I Feel Horrible About the Way I Feel Regarding Co-worker's Situation

Updated on August 16, 2011
A.S. asks from Dallas, TX
23 answers

I am an office manage for a small privately owned veterinary clinic. I am over about 5 receptionists and 10 technicians with 2 full time doctors and 2 part time doctors. I have been with the company for about 8 years now and I do consider myself friendly with everyone that I manage. I have one employee that has been with us for several years and she is having some family problems and has asked to take a sudden leave of absence with virtually no notice whatsoever. I understand that she is having some family problems and is having a hard time right now but when I asked if she had a time frame for wanting to return she gave me a range between 1 week and 2 months. I can't really go without a staff member for longer than 2-3 weeks on such short notice so I told her that I would need to know a more definite time line by the end of next week. I feel horrible that I can't really show her much more compassion but I am her supervisor and in the end I need to do what is right for the company. I am a firm believer in not adding on to everyone else's stress because she is gone and if I don't have a date for her to come back I will need to hire someone else immediately. Unfortunately I can not go into details of her family problems except to say she took a 6 week leave of absence 9 months ago for the same issues and was told that it was all settled. Am I wrong to think about the company first in this situation? If you are a manager anywhere what would you do in a similar situation?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

With all of the people out of work, I would think you could fill a temporary position pretty quickly. Maybe commit to a 4-6 week gig.
What do the doctors recommend you do?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Why not hire from a temp agency for the time she is gone?

If this is disrupting then she needs to have documentation in her file that if it happens again she will be let go. But since there is nothing in her file yet, document that she has received counseling from you, then next time let her go.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Santa Barbara on

I worked as a licensed vet tech for years before I made the move to medical sales. The thing about a small clinic like that, we were family and would do whatever it took to look out for someone else as far as coverage. Over the years lots of personal issues came up and we didn't have any problem picking up shifts or working longer and harder to help out our friends.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Your employees are part of the company. Hire a temp, especially if she's a good employee.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

It sounds like she is being a bit flaky about her situation. You do need to think of the company due to your own position. She should be able to give a more definite timeframe or she should resign. FLMA doesn't apply to your company given the small size of the company. She has to understand that there is work to do and you cannot possibly hold her job indefinitely...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

It's not unreasonable to ask for more definite terms from the employee. It's just the nature of any organization.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I worked at a vet clinic as a head receptionist for years and another as a receptionist and kennel tech. Really though, you have 5 receptionists. You can't handle having one gone for up to 2 months? You could always hire a temp from a temp agency, or train a kennel tech or technician to do some other duties.... those jobs usually have a fairly high turnover rate anyways, and there is always at least one or two people in the back room snacking or talking on the phone.

I doubt she has any sort of FMLA or benefits at the company, but if it did, would these family problems be covered under those issues? I would give her a date, such as x amount of weeks. Then after that date, she can have the situation re-evaluted with the company. Many decent companies are able to let employees go for a time, then welcome them back after issues are settled.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

It would depend on whether the absence is covered by FMLA - if so, you may have no choice but to hold her position.

With that being said - could she take an unpaid leave of absence, and, depending on her position, you hire from a temporary agency to fill her spot while she out?

Ultimately, you have to do what is best for the company - just making sure it is legal.

Good Luck

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Are there temporary agencies in your area for just such situations? Isn't this why the temp agencies exist?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Maybe try a temp agency? And no you are not wrong, you sound like you have great empathy for her situation. Most companies would not allow an employee to take TWO non-medical indefinite leaves of absence in 6 months.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I would get someone in from a temp agency. They are used to dealing with uncertain timeframes. And also, I would ask her to be as specific as possible on her time frame. I'm assuming she's an hourly employee and would not get paid during this time, so that the money would be available for a temp.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I see nothing wrong with the way you handled things. She needs to be a little more specific and try to be accomadating. If she has already took so much time then she should have a better idea of how long and needs to understand that you have a job to do and have to make sure that her work is covered. I would do the same thing, you have to look out for everyone in the company not just her.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

I would consider hiring a temp to fill in on a week by week basis. If it is a family medical leave issue, you may not be legally allowed to fire her. Are there any part time employees who might consider working more hours until she retiurns? You deserve to have a more specific estimate of the time she will need to be off.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

You are not thinking about the company first, you are thinking about your employees. When someone goes out on extended leave it puts an extra burden on all the employees. They have to cover for her, you have to cover for her. In the end everyone suffers.

If you held her job for a six week leave you already gave her more than the law requires. Sorry but if I were put in your situation I would explain that we cannot hold your job for you. If you haven't filled the position by the time she comes back then woot, if you have :( No one should put their employer in that position twice.

I am sure you know this but since you have under 50 employees FMLA does not apply.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I realize with the number of employees in your office FMLA doesn't apply, but if it did 'the leave can be all at once or intermittent, even 2 or 3 hours at a time, but intermittent leave all goes toward the 12-week limit' according to the law.

I have been in a situation that I absolutely did not know exactly how long I would need to be gone, and I feel for this employee. If I were you I would be honest with her so she knows what you might have to do. It would be only fair as I'm guessing she doesn't want to lose her job.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

No, you are doing your job. Anybody would have to take the same position. It is a business and it has to be run. She cannot expect you to work with such a vague timeline. You did the right thing.



answers from Charlotte on




answers from New York on

No, you are not wrong to think of the company first. That's your job and your responsibility.

Is she entitled to the time off or is she asking for a special allowance? It sounds like the later.

Let me give you a different perspective. We have a person in our dept. that is constantly taking time off, coming in late, etc. for family problems. Because of this she frequently leaves e-mails unanswered, missed deadlines, etc and management gives her a break. That's fine, but at some point you need to draw line.

It's obvious that you have compassion for her situation as you're willing to give the time off, but she needs to have compassion for you and give you information so you can do your job.



answers from Chicago on

My decision about this situation would be; how do her fellow co-workers feel about picking up her slack for 1 week to 2 months? If it's causing a riff in the office then you need to make her commit to a more reasonable time frame, otherwise give her some type of documented warning that any more time will be considered as her notice for resignation.



answers from Oklahoma City on

I think calling the labor board to make sure you can terminate her and how to specify the reason for the termination will make a difference in if she can file for unemployment. Sometimes it's all in how things are worded.



answers from Anchorage on

Check with the law. If her situation falls under the family and medical leave act you can not fire her.



answers from Tulsa on

company first. you are wise to be friendly, but keep a professional distance. if you allow her to, you know she will milk it.



answers from Portland on

I worked for a company where people abused the leave time and were gone constantly and coming in late/leaving early. My boss allowed it and the rest of us were required to pick up the slack and were already over-worked to begin with. I became very irritated with the employees who did this and also lost a lot of respect for my boss because I felt like I was required to give up time with my family to work overtime so someone else could have time with their family. If you do allow this leave, make sure and support the remaining staff as much as possible so they don't feel dumped on.

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