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How To Turn Honest Employees Into Dishonest Ones

May 23, 2013

The email was entitled, “New Sick Leave Policy.”

Starting immediately we will be implementing a new sick leave policy. Employees will be allowed to take a maximum of three days per calendar year to care for sick family members. Employees may continue to use accrued sick time for themselves, the new policy only affects time spent caring for an immediate family member who may be sick.

Most people’s reaction was, “Someone in HR doesn’t have anything better to do than make up new rules.” However, violating the new leave policy carried very severe penalties. You could be written up, otherwise reprimanded or fired.

In reading this, you might think it’s not a GREAT policy, but it’s not too terrible is it?

Yes. This policy is designed to turn honest employees into dishonest employees.

I was a phone operator at WordPerfect. I didn’t have any pull with anyone, and WordPerfect had a nasty habit of punishing people for speaking out. However, my wife and I both worked there and we had two little kids at home. . .well, okay, they were in daycare, but they were home when we were home.

You might be wondering exactly how this policy would make you dishonest? It’s inconvenient, but why couldn’t you simply work around it. Did we have family in the area? Didn’t we have friends and neighbors who could help?

Yes, we had a great support structure; family, friends, even a strong church organization. But, that wouldn’t help.

Imagine this scenario: it’s late in the year and we’ve already used our three (six in our case since there were two of us working for the company) sick days for taking care of our kids. And any of you who’ve had young kids know that six sick days in a year is optimistic. So, it’s October and we wake up at 5:00am and one of the kids is throwing up.

We’re not up at 5:00am just because the kid is sick. We get up at this time every morning since we have to be at the daycare at 6:00am to be at work at 7:00am. So, what would YOU do? Call friends? At 5:00am? That would be a fun call.

“Yeah, this is Rodney. Listen, my kid is projectile vomiting this morning and I was wondering if you’d mind if I drop her by your house since daycare won’t take her and my company has this crazy ‘3 sick days for family’ policy?

So, would that be okay?

Hello?”

Call family? I suppose you could, but would you?

Nope. Every one of us would call into work and put a little rasp into our voice,

“Yeah, this is Rodney. I’m not feeling too good this morning. I don’t think I’m gonna make it.”

Congratulations, you’ve just implemented a company policy that

1) Forces employees to choose between family and their job
2) Turns honest employees into dishonest employees

I knew that suggesting this to management would probably get me a black mark for grumbling and would most likely never make it past my manager. SHE didn’t want to get a black mark from HER supervisor for grumbling after all.

Instead, I adopted a more covert strategy. I got four interoffice envelopes.
20130522-120847.jpg
I was so paranoid, that I didn’t even risk getting them from the mailroom in my own building since they would show the previous person they were addressed to. I went to the buildings where the programmers worked and got some of their envelopes. Then, I drafted a letter covering the above scenario and concerns. I signed it “Veritas Valebit” (Truth will Prevail.)

I then sent copies in my random interoffice mail envelopes to the President, Alan Ashton, the CEO, Bruce Bastian, the Executive Vice President Pete Peterson and the VP of HR, Claire Averett.

Ten days later we got another email titled, “Update to the Sick Leave Policy.”

“We have decided to rescind the recent changes to the sick leave policy. Employees may once again use sick leave to care for ill family members.”

Your employees probably like their jobs. Some of them hopefully love their jobs. But, they love their families even more. Don’t make them choose between the two. They’ll follow company rules rather than get fired, but they will lie to protect their families. Remember that the reason they are at work is so they can get money to care for their families.

And if you are going to give employees sick leave, don’t make people feel guilty for taking it.

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6 Comments
  1. Hi there, always i used to check blog posts here in the early hours in the daylight, for the reason that i enjoy to find
    out more and more.

    • That’s why I try to post at 7:00AM Mountain Time every day. I have noticed that when I travel, the 7:00AM follows me and turns into 5:00AM Mountain time when I’m posting from the East Coast.

      But, my goal is to have a new entry available when people check into work in the morning. Hopefully it helps start your day with a smile or a useful tidbit of knowledge.

      Thanks for the feedback.

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