When Being a Manager Requires Compassion

in Feb 18, 2019

The retail automotive world demands a lot, including long hours, working holidays and little flexibility in schedule. Most dealerships require 1 or 2 “bells” per week, (working open to close) and don’t include many weekends off, as Saturday and Sunday are typically busy days, when consumers have time to shop for a vehicle.

A recent blog post on the AskTheManager blog tells a very interesting story about a manager that questioned their decision regarding an employee who asked if she could come in a couple hours late so she could attend her college graduation ceremony. The employer had a policy of granting requests based on seniority. The employee couldn’t find someone to cover for her so, according to the article, this is what the manager did:

“I told this team member that she could not start two hours late and that she would have to skip the ceremony. An hour later, she handed me her work ID and a list of all the times she had worked late/come in early/worked overtime for each and every one of her coworkers. Then she quit on the spot.”

The manager felt this action by the employee was unacceptable, stating:

“I’m a bit upset because she was my best employee by far. Her work was excellent, she never missed a day of work in the six years she worked here, and she was my go-to person for weekends and holidays.”

The manager also mentioned that, during the same time, they adjusted another employee’s end time because that employee had purchase concert tickets. The cost of those tickets was considered in making the decision to grant that employee time off.

The blog went on to paint a very interesting background about this employee who asked for a couple of hours to attend her graduation, and why it was so important to her. She had bounced from foster home to foster home as a child, and was even homeless at one point. Despite all this, she had risen above her past; was their best employee; covered for multiple employees when needed; and had not missed a day of work in six years. She was the “go-to” person at the company and still had somehow managed to attend night school and earn her college degree.

But sadly, because the manager was blinded by a rigid set of rules and considered that the cost of concert tickets trumped a graduation ceremony for someone who was the most loyal, faithful and trustworthy employee; that company ended up losing their best employee.

The saddest part is that this manager didn’t write in to ask whether they had done the right thing. But rather, they wanted advice on how to educate this ex-employee that it was unprofessional to quit with no notice. And that, because the manager cared, they wanted to ensure that this employee understood how this could affect her professional career.

Over 1,200 comments were left on this blog post – the vast majority of which support the employee.

Managers have the responsibility to be fair and human in their interactions. Sometimes, having compassion and being human trumps any rigid rules and cost calculations.

A good manager should also be a good leader, able to identify when the right thing to do is to bend the rules for an employee. People have lives outside of work. Yes, even car dealerships. The ability to understand other people’s feelings and to weigh the importance of a personnel-related decision, versus the impact it has on the business, is paramount to employee retention and happiness. Think about this employee that was denied 2 hours to attend her college graduation. She was incredibly engaged with the business, a hard worker and valued her position at the company. She was well worth a small bending of the rules in order to maintain her as a happy, industrious employee.

It is a real shame that the manager didn’t even realize that a wrong decision was made. But one thing is for sure, no matter what business you’re in, finding an employee with the qualities of this one that quit is rare — they should be treasured.

Keep that in mind the next time an employee comes to you with a special request. Don’t be so rigid that you can’t factor humanity into the rules. Chances are that simply allowing that employee the 2 hours off could result in years of hard work and loyalty. Or, you will have to find another person willing to commit like that. And in retail automotive, that might be a challenge.

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