In this space I usually write about Human Resource issues from my perspective as a long-time HR manager turned consultant. I will get to a topic related to HR eventually, but in this Insights I’m going to discuss advocacy for my own parent.
About a year and a half ago I arranged for my almost 90-year-old mother to relocate from outside Charlotte to Wilmington. She had been living independently for 10 years in a 55-year-old and older community, but that was no longer working. My sister and I had tried hiring an aide, and I had taken away her car keys. But it was impossible to make sure she was safe and well-cared for on a day-to-day basis when I lived 200 miles away.
My sister, who lives in Philadelphia, and I met here in Wilmington and scouted out our options. We eventually settled on a place here that would allow my mother to live independently but also provide services and activities that would make life for her as an almost 90-year-old more manageable. I also can visit my mother several times a week, and am 10 minutes away when needed. Being close allows me to “investigate” things my mother mentions in passing, something I would not be able to do if she were in Charlotte.
Here’s a case in point: A few weeks ago when I picked my mother up for church, she mentioned that the rug in her bedroom had gotten wet. It seemed that three days earlier, she had opened her bedroom window in the morning to get some air and then went upstairs for her hair appointment. When she returned to her apartment, the floor and her rug in her bedroom were wet. She went down to report this to the manager, who had maintenance put a fan in her bedroom. When we got back from church, I went in and looked at the rug. It was wet and damp, as was the pad underneath. The room smelled musty. I told her I would take care of it.
I went down the hall and into the manager’s office. I very firmly, but nicely, told him that I was unhappy with the situation. I told them that:
- They had caused the problem. There was a leaky faucet outside the building that had sprayed water into her bedroom. No one had informed her to keep her window closed.
- Problems happen, but what next ? Problems happen to all of us, but it is the response after the problem that can make the biggest difference. The proper solution was to move the bed and bed frame, take the rug out to be cleaned and then clean the bedroom floor.
- Accept responsibility. I told the manager that putting a fan in her room had not addressed the issue and was an unacceptable solution. I told him I would be back the following day, and it no further action had been taken I would escalate things to the corporate office.
- Follow-up. The next morning I got a call from the manager who told me he had gone to my mother’s apartment after our “conversation.” He agreed with what I had told him. He had escalated the situation on his own and the rug was being sent to be cleaned and the bedroom would also be cleaned.
- Acknowledge the response. I immediately thanked him for following up and for doing the right thing. I was not trying to be difficult, just serve as an advocate for my mother in handling a situation she should not have had to address.
What does this have to do with Human Resources? I have written about how to hire the best employees and how to engage them once they are your employees. One way to engage them is to acknowledge that they have lives outside of work. They are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and a whole lot more. They bring all these roles with them to work every day. I was reminded of this as I took time away from my own responsibilities to help my mother.
While our primary mission at work is to do the job we were hired to do, we need to appreciate and be tolerant about these other demands on our employees’ time and attention. Allowing paid time off, compensatory time or even time off without pay will show your employees that you do care and engender a loyalty in them that you can’t get any other way.
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