On February 23 rd , though, things took a disturbing turn. Mary left for lunch at her usual time, but did not return. She called in three hours later to say she had gone home because she had suddenly become ill. Her speech seemed slurred, somehow not quite right. She returned to work two days later, with a doctor’s note explaining she had been sick with stomach flu. Nonetheless, the pattern of lateness continued. Two weeks later, Helen gave Mary her first written disciplinary notice regarding her attendance and punctuality. During the discussion, Mary confessed to Helen: “I know I’ve been a little different recently. I’m just having some problems at home with my children. “She didn’t elaborate, and Helen didn’t’ probe. For the next few weeks, Mary was on time every day and rarely left her desk during working hours. Her level of performance improved, as did her interaction with co-workers.
By April, however, Helen noticed Mary slipping back into her negative habits of lateness and irritability. Helen began to notice something else in Mary’s after-lunch behaviour: She seemed to have real difficulty completing her work, making decisions, and solving problems. On one occasion there was a big argument between her and several co-workers. Mary went home, claiming she was “too upset to work.’’ She continued coming in late to work and was absent on two successive Mondays. However, after each absence, she produced a doctor’s excuse. In early May, Helen issued a second written warning, this one concerning not only Mary’s punctuality and attendance, but also her deteriorating work performance. At this time, Helen made it clear that Mary’s continued employment was on the line: “I don’t know what’s going on, but you’re in danger of losing your job. I’ve tried to be understanding, but I’m losing my patience. You need to get straightened up and soon, or I’ll have no choice but to let you go.” During the following weeks, Mary again improved her productivity and performance. She was obviously concerned about losing her job. By mid-July it was time for her formal performance evaluation. Although her evaluation was “less than satisfactory,” Helen did note that there had been some improvement in all areas recently. Then, last week, the bottom fell out. On July 23 rd , Mary returned from lunch 45 minutes late, glassy-eyed and weaving slightly, fumbling with things and smelling strongly of peppermint. She sat at her desk for a full 20 minutes, rummaging through drawer, moving paper, nodding, spilling things, and creating quite a distraction among the other employees. Helen came to her desk: Mary, what’s the matter here? Something’s wrong, and you don’t seem able to work at all. Are you ill? Can you work? Are you drunk? Tell me right now!” Mary slowly looked up, taking a while to focus on Helen. After what seemed like a minute or so, during which time she appeared to be again listening to Helen’s remarks, Mary burst into tears. She grabbed her purse, pushed and stumbled pas Helen, and left.
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- Human Resource Management, Mary Corey, Helen Rowe