Appreciating employees with flexibility

Q. Recognizing that policies are policies and are in place for a reason, how does one be flexible in places where it makes sense to do so – a short-term change of hours, for example, to assist a parent with summer child care issues — without opening the door to criticism or a flood of other requests?A. Flexibility within reason is a beautiful balancing act, not always easy for organizations to achieve, but a great asset and very much worth the effort.I actually think most companies are learning to be more flexible, and a few outstanding organizations are leading the way. One obvious area where flexibility helps is a family/employee friendly work environment. In fact, family-friendly and flexibility go hand in hand. And that brings us to the question at hand.I believe many policies are actually meant to be guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. At the same time, I know that many other policies work best when they are consistently applied and everyone is treated fairly and the same. The trick is to know which are which and when to stick to the policy and when flexibility seems to make more sense. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to that one.As we learn to walk that tightrope, we’re left to rely on common sense and intuition. Being employee-focused gives us a starting point and common sense becomes the balancing bar that keeps you safely on the wire.I truly believe most employees appreciate reasonable flexibility, and that showing up as reasonable won’t cause a lot of complaining or a long line outside your door. Naturally there will be a few, and so goes it. Rest assured that at the end of the day, a workplace that supports its workers will be a workplace supported by its workers.Q. A co-worker shared his salary with me. He’s making a lot more than me, though doing a lot less for essentially the same job. I’m very upset and ready to quit. How do I handle this?A. I don’t blame you for being upset, and I am optimistic you will be able to figure this all out. If you have an HR department, schedule an appointment to speak with the director. If you don’t have a department, schedule an appointment with whoever handles HR functions.As you prepare for this meeting, try to shift your feelings, and especially your behaviors, to ensure a fact-based rather than emotionally based presentation. Don’t lead with the salary issue, and be sure that you get your facts lined up before the meeting. Do you have the same job, the same job title and the same job description? If you do, simply asking to be paid the same as other people doing this job is an extremely reasonable, and a straight-forward approach. If you don’t officially have the same job, but feel you are basically doing the same work, then proposing a new job description and title should be the starting place for your discussion.If on the other hand you simply believe you work as hard, and do as much, your approach should be focused on the value of your work. You might ask what you would have to do to move forward in the company, and how could you work towards increased responsibility and wages. Again, focusing on your co-worker’s salary is not likely to help.If you do have different jobs, and you believe you work just as hard as your co-worker, it may well be that the jobs are just valued differently. No one would argue that an elementary teacher works just as hard as a rock star, right? If this is your situation, you may want to do some career planning so that your credentials, experience and job choices eventually line up with your work goals.Q. My company has a media policy that states that only the CEO can talk to reporters. I disagree with what the CEO is saying. Is it OK for me, as a private citizen, and not representing myself as a member of the company, to write a letter to the editor expressing my opinion?A. Obviously, no company of more than one employee will have everyone on the same page or feeling the same way about every issue. That’s not how companies are, and certainly not how people are.However, I do believe that it’s reasonable for a company, including your CEO, to expect that you will publicly support the organization that is writing your paycheck.It might help you to assume for a moment that the company in question is owned by you. What do you think you could and should reasonably expect from those who work for you? Your answer to your question.Having said that, if you want to raise alternative viewpoints internally, I think that’s healthy and often productive. No CEO has all the answers, and companies need people who will share new viewpoints and new ideas! That’s where I’d put my energy! Good luck.Paul Boynton, president and CEO of The Moore Center, Manchester, is also a personal coach, corporate consultant, motivational speaker and author of the book, “Begin with Yes.” He can be reached at