My column, Workplace Referee, is designed to help employees and managers gain better insight into each other's points of view (POV). Have a situation you'd like me to address? Please submit it by email HERE. Don't worry, I'll keep your identity private.
Employee Takes All His Sick Time (And, I Hate It)
Employee POV: I've been working at this company for two years now. The job is easy. Actually, it's pretty boring. I have started my own side business and I'm doing my best to get it up and running so I can leave and do it full-time. I use my vacation and sick time up to work on the business. I've been getting a sense that my boss is on to me. He's been really annoyed the last two times I called in sick unexpectedly. But, I don't see what the big deal is. I do my job really well and he always gets what he needs. I've been told my work quality exceeds expectations. So, why should he care how I use the time that I've earned by working here?
Manager POV: I have an employee who has a ton of potential. He's excellent at his job. I want to give him a promotion and more responsibility, but I can't bring myself to do it because it's clear he isn't planning to stick around. I've heard from other employees he's trying to start a business. He uses up all his vacation and sick time as soon as he accrues it which I assume he's using to work on his business. I find it annoying. I'd honestly like to fire him and find someone who actually appreciates the job, but he's doing excellent work and it would take months to train someone to replace him. I think I'll just keep passing him over for promotion in hopes he finally asks so I can share with him his lack of commitment. I can't really call him out on his use of sick and vacation time because it's his right to do so. But, if he ever really gets sick he'll be in trouble because he'll have no time saved up and will have to take it unpaid.
Who's at fault?
Wow. This is a messy one! First, the employee is doing a lot more harm than he realizes to his career. Even though he's doing quality work, that's not the only thing a boss judges your performance on. I guarantee if he ever needs a reference from this boss down the line (and, he will), it won't be a glowing one.
As for the boss, failing to address this behavior and letting it go on for as long as hit has not only makes the relationship between the two of them strained, it also sends a message to other employees that he's willing to look the other way at disrespectful behavior because someone does their job. This leads to a lack of respect by other employees.
What can both sides learn from this?
In this situation, I would advise each side as follows:
Employee Takeaway: It's fine that you have a side hustle and a plan to do your own thing. Just remember the majority of small businesses fail. You may find yourself needing to work for an employer again some day. Having good references is vital to landing decent employment. The bridges you are burning right now could come back to haunt you.
Manager Takeaway: You need to sit this employee down immediately and remind him that sick time was designed to help an employee out so they can get paid when they need to be out of the office due to illness. Additionally, have an open conversation about how you feel he is not committed to the job as seen by his actions and discuss if it might be time for the two of you to agree on his departure date. You could set a goal of 3-6 months which gives you each time to prepare. i.e. find his replacement. There's no reason the two of you can't have an honest talk about next steps so it works for both of you. That way, you can end the employment on a positive note.