Last week, a massive storm struck Metro Manila. Schools were closed early (thankfully!), while streets were flooded everywhere. For workers, it was a hit or miss affair whether you were going to be able to make it all the way to your office safely.
In situations like these, managers and business owners have to make executive decisions on whether to continue with the work or let their employees go home.
Can I get the day off?
A client emailed me to relay this story. During the storm, their workers trodded in one by one into the office. However, as the storm got worse during the day, the management decided to call it quits at 2pm and told everyone to go home for their own safety.
One of their employees never made it to work. He got stuck, so he decided to spend the morning at home.
Upon learning that the others who made it to the office were sent home at 2pm, the employee then asked the HR manager if he could request that he be given the same exemption be given to him so that no deduction will be made on his attendance and pay.
Interesting question, right? If you were the manager, what would you do?
Here are some things which ran thru my head when playing out the different possibilities for this scenario:
First, I don’t want to dismiss the employee’s request outright. I want all employees to feel that their requests and opinions are valued, so I would want to hear him out. See if his request makes sense.
Second, I want to be able to give considerations where it is due. If the employee is able to give ample justification for his request for exemption, then, by all means, I would give it. Why should I deprive employees of a benefit or convenience if the situation calls for it.
Third, I would see this incident as an opportunity to tweak my systems and procedures. Does my current policy on absences and leaves in the face of storms, flooding and other causes beyond the control of my employee hold up? Should there be exemptions granted?
Now that I have the considerations down pat, let’s look at our hard boundaries or the things I cannot allow to happen as I consider options for this.
First, we want to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Whatever benefit you accord this employee, it should be applicable to similarly situated employees. It should not be a personality-based exception as that would sow resentment and jealousy within the workplace.
Next, remember that whatever you decide on sends a message to the rest of your team. So, if you don’t want this action to persist or to multiply, reconsider granting it because, in effect, you’re telling your team that it is ok to do this.
What would I do in situations like these?
This brings us to the last part, which is what would be the right thing to do in situations like this? Let me leave you with some guidelines and some pointers to lead you.
First, shift the burden to your employee to prove that he deserves the exemption.
Remember, you already set the general rule. Your job is actually finished. If an employee asks that the rule is changed or made inapplicable to his situation, then make him work for it. Have him give reasons for the change.
This has 2 advantages. You avoid the appearance of favoritism because the justification came from the employee, not from you.
If other employees ask, you can point them towards the fact that the employee was able to justify his case and if they can justify their request, the same outcome would apply to them.
Next, document it for future reference.
To keep things official, ask the employee to put down their request in writing. This sends the message that:
- You are considering the request in your managerial capacity, and
- You have a reference if you decide to make this exemption official in your future policies. The employee basically wrote your policy amendment for you. How cool is that?
Last, close the issue with a decision or a meeting.
Regardless of whether you grant or deny the request for exemption, you should give the employee your decision. In what form? This can be a written reply or a meeting (I prefer meetings in this case). Here, you can give your counter-reasoning on why you granted or denied his request.
What’s the benefit? Same as tip number 2. You get to send the message that this decision was done in your official capacity and that you get instant documentation for future reference.
Hope this blog post gives you some points to consider when considering giving exemptions to your employees from your rules. Just remember, in modifying your rules, you think of the entire team and not just the employee who requested the exemption.
Need help with discipline issues?
Hope this was helpful for you. If you need more information about how to conduct disciplinary procedures, I recommend you stop by our book store and grab a copy of the Complete Employee Discipline System. It’s available for sale right now.