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Truth or Fiction?

A regular column, Personnel Vignettes is submitted by various personnel executives on our board of advisors without attribution at their request.

Sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction.

One of our supervisors came to us recently in a state of utter frustration. One of his employees, who had an unenviable record of frequent absenteeism, had called in that morning to report out for the day.

The excuse provided was that she had locked herself in her apartment and had lost the key to her door! The maintenance man for the complex could not be reached and there was no way for her to get out to come to work. Or at least that was her story.

"Ludicrous!", the supervisor exclaimed. "How stupid does she think I am? This is just her way of taking another day off".

We had to agree the excuse was a novel one but we resisted the supervisor's insistence that we call her and inform her that she would be terminated. He persisted and backed his argument that the story could not be true because it was so illogical and an apartment lock like this would be a violation of the city's fire code.

We decided to wait long enough to look further into the matter. We were able to call the apartment manager's office and learned that the maintenance man was indeed away for the day. We told the manager the reason for our call and, yes, he said he knew about our employee's plight.

They had been on the telephone all morning, he said, and he had been trying to assist her in getting out of her apartment.

"We are not in the best section of town," he said, "and there have been several burglaries in the building. Ms. Ex has had a deadbolt lock installed on her door which requires a key to enter and exit. We have no passkey because it is something she had installed herself for her protection without our knowledge."

Our employee's apparently far-fetched story was indeed true and she was allowed to return to work the next day. We don't know how the apartment manager and she resolved the problem with her lock but we had her supervisor give her a written disciplinary warning about her absenteeism record. Strangely enough, there have been no problems since.

She may not know how close she had come to losing her job and had we not checked out the facts, we might have acted unfairly in dealing with a situation caused by a foolish but not willful act on her part.

The benefits of any doubt should go to the employee. In any problem involving personnel matters you need to be sure of the facts in any given situation before acting. Sometimes truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.

Copyright © 1990 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 1, No. 10, 9/90

First published on 09/01/1990

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