3 ways to handle employees who constantly have an excuse

Being around employees who always make excuses can be tough, whether you’re a coworker or the boss. Here’s how to handle those who act like this on a regular basis.

If you’re a manager, think about if you want them around

Anne Loehr, who describes herself as a “generational guru, author & transformational leader,” writes on her website about managing employees who make excuses. The information she provides is based on a book she co-wrote named Managing the Unmanageable: How to Motivate Even the Most Unruly Employee. She writes about an “unmanageable employee,” or “UE,” dubbed “The Excuse-Maker.”

Her first tip is to “commit or quit.”

“The first choice a manager faces, with any UE, is the choice of whether to try to retain the UE or not. This is a matter that requires careful thinking. After all, you’re weighing the costs and benefits of taking on a major challenge (UE salvage) against the costs and benefits of starting from scratch by finding and hiring a new employee. This decision is a significant one, because UE salvage, if you decide to attempt it, requires that you make a firm and serious commitment to your unmanageable employee’s future. Why commit to someone you might not even like? Here’s why.”

Don’t sweep things under the rug

This might backfire on you.

Paul Petrone, editor of LinkedIn Learning, writes about a course on the site called “Coaching Employees Through Difficult Situations,” taught by Elizabeth McLeod. She is the vice president of client engagement at McLeod & More, Inc.

Petrone outlines her four-step approach — the second step, he mentions, is to “acknowledge the pattern of misses.”

“Let’s say the excuse is not particularly legitimate and they’ve made similar mistakes several times. Now is the time to bring that series of misses to the employee’s attention,” Petrone writes. “For example, if the person has missed deadlines repeatedly, call that out – as opposed to focusing on this month’s excuse.”

Be precise about what you want

Tom Ceconi, co-founder of HR360, writes on the website’s video blog about how managers can work with employees who always make excuses, and explains how important it is to be precise about work expectations.

“Make sure to give clear direction. If your employee often says he couldn’t get the project done because the assignment wasn’t clear, you may be dealing with someone who — at least for the moment — needs more detailed directives than your other team members,” he writes. “It’s also possible that your directions were, in fact, unclear.  Break down long assignments into smaller tasks, and review them carefully with the employee, giving pointers on the most efficient approach.”