Working in a Company is sometimes like being in a family. There is a hierarchy in both families (or at least there was in the 60’s and 70’s when I grew up) and companies, you have peers which can be like having siblings and you have to tolerate personal idiosyncrasies of siblings and coworkers.
However, there is a huge difference…you can get fired from your company. To the best of my knowledge you can’t get fired from your family. Even though many family member relationships are dysfunctional in some respect, and you would like to be able to fire those members at times.
Like them or not, family members aren’t going anywhere. No one should make this assumption about their job in a company.
Every company would like to see itself as a family. Most people spend more time with their coworkers than their actual family. Loyal bonds are built with coworkers via years of late nights, meeting deadlines, facing adversity, building successful companies, beating the competition, etc.
Some of the kindest, most generous acts I have ever seen in my life were performed between coworkers and by the company for employees. I have seen financial support given to families befallen by illnesses and hard times, schedules adjusted for employees due to personal situations, help with addiction issues and countless other examples that completely contradict the usual portrayal of a company, its’ management and the employees as soulless automatons willing to throw people out like garbage when times get tough.
But no one should ever confuse a company for their family. No matter how bad a family member is, they will always be part of that family. They may have been to rehab 10 times, served jail time, insult everyone in the family, taken advantage of people in the family and generally been jerks…they will still be part of the family. Simply because you have been born into the family, that dynamic exists. Conversely, being a good family member does not mean you have any more standing than anyone else. There is no logic to it. You are fighting a losing battle if you want to apply logic to family dynamics.
Although companies operate in many respects like a family, they are bound by logic when it comes to dealing with employees. Companies have a large amount of latitude when deciding how they help people and how far they want to extend themselves. The decision makers in the company must make sure that whatever help they are extending on behalf of the company to an individual is not hurting the company. Herein lies the difference between a Family and a Company. The company can make the decision to fire an employee (assuming within all relevant laws) when the issues threaten the company. The Family does not have that luxury.
I have always felt the company had an obligation to the employees to be financially responsible in a manner that insures the company’s success and survival, provide opportunities for employees to grow professionally via opportunities generated by growth and develop a workplace where merit and competence are rewarded. Employees will individually determine to what degree they feel they can succeed in that structure.
Just like President Reagan said, ‘trust but verify”, I say, “I’m interested in your problem, I’m just not sure I can care.” It doesn’t mean the company won’t do everything to help someone with a problem. It doesn’t mean the company will throw people off the bus the moment they can’t contribute. It doesn’t mean the company never expects mistakes.
It does mean that “caring” in a company has to be at arm's length. Both company and employee need to acknowledge and accept that a company cannot care like a family. The company has a charter that won’t allow it to care about every problem. Families need an unlimited amount of caring. A company simply cannot.
As I commented above, companies perform many, many acts of kindness over and above what is typically expected. If the mindset changes that the company will always provide that support, it is inevitable that disappointment will follow.