Why Do I Have To Come to the Office, NOW?
A telecommuter called our office the other day with the title to this post. His boss, whom he had a good relationship with, had all of a sudden “changed the rules” on him, after allowing him to telecommute to work 3 days a week for the past 18 months. The 3 day a week telecommuting gig was good for both the employee and the firm. No problems were encountered. Now, however, challenges arose.
The issue, it appeared, was that the telecommuting employee elected to seek new opportunities elsewhere. His job had become almost completed and once that time came, he knew he would be seeking a new opportunity. In fact, recruiters were calling him daily about 6 months before his assignment would be completed. His boss had told him initially that the job he had was good for 18 months, then, he might have to either find a new opportunity elsewhere or accept a downgrade to a lower level position within the firm.
He told his boss that he was seeking new opportunities. The boss had been “fine” with that up to this point. Now, all of a sudden, the “rules of the road” seemed to change, overnight. Instead of supporting the initial “deal” of the 3 day a week telecommuting, the employee was now being directed to be physically present for 5 days a week. The rub– a 45 min road trip twice a day, in rush hour traffic each way from the employee’s home to his work location.
Rationality and common sense did not prevail with this boss. In fact, she became much more “anal” and “snarly” each and every day the employee came to the office. Why? It appeared that there was no specific reason, in fact, the employee received a glowing personnel evaluation from her only 4 months before. What had changed?
This is a start up business, with only 13 employees. The telecommuting employee was a member of the senior leadership team, had created extensive value and contributions during his time at the firm, but knew it was time to find new opportunities. The boss also intellectually recognized this, however, emotionally was unable to address the issue.
We suggested to the telecommuting employee that it would be best for all concerned that he negotiate an early exit and leave immediately. In fact, the boss thought that to be such a good idea, that she agreed to it almost immediately. The boss also agreed to provide a 4 month severance package, recognizing that the telecommuting employee would be leaving at the end of the summer anyway.
In the end, this relationship ended in a satisfactory manner. Although there are frayed feelings, each agreed not to disparage the other party and move on with life.
In today’s world, employees are the key to successful operations. Telecommuting employees are a valuable source of talent and creativity. As a manager, think long and hard when deciding, emotionally, that a workforce condition change may be warranted. In most cases, emotional decisions are not good decisions. Trust your employees– they will trust you in return.