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The issue with people isn’t absenteeism but presenteeism

Absenteeism is visible; Presenteeism isn’t. It is the problem right in front of your face, the one you can’t see. To see the problem, you need to put in systems to measure effectiveness rather than attendance – to focus on measurable results rather than just being there.

Woody Allen is quoted as saying “80 percent of life is showing up”, but that doesn’t mean that you should adopt this philosophy in your business. Your people probably already know who accomplishes things and who does not. The problem is that they don’t tell you who isn’t performing – and when you do take action, they blame you for doing nothing about it before.   

I remember firing a presenteeist when I had my Computer Service Company. He was a seven-year employee who had become too comfortable and entitled, and was no longer pulling his weight. Like so many employers who have made a personal connection and know their employees and their wives, I was reluctant to fire a long-term employee.

I was especially uncomfortable because he was friendly with many of my most valued people, but here’s the shocker. When I finally fired him, instead of a backlash I expected, people came to me to ask: “What took you so long?” I remember one conversation where I said: “I thought he was a friend of yours” and got the reply “I like having a beer with the guy but I hate working with him”

In my mind, that says it all. The problem is that your people don’t tell you, and even if they did it would be hard to take action on empirical input that may come from a hidden agenda. What you need are systems that clearly measure employee performance and throw up in black and white that performance has fallen off.