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Adobe Consulting Services (ACS), a provider of HR software application systems, prides itself on the variety of benefits it offers employees. In addition to health care, pension, and vacation benefits, the company offers an attractive family-friendly benefits package including flexible schedules, child and elder care assistance, counseling services, adoption assistance, and extended parental leave. Unfortunately, sometimes the company’s progressive work–life policy experiences a backlash from some employees, as the following case illustrates.
In March 2019, Teresa Wheatly was hired by Adobe as a software accounts manager. With excellent administrative and technical skills, plus 4 years of experience at Adaptable Software, Adobe’s main competitor, Teresa became a valued addition to the company’s marketing team. As a single mother with two grade-school children, Teresa received permission to take Fridays off. She was also allowed to leave work early or come in late to meet the needs of her children. Teresa is one of 11 software account managers at Adobe.
The problem for Adobe, and particularly for Janis Blancero, director of marketing, began in the fall of 2019. On September 15, Dorothy McShee, citing “personal reasons”—which she refused to discuss—requested a 4-day workweek for which she was willing to take a 20 percent cut in pay. When Dorothy asked for the reduced work schedule, she sarcastically quipped, “I hope I don’t have to have kids to get this time off.” On October 3, Juan Batista, a world-class marathon runner, requested a flexible work hours arrangement to accommodate his morning and afternoon training schedule. Juan was registered to run the London, England, marathon in May 2021. Just prior to Juan’s request, Susan Woolf asked for and was granted an extended maternity leave to begin after the birth of her first child in December.
If these unexpected requests are not enough, Blancero has heard comments from senior account managers about how some employees seem to get “special privileges,” while the managers work long hours that often require them to meet around-the-clock customer demands. She has adequate reason to believe that there is hidden tension over the company’s flexible work hours program. Currently, Adobe has no formal policy on flexible schedules. Furthermore, with the company’s growth in business combined with the increasing workload of software account managers and the constant service demands of some customers, Blancero realized that she simply cannot grant all the time-off requests of her employees.
1. Do managers like Janis Blancero face a more complicated decision when evaluating the personal requests of employees versus evaluating employees’ individual work performance? Explain.
2. a. Should Adobe establish a policy for granting flexible work schedules? Explain.
b. If you answered yes, what might that policy contain?
3. If you were Janis Blancero, how would you resolve this dilemma? Explain.
Job fatigue and stress are significant problems faced by employees and their managers. Unfortunately, when a case of depression arises as a result, trying to resolve the problem may be difficult—sometimes leading to conflict—as this case illustrates.
Donald Knolls was an air traffic control supervisor for International Gateway Airport (IGA), an airport serving a major metropolitan area. Donald began to experience depression-related problems largely due to severe stress and fatigue on the job. A few months later, he requested and was granted a disability leave for treatment of his illness. After eight months, his personal physician, an expert in depression treatment and a licensed consulting psychologist agreed that he was sufficiently improved to return to his former position.
IGA then sent Donald to the physician it had used when Donald first requested his disability leave. After an extensive evaluation, the doctor concluded that while Donald had made considerable strides in overcoming his depression, he should not be immediately returned to his former supervisory position because the conditions of the job had not changed and he was apt to find the stress too great. Instead, he recommended that Donald be returned to a nonsupervisory position on a six-month trial basis, with the case to be reviewed at the end of that time. IGA followed the advice of its doctor and did not return Donald to a supervisory position. Donald, angered by management’s decision, filed a grievance through IGA’s alternative dispute resolution procedure, a procedure that could end in binding arbitration.
During several meetings between Donald and management, the employer maintained that it had the right to rely on the medical opinion of “a fair and impartial” doctor who had determined that Donald should not be returned to the position that was the cause of his original stress-related emotional problems. Additionally, management pointed out to Donald that IGA’s disability leave provision stated that it “may require appropriate medical documentation if it believes an employee is not fit to return to his or her former position.”
Donald responded, through an attorney he hired to represent his position, that the disability leave provisions were clear but, nevertheless, biased against an employee because they completely disregarded the opinion of his physician and psychologist. According to Donald, “Why bother to get expert medical opinions if they are dismissed?” He further noted, “I have never felt better. I’m really ready to get back to my job.” Finally, Donald’s lawyer contended that Donald was the victim of discrimination based on his former state of depression: “What happened to Donald would not have happened if his illness had been a more conventional physical injury.”
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