His top salesperson had recently taken off several days. He took time off to care for a family member, two days for the death of a friend, and then asked for two additional days for the passing of his aunt, his mom’s sister. All of these days were in the first 20 days of the month.

The company had a bereavement policy, but it wasn’t  uniformly enforced. During this period of absenteeism, the sales rep had maintained his production, even surpassing his quota. The sales manager confided to me that he was considering talking to the salesperson about limiting his absenteeism, and possibly completing a corrective action. I asked the sales manager, “Does your team work for you, or do you work for your team?”

How Would You Respond?

Next, I asked the sales manager if he had verified the time off. He said it was all true. Then I asked the sales manager what he expected to gain if he critiqued the employee for his absenteeism or tried to limit the time off. For example, the salesperson asked for two days off for his aunt’s funeral, how would the salesperson react if he was only allowed one day? The sales manager wasn’t sure how his top seller would respond so I asked the manager how he would react if roles were reversed. He said he’d be upset, unproductive that day, and would probably hold a grudge. I agreed, I would as well, and his employee most likely would too.

Working for your Team, Becoming a Team Leader  

I suggested the manager be a leader, sit down with his teammate, give him the time off, thank him for his hard work and efforts in the light of the obstacles he’d recently faced, and ask how he could help.

The lesson here is any critique might have led to disruption, but by standing up for his teammate, he could foster loyalty from his top performer. In other words, cultivating a teammate committed to giving his best to the company and his team leader.

Would the story be different if he wasn’t a top performer, or if the time off requests were questionable? Absolutely, but that wasn’t the case. Leaders work for their team. By thanking the salesperson for his continued performance in the face of adversity, the sales manager turned a situation that might have corroded their working relationship into team building exercise. How would you have handled this?

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

So, does your business have a management training plan? Because, if not, many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook, a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.