Say you’re a corporate employee. You came down with a nasty virus. Your sister and her kids passed it on to you; they later apologize for having visited when they were sick. You get a 102 degree fever, fatigue. Doctor says you’ll wind up in bed for a week, gives you a doctor’s note. You hadn’t missed a day of work in years before this. So you call in sick to work, only to hear the HR rep be snide with you, question whether you’re really sick, and badger you before finally granting you the time off. This upsets you. So you can’t help but give her your two cents about her and the company before hanging up.
Say you’re an HR employee. An hourly worker calls in with a “virus.” Just happens to be a Friday. Also happens to be the same worker Manager Jones reported as ”insubordinate” a few weeks ago, in relation to a customer complaint. This worker has found a doctor willing to give him a note for a full week off for a flu virus. What kind of virus lasts a full week– doesn’t the typical flu last 72 hours at most?? Worst case, his flu should be over, and he should be back to work, early next week as opposed to Friday. That department is already short workers. Now, you’ve got to find someone to cover, on short notice. But you’ll have to do it. God forbid HR question the medical necessity of this 1-week flu vacation; if so, you’d have to answer to some lawyer the employee hires, and after that have corporate chew you out.
What stinks about this scenario (besides all of it)?
First, lack of perspective. Neither side really knows the other, or tries to.
Second, negative assumptions. Each side makes bad assumptions about the other, without giving the other any benefit of the doubt. Not the slightest bit of time or brainstorming takes place to think of legitimate reasoning or practical pressures that could exist for the other party and perhaps explain their behavior. Maybe there’s an alternate, good explanation to the bad one.
What if this worker really IS sick? His prior work problems are concerning, but none concern attendance, and his performance review had his performance overall rated as acceptable…
What if HR is left short-handed by my absence? What if the HR rep fears her own job security– this company is laying off people left and right. I know my work area is already stretched thin– HR has got to consider those issues first, before considering what difficulties I personally have.
I frequently hear of jobs that end in situations like the illness scenario above.
And the Axman (or Axwoman) that ends the job is (1) the sick employee; (2) the HR/management rep; or (3) both.
And what is the FORCE that usually compels the Ax to swing? Surprisingly, the main force is usually not the underlying matter (here the illness, requested time off, and HR’s wish to have the worker work). Rather, the parties’ assumptions and communication is usually what unleashes the death blow.
If you’re the ill employee in the situation above, you are the first Axman. You can chop down your own job in one swift blow by choosing to communicate or react negatively to HR. Especially if you’re right. If HR’s reaction is illogical, they are not going to see the light by you berating them or beating them over the head with logic.
The second Axman is the HR rep. You’re confronted with this worker, making these demands that hurt the company. Plus, this worker has the nerve to be snide with you about a situation the worker mistakenly sees as an entitlement. It would feel so good to teach this person just how unentitled he is– to fire him on the spot as he berates you– and see if he can withstand a dogfight with the corporation’s lawyers for a few years. The corporation could challenge his unemployment based on misconduct and insubordination. That would teach him a thing or two.
That would also teach his kids, who depend on his income, a thing or two.
The two Axmen’s decisions are very weighty ones. Often, the decisions are made too quickly, in an emotional state, without enough time or thought put into them. Too few Axmen give full consideration to the big picture, and all the financial and moral consequences that could result from wrong assumptions and negative communication.
George William Curtis once said “Anger is an expensive luxury in which only men of certain income can indulge.” In this day and age, I don’t think anyone can be sure they can afford anger.
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