“If we get discharged in the next hour, we’ll go to the pharmacy for the meds, and then I can make it to the office in time,” I thought.
I was not going to cancel the interview.
“Worse comes to worse, I’ll pull over and do it in the car,” I said to myself.
About eight hours before, I had taken a family member to the ER, knowing all too well we’d likely be spending the better part of the night there. And that, we certainly did.
“The doctor has been held up with an emergency upstairs,” said the nurse at about 11 PM. “He’ll be down as soon as possible.” Unfortunately, before “as soon as possible” came, we’d crossed well into the next day. By the time we left the hospital, the birds were chirping.
But I was not going to cancel the interview.
I arrived at the office just in time to gulp some coffee and complete my pre-interview preparation before dialing into the conference line. Over the next hour, I willingly exhausted my reserves of energy, knowing the interview constituted the main hurdle of the workday. After hanging up the phone, I slumped ever further into my chair, soon deciding I’d let gravity finish the job it had been making headway upon all morning.
I rolled up my coat for a pillow, closed the shades and drifted into that sweet sleep reserved for those who have expended great effort to do whatever it is they had to get done. I also, for the first time in three years, knew the shop was well tended — we had a full team. I could be removed from the machine and it would still run smoothly — truly a wonderful feeling.
That day, I reflected on the fact that “life” can sure intrude on work, as it just had for me. My team, I knew, was there to support me, to support us. But to think I have the only, or greatest, claim to such indulgence is foolish. Sure, I’ve got what I’ll call a fairly full plate — two children under 4, but that doesn’t take the cake by a long shot. Kate, God bless her, has 2 children (twins) under 1. Yes, under 1. I know the frequent madness that constitutes my home life, and I can only imagine the occasional circus that is hers. Nancy has two children too, though they are a bit older. But it’s at that point — when one’s children feed and clothe themselves — that those newly liberated energies must often be redirected toward parents. And thus, what was momentarily an energy gain turns out to be largely net neutral.
If I wish to be indulged by my team when life puts me out of pocket, must I not indulge them? Must I not have an empathetic ear when a family member’s ER visit keeps them up all night? We know that true loyalty is given not to companies but people — “I’d do anything for Jim,” not, “I’d do anything for the XYZ Widget Corporation.” It only follows that if you want their loyalty, you must return it. You must support them in the totality of their lives, and not expect them to “leave it at the office door.”
Live by the HR policy and die by it. Demand they give you 8 hours every day regardless of what’s happened at home, and you will get far less. On the other hand, if you treat your team like a family, they will act like it, and come together during crises like only families do.
Small companies can function so well because hiring occurs on an intimate level, one that fosters camaraderie. Large organizations must do everything they can, certainly go out of their way, to create it, for it is only when team members are willing to pick up the load dropped by an overwhelmed coworker that nothing will ever fall through the cracks.