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An ugly debate

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Teri, a director at an Iowa-based manufacturer, updates us on her attempt to create a policy for employees to donate their earned time off to help their peers who face personal emergencies but who have already used all their time off.

Well, it looks like we're going to abandon our attempt to institute a policy in which full-time employees can give their unused time off to peers who face personal emergencies. We tried to do the right thing, and boy, the law of unintended consequences really took hold.

The main problem was how to set up a fair policy that ensured only the most deserving people who were undergoing real hardship could benefit. Several workers expressed concern that if we weren't careful, the policy would actually encourage people to use all their vacation time earlier in the year and then expect to get "extra" paid time off later if something bad happened to them.

When I suggested that we could form a panel of employees to oversee each emergency request (to confirm each request truly constituted an emergency), tempers flared. Everyone hated that idea!

Some folks feared that there would be jockeying to get on the panel and that the "judges" would inevitably be biased based on their relationships with those employees requesting emergency time off. Others argued for making the requests anonymous, but that led to questions about how we'd confirm the facts of each emergency if we didn't know that individual's name.

This experience has soured me on my staff. It brought out the worst in some people. What began as a goodwill gesture turned into an issue that divided us. It's amazing how emotional some people get when you start debating paid time off!

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