Is There a Doctor in the Boss?

dr

Mara couldn’t believe what she was hearing.  She knew her boss, Doreen, to be a braggart.  She knew her to be a slave driver who equated how much work she did with her worth as a person.  She also knew her as a terrible manager.  However, sitting in front of her, Doreen was claiming to be a doctor.

It had started several weeks ago when Mara came home from the doctor with a confirmation to a diagnosis.  To keep this blog relevant, let’s say Mara was diagnosed with the dreaded Disease X.  It wasn’t fatal, but was chronic.  It could cause some terrible symptoms to manifest, and needed monitoring and treatment.  At times, it would not make coming into the office easy, but Mara thought, at those times, she could manage working from home.  She would have to see.

In accordance with the company’s policies, Mara was to tell her manager, who would then report this to Human Resources.  Mara would supply a doctor’s note affirming the diagnosis.  Human Resources would then work with Mara for a reasonable accommodation, which Mara hoped would be that when she needed to work from home, she could.  She didn’t intend to abuse this policy, but wanted it available to her if needed.

That morning, Mara made time on Doreen’s calendar to speak with her.  She laid out the doctor’s diagnosis of Disease X, produced the note, and asked they be forwarded to Human Resources.

Doreen looked at Mara, looked at the note, and rejected them both.  Her words, verbatim, were, “You don’t have Disease X.”  With that, she dismissed Mara, refusing to accept any evidence that Mara was chronically ill.  With that, she also rejected any notion that Mara could have a reasonable accommodation or be able to work from home a bit extra to take care of the condition.  She congratulated herself on solving the problem so easily.

Mara sat there stunned.  This was a medical diagnosis.  There were established procedures for this within the company.  She had proof — more than that doctor’s note, she had all her tests, which indicated she had Disease X.  In one short sentence, Doreen had circumvented the whole process in the name of convenience – for Doreen.

Mara had to go out of procedure herself and went to HR to self-report her medical condition.  When asked why she didn’t go to her supervisor, she reported what happened, to the stunned silence of the HR representative.  They all knew Doreen to be less than a stellar manager, but never would believe that even she would do this.

In the end, Mara went on record with her diagnosis of Disease X, worked with HR for a reasonable accommodation, and made an enemy of Doreen.  Doreen loved her control, and for Mara to go around her to report her illness was, in Doreen’s mind, nothing less than insubordination.  From that point on, she did everything in her power to make Mara’s life more difficult.

There are few things more precious than someone’s health.  It’s not like you can go order another one online.  Even if you and your employees are not going to ever be considered friends, you have a duty to perform in helping protect that person’s health, if for no other reason than you would have one less person to do the work that makes you look good.

No manager is above the company’s procedure, and, especially when it is a life or death matter, no manager has the right to make a decision in which they have no knowledge or background.  Want to be a doctor?  Go to school and become a doctor.  Your employees would probably be happy that they get a new manager — one who may recognize their employees health over the manager’s ego.

 

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Home Sweet Home

Fingers Crossed Behind Back

They should have taken bets.  The staff realized this too late, of course, so all they could do is sit and watch the creative excuses unfold.

Sarah had made telecommuting an art form.  While most of the staff had one day of telecommuting a week, and a few had two, Sarah would try to see how many days she could get away with not having to come into the office.  No subject was off limits for her to employ her excuses for staying at home.

  • There was snow on the ground
  • There was snow on the way
  • It looked like it was going to storm fiercely
  • She needed privacy
  • She wasn’t feeling well, but well enough to work from home
  • She had a half day off in the afternoon, so why bother coming in the morning?
  • She had a day off in the morning, and it didn’t make sense to come in for the afternoon
  • Her husband, son, neighbor, dog, neighbor’s dog, complete stranger wasn’t feeling well and she didn’t feel right about leaving them
  • Alien invasion

If it were simply that she wanted to stay home, the staff would have been somewhat accepting of this.  After all, it meant she wasn’t in the office to tell everyone their jobs and give extra work.  This was a bonus.

Sarah’s telecommuting had a dark side to it, though.  First, any day she telecommuted, she would inform everyone that they had to rearrange their schedules in order to accommodate her telecommuting.  If they had to change everything for her, then so be it.  She could not be inconvenienced by something as complicated as a web conference or conference call.  Second, if she wasn’t there to sign off on something urgent, progress stopped.  She needed to be in to sign off on items, and her telecommuting interfered with that.  Third, there were simply things that staff needed to talk with her about in person.  A phone call would not do.  She had to make decisions, and she needed to be there for this.  None of this mattered to Sarah, of course, as it was her telecommuting, and she wanted it to be that way.

When Sarah was tapped to head the department, her habits changed slightly.  Based on what she was doing, the staff guessed that she was told by her new boss that she could take one telecommuting day a week, and one only.  Sarah dutifully promised this would be the case.

The staff was still kicking themselves for not taking bets about how long this would last before she found some way around it.

For the first few weeks, Sarah was a good girl.  She took one day a week as her telecommuting day, and that was it.  She was out of the office other times, but they were for official travel.

Then, when no one was looking, the excuses crept back in again.  One day stretched into a day and a half.  A day and a half stretched into two.  The stretching continued for as long as Sarah was able to get away with it.

Staff knew that if any of them ever tried what Sarah did, they would be hauled in front of her so fast it would make their head spin.  Employee Relations would tell them the telecommuting rules chapter and verse from the employee handbook, and they would be informed that telecommuting was a privilege and not a right.  If they wished to continue to telecommute, they would be able to do so only once a week, maybe twice, but that was it.  After all, work would have to get done.

There was one silver lining in that, though.  Sarah would want to make sure she told them all this personally.  That would mean she would have to be in the office to do so.  That might give the employee months and months before the conversation took place.

You’re Sick? You’re Fired!

Sick person

It had been particularly stressful around the office for Ralph.  It was obvious in word and deed that his management wanted him out of there, and was making sure they had enough ‘documentation’ in order to get rid of him when the time was right.  He had been demeaned, harassed, and bullied by his management, and the management level above that supported it outright.  It would teach him to believe them when they said he could go talk to them about anything.

The added piece to this was that Ralph had a diagnosed, chronic condition that was aggravated by the stress he was encountering.  He was experiencing flare-ups of this condition that were debilitating him to the point where his health was truly suffering because of it.  He needed to take some action, but sadly hadn’t learned his lesson.

One day, he walked into his boss’ office to let her know he was about to file papers to take some short term leave to get this chronic condition sorted out.  He did this as a courtesy to her, as others would have come in, dropped the papers, and walked out.  His boss’ (and the boss’ boss) action to this announcement?  Within an hour, they had drawn up the papers to have him fired.  Two hours later he was no longer an employee of the company.  They would not be denied their revenge at having him fired for actually being honest with them.

The machinery soon went into high gear.  The department head brought everyone in to her office to announce this and assure everyone that they were all valued employees…which none of them believed.

She told them they could come to her with any issue and it would be listened to…which none of them believed.

When Ralph’s departure was to be communicated to the corporate communication group for a routine announcement in the next newsletter, the announcement was blocked by the boss’ boss.  He didn’t want anyone to know of his actions.  Yet, within two hours, the news had spread throughout the company by the oldest form of communication available…word of mouth.  His department, already suffering in the eyes of the employee, suffered more by the firing and by the covert nature of the operation.

Ralph’s co-workers were brought in to be told of the extra work they would have to do, but that they were valued…which none of them believed.

What this one act, the firing of a good employee who happened to be ill, did, was to increase suspicion of the department and their leadership from within and without.  It also drove any employee conversations and action further underground for fear that anything they say will be taken as a fireable offense.   The department, already dysfunctional, became even more dysfunctional by this action.

The department management got what they wanted — revenge upon an employee they did not like.  What they did was show just how truly sick the whole management structure was.

Let’s Get Larry

knife in the back

Larry was the employee that you really wanted in your organization.  He had been with the company 20 years, knew how to build relationships, always had a joke on his lips, and his employees loved working for him.  He didn’t take himself or the work too seriously, and he had a network in the company like none other.

Still, for reasons yet unknown, his upper management wanted him out.  Maybe it was because he wasn’t fitting the mold of what they thought a manager should be.  Maybe it was because he know too many people.  Maybe because they wanted to move some people into his spot.  Whatever the reason, his upper management wanted him out.

However, they could not just fire him.  That would have cause too much of a lawsuit and issues.  Instead, they changed his job description, causing him to have to travel around 50% of the time to far flung places around the globe.  Larry cheerfully accepted this new assignment, but after a couple of years doing this, the strain was taking its toll.  He looked tired, haggard, and he had lost a lot of his once abundant energy.  One day, coming to the end of his rope, he turned in his resignation papers, though he had another 7 to 10 years until an ‘official’ retirement age.

A few weeks after Larry’s official retirement, his significant other, who also worked at the company, was still be peppered with questions as to how Larry was.  Was he doing well in retirement?  How is he feeling?  Is he getting his energy back?  It was a touching moment for Larry’s significant other that people were still concerned about him, and that he wasn’t forgotten.

Leave it to the company’s HR Director to ruin the scene.  Upon hearing one of these conversations, the HR Director says the following:  “Well, I’m glad he retired.  If he didn’t soon, I was going to make life very unpleasant for him.”  Small wonder that the gathering broke up very soon after that.

One of the salient employment statistics about the Millennial generation is that they don’t seem to stay in their jobs very long.  One statistic said they may have 30 jobs in their lifetimes.  While the sociologists point to many factors, I would like to point to a very specific one.  How many Larrys are out there?  How many HR Directors would be saying the same thing?  Our newest generation in the workforce is highly educated.  They see what is going on.  How are they to react to treatment of someone who has devoted his life to a company?  They see what was done to all the Larrys, see all the similar HR Directors, and can draw their own conclusions.

Maybe, just maybe, our workers would stay longer at their jobs and work with more enthusiasm if we had more Larrys, fewer executive management, and few HR Directors who thought like they do.  What are we teaching our children?  We’re teaching them to collect a paycheck, for nobody will give a damn about them but themselves.

Gone in a Flash

Greedy dog

The atmosphere was light and there was laughter around the table as the family got together.  Sam was enjoying himself, finally able to tell some of the stories about his new manager, but also surprised at how widespread the epidemic of bad management was.  The next round of stories went something like this:

Sam related that his manager came to him, excited for some new content sent to her by a provider.  It was on a flash drive, and as she wanted to give a copy of some of the content to others, she asked Sam what kind of reusable media the department had to copy the items.  Sam mentioned to her that they had a stock of flash drives, probably about 25 in number, that had been left over from an old project and were just sitting in the closet.  Occasionally he or his co-worker Ralph would use one for some purpose, and it was handy having them there.

His manager thanked him and headed off to the supply closet.  She returned a few minutes later, dashing into her office, her hands and arms filled with flash drives.  Pausing for a moment to process this, Sam walked to the supply closet and was greeted with an empty box where there were, minutes before, 25 flash drives for the department to use.  He related that, to this day, not one of the flash drives has reappeared for a business purpose.

As soon as the comments about this died down, one of his relatives piped up about something similar in her workplace.  Like most offices, her office received little thank you gifts from the vendors they used throughout the year.  It may have been a bowl of fruit, some other edibles, or something creative.  Usually, before her new manager took over, these were put in a common area for all the employees to enjoy.  After the new manager arrived, things went differently.  The new manager would take each package and bring it into her office, never to be seen again.  Oh, she did say that anyone could come into her office and enjoy the snacks, but she would either stare at the person the whole time they were in there, or the food would mysteriously have disappeared when someone went to avail themselves of something.  The manager was always at a loss of where these would go, but was seen many times carrying rather heavy bags out to her car.

Being a good manager is made up of many tiny things.  Fairly or unfairly, each one of those things are visible to your employees, who will form an opinion of you based on the actions you take.  You don’t need to be perfect, but you do have to have a favorable balance in order to gain the respect of your people.

When you show that you never learned how to share, you give the impression that you only care about your happiness and well being.  Nobody else matters.  Your happiness overrides everything.  If extrapolated into how you are going to deal with people whose work lives are in your hands, what are they bound to think?  They are going to think that you will manage them with the same greed that you have shown in your other actions, thinking nothing of them, but only of yourself.  And, if this is how you are going to rule them, they might as well take whatever they can whenever they can.  After all, isn’t that what you are modeling to them?

If you want a genuinely caring and giving culture, start with yourself.  If you only think of you, don’t be surprised when your employees only think of themselves.