An employee has been missing work under the guise of a doctor’s appointment several times in the past two weeks and I suspect she is going for job interviews. It may just be a bit of paranoia, however this is a key employee and we do not want to lose her. What would be a good course of action?
In the end, it might just be paranoia, but it sounds like your gut is telling you that something is off. Do you have any specific reason to believe that the employee may be unhappy? For example, has there been a change to her job? Has she requested something that was denied or never followed-up on? Has she simply looked unhappy or disgruntled? If so, here are a few openings to start a conversation:
“You recently mentioned that you were frustrated by xyz. I want you to know that we’re addressing it by taking the following actions.”
Or, “We want you to know that we’re very happy with your work (give an example of something specific that she’s done well) and that you are a valuable resource to our company. There have been a lot of changes in the company recently and we were wondering how things were going on your end. Are you happy with your job? Is there anything we can do to ensure that we keep you with us going forward?”
Or, “You’ve seemed distracted lately. We wanted to know if there is anything on your mind that you would like to discuss”.
Or, if the absences have been excessive: “I’ve noticed you’ve been absent lately more than usual. Often it’s a sign that something is not going well at work so I just wanted to check in with you and see if everything is OK.”
I would steer away from accusing her of leaving work to go to job interviews; if she has indeed been lying she will just be uncomfortable and probably won’t admit it. If she really has been going to the doctor, it may just make her feel like her every move is being watched and judged.
Remember that despite your best efforts she may tell you everything’s fine when it’s not. Just remind her that you are available should ever there be anything she would like to discuss. She may have been caught off guard but could come back to you a few days later. Unfortunately, once someone has decided to actively job hunt it is often difficult to get them to change their minds, especially if they receive an interesting job offer. That said, by opening the door she may give the company another chance, or the opportunity to counter-offer if money is one of the factors for her departure.
Lastly, you have to consider the possibility that she really is sick, which she may tell you during your meeting, or which she may decide to keep private.
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