Funeral leave policies also struggle to address unique situations. Now that the typical family is spread out across the country, the usual three days allotted may be just enough for the drive there. And the restrictive list of who qualifies as an eligible family member won’t help you when that deceased family member was your same-age cousin who lived with you for the first eighteen years of your life. If you don’t want to spend the rest of your life feeling guilty about missing the funeral of someone who was like a sister to you, you’ll have to use vacation time to attend the funeral, provided you happened to have saved a few days for just such an occasion.
No matter how you slice it, accommodating all the needs of diverse employees in leave programs is a tough proposition. That’s why some businesses have let go of a little bit of patriarchy and tried transferring to employees decisions about their time off. Here are two examples. 1) With PTO, or paid time off programs, vacation, sick, and other leave are lumped together for employees to use as they see fit. Nobody asks for a doctor’s slip or reason for the leave, and bosses don’t insist on employees taking full vacations “for their own good.”
2) One company had a rather unique approach for managing time to cut down on the number of people playing hooky. The policy was simple: show up for work and get paid, or stay home and don’t. Nobody was going to babysit you and decide when you should be out taking care of family and personal needs. The program caused absenteeism to drop like a rock, but like the first example, it demanded employees schedule time off in advance and an “okay” from the boss who still assumed the accountability it was hoped would be transferred to employees.
Now for a leap a little further out of the box. Some time ago, I shared my thoughts about a Best Buy experiment allowing employees to work wherever and whenever they choose. How do they do it? Best Buy is only concerned with results, not controlling behavior on or off the job. Since then, a few companies have tried to follow suit. Bluewolf, an IT consulting firm, for example, is reported to have no vacation policy whatsoever—zilch, nil, nada. Workers are accountable for fulfilling commitments, not time. It’s up to the individual to determine when, and how much, time off he or she needs.
And while it appears that there are limits to this philosophy as with people who need to be where the customers are (Best Buy store workers don’t have the same policy as corporate managers and staff), still, something new is occurring in these organizations. It’s about control and accountability. These businesses are shifting it to the individual through policies, among other things.
Think about it. Managers—whose historic roles have been about controlling people and processes, and holding others’ accountable for tasks—are being asked to facilitate goal setting and achievement. And employees in these programs are experiencing something new as well—adult relationships and personal responsibility.
No longer do these employees receive paycheck stubs with amounts of earned and used time off. Lengthy policy descriptions have disappeared from handbooks. And staff groups can let go of policing in favor of facilitating problem solving and other more value adding functions.
But with freedom comes risk—risk of failing. Managers shouldered it in the past. Now, individuals responsible for managing their own time are also accountable for results. But what if they fail? Doesn’t it reflect poorly on managers? Not when control and accountability reside with the individual.
Why would individuals be interested in the stress of responsibility with its accompanying ulcers and hair loss? Isn’t this why bosses get paid the big bucks? Maybe it’s the freedom and self-determination that drives employees to want the experience. Time will tell if the practice continues, or spreads, but one thing’s for certain: It’s not about time.
Trying it on for fit: Review your company handbook and pick out all of the policies designed to control employee use of time. Consider how the policies might change, or be eliminated, if core employee outputs were clear and measurable, and control and accountability shifted to core employees. Answer the following for you and your organization:
- How would such a change alter the duties of supervisors?
- How would it change the relationship with core employees?
- What would supervisors and senior leaders have to give up in order to make it work?
- What would core employees have to give up to succeed?
- What concerns prevent your organization from operating this way?
- What results could be possible by shifting control and accountability to core employees?
Send an email and let me know what you learn from your experiences. I would love to hear from you!