Job Abandonment: When Employees Disappear

milk-carton-31473_640Employee hiring and retention are some of the biggest challenges holistic service businesses face. When your “product” is delivered by trained service-providers, your business success depends on worker dependability. So what do you do when an employee no-shows for work a few days in a row? It’s shocking and incredibly frustrating for even the most savvy owners & managers.

When an employee doesn’t show up for work, doesn’t contact you, and doesn’t respond to your contact attempts, it’s called, “Job Abandonment.” Now, if they’re comatose in a hospital or something, that’s a different story. But I’m noticing more and more employees are simply abandoning their jobs instead of telling you they are quitting. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard from FOUR people this week who’ve had that happen recently. This is a disturbing trend.

For management, job abandonment is a problem on every level. Emotionally, it can leave you riddled with doubt, “Did I say or do something awful?” or “I must be a terrible manager for hiring that idiot!” One manager I spoke with told me she felt it was a lot like dating, and that her employee just dumped her and refused to return her calls! A business owner I know was especially aggravated because he had turned down all the other job candidates after he hired his abandoner, and now they had already taken other jobs. And how do you handle clients? It’s tacky to say “they just never showed up for work again,” and yet tempting when you’re still mad at them!

The bottom-line on job abandonment is this: treat it as if the employee quit without notice, but take a few extra steps to record the history of what happened. You should not have to pay unemployment insurance in this case, but the employee might file a claim anyway. Obviously, you’re dealing with a unprofessional person! So perform your due diligence and protect your interests.

Ten Steps to Managing a Job Abandonment Situation:

1. Your employee handbook should have a clause about “Job Abandonment” being the same as “voluntary resignation.”

2. Stipulate how many days of not coming to work (and not contacting the business) it takes for it to be deemed job abandonment. Most HR departments say that 3 days is best, although the range is 2-5. The quantity of days isn’t quite as important as having the number of days clearly defined in your policies.

3. Make every effort to contact the employee, and record what phone numbers you called and when. Send emails, then save and print copies.

4. After the minimum requirement (as per your policy) for the absence to be considered job abandonment, send a registered letter to the employee that notifies them you consider their job abandoned and resigned by default.

5. Pay them for any wages owed.

6. If they owe you money, or have company property (uniform, pager, lap top, etc.) you should send a demand letter for the return of your items. Be clear about what date you want them back by, and how and where the items are to be returned. Honestly, the outlook on this part is grim. You’ll have to take them to small claims court if they don’t comply. The court will want to see proof that you notified them.

7. Reschedule clients with other service providers and do not tell them that the worker abandoned their job! Never gossip about ex-employees, even though many clients will try to get you to dish the dirt. Just say, “I’m sorry, but I’m not at liberty to explain why ___ is no longer working here. I hope you understand my need to respect professional boundaries.” Then change the subject and do whatever it takes to make them happily forget about your ex-employee.

8. Don’t speak to your other employees about it. If it’s a small business, they already know. At most, you might have to explain about the job abandonment part to them. But resist the temptation to talk about it. Keep current workers focused on their own jobs.

9. Make sure you (or future managers) don’t rehire this person again. If they did not abandon their jobs for a legitimate reason (like a coma!) that’s a different story. But someone who has abandoned their job should not be eligible for rehire. Put that in your employee handbook, too.

10. Call your coach (or someone with advice you can trust.) Talking is important to get it off your chest. Have a little venting session, examine what happened to see if there is something you can do better next time, and move on!

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About the Author

Jaya Savannah - Chief Inspiration Officer. Strategy Coach for Holistic Businesses. Trainer, speaker, and writer. Spiritually aware, yet street smart. Elephant lover.