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Annette Quinn Managing absence easily and productively

In today’s workplace, as I have already talked about in my previous blogs, it’s a lot tougher than it was even 10 years ago. With all of the limited resources we are faced with, another aspect of concern can be an employee’s attendance.

There seems to be numerous reasons for increased absence. Stress is a big one, as is an aging workforce, so unsurprisingly people are off sick. People are also absent due to caring responsibilities, for both children and elderly parents.

As managers it is our responsibility to manage this. In most instances, we know and fully understand why someone is absent and we want to help them. However, despite this, you may have pressures in your work to reduce absence and as a consequence end up pressurising people to return to work too soon, which could end up them going off sick again.

It’s a catch 22 situation, and an area that worries line managers and HR managers the most. So how do you approach it in a professional and effective manner?Managing absence easily and productively

In the first instant, looking at the business itself is a very good place to start. What is the culture like? If you look at the recent Managing Conflict blog you will see that if your organisation has a lot of unhealthy disagreement, or actual conflict, then there will be a lot of absence, as this type of culture creates stress. If you feel it is unhealthy, then it’s worth looking at what you can do and what you can influence to minimise the impact it has on your team and department.

What about Employee Engagement? As a trainer I can see that so many managers are just fed up with what is happening. They feel they are being lied to, fobbed off and ultimately no one has time for them as an individual. Have a look at our recent blog, webinar and whitepaper on Employee Engagement for some excellent advice.

Look at your Performance Management System. Is it being used effectively or just paid lip service to? So many managers either just go through the motions, or hand their teams a sheet of paper to sign. It becomes the tick box exercise. Performance management can be so much more. Whatever system you have, be it an annually, bi annually or regular meet up, make them work. Show true leadership skills by:

  • Planning them in and sticking to it (where you can)
  • Setting aside at least an hour
  • Writing meaningful objectives and encouraging your reports to write their own too
  • Giving effective feedback
  • Having regular catch ups

Once they know you care and notice them, let them know when things go well and not so well. They really will think twice about “throwing a sickie”. Use these meetings, and your team talks and briefings, to re-enforce the need to attend work. What the impact absence has on the team and business

So many of us are scared of dealing with absence management because it can be tough, especially if you come up against the difficult colleague. So, a few more tips to help you get through are:

  • Always complete the back to work interview, and complete it effectively. Ask lots of questions, and re-inforce the need for attendance at work
  • Use some, or maybe all, of the techniques covered in my previous blogs. As a reminder, these are:
    • Transactional Analysis
    • Assertiveness Techniques
    • Assertive Statement
    • Centering
    • Three Level Questioning
    • Going to the Balcony

For more dos and don’ts, have a look at 10 key steps to effective absence management.

Want to know more about managing conflict in your organisation? Get in touch with us today to chat more about how we can help. 


Annette Quinn, Performance Management Facilitator

In my series of blogs I will be taking a look at performance management, in particular Time Management, and providing tips on how to develop your skills.

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