Help with attendance issues in call center

Q. My single most frequent and challenging issue with employees is attendance. I think your  7 Steps for Addressing Unacceptable Employee Performance (from your webinar) are brilliant and I’ll certainly use them. But while we’re on the subject of attendance I was wondering if there is anything else you’d care to share.

Myra’s answer to Help with attendance issues in call center

Thank you for that question…I’m sure several customer service and call center supervisors on this site can identify with you.

Let me give you some phrases that I think you will find helpful when addressing attendance.:

*Express both empathy and firmness during your dialogue with the employee with a statement like: “I can understand your mornings are hectic. But when you took this job you knew the hours were 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.” This type of statement shows that you are “human” and understanding, but also that you are quite serious.

*Put the responsibility on the employee with a statement like: “Getting here by 8:00am is YOUR job and YOUR responsibility.”

*And let me say, finally, that a lot of attendance issues are probably with Generation Xers. Your younger employees were shaped and molded by different times. These times were largely “flexible” in every area from the way they were parented to the attire they were allowed to wear in school. Flexibility is all they know and that’s why you will likely have “issues” with getting Xers to work on time, getting them to come in early for a mandatory staff meeting or getting them to work overtime. They are accustomed to being able to “negotiate everything and saying “no” at will. When they are tardy or absent, they are not usually being defiant, they are simply responding to your rigid rules with an assumed “rightof flexibility” the way they have all of their lives.

Am I suggesting that you should put up with the Xers flexibility needs and allow them to come and g o as they please? Absolutely not. You’ve got a business to run and compliance with company policy is a reasonable expectation. Here’s how you address attendance issues with the Generation Xer. 

First, establish crystal clear expectations about attendance. Saying “I need you here by 8:00am.” may not be effective. Instead, you’ll want to say “Your shift is from 8:00am – 5:00pm. This means I need you here, clocked in, in  your cube with your computer booted up and ready to take calls by 8:00am. Walking in the building at 8:00am is not acceptable.”

Second,  explain the impact on noncompliance on co-workers, customers, and any other relevant parties.

You must get the point across to the Xer that her or his actions g o beyond simply being late or tardy. The bigger picture consequences are much more likely to motivate positive performance change in your younger employee. Try this approach, “When you return from lunch 15 minutes late, it throws the entire lunch schedule off for your co-workers and results in even longer hold times for our customers. As I’m sure can imagine, this is frustrating for me, your co-workers, and our customers.”


And lastly, lay out the consequences of failure to comply with the policy.

Sadly, establishing clear performance expectations and explaining organizational impact, alone, will not be enough to get your Xers to comply with policy. You’ll have to clearly relay the immediate consequence of incompliance. An easy way to do this is “I need someone who can and will be here by 8:00am every morning.  I hope that person is you. If you can’t do that, I will be forced to take progressive action that may include termination.” I know it sounds harsh, but you cannot afford to leave room for misunderstanding.