Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Are You Getting Paid for Not Showing Up?

absentYou’re probably not in the habit of paying employees who never show up for work – much less giving them awards for loyal service.

But that’s what happened in Spain, where a water company supervisor pocketed a $40K salary for six years without ever bothering to come into the office. And he’d likely still be cashing paychecks if a deputy mayor hadn’t spotted an unfamiliar name on a list of workers to be honored for exemplary work. Digging deeper, the deputy discovered the man’s office was vacant and his whereabouts unknown.

“I wondered whether he was still working there, had he retired, had he died? But the payroll showed he was still receiving a salary,” the official said in this story. “I called him up and asked him, ‘What did you do yesterday? The month before, the month before that?’ He didn’t know what to say.”

After being busted, the MIA employee did what you’d expect. He went out and hired an attorney, who blamed the 72-month absence on workplace bullying. He also said his client went to work one day, found nothing to do and decided to go home … and stay there.

Just Show Up

Admittedly, this is an extreme case of not showing up, but you don’t have to look far to find other examples.

Take, for instance, this blogpost about admission interviews for students applying to Princeton University. These face-to-face sessions are a great opportunity for prospective Princetonians to enhance their odds of getting in. But for every four interviews scheduled, only two applicants even bother to show up.

“This is just amazing to me,” writes an interviewer. “Why bother to apply to a school that you know only accepts 10 percent of all applicants? Why not help your chances a little bit and show up for my interview? Be there. Be the sales guy who’s there to answer that big sales call. Be the restaurant owner who meets you personally at the door. Be there. And heed the Woody Allen quote – 90 percent of success is just showing up!”

Ways to Show Up … And Mean It

Sometimes you can physically show up but not be fully present. The lights are on but nobody’s home. We’ve all been there.

You can physically show up but not be fully present. The lights are on but nobody’s home. We’ve all been there.

Here are five tips for showing up – and bringing your best self with you:

  1. Return emails and phone calls. You might have a good reason for not replying promptly. But to the sender, you’re absent without leave.
  2. Have a positive attitude. Smile when you walk in the door – even if you have to fake it. It’s infectious and will inspire the best in your team.
  3. Keep learning. Be open to new experiences. Go to a museum. Take a night class. Learn a new area of law. Expanding your range of interests enhances presence.
  4. Cultivate hobbies. When you leave the office, do something you love. Fly fishing, stamp collecting, pet grooming, whatever. A hobby will recharge your batteries and put a spring in your step.
  5. Relax. At the end of each workday, hit the reset button through meditation, yoga, jogging, listening to music or hanging out with friends.

Perfect attendance does not always mean perfect attentiveness. How do you inspire stellar performance in your office? What works and what doesn’t? We’d love to hear from you.



Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He is a former Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at


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