Granting Your Employees’ Ad Hoc Requests, or Not
When I think of employee requests, the ones that come to mind are “I need…to leave early, to have Friday off, have an earlier lunch break…because I have…a sick child, no child care, a medical appointment with my parent, a sick dog…” These requests can become overwhelming to a supervisor especially if granting one request means you fear you will be inundated by many more from other employees. My suggestion is to always begin with the end in mind. Take a few minutes and think through all of the possible endings and how you support the happy endings rather than the miserable ones.
Never forget that happy employees who feel valued are the most productive ones. Also accept that no matter how generous you are to employees, some people will always see your actions as not enough – the glass will always be half empty.
If there is something going on in your employee’s personal life that is distracting them, then it may be best if they are away from the workplace. If that is possible, make it happen and explain your valid business reason for granting that leave, as clearly as possible. Be generous when you can, but say no when the business’ interests must take precedence over theirs. Explain as clearly as you can. Empathize with them when you have to say no. Most people find it easier to accept when they understand why the answer is not what they wanted to hear. There are basically five choices of ways to respond when an employee asks for something that is not quite typical. Of course the first thing you are going to do is review their terms of employment or collective agreement to see what authority you do have to grant a request.
- Accommodating is putting their needs/wants before yours, and/or the business’. There are times to bend over backwards to accommodate the employee’s request. When it is easier or faster for you to accommodate, whenever possible, do it. Example: The employee wants Friday off on short notice. There is no downside or very little impact on the business and you give it to them – after you have taken the time to think it through.
- There are times when a compromise is the best solution. This may take a little more time to figure out but it can provide a partial win for both of you. They get part of what they want and you (and/or the business) get part of what you wanted. Example: The employee wants Friday off on short notice. After a discussion, you both agree that having Friday afternoon off is the best for both of you.
- There will be times when you will have to exert your authority and be directive. These are the times when it is impossible to grant the employee what they want. There is no use to discuss it any further. The answer is “NO”. Example:The employee wants Friday off on short notice. There is no way you can run the business without them on Friday. You cannot think of another solution for this, nor do you have the time to spend on this. The answer is no. This answer will not make you popular but this is business. It is the employee’s responsibility to make alternative arrangements for their family responsibilities. Their irresponsibility or lack of options in this area cannot be the reason you provide poor service or no service to your customers/clients or ask your other employees to do double duty. Again, this is not going to be a popular answer so make sure this is clearly communicated to your employees before the situation arises.
- Collaborating with your employee to find a solution can work well when you have lots of time for the conversation. Collaborating often results in a third solution – not yours, not mine but rather a totally new one. Needless to say, your decision to take the time and energy to collaborate will be based on the importance of the issue. Example: The employee wants Friday off on short notice. You just do not have any time to check with the other employee who already has Friday off to see if they can work. This employee will do that and accept their answer as the final one.
- Avoiding or ignoring your employee’s request is always an option, even if it is just for a period of time. Sometimes it is the best one as you may actually lose your temper when responding to the employee right away. That could make matters worse. Example: The employee wants Friday off on short notice. This is the third week in a row that this employee has asked. They have been told that they cannot have anytime off over the summer months as the business is short staffed already with scheduled vacations.
The valid business reason is your best friend in these situations. Decide what the valid business reason is for granting the request and the valid business reason for not granting the request. Make it a logical, objective, business decision, rather than one based on how the employee is going to be impacted. Weigh the pros and cons and grant it whenever you can. In most cases you will be rewarded time and time again with your employees’ loyalty, hard work and retention.