Give What You Want To Get

Give What You Want to GetI had a blog post all lined up and almost ready to go today.  But then I had a conversation with a lovely colleague this afternoon which surprised and saddened me, and I think the message is worth sharing.

It’s always a difficult balance trying to juggle work and home life.  There are never enough hours in the day to get everything done at work, even at the most well-resourced companies.  And the same applies at home – there are always chores that need dealing with, daily bits and pieces to be sorted.  On top of all that, most of us quite enjoy a little bit of wind-down time too.

It’s even harder when you’ve decided to add a little bit of study to the mix.  You now have to find time when your brain isn’t completely exhausted from work problems, or completely overtaken by household lists to dedicate some time to learning and assimilating new information.

The lovely colleague I mentioned had exactly this dilemma.  Luckily, until a few months ago she also had a very understanding boss, who supported her decision to study further.  So sometimes, when the company really needed it, she put in some very very long hours.  At other times, when it was a bit more manageable, she took a little bit of time in lieu so she could study.  This arrangement worked for the company as well as for my colleague,  not least because the subject she was studying was also directly relevant to her working life and current role.  It also worked because she felt supported and valued by her manager.  A win-win, you might say.

Then things changed.  Well – only one thing changed but it had a huge impact.  Her lovely supportive boss moved on, and she had a new boss to deal with.  The new boss was outwardly just as supportive as the old one.  My colleague continued to put in huge amounts of overtime to get the company through some difficult month-end work.  She reasoned that it was alright, because the next month end she would be at home, studying hard for her exams.  She had put in her holiday request weeks ago, and it had all been agreed.

Out of the blue, and close to the time she was due to be away, she was called into a meeting and told that her holiday had been cancelled.  It was imperative that she be present at a critical time for the company.  She could of course have the actual day of the exam as time off, even though it would be a struggle for the company to report on time, but that really was all they could do.  There was no mention at all of the hours she had already put in, or how this would completely disrupt her planned study time and potentially impact on her results.  But it was clear she had no real choice, and at this late stage she felt there was not much she could do.  And to add salt to the freshly gouged wound, she was advised that if she wanted time off at month-end (which was also the time the examination board held the exams, so she didn’t have a choice) then she needed to provide a minimum of six months notice.  Even though that was not possible, as she wouldn’t have her results and know which exams she might be taking in six months time.

It should come as no surprise then, that my lovely colleague has since been searching for, and found, a new role in a company that will support her aim to study and gain a qualification.

In the meantime, her present company is now losing yet another significant member of the team.  They are losing her hard work, dedication and all the knowledge she has built up in her time here.

I’ve been here for about six weeks, and in that time three people have left or are leaving key roles, and every day I hear grumbles from the rest of the team about how unhappy they are.  People are starting to work to time, rather than staying a little later, because they’re fed up with what is expected from them.  From my slightly distanced viewpoint (one of the perks of being a contractor is knowing nothing is forever, especially comforting at times like this), it really does look as if the company have completely forgotten that old adage that you should Give What You Want To Get.

In this case (and many others), the company has given her a hard time and unfair treatment.   Her previous boss gave support and encouragement, and got back dedication and commitment.  What her current boss is about to get in return is a big gap in knowledge, increased costs to hire someone new, and more unhappiness from the rest of the team as they have to pick up her workload in the meantime.

I know it’s not easy to manage time off at critical reporting periods – I’ve been that manager, in that situation.  Out of a team of five, I once had two employees needing time off at the same reporting deadline.  I knew it would mean a lot of effort for the rest of us, and I genuinely wasn’t even sure it was possible.  So I held a team meeting and we worked out a plan.  We all wanted our students to do well, so there was a lot of goodwill there.  That goodwill worked both ways, as we also agreed that the other three team members would get a chance to take time off at month-end during the year, and the two students would commit to covering their work.  It wasn’t easy, but we all saw the benefits and it worked out in the end.

I’ve also experienced firsthand the shortsightedness of employers who are all about the ‘Get’ and never the ‘Give’.  And what I’ve seen, time and time again, is that as an employer, you can only do the ‘getting’ for so long before your employees give up on you altogether and move away.  Is it really worth that short-term gain for the long-term loss?

What do you think?  Have you seen or experienced this?

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