Rampant capitalism has resulted in the diminished rights of workers. The general greed of big bosses has led to many employees being treated like garbage. They're expected to work long hours for little pay and make their job a priority over everything else in their lives, including their families. Restrictive vacation and sick day policies have become standard in the U.S.
But all this does is create stress, decrease productivity, and make people resent their employers. This is one story about a CEO who understands that his employees are people with full lives and concerns other than their work to attend to, not just cogs in a money-making machine. And this story is also proof that when you give your employees leeway to take care of themselves out of work, they turn around and bring their best stuff to the job at hand.
Bernie Reifkind is the CEO at Premier Search, Inc. in Los Angeles, a recruitment firm in the health care sector. He recently shared a post on his Linkedin about an incident with an overwhelmed employee. He explains that early one morning, around 7:45 a.m., he saw an employee "sobbing at her desk."
He asked what was wrong, and she told him that her child was sick and that she had been up all night caring for them. She was exhausted and had bags under her eyes. "So what are you doing here at the office?" Bernie asked her.
She explained that she had used all her sicks days and "could not afford to miss another day." We've all been in that position, weighing whether we should stay home or use a sick day, risking running out and having to work through illnesses in the future. Being afforded limited sick days is a horrible (but standard!) policy that only hurts employees.
Not only do people end up going to work sick, they risk getting others sick... which could lead to more people taking sick days and ultimately to the company losing money. If people are sick or have sick family members, they should be able to take the day. Period.
Bernie's response to this tired, stressed mom is admirable. "I sent her home and promised that she would get paid," he wrote. "In addition, I wrote her a check on the spot for extra money to alleviate her immediate financial worry. She was incredibly grateful. To this day, she is my best employee not just because of her talent but her loyalty."
Yeah! When you treat people with respect and compassion, when you treat people like actual human beings, they're more likely to want to put in the effort to help your company succeed. What a concept, right?!
Bernie continued, "Employers, please understand that most people are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Burning the candle at both ends. Trying to make ends meet. Kids, homework, spouses, significant others, elder parents, mortgage payments, auto repairs, etc. The relentlessness of life.
"People are worried about their jobs. PLEASE reassure your hard working employees that their jobs are secure, whenever possible. Loyalty goes both ways." That last sentence is so true.
More than anything these days, employers seem to want employees who are loyal to them to a fault, who will drop everything for a work emergency, who will consider themselves part of the company "family," who will want to spend as much time at work as humanly possible.
Even though that's a toxic mode of operation (if someone does their job well, who cares how much they care about it?!), it has become the norm. The least CEOs and executives can do is return their expectation of loyalty by being loyal to their employees as well.
Here's hoping that this story resonates with bosses everywhere and that people like Bernie start to recognize that many modern workplace policies we've been conditioned to accept over the years are actually harmful to real people, not to mention ultimately bad for business.