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Posts Tagged ‘Americans With Disabilities Act’

Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Ask anyone what is most important about a job, and they’ll say “salary,” but ask why they left their last position, and it’s rarely about money.  Most likely, it’s related to the work environment and what they could no longer tolerate.

This is why it is so essential to consider all aspects of a new position when interviewing, and give careful thought to the primary components required to make the job desirable . . . from your viewpoint.  What are seen as crucial benefits for some may be less vital or even insignificant to another, depending on their financial, geographical, family, health and other circumstances.

Greg* enjoyed his position with a large to mid-sized company, where he could specialize on something he was quite skilled at, and had gotten above average reviews in his time served so far.

When the economic downturn struck, his job was safe, but the company relocated to a new building, and Greg was moved from his office to one of many, many cubicles in a wide open space, along with dozens of other employees.  His title, duties and salary remained the same.

Greg found it hard to concentrate on getting his work done each day, and ended up either coming in early or staying very late – or both.  He hadn’t shared with his supervisor that he had ADHD, and all of the activity, noise, etc., made it incredibly difficult for him to focus and accomplish his work.  He didn’t even tell her that he took medication.

When he contacted me, I did mention to him that his condition was legally protected, and that he should be able to request reasonable accommodations, which may even get him an office back, considering his good track record before, and excellent reviews.

Greg seemed doubtful of this.  Apparently, there had been a previous employee who had a different condition and requested other accommodations a couple of years ago.  Greg witnessed his boss begrudgingly comply . . . and make snide comments about him at nearly every opportunity.  Although Greg didn’t feel that this person was the best employee at the company, he felt certain that his supervisor attributed a great deal more fault to him than he deserved, due to the special accommodations requested.

Greg finally decided to Forget It! and although he preferred to work more in his niche that he was most skilled at, he ended up interviewing more at smaller companies that tended to have an office assigned to the positions he was applying for, rather than a cubicle.  He made a point to include in his interview questions, “Can I have a tour of the building?” which is less overbearing than “I’d like to see my workspace,” yet accomplishes the same goal.

This did mean that Greg had to end up working on a variety of assignments, instead of his favorite all of the time, but he found he was better able to focus on all of them when he could have more control over his own workspace, so the tradeoff was worth it to him.

Hilda* found herself in the opposite position, ironically.  She had left her job with an organization where very nearly everyone worked in cubicles in an open space, except the Director and Assistant Director.  Her previous company had a cafeteria, and everyone worked together and ate together and there was quite a bit of socializing all day long.

Hilda was glad to have gotten a promotion to this new company, but the management style – and building structure and location – was different.  She now had her own office, and it was at the end of a hallway.  Hilda is a shy person, and not the type to approach people if they don’t speak to her first.

There was no cafeteria in the building, so people either brought their lunch or grouped in cars and went out together.  Hilda was too shy to invite someone, and since she was at the end of the hall, others didn’t see her or think to invite her along.  She was beginning to miss her cubicle, and feeling very isolated.

I worked with Hilda on several simpler things she could do to inject herself more into the fray, such as adding some personal conversation into the work-related interactions that she was already having with various staff members, so that they would see her as a social being as well.

In addition to visiting people in person at least once a day, instead of always using email or the phone, I suggested that Hilda try to arrive at all staff meetings 5 – 10 minutes early, because a good deal of important networking often takes place among people who chit chat prior to such gatherings.

Another suggestion I made was for Hilda to offer a very compelling reason for people to make the trip down the hall to stop by her office and visit: a candy bowl.  Although a couple of people in her office would occasionally put out candy on their desk during some holidays such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day or Easter, I suggested that she keep one out that was permanently stocked with very popular candies – of better quality than anyone else’s.  This would automatically declare, in a very subtle form, that Hilda’s office is the place to go for an afternoon snack.

Of course, Hilda would have to work on her conversational skills as well; otherwise, people would simply take a candy and leave.

Hilda took my advice, and several weeks later, was happy to report that this Fix It! had worked out wonderfully!  She now had people to eat lunch with and didn’t feel nearly as isolated as when she started the job.  Different people stopped by to speak with her on a daily basis, and a couple of months later, she was also socializing with some of them after work hours at times, too.

In both cases, Greg and Hilda weren’t unhappy with their actual duties, which they each performed quite well, but the circumstances of their work environments led them to consider leaving their jobs  – and neither of them felt comfortable bringing up the specifics with their supervisors.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts

Barney* and Courtney* deal with micro-managers

Irene* and Jennifer* have constant office stressors

Leslie* and Kirk* face different interview challenges

Fix It Or Forget It?

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Back in the 70’s, women entered the workplace at a cost.  They didn’t dare acknowledge that they had spouses, children or any personal life, period.  Today, many companies “permit” a personal life, but has the price simply been adjusted to current times?

Thankfully, legislation has been passed so that various accommodations can be made to allow for personal circumstances, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, Maternity and Paternity Leave, and so on.  It’s also now illegal for an employer to ask questions regarding one’s age, marital, parental, pregnancy or other medical status during a job interview.  This wasn’t always the case.

This doesn’t mean that discrimination regarding such factors has been eliminated, however. Many instances can be seen as having gone underground or simply operating at a more covert, understated level.

Some employers now take various personal circumstances of their employees into account and/or allow employees to telecommute if their positions don’t require a constant office presence.  They may also offer flexible time to parents to attend their children’s various school functions, or make some other physical or medical accommodations as well.

Too often, however, the implication from the employer ends up being, “Do you know how lucky you are to be here?”  Regardless of the quality of the employee’s performance – or amount of hours worked – feedback can create an environment that makes employees feel that they have essentially opted out of a career if they choose to pursue anything that gives them personal pleasure or medical relief.

Omar* discovered soon after starting a new job that he needed surgery, and would be out of the office for at least a month afterward.  He hated to begin on such terms, but there really was no other choice.  To make matters worse, his six month probationary period wasn’t done, and he hadn’t yet accumulated enough vacation days to cover his absence – or to earn medical leave.  Technically, he was required to take a month off without pay, which would be financially devastating.

He was pleased to discover that his new CEO was willing to let him earn a negative balance of sick leave instead, and pay him his salary while he was out, and felt that this was generous.  Omar was determined to return earlier than the estimated month and begin immediately making up the time.

Although he did need the full month’s recovery after all, Omar began working diligently to make up the time.  The CEO decided that merely “additional hours” weren’t enough to make up the balance, but segments of additional four hour time blocks would be allowed as payback.  This meant that Omar either had to work twelve hour days or weekends – which he did . . . for nearly a year, and paid it all back.

Later, at a staff retreat, when each person was encouraged to share what accomplishment they were most proud of, Omar was shocked when his director cited “enduring” his absence, and realized that, apparently, he would never be able to compensate in the eyes of management.

Phyllis* enjoyed coaching a team, and her director allowed her to leave a couple of hours early during the season she was coaching. In her marketing position, she often managed events during evenings and weekends, and there was no question that she did her job and worked at least as many hours as any other staff member each week.

After a couple of years of successfully managing her events and other duties in her position, however, she brought up the topics of her title, salary, etc. during her annual review.  Phyllis felt that further recognition and compensation was due, given her excellent track record.

Her director’s response began with implying that she should be grateful for the perks she enjoyed – such as being allowed to have a schedule that accommodates her coaching – and suggested that she would never get such an arrangement any place else.

Phyllis resented his changing the subject from her performance and the implied blackmail of her losing something important to her, and returned to the topic at hand, reminding him how long it had been since she had gotten a raise or promotion, repeating details of her accomplishments.

Her director then informed her that the budget wouldn’t allow for increases at the current time . . . unless she could bring him a competing job offer!  Then, he told her, he would have grounds to offer her a salary increase in order to keep her on board.

“I was so stunned,” Phyllis told me, “I couldn’t believe it!  Why would a company encourage workers to look elsewhere?  And why would I then accept their minor increase if I have another, better offer?!”

Events turned quickly after that, and the team that Phyllis volunteered for was losing its coach, who was relocating.  The departing coach was happy to recommend Phyllis for the position.  She was able to Fix It! by leaving the environment that tried to hold her hostage and follow her passion instead.

Roxanne* was a single mom without a college degree who got hired with an organization that let her use her sick days when her child was sick, and was pretty liberal about her time off for school events.  She felt lucky to have gotten the position.

After a couple of years of successful performance with the company, a position in Roxanne’s department opened up one level higher.  She was very qualified for the job, since she had worked with the outgoing staff member on various projects and was already familiar with the company, its mission, etc.

She was taken aback at the department head’s response when she mentioned her intention of applying for the position: “Oh, you wouldn’t want that job,” he told her.  When she pressed him for the reasons why not, he went on to explain: “You need to decide what you want, what your career goals are.”

“I took that to mean that I should decide between my job and my child,” Roxanne said, “And that even if I did apply, he had no intention of hiring me!”

Roxanne decided to Forget It! with regard to applying for the position . . . and ended up providing most of the training for the person that was hired in the position above hers.

“Although the situation makes me angry,” she says, “This is what I need to do for my circumstances at this time.”

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share? Send it to me, and it might help others. Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

___________________________________________________________________________________
Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
— Rita Mae Brown

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