Confronting Excessive Personal Breaks

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Some employees abuse the system and take advantage of personal breaks.

How should you, as a leader, deal with employees who take excessive bathroom or personal breaks?

Previously, we talked about how to deal with an employee who has body odor issues. But excessive personal breaks can also be a touchy subject. It’s a common complaint. After all, the majority of workers don’t abuse personal breaks, but a select few end up taking longer or more frequent breaks than seems reasonable. It causes loss of productivity, extra need for coverage to provide relief, and more work for other workers while that person is off on their break.

Like any behavior or performance issue, it requires a conversation where the leader states their observation and describes the seriousness of the issue.

For example:

“I noticed that you seem to need a number of extra personal breaks compared to the rest of the team. I’m concerned because when you’re off the job, it means we have to carry extra people to provide relief, and it affects our ability to hit our production numbers. Is there a reason why you need more frequent or longer breaks?”

If the employee provides a legitimate reason for the need for extra breaks, for instance, a medical condition, you might need to request a note from their doctor. In that case, you’ll want to involve your HR team in the situation.

If they don’t have a good reason, it’s important to explain the importance of taking a reasonable number of breaks and ask for their commitment.

If this isn't nipped in the bud, the rest of the team, including your diligent employees, will think taking long breaks is perfectly acceptable behaviour. Click To Tweet

If this is happening in your team, you’ll need to nip this in the bud. Otherwise, employees think that they can have more frequent and longer breaks and even the more dedicated employees will begin to take advantage of what they perceive as a perfectly acceptable behavior. We discuss this situation in our book, Employees Not Doing What You Expect.

Once you decide to tackle this uncomfortable conversation, the rest of the work group will fall in line and the behavior won’t be a problem anymore.