117. When Employees Cry, “Hey, No Fair!”
Episode 117: When Employees Cry, “Hey, No Fair!” (Summary)
When the Coronavirus closed schools and daycare centers across the country, working parents everywhere faced a crisis. How do I go to work, homeschool the kids, take care of a house that we can’t leave, and keep everyone from killing each other? While in quarantine, it was a demanding multitasking mess. In response, many companies rushed to help their employees by creating flexible work arrangements and generous leave policies — and Zoom meetings, a lot of Zoom meetings. But then non-parents started expressing resentment. Several news stories have highlighted the growing frustration among some employees at companies like Facebook and Salesforce, that accommodations, benefits, and flexibility has disproportionately benefited parents over non-parents. Non-parents are complaining that they too would like more time away from work, but the absence of parents is leaving them to shoulder more of the load. Faced with these new circumstances. Non-parents at work are saying, “Hey, no fair.” I’ll tell you what’s really going on here and why it has nothing to do with parenting leave policies or workload in this episode of Cultivating Commitment. Can I get a rock and roll riff with some flashy opening credits, please?
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*Full transcript under the comments below.
Transcript – Episode 117: When Employees Cry, “Hey, No Fair”
Hey there, BossHeroes. I’m taking a little break from the show this summer, but fear not because we’ve got a whole schedule of content you’ve not heard before. While I recharge my batteries, we’ve decided to share the episodes of a short but popular YouTube series I did a few years ago on how bosses cultivate commitment in the workplace. So, every other Sunday through the end of the summer, you’ll hear these quick funny lessons on how to inspire teams, get results, and be a boss that people don’t hate. You’ll even get to hear the old Rock theme music we used and some recording bloopers at the end. Enjoy, and thanks for all that you do to care for so many.
When the Coronavirus closed schools and daycare centers across the country, working parents everywhere faced a crisis. How do I go to work? Homeschool the kids? Take care of a house that we can’t leave? And, keep everyone from killing each other? While in quarantine, it was a demanding multitasking mess. In response, many companies rushed to help their employees by creating flexible work arrangements and generous leave policies and Zoom meetings, a lot of Zoom meetings, but then non-parents started expressing resentment. Several news stories have highlighted the growing frustration among some employees at companies like Facebook and Salesforce, that accommodations, benefits, and flexibility has disproportionately benefited parents over non-parents. Non-parents are complaining that they too would like more time away from work, but the absence of parents is leaving them to shoulder more of the load. Faced with these new circumstances. Non-parents at work are saying, “Hey, no fair!” I’ll tell you what’s really going on here and why it has nothing to do with parenting leave policies or workload in this episode of Cultivating Commitment. Can I get a rock and roll riff with some flashy opening credits, please?
Okay. Imagine for a moment that the president of your company gave your boss a $1,000 bonus to split between you and her in recognition of a job well done. Yeah. I know this is total fantasy for some of you but go with me on this. You and your boss have worked together for weeks to get your organization through some really challenging times, and now the president wants to recognize your efforts. Now, imagine that your boss comes to you and says, since I have more locations to manage and more employees to supervise, I decided to split this bonus proportionate to our responsibilities because that’s what’s fair. Then she hands you a check for $100. How are you feeling? If you’re like most people, you cry foul. You say, Hey, that’s totally unfair. As you hold $100 in your hand in recognition of a job well done, you feel cheated, disrespected, and angry.
Okay, forget that scenario for a second, and instead, imagine this. Tomorrow, you arrive to work to find an envelope on your desk. Inside is a card from the president of your company with a sincere note about how grateful she is for all of your recent efforts during challenging times. She writes, here’s a small token of my appreciation for all of your hard work, and in your hand sits a check for $100. How are you feeling? When I pose this scenario in workshops and keynotes, most people tell me that they’d feel surprised, appreciated, even touched by the gesture. That’s pretty different than the first scenario, right when you felt cheated. But why in both cases you held in your hand a check for $100 given in recognition of your effort?
The answer is that the first scenario had what is called a perception of inequity. When people perceive that they are not getting the same treatment or benefit as others who have put forth the same or less effort, they feel mistreated, and let’s be honest, your boss splitting that bonus, 90 10, that’s a total jerk move. If you were a spiteful person, her Boss’s Day gift might end up being 10% of a thank you note and 10% of a candy bar.
What’s happening at Facebook and Salesforce where employees are expressing frustration about the leave policies and workload disparities for non-parents is being driven by a perception of inequity. The non-parents see different experiences for those around them and their brains say, Hey, that’s not fair. I’m being cheated. They start to believe that they are a victim. So how do you overcome perceptions of inequity? First, don’t try to offset the perceived inequity with some kind of bonus or benefit to make up for it, especially just for those with that perception. If Facebook says, okay, you’re right, non-parents, you are here more and you are doing more, so here’s an extra 10 hours of PTO, what happens next? All the parents go, okay, so I’m facing 24/7 chaos at home, but the non-parents who have fewer obligations all just got more time off. What the hell?
Trying to offset perceptions of inequity one at a time rarely works because you get caught in a tennis match between victimized thinking, and let’s be honest, nobody likes tennis. Instead of trying to offset the inequity, leaders have to challenge the assumptions that allow the employee to identify as a victim while also working to increase their empathy. At Facebook, I’d be asking the non-parents a variety of open-ended coaching questions to deconstruct that victim mentality. I try to shine a light on all of the challenges parents are facing that are not faced by non-parents. I try to dig into the physical and emotional toll that those challenges are inflicting on parents right now. I mean, you try teaching new math to a third grader and a first grader with a lunatic four-year-old climbing the walls, not that I’m speaking from experience. What’s also important here is that when an inequity actually does exist, we either have to correct it or acknowledge that it’s necessary.
If I was leading at Facebook, I’d acknowledge that it was necessary and make the case that it was necessary. I’d say to the non-parents, you’re right, parents are here less, and that means you are doing more. You are 100% right, but that’s just how it has to be right now. That’s just how it is. Everyone is facing down difficulties. They just don’t all look the same for parents. Their difficulties are at home for non-parents like you, they’re here at work, but there’s a reason people say it takes a village for parents on our teams right now, their houses are on fire, and I’m asking you to stay later and pick up a hose because you can, and I hope you know that if there ever comes a point when your house is on fire, those folks are gonna remember and they’re gonna run towards you with buckets of water in hand.
Now, that kind of messaging doesn’t work for everyone, but it will work for many. Some people can never move from victimhood to empathy, but for most people, they’ll get it. What’s important to note is that if there really is a perception of inequity, it either has to be fixed or acknowledged after all. In that first scenario where your boss split the bonus, 90 10, there actually was an inequity. Forget coaching and empathy. That split was just not right and needs to be undone. So, there you have it. When employees cry, “Hey, no, fair!” It’s a perception of inequity. One, you simply can’t buy off or counter instead, coach for empathy and understanding. And if the inequity isn’t just a perception, it’s critical to either fix it or acknowledge the reasons that it’s necessary. Do you agree? Do you disagree? All the cool kids leave comments on videos like this, so drop a note in the box below and tell me what you think. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next time.
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What you see in front of you is the Employalty scorecard. Every single person in every single job, in every single company on Earth is walking around with a kind of internal psychological scorecard. And if you can engineer these experiences for the people in your organization and they can check most, if not all of the boxes on this scorecard, you create an extraordinary competitive advantage for your organization and team. And we’re definitely gonna talk about why so many people are changing jobs. Okay, I’m gonna run over to this side of the room now. This is almost as long as a walk from the hotel <laugh>.
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Why are people switching? What is something we haven’t heard yet? Organization. Don’t say someone’s name. That’s not nice. <laugh>. I heard organization. What else? Feeling valued, feeling valued management. But we had dozens of answers for why are people switching. But I would argue there’s only one. I would argue that every answer you just gave rolls up to a bigger idea. And that bigger idea is this. People are switching to improve their quality of life. When we create a workplace that stops treating people like a commodity and starts treating them as a fully-formed human being, you don’t just crack the code of commitment, you make a massive difference across society.
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