Balancing Compassion for Employees and Operational Constraints

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Balancing Compassion for Employees and Operational Constraints How should managers show support for their employees in a values-based public service? A range of values may be relevant – the question is how to balance the values. B. manages a small work unit. One employee, N., often arrives late and disappears for lengthy stretches of time. Friendly approaches to fix the problem have not worked. N. happens to be a single mother. She feels that she's doing her job, and occasionally gets permission to take some work home to make up required hours of work. At the same time, another employee, S., is risking his physical and mental health by taking on additional work. B. fears that S. may soon require extended sick leave. What are the ethical issues? If you were B., the manager, what would you do about N., who arrives late, and about S., who takes on extra work? This generic case is hypothetical. It has been produced for discussion purposes only, and does not refer to a particular instance of unethical conduct. THREE PERSPECTIVES ON THE DILEMMA Approach 1: People Values – Compassion and Respect Questions of human resources are receiving increasing attention in the private sector, and government is following suit (for example, La Relève and subsequent initiatives). Government must recognize the importance of the balance between work life and home life if it wants to be an exemplary workplace (note that according to the recent public service survey, workload is a serious issue). Work teams need to be treated fairly but work needs to get done. The two different employees in this case are reflections of the work life versus home life balance. Possible solutions for N., the single mother. She could work at home, or go on a compressed work week or variable schedule. The manager B. must have a conversation with N. about family needs and possible solutions. Perhaps N. needs technical support such as computers or computer software. Adjustments in the office may also have to be made to support N. On the other hand, N.'s problem may be illness or school related. Arranging for a substitute to cover for N. during the time of the problem might help, as might the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Possible solutions for S. who is working too hard. The manager B. should have a conversation with S. about taking on extra work and showing signs of stress. Is S.'s behaviour a question of an organizational culture that says that taking on extra work is a way to get ahead?

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