Taking my usual journey into town (London) I sat next to an individual who was quite obviously distressed. Over the phone and despite knowing he was on a train, his employer gave him the news that he had to make a choice there and then about a relocation package.
It transpired later that the company had just merged with another and he was offered several jobs, all of which were a fair way from his home, meaning that he needed to relocate his family. As he has two teenage children aged 15 and 17, he felt that he would have to decline all such offers in order to prioritise the needs of his children.
This was a dreadful conversation to overhear and I apologise for not tuning out. But it was a distressing demonstration of how not to deal with a situation in the right way; firstly that the HR department chose to talk to him on a train with no privacy and, secondly, that it insisted that he made a decision there and then. I and another passenger agreed after he’d left the train that the company’s behavior was totally unacceptable. What made the situation considerably worse was that, from his responses and his body language, it was clear that this individual was made to feel inadequate for choosing to put his family needs first.
In reading Roger Steare’s book, Ethicability: How to Decide What’s Right and Find the Courage to Do it, I realised that we can lose some basis caring fundamentals in the way we deal with situations. What would have been the right thing to do in this situation?
I put myself in the train passenger’s shoes and immediately felt his distress and then put myself in the employer’s shoes. I rummaged around to find a rational justification for this behavior, but couldn’t find an element where the employer would be in the right. The lack of care in dealing with this situation would put me off ever working for the firm. Lucky for them I didn’t find out who they were.
But it did illustrate that some businesses need to change the way they see their employees, not as a commodity they can deploy wherever they like but a human resource that needs to be valued and nurtured in order to be able to thrive in the home and then at work. A happy family man or woman is often a happy worker, so surely the potential for a better system should be reviewed. Perhaps said company needs a workshop with Roger Steare!
I’m on my way home now to appreciate the times that my husband and I put our boys first. A good lesson to be reminded of!