DEAR HARRIETTE: My assistant has become increasingly distracted by who knows what. I notice that she comes to work late very frequently, something she never did before. When I ask her to handle the simplest tasks, it now takes her hours when it used to take five minutes. I constantly have to remind her of basic responsibilities, which is driving me crazy. She used to be good, but I wonder if she even wants to be here anymore. I don't want to have to look for a new assistant, but it feels like she is forcing my hand. What can I do? -- No More Distractions, Ann Arbor, Mich.
DEAR NO MORE DISTRACTIONS: Call a meeting with your assistant and bring your concerns to her attention. Tell her that she seems to be distracted by something that is negatively affecting her work. Ask her what is going on in her life. Ask her directly if she still wants to work there. Sometimes people have to be confronted in order for them to reveal the truth.
I had the experience years ago with an assistant who started with an attitude and later became lackadaisical on the job. When I asked her what was going on, she eventually admitted that she wanted to go back to school. We agreed that if she would recommit to her job as she looked for a school in which to enroll, she could stay. But the requirement was that she go back to doing her job well. It worked out great for both of us, but it took me calling her on the carpet to wake her up. When she left, it was on good terms with a recommendation. We remain connected today.
You may need to wake up your employee, give her choices about how she plans to move forward and help her to be responsible.