Grab Bag Question #1 – I’m a New Supervisor…

Q: I’m a new supervisor with a staff of ten that I just inherited. One of the people seems to call out at least once a week.  I have another one that disappears for long periods of time but gets her work done.  I read our policy manual and still don’t know what to do.  Help!

A: Let’s deal with this one issue at a time.

As a new supervisor to this team, it’s important that you set your expectations in the beginning.  What may seem common sense to you, may not have been explained by the previous supervisor.   There should be group expectations and individual expectations.  Group expectations are those common sense topics – be on time to work, do your work, notify me in advance if you want to take leave, be at your desk ready to work when you are scheduled to begin, take breaks but keep them to the allowed time, etc.   I suggest you create an agenda with a list of topics: attendance, leave, breaks, professional development, family medical leave act (FMLA), Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and your open door policy.  These are the one for group discussion.   Open the meeting telling your team about yourself, your background (work/education) and encourage the group to share the same.  Ask them to describe a team that works well and one that doesn’t work well.  Let them know that you plan to meet with them individually at a future time (should be within the next 7-10 days) to discuss individual work plans, performance, professional development, etc.  Charge them with something to bring to the individual meeting such as a self-assessment of their performance in the last year.

For the individual meetings make sure you review each employee’s file.  Don’t depend on the previous supervisor’s notes to give you the full picture.  You don’t know the previous supervisor’s motivation or personal relationship with the employee.  Just because the employee didn’t do well with the prior supervisor doesn’t mean you can’t get the flower to bloom.  Judge each person on their own merit.  But don’t discredit the notes because it paints a picture or sets a baseline for your expectations.  Let the person explain their work ethic, expectations of you, and where they want to go in their career.  I advised my subordinates that my office was a safe zone.  No topic was off limits and if the door was closed they could express themselves freely.  However, once they were back on the floor, the employee was expected to be respectful and act professionally.

As far as your attendance issues or excessive breaks, you will want to meet with the individuals and ask why they are taking off or taking long breaks.  You may find out the previous supervisor authorized the employee to take leave every Monday for chemo, daycare, etc.   Or maybe the excessive breaks are a reasonable accommodation due to medical condition which requires long visits to the restroom.

Work with your Employee Relations person or if you are a small business owner and need assistance, help is but an email away.  Email your questions to

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