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Absenteeism is usually the domain of the Human Resources group. They are best suited to deal with this issue. Your responsibilities in this area will depend on what kind of organization you’re managing in. For those of you who haven’t studied the PMBOK® and passed PMI’s PMP® Exam, there are 3 basic types of organization: the projectized organization where project managers are responsible for all areas of management for employees on their teams, the matrix organization where functional managers and project managers split management responsibilities, and the functional organization where functional managers are responsible for all areas of resource management.

You’ll be called upon to record attendance if you are working in a projectized environment. You are obliged to follow your HR organizations policies, guidelines, and standards in this area; you won’t have a lot of ability to protect an otherwise star performer on your team if absenteeism becomes an issue. Work with your HR representative when a team member’s absenteeism negatively impacts your project regardless of whether the absenteeism has reached an HR recognized threshold. Your representative should be able to provide corrective actions aimed at improving attendance. You’ll need to define those corrective actions if they aren’t available from the representative. You’ll need to have a one-on-one meeting with the absentee team member and clearly communicate your expectations, the team member’s attendance record, and the gap between the two. Listen carefully to the team member. Your absentee may have a problem or crisis in their life which prevents them from meeting your expectations. Encourage them to discuss the problem or crisis; you may be able to identify a work-around which satisfies your requirements and addresses your team member’s needs at the same time. Don’t be afraid to take more time to consider your options and then have another meeting to discuss those options. You need to consult with an HR expert if the problem or crisis is not work related unless you have extensive training and experience in this area.

Absentees who do not choose to provide an explanation for the absenteeism, either because there isn’t one or because they don’t feel like sharing it with you need to be given the facts of life: either performance improves to your standard or they will suffer the consequences specified by HR policy when their absenteeism reaches the specified threshold. You may want to consult an HR representative if you feel the team member is experiencing a non work related problem or crisis, especially if the team member is a star performer, or has been one in the past. Team members whose absenteeism is caused by lack of motivation should have that motivation provided by your one-on-one. Be prepared to get the absentee off your critical path just in case motivation is still lacking. You should also prepare for the possibility of moving the poor performer off the team altogether.

Project managers who work in a matrix environment will share responsibility for team members with their functional managers. Absenteeism issues with project team members must be brought to the attention of the functional manager the absentee reports to. Ensuring that corrective measures meet the criteria set forth for them by HR policies, standards, and guidelines is the responsibility of the functional manager. The corrective actions may be carried out be the project manager, but need to be agreed upon by both the project manager and the functional manager. The remedies mentioned for the project manager working in a projectized environment are all candidates for use in this situation.

You may have to negotiate with the functional manager to remove a poor performer from your team; you should be sensitive to the functional manager’s needs, but not to the point of allowing your project to suffer. You may have to escalate an absentee issue to your sponsors, that can’t be resolved with the absentee and their functional manager. Move the absentee off the critical path until the situation is resolved.

Working in a functional organization removes most of the responsibility for team members from the project manager but severely restricts their remedies at the same time. Attendance and absenteeism are the sole responsibility of the functional manager and you will be restricted to suggesting corrective actions to the functional manager and execution of any corrective action will be at their discretion. You will be forced to escalate the issue to your project sponsors if the functional manager is unable or unwilling to resolve the issue for you. Be sure that you communicate the severity of the impact on your project, and your intended actions, before taking this step. You may be reliant on the good will of the functional manager for the resources you require and may have to work with them on future projects.