Reprimanded for Calling An Ill Employee

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors reprimand:

I am one of four managers. An employee left on Friday to go to the ER. She didn’t show up on Saturday. Before the Lead Manager left, I asked her if she was going to call this employee to see why she didn’t come to work. She said no, that it was not her responsibility. On my lunch hour I called the employee to see if she was OK. She called me later to let me know what had been the problem. I was given a verbal warning in writing, stating it was unbecoming of me as a manager to call when my Lead Manager had told me not to, and that I more or less went over the head of the Lead Manger. This employee is also a friend of mine outside work and I was on my lunch hour, off the clock. There isn’t a policy in our handbook, and we have always been able to call employees to see why they are late or not present.Can they write me up for a call I made when I was off the clock?

Signed, Concerned

Dear Concerned:

Thank you for sharing your work issues with us. I wrote to you and received additional information that was useful. Apparently the managers above your own manager’s level, felt that you should have let the Lead Manager handle the situation, and that you had time to confer with her or others before you made the phone call.You also state that you were told not to let this bother you so much, because it is only a verbal warning to remind you not to do it again. But, since the company discipline policy is for a verbal warning, a written warning, then dismissal, you feel you have lost that first layer of protection. It seems there was more going on than just the employee being absent. I agree with you about the humane issues of calling the employee to see if she was OK.

Nevertheless, I can also see the view that someone above you said not to call, so it appeared you purposely violated that directive. It might have been helpful for you to ask why not, or to ask for a second opinion, or to go to your HR section and express a concern about the employee.As for making your call away from the office or on your own time, the fact still remains that you are a manager. This type of interaction is a close call to make. But, I think the very fact that you asked the manager if she was going to call, then when she said no, you did, implies that you viewed the call as work related.

All of that is done and over now, and I understand from our emails that you have received the written documentation of the verbal reprimand. It’s frustrating to have any kind of negative action, but especially when you do not think you have done anything wrong. You may want to ask HR about this, but usually the stages of discipline are applied to similar violations, not automatically based on number of incidents. I can understand your concern, and I’m glad you wrote a letter for your file to provide your perspective. I hope your manager also learns from this, and will explain her actions better next time, if she is doing something that seems so clearly to be rather heartless. In the meantime, I hope you will keep your focus on work and keep your good spirits up. Although I do not agree with the action taken, I do agree that it is not likely to harm you permanently unless your response to it is negative. Best wishes to you as you move forward in your work.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.