Want to Commit Career Suicide? Here’s How

Nothing surprises me at work any more. After personally responding to over 50,000 emails from the corner office and the cube and 14 years as a workplace advice columnist, I thought I’d seen it all. I was wrong.

CareerBuilder asked employees how often they arrived late for work. At the end of 2007, 15 percent confided they’re late at least once a week. By the end of 2008, with a million people being laid off all around them, you’d imagine that the percentage of late arriving employees would decline dramatically.

And you’d be wrong.

The number of workers routinely showing up late for work increased to 20 percent, with 12 percent admitting that they showed up late more than once a week.

Suicide. That’s what leaps to mind because being consistently late for work is seen by many managers, and Human Resources, as the easiest excuse to fire someone. In fact, 30 percent of companies say they have.

Anyone who is a regular reader of Workplace911, knows that I see former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain as a human piñata, an example of wretched excess that just can’t be poked enough. Unfortunately, management doesn’t own a monopoly on stupid.

Take the California State employees who recently protested a cutback in their hours. Please! Too bad so many newspapers are going out of business, because these state employees need an easy way to learn that their plight ain’t so bad. They still have jobs.

Yes, this blog is an equal-opportunity criticizer. We take on CEOs and employees when either deserves a trip to the woodshed. Unfortunately this is far too rare, in a country where one political party seems to spend all its time fawning over leaders while the other party idolizes its followers. Isn’t it time for everyone to take off the rose-colored glasses and see how both sides have contributed to the nightmare we find ourselves in today?

Back to the increasing number of tardy workers, not only are more and more of us late, our excuses are getting exponentially dumber. You just can’t make this stuff up:

· “I got locked in my trunk by my son.”

· “My left turn signal was out so I had to make all right turns to get to work.”

· “I was attacked by a raccoon and had to stop by the hospital to make sure it wasn’t rabid.”

· And my personal favorite: “I feel like I’m in everyone’s way if I show up on time.”

I understand that the current economic headlines can drain the life force out of the most optimistic person. But seeing one in five workers choosing to be late stunned and depressed me. Let’s remember the context here, according to a recent poll by the Associated Press, 47 percent of workers fear they could be laid off, 71 percent know someone who has been and 63 percent report having trouble paying their bills. And the number of people late for work increases. Ouch!

I have a simple philosophy. I try to make it hard for my company to fire me. I make them work at it. Clearly I’m old school in this regard.

This survey reminded me of a boss who once wrote to me about one of his employees. She was sitting at her desk reading People magazine. He asked her to put it away and to get back to work. She began to cry and went on disability for two days. That’s what I’d call people who really need People.

Entitlement. That, unfortunately, seems to be the one thing that far too many bosses and employees share today, the belief that 90 percent of work is just showing up, perks included. We need to replace that “E” word with a new one, empathy. More employees who take the time to see the world through their boss’s eyes and more bosses who take the time to see through their employees’ eyes.

Our collective excesses got us into this mess. I believe only our collective empathy will allow us to dig our way out and to build a more humane and productive workplace. In the coming weeks I’ll outline strategies on how to accomplish this. Stay tuned…

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, award-winning journalist and contributor to On The Money. He has been called “Dilbert with a solution.” Check out the free resources available at workplace911.com. You can contact Bob via bob@workplace911.com.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.