September 5, 2013

What to Do? Employee Keeps Saying “No” to Going the Extra Mile

this surly employ is not going the extra mile

How do I handle an employee that always says no to going the extra mile?  She always says she has something personal like her kids or family that she has to ‘do something’ with. So no matter what I ask, it’s always no.

The answer to this question hinges on what you’re asking her to do and why. I’ll explain in just a bit.

But first, there’s a devilish part of me what really wants to set this employee up….  Personally, I’d meet with all the employees and ask for volunteers to paint the new front office after hours, knowing full well the employee in question will immediately say ‘no way.’  Then as thanks to all those who do show up, and as a clear jab at the offending employee, I’d give everyone a $100 and, say, their own unicorn to ride home. Could you imagine her face the next day hearing everyone BUT her got $100 AND a unicorn? That’d learn her!

Back in reality (though fantasy comeuppances are fun!), the first thing you need to do is look at the details and story around this situation.

Is this employee saying no to volunteering time or getting together as a team after work? If so, there is nothing wrong with an employee who gives 99% at work but really doesn’t want to be a part of the “afterhours” company culture.  But if it’s an important trait to you, then your best course of action is to be proactive in seeking that type of person during the interview stage.  Simply put, it’s possible to discover during the interview if a candidate is not going to be “gung ho” to give up his/her free time after work.

Here’s a sample behavioral interview question:

“As a team, we like to take on extra projects, both for the business and our community. Last week we met on Saturday and everyone volunteered to participate in the local 5k run. Do you have any experience doing something similar or volunteering with your current or past co-workers?”

Wait for the answer and then follow up with more targeted questions based on the candidate’s response. Pretty soon, using dialogue like above, you will be able to get a feel for whether or not someone is a fit for your culture. (Don’t forget to stay away from probing questions about things like health, religion, marital status, and disabilities! You can find out which questions to avoid in our Employer’s Tool Kit)

Now, on the flip side, if the “extra mile” you’re referring to is work related (you need someone to stay late to cover, to see an extra patients/customers, to help out with closing, to get ready for the next day, etc.), then that’s completely different. Your office policy on scheduling and work hours (if written correctly) should inform your employees that hours are subject to the needs of the business and customers.  When employees skirt those responsibilities, you have to enforce the policy and let the employees know they are breaking it.

We often see this issue with employees who are clock-watchers. You know the type: they would rather jump out the back window and risk a broken leg than stay one minute over to help with patients or closing duties; and/or they mentally check out about 2 hours before work even ends!

So when they “jump” (and I mean it figuratively here, though for some of you it may be literally!), I like to be standing there when they land. That’s when you confront them, eye to eye, in a constructive way. Keep it light at first.  I like to play on the fact that when they bail, it reflects poorly on them because others have to pick up the slack and do their job. In this way, you can maneuver the employee into performing better. And if all else fails, using progressive corrective coaching, you can outright force them to give you what you need, or they can find different employment. As exhausting as this is, it’s a necessary evil game that managers have to play.

It all harkens back to the ultimate cure: Hire better in the first place. Make sure that during the interview stage, you look for someone who does want to work and go the extra mile. Take it from someone with tons of experience banging my head against the wall: days spent dreaming of magic unicorns… whoops, I mean days spent punishing, judging, and guilting people into doing their jobs, are days wasted.

As always, if you have a question about what I’ve discussed, or if I’ve raised a concern for something happening in your practice, call us at 866-414-6056. If we can, we will help you at no charge.

Friendly Disclaimer: This article is general education and guidance and is not a substitution for legal advice. Employment issues are complicated and often require specific expert or legal guidance based on the circumstances.

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.


  1. AvatarMary Jones says

    I am a little of both of these. I give 100% during my regular hours. But I like a strong work-life balance so when the clock strikes 5 I am done most times. I will occasionally help out in a pinch but I’m not enticed by overtime pay, In fact I’m totally against mandatory overtime. Most overtime can be avoided with proper planning and staffing.

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