Within the first 2 weeks of this COVID emergency, things were a mess. People were stressed to high hell for what was coming next (they still have stress), and there’s a wide swath of people whose income streams just dried up. I’ve been pretty consistent in saying how fortunate I am to be able to do all my work remotely, or I hope I’ve been.
At our first team meeting in this new setting, we were all taking time to bring up concerns with the work from home situation. Expectations and whatnot. As added context, this meeting happened after 9 days of working 20 hours, and the end wasn’t exactly in sight.
One leader was doing their job, and raising some members concerns around entitlements – things like having an extra monitor to work from home, refunds on parking fees, monthly mass transit passes, and home internet packages. In the best of times, I need to bite my tongue when it comes to entitlements, things that are often seen as a perk. The majority just see it as a neat thing to have, there’s a tiny part of any group that will argue for it. I know this leader has at least 1 member who is part of the tiny group.
So this question just threw me over the wall. I am 99% certain my first sentence was something like “you’re telling me they have a well-paying job, they want an extra $100, while their neighbour can’t put food on the table?” The rant lasted a solid minute, then silence. I could feel my blood boiling, so I took a few deep breaths, apologized for the outburst, thanked the individual for bringing the issue to the table, and told them to not bring it up again for 2 months so that we could take stock. If the person wanted an extra monitor – they could buy one.
2 months go by.
Leader brings the topic back up again as the staff is asking questions. This time we had done some prep work for the concern. Since all the transport items were private organizations, employees would need to sort it out themselves. The extra equipment (for those that didn’t sort this out themselves in the past 2 months) would be managed through a central warehouse, but with a standard offering. Topic closed.
I’ve retold this story quite a few times now. My wife has as well. It is very interesting to see the reactions from people to this story. Most are astounded that people are even thinking about this, given the situation. Some go quiet and avoid eye contact, through some sense of guilt.
I mean, I can understand why someone would think this is reasonable. Their own stress, combined with a near complete lack of social empathy. As soon as I talk about people who haven’t been able to work a day for months, it just clicks. There is the odd chance that they are in a relationship, their SO has lost their job, and this $100 is a tough decision. It’s a bit easier than people with zero income (CERB aside). In the larger context, an extra monitor or a parking refund is a luxury.
Unless you are working at a charity, I’m not quite sure how the sanctimonious “social empathy” angle plays out. If your company previously decided that workers need two monitors to do their job, it is a legitimate business question to ask what management is expecting from a workforce they sent home and presumably wants to maintain the prior level of output. That their neighbor can’t put food on the table is 100% irrelevant unless, again, you literally work at a Food Bank.
Corporations are not your friend, and entitlement is not a dirty word. I hope they paid you accordingly for those 20-hour days, as I would hate to think you browbeat your fellow workers for free.
The fact that 100% of the workforce got paid, have never checked an hour paid, let people leave and remain paid at 100%, no questions asked, and shipped everyone a laptop that could use one… yeah that’s enough empathy. If you’re in Canada, that should be pretty clear on where I work.
Theres a time where the people next to you are more important than your own comfort.
They are right to ask about way forward. Just like I’m right to ask a widow if she’s free at her husbands funeral. It’s a stupid example, but the issue is timing. Had they waited a couple more weeks, this wouldn’t have been a rant 🙂