On good weeks, he might show up three days out of five. Some weeks he doesn’t show up at all.
Q: My small department hired a new senior-level administrator this summer. He is conscientious about doing his work — but not about showing up to work. He has made it clear he doesn’t feel that coming to the office is a requirement, and he has actively asserted what he says is his right to work from home, something he didn’t negotiate during the hiring process. On good weeks, he might show up three days out of five. Some weeks he doesn’t show up at all.
We have one other employee who works remotely, because he lives in a different city. I know this new employee would be more effective if he showed up to the office every day. (I am also quite sure he didn’t have the option of working from home in his last job.)
Our boss is aware of some of his absences, but not all of them. I worked very hard to recruit this employee, and I’d like him to succeed, so I have not shared the extent of his absences with our boss. But I am starting to get frustrated. Am I just not keeping up with the times? — Claire
A: Working remotely is probably more popular, and more possible, than ever. But here’s something that never goes out of style: managerial authority. Even if your employer has no specific policy on this issue, it’s not up to this guy to unilaterally decide that he doesn’t need to show up at the office unless he feels like it. This is something that needs to be worked out explicitly with the boss.
I gather that although you recruited this person and evidently have knowledge of his negotiation process, you don’t actually manage him. So whether he works from home or not isn’t really your decision, either. But I am puzzled that you seem to be, in effect, covering for him by concealing from your mutual boss the exact behavior that you see as a problem.
I don’t think this needs to become a huge crisis, but it’s time to get moving on it. Start by clarifying the specific concerns, or missed opportunities, that his absences are causing. It sounds as though you have tried communicating with him about this, but perhaps focusing on substantive issues would help. Most important: If his absence from the office is causing problems, don’t hide that from your manager.
Ultimately, your boss needs to know what’s going on, and to sort this out. It’s possible that your new colleague can make a case for working remotely sometimes, and that your boss won’t have a problem with that. So if you are aware of real drawbacks that would affect you or the enterprise generally, all the more reason to communicate those promptly. It’s worth keeping an open mind about remote work in general. Ask yourself whether it’s possible that your new colleague can find a balance that makes everybody relatively happy. That said, stop trying to resolve this on your own. Get the boss involved.