HR Learner in Development

Posts Tagged ‘Deadlines

A recent issue of Parents Magazine published an article about maternity leaves and the importance of knowing your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, or as most would call FMLA. As both a mother recently returned from my maternity leave and the point person for Leave Management for my Division, I could not agree with the need for this type of reminder more. So I hope you don’t mind me piggy-backing to spend a little time discussing leave management.

My role leave management role withing the Division sounds simple.  Track people’s leaves.  Mark leaves accurately in time sheets.  Process any actions related to pay changes in our HR Information System.  Where it gets complicated is when people don’t follow policy, don’t know that they can take leaves, or don’t know that they actually have to let us when when they return.

For just a little bit of information on FMLA, it protects an individual’s job from being taken away if he or she needs to take some time away from the office to tend to a medical condition, for self or for a family member.  Every company with at least 50 employees working within a 75 mile radius (the specifications get more granular than this but I don’t want to bore you) must grant 12 weeks of unpaid protected time to any employee who has worked at least 12 months and1,250 hours within the last 12 months before the leave.  This protects individuals who are out for a continuous amount of time (surgery and recovery, including delivery of a child), as well as intermittent time (regularly occurring symptoms & scheduled doctors visits to treat).  While every company falling under the guidelines must give this time by law, some go above and beyond to allow some, all, or even more than this time to be paid time.

Other laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect disability leaves, and require organizations to provide reasonable accommodations to those with disabilities, including extending potential leave time.

In HR, we need an accurate picture of who is out and when so that we can have each individual paid correctly, as well as to potentially provide support to any department in need of additional assistance.  In all honesty, we do not need to know why an individual is out, and sometimes it is better if we don’t know, but we do need to know how it affects the work that the individual does on a daily basis.  Therefore, it is important that we receive doctors notes, not to police, but out of concern for the healing individual.  We want to see proof that the individual is ready to return and able to do the job they were assigned, and if there are any tasks that an individual can still not do as a result of their recovery or continued impairment, we need to not take any retaliatory actions against the employee for not doing what they used to be capable of doing.  No, we don’t want to get sued, but we also really want the employee to be healthy and well, too.

Not all leaves are created equal, but tracking them all is very important


It is also true, however, that people can take advantage of company leave policies.  It then becomes important to know when an individual was out, whether it was protected or unprotected time, and whether they followed the procedure for requesting and notifying the proper people at the right times in order to determine whether coaching conversations or disciplinary actions need to take place.

Ultimately, the organizations that respect individuals leaves will see a better uptick in loyalty from those people who took leaves.  The more generous a leave policy is, though, does not translate to greater and greater loyalty.  There must be a line where employees know they can not take advantage of the organizations generosity.  Organizations benefit from healthy workers.  But unhealthy workers can benefit from being under the wing of a healthy organization.

Take some time to review the leave policies in your department, organization, state, and federal area.  What you find may give you peace of mind, or may show you where you can help illuminate a potential growth area.  Stay healthy! But if you can’t, know your rights.

I was reading an article in the January-February 2010 edition of the Harvard Business Review called “What Really Motivates Workers,” by Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer when it struck me:  I know expressly what they mean when they say that progress is a motivator that has a force to be reckoned with.

How motivating must it have been for the early pioneers of America to see previously non-existing cities to be connected by previously non-existing railroads? Probably as de-motivating as the struggle it took to get there.

My team members just recently went through the information gathering stages of a new Rewards and Recognitions program for my Division as a means to inch closer to the strategic plans of the Division.  I unfortunately could not be involved due to scheduling issues.  Their research of the current literature has been showing them the importance of these goals, stressing the unlikely positive power of day-to-day recognition.  The research shows, in short, that it is motivating and fulfilling to know that one’s work is being recognized by the group, a superior or a co-worker.

However, Amabile and Kramer make a case for the “power of progress”.   They note that progress had the most noticable impact on mood and motivation over any other event during the course of the day.   Simply put, they write that supervisors can encourage motivation through progress by setting reasonable goals, providing the resources to complete these tasks, protecting employees from irrelevant demands, and allowing enough time.  The inverse indicates blocks to progress – indecisiveness, holding up resources, changing goals, and a short time limit. 

This research seems to correlate with my own experience with creating reports.  Now, part of the nature of my job is operating under certain time constraints.  Therefore, the perception of time in the following examples remains constant, where tight deadlines create the impression that small roadblocks are large setbacks. 

One week I was tasked with creating a report for my supervisor.  He told me to have it completed asap.  He told me what he wanted verbally, and then he ran off to a meeting.  I therefore was working under a tight timeframe, with unclear guidelines, and I had to wait on other people to get a clear picture of the scope of the project.  It was both frustrating and de-motivating when, after I had spent a good deal of time on it, was told that one aspect had been an inaccurate account due to information I was never given.  In the end, I had to stay late to get it up to standard.

On the other hand, I was also tasked with creating a report for an employee in another department which needed to be ready for a meeting she was having with the Dean, ie head honcho of the Division.  Information was requested through email.  I thought I had all the information I needed when I told my supervisor what I was spending my time on.  When he found out, he was upset that I had been given a report of this magnitude with very little resources.  He decided he would get clarification for the report, and while that resulted in me having to rework what I had done, it also meant I had him working with me, collaboratively, to reach a solution that worked.  He was able to provide me the right resources, protect me from the unwieldy demands of someone who I was not working directly under, and he was even able to push the deadline back  a little bit because he was aware of what the report would be used for. 

All in all, I felt much more motivated in the second instance, even though both reports required reworking and edits.  The elements of information sharing and collaboration really made a huge difference in the end result.  It made me more able, and more willing, to do similar reports.  The dread that followed the first instance melted away with the second. 

So if you are in a supervisory role, be aware of not just what you assign, but how you assign it and how you follow-up.  Make sure that the task is:

  1. Clear
  2. Supported
  3. Relevant
  4. Within reasonable time constraints

Positive experiences should follow.  When it does, be sure to recognize milestone worthy progress.  Recognition and progress combine to create a wonderful motivational trophy to carry into the future.