“When you have multiple sites, how do you keep tabs on people who work between the sites without seeming overly controlling or surveilling? We have a staff member who regularly goes AWOL, using being ‘between sites’ as an excuse for being incommunicado or not being where they say they’ll be. I think it’s important to trust my staff and I like giving them autonomy – I don’t want a culture which moves away from that. But I feel like this is being taken advantage of, they’re using the lack of visibility to get out of work. How should I deal with this?”
Well & Being co-founder Merly Kammerling is an ex-chef who has been offering psychological support and training since 2018. Well & Being’s leadership expert is Michelle Moreno who has over 25 years of experience in leadership and operations. Between them, they have worked with businesses such as Soho House, Leon, Trinity, Accor Group, Brunswick House, Ministry of Sound, William Grant and Electric Mayonnaise.

The Answers


Your insights on trust and space for autonomy are correct and crucial for building accountable and engaged teams and leaders. And as a business owner with overarching responsibilities, it’s natural and understandable to have concerns and a need for visibility.

I’ve outlined a 5-step process to help you align and feel secure about the future.

Step 1 – ASK YOURSELF: What does trust look like to me?

Identify who in your team you trust and give autonomy to. What actions and behaviours make you feel confident and safe with them? Be specific and get granular with examples. This will help you understand and gain clarity on your needs as an owner.

Step 2 – GET CURIOUS – What if they’re right?

I love this question by Occupational Psychologist Adam Grant from his book “Rethinking.” He challenges you to reconsider something from another’s perspective. How might their day be? What might they be spending time on? What priorities and urgencies might they be dealing with differently from your understanding?

This approach helps you become open-minded and empathetic. And leads to a healthier conversation when you do get around to addressing your concerns.

Step 3 – DEEP LISTENING – Ask questions.

The key to deep listening in its simplest form is “Listen to understand, do not listen to respond.” This is a complex skill, as we actually need to ask questions to be able to listen deeply; to uncover feelings, situations which we are currently unaware of, or blindspots.

Ensure your questions aim to understand, not to confirm your assumptions. This isn’t easy, but it is crucial. Repeat back what they have said in your own words and ask if you have understood. Be kindly investigative with your question  – tell me more, what does that mean, how do you…. etc.

STEP 4 – SET EXPECTATIONS – Agree for you and them.

After completing your research and reflecting on it, you can move on to setting future expectations. Focus on what you want to achieve going forward, rather than dwelling on past events, as this can cause defensiveness. Clearly outline and articulate with examples your future expectations and ensure they understand your deliverables to build trust.

Additionally, ask what support they need – the question “how can I help?” lends an open hand of collaboration and is underestimated in its effectiveness in building relationships.

STEP 5 – THE FUTURE – Don’t let up and have faith.

Monitor progress with regular check-in’s, providing a space to listen, support and give feedback. As Brene Brown says “To be clear is to be kind.”

Are you both meeting the agreed expectations, and if not, then why? You can’t always get it right the first time. Finally, celebrate, acknowledge and reward any wins, recognising what good looks like is essential in building culture and ultimately, trust.

If they are still disengaged, unreliable or just the wrong fit after this, well that is a whole other article, but let’s go with good faith that the situation can evolve and trust can be built before we get to that.


Employee absenteeism can be a tricky topic to navigate. Employee absenteeism is the term when employees demonstrate a pattern of missing work, whether they are regularly late or frequently call in last minute without providing a reason. Naturally, employees will be absent from work at some point due to legitimate personal or medical reasons or commitments, but, as you have explained, absenteeism becomes an issue when employees do not communicate about their attendance (or lack of) or take advantage of company lenience to avoid doing their job.

I understand that you want to give your employees autonomy and respect to do their job  (and these are brilliant values to hold as an owner/manager), and there needs to be a mutual understanding that this works both ways, an employee has to respect and adhere to company rules and expectations.

Thinking about some proactive steps may discourage this behaviour in this particular member, such as:

  • Have a direct conversation with your employee about what you have noticed regarding their attendance (or lack of it), and enquire into whether they need support, whether it be an internal resource or adjustment or external support, such as emotional support. As Michelle mentioned, they may have valuable feedback about their job role or personal life which you’re not aware of.
  • Setting clear attendance expectations by creating or updating an attendance policy in a formal format that can be shared with all employees, which explains the company policy and consequences for consistent absenteeism without a legitimate reason. This route is less targeted at anyone specific but rather a company-wide communication, so everyone in your workforce understands the expectations and consequences.
  • It may be a valuable strategy to acknowledge and reward good attendance. For example, announcing who has had the best attendance of the week/month on the company newsletter/comms platform and/or rewarding with a small voucher or gift. An effective attendance incentive program can help to encourage dedication, and reliability and build a positive work environment. By thoughtfully recognising good attendance, it can cultivate a culture of commitment and reliability which can be motivating for individuals and teams.

Overall, it’s important to have a direct conversation with your employee and see this as an opportunity to foster transparency and move forward. Go into the conversation with an open and empathic mind but also have a clear agenda of what you wish to communicate. Remember, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Merly and Michelle provide a culture and well-being strategy service to help businesses evolve and build healthy and sustainable workplace cultures. If you would like to hear more about the work that Merly and Michelle do and the services they provide then head over to Well and Being or email Merly or Michelle.

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