OK, money didn’t work …
No one has money nowadays anyway. And who in their right minds would pay employees extra to come to work? But the study of what motivates employees to come to work, what impacts productivity and morale, is a great field of study in and of itself. It is nothing to scoff at.
If money didn’t or doesn’t motivate employees, one has to ask: What else might be going on?
Our particular school system is a large, multicultural district whose workforce has to contend with a complex lifestyle that some of our employees are not necessarily prepared to cope with adequately. Oddly, money does not always help.
Some employees are in need of other kinds of support to help them deal with various personal situations that occur in their lives — situations that in turn affect their abilities to come to work. Family pressures, such as sick children, lack of family support (single parenthood or no help outside the family), money management problems, aging parents, lack of adequate housing and other socio-emotional factors often come into play.
Even getting to work in order to make the money needed to solve financial problems may be far out of reach for some of these employees at times. When you discuss their plights with them, you can hear such responses as: How do I get to work when I have no one to watch my children? Or, no one to take them to a doctor? Or, I am constantly having difficulties with my child at school — and being called by school officials to meet with them. Or, I do not have the money to repair my car or replace it. And so on.
Author Randy Mazie says that setting up weekly meetings with employees with attendance problems can be an effective approach.So what does work?
What can be helpful is to meet regularly with employees who are having attendance problems. Track their attendance, and show them what their attendance looks like.
Ask them to examine, along with you, what may be preventing them from coming to work. Solicit the employees’ tacit agreement that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, and that disciplinary action, especially losing a job, is not a solution. Assure the employees that you understand that they do not need “one more thing on their plate.”
Where appropriate, refer them to your employee assistance program. Explain to them what the program does, how it can help them with their personal problems, and that it is confidential. Encourage them to make full use of the program.
As an administrator, you must set limits and take appropriate action. But acting in a supportive manner with employees, and letting them know that you understand some of the problems that they are dealing with, can go a long way in easing some of the pressures that employees face in their personal lives.
In addition to the district’s employee assistance program, just sitting and talking with the employee helps. Working out alternate arrangements, when these can be made, will go a long way in supporting a troubled employee.
Try setting up a time for an employee to come to see you every week. This can help develop a strong emotional incentive for employees, feeling that they have to show up to face you directly each week.
Ask each week if they’ve been coming to work or not. It will help the employees feel how important it is for them to be in attendance, knowing that you expect to see them personally.
Employees can feel invisible, and consequently unsupported, which in turn further reinforces for them that they can stay away from work without suffering consequences. And then when they suffer the consequences, it is often too late.
Weekly meetings provide some measure of positive attention for these employees — some of whom do not get much positive attention in their lives because of all the problems they face. Some don’t come to work because they are nursing their own wounds; they’re tired and needy themselves.