It’s not business; it’s personal.

The adage usually goes, “It’s not personal; it’s business.” As if a decision that alters someone’s life should be taken in stride and have no emotional pull recognized or acknowledged. I think that only a very mature person would be able to do that… take a decision that could potentially alter ones life in stride like the passing of time.

Years ago when I worked in Hotel Management, I worked at an establishment that had an amazing reputation for its customer service. It was a joy to work there when I was able to deliver that good customer service. We found solutions to people’s hotel problems instead of telling them no all the time. I had just come from the “no” environment, and being introduced to a concept of “win/win” was breathtaking.

The owner of our hotel was an auto insurance agency. So, they often booked their agents or other employees in our hotel while they were at the insurance office doing exams, or conferences, or any number of things. Well, one client had spent the week in the hotel. She would give us daily updates on how her studying went. We developed a relationship. And, when it was all over, because the philosophy was “win/win”, I was able to honor that relationship with a complimentary fruit tray and bottle of champagne. She was so thankful. She was so honored at this thing I was able to do because I was empowered by management to make a difference in her life.

The opposite, unfortunately, was true of how management treated its employees. Given that it was the hotel industry, there was a mix of long-timers, employees who’d been there for multiple decades, and short-timers, employees with less than two years in. The hotel had an acronym it encouraged all of its employees to learn and practice towards its guests: L.A.F.F.

Listen

Affirm

Fix

Follow up

Now, maybe my recollection of the atmosphere is due to my age. I was a petulant 20-year-old, with lofty ideals of how the world should work. But, what I recall is that management didn’t listen, they did not acknowledge our concerns, they did not fix our concerns, and because none of the above were done there was no follow-up to be had. That, and other experiences of my early career, primed me for my next job — my first non-profit job.

After coming from corporate jobs with varied goals – most revolving in making money – I was tired. I am a belief oriented person, and I did not (do not) believe in making money for the sake of making money. I believe in doing public good, and I needed to focus my skills in an environment that was at least focused on doing good. So, I spent a year with a staffing service, floating from admin job to admin job.

Then, I was introduced to a local non-profit. This group provided insurance for low-income people. They had a mission to serve the under-served! I wasn’t particularly passionate about healthcare, but I could rally behind the cause. And, it was an easy way for me to do what I was good at (assisting people) and answer my need for belief. I was able to ask lots of questions about why it was structured a particular way, why policies were such, and work in an environment where I got paid fairly and worked with dedicated people.

The organization, though, had its own challenges. The laws of Michigan dictated that all Medicaid/Medicare HMOs had to have at least $10 million in a special reserve account. Due to many reasons, long before I hired on, the group lost $8 million. So, the group was put under investigation – like a major audit – by the insurance regulators, and forced to find ways to control its costs. We found that the group who managed our payroll charged too much, so one of the changes we had to make was to find a group that cost less. That is, the Human Resource function wasn’t managed in-house, it was all outsourced and we had picked the highest bidder instead of the lowest.

The board and management finally decided on a nearby organization that did very similar work to ours, but their rate was half that of our current group. The question begs: what will change? The first thing they did was hold an all-employee meeting with give-a-ways. They tried to put us at ease that no one would lose their jobs and it was going to be just a sort of transfer of ownership. Well, deadlines passed, things were delayed, and suddenly we were notified that we had to reapply for our jobs! There was only one of me in my role, and it was necessary for the organization. I felt pretty confident that I would keep my job. Initially, I was given an offer with a better title and pay rate. But, some of my colleagues did not fair as well. And, it became quite clear that we were being fed two different stories.

So, where we were – a mission focused organization that emphasized care to the under-served  but it couldn’t transfer that care to its own employees. So, I worked to rally my co-workers together, and I found something interesting. Rare was an employee who was interested in working for the collective. They only wanted to serve their own needs, fearing no job offer if they did work for a collective. I had nothing to lose. I had plans that were sending me across the country, so I was courageous. I was ballsy, and I sent this letter to the hiring liaison.

Dear Hiring Manager:

Thank you for responding to my email. I am sorry I could not reply sooner, however I did not receive the email until I returned home from work.

While I appreciate your want of receiving an answer [to the extended offer] by the end of today’s business day, it is very difficult for me to make a decision when, again, none of my questions have been properly addressed. In addition, I feel quite leery on making a decision especially when rushed into one.

Before I make any decisions of employment, I want to know that the people I choose to work for will have a good work ethic, respect for humanity, and discretion to guide them. I understand that change happens, nevertheless the concerns I have are over avoidable change; change without caring and compassion. Change that is essentially turning current employees into the ‘under-served’ the mission statement is trying to serve.

That is one of the many reasons I asked the question I did at the information session, and why I have continued to ask questions. I want an interview. Although I do not like the idea of having to interview for a position that I earned fairly, I do like the personal setting in which I would have time to ask other questions and see the body language of a perhaps future employer.

Being a secretary, or administrative assistant, I am comparatively rare. Not everyone has the ability to type over 75 words per minute, nor the comfort level or fluidity with MS Office, and enjoy it. Therefore, I am not a dime a dozen. With that, it is then important for me to work for people who care. People who stay true to mission statements they proclaim, or dogmas they claim to follow and when I do not see this happening I become very doubtful and wonder if I want to subject myself to such an environment.

When I sold books door-to-door, one of the many things I learned was that if I wish to be successful, then I need to surround myself with successful people. I wish to be a good, caring, compassionate person. Therefore, I wish to surround myself with good, caring, compassionate people. As I spend many of my waking hours in my place of employment, it is important that those I work with embody those characteristics.

Unfortunately, current events have yet to prove to me that this new employer embodies those characteristics. If anything, I have seen a reluctance to want to work with us. I have seen talk that “employees are the most important thing” yet I have seen little action.

Not only that, but Mr. [SMITH] gave us confidence that rehabilitation would prove to be beneficial to our lives and employment by citing facts such as the [EXAMPLE HMO ORG] employees who chose to stay are still with them two years later, and his positive attitude about the necessity of the staff to meet member needs. Of course, in retrospect, it is easy to see that the actual number of employees was never stated, nor were the concerns of any possible gap in management properly addressed. I feel that employment is perhaps the largest aspect of my life because as stated before almost half of my waking hours are spent doing it and the paycheck I receive dictates much of what I do outside of it. It seems to me that information has been withheld from us from the very start about not just our jobs, but our very lives. That isn’t just disrespectful, it is moreover hurtful because it says “you don’t matter, your life does not matter.”

Therefore, I remain undecided on the job offer. I am hoping that some questions can be answered with the little time that remains so that I may make a well-rounded, educated decision about my life.

[SIGNED]

When I found this – I was shocked! I have been consistent over the last ten years. Mid-twenties Michelle is still saying the same thing as mid-thirties Michelle! Mean what you say,  say what you mean, and then be consistent in that delivery. Bring compassion back to the workplace because it is personal. You are talking about food on the table, house payments, loan payments, and kid’s schooling. You are talking about our lives – where we spend 8-10 waking hours every day. I was asking for an equal triple bottom line, before I knew the term. So, don’t give me this “It’s not personal, It’s business” because “business” is nothing but personal.

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