Fear and loathing of co-workers: A surprising cause of absenteeism

by on January 31, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Cafe

Employees have a lot of reasons for calling out “sick” other than genuine illness. Here’s one you may not have thought of: They’re afraid of, or angry at, a co-worker.

Obviously, if an employee exceeds the sick or PTO days he’s entitled to – or if you have good reason to think he’s claiming to be ill when he’s not – you’ll need to talk to the person.

What to ask
When you do, you’ll want to raise questions. You might include some along these lines:

  • Are there any reasons for you to dread or be apprehensive about coming to work?
  • Are you involved in any disputes or disagreements with anybody here?
  • Has anybody threatened you or insulted you?
  • Do you have strong emotional reactions toward anybody here that are bothering you?

The idea, of course, is that the person’s absenteeism may be a symptom of deeper problems in the work environment.

You don’t have to accept what they say at face value – they may be making excuses – but asking the questions may point you toward an issue you need to address.

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