DEAR HARRIETTE: I have an employee who has worked with me remotely for about two years. She is a college student. She would turn in her work once a week like clockwork until last semester, when she became more erratic. I communicated with her about her tardiness. She apologized and assured me that she would do better. This summer, she has been very spotty in turning in her work, even after we had an exchange about the importance of following up and being professional.
Fast-forward to now: I haven’t heard from her in two weeks. I am frustrated because she was such a reliable support to my business, and now she has trailed off entirely. Do I write to her one more time to see what’s going on? I hate to lose her. Also, if she wanted a recommendation, it would be hard for me to give a good one, considering that she has walked away from me in a very unprofessional manner. -- Virtually Missing, Minneapolis
DEAR VIRTUALLY MISSING: As far as your business is concerned, the writing on the wall is telling you to find a replacement for this employee. She has proven to be unreliable. If you need the work done, you need to find someone who wants to do it.
As far as your employee is concerned, send her a note. Check to see if she is OK, that no misfortune has befallen her. Then state in your note that you must hear from her, even if she is no longer going to be working with you. Impress upon her the importance of having a smooth ending to your professional relationship. Otherwise, you will not be able to give her a good recommendation in the future.