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Reporting Missing Workers While in an Acting Status

Over the holidays, I was appointed to “act” in a supervisory capacity in place of my supervisor, who was out of the office. Amongst normal supervisory duties, this required me to “supervise” the other employees in this section, (normally my co-workers), 2-3 people, max. I noticed that 2 employees left work early 2 days in a row, without saying anything to me. One employee went on a 2.5 hour lunch date as well.

As the acting supervisor, should I report this kind of behavior to the real supervisor when they return or should I just look the other way? The employees are my co-workers on a normal basis, this was just different circumstances.

Yes, you should absolutely report these infractions to the “real” supervisor — and ideally, you would have done so the minute she walked in the door after her leave.  On the playground, tattletales are shunned, but in the workplace you should report any behavior that is illegal, unethical, detrimental to productivity or detrimental to employee morale, even if you are not the acting supervisor.

If your coworkers are hourly, and they did not clock out for these absences, they actually committed fraud, stealing payroll dollars from the company.

The purpose of appointing an “acting” supervisor is to make sure the other employees do not take a 2.5 hour lunch or leave work several hours early. If this type of behavior was okay, there would be no need for an acting supervisor. In fact, many acting supervisors would have been given the authority to write up employees who behaved in this way.

In one sense, you are being set up because you are expected to be in charge but apparently have been given no training or authority to do so. Ideally, you would have been given the authority to discipline the other employees in your supervisors absence, and given some training in how to supervise other employees. You should tactfully let your boss know now that before her next vacation, you would very much appreciate some training and support.

In another sense, your coworkers are testing you — and so far, you have failed. A major portion of a supervisors responsibility is to ensure that others do what they are supposed to, not what they want to. If you cannot learn to enforce the usual work hours, you will not make an effective supervisor in the future.

The fact that your boss appointed you as the “acting supervisor” indicates that you are at least being considered for a promotion — which is a compliment. However, if you cannot get your coworkers to cooperate, then you will not succeed in that capacity. This did not have to be a huge confrontation. After the two employees left early the first time, you should have simply spoken to each in private. You could have reminded them of the work hours and let them know that you would appreciate it very much if they showed their usual excellent work ethic while you were in charge. Ideally, this would have prevented a recurrence. The ability to discuss an unpleasant topic without being nasty is a hallmark of maturity.

Because you did not take these steps, you should approach the supervisor now. Present this information as “just so you know, this is what happened while you were gone… I was not sure how to handle it. If this happens again, what should I do?” Then take your cue from the supervisors response.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, January 8th, 2012 at 12:30 pm and is filed under
Human Resources Management, Management / Leadership Development.
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