Chlöe, I understand our nose is running but would you mind bending your head out over the keyboard while I'm doing the Power Point?—I’m a tad late with this story—NPR had it yesterday. But it is not getting nearly enough attention. And I have a story to tell.
Merill Lynch, the world’s largest stock brokerage, cut its sick day allowance for its employees from 40 days to three. If you take more than three, they can dock your pay. If you take more than six you get a warning; more than nine and they can your ass. This in a company whose three top executives are making a total of more than $100 million and earned record profits last year. The limit isn’t mandatory—managers have the ability to bend the rules, but those are the rules. Boss doesn’t like you, don’t get the flu.
Any rule this stupid can only come from one source: personnel (sorry, Human Resources).
The reason given, of course, is productivity and profit. They apparently aren’t making enough. That this is happening in the U.S. shouldn’t surprise anyone. We are the only country in the industrialized world that thinks two weeks vacations is humane. (At the risk of sounding like my Communist grandmother, the correct way of phrasing that is to say this is the only country in the world where the workers find that acceptable). In fairness to Merrill Lynch, they give three weeks.
Here is how the procedure can now work out: You are an employee and you get the flu. You are flat on your back for three days. If you say out the fourth, it could cost you a day’s pay unless your supervisor is a mensch. Stay out the rest of the week and you are pushing the limit and losing money. So, you get out of bed and go to work, where you cannot perform up to healthy standards and run a real risk of infecting others in the office who then take days off for work. In other words, the ruling has two obvious effects. It not only does not improve productivity, it makes Merrill Lynch’s offices more dangerous for staff and visitors. Good work.
God help you if you get cancer.
Now the story. I once had a friend who worked for an oil company in Philadelphia (I, of course won’t mention the name of the company. On the other hand, there is only one oil company in Philadelphia but far be it for me...). They had really brilliant executive who was at retirement age and who didn’t think disappearing to a golf course was how he wanted to spend the rest of his life so he asked for something to do at the company. They said they had a real good one for him. The company had grown significantly in recent years and was being bogged down by bureaucracy. Paper work. Red tape Massive inefficiencies. Find out how that happened. He did. He discovered that there was an obvious and clear link between the explosion of paperwork and the year when the Personnel Department changed its name to Human Resources. You are welcome to make of that what you will.
Here’s the Merrill Lynch memo. Notice it applies to office drones, not the guys making the millions. Workers of the world—you deserve it.
Attendance Guidelines (Effective May 14, 2007) A good attendance record and demonstrated reliability is one attribute of successful performance and is expected of all employees. These guidelines are in place to enable managers to address and foster improvement when an attendance problem has been demonstrated.
Each day an employee misses work is considered an absence. Employees are considered absent when they miss one-third or more of a workday.
It is the employee's responsibility to contact their manager within one hour of their scheduled start time to report any absence, and failure to do so may result in disciplinary action. Absence without notice for two consecutive days is grounds for termination of employment.
An absence is recorded as excused under this policy only if it is a) a pre-approved vacation or an approved personal day; b) an approved leave of absence under Merrill Lynch policy; or, c) an absence covered by any applicable federal or state law. (See Leave of Absence Policies.)
Outlined below are suggested guidelines for managers to address absences based upon the employee's work schedule. Management may accelerate the action steps described in these guidelines when patterns of attendance problems have been identified (including, but not limited to, repeated absences the day before and/or after a holiday or weekend; unacceptable level of absences over time with no demonstrated improvement; absences surrounding vacation).
Employee Status: Full Time
Absences in a 12-month Period /Action
Up to 3 days/Acceptable attendance: No action.
4 to 6 days/Questionable attendance: Manager/employee discussion or written communication from manager to employee stressing importance of good attendance; reviewing impact on performance; and describing future consequences including termination of employment. Non-payment may result.
7 to 8 days/Poor attendance: Written communication from manager to employee reviewing impact on performance and warning that failure to improve will result in immediate termination of employment. Non-payment should result.
9 to 10 days/Unacceptable attendance: Resulting in termination of employment.