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Can Consistency and Flexibility Coexist?

Most people agree that a company’s Culture can be a valuable asset or a costly liability. As the labor market becomes more competitive and people have more employment choices, the importance of a company’s culture increases. When a candidate is choosing which company to work for, the way those companies treat their employees is an important factor.

Many companies understand this and have spent a lot of time, money, and resources creating a dynamic company culture. They’ve paid attention to things like: work life balance, employee development, flexible work schedule and other elements that are important to their workforce. The difficulty becomes maintaining this positive environment over time as the company tries to be sensitive to the individual needs of its employees.

Employees undoubtedly value flexibility in the workplace especially when it helps them take care of their responsibilities. Flexible work schedules, temporary leaves of absence, and development programs help employees take care of their personal and professional needs. The problems begin when employees start feeling that another employee has gotten more than they have or that they have had to work harder to compensate for another employee. As an employer, it’s easy to feel like you are in a no win situation. Feelings of unfairness lead to morale problems and an increased likelihood of a discrimination lawsuit. Yet, employers cannot share the personal reasons of why an employee may need a work accommodation.

Consistency and flexibility in handling employee relations are the keys to keeping a positive culture. So the question is, “Can consistency and flexibility coexist?”

The short answer is yes. However, companies need to be sure that their decisions are not creating a perception within the workforce that employees are being treated differently. Employee concerns must be addressed head on so that employee perceptions do not fester and cause harm to the overall environment.

Additionally, companies need to be careful that their actions are not creating a situation that could be construed as discriminatory or otherwise in violation of employment law. Allowing an employee to take a leave of absence may be setting a precedent that you will need to follow in the future. This is especially true if a subsequent similar request involves an employee in a protected class or an employee who is in a situation that includes circumstantial protections.

Some employers contend that the concerns that come with offering flexibility in the workplace are too great and decide to govern with strict policies and rules. Others believe that a culture that includes flexibility is too important in attracting and retaining talent. Either way, it is important that companies create policies and handle situations similarly to keep employee harmony and minimize risk. This is more complicated than one might imagine.

SERPEO can help! We work with our clients to help them develop cultures that are rich, rewarding, and compliant. We help our clients understand the unintended consequences that a decision may have so they can be confident in their employee relation decisions.


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