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.

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