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Many companies rely on “the memo” to relay information that they either don’t have time to commit to a companywide meeting or for issues they believe can be solved with the written word. But what happens when your company CEO begins to rely too heavily on memos that don’t serve their purpose? Usually, it’s the human resources department that’s tasked with ensuring the memos hit their marks, especially with things like tardiness, absenteeism and even employee parking, says founder A. Harrison Barnes.

For those who are frequently absent or tardy, it’s likely someone from human resources could better provide a solution than any memo anyway. For instance, there may be an employee who’s late a couple times a week. He’s not said anything to anyone, but the manager is becoming frustrated. Instead of speaking to the employee directly, he sends out a memo reminding employees that the workday begins at 8 a.m. A. Harrison Barnes says it’s often an employee has a legitimate reason for running late. In fact, if it’s a medical reason or other similar problem, there’s a good chance he’s protected under any number of employment laws, such as Americans with Disabilities Act or Family Medical Leave Act. A human resources employee will know this and is often able to quickly uncover the problem after meeting with the employee. “Too many times, managers and other company leaders assume an employee is continually late due to a sense of entitlement or that he plays by his own rules; often, though, it’s not anything like that”, says the founder.

One company, after sending a woman to human resources to deal with her twenty minute late arrival time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, learned that she was dropping off her husband at his twice-weekly physical therapy appointment required after being injured on the job. She would return on her lunch break to pick him up and bring him home. Naturally, it was wearing on the employee, but as she stated, “I didn’t think explaining my situation would have made a difference”. Turns out, human resources was able to modify her work schedule so that she didn’t even have to come in on Tuesdays until after lunch. This allowed her to be present during one of her husband’s physical therapy sessions and she was able to learn how to care for his injuries as they began to heal. The three and half hours she lost were made up on Saturday mornings. It turned out to be a win-win for both the company and the employee. Not to mention, the company avoided accusations of not meeting the law in terms of FMLA.

Sometimes, says Barnes, a memo is exactly what’s needed; however, there are those times when a face to face meeting yields the kind of results that benefits all involved. Without taking the time to ask a few questions, odds are, you’re missing out on the underlying factors – and the opportunity to do the right thing.

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