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Home | Got a Minute | Bad bosses | No. 96 – Another employee got flowers after a family death, but I lost two people and got none

No. 96 – Another employee got flowers after a family death, but I lost two people and got none

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1 March 2023

I work in a support role and recently had close family members die, and I was the victim of a serious crime. I was seriously stressed and took extended personal and annual leave. During that time, I did not hear anything from anyone in my team, not even a text message. I was OK with that until, on my return to work, I read a group email from a new staff member thanking the leadership team for sending flowers after a family bereavement. When I read this, I couldn’t stop crying, and I now question my commitment to the team and my job. Should I just brush this aside, raise it as an issue with my manager, or is it just time I look for a job in which I am cared about as an equal member of my team?

Sometimes I read letters to this column that make me take a deep, sorrowful breath. I have edited your letter as I always do so that you are unable to be identified and so have only shared a fraction of your story here. I understand how deeply traumatic this period of your life has been. It is totally reasonable to be disappointed and upset at the lack of care and concern from your team. Compassion for you, right now, is the least your team can offer.

For that reason, I desperately want to avoid finding excuses for them. In reality, I can only guess either they were not aware of what you were experiencing, were aware and didn’t know how to adequately assist and so did nothing, or perhaps even thought someone else was going to take care of it and no-one did. Either way, it is not OK.

If you otherwise enjoy where you work, it may be an issue to raise with your manager. I would explain to them, it is not the flowers or lack of text that matters, but it was the lack of care and thoughtfulness in your time of need that is causing you to question your value to the team. If they are a decent manager, I suspect the penny will immediately drop, and they will be mortified. If they respond in way other than compassion and concern, I would definitely find another job.

Do take care of yourself. You have been through so much and deserve to work somewhere you feel supported, cared for and valued.

I proudly work for a global company that champions diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). We are required to do two hours of DEI training annually, which I support. However, we now have to make personal commitments to DEI that are tied to our performance ratings and salary. This seems unfair. I am a quiet and private person and feel terrified at being forced into this process. When I approached my manager, they appeared blindsided too and were unable to address my concerns. I feel the company is overstepping the mark in what it is mandating all staff to do. Any advice would be appreciated.

I have heard this complaint a few times lately as DEI initiatives move from motherhood statements to direct action. I am torn because while I have empathy for your situation and I can see how uncomfortable it makes you, it is only through all employees making a measurable and tangible difference that real change can happen. Annual training courses are great but often don’t move the dial.

That said, it sounds like the communication behind these changes at your company has been appalling. Any change like this, especially one that could affect your remuneration, needs to be managed incredibly carefully for a range of reasons and not least to avoid DEI initiatives becoming resented across the organisation when so much good work seems to have already been done.

I recommend you speak with your HR manager to understand the rationale. Explain your concerns and see if they can offer examples of how this commitment can be met in light of your anxiety about what it might mean for you personally.

I have been in a middle management position for a few years now and would like to know how to get on track for senior management roles/executive-level roles. How do I go about assessing if I have what it takes? We don’t have an HR team and my immediate manager has left.

The fact you are asking already tells me a lot about your motivation and initiative. Given you don’t have an immediate manager currently, does that mean the role is vacant? Can you speak to whoever that role reports to and ask whether the role will be advertised and whether you might be considered? Be clear about your aspirations to take on more senior leadership roles and ask how you can be best placed to be considered for an executive role in the future. You might also like to ask them what skills or experience they need to see from you to be considered for promotion and whether they would support you to gain experience or undertake additional leadership training.

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