October 23, 2013 4:07 pm

‘Absentee colleague is piling her work on to me’

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My colleague rarely turns up for work, saying she is at meetings, funerals, has childcare needs and holidays. The trouble is that I work in a small over-stretched team and am often asked to do her job for her.

This affects my ability to do my own job, and I often feel I have too much on to handle it properly. Other staff are aware of the issue, including managers, but they have failed to take action.

I am worried that if I raise the issue I will be seen as back-stabbing. What can I do?

Simon Broomer, coach at CareerBalance, an advisory service, says:

I had a client in a similar situation. She said that the effect of an often-absent colleague on her and the team was highly demotivating.

Also, the failure by the team manager to deal properly with the employee who was not pulling his weight meant the rest of the team had lost respect for the manager and their performance was suffering.

What can sometimes happen is that you and your conscientious colleagues start to compensate for the absences of the missing team member, and even to cover up for them.

You are right to feel resentful that you are being put under more pressure.

You might also be asking why you are being paid a similar amount to someone who is doing much less than you are.

This is really an issue for your manager to resolve. You need to find a way to let your manager know that you are unhappy and that something needs to be done urgently. Focus on a solution rather than blaming the absent colleague.

I suggest you keep a record, say over a two-week period, of all the additional time you and your colleagues are having to work, and problems that have arisen because of the absence of this particular colleague.

Without naming the individual, I would then send this record to your manager, saying: “As you know, our team has been under a lot of pressure for some time. My workload has increased and this has been made worse by the frequent absence of some staff members at critical times.

“I attach a summary of the additional hours I have had to work over the past two weeks. I believe the team needs additional manpower and I would like to meet you at the earliest opportunity to discuss what can be done.”

If you do get a meeting, you can explain the situation without pointing a finger but being firm that you want action taken.

Michael Scutt, a consultant solicitor at Excello Law, says:

This is a difficult situation – but is the problem your colleague, or the business itself? The causes of her absence are reasonable, if genuine. Do you suspect she is skiving rather than attending funerals? Most employers will allow reasonable time off for bereavement leave.

Similarly with childcare: does she work flexibly? She has the right to request it and if an employer unreasonably refuses to accommodate her needs or treats her less favourably because she has responsibilities, a claim for sex discrimination might arise. I can see why your managers might tread carefully.

If your managers are aware of your concerns but are doing nothing, it is time to take another course. The real problem sounds like a lack of sufficient resourcing. Perhaps you should focus on persuading your managers to recruit another person? Or maybe some of your workload could be delegated to others?

Have you considered whether you could work more efficiently? If you can present your managers with a positive way of improving the business they may be more receptive to helping out, as there is a common interest.

However, if they simply do not care, for whatever reason, then the only course is either to carry on as best you can or leave.

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