CategoryManagement Tips

Demand a Compassionate Workplace

I’m a huge fan of the show This is Us. Every Tuesday, I’m perched on my couch with my tissues ready for the emotional roller coaster.

One of the storylines centers around Randall, who is a bit of a workaholic, struggling with work/life balance while caring for his father with end-stage cancer. Ultimately, this leads to Randall having a severe anxiety attack that lands him in the hospital. About a week after Randall is released from the hospital, his father passes away.

During his absence from work for both his hospitalization, Randall’s job called him and texted him with questions. And the day before his father’s memorial service, work sends him a basket of pears, which he’s allergic to. On the day of his father’s memorial service, they text him again — acknowledging that they were bothering him but still asking for immediate answers to their needs.

Outrageous???? Yes … yet not all that uncommon.

During my 20 years in HR, I’ve experienced and heard so many stories like this. Some stories were even worse.

When a highly valued and dedicated employee has to take time away from work unexpectedly, managers are often devastated and confused. They cannot figure out how to function without the person. They cannot imagine the person would be unwilling to help. They cannot understand how someone who has always been so reliable could suddenly become completely unavailable.

It is this kind of thinking that makes FMLA regulations still very much necessary in our workplaces. If we want less government guidelines dictating our actions in this area, we have to do better in our workplaces.

We have to demand compassion.

The first thing we do to demand compassion in our workplaces is to model appropriate work/life balance. As managers, we have to work appropriate hours, take time off periodically for rest and give reasonable deadlines … We cannot give assignments on Friday, say the work is due Monday then act surprised when our employees end up with overtime after working the weekend. And if we do, we cannot be angry when they leave early or come in a little later or take off another day. If we are modeling work/life balance, we are making allowances for this and encouraging it when necessary.

The next thing we have to do to demand compassion in our workplaces is to cross-train duties and have back-ups for our positions. No one person should be the only one with the knowledge and authority to complete major tasks in the organization. And compassionate workplaces know that burden is too much for one person to bear … We cannot expect one person to develop all the strategies, organize all the projects, implement all the programs and communicate all the outcomes without assistance while feeling no pressure. And if we do, we cannot be surprised when all our efforts come to a halt because that person takes leave. If we are modeling work/life balance, we make sure responsibilities are evenly distributed and that a second-in-command has been appointed.

The final thing we have to do to demand compassion in our workplaces is never pressure a person who is dealing with a traumatic life event to return to work before they are ready. These tactics only ever have negative impact. Compassionate workplaces know this approach is not going to yield high levels of performance or long-term loyalty. It will only result in causing a dedicated employee to lose all respect for the organization and people they once worked so hard for. If we are modeling work/life balance, we trust the individual to be respectful and responsible and to tell us what they’ll need and what they are capable of.

When we demand compassion and model work/life balance, our employees feel free to take the time they need so they return to work as the best version of themselves. This is what we all truly want. Only demanding compassion can make that happen.

On This is Us, the hurt from the careless handling of his illness and bereavement was too much for Randall to reconcile. He quit in epic fashion.

This video shows his exit speech. If you’ve ever pressured anyone to work or return to work when they were dealing with a life trauma, I promise you that they’ve said this to you in their mind and heart.

Don’t ever let that happen again. Demand compassion.

Finding the “Flow” at Work

A couple weeks ago, I downloaded the game app “Flow” onto my phone and tablet. It’s a game where you connect matching colors to fill the board space. The colors cannot cross or overlap; they cannot go outside the game board. You win by successfully matching the colors and then you move onto the next board in the series, then to a new difficulty level or time trial.

One night, I was playing to try to clear my mind after a rough day — and the game inspired my approach to resolve a lingering work issue! So I decided to share some of what I learned here.

Your flow should not block the flow of others.


There really is enough space and resources for everyone.


Sometimes the best way is the shortest, easiest and most obvious.


Sometimes you have to take the long way around to benefit others.


When everyone is in their flow, it’s really beautiful.



Being in the flow at work requires clear, consistent communication. Being in the flow at work requires willingness to share space and resources. Being in the flow at work requires falling back at some times and stepping up at others. Being in the flow at work requires willingness to share responsibility for the good and the bad.

Being in the flow at work isn’t easy. It will take time and effort to find the right flow. It will take time and effort to maintain it … And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, it will be time to move to another level and establish a new flow.

Finding the flow never gets easier. Finding the flow never stops being necessary. The only options are to find the flow or quit altogether.

Because finding the flow is the point of the game. Keep playing and don’t give up.


How To Delegate Effectively – Part 2

Last week, over at Performance I Create, I wrote a post entitled “How To Delegate Effectively.” This week, I’m continuing my advice on how to effectively delegate here.

In part 1 at PIC, the focus was on the reasons to delegate and ensuring clear understanding of tasks delegated.

In part 2, the focus is on the who of delegating effectively.

The hardest part of delegating is believing the other person can carry the task through to completion with the level of excellence you envision and expect. You have to be confident in your own decision-making as well as the abilities of others. Trust is the heart of how to delegate effectively.

When deciding who to delegates tasks to, consider the following:

  • Their knowledge. The person should have an appropriate level of knowledge and the skills needed to complete the task assigned. Without this, the person will struggle and the work will suffer.
  • Their independence. The person should be able to organize, execute and troubleshoot their way through completion of the task assigned without constant supervision. Without this, both you and the person will feel frustrated and the work will be delayed.
  • Their goals. The person should have an interest in the subject matter of the task — or the task should be related to the work the person currently performs in his/her job role. Without this, the person will either be unenthusiastic or distracted and the work will suffer.
  • Their workload. The person’s workload should allow sufficient time to complete the task assigned within time and budget constraints. Without this, both you and the person will feel stressed and the work will be delayed.

Another thing to consider is the position of the person respective to you. Delegation happens laterally or down. Never up. I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you but delegating upward is just whining. It demonstrates lack of accountability, creativity, resilience and vigor.

Do not do it.

That’s not to say that people who aren’t the boss don’t get overwhelmed or need help and guidance. It happens to people every day. However, when that happens, you cannot just give work back to your boss. Don’t just bring uncompleted tasks to the table — bring suggestions on who and how to get the work done in a way that results in effective delegating.

Because when delegating is done with the right spirit, everyone wins.

Check, Please … And Thank You!

I went to lunch alone for the first time in a while the other day. It is something that I enjoy doing from time to time because it gives me the opportunity to think through some things, make to-do lists and relax my mind.

It also gives me the opportunity to indulge in people-watching and eaves-dropping!

Which is exactly what I was doing when I overheard this …

“Three times!! Three times this week I found errors in his work. I mean, I know my job is to double-check his stuff — but how is it OK for him to just keep making mistakes like that.”

“Ridiculous. He calls himself a supervisor??”

“Exactly! And he doesn’t even apologize anymore. I give him back the forms with the errors flagged and all he says is ‘Thank you for catching that.’  Thank you?? Who says that??”

Admittedly, I don’t know anything about this woman, her co-worker or the company they work for. I kinda wanted to interject into the conversation to learn more, but I didn’t …

Thankfully, I have a blog where I can share these kinds of thoughts so I don’t have to go jumping in to all the random conversations I accidentally overhear while people-watching and eaves-dropping.

Work should always be structured with checks and balances in place to minimize the likelihood of errors. The one who collects money shouldn’t be the same one who counts it. The one who approves the invoices shouldn’t be the same one that pays it. The one who enters data shouldn’t be the same one who verifies all the information is correct. Even if you are an organization of 1 person, someone should always double-check your work — an auditor, an attorney, an advisor. Someone.

Checks and balances help maintain honesty and integrityin the process. It increases the chances errors and negative trends will be identified, corrected and reversed before things get out of control. Checks and balances are good and necessary.

People make mistakes and systems glitch. It happens. Sometimes more than once in a day, week and month. It doesn’t necessarily mean the person or system is careless or incompetent. It means the person or the system is fallible. And that should never come as a shock. We’re all fallible. Even with the best of intentions and focus, we make errors.

If the person designated to catch the error has the audacity to actually catch the error, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. And neither the one who made the error or the one who caught the error should hold a grudge about that. Each should thank the other for being there to catch the error and bring balance back to the process.

Now I don’t know if this co-worker was making an error 3 of 3 times or 3 of 3000 times. Certainly, if it is 3 of 3, this woman should be talking to someone other than her friend about this issue. We can’t allow other people’s errors to become a hindrance to our own work. We can’t allow people to use the check/balances as a crutch. It’s not ok to be inaccurate in your work just because you know someone else is there to catch you when you fall. That is an unacceptable failure of duty and someone should be notified.

However, if it is 3 of 30 … or 3 of 300 … or 3 of 3000 … I say “get over it” and move on to finding the next error wherever it may be.

Check? Please. And thank you!

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