Less than productive employee

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Pattie Hunt Sinacole discusses possible reasons for productivity concerns

Less than productive employee
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Q: I just had a difficult situation.  During the pandemic, my company reduced the size of our office since so many were working remotely.  I manage a sales team.  Of course, most of my employees, working within my division were more than professional.  They were given a stipend to set up a home office, to pay for a desk, chair, printer, etc.  They all had laptops already, and all were given a Zoom account.  We offered them a little more flexibility because some schools shifted to remote learning.  Now, we have tightened up things especially around schedules and attendance at online meetings.  I have one employee who seems to be struggling with attending meetings.  He is also not making his numbers.  My company just purchased and implemented an online “productivity tracking solution.”  Now I can see everyone’s work hours, breaks, when they log in, etc.  His numbers don’t compare to his peers.  What are your thoughts?

A: Many employers moved employees offsite during the pandemic, and many employees have continued to work in their home offices.  As with any change, there are benefits and drawbacks.  Many employees appreciate the flexibility and some are even working more productively but also avoiding long commutes.  Some have taken advantage of this flexibility. 

First, I would clearly explain that you have the ability to review their workday.  Ethically, I think that communication should occur early in the process, ideally before your company has implemented this new tool.  Many employees would not really care, because I believe most employees can be trusted to remotely and complete their work.  Still, employees should give you the “heads up” if they are taking time away from their desks to go to the dentist, attend a child’s parent-teacher conference, or having a plumber visit their home. 

If you continue to see this employee’s productivity in the concerning range, then you should ask this employee if there is a reason.  Maybe they are having some health issues, which they have been reticent to share.  Or the employee could be dealing with a sick parent.  If the employee has no reasonable explanation; I would explain that their productivity is concerning.  At this point in time, it might be a good idea to review your company’s disciplinary process or contact your company’s HR representative.  You may need to continue to monitor the employee’s productivity to see if there is an improvement.

One possibility is that your employee is working a second job, in addition to the role for your company.  Many employers are ok with an employee “moonlighting,” which is broadly considered working a part-time job that does not interfere with their full-time role.  Some might call it a “side hustle,” and the work is usually outside of the employee’s normal work schedule. Examples might include teaching an evening class, building websites for family and friends, or leading a fitness class on Saturday mornings.  Some employers do not permit a second part-time role.  Some may permit this type of role, as long it is not a competitive firm.  For example, if your company builds websites for clients, then a part-time role also building websites for companies would likely be prohibited. 

It may be worth checking out our competitor’s websites to see if this person might be named on their website.  Or checking to see if they have made changes to their LinkedIn profile.  A year or so ago, one of our clients had an employee working at two companies, and this person had changed their LinkedIn profile stating that they were working for a different company.  Clearly this choice is problematic. 

Something is likely up with your employee.  You would want to start with an empathetic approach first, while also continuing to assess their productivity. 

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