“Boss won’t fire coworker. Why?”
Hi Ronnie Ann. I know someone who has been at this company for umpteen years. This coworker gets away with everything! Over the years this person has arrived to work late more times than not. And the person says that they just cannot make it on time no matter what. But the boss won’t fire the person? Why can they get away with so much — but the rest of us can’t.
Gets away with so much!
More than once, the company even tried changing the hours. Yet the person will still arrive late. And this person also took off three months of work when things went wrong at home. No, this person did not go out on personal leave. Instead, this person just called in sick everyday for three months.
When work slows down, this person does not have enough to do in the afternoon. And so this person just reads their paperback novel for the rest of the day. I asked, “Don’t you get in trouble?” And the response was “They like me.”
Anyone else would have been fired. Please explain how this person keeps their job? I just do not get it.
My reply to D’s email
Wow. I can well understand how unfair that seems! While ideally I’d want to know a few more facts, I’ll do my best to give you some answers. When a boss won’t fire someone, there are probably things you don’t know that would help fill in the dots.
Let’s look at the issues you raise one by one:
While some jobs require a person to be on time with absolutely no give whatsoever, many places understand there’s more to a job than just punching in on the dot. In this case, it seems the person (let’s assume it’s a she for this answer) has a flexible employer.
The fact that she continues to arrive late and still has the job could simply mean the company understands she has personal issues –- possibly health problems or problems at home. And, if so, maybe they are willing to cut her some slack as long as she gets the work done.
In her post Always Late for Work? Melissa Dylan suggests ways for negotiating an issue like this:
“If you really can’t make it in on time—and some people really, truly can’t, no matter how hard they try—sit down with your boss before she has a chance to approach you. If you show that you’re working on your weaknesses and indicate a willingness to make it up in other areas, it will be easier for your employer to accept tardiness.”
As long as you have something to contribute, a good company will work with you to resolve personal issues. So maybe something like that is going on in her case. Something private.
Reads paperback novel at work
From what you write, it seems she gets her work done. Maybe that’s enough for the company — especially considering how long she’s worked for them. Also, there are companies or departments with unsteady workflows.
Some employees are kept on board so that when things speed up, they have ample trained help available. In the meantime, it’s up to the employee to stay occupied within agreed upon guidelines. Not knowing her job or industry, this could be part of the thinking.
But I’m also curious whether this is accepted practice for everyone in her department. Or only this one woman? If it’s only this one woman and she makes it obvious, that would be horrible for morale. And it also would be a red flag that there’s a management problem that needs to be addressed.
Three months off with no leave
As for being allowed to call in sick every day during a tough time, without knowing more I’d say this may be a reflection of a very understanding company with informal policies and room for special arrangements.
But if this company requires others to follow strict rules and only makes exceptions for this one woman without good reason, then there’s clearly a real management problem here that’s bigger than just the decisions surrounding this one person. (I hope there’s more to the story here.)
If you actually work with her directly and are not being treated fairly yourself, then you might want to speak with your supervisor. But please know you’d be most effective if you don’t make the discussion about her, since you don’t know what might be behind her “special” and unequal treatment. The real issue is: How can you make the job better for yourself?
Is there something you need that you aren’t getting? Keep the discussion focused on you. And stay away from what an employer would see as “sour grapes” since that can come back to bite you in the end.
Another boss won’t fire slacker story
This reminds me of a woman I worked with who always seemed to be on the phone or talking to someone in her office about personal matters. She also came in late almost every morning. It looked like she was getting away with murder just because the boss liked her. And she knew how to get around him.
But the more I found out, I realized she was getting a lot of quality work done — faster than most. And her boss understood this, so he let her do things her own way. As far as I’m concerned, as long as the work is getting done and the company is satisfied, a good boss (and there are plenty out there) shows flexibility where possible.
For me, it’s mostly about perspective. We can never know what another person is going through until we walk in their shoes. If someone has a job that cuts her some slack but it doesn’t take away from me at all, then why should I worry about how she’s being treated? But if I like her, I should be happy for her. And if I don’t like her, well … then I think there’s more going on with my feelings than with her work habits.
Best place to put your focus
Best advice is not to worry about what she is or isn’t doing or why the boss won’t fire her. Instead, why not focus on improving your own job conditions. Are you getting everything you deserve? If not, what can you do to change things for yourself. Worrying about her doesn’t help you one bit. And it probably only makes you feel worse about the job.
If she weren’t serving the company in some way, she wouldn’t be there. That’s how business works. Management makes room for certain quirks, as long as they get what they need. But if her boss won’t fire her and concessions are made — even ones that seem unfair — someone thinks it’s ok. Who knows? She could even be related to someone power position. 🙂
Of course, we don’t really have enough details to know what the actual story is. But if what she says is true and the real explanation turns out simply to be that — a la Sally Fields — they really like her, then the company might very well be cutting her some extra slack.
If so, so what if her boss won’t fire her and she “gets away” with it? This stuff happens. After all those years, she’s probably earned it. Or management made peace with it. For whatever reason, they choose not to get rid of her.
Boss won’t fire her? Let it go for your own sanity!
I know it must feel annoying to you. Honestly, I’d probably find it annoying too. But the real question is how much do you let it get to you? Is it hurting the way you feel about your job?
In the end, what we can’t control we are better off letting go. But what we can control, we work on to our own benefit. Some links to posts below to help you do just that.
Good luck, D!
~ Ronnie Ann
[Post updated in 2020]
About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To the Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development, as well as her many adventures as a serial job seeker.
Some posts to help
And just in case you do need to leave