Tuesday, March 3, 2009

You can't fix dumb

A phrase my Mother would use often with reference to people and their decisions.

Yesterday brought Washington, DC its first major snow event of the season. Those who are not familiar with the DC snow mentality find it hysterical and baffling. First, the meteorologist makes a comment about the possibility of snow and the town is on alert and talking about nothing but the weather. Second, the snow event is moved to a warning and there will be accumulations. The town hits the stores for toilet paper, milk/alcohol and canned food, because if we are hit with the “big one” the stores on every corner will be closed for months. Third, it starts to snow and employees start the ritual calling of the company’s weather line hoping to hear the news “we’re closed”. They wait for school closings and pray the federal Government closes because if they do, it is an automatic closing for their company. Fourth, employees get up at 5:00 am to look out and see hopefully see 12” of snow. Then they turn on the TV to find only certain schools close and only a 2 hour delay. DARN!!

What do you do now? Well, yesterday many DC area employees decided to take a vacation day, some called in and others just “forgot” due to the horrible roads and conditions at 8:00 am. Many administrators, office managers and coordinators showed up yesterday to find 80% of their staff missing. By 10:00 am all main roads were clear, the sun was out, the sidewalks were shoveled and all public transportation was on time. So the 2 hour delay was perfect to allow employees to arrive by 11:00 am safely as all employers expected. But what happened?

Employees stayed home, went sledding with their kids, went out shopping and ran errands. By 11:30 am yesterday I had many angry and frustrated employers on the phone venting and asking for temps. It is great for us, but very BAD for you employees. Why? You ask, let me tell you. There is no excuse for you not to be at work unless you are stranded out in the country with a dead battery and no phone. You should have a backup plan in place if your children’s schools are closed that does not inconvenience an employer. You should have been able to shovel your car out with the delayed start to drive slower and after to get to work. You had time to catch a bus and take Metro to work; there was no excuse for an employee without children to not be at work except you wanted a day off.

DUMB! You are crazy? Well, many employees were and it will cost them in the long run. Managers will remember who took advantage of the situation and showed no loyalty. When it comes to the next round of layoffs or if a promotion is between 2 staff members and one took yesterday off. The other will get the promotion. I heard story after story yesterday about the behavior of employees. My favorite was the employee who didn’t call in and when the manager called their home, they got the answering machine and chose not to leave a message. About 10 minutes later, the employee emailed the manager with this in the subject line: You called? What do you need? Needless to say the manager forwarded it to the HR department and let them handle it. I think that employee is wishing they had gone to work yesterday.

On the bright side, all those dedicated, hard working and loyal employees that showed up for work yesterday and pitched in to pick up the workload became Rock Stars and moved to the employee of the month in owners, partners, and managers’ eyes. These will be the people who are safe from RIFs, get better raises and bonuses and promote faster in a firm. It is amazing how one single event can affect people so differently.

This is the appropriate response to snow or any other event. You go to work unless the Federal Government is closed but always call in and leave a message, check with your manager to see if you can work from home but don’t just, not call into work. Managers do worry about their staff. The night before you make sure you have a plan for your children if school is closed, gas up your car, make sure buses are running on schedule, get your shovel and snow scraper out to use and lay out warm clothes, boots and gloves. In the morning you check the roads, listen to the TV and call any weather lines to tell you what is going on. If your firm is 2 hours late then you get out and shovel, dress warmly and head to work. If you truly cannot get out of your home after all that work, then you call your manager, explain the situation and say that you will try it again in an hour, but you can never, just not show up. The effort will be recognized and appreciated.

Today an offer came out on a candidate who braved the weather to make a 10 am second interview yesterday while her two competitors canceled. She was a strong second but they all wanted another candidate who had more experience. After meeting her again and talking after she left, they felt that if she could come in during the weather that she was more interested in the firm and would go above and beyond in the position. They never rescheduled the other two. The other two are still unemployed.

You can't fix dumb.