Monday, August 30, 2010

Bath time? Hold on while I ignore you.

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley

My miniature Schnauzer Tempo was my pet growing up. She was full of personality, and she was opinionated. She thought she should make the decisions on who is to be allowed into the house. Tempo also thought that it was within her control to say who or what could hang out in her backyard. She thought she should decide when it was time for her bath, and that decision would have been never.

Tempo would watch intently as Mom gathered the dog towels from under the sink. She would quietly step into the kitchen while Mom looked for the pet shampoo and brush. As soon as Mom closed the cabinet door, Tempo turned and ran to the couch in the den, quickly hopping onto it and settling into the far corner with her back turned to Mom. Tempo believed, every time she was due a bath, that if she would ignore the facts by turning her back on the situation, the bath wouldn't happen.

 We all see this approach in the workplace--I've used the "ostrich-head-in-the-sand" analogy numerous times in my presentations and training sessions with managers. But as we know, ignoring the situation does not make it go away. No matter how many times Tempo huddled in the corner, she always ended up getting a bath. She tried to ignore the facts, and they never went away.

Managers have an affirmative responsibility to acknowledge the facts--ignoring them will inevitably lead to bad results for employers. The employee who continually shows up late? The discord in a department because one person refuses to be a team player and pull her weight? Repeated mistakes by an assistant that are growing in severity? All facts that can not and should not be ignored. The bath is coming, just like Tempo experienced, even if you ignore facts. You might not come out smelling as good as she did, though.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Neither "A" in "ADA" means "assume"

So, that whole discussion by the EEOC on the importance of interacting with your employees who request or might need a disability before taking action?

Or the post from 2008 on the changing mindset for employers thanks to the amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act?

We were serious. And so is the EEOC, who filed suit on behalf of an employee who was offered a job, showed up for the first day of work, and had the employment offer rescinded once a member of management noticed the employee was missing some fingers.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What do you mean, "The pants don't fit?"

Before you groan: this is not a post about dieting. Or exercising. Or any of those good health habits we all should work to incorporate into our lives.

This post is about fit.

If you walk into a clothing store and see that all the jeans are the same size--not yours--do you stick around and try them on? Do you stay and look through the store to see if it does have jeans in your size?

You find display of shoes that is a style you've been coveting for some time. But every pair you pick up is the same size--again, not yours. Are you a little bummed, perhaps a little unhappy, that the buyers for the store do not have enough foresight to purchase those shoes in other sizes? After all, the store just lost your potential sale, right?

All of us have experienced the occasion where we need a different size from what we had been wearing. Sometimes we find ourselves in that position even though we'd been the same size for years (decades? Okay, maybe not).

Why, then, do companies today still insist on having employees fit into the same mold simply because they share a job title or position description?

I just read a post concerning the continuing compensation inequity between genders. The post presents some interesting potential causes for the disparity and reminds me of some similar issues employers face today. Of course, compensation is important in the working world (and water is wet--sorry for stating the obvious). A bigger question rearing its head is the dissatisfaction some employees have with their one-size-fits-all positions.

This isn't about addressing accommodation needs for qualified individuals with disabilities, or making adjustments when employees need time off under a state or federal leave act. No, what companies are facing are requests such as the following:

My spouse has been transferred to a facility about two hours away. I enjoy working here, and I'd like to explore the possibility of telecommuting 2 or 3 days per week and being in the office the other days.

How would your company respond? If this is a position where presence is essential (think receptionist or support staff), you might not have a lot of room to move. The more difficult dilemma is where your company is facing this for the first time, and the immediate reaction is, "Well, we've never done that before, so there's no way this would work." Before some of you scoff at the archaic nature of this reaction, realize that it does take place. Often.

Are you missing out on potential good employees because your storefront gives the appearance that you only carry one size of shoes, jeans, compensation or job structure?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dancing with--your employees?

I just finished reading a blog post by HR Bartender asking whether our society has lost our empathetic side and what we can do to work toward getting it back.

I met with a client today to discuss the dismissal of two charges of discrimination we defended on its behalf, charges which arose because the employee believed she was treated "unfairly" in a couple of situations. As the agency investigation revealed, this client went far beyond the call of duty in dealing with the employee's issues. The employee was simply dissatisfied with the result.

I think HR Bartender is on to something--we probably have lost our ability to empathize, in part because of the moving parts on both sides of the situation that faced my client. The phrase "no good deed goes unpunished" was uttered from the lips of my client representatives on more than one occasion. In this situation, the employee had lost the ability to empathize with the employer. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Continuing on that line of thought--the employer, having been rewarded with two charges of discrimination after doing more than it was legally obligated to do, might not respond in such an above-and-beyond way next go-around. You might say my client is losing the desire to empathize.

Those of us on the management side are all too familiar with the employee rights-employer obligations dance steps. If empathy is waning, will we soon find ourselves paired with partners who don't have formal instruction in the dance, where "rights" and "wants" are interchangeable with obligations in the minds of those partners?

The issue is not necessarily squarely rested on the shoulders of the employees. Think about how managers and supervisors are expected to handle situations (remember our talk about how that can diffuse potential lawsuits? If not, go here and here and here.). If they are unable to muster any empathy for the situation, is that a good thing? Nay nay.

Let's all work toward finding our empathy button--so you can push it when necessary (and have it reciprocated).