Compassion vs. “The Bottom Line”
As an employer, it can be difficult to strike a balance between being compassionate when it comes to providing employees with time off and maintaining a profitable business. At least it can seem that way. There are ample regulations and laws in place to help businesses know when to grant employees fair access to leave, both paid and unpaid, but there are some situations where things get a bit fuzzy.
There will be moments that, despite valuing your employees and wanting to do the right thing, you feel uncertain as to whether it’s best for the company—your bottom line—to grant leave outside of the normal reasons you typically provide time off for. After reading this, you can probably remember the last time someone asked to take a day off that made you think twice.
The real bottom line is that you can only give so much—grant so many absences—before it starts to impact the business. Production, profit, and even the success of another’s job could be impacted by an employee taking one too many days off, and so you eventually have to learn how to demonstrate your compassion without sacrificing the health of the business.
When you absolutely have to accommodate time off
Thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (50 or more employees in a 75 mile radius,) workers’ comp laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (15 or more employees,) and even the PA Human Relations Act (PHRA – 4 or more employees,) employers have a good starting foundation for crafting any paid or unpaid leave. The real hurdle comes in identifying when an excuse is worth a leave of absence, whether it’s a day or more, or if you have to say ‘enough is enough.’
We all know how life just “happens.” Things come up. We get sick, our kids get a surprise snow day, or tragedy suddenly descends upon us. Those are the moments when it’s easiest to say, “Okay. I get it. You had no control over this and you have to take care of it.” Even having to take your dog to the vet is viable, but perhaps it’s when these days seem to pile up and occur more frequently than seems normal. When you have employees who take frequent time off, whether it’s paid or unpaid, you have to ask yourself: is this causing a problem for my business?
There are plenty of occasions where I’m sure you’ve given an employee the go-ahead to take the day off—for reasons that were far less serious than any of those mentioned so far. And that’s fine! That’s showing how much you value your employees, and illustrates your ability to be compassionate. It’s not so much the reason for taking the absence that should raise alarms; it’s the frequency at which those days accrue.
When your employees are absent more than they’re in the office
Extended time off should be carefully scheduled, and well ahead of the time. That’s the best way to ensure everyone else is able to compensate in that person’s absence. When an extended leave is requested on short notice, this is where you have to weigh whether compassion wins out or whether the bottom line has to be minded.
Same goes for ‘that same old excuse’ you get from the same employee the exact same day of the week or month—the one who always seems to get a headache Monday morning and can’t make it in. Remember, watch for patterns.
You want to be a boss who can give their employees time off when they need it most, but you still have to run the business well. That necessitates finding a balance—drawing a line in the sand, if you will—between what’s best for the employees and what’s best for the business. One of the better approaches to mastering this balance is simply to establish a protocol or a list of standards you’d like to keep in mind when granting unexpected time off. Let your employees know you’re willing to work with them to help them handle personal matters but that it’s still important to keep productivity where it’s at.
Creating a #DramaFreeHR experience at work can sometimes be as simple as stating your intent clearly and starting a dialogue with your employees. Often times they’re happy to work with management to create a system that benefits everyone, especially when it involves time off. Thinking about your own company, what approach would you take to balancing compassion with the bottom line?