The last job I had was at a busy call center. We had a strict attendance policy. During the probationary period an employee was allowed to have four “occurrences” (the way it counted to human resources depended largely on the situation, but if you missed work it was an occurrence none-the-less) before an employee was terminated. One of my employees did not make it for reasons that should not have counted against her.
She did miss a lot of work but each time it was for a situation that was outside of her control. She had a chronic condition that would spin out of control every once in a while. As her manager, I knew about it – though I was still bound by corporate policy. The first day she missed was because her chronic condition had flair up and she spent the day in the emergency room at a local hospital. She had the documentation to prove it and the time she spent there. I did not want the situation to count against her but, again, I was tied to corporate policy. The second one was more interesting.
She missed the second time a couple of weeks later because her daughter was vomiting. This is a situation that no amount of documentation would have helped. She was a single mother and had no one to watch her son so she missed work again. Again, I had to follow corporate policy. I found out later that her daughter had drunk an individual milk carton that was spoiled. She found out herself when she attempted to drink one of the other cartons herself. She told me she called the grocery store. I visited the grocery store myself and found that they no longer carry the brand of milk my employee was talking about – because of a phone call from a customer.
By this time, I was getting worried. Chances are that she would not make it through her probationary period. I liked this employee. I still like her. Her attitude at work was very ambitious. She would take on side projects to help out the team, she made everyone around her laugh and smile; she just had a fantastic attitude and work ethic. But again, even though I knew that she was telling the truth, I had to follow corporate policy.
We lost her. She left work one Friday afternoon excited because she was going to finally have a girls’ night out. That night never happened for her. Instead her chronic illness flared up again and this time she spent the next five days in the hospital. Again she had documentation. She called me when she returned home. I did all I could to fight against corporate policy. I spoke with our human resources department and found out that we could re-hire her. I was excited for the possibility. Then I found out from my manager that corporate had eliminated the shift she worked. Initially this employee worked a morning shift and now the only shift we had open was a closing shift.
I called her back to tell her knowing that there was no way she was going to be able to take a closing shift. She was a single mother who also had obligations to a non-profit organization two nights a week. I knew that when I hired her and I knew she would not be in a position to walk away immediately. I also knew that if she did not walk away that fast that my manager would force me to fill her position within the next few days. She called me back to tell me what I expected to hear and I have not talked to her since.
This situation for me was very unsettling. She was a tremendous employee who was so ambitious that she pushed the whole team to do better without even trying. I had plans to move her into a lead position as soon as possible but that day never came.
There should be exceptions to every rule and policy to reflect real life. In my opinion, this employee should have only received one occurrence and that one should have been for when her daughter was vomiting. This is a story that, even though I believe her, could have been avoided if she had checked the milk carton herself. She made a mistake and it cost her.