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I work in a preschool, and I have one co-worker who is consistently late coming in to work, leaving early, calling in "sick," or taking lunches that run long - to give you an idea, she is classified as a full-time employee but has not worked a 40 hour week in 4 or 5 weeks and 3 out of 5 her lunches last week were more than an hour long.

The problem with this is we have a very specific teacher:student ratio that we have to uphold for safety and childcare licensing reasons, meaning that my colleagues and I are consistently having to find ways to cover for this co-worker when she is not in her classroom. I have tried talking to her about this to explain that we're having a hard time finding coverage for her when she's out and it is really stressing all of us out. However, she ended up rolling her eyes at me and walking away, refusing to have a conversation with me about it.

Do I go to my supervisor about it or do I approach her about it again? Do I get a group of my colleagues together to all have a conversation with her about it? I don't want to seem like a whiny co-worker and I certainly don't want to throw her under the bus with the supervisor (I don't want to make a bad situation worse), but it puts us all in a stressful position, and in this industry, puts children at risk by causing us to be understaffed when she is out. How can I handle this situation?

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    Also general note on workplace strategy. If someone is covering for your absence, and tries to complain to you about it, and you roll your eyes and walk away, then expect them to throw you under the bus to their (or your) supervisor. People generally choose not to do you any more favours after that kind of conversation. – Steve Jessop Mar 1 '15 at 23:29
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    Stop covering for her. Problem solved. – keshlam Mar 2 '15 at 2:09
  • possible duplicate of How to handle demoralization caused by a slacker in the team? – gnat Mar 2 '15 at 6:28
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    @keshlam Actually, problem not solved because the pre-school could be closed down if the staff/child ratio is not maintained and a parent complains to the authorities. – Andrew Leach Mar 2 '15 at 14:25
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    Andrew: If the school's management won't fix this, nobody will fix it. They either need to counsel the non-performer, replace, or fire and redistribute/drop the kids from that group. There is no other solution. And first step is to convince them that a problem exists, which means to stop enabling the cheat and make her succeed or fail on her own. Not fair to the kids, but the current situation isn't fair to them either. Time to break a few eggs. – keshlam Mar 2 '15 at 22:19
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You go to the supervisor. That's their job.

You tell them specifically, "We are not able to take our legally-protected breaks because of this employee's attendance. This is creating a safety issue for our children. This needs immediate attention."

If you can get several of you to go as a group, it lends a lot more weight to your cause, as it's no longer a "You vs. her" discussion, it's now a "The team has a problem" discussion.

Edit - As @nhgrif said, if there aren't time cards being (accurately) kept, you and your colleagues may need to document the absenteeism, noting exact arrival and departure times over the course of several days.

Then, let your supervisor deal with it.

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    In addition to this, if time clock records aren't kept (so there's definite evidence of when the co-worker is/isn't there), it would probably be a good idea to start documenting the exact times the co-worker is showing up late, taking long lunches, leaving early, and probably leave a note commenting what was done to cover for this. – nhgrif Mar 1 '15 at 19:29
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    My principal had to cover for my late teacher once. He was not happy; it did not happen again. – Mazura Mar 1 '15 at 22:43
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You did the right thing by approaching her and attempting to understand her reasons and inform her of the additional stress her behavior is causing you and others.

It's unfortunate that she has a don't-care attitude. However, there may be a reason for her to be so callous about this situation (political connection, unfair link with someone higher up etc), or she may be thinking that you will likely just keep doing what you're doing.

In any case, you should bring this up to your supervisor, but before you do so, you should inform the coworker in question that you are unhappy with her behavior and if she does not fix things herself, you will notify the supervisor and escalate the issue. Preferably do this in an email so you have a written record of your action.

Give her a chance to explain herself or change her ways. If she still doesn't, then you should escalate this. You would have done all the right things, been fair, and followed the protocol for escalating, thus solidifying your position and ensuring that your supervisor has to take action. Because if he/she (supervisor) doesn't, then you have grounds to further escalate the issue to higher ups.

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Do not do it yourself again. IMO, you should have not done this yourself in the first place.

I now agree that its best to deal with the erring employee along with the entire team and not just yourself, before escalating it to the boss. If only you tell her and then escalate to the boss because she is still not cooperating, then you will be the "bad guy", even when the whole team has a problem with her.

Given your current situation, you and the rest of your team could request your boss to speak to the erring coworker on their behalf. Your boss needs to make it clear that everyone is suffering and not just you, but being very gentle in the process. Maybe she has a genuine problem and is afraid to share it.

Your boss could say it like I have said below. You can say these words to your boss so that she/he gets an idea of what to say, without insulting your boss's intelligence. Tell the boss that you spoke to her already.

She is important for us and we need her help (--to make her feel important and hopefully receptive to your concerns). I see that she is not present for the time we need her. If she has any problems or concerns, then she could let us know. As her co-workers, we would like to help her as much as possible. We can help for some time, but not for too long. Could you please share the team's concerns with her?

BEWARE - There is one danger though. Some employees just shirk responsibility and are lazy. They have no genuine problems. These people can wrongly sue your organization/boss for discrimination on the basis of religion, gender, color, sexual orientation etc. when you fire them or reduce their hours.

If you don't mind, can you please give us a rough idea of what you told her?

  • Thank you for your advice. I'll definitely talk to the other 3 teachers on our team to find a time when we can all go speak w/ the supervisor. As for what I said to her, there was a day she had to leave unexpectedly which left me out of teacher:student ratio and her attendance was a mess, so I explained that before she left I needed her to tell me exactly how many students she was leaving in my classroom. Then, I put my foot in my mouth by adding something like "This is the 3rd time this week you have had to leave early, I can't keep covering your class." That's the part I shouldn't have said. – Katie Mar 1 '15 at 22:18
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    I disagree with your second sentence. You should try to solve problems before escelating to your manager if you can do so. Unforatunately, OP tried and got eyerolled, but that doesn't happen every time. In my experience, professionals will try to avoid bothering their manager with things that can be resolved 'in the trenches'. – corsiKa Mar 2 '15 at 2:00
  • @Katie - Thanks. I edited my answer in agreement with what Corskia said. IMHO, one must try to give others the benefit of doubt, try to understand them and help them as much as possible. However, if the person is just being callous and is taking undue advantage of others, then let them face disciplinary action. Good luck and chenqui. – Borat Sagdiyev Mar 2 '15 at 4:47
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    @corsiKa I disagree. I am a supervisor and don't feel that employees should be handling performance issues of this nature. It should be brought to the supervisor's attention for them to address. – UnhandledExcepSean Mar 2 '15 at 15:28
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Also, you can ask your supervisor to implement an ActivityTracker system, in which all employee have to update the activities which they did on a particular day. including lunch,breaks,..etc.(Assuming total recommended working hours perday has to be >=9 hours including lunch,breaks). You can either make use of a SOFTWARE which is available in market or follow old school(note book Records)

Coming to your scenario,this activity tracker will make your problem easliy to go away, as you will record you activity that you have covered the other person's job and the required person to do the job cannot put an entry like that as she was missing during that time.Even though she lies in entry, she will be caught red handed, There will be no hard feeling's between any of your collegue's too,

if you implement ActivityTracker system, no one can be blamed, they can blame the system, but the ActivityTracker System is not a human to have feelings. We have to supress/ignore our feelings if we need to survive

but, If you are not implementing Activity tracker system then, this can happen,

like lets say "omg, you framed me to my supervisor"(though what she did is wrong and illegal, but it will not pop in their mind, only thing that will pop is that you are a judas,) else this cant be the case. She can be reasonable/understanding too. we cant confirm any thing on humans.

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    Do this only as a last resort. Nobody likes this. – reinierpost Jan 24 '17 at 16:54
  • This is not about whether people like the system or not. This system will help the management to point out the workers with facts rather than dragging the conversation to and from by putting words in the air when these situations are encountered. The chances of personal attacks will be less in this case. – divine Jan 29 '17 at 10:14

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