Making Decisions about Employee Requests

It’s a fine balance between wants and needs.

Quiet quitting. Yes, it’s yet another new phenomenon since the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employers are concerned about retaining their employees due to the Great Resignation. But we now learn that some who stay might just be quiet quitting.

The term is just as it sounds. It’s quitting in place by being absent in the job while still present and accounted for. There but not really there. Doing the minimum and getting by. Constantly calling off work, to the point where an employee has a zero time-off balance.

Coupled with this, we have employees with a whole new set of expectations about work-life balance. They want remote options to reduce commuting costs or to accommodate a spouse’s or partner’s work schedule. Or they want the choice to leave early to take care of their kids or older parents. It’s a delicate balance between employee retention and achieving business goals, but which takes priority? We always want to say that the business takes priority. However, it can sometimes be the case that the employee’s request should be strongly considered. It’s somewhat of a seesaw, with employee needs and wants on one end and employer needs and wants on the other.

There’s a difference between a need and a want, and that applies to both employees and employers. For either party, the need is a must-do, while the want is a nice-to-do. When everything is working well, the seesaw is in balance. However, sometimes the seesaw may lean more toward one direction than the other.

What are examples of employer needs? People who do their work, do their work well, use critical thinking skills, get along with others and actually show up. Examples of employer wants include employees who are passionate about the work, confident in their skills or good communicators.

On the flip side, employee needs include things like good pay, benefits, respect and honesty from the employer. Employee wants can vary from flexibility and purposeful work to consideration for personal circumstances and additional pay or benefits.

In deciding how to balance this seesaw, it could be helpful to use a twist on the old “pros and cons” list. Draw a square divided into quarters. Label one half at the top of the square with “employee” and the other half with “employer.” Then label the individual squares on each side with “want” and “need.” Start with needs first and list the actual needs of each party. Then move to the wants section. Doing so will help you make balanced decisions.

Remember that once you grant an employee’s request, you have opened the door to what is called past practice.

Remember that once you grant an employee’s request, you have opened the door to what is called past practice. For a decision to be considered a past practice, it must occur repeatedly and have existed for some length of time. It also needs to be consistent. Problems can be caused when we treat one employee differently than others. In addition, it’s possible under certain circumstances that granting one employee more flexibility than another employee can be viewed as compensation. We want to be mindful of treating employees equitably yet fairly and with compassion, because we are all human beings.

In today’s environment, it’s important to keep in mind that we need to find a balance for this widely varying range of desires and workplace fundamentals. The world of work has changed, and so must our work cultures and our responses.



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