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The Case Of The Vanishing Co-Worker

A Tale We Have All Experienced

The Case Of The Vanishing Co-Worker


By Aisha Newton
Monster Contributing Writer
The case of the vanishing co-worker is a curious tale. One minute they are sitting at their desk. The next thing you know, they have disappeared like a sock in the dryer. Nobody knows where they’ve gone.
It’s safe to say that most employees have encountered this issue. When it comes to disappearing acts, there are many different kinds, each with their own specialties and peculiarities.
The Magician
This is the colleague who is there one moment and gone the next. Throughout the course of the day this person vanishes and then “Poof!” reappears right before your very eyes. There are no tell tale signs of when or why? You look over from your cubicle and notice a sudden silence, or you feel the cool breeze from their sudden departure.
The Illusionist
He or she is seemingly there all day long...or are they? You see them in the morning when you come in. They hang up their coat, pour themselves a cup of coffee and log onto their computer. Then you see them again at 5 o’clock, briefcase in hand, heading out the door. You have no idea where they have been all day. Co-workers will ask you if you’ve seen them and your only response is “I saw them before...I think”. You’ll find yourself questioning your sanity. Often times wondering aloud, “Were they really in the office today?”
The Wanderer
You probably guessed right. The one who is rarely at their desk. They come to work but run a marathon of office errands. They always seem to need something, photocopies, glass of water, cigarette break, something from the cafeteria or another bathroom break. This individual seems to have a near toxic aversion to their workspace.
The Luddite
The Luddite is the person who feigns ignorance of modern technology. This person feels physically compelled to walk over to your desk for everything. Whether they have a work related question, juicy gossip or an invitation to lunch. This person refuses to pick up the phone or send an email. Instead they prefer to frequently pass by or hang out at your desk. The idea being, that they hope you will be free at the exact moment they choose to stop by.
The Unicorn
Ah! Here is a special type of employee. This person comes in everyday, but like its namesake a sighting is incredibly rare. They are often suspected of being holed up behind the closed doors of an office or conference room. If you’re lucky you may catch a fleeting glance. Just enough to keep the folklore alive, but still not quite enough to convince anyone that they really exist.
Then you have one of the worst offenders:
The Missing Co-Worker
This is the person plagued with health problems, family woes & vehicular maintenance issues. Their absence is so frequent, that you wonder if you will soon see their face on milk cartons across the city.
Whatever nickname you give them, dealing with a missing co worker is no laughing matter. All jokes aside, here are a few tips to help you deal with these missing person cases. Try speaking to them directly. Your co-workers may not realize how annoying their behavior is or even how much their behavior affects your everyday activities.
I once worked with a Luddite. She never sent emails pertaining to urgent matters. Instead she would hover near my desk and pounce on me the moment I got off the phone.
I politely explained that I found her presence to be distracting. Let’s be honest, is there anything more annoying than trying to have a telephone conversation with someone glaring at you? The only thing worse, is having someone making spastic hand gestures in an attempt to get your attention. In the end we agreed to schedule short daily meetings. This way we could discuss any urgent issues in a way that was convenient for both of us.
Other times you might inadvertently make the problem worse. Perhaps your colleague is MIA because you are enabling the behavior.
I also worked with a wanderer and he was always late for meetings. Instead of starting without him, everyone would wait for him to arrive. Eventually the team got fed up. We decided as a group to proceed without him. At that point he got the message. His time wasn’t more important than ours.
If speaking to them directly doesn’t solve the problem, speak to your boss.
Making the boss aware of the situation can help. Often times your boss may be aware of the problem, but not to its full extent.
Nobody wants to be the office snitch, but there is no need to become the office martyr. Let your boss know that you find the matter problematic and how it is affecting you. Often times you will find that you are not alone. If other colleagues feel the same way, encourage them to come forward. Your boss will not sit by idly and allow one employee to disrupt the morale of the entire team.
I have often found myself as the vanishing co-worker’s backup. It wasn’t fun. I started to feel like I was getting the short end of the stick. I was letting it affect my work and I was getting frustrated. What I finally realized was that it wasn’t personal but I had to take matters into my own hands.
There was no point in trying to retaliate since most of the time she wouldn’t even bother showing up for work. Besides I didn’t want to do the same thing to another colleague. So I spoke to my boss and in the end the missing co-worker began to magically reappear.
Dealing with vanishing co-workers will never be fun. Just be patient and try to stay focused on the positive aspects of your job. The one thing we know for sure is that no amount of magic, will ever make the vanishing co-worker appear.

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