When Just Enough Is Enough To Be Fired

How do you handle an IT professional who under-performs in one critical area, but who’s strong in everything else?
Posted November 18, 2007
By

Eric Spiegel

Eric Spiegel


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Tick, tick, tick. I found myself watching the clock every morning. I was waiting. And waiting. And still waiting. I was becoming more impatient by the minute. 9:05 am, 9:10 am, 9:15 am and then finally – Susan walked down the hall in front of my office.

Was I being an overzealous, micromanager? In this case, I don’t believe that was the issue. Turns out Susan (name changed to protect the tardy) came in between 9 and 9:30 am every day for work. The problem is that core hours were from 9 am to 4:30 pm, and this was established in the employee handbook that every new employee received at orientation.

And the problem in Susan’s case wasn’t that she just didn’t read the handbook. I had multiple review meetings with her explaining that she was expected to be in the office during core hours. Some people worked 7 am until 3:30 pm (I wonder if they really arrived at 7am every day?…sorry, I digress). Others work from 9 am until 5:30 pm. All we asked is that they be there during core hours unless excused by their manager. And for lunch, of course.

Timeliness was even more critical for our team because we were responsible for customer support. If the phone rang at 9 am, per our SLA, someone had to answer or return the call within 15 minutes.

What was Susan’s reaction to me pressing her on this issue?

“I’m a night owl”

Really.

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Well, my initial response was to ask her to do her best to be in on time. Obviously, her best wasn’t good enough because she consistently came in after 9 am. Now note, she was not late in the extreme sense. It was maybe 5 minutes or 15 minutes. But she was late in the consistent sense. Day after day. Week after week.

At my third discussion with her, I laid down the law. If she continued to be “tardy” (for some reason I don’t like that word, but if the shoe fits…) her annual review would reflect under-performance in accountability, which would impact her raise and bonus amount.

Susan took umbrage at this and defensively stated “Please explain how my accountability can be in question if I excel at my job when I’m in the office.”

Hmmm.

Ok, her point wasn’t too hard to respond to. I said “Are you really excelling at your job if a support call comes in and you aren’t at your desk to answer it? Is it fair to the rest of the team who is in the office during core hours and they have to cover for you?”

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She thought about it for a half a second and said “No one on the team has complained and they all like working with me because I go out of my way to help them. They’ll cover for me if I’m a tad late. And besides, I usually work more than eight hours”

Hmmm, again.

This point was a harder one to respond to. No one had complained, and it was true that no calls were ever missed because someone always covered when Susan was on first line support any day she was late. It was as if the team had accepted her lateness quirk because she did excel at her job, with her superior customer interaction skills and knowledge of our products. So was this really a big deal after all?


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Tags: IT management, IT Jobs/Salary, IT salary, tech job, dismiss IT worker


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