When to say no?

[font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 06-29-05 AT 10:16AM (CST)[/font][br][br]Today our shipping supervisor advised us that one of her newer truck loaders was sick and in the lunchroom and didn't have a ride home. He lives about 20 minutes from here. Our shipping supervisor likes to get pretty involved in her employee's lives, but unfortunately it backfires on her (she loans someone money, but he still has to borrow again, and again and again, someone needs a ride to work so she arranges for someone to pick them up, but they never seem to be able to get reliable transportation). So, she's telling me this probably in the hopes that me or one of my assistants will take pity and drive the guy home. He rides with one of our other employees. You know, I'm thinking about this guy and he feels miserable and just wants to go home. Would he appreciate a ride? Probably. Am I a big meanie and do I think that in absolutely no situation am I going to help an employee out? No. But, unfortunately I am going to be out of the office tomorrow, and all next week. Today I have to leave for a work comp hearing. I don't have the luxury of time in order to take the employee home. At what point is it ok to be nice and at what point does being nice get you taken advantage of? I don't want to take one employee home that needs a ride and have everyone else that needs a ride home expect it too. It's hard to know when it's time to do the right thing and when you have to put your foot down and make the employees accountable for their situation. Sigh.


  • 26 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • I'm not sure you will like my answer. Deciding whether to give someone a ride home should be judged on a case by case basis. Giving this poor guy a ride home is not being "nice". Getting him home should be your primary concern. It's called compassion.

    If putting your foot down means he spends the entire day in the lunchroom infecting other employees, then that's called asinine.

    How's about a taxi?
  • A taxi? Fine. But, only if he pays for it.

    Human Resources is not Social Services. Let the supervisor take him home if she wants to continue being everybody's doormat. I agree that this is not about compassion. It is about personal accountability.
  • Ok, El Don, I'll bite. Whose personal accountability? The Sups? The sicky? Why not just send him into the parking lot and tell him to wait there for his ride to take him home at the end of the shift? Or, tell him he has a problem and you cannot let his problem become your problem? Or better yet, why not make up a sign with his destination and have him hitch hike?

    Social Services? Really!
  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 06-29-05 AT 10:22AM (CST)[/font][br][br]Gollygeewhiz Ritaanz! We haven't stated disagreement in almost five years. But, I'm holding fast on this one. If the guy meets my personal test of severe illness or is visibly bleeding, he will be responded to and assisted in getting home. But, from reading the original post, it would seem to me that what we really have here is a situation of 'Do I enable the enabler?' The super gets people rides to work when they can't get their own, gets them home after work when they can't manage their own responsibility to do that, gives them money when they cannot manage their own, and probably keeps a pack of cigarettes in her desk for those who run out or bum.
  • Oh my gaud! Five years is a long time.

    How the hell can you compare people who "can't manage their own responsibility" to a sick chap.

    By the posters own admission, "You know, I'm thinking about this guy and he feels miserable and just wants to go home. Would he appreciate a ride? Probably." the guys is sick not just looking for a FREE ride home.

    How the supervisor treats or ministers to her flock has nothing to do with this guys need for a ride home.

    Good Grief Gerty, get with the program!
  • we try to encourage carpooling to decrease traffic and parking issues...but sadly, this is one of the downsides.

    Not that I think HR should be "social services" but it does have a role to play in the well being of individual employees and the workforce as a whole. This isn't about handouts or not taking responsibility for one's situation. Illness isn't somthing that can be scheduled (no matter HOW hard I try).

  • I'm guessing that in the majority of Kansas, taxi service is quite limited, but I see you're in KC so never mind. However, if he has a heck of a commute, it could be quite costly.

    Totally different angle - employee giving an ill employee a ride home iin the middle of the day. Driver could be hourly and they could be punched out, but if it's one of your assistants who was instructed to give the person a ride home, it becomes questionable. Further complicates things if they're the exempt supervisor. They get in an accident. What's the company's liability?

    I don't know the answer to that question, but I would be concerned.
  • Company liability... Let's turn the table a bit. You are ill. Your car is parked in the parking lot. You are not capable of driving home. There is no one at home to come and get you.

    I know, we tell you, "Sorry that you are not feeling well. But the company cannot accept any responsibility in getting you home safely because ....? Insurance? Probability of an accident? You might die on the way home?"

    Come on. This happens to each of us on any given day. In the real world you get the person home. Somehow. And life in HR goes on.
  • I agree with Ritaanz. Separate the situation of the supervisor enabling stuff that shouldn't be enabled and the sick employee - an event of today. If he missed his carpool and wanted a ride, then tell him sorry and suggest a taxi. He's sick so HR should take the initiative to get him home - and maybe the taxi is the way.
  • I agree it is difficult to know when to help, and when to hold people responsible. In general I believe that transportation is the employee's responsibility. If they can't arrange reliable transportation then they better get a job within walking (or bus) distance from their home. Where there's a will, there's a way.

    However, certain OCCASIONAL situations call for help, and this sounds like one of them. BUT, only if it is reasonable. If you don't have the luxury of time, then obviously you can't take this guy home. I would not talk to other employees about taking him home (unless this is a situation where everyone is pretty close friends.) If another employee offers, then ok. Otherwise, I would talk with him about a taxi (at his expense, or a LOAN from you at most), or anyone else HE might call to come get him.

    Worst case, he hangs in the break room till end of shift. Use lots of Lysol.
  • We would help get the EE home - in the Reno area, it would be 1/2 hour to 40 minute round trip.

    It's been a number of years since I lived in KC, but the commutes can be significant - if it is really a long ride, I would lean toward the taxi approach. I would not want to have staff out of the office for a long period. Plus, I think it is a bit presumptuous to put an hourly EE in the middle and make them clock out to take the sick EE home.
  • Doesn't sound like from your post that the supervisor specifically asked you (HR) to give the employee a ride, but more that you perceive she's hoping you will. I think I would have turned it back to the supervisor with something like, "Oh, poor guy! Were you planning on helping him out?" or "How does he plan on getting home if he needs to leave?" Let it be her choice and/or the employee's reponsibility to get home. If you (or someone else) were available and able and willing, then by all means, help out. If you're not, then don't feel obligated just because your role is HR.
  • Dchr, this an opportunity for HR to improve relationships with an employee and that increases HR value to the employees and the organization. The employee could say to another employee - I was sick as a dog, stuck in the cafeteria, no way home and dchr wouldn't give me the time of day, or, the employee could say to the other employer - yea, you can talk to dchr. Once I was sick as a dog, stuck in the cafeteria, no way home and dchr helped me out.
  • G3: I was waiting for that fuzzy, touchy-feely approach to come from you. The fact is HR NEVER, EVER runs out of 'opportunities' to convince employees that HR is at their disposal and is user friendly and that only increases their mentality of entitlement. It goes way far beyond the ordinary expectations we all have of our HR departments and our ability and desire as professionals to lend assistance and get engaged.

    Let me help you with your insurance enrollment for the 12th year in a row. Let me get that flat tire in the parking lot tended to so you don't come off the clock. Let me get you that eye appointment that you say you can't get. Let me get you home. Let me get you to work. Let me make a call for you about that utility cutoff. Let me not only take care of that 80 cents you say you lost in the machine but get your lunch as well. Let me give you credit for that hour you say you forget to clock. Let me give you your check a day early, against policy, since you say the water meter guy is cutting you off. Let me make this call for you to our 800 user-friendly number since you are afraid to.

    There is no fine line here, but, there does come a point in time when HR needs to quit enabling and educate employees on expectations and personal responsibility.

    We have the most user-friendly systems in the world and employees are slowly learning how easy they are and that HR cannot possibly serve as each of their personal assistants and clerks forever ad infinitum.
  • Don, Honey: I am in total agreement on your response to G3. Part of the HR job is educating employees to be self-sufficient and knowledgeable of policies, procedures and benefits.

    However, the post was about taking a sick employee home because he had no car. Not about pampering and coddling an employee that felt he was entitled to be driven home. Why the HR person that posted this felt that THEY had to take him home escapes me. All THEY had to do was ensure the employee got there. A 20 minute cab ride would not be unreasonable nor would it break the bank.
  • Gilliam3: I fail to see your point as it relates to the original post. The supervisor reported a sick employee who car pooled; limiting the employee's ability to pick up his lunch box and go home. Certainly, the employer may try to assist with transportation, but it does not necessarily fall on the HR person to be that person, just because they are HR. Nor does it mean that because they have other responsbilities that prohibit providing support in their time of need in this circumstance that they're "not giving them the time of day" or damaging the employer/employee relationship. In the original post, the poster was questioning boundary issues. Nowhere in my post do I suggest that someone stuck with no way home is SOL; but simply that if HR was not available, it was ok to put the burden back on the supervisor and the employee. Simply put, "HR" does not equate to "responsible" for every personal crisis that befalls an employee. If we can help, we should. If we cannot, then its ok to let it go. As I stated, if willing and able and not burdened with other responsibilities that take priority, then by all means offer the chap a ride. If not available, then don't beat yourself up over it. We cannot be all things to all people at all times and there do have to be some boundaries or employees and their "needs" will suck you dry and burn you out.
  • "There is no fine line here, but, there does come a point in time when HR needs to quit enabling and educate employees on expectations and personal responsibility." - LivindonSouth

    Perfectly stated. You cannot draw a line and say that you will never help an employee. There's a difference in 'enabling' and in 'helping.' One ride home for a rare occassion may be helping. Constant rides home is 'enabling.' I learned from a wise person that one cannot educate people. You can try and you can frustrate yourself, but you cannot change them. You can only remove yourself from the picture. The 'user' will find someone else who enables them to dodge their own responsibility. Would I have given the person a ride home? Probably not. I may have found a place for them to clock out and be humanely quarantined until they could find a ride. If not, another sympathetic employee could give him a ride home at the end of the day.

  • Well Put!

    Any advice when the "user" is a relative?
  • Yes. I have much experience with it. Your relative will drain you much quicker than an acquaintance. It's even more important to help the person learn to help himself. Find an alternative for the 'favor' they're asking. They'll find every alibi in the world as to why your alternative plan won't do. You can hug them. You can say 'I love you.' But if it's not harming them, you have to say 'no.' They will learn to love you and respect you and they may even learn how to do something for themselves.

    That's it! I'm starting to sound like Abigail VanBuren!
  • I understand that good PR can go a long way toward positive feelings about HR's role in the company. So what? Seriously, no sarcasm intended, why should I care?

    When I was interviewing for this job, my (then prospective) boss asked me how I would handle negative feelings about him hiring another person (me)from XYZ Company across town (a bunch of us here used to work there together and some people in the plant had made comments about XYZ is taking over). I told him I don't care -- people will say what they want, and I quit running for Homecoming Queen a number of years ago. But if I come in here every day and try to do my job right, with integrity and honesty, and treat people fairly and with respect, they'll come around. If they don't then there is nothing I can do (good PR included) to make them respect me.

    I also tell people (when dealing with something touchy or something they are upset about) they may not always like what I have to say but I will always tell them the truth.

    So, PR for what actual purpose? Good HR departments who act the way I describe above (and I really try to every day) don't NEED good PR.

    Also, why should I or one of my assistants get into a car alone with this person? Didn't someone on the post about BTK point out that you never really know who is going to turn out to be the serial rapist/murderer/whatever?
  • Wow! Now that's a stretch. Holy Toledo Batman, now HR does PR.

    We have evolved a sick employee into HR's pursuit of good PR and putting my assistant in imminent danger.

    I think it is time to stop kicking this dead horse.
  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 06-30-05 AT 10:50PM (CST)[/font][br][br]G3 is the one who introduced the concept that giving somebody a ride would be 'good PR' for HR. I too wonder where that comes from. Since when are we in the business of 'hoping' people will like us and 'hoping' employees appropriately recognize out efforts at 'good PR'. I agree with the prior post that if you do your job correctly, with fairness and consistency and your best attempts to educate and lead meet the needs of your internal customers (how about that buzz?), yada yada yada, the way employees will feel about your department and you will flow naturally.

    Give it a rest Ritaanz. You would give him a ride home. I would not. Some might. Others would not. Each opinion is valuable.

    One of our jobs is to 'stretch' possible scenarios to the limits to see what might develop. So, what might be a stretch to you, might not be to me. I would not want my wife giving some employee a ride anywhere. You and G3 crank up the old jeep and give him a ride. I won't.
  • Thank you everyone for your insight and opinions. I'm sure a lot of how any one person would have handled the situation depends on your company culture, company size and previous experience with employees. It's always easy to look back and say, "I wish I would/could have helped that employee." or "I went too far in helping that employee and I won't make that mistake again." It's just hard when you're in the moment, faced with work waiting for you, pending appointments and people buzzing around to know what the correct decision is for that particular instance. And, it's never any fun to get burned. I'm sure many of you have taken time to explain an attendance policy or leave policy to an employee and the importance of being on time and how we really appreciate you being here, as you are staring into apathetic eyes and the person is a no call, no show the very next day because they just don't care. But, that doesn't mean we treat the next employee with any less sincerity just because of that experience.

    I wanted to let everyone know how the situation was handled. My assistant has a gift when it comes to people skills and difficult situations. She pulled the employee into her office, called the bus company to get a schedule, gave him a couple bucks and sent him on his way on the bus. The bus system here is not very good so I'm sure it was an adventurous and long ride home.

  • One more if you don't mind since I wasn't in yesterday. I guess it was my lack of clarity which that led to the conversations about "enabling". I agree - if we did things for people who are perfectly capable of doing things for themselves, there wouldn't be enough time in the day to handle all the requests. The original post was about a sick guy who needed to go home. It is a perfectly good HR practice for the HR person to go to this guy and say "Hey, Joe, you look a little pale. Maybe you should be home in bed. Are you well enough to stick around for a couple of hours so that you can go home with Sam when he gets off shift, or would you like me to call a cab for you? That's all.
  • "Its a perfectly good HR practice for the HR person to go to this guy and say..."

    Its a perfectly good practice for anyone in the company, not just or exclusively HR.
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