Today's article is the fourteenth in a series about Change from Steve Roesler.
"We cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life's morning; for what in the morning was true will in evening become a lie." -- C.G. Jung, courtesy of Peter Vajda.
But this isn't a personal rant, so please stay. It's about change, changes that change, and ultimately a workplace issue that deserves more genuine attention than it gets.
Those of you who stop by here regularly are familiar with the fact that my wife, Barb, had knee replacement surgery on October 1. It was originally intimated (rather strongly) that she'd be up and around and even driving in 5-6 weeks. So we programmed our expectations as well as my manner of doing business according to that schedule. I would care for her, the house, the meals, and the pets. Work with clients and writing here at All Things Workplace would happen a bit differently for a set period of time. Everyone around us, personal and professional, was understanding and "on board".
Now the expectation has changed. She's doing just fine according to the physical therapists and the makers of various painkillers. But it seems that the originally scheduled "change" period was somewhat optimistic and a bit unrealistic. It was based upon the doctor's best-known scenario to-date. The actual time period, according to the PT folks, will be two more months.
Changing the Change
What do you do? Well, you change your expectations, the time line, and all of the activities surrounding those. Here's where the story enters the business realm. Please see it through:
In order to make the necessary adjustments, I need to go back to my clients and re-adjust the re-adjusted schedule. But before I can do that, we have to line up friends and family to come to our home and, when I am away, even stay overnight. It also means having people who are capable and comfortable taking her to physical therapy. And, it means that she has to feel comfortable and confident with those who are the helpers.
Someone suggested that we hire "a service". Not going to happen. In the midst of a change, you want as much familiarity and trust as possible. Paying for a stranger, no matter how well-qualified, does not substitute for the warmth and comfort of being with family and friends. In fact, that kind of love is part of the recovery itself.
When This Happens, What Happens in Your Company?
Since I'm self-employed, I don't have to ask anyone for time off. I'm not worried about losing my job or my standing in the corporation. Of course, I'm not generating new business, either, and have to rely on the goodwill and understanding of current clients when something changes. And, I've figured out a new schedule for writing articles daily here at All Things Workplace.
But I wondered how this kind of thing would be handled in a major corporation. So I asked a client (Senior VP--HR) of a company whose employee relations practices have been lauded as "outstanding" in major business magazines.
His response: "Well, that's always a tough one. But you have to understand that this is a business. If you had vacation time saved up you could use it all. And we always allow a few extra days for such things. It would be possible to ask for an unpaid leave of absence. And we would try our level best to make sure that nothing happened to your job. After a certain point, though, you have to understand that this is a business."
I've worked in and with large corporations for many years. I'm a card-carrying Capitalist. But the catch-all phrase, "This is a business", seems like the equivalent of winking your eye when you want someone to feel as if they are on the inside of an inside joke. It's an implicit disclaimer that really implies, "You have to understand that our existence is a lot more important than yours." (But don't forget that our Annual Report says: "People Are Our Most Important Asset").
There are some wonderful HR pros out there who are regular contributors here and who have to face this sort of thing all the time.
What do you do in these situations in your company? And, is it really an "HR" issue or one of overarching corporate philosophy?
I'm betting there are a number of readers interested in, and impacted by, these kinds of temporary--but normal-- life changes.