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Where Do You Think YOU’RE Going?

November 7, 2016

I was getting frustrated. Once again,  Milan had taken off work an hour early. I think I’m a reasonable manager. I gave him the freedom to pretty much run his job the way he felt he needed to. His clients weren’t complaining, and others in the company seemed to genuinely enjoy working with him. He was one of those kind of bland “nice guys” to have in an office. 

Unfortunately, he had one really annoying habit and it seemed to be getting worse. It was hard to pin him down to his desk. I was a middle manager in a large non-profit and our policy was that we kept office hours. Exactly when you came in or left was pretty much up to you so long as you were. Available between 10:00am and 4:00pm. It was important that people be able to get in touch with you during the “typical” business day. 

And here it was, a Friday afternoon and Milan had headed out the door at 3:00pm. I called him into my office first thing Monday morning.

So, what happened on Friday?

What do you mean?

You took off at 3:00.

Yeah, I was trying to beat the traffic. I needed to get a group of scouts headed to a campout at 4:00.

We’ve talked about this. I need you available between 10-4.

I was available. 

How do you figure?

Did you try to call me?

No.

Text?

No.

Email?

Well, no. But, you weren’t at your desk.

What makes my desk so special that it’s the only place people can contact me? On the drive home I took two client calls. I also used speech to text to respond to a client question about next week’s shipment. When I got home there was an email from Frank asking for a copy of the updated spreadsheet that I then sent. Exactly how do YOU define “available?”

It was a bit of a shock to realize that Milan had a point. Not only did he have some of our most demanding (and profitable) clients, he regularly was called on weekends and evening. He’d been up late on client implementation calls for two nights that week and while he had been camping on Saturday, I knew that one of his clients had called him at least once while he was hiking. 

I had to decide how important it was that he be physically in the office. Was he mostly working with people in our Seattle home office, or was he mostly working with people at our suppliers and client sites around the country? Was that 3:00 Friday departure robbing the company of an hour or were we getting more than we paid for with his time? 

On the other hand, not everyone serviced their clients and suppliers like Milan did. If I let him have a looser schedule, would I end up paying for it because other employees, who didn’t give up personal time to work with clients would demand similar accommodations? 

As Milan filed out of my office, I had to think, was I risking losing one of my most productive employees by not letting him do the job the way he wanted? Did it really matter? 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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