The management series: what about employees who sneak out early?..
Or take too many breaks, or waste time?
RE: Employees who sneak out early?
Sometimes they are just helping themselves to a little free time. Others might have obligations after work that leave them pressed for time. You might have to talk through with them the after work schedule so they make sure they push back any obligations to a time that does not require them to leave early. Talk through what it is going to take for that person to stay all the way until the end of his scheduled work obligations. Spell it out. Break it down. Follow up. One technique I’ve seen managers use is to schedule some very concrete to-do items for the employee during the last hour of his work time in order to help him stay focused up to the last minute.
RE: What about employees who take too many breaks and waste time at work?
Spell out what’s required: At work you are expected to be focused on getting work done very well very fast all day long. Everyone has time wasters, but nobody can afford them. Help people identify their big time wasters and eliminate them altogether.
Most employees have more to do at work than they can fit into their work schedules and more they want to do outside work than they can do in their limited free time. Many are chronically overtired and seriously overscheduled. If they are chronically late, leave early, and take too many breaks, there is a good chance they would benefit greatly from some aggressive coaching on time-management.
Setting priorities is usually step one in most time-management programs and seminars. If you have limited time and too much to do, then you need to set priorities—an order of precedence or preference—so that you control what gets done first, second, third, and so on. That setting priorities is the key to time management is obvious to most professionals. The hard part is teaching employees how to set priorities.
When it comes to big-picture priorities, help them set clear priorities and communicate about those priorities relentlessly. Make sure your direct-reports are devoting the lion’s share of their time to first and second priorities. When it comes to setting day-to-day priorities, teach them how by setting priorities together with them. Let them know your thinking process. Walk through it with them: “This is first priority because X. This is second priority because Y. This is low priority because Z.” Over time, you hope they learn. Until they learn, you have to keep making decisions with them or for them. Teach them to postpone low-priority activities until high-priority activities are well ahead of schedule. Those are the time windows during which lower-priority activities can be accomplished, starting with the top lower priorities, of course. Time wasters, on the other hand, should be eliminated altogether whenever possible.