Commentary: Emotional support and workload

Scenario: Emotional support and workload


Perceptions on the dilemma entitled “Emotional Support and Workload” were “all over the map”; everything from “Mark needs to go on funded leave and he should be replaced by a temp” to “Mike needs to understand what compassion and teamwork means.”  The difficulty of remedying this situation, on the face of it, is that respect and compassion for Mark’s condition is entirely justified, but so is respect for everyone else’s workload and own needs in accordance with the first Principle, Respect for the dignity of all persons. (It is an interesting side note that the words “compassion” or “care” do not appear in the DND CAF Code of Values and Ethics, while they are increasingly current concepts in various Defence culture-related initiatives.)

The easier and necessary advice here is to get better information first. Is Mike the only one feeling the pressure, and if so, why? Several proposed a series of one-on-one discussions between the manager and all team members to find out what everyone’s perceptions of the situation are.  It was argued by some that it is the manager’s job to know whether or not workload is fairly distributed among all – though “fair” here is exactly what is unclear depending on one’s definition of “fairness”. It is often difficult to compare productivity from person to person, unless they are all doing the same task and there is some agreed-upon view of the relative importance of quality and quantity. Also on the theme of better information, some readers assumed that there were probably personal support resources that Mark had not yet tapped, such as EAP or chaplain services (if he is military), and wanted to ensure he was aware of these, seeing this as central to the solution.

If, on the one hand, Mike is the only teammate feeling unfairly overwhelmed, this could be an indication his own tasks could be adjusted with the support of others. On the other, perhaps there is more to Mike’s difficulties than meets the eye.  One reader suggested that Mike could simply want to be left alone – to get some distance from the personal tragedy of his colleague; and perhaps his reason for this is understandable, if we know more.  These issues could well be illuminated through a series of confidential discussions.

Some readers even suggested that a forum could be identified in the workplace for group informal discussion (e.g. first thing in the morning) to help ensure that it didn’t happen to the same extent spontaneously throughout the day.  Several thought that the most promising new option would be some degree of telework for Mark – because it will allow him greater proximity to his wife again and may make it somewhat less likely that personal conversations will arise through the day. This is a best case scenario, however, since telework may actually make it more difficult for someone in Mark’s position not to be preoccupied with his wife’s very visible need for support.

If the team really is in a state of hardship in relation to workload, the manager ought to seek a short term added resource solution, if the budget room exists – and perhaps that person can be of special support to Mike, if Mike has a pressing work problem. If there is no such room, then every effort should be made to help Mark be productive – including telework and designated hours for socializing if suitable – while continuing to ensure he can benefit emotionally from the support of colleagues.  It’s difficult to imagine Mark himself would not want to remain productive to the extent possible, to support the rest of the team, while of course also being able to support his wife at least as much as he has been until now.

Thank you to everyone who shared their ideas and contributed to the commentary for this scenario. As always, both your suggestions for scenarios and your feedback on scenarios are appreciated

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