Ethically, what would you do? Commentary: Emotional support and workload

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Perceptions on the dilemma entitled Emotional Support and Workload were all over the map. They covered everything from “Mark needs to go on funded leave and be replaced by a temp” to “Mike needs to understand what compassion and teamwork means.”

Respect and compassion for Mark’s condition is entirely justified, but so is respect for everyone else’s workload and own needs. This is based on the first principle of the DND/CAF Code of Values and Ethics: Respect for the dignity of all persons.

The advice here is to get better information first. Is Mike the only one feeling the pressure, and if so, why? Several comments proposed a series of one-on-one discussions between the manager and team members to find out what everyone’s perceptions of the situation are.

Some argued that it is the manager’s job to know whether or not workload is fairly distributed – though “fair” here is exactly what is unclear. It is often difficult to compare productivity from person to person, unless they are doing the same task and there is some agreed-upon view of the relative importance of quality and quantity.

Some readers assumed that there were probably personal support resources that Mark had not yet tapped, such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or chaplain services (if he is military).

If, on the one hand, Mike is the only teammate feeling unfairly overwhelmed, this could be an indication his own tasks could be adjusted with the support of others. On the other hand, perhaps there is more to Mike’s difficulties than meets the eye. One reader suggested that Mike could simply want to be left alone – to get some distance from the personal tragedy of his colleague. Perhaps his reason for this is understandable, if we know more. These issues could well be illuminated through a series of confidential discussions.

Some readers even suggested a forum in the workplace for informal group discussion (e.g. first thing in the morning) to help ensure that such conversations didn’t happen spontaneously throughout the day to the same extent.

Some thought that the most promising option would be some degree of telework for Mark because this would allow him to spend more time with his wife, and could reduce the chances of personal conversations arising through the day. However, this is a best case scenario, since telework may actually make it more difficult for someone in Mark’s position not to be preoccupied with his wife’s very visible need for support.

If the team really is in a state of hardship in relation to workload, the manager ought to seek a short-term added resource solution, if the budget room exists. Perhaps that person could be of special support to Mike, if Mike has a pressing work problem. If there is no such room, every effort should be made to help Mark be productive. This could include telework and designated hours for socializing if suitable, while continuing to ensure he can benefit emotionally from the support of colleagues.

Presumably, Mark himself would also want to remain productive, to support the rest of the team, while also being able to support his wife.

Send reader feedback and suggestions for future scenarios.

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