D o you have a question about an on-the-job situation? If so, please mail it to Shop Talk, Los Angeles Times, P.O. Box 2008, Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Or call (714) 966-7873 and leave a voice mail message. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column on Mondays.
Question: My boss won't let more than two people at a time take vacation in our department, although we manage just fine when a lot more than that are out with flu, vacations or sick children. I have more than once been refused the time off I wanted, which makes planning vacations with my husband difficult because of his rigid work schedule. Any solutions to this problem?
--M.S., Costa Mesa
Answer: The solution to your problems may be as simple as planning ahead so you can schedule your vacation at the same time as your husband's. In many organizations, vacation planning takes place at least six months in advance; perhaps your boss would be willing to work with you so your preferences in vacation dates could be accommodated.
Your belief that your department works just fine when more than two persons are absent should be documented and shared with your boss. Maybe the two-person policy is based on information that is no longer current. Your proof that the work overload during vacations or absences can be handled within the department may sway your boss to relax the policy.
You might also suggest that the department be organized into support teams. The team members would be given the responsibility to allocate the work of missing team members among themselves. This way they can cover for each other when absences occur. If the team members recognize the value of such an arrangement and are willing to do a little extra work, your boss might not notice any change in unit performance when occasional absences occur. My guess is that now your boss must go through the hassle of work reassignments when absences occur. If you and your co-workers can help your boss avoid this problem, he or she might be willing to be more lenient in vacation scheduling.
--Tom Mays, professor of business management Cal State Fullerton
Question: Our company has a policy of doing performance evaluations every six months, but I would be surprised if most employees receive an evaluation once each year. How often should performance evaluations be done? Could there be any legal ramifications if we do not review an employee for an entire year?
Answer: Conducting performance evaluations is one of the most valuable tasks a supervisor can do. Done correctly, performance evaluations serve many purposes. They are usually the means by which employees get raises and promotions. The company profits by gathering data on workers' performance.
In addition, evaluations can be used to provide constructive feedback to help workers correct below-par performance. Given their tremendous value to the organization, performance evaluations should be done regularly. Formal evaluations should be done at least once every six months (if not more often).
Allowing an employee to go more than a year without a formal performance evaluation is a bad management strategy. While there are no specific laws mandating regular performance evaluations, a company could get into trouble if an employee files a grievance and there is insufficient or nonexistent data on an employee's performance. Regular performance assessment simply makes good management sense.
--Ron Riggio, professor of industrial psychology Cal State Fullerton