Chatty lady could use more work



Imanage a small office. One of the secretaries is scheduled to work from 9 to 5. Yet she punches in every morning at 9:30 a.m. and tries to make up the time by punching out at 5:30 p.m., or even later. She doesn't, however, work the entire time. After she finishes her work, she chats with the other women in the office for a half-hour or hour before clocking out.

I have repeatedly told her to punch out and leave, but she always manages to mill around and kill more time. I have even threatened to clock her out, but she says that would be illegal. It burns me up that she does nothing for such a long time.

The owners won't allow me to fire her because her work is up to par. What are my options? She's driving me crazy, and now the other women are starting to stumble in later than usual.

Her behavior borders on insubordination. You have asked her to clock out when she finishes her work and she has refused. And when she said you couldn't clock her out, it's as if she said, "I dare you to take care of this problem."

Accept the dare. Even though she's on the clock, federal law doesn't require you to pay her when she's not working. So don't.

But you will need to keep records that explain the discrepancy between the time clock and her pay. And you need to advise her of your strategy, so she knows what to expect.

In addition, find some way to reward employees who are punctual and productive. Perhaps you could recognize their stellar work record at a luncheon.

In other words, don't let problem employees set the tone in the office. Counter their destructive behavior with positive initiatives to keep the office on the right track.

A simpler option would be to give the chatty secretary more work -- it appears she doesn't have enough to fill her day.

Carrie Mason-Draffen writes for Newsday.

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