Should I Change My Employee’s Hours?

Dear Evil Skippy:

One of my employees asked me if she can change her work schedule.  She rides the bus to work and her route’s schedule is going to change in a few weeks.  Her choice will be to either arrive at work 90 minutes early, or be twenty minutes late.  She has day care issues, so this is creating logistical problems for her.  I sympathize with her about this and I want to support use of mass transit.  I passed my employee’s request along to my manager and she said we could not modify my employee’s schedule.  I agree that modifying the schedule would be a bit of a hassle, but we could make it work.  This is one of my better employees and I would like to help her if possible.  How can I change my manager’s mind?

— Supportive Supervisor

Dear Supportive:

Why don’t you just pick her up in the morning and drive her?  That would really be supportive and you would not have to mess with human resources.  Problem solved.

—  Evil Skippy

I bet you don’t want to do that.  I know that I wouldn’t.  I have a difficult enough time dragging myself out of bed and getting out the door for appointments without having to stop for anyone else along the way.

Before you think about asking your manager to reconsider, you need to ask yourself a very important question.  If you modify this employee’s schedule and later a few other employees need a similar arrangement, would you be willing and able to do so?  If not, you now know why your manager refused the request.  Some workplaces are suitable for flexible employee schedules, others are not.  Even where flex time is possible, there are some positions that need to stick to a more rigid schedule.

For example, a 9-1-1 emergency dispatch operator.  “Thank you for calling 9-1-1.  Your call is very important to us.  Please hold until one of our operators arrives.”

If you would be willing to let all of your employees tweak their working hours, then by all means appeal to your manager for reconsideration.  It is not a good idea to grant a special favor (especially one that everyone else will notice) to one employee that can’t be granted to all.

Unless you are doing the favor for me.  That is always fine.

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  1. Steve says

    I was faced with a very similar situation except that my employee was chronically tardy and not an impressive worker. I did not want to grant a request to modify her working hours. My manager granted her a modified working schedule, allowing her to come to work late – despite my concern that IF we do this for one, we need to be in a position to grant the same request for all. This has created a perception of preferential treatment that I really would have preferred to avoid. As supervisors, we need to do what’s right for all our employees which sometimes is at odds with what’s right for only one employee.

  2. Steve R. says

    There are some cities where you WILL be placed on hold if you dial 911. Detroit is one of them. It’s about the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard of.

  3. Liz says

    I agree that special accommodations should not be made for one that cannot be made for all. Supporting public transportation is great, and options for traveling by public transportation are also pretty good. The employee probably has other routes available to her, and most likely if she researches her other options a little more the problem can be quickly solved.

  4. Lesa says

    Sorry, I disagree with the comments that you should not try to accommodate or be helpful in some way. Surely if the employee is a good employee and you are happy with her work, you can make some accommodation. And yes, I understand the issues with “do it for one, do it for all.” I think you can make the argument that as a good employee she deserves special consideration. Good employees are hard to find. And I really disagree with the idea that options for traveling by public transportation are “pretty good.” Her options are to be 90 minutes early or 20 minutes late. I have a coworker who has to use public transportation and his options are similar. As an exempt-level employee, he has some flexibility when he misses the early bus. But those are the only options for public transport. His other options are to use a taxi service or hire a driver. People who are on the edge of making ends meet have so few options. Please try to find a way to help.

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