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June 29, 2010  |   Comments (6)   |   Post a comment

Why Won’t They Come to Work?

In these tough economic times, most school bus drivers consistently show up for work — but some still don’t. After monetary incentives failed to tackle absenteeism, one district learned that some employees need another kind of support.

by Randy Mazie

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Are we social workers?

Absolutely not. However, in these tight budgetary times, more so than ever before, it behooves us to do everything that we can to support employees and maintain our workforce. As noted previously, many districts cannot hire new employees. Every employee we lose impacts our children’s ability to get to school and home on time.

Now more than ever, we must do everything we can to support employees whom we may be able to turn around — at least for a temporary period of time.

At no time, though, does this become a reason to not take appropriate action in accordance with each district’s progressive disciplinary plan, when and as appropriate. If the absenteeism continues after you’ve done all that you can to support an employee, then appropriate disciplinary steps must be taken. And when all remedies have been exhausted, termination of employment must be the end result.

We think of money as a motivator (and certainly it can be a big motivator), and it seems very basic to believe that all employees want to keep their jobs. But money may not motivate every employee, and not every employee is able, at times, to overcome all obstacles to maintaining their employment.

With this in mind, we say that those who are able to work will. The rest may need a little extra help.                      

Randy Mazie is director of the John Schee Transportation Center at Miami-Dade County Public Schools. He and his wife, Debbie, also run a school bus merchandise Website,

Special thanks to Jerry Klein, administrative director of the district’s Department of Transportation, for his input.

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I work for Sant Fe ISD in Santa Fe Texas as a bus driver. This is my 4th year. When you start you get the oldest bus in the fleet. I call them dinosaurs because they have no air conditioning. Then you get bumped up to a higher bus every year. I started in 119 and now im in 142. Now thats almost a cadillac! Air, radio, pa system! The reds and yellow buttons are on the steering wheeel. One of the others drivers was parked next to me last year and he said, Youre going to get one of the big banana busses! He was talking about the beginning of the new year. I told him, Well you know what? I was hired to take peoples kids to school. This is my job. People depend on me to come get their kids. I told him when i filled out the application i told them i was dependable and i showed it . Then he says, well thats a good attitude. There were 2 drivers and one mechanic with perfect attendance last year and im proud to say i was one of them. Knock on wood but so far i havent missed this year.And im in my 60s! I tell my kids that they will never have a sub unless something drastic happens.Last year with perfect attendance you got $150 dollars. But theyve stopped it this year but still hasnt stopped me from striving to get perfect attendance again.

shirley richards    |    Nov 03, 2011 06:19 PM

It seems that your experiment actually proved one thing: money motivates those who understand that their employment is the key to their successes; money does not motivate those who do not make that connection.

John Coxen    |    Dec 15, 2010 04:00 AM

A Better Workplace --- Meridian Group's Newsletter, Number 27, 1-15-04 This newsletter presents real-life management issues and how people addressed them to improve their company's culture. It is sent monthly to subscribers. Respect Makes the Difference: "Employees will leave if they imagine that the grass is greener on the other side. Your grass is greener if it meets people's needs. Perks can't do this, they only touch surface issues. What people really long for is a workplace where they are respected, where they are treated as adults, where they feel appreciated—the kind of place we all would like." ~ The Coming Exodus, by Dave Murphy, 12-20-03, Meridian Group's Newsletter, Number 27, 1-15-04 ... Keep It Simple—Say "Thank You": Fortune magazine, in their annual article, "The 100 Best Companies to Work For" (January 12th, 2004), rated J. M. Smucker No. 1. "What's really impressive is a secret recipe: a culture and management style as straightforward and likable as strawberry jam. . . . "Employees don't get any razzle-dazzle perks . . ." says CEO Paul Smucker: "Listen with your full attention, look for the good in others, have a sense of humor, and say thank you for a job well done. . . "Plant supervisors have been known to serve celebratory barbecues after hitting new records; managers routinely thank teams with lunches and gift certificates." Voluntary turnover is 3%. ... Everyone a Master and Commander: As adults we like to be in charge of our world, whether at home or at work. Everyone likes to be involved in decisions that affect them. Involvement of the people closest to the issues makes for better decisions and shows people you appreciate them and their experience. Most people feel undervalued and unappreciated at work. Create a workplace where people experience mastery and command of their task and you stand out clearly in the crowd. The Bottom Line: If your people like working for you—if they can meet their personal needs

James Kraemer    |    Jul 18, 2010 12:04 AM

Great insight into a building problem. I have found that those employees that always miss really don't want to work. They have made one excuse after the other as to why they are absent. I feel they don't even get it as to how important it is to have them there and there is no concern for others that they put the burden on. They also feel that unemployment pays just as well should they be fired.

s.thompson    |    Jul 01, 2010 06:24 AM

Money was not the reason I worked as a school bus driver. I enjoyed working with the children and my peers. Yes money can be a big help, but when it is not safe to drive I DID NOT. My leadership did not see it that way. They Only wanted some to drive the bus. The pay was ok, but I could have made more money Flipping burgers. Just keep this in mind.

R Davis    |    Jun 30, 2010 09:48 AM

Randy- Great article. Since many private contractors and school districts provide such incentives, I just assumed they were effective. I wonder how many have done the analysis that you described. Here's a thought: Maybe, especially in an area like yours with such a high cost of living, the $75 incentive was simply not enough to change behavior. I'm not sure how long your drivers' pay period was, but other incentive programs I have seen are often quarterly, with correspondingly higher dollar amounts. Patterns of attendance, or non-attendance, and one's general work ethic are fairly well ingrained and hard to change. Thanks again for your innovation and work on this and other areas of student transportation.

Charlie Hood    |    Jun 30, 2010 09:47 AM

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