Gary Winters

Coach  Workshop Facilitator Author

Fair weather managers

blizzardIn one of my favorite blogs, Ask a Manager, a follower from the Northeast asked a question on Thursday: “Is it bad to stay home from work due to weather?”

In New York on Friday, where I live, they’re predicting a blizzard with between ten and thirty-six inches of accumulation, wind 10-25 mph with gusts up to 45 mph, and limited visibility. The forecaster is advising everyone to stay home if possible.

The questioner wrote: “My manager seems cool with me leaving early, or even staying home completely if necessary (if the governor declares a state of emergency), but I’ve also heard that employers don’t like it when employees stay home due to bad weather.”

Alison Green, the writer behind Ask a Manager, says that she wouldn’t question any employee’s decision to stay home in severe weather—unless that employee was someone whose work ethic she already doubted. However, she adds that that’s how she (and other good managers) would respond. “There are certainly managers out there who do indeed frown on people staying home in a bad storm,” she wrote, “even when that decision was incredibly reasonable … and even when local officials are ordering people to stay off the roads.”

Err on the side that your manager is reasonable.

If you don’t know whether your manager would penalize you for staying home (perhaps because you haven’t worked with her long enough), Alison suggested erring on the side of assuming your manager is reasonable:

“…keep in mind that most managers would be taken aback and even a little offended to find out that an employee assumed that they would encourage them to stay home and then punish them for doing so. Wouldn’t you be?”

It makes sense. But I have worked for managers who expected us to make superhuman efforts to get to work. This made sense when I was a newspaper reporter. It was our job to cover the news and whoever could get there was expected to.

During one bad storm I lived fairly close to work so I dug my car out and made my way in. When I found out later that those who didn’t come in were still paid, I was rather annoyed. But the company later gave us comp days and made it up to us.

And then there was Hurricane Sandy

In Hurricane Sandy, because I was a temp, I went to work as soon as the buses started running again, on the 2nd or 3rd day of the storm. My company does not allow temps to work from home, so I had to come into the office if I wanted to get paid. It’s funny; others expressed surprise to see me there—but no one had directed me not to come in. It was a slow work day and I was left thinking: Did they really need me to come in? Did they expect me to forfeit a days’ pay? Would they have thought me irresponsible if I didn’t come in? Did they think if they told me to stay home I’d be resentful for having to lose a day’s pay?

I never asked so I never got a solid answer to those questions. When employees dictate most of what goes on at work and yet leave it up to you to decide whether you feel “safe” traveling, it’s odd. It feels like they care, but yet it also feels like they’re covering themselves from liability.

Managers, I’m sure, are caught in the middle of needing to make sure work gets done while needing to take care of their staff. Where I work now—and I’m not just saying this because I’m blogging about it—I do feel the management cares about staff. But they still have to run a business, and these snow day decisions must be hard to make when it means deadlines might not be met and money might be lost.


Jan Arzooman, a periodic contributor to the Leadership Almanac, offers leadership insight from the point of the “end user”—a person who has worked for a variety of managers. She is a freelance writer and editor with many years in publishing. Jan is currently focusing on fiction, memoirs, blogging on all topics, social media marketing, and health and medical writing. Her website is here

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