Monday, April 26, 2010

Walking a mile in their moccasins


empathy
Originally uploaded by PataGata

How different would your life be if you nurtured your empathy for other people, and behaved in accordance with that understanding?  How does that translate to your actions and policies in the workplace?

I read an article this morning about an employee whose father was dying - literally - on a particular morning not too long ago in my town.  When his wife called him to let him know he'd better get to the hospital right away, he requested (and was granted) permission to leave work early and go to the hospital.  He arrived too late - his father had already died.  So he was off work for the next three days as his family grieved and put his father's body to rest.

When he returned to work, the grieving son found out that he had been issued 4 attendance points for missing work during the 3-1/2 days.  The company he was working for (Harley Davidson) was attempting to crack down on attendance policy violations that almost closed the plant he was working in.  That was their rationale for penalizing him for attempting to be present for his father's end and for his family in the aftermath.  By the way, a status of four points earns a written warning, six points a suspension, and eight points termination from employment at the company.

The article said the company agreed to remove three of the attendance points from his record in accordance with their bereavement policy.  But the last point for leaving early (albeit with permission) to be there for his father's last moments is still under appeal.  The article quoted the man's wife saying, "It's only one point, but it's the principle of the thing."

It certainly is the principle of the thing.  Human experiences like birth, illness, marriage, divorce, and death happen every day all around the world.  But they aren't universal, neutral occurrences when they are happening to you.  They become personal, gut-wrenching or joy-inducing - life milestones that leave their mark.  Sure, I completely understand that employers are charged with maintaining discipline and productivity and consistency in how they handle their workers.  But when they miss opportunities like this one to show some empathy, they chip away at one of the biggest contributors to their success - the loyalty of the people who make the widgets (or the bikes, as the case may be.)

C'mon, Harley.  Engage your heart along with your head and walk a mile in this guy's moccasins.  Take that last point off of his attendance record.  Thanks to Mike Argento from the York Daily Record for sharing this story.  'Nuff said.

1 comment:

Louis said...

Wow. Timely for me - I just read this after discussing with my wife how we're going to handle my upcoming trip to Virginia... my mother is in the hospital, a place she would NOT choose to be; after all, hospitals killed her father in 1970 (possibly the last time she spoke with a doctor). Thankfully I'm self-employed and can create my own schedule. I'd hate to be subject to these draconian measures. 10 years ago I did a thesis paper on "work-life balance" and how prevalent it would become. I guess I was wrong.