Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Onboarding New Employees - Part 2

Actions to take: Don't rely on the HR checklist for onboarding a new employee. Welcome the employee before their first day. Give a proper introductory tour. Plan their first week with significant involvement from the rest of the team. Have weekly check-in meetings to see how they are acclimating. 

In Part 1 of this post, we outlined some goals that a good onboarding should achieve and detailed the first component of a good onboarding, the welcome elements. In this post, we will detail the other two components: training with the team and onboarding check-in meetings.

Training with the Team:

As the boss, it is not your job to train new employees. Rather, it is your job to see that they are trained. There are benefits to having the latter mindset:

  • You no longer need to spend your career making sure you know everything your employees know. When you are the trainer, you have to be conversant in every task that you'll be teaching the new employee. That is a phenomenal inefficiency. Contrary to popular practice, bosses do not need to be and should not try to be expert in all the areas of work they supervise. 
  • Onboarding a new employee is an excellent time for your staff to work together. As you will see, this teamwork will be happening even before the new employee arrives for their first day.
  • It is also a perfect time for staff development. Here, we are talking about your current staff, who will be exercising their planning, coordination, and teaching muscles.

Your new employee will soon be part of the team. Make their onboarding a team effort. Here is a step-by-step guide to planning effective initial training sessions for your new employees:

  1. Three weeks (or however long you can) before their start date, brainstorm with your team.  Work together to break up all of the most important work into individual tasks. Come up with as many discrete chunks of training that you can. I like to shoot for trainings that would take at least 30 minutes, but no more than an hour. 
  2. Sort your brainstorm list by urgency or importance. Figure out what must be taught in the first week, what can wait until the second, and what can wait longer. 
  3. Parcel out the trainings to your staff and set an hour-by-hour schedule for the employee's first week. You can do this by having staff volunteer or by assigning the trainings based on staff expertise. When you build the schedule, don't make it back-to-back training sessions all day. Schedule time for solo work (those HR policies and training modules, for instance) and down time for them to do whatever they like.
    • Share this hour-by-hour schedule with your new employee. Ideally before their first day. Otherwise, at the beginning of the day. 
  4. Set training expectations for your current team. Make it clear that they need to spend time before the training planning out how to do it. Let them know that you will be touching base and asking how their training plan is going. These two statements alone will significantly improve the quality of the training your new employee receives. Keeping your word to follow up will improve the training further.

Planning the training this way yields all sorts of benefits. For one, it is far less work for you. Two, your team gets a new, exciting task. Three, it sets up a natural time for your new employee to work with a variety of your staff one-on-one where they have some meaningful, directed task. This will integrate them into the team much more quickly than big blocks of job shadowing.

Onboarding check-in meetings

The last key component to an effective onboarding is to do check-in meetings with your new employee. This is a simple but crucial part of your onboarding. Set a weekly meeting with your new employee for the first 4 weeks (this is separate from the weekly one-on-one). Your first meeting should be as close to the beginning of their first day as you can make it. In that first meeting, start by explaining what these meetings are and how they will work. Here are the details:

  • Open every meeting by asking your employee what questions you can answer for them. Make it clear that nothing is off limits. It is not just about the job tasks; it is about integrating into this new work environment. I use the example, "If you find out that one of your coworkers is into comic books, you can ask me if I know whether they prefer DC or Marvel." 
  • Next, ask some version of the two questions listed below. If the employee has nothing, gently probe a little bit before moving on. Make absolutely certain you are giving them chances to say what they need to say. 
    1. "What do you still need to know before you feel like you understand the job fully and completely?" The goal of this question is obvious. We are not making the assumption that we taught them what they need to know. We are giving them the opportunity to fill in gaps. As a secondary bonus, we are subtly reinforcing the idea that it is their responsibility to make sure they can do the job.
    2. "What else can we be doing to make you feel like this is your workplace, not just the place you go to work?" The previous question is about cognitively preparing your new employee for their job. This question is about emotionally preparing your new employee for their job. It's like asking a houseguest, "Is there anything else I can get you?" before heading to bed for the evening. More often than not, the question itself is all you need to do to make someone feel welcome.
  • In each meeting, finish by spending 5 to 10 minutes explaining expectations for employees under you, centered on some theme. Get into detail on the things that matter most to you, the things that are hallmarks of effective employees in your opinion. For instance, in week one, I explain what "honesty, respect, and results" means for members of my team. It may feel a little silly, like you are giving a speech. You can even joke about it. However, do not skip this step. I have received more specific, positive feedback from employees about this managerial behavior than anything else I do. People desperately crave understanding what is expected of them. (Look forward to a series of "onboarding meeting scripts" at some point in this blog.)

If you build your onboarding plan based on these three components, it will be the best onboarding most of your employees have ever experienced. You will experience far less turnover, and your employees will get up to speed on their jobs far faster. They will feel comfortable asking questions, not only to you, but to their coworkers as well. 

We started Part 1 by mentioning that HR usually has a bunch of stuff for employees to do as part of onboarding. My advice if they give you ridiculous deadlines (i.e. "to be completed on employee's first day"), ignore it and take the heat. Yes, schedule the employee to get it done in a reasonable timeframe, but those trainings are not your priority. Those trainings will not positively impact your employee's future effectiveness. Those trainings will negatively impact your employee's first impression, relative to the enormously positive impression you could be setting. 

Let's finish by reviewing the outcomes we listed in Part 1 for an effective onboarding:

  • Affirm the employee's decision to accept the job
  • Encourage employee to begin thinking of themselves as part of the team
  • Give employee clear understanding of next day's/next week's workload
  • Explicitly communicate what you expect of an employee on your team

What do you think? Will we achieve these outcomes following the plan sketched out in these two posts?

Monday, April 26, 2021

Onboarding New Employees - Part 1

Actions to take: Don't rely on the HR checklist for onboarding a new employee. Welcome the employee before their first day. Give a proper introductory tour. Plan their first week with significant involvement from the rest of the team. Have weekly check-in meetings to see how they are acclimating. 

In our post about the first day as a new manager, I shared an anecdote showing that I used to have no clue how to effectively introduce myself to a new team. My supervisor walked me through several computer systems, showed me the required training modules for the week, and left. In that post, we focused on things that I as the new employee could have done better. Frankly, however, my boss in that anecdote committed far greater errors. 

It is embarrassingly common for managers to treat new employee orientations with a lack of care and forethought. Human Resources usually provides a long list of trainings, forms, policies, and so on that the new employee has to complete. The manager sees this mountain of work, throws in a quick tour of the office and introductions to the team, schedules a bunch of "on the job training" (read: sit there and watch someone else work), and calls it an onboarding. 

Be honest with yourself, how close am I to describing your onboarding strategy for new employees?

What outcomes do you want out of your employee onboarding? If you are a relatively intelligent and engaged boss, here are some things you might have said: 

  • Affirm the employee's decision to accept the job
  • Encourage employee to begin thinking of themselves as part of the team
  • Give employee clear understanding of next day's/next week's workload
  • Explicitly communicate what you expect of an employee on your team
The thrown-together schedule outlined above (which describes the vast majority of new employees' experiences), barely even hints at meeting these goals. There is a better way, broken into three sections: welcome elements, training with the team, and onboarding check-in meetings.

Welcome Elements

To make a proper first impression, you need to reach out to your new employee before their first day. As soon as HR has confirmed their hire, send an email to the new employee. Make sure the email hits these points:

  • Congratulations: The employee just got a new job. That is neat! It is also an accomplishment, assuming you run a high-quality, competitive workplace. Celebrate with them. 
  • Enthusiasm: Presumably, this is an excellent employee who beat out other excellent employees. It is both acceptable and encouraged for you to show your excitement at adding this new talent to the team.
  • Instruction (but not too much): Your employee will feel some anxiety at not knowing basic information about their first day. Ease that anxiety by providing the following details: where to park & any unusual travel info; how to enter the building; what to wear, roughly; when to arrive; when to expect to meet you (especially if you will not be the one answering the door).
  • Encourage questions: Do not ask, "Do you have any questions?" Instead ask, "What questions can I answer for you before your first day?"
  • Write like a human: There is no need to be stuffy in this email. The sooner you act like a person, the sooner your new employee will see you as a person. Remember, employees are predisposed to see the word "Boss" written on your forehead and every piece of correspondence you send them. Most of the time, that just distracts from effective communication.

The second half of your welcome occurs on the employee's first day. Most bosses know they need to tour the employee around the workplace and introduce them to the team. The best bosses know that there is a key behavior which makes this tour worthwhile. 

When you introduce the new employee to each of your team, do the following: give their name, explain their role in 2 or 3 sentences, then ask your current employee a question. For instance, "Ngoc, you've been a librarian here for 3 years, but you actually started as a teen volunteer over 15 years ago, isn't that right?" Your goal here is to pass the conversation over to the two other people. If they don't pick up on it, try again with another question. For the next 3-5 minutes, sit back. Step in only to facilitate further interaction by asking more prompting questions if the conversation winds down too quickly.

This is what a proper introductory tour looks like. Facilitate this kind of conversation for every person you meet on the tour. When done correctly, your new employee will end the day knowing of at least 3 or 4 other people who share some common interest or link. That is how you begin integrating them into the team from the very first day they are onsite.

This post is beginning to run long. In part 2, which will be posted Wednesday, we will cover "training with the team," "onboarding check-in meetings," and wrap up. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

One-on-Ones: Length

Actions to take: Schedule your one-on-one meetings for 30 minutes. The first 15 minutes is for whatever they want to discuss, the second 15 minutes is yours. Expect most employees to go over time. Allow it to happen several times, then offer a light request for change.

To be a truly effective boss, the most important thing you can do is build a trusting relationship with each employee. By far the easiest way to do that is through routine one-on-one meetings. recommends that those meetings are scheduled, 30 minutes, weekly, and rarely missed, with the first half of the meeting spent on whatever they want to discuss and the second half for whatever you want to discuss.

Upon rolling out weekly, scheduled one-on-one meetings with your team, a funny thing will happen. When you announce the plan, your employees will wonder what they could possibly talk about in the meetings. Several of them might even claim that they won't have anything to discuss. Then, after the newness of the first meeting, more than half of your of your team will take up the entire 30 minute meeting every week if you let them. There are two obvious ways to handle this: 

  1. Enforce the agenda by cutting them off at 15 minutes.
  2. Make the meetings longer.

Both strategies are wrong. 

For years, possibly their entire careers, your employees have managed without these meetings. Yet once the meetings are in place, many will fill every minute. What explains this apparent contradiction? The fact is, most employees have all kinds of things they would discuss with their boss given the opportunity. However, those things don't feel important enough to warrant interruption or a scheduled meeting. When you finally give an employee the opportunity to discuss literally whatever is important to them, the dam bursts. Years of thoughts, ideas, questions about their work, suggestions for improvement, and the simple desire to get facetime with the boss come flooding out.

Do not stifle this flow. Using one-on-ones as a designated time and place to talk about the work, conduct some coaching, give feedback, and so on, these are great benefits to doing them. But they are not the main purpose. The reason we do one-on-ones is to build a trusting relationship, which in turns makes communication fast and easy, which ultimately leads to better organizational outcomes. The outpouring of thoughts from your employees is a backlog of desire to forge that relationship and feel heard. You want to encourage that feeling, not put a stop to it. 

That is an effective argument for not strictly enforcing the 15-15 agenda. So why not just make the meetings longer? 

If you extend the meeting, you're treating the symptom, not the disease. Your employees are going to take every minute they can get because they aren't acclimated to the idea that this will indeed happen every week going forward. Don't make changes to the length of the meeting based on the way your employees act in the first few weeks. Thirty minutes per week is enough time to cover the highlights for almost every position in almost every industry. Once you get good at the meetings and comfortable with each other's communication style, that is enough time to hit 5-10 topics each. It is the rare employee indeed that needs to cover more than 20 issues every week.

You might think, "I'll just schedule them for an hour, and if they end early, great!" This will bite you. Eventually, things will level out, and an hour will be too long. Since the purpose of the meeting is relationship-building, ending it early would imply there is not enough relationship to build. While this is not rational (40 minutes is longer than 30 after all), it is how the situation will be perceived. Perhaps not consciously, and perhaps not by everyone, but enough that you need to avoid it. 

This leaves the question, what should you do when your employees suck up all the time in these one-on-ones? Let's break it down week-by-week:

  • Weeks 1-2: Ideally, wait until at least five minutes after the meeting was meant to be over. If you have another meeting immediately after, then wait until the very last minute. Find a place to gently interject to end the meeting. Show enthusiasm and appreciation for how much they engaged. Do not mention that they went over time.
  • Weeks 3-4: At 25 minutes in, find a moment to interject. Say, "I have a few things on my list to get to. Could we find a stopping point in the next minute or two?" Get through as many things on your list as you can without rushing too much, but end on time. 
  • Weeks 5-6: Do the same as weeks 3-4. Then at the end of the meeting, say something like this, "I love how much energy you are bringing to these meetings. These past few weeks, I've had a few agenda items I haven't been able to get to. Could you aim for wrapping your half of the meeting after 15 minutes next week?" (Note that this does not follow the feedback formula described in this blog. This is not feedback; it is a request.)

If this feels like an especially soft approach, that's because it is. Focus on your most important priorities. With one-on-ones, the most important priority is not teaching time management. It is to build the relationship and make communication easier. The method described above is guided by that priority.

The majority of employees will self-correct before you get to week 5. Of the remainder, most of will correct after one or two of these comments. Only perhaps 1 in 100 will need more explicit direction than this. In that case, go ahead and use the feedback formula to more directly advise them on the impact of their going over time. 

If there is anything very important you couldn't get to, avoid the temptation to go over time. Model the behavior you want. Instead, find a time outside of one-on-ones to address it. This shouldn't be unfamiliar. You just started doing these meetings. Handle it however you used to when you needed to address something with an employee.

Following this approach, you will get your one-on-ones smooth and efficient while maintaining your talkative employees' motivation and positivity.

Note from the author: if you enjoy this blog, please consider sharing your favorite posts with others.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Managerial Delusions: "I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way”

Lee Iacocca, the CEO of Chrysler during the 1980s, has an extremely popular quote: "I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way." He is one of the most famous leaders in corporate history, and business owners the world over have been attempting to emulate his management style ever since he rose to fame. 

When you read his famous quote, an image of leadership emerges. We have a benevolent leader whose skill in finding talent is his key attribute. Much like the religious deist's Watchmaker, he puts all the pieces into place, then sits back as the entire system naturally synchs into beautiful lockstep. Outcomes are achieved, visions realized, work completed. He does not need to meddle because he has found the right people and put them in the right place.

There is just one problem. That does not describe Lee Iacocca's leadership at all. Iacocca was, in fact, a very tough person to work for. He was a master at applying pressure to those under him, pushing them to just short of their breaking point. He was involved enough in the details of their work to redirect them from disaster and pick up their spirits if they failed. When his people succeeded in meeting his high standards, the sense of accomplishment endeared them to him and solidified their loyalty. Not exactly a "get out of the way" leadership style.

Beware pithy inspirational quotes. These quotes have power. They are a shorthand, a reminder of the direction we should travel or an ideal state we should strive to achieve. Too many of them sound good but encourage a disastrous leadership practice. 

Before you throw your lot behind a good-sounding inspirational quote, ask yourself what advice is beneath its surface. Examine the underlying assumptions it makes about how you should manage or lead. Often, even the person who said it would recoil at the natural interpretation of their words. 

Instead, find quotes that encapsulate ideals that you do want to achieve. Here is one I keep in mind: "Too many bosses are so focused on becoming great leaders that they fail to be good managers."

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

How to Apologize

Actions to take: When you need to apologize for something you regret having done, ensure that your apology has these three elements: 1) acknowledgement of your error, 2) expression of regret, 3) a plan or commitment to avoid the error in the future. Take time to reflect on how you would have handled the situation differently, and don't include extraneous information in your apology.

Some errors require more than a simple "I'm sorry." Saying "I'm sorry" is good for when you accidently drop something or bump into another person. When you have done something that you genuinely regret, a more robust apology is appropriate.

A proper apology has three parts: 

  1. Acknowledgement of your error
  2. An expression of regret
  3. A plan or commitment to avoid the error in the future
If, for instance, I lost my temper and raised my voice with an employee, the apology might look something like this: "When we spoke yesterday, I let my emotions get the best of me. I raised my voice and phrased things more sharply than the situation warranted. I am embarrassed that I let it happen. I am very sorry about the way I acted. If I ever sense myself getting close to that point again in a conversation, I'll make sure we take a break so that cooler heads prevail."  

There are major benefits to using this complete apology rather than a simple "I'm sorry." First, it encourages you to reflect on your own behavior. When conflicts arise, it is easy to see how the other party has offended you. It takes real effort to see how you are contributing to the problem. When forming your apology, first ask yourself, "In what ways could I have handled this better?" If you have answers to that question, then you have something worthy of apologizing for.

Second, it removes some of the defensiveness from the situation. Any time you follow up on a conflict, the other party is going to assume you want to talk about their actions. Even the most emotionally stable among us can't help but feel ready for a fight. The conversation will go far better by discussing your own actions, not theirs. It is an olive branch.

Beyond the three-part structure mentioned above, there are a few more tips to make your apology go well: 

  • No insincere apologies: Don't say anything you don't believe fully and completely. If you are unable to genuinely take part of the responsibility for whatever conflict occurred, then you are unable to give a proper apology.
  • In person if possible: All communication is more meaningful in person. An apology is one of the most emotionally difficult conversations you can have. That makes it something we want to do through an easier communication channel but something we need to do in the most robust communication channel possible. At a minimum, do not apologize through a less robust channel than the one in which the conflict occurred (e.g. If you had an argument in a Slack chat, do not send an email apology). 
  • Prepared in advance: Some may think this makes an apology less genuine because it is not "straight from the heart." Entirely untrue. Preparing an apology in advance means you took the necessary time to reflect on your actions. It means you thought about the other person's point of view. It means you actually have a plan for avoiding your error in the future. 
  • No extraneous details: We always want to explain why we did what we did. A good apology says, "I understand you and your point of view." When you try to explain yourself, that says, "I am asking you to understand me and my point of view." It is a different conversation. It is not part of an apology. 

People think that conflict damages relationships. The opposite is true if you successfully get to the other side of that conflict. When you apologize in this way, the other party sees that you have thought through your actions. They see that you have thought through their response to your actions. Most importantly, they will see that you are putting effort into the future of the relationship, and they will almost certainly do the same.

Monday, April 12, 2021

When to Apologize

Actions to take: Give meaningful apologies any time you have done something you regret that negatively impacted another person. Do not base your decision on anything else. Do not base your decision to apologize on your feeling that the other party should apologize.

When should you apologize to someone at work? The answer: far more often than we do. 

You are bound to run into emotions, tempers, and hurt feelings at least occasionally at work, unless your relationships with your coworkers are completely superficial (and if that's the case, you're not following the advice from this blog). It is especially easy to hit raw nerves when you are a manager, since part of your job is to resolve issues and provide feedback about shortcomings.

I once had an employee come to my office completely livid about a decision I made. Our team had been doing something locally that was really the responsibility of a central department, and I put a stop to it. This employee felt that my decision was incorrect. For about fifteen minutes, they berated me at various volumes and various tones of voice. For most of that time, I attempted to address their concerns and explain my decision. At some point, I lost my cool. I was about five sentences into explaining that they didn't have a damn clue what they were talking about before I caught myself. I finished my thought and sent them out of my office before any more damage could be done. 

When something like this happens, you need to know how to get past it and maintain your relationship with that person. A smart first step is an apology. The criteria for deciding if you should apologize is simple:

  1. You have done something you regret
  2. That thing negatively impacted another person

Any time both criteria are true, apologize. Your decision to apologize is completely independent of the other person's decision. "Who should apologize" is the wrong thinking. It is not a contest.

The fact that the other person has done more wrong (in your opinion) is irrelevant. Apologies are not team decisions. The feeling of regret is personal and internal. Therefore, you don't get to decide when the other person should apologize, and they don't get to decide when you should apologize. To get out of the wrong mindset, I tell myself, "If you are even 5% at fault for what happened, you owe someone an apology." In the anecdote above, the employee quite literally did 95% of the shouting. It doesn't matter. I still failed to handle it as well as I should have.

Many people see an apology as giving in. They think that admitting your mistakes during the conflict means that you've accepted blame for the entire conflict. That is incorrect. It is the same wrong thinking as the "who should apologize" mentality. 

In fact, an apology is a powerful thing, in two senses. First, it is difficult to apologize. It requires strength of character to give a genuine apology for the things you regret. People who are confident and certain of themselves have an easier time apologizing, largely because they are not caught up in thinking about how others will interpret it.

Second, an apology is powerful because it puts you more in control of the situation. After conflict, both of you are burdened with many frustrations. Your regrets about how you acted are one of those burdens, whether you admit it or not. A genuine, meaningful apology will free you of that burden.

Average managers hide after conflict, metaphorically and, on occasion, literally. Some will cold-shoulder the issue until enough time has passed that they can pretend it didn't happen. Others use their authority to force the other party into accepting blame for the incident. Better bosses know that those strategies are both immature and ineffective. They address the issue head-on, and they start by admitting their faults with meaningful apologies.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Feedback Basics Summary

Actions to take: Following the advice from this blog, you now have all the information necessary to begin giving casual, frequent feedback to your employees. Use this post as a reference point to previous entries.

In the early posts of this blog, I encouraged readers not to change how they give feedback to their employees right away. I explained that there are many elements to that transition, and a bad start could sour you and your team on ever trying to give meaningful feedback again.

We have now covered all the basic elements of a robust process for giving the kind of feedback that genuinely improves future performance. First, we explained the benefits, then outlined what you should do:

  • Give far more feedback than you currently do. Most employees report getting virtually no feedback about their performance on a regular basis. That means most bosses are not giving feedback. You are probably one of those bosses. Stop being one of those bosses.
  • Give feedback about everyday work. Dramatically lower your bar for how important something must be before you give feedback. Average bosses give feedback only when necessary. That is, when something is big enough that it would be weird not to give feedback. Stop that kind of thinking. Instead, give feedback on any behavior you would like to see more of or any behavior you would like to see changed.
  • Give far more positive feedback than corrective feedback. We notice the problems. It is easy to find flaws with your employees. But the results are in. It is far more productive to give positive feedback than corrective. It works just as well to guide future performance, people like it better, and it makes negative feedback easier when you have to give it. Shoot for minimum of a 5:1 ratio.

Then, we covered step-by-step instructions on how to do this well and easily. The main tool we use is a formula as a guide for phrasing your feedback. There are three major components to the feedback formula described in this blog: 

  1. Ask first to see if your employee is prepared to receive feedback.
  2. Phrase your feedback: "When you do X, it has Y impact.
  3. Finish by asking the employee to change or by affirming they should keep it up
We also had several other important posts about feedback. The articles:

After carefully reviewing these posts, you will be ready to start giving small, frequent feedback to your team. You will be able to improve individual and team performance using this low-stakes method that is far less painful than other feedback conversations. You won't be a feedback expert, but you will stop dreading these interactions with your employees. That alone puts you several steps ahead of the average boss.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Stop Asking Why Employees are Out Sick

Actions to take: Stop asking why employees are out sick. Instead, create the kind of working environment where employees would never consider using their leave unethically.

In certain work environments, or during certain times of the year, a manager might suspect that their employees aren't being entirely truthful when they call out sick from work. Some managers take it personally, some are frustrated to be left short handed, some just don't like the feeling that someone is pulling one over on them. It gets tempting to poke around a little when an employee calls in sick. Maybe you set up a policy that the employee must speak directly to you, and you ask a few questions after their health. Maybe, if you're really suspicious, you check the employee's social media accounts.

Knock it off. I understand the impulse in certain situations, but bosses who do this are not considering how badly it reflects on their management and character. There are huge negatives to engaging in this behavior.

  • It is infantilizing: One adult questioning another adult's decision to take a sick day is offensive. The subtext is "I, your boss, know better than you, the person experiencing the issue, whether that issue is worthy of taking a day off work." No one would want their boss doing it to them, so don't do it to your people.
  • It is unhelpful: Let's say you've got an absenteeism issue, and employees are lying about being ill. Becoming a detective is the least efficient way to solve this problem. You can't prove they are well. Even if they are seen out at a movie, or shopping, or whatever on their sick day, that is not proof that they are well enough to work. Plenty of illnesses cause an inability to do critical thinking or to stand for 8 hours, while they still allow us to do relatively easy tasks such as sitting in a movie theater or getting groceries. You have failed to prove anything and have succeeded in creating a mistrustful work environment. 
  • It may be illegal: No federal law prevents an employer from asking why an employee is out sick. However, the law does prevent discrimination based on a disability status. Therefore, if a boss does not typically ask why someone is out sick when they only do it once or twice a year, but does start interrogating their employee who is chronically out sick, they may be running afoul of the law. If that employee has a disability that contributes to their leave-taking, then the boss is treating someone with a disability differently than someone without. That is the very definition of discrimination based on disability status.

When you create a positive, productive work environment, this problem solves itself. On a good team, employees feel comfortable calling out, knowing that the work will get covered. They also have respect for their coworkers and only call out when it is genuinely necessary. That is how you conquer absenteeism issues, not by playing twenty questions every time one of your employees is ill.

Average bosses have issues with absenteeism because people don't like working for them. They try to treat the symptom rather than the disease by interrogating employees who call out sick. Better bosses create environments where people trust one another to do good work and only call out when necessary. They don't feel the need to monitor how an employee uses the sick leave they have earned. 

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