I manage a department of 50 employees. Juggling vacation requests can be a big headache. We often have more people wanting to be away than we can have be gone at one time. The 4th of July seems to always be one of the most problematic times because employees want to use more time when the kids are out of school. We grant vacation on a “first come, first served” basis. Whoever gets their request approved first gets the time off. (Employees may request time off up to a year in advance. Seniority only applies if two people hand in their requests at the same time.)
I have one employee, Mary (not her real name), who always plays the system. Last year, she called in sick for two days after the Thanksgiving holiday and after her last-minute vacation request had been denied. I am pretty sure that she was in California with relatives and not home sick, but I can’t prove it. There have been other times in the past when this happened.
She just asked for the entire week off after the 4th (we already have the 5th off. She wants the other four days off too.) Five employees who asked for the days off months ago are already scheduled to be on vacation. Three other employees previously asked for the same time off and were denied because we can’t handle more than three away right now. I have a bad feeling that Mary will call in sick on Tuesday. This is going to wreck my 4th because I will be anticipating her sick call. What can I do to stop her from cheating?
– Sam the Supervisor (Not my real name)
Dear Sam –
Why worry? Just accept the fact that she is going to cheat and enjoy the fireworks and barbecue. Meanwhile, study the many ways that she may try to trick you – there are web sites devoted to helping employees like her, such as the one at this link. Check it out and when she calls in sick on Tuesday, be prepared to follow my script. (Here is an Evil Skippy Helpful Hint: the more she coughs over the phone when she says she is sick, the more likely it is that she is as healthy as the proverbial horse.)
Mary: [Hack, hack, wheeze] This is Mary. [Hack, whimper]
You: Hi Mary. I was getting worried. You were due here ten minutes ago.
Mary: [Choke, hack] I know. [Cough, cough] I am really sick. [Hack, hack, cough]
You: What a shame. And you were so healthy on Friday. So, how late will you be today?
Mary: Late? I’m sick!
You: You sound better now.
Mary: [Cough, cough]
You: Cut the drama, Mary. You know and I know that you just want to extend your vacation. Stop faking it and get your healthy self here on the double. If you don’t, every day will be Independence Day for you because you won’t have a job.
How’s that for fireworks?
— Evil Skippy
Ahem. Let me translate “Evil Skippy Speak” into a more professional approach.
Evil Skippy is correct that you must confront Mary if she fakes being sick. It is not fair to the other employees if you let her get away with this. He is wrong, however, to suggest waiting for her to call in before taking action. The proverbial healthy horse will already be out of the barn by then.
Assuming that she comes into work the day before the holiday weekend, have a private chat with her. Tell her that you have noticed her pattern of missing work the day after a holiday. (Have the attendance records in hand in case she objects that she has never done that. While you are at it, check to see if Mary has Monday/Friday Absence Syndrome). Tell Mary that if she calls in sick on the day after the holiday weekend this time, you will require a doctor’s note to verify her condition. Be sure to document the conversation – perhaps using the methods from The “Draft Performance Evaluation File”: A Supervisor’s Best Friend.
At this point, she may act hurt and say she would never lie to you. She is lying. Ignore the lie and just smile as sincerely as you can manage, and say this: “That’s great to hear. I’m glad this conversation was not necessary after all. I was just concerned because we will be short-handed next week. I know you’re disappointed about not getting to extend the holiday, but as long as you get your forms in earlier next year – you shouldn’t be disappointed again. See you on Tuesday!”
No. But if she calls in and fails to provide an acceptable verification, you can use the Evil Skippy approach of granting her an independence day, every day.