Being Passionate: Does helping employees mean you are hurting business?

I was told the other day by the leadership of my company that I am too passionate about helping the employees. Let me set up the scenario:  as often is the case, our company wanted to close early on the Friday before a holiday weekend to let our folks start their festivities or get on the road before all the traffic.  This is a pretty standard gesture made by many companies.  Unlike other companies I have worked for, however, my company did not want to make non-exempt employees “whole” for the day and pay them for the hours that they would miss given the early closure.  Penalizing your hourly employees, often the lowest paid in the company, didn’t seem right to me.  It was the decision of the business to close early, not the decision of the employee, and so I argued that we should pay them for the full day.  And with that, I was told that I was too passionate.

A little about me – I have always fought for the underdog.  When in school I would come to the defense of the student being picked on, or help the teacher no one liked.  When I worked with the mentally ill, there were always battles to fight – from the perception of many in society that these were “throw away” people, to the view of the shop keeper that they were dangerous.  So it isn’t a surprise to me or anyone who knows me that I stand up for employees when I think a company is doing them an injustice.

I also am a business woman and I have a very strong sense of business operations and logic.  My company argued that they were in a cost saving time and to pay employees for time when they were not producing was costing the organization.  This is a concept I could put my arms around if the company weren’t hemoraging in more significant ways – to not pay for those two hours is like focusing on a hangnail when a major artery is cut.  Secondly, and one of the hardest parts for any Human Resource professional to convey to a business, the cost will ultimately get you loyalty amongst your employee base – and loyalty will save you money with lower turnover and higher production.

Caring about employees does have some upfront cost.  Making sure salaries are in line with the market, ensuring that your benefits are healthy and reasonable, having a work environment that is comfortable, and helping morale by not punishing hourly employees with gestures like early departures, does have an upfront cost.  But the end result is profoud – a work force that not only wants to do their jobs but wants to do it well above expectations, and a work force that brags about your company when with friends or in social settings which provides the organization with the best marketing in the world.

There are times when my “passion” is geared more to the management side of the table and when it is so placed there are no complaints.  Regardless, I will continue to speak when I feel there is an inequity, and fight the fight when I feel it needs to be fought.  That is who I am.

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