Saturday, August 17, 2019

Doing the right thing

I heard an interesting story recently. A new employee was involved in a pretty bad accident; it was the kind of accident that will have him on disability for a few months at least. His company doesn't offer insurance until after 90-days of employment (an archaic practice in 2019, especially in Nashville where there's statistically near-full employment). He was on day 88, meaning he had no health insurance. Since he was in an automobile accident, hopefully that will cover the medical costs. But that's far from certain.

His company fudged and said he as on day 90 before the accident.

There are a few things to unpack here. First, to even consider that was amazing. Without getting into details, his company is the sort that burns through people quickly (which is how they justify the 90-day thing, though I argue that 90-day wait period is probably a contributing factor to people leaving). The company is very profit driven.

Second, it's not easy to accomplish this sort of thing; and it's probably questionably ethical or legal. All the more reason it's amazing they did it.

Finally, to do this for an employee that you're going to turn around and lose for a few months is even more incredible.

The moral of the story is that the right thing is rarely easy, and you can almost always come up with a lot of reasons to not do it.

That doesn't change that "the right thing" is the right thing to do. Always.

"But what if there are multiple right things?" you might ask. In this case, the right thing for the employee was probably not the right thing for the company, at least in the short term. That company's reputation with the insurance company could be damaged if the insurance company presses the issue; actuaries don't like risk that's suddenly injected into the world. Paying to cover someone who is no longer a viable employee is risk. Lying to do so is a greater risk.

I believe, though, that when faced with the decision, doing the right thing for an individual is always going to be better than doing the right thing for the company. Companies are made of individuals. Lots of them. And at any time, each individual in a company could be faced with a situation that pits their needs up against the companies. I've seen this many times; a friend once stepped away from management because he had to fire a team member who accumulated too many "points" by being tardy too often (she took her mother to dialysis, and sometimes it ran long). I've witnessed managers do the right thing for themselves disguised as the right thing for a company. In almost three decades, I've seen a lot of times companies made decisions that were good for the company rather than the individual.

As you go about your days, though, ask yourself this: would you rather the company make the right decision for the company - and fire you - or the right decision for you personally?

And then use that in your encounters with others.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Mental illness isn't mental deficiency

This past week, Robin Lehner, a hockey player, gave a speech about his struggles with addiction and mental illness:

Over the years I've started - and stopped - many book or essay projects on this notion. I've experienced the unintentional - and generally well-meaning - bias towards someone with depression. You see it for all illnesses. My father, for example, was so incredibly over-protective of my mother that it made her life miserable. Coworkers who have a chronic illness are treated with pity. An admission of depression leads to a strong desire - maybe even a need, for some - to protect the person.

When you tell someone that they're really hurting instead of helping, it can damage or destroy relationships.

So what do you do if you manage someone with depression? Ask yourself what you would do if that person had cancer instead. If your reaction isn't more or less the same, at least in its framework, then you're probably on the wrong track. Someone with a mental illness doesn't want special treatment; they don't want your comfort. That can actually make it worse. Like any human being, they want to be listened to and to believe their opinions are valued.

No need for kid gloves.

But when days are bad, don't threaten to fire them, do show them your exasperation, allow them to work from home if that's what's needed. That's what you'd do for the person with cancer, right? You'd understand that some days the treatments are harder than others. They might need to take time during the day to get that treatment, and it might hit them harder one day versus another. That's how depression works, too. You don't need to be afraid of them, or trust them less than you did before you found out. And for God's sake don't talk about so-and-so as being crazy or insane; would you use similar language for someone with cancer? Of course not.

Take my advice on this.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Father's Day

I never fully appreciated in my life how much my dad taught me about the little things. He tried not to complain too much; it came out, of course, because he's a human being and human beings have emotions and concerns and get really frustrated with life. I was unhappy he didn't teach me all I wanted to know about cars and construction and things like that. What I didn't really get, at least until I was older, is how much he taught me about being an adult.

Being a parent is difficult. There's no end to the anxiety and fear that uncomfortably mingles in with happiness and excitement, often at the same time in ever-changing proportions. My father had to deal with a lot, from his own PTSD that you weren't supposed to admit to having in his generation to a house burning down that led to some financial decisions that had had ripple effects even to the present day.

Those are the things life deals us. Life is a one way street in a thick fog. You might have some idea what's coming up, but all we can do is try to be prepared for it. Good things happen. Bad things happen. Weird things. And we make those choices as best we can, and if it was the wrong thing, well, you can't go back and fix it. The decision was made.

I hope I have lived up to my dad's example. I hope in twenty-odd years my own son looks back on the effort I made and believes I admirably held up my end of things.

Happy Father's Day to the dads out there who work and stress and struggle, who face their fears and loves with equal passion.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

On the bicycle

On Saturday I did a long-ish bike ride out to a rural restaurant my wife had been wanting to go to: Pinewood Store and Kitchen. It's a place that prides itself on buying local and cooking in as healthy a way as they can; really, there's only so much you can do with a hamburger.

For the most part the roads had only a foot-wide shoulder, if that. I tried to choose roads with little traffic, but couldn't always.

A coworker and I were talking about cycling, and he said he would be too scared to ride with cars so close. I've thought on why I don't mind and have a couple of thoughts.

First, I trust my fellow humans to not do stupid stuff. Sure, they might not always be as safe as I'd like, but the majority of scary experiences I've had on a bicycle were at the hands of other cyclists (though the car experiences were far more dangerous). Nobody actually wants to hit another human with their car. Usually. Twice I've known for a fact the person in the car was not actively trying to not hit me. And once I've been hit (though it was a side-swipe, and I crashed into soft grass. I tried to chase the guy down). But, in general, people are fundamentally decent.

Second, stressful sports help me get rid of my work stress. I ride my bike and sort through all of the things going on in my head. I push myself hard when I get to something that really irritates me. On short rides I've actually finished the ride more stressed than when I began; but that's rare, honestly. Usually I talk myself through the problems I have and even if it's just an hour of riding I'm better off than when I began.

What's the lesson here?

Find your outlet. Stress is something that exists. You won't get away form it, no matter how rich you are or how stable your situation. It's a fact of life. That little prehistoric part of our brains was built in reaction to stress. We are the product of hardship. Some people will create hardship in order to have something to react to; don't do that. It's a dick move. Seriously. But don't shy away from it, either. And find that way to burn off that stress energy.