40
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Frankly, if you know this is someone who is leaving and who is no longer doing his job (and is distracting and demoralizing the rest of the workforce with his actions), why is he still coming into the office?

How do you handle this?

You give him his pink slip and send him to gardening leave.

That is - you fire him and have his spend his notice period at home. He is already not doing his job - it is better for the rest of the work force if he isn't around.


If firing is not an option, getting him out of the office on forced leave may still be possible.

Someone who has shown every intention to leave and is not contributing can do that away from the office where everyone is seeing them.

  • The OP doesn't mention location, but in many firing simply isn't that simple. – Dan Feb 8 '14 at 21:21
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    Even in the wild, wild west firing should be the last resort. Firing is very expensive. – DJClayworth Feb 8 '14 at 22:55
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    In many places, firing someone who obviously doesn't do his job is a good reason to fire them instantly, with no rights on the site of the person. So while not the first option, it is an option. – yo' Feb 10 '14 at 20:10
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    If the employee is proven to have lied on a leave request, that may make it less of a problem to fire them. Certain offenses are fire-able on the spot, among them stealing from the company. IMHO, lying to get leave would fall under that category. This is a situation where you need to get HR involved. – cdkMoose Feb 10 '14 at 22:53
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    @JeffO - If firing is not that simple, then denying access to the office is not that simple either. It may even be more difficult. – Nicolas Barbulesco Jul 23 '14 at 12:37
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While there are people who regularly misuse employer resources and work privileges just because they can get away with it, this sounds like something different. If a person is looking to leave, and also not doing their job (which is what is happening) this is usually a sign of a deep dissatisfaction with what they are doing. Assuming that they have at some time in the past done good work for the company, your job as his manager is to find out why, and whether there is something you can do about it. While it may seem that 'fire his ass' is the proper response, remember that the process of firing him, the period where he hasn't been replaced, and the recruiting and training costs of a new hire will cost the company tens of thousands of dollars. Avoid spending that if you can.

Sit down with this guy. Point out to him the behaviour you have observed. Ask him if there is some reason why he is acting like this. He may or may not tell you. If he tells you the reasons, and you can do something about them, do that. Hopefully his behaviour improves.

If he doesn't give reasons, or his behaviour doesn't improve, that's when you need to start a disciplinary process. What that process is, and how long it is, will be up to you and your company. Your boss, or HR, will give you more details. There should be an opportunity for him to improve his behaviour, but if that doesn't happen, eventually firing is going to be the only option.

  • @DJ thanks for the advice!! i dont think my company has a policy for firing on that grounds.., sure i talk to HR about the disciplinary process. – Victor justin Feb 9 '14 at 4:31
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    @Victorjustin - if your company is large enough to have a actual HR person or department, then absolutely you should talk to them about this situation. – Carson63000 Feb 9 '14 at 9:33
  • @Victorjustin of course, if the guy is as dissatisfied as he sounds, any disciplinary action might push him out the door faster (or instantly). That could be good or bad, but either way, it's something to consider. – HopelessN00b Feb 12 '14 at 13:23
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    Since this is your best employee leaving, even if you can't fix this, at least you want to find out if you are doing something that might make your 2nd, 3rd and 4th best employee want to leave. – gnasher729 Jun 22 '14 at 20:12
  • @gnasher729 - Very good point indeed. – Nicolas Barbulesco Jul 23 '14 at 12:29
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In your question you state:

My best employee is currently looking for another job

I think there are two questions here that spring to mind.

  1. Why?
  2. Why is he still your "best employee"? That possibly speaks volumes for your opinion (justified or not, I don't know) of the rest of the team.

If he's already mentally disengaged from the company to the extent you outline in your post then I would have thought you would be delighted to see him off work instead of furthering the toxic atmosphere in the office.

You need to take some responsibility for this toxic atmosphere. I don't know what originally happened to drive your 'best employee' to this, and that should be addressed too, but you should have dealt with this before things deteriorated to the point where they're spending half their time in the office blatantly not working. The fact that they've been allowed to get away with this sends a very poor message to the rest of your team.

Your steps to prevent this happening again, therefore, are two-fold:

  1. Fix whatever underlying problem has resulted in someone who was formerly your best team member to become disengaged to the point where they're largely useless to you. If it's a personal matter then perhaps there's not much you can do, but if it's an issue with the workplace that has cost you a good person then this should certainly be fixed.

  2. Outline what is and what is not acceptable to your team. Then ensure that everyone keeps to this standard and that you don't ignore the issue if you see someone start to fall off the wagon again.

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Assuming that you do not have hiring and firing capabilities, be careful not to misinterpret what you see. Your first concern is you don't want him in the office misusing resources and being a bad example to others. And now, thanks to a thinly veiled "medical leave", he won't be. Mission accomplished.

If this was happening around me, I might wonder - has he been fired already? Given notice to leave? Been told to serve that notice at home instead of in the office where he hurts morale? Has someone decided that allowing an "iffy" leave so he can get another job and go away is just easier or cheaper than firing him? Is his medical leave for stress, perhaps because of a personality clash (or worse) with someone at the office? Have the higher-ups decided that paying his salary for a while (or even better, letting an insurance company pay it) is better for the company than dragging everything into the open with firings and lawsuits?

After I asked myself those sorts of questions for a while, I'd come back to this:

  • is something going on that will hurt the rest of the team if it continues?

The answer appears to be no if he's going to be off on leave now. If you feel responsible for what happened before he went on leave, discuss the whole thing with your superior. Ask things like:

  • should I have told somebody sooner what was happening? Who?
  • is it my role to check on people's reasons for medical leaves?
  • do you want to know about the other people who are doing something similar?
  • how should I handle this sort of thing next time?

This will give you more confidence on how to handle a flagrant negation of the accepted behaviours in an office environment. Just keep in mind that things are not always as they seem, and you don't always know the whole picture.

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OK first, your first problem is that you let the behavior pass without commenting. It is your job to make sure your employees are doing their jobs and spending half their time prepping for interviews isn't doing their jobs. Your next problem is that if the others are spending half their time helping him get ready for interviews, they no longer care about their jobs either. You are probably about to lose your whole team.

You need to address this directly ASAP. Find out why they are unhappy and be ready to find out that the reason is you. It is a huge flag when your best employee starts behaving this way. People don't openly do this stuff if they have any respect for their manager. It is blantently and "in your face" disrespectful. Was he passed over for the promotion you got? Do they have no trust in your judgement? Do they dislike your management style? Did something in the company recently change? When you talk to them about this, the worst thing you can do is be defensive or angry. Let them say their piece and then go think hard about what they said and what you can do to mitigate this situation. And don't just talk to the one who is openly interviewing, the others who are helping him prep on work time are just as in the wrong and are probably just as unhappy.

You need to talk about the reason for the behavior but you also need to make it clear that the behavior will not be tolerated. It is inappropriate in every workplace to spend half your time on non-company business. That is theft. If they want to look for other jobs, you can't stop that, but you have a fiduciary obligation to the company to stop them from stealing company time. Talk to HR about what steps to take. As a manager, HR is there to help you negotiate things like this. You might also talk to HR about starting the process to hire new people as you are going to need them soon one way or the other unless you can turn this around.

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