Are Some Bosses and / or Employers Bullying or Manipulating People to Come To Work When They Can Quite Easily and Efficiently Work From Home During The COVID-19 Pandemic?

Are Some Bosses and / or Employers Bullying or Manipulating People to Come To Work When They Can Quite Easily and Efficiently Work From Home During The COVID-19 Pandemic?

The world is not short of managers. It’s short of leaders. (Bob Townsend)

The world is in crisis and yet I’m hearing that some bosses and employers are bullying, manipulating and guilt tripping people to come to their place of work when they can do their job quite efficiently and competently from their homes.  The advice here in the UK is that people MUST work from home where it is possible to do so.  Staying home saves lives.  Unnecessary contact spreads this virus.

Social distancing is not always possible in the workplace.  Bosses have a duty of care to their employees.  Now is the time to put that into practice.

Bob Davids is a designer and entrepreneurial business man.  He said that at one time he thought that management and leadership were the same thing. After many years and after speaking to Bob Townsend (CEO that built AVIS Rentacar and author of ‘Up the Organization,’) he found out that they’re not. 

According to Bob Davids, there’s a difference between, ‘I lead a team of six people and I manage a team of six people.’  Management is control.  The three typical constraints of management are time, quality and money. Whichever one of those three takes precedent, the other two will suffer.

Everyone is being affected one way or another.  The health and well-being of all staff should be at the fore front of every boss’s mind.  Bullying, manipulating or guilt tripping staff to come in to work when unnecessary creates a very unhappy workforce.  Employees who would have gone over and above before this pandemic will become disheartened and feel undervalued resulting in undue stress, sickness and resignations, maybe not right now but when the situation eventually returns to some degree of normality.

Some employees live with people who may be considered high risk which further adds to the stress of being forced to come into work.  Employers need to show compassion and understanding.  Failure to do so may result in them losing good workers.  Bullying in the workplace is not ok, especially now.

In WW2 Dwight Eisenhower was the Allied Supreme Commander of all the forces. He trained his generals by saying that he would take a chain and stack it up on a table.  He would ask the generals…

 “If I push the chain which way will it go?” 

You really don’t know.

If you take the chain by the end and you pull it, which way will it go?”

The answer is that it will follow you. 

Davids says that this is the essence of leadership.  If you push the people, down deep inside you really do not know which way they will go but if you can lead them and get them to follow you, then you have the skill to be a great leader.  Leadership is a gift.  You can’t buy it.  You can’t trade it.  You can’t sell it.  You either have it or you don’t. 

Unfortunately so many of the bosses today simply don’t have those leadership qualities.  They fail to value their workers, taking them for granted, thinking they’re expendable.

Current Government advice in the UK is for everyone to STAY AT HOME, except in specific situations.

This includes:

  • only going outside for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home)
  • staying 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people (‘social distancing’)
  • avoiding busy commuting times on public transport where travel is essential
  • washing your hands as soon as you get home

Employers should support their workforce to take these steps.  This might include agreeing more flexible ways of working.

For any employee working from home, the employer should:

  • pay the employee as usual
  • keep in regular contact
  • check on the employee’s health and wellbeing

Some of you have said that proper procedures as laid down by the Government in the UK are not always being followed when a person in the workplace has either tested positive or displayed symptoms of COVID-19.

Offices and workplaces are not being shut down in order for the premises to be deep cleaned to protect staff and the necessary PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is not being supplied to those who have been asked to carry out this task.  In Northern Ireland the Executive has agreed that:

  • Anyone who can work from home must work from home
  • Employers must facilitate working from home where it is feasible
  • No employer should compel an employee to come to work if it is feasible to work from home
  • Every employer must take all reasonable steps to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of employees during the COVID-19 emergency, whether working from home or in the workplace
  • Every employer must have particular regard to the safety of employees in the workplace and must put into effect the guidance on social distancing issued by the Department for the Economy
  • Every employer has a legal duty to ensure, so far as it is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees
  • Where a business is failing to observe the Department for the Economy guidance and breaching the legal duty on health and safety, the statutory authorities will take robust action, which may include prosecution for criminal offences
  • Where necessary, the Executive Office will also use its power of direction to close or restrict businesses that do not ensure the safety of their employees.

Many countries throughout the world have introduced new legislation and issued guidelines to help prevent the spread of this virus.  It would appear that some bosses are deliberately flouting guidelines and encouraging their workers to break the law by forcing them to come into work when they can work from home.  This is undoubtedly putting some of their staff under unnecessary stress and anxiety.

I asked people on the Facebook page to share their experiences during the present pandemic.  These are some of the most common complaints…

“Not providing proper social distancing or PPE. Allowing people to come to work sick. An employee actually tested positive for COVID-19 but continued to drive another employee to work because they live together. The manager wouldn’t provide the employees name; only to say that he did not come in contact with concerned employees. Only to find that in fact he was in the office, using the coffee machine. About 5-6 employees how now taken it upon themselves to self-isolate.”

“That last exchange on Thursday and Friday was exactly like speaking to my ex-husband who, through sites like yours, I have learned to deal with much more efficiently and appropriately these last two years.  I will not be gas-lit, manipulated, or bullied into something that isn’t right for me or my children.  I chose not to go to work as I want to protect my family and co-workers from this virus, and I have no childcare.  Their implied demands that I just “find” childcare during this is ridiculous.  While lawyers are considered essential services, I do not understand that, nor do I think they are handling this well.  I believe that they are grossly misinterpreting that definition and putting all of their clients and staff at risk when we can ALL efficiently work remotely. Our office is such that working remotely is 100% possible.” 

“I CAN work from home very efficiently without being disturbed by answering telephones yet my manager is making me feel guilty for not coming in. I have elderly parents so I’m not prepared to risk me bringing this virus home.  She is making me feel guilty because she is going in herself. That’s her choice and she’s getting paid two or three times my salary.”

“My mom is a secretary.  She’s being forced to work and risk her life or lose her job.  She is high risk and yes, she could do her job from home.”

“I work on a building site.  Us plebs are all out in force but there’s no sign of the big wigs.  I know we can’t do our job from home but they don’t give a shit about us. It’s all about money.”

“My husband’s company decided who was going to work from home and who would have to go to the office (and be exposed to everything) by pay grade.  The lowest paid workers had to work in the office while higher paid staff worked from home.”

“I’m on minimum wage and can definitely work from home but they want me to come in to the office while they sit in their offices with their doors closed safe and sound and the minions get to spread it all about in their booths below.”

“My company is bringing in rules too little too late.  Said they’re bring in social-distancing from tomorrow (like when did that all start?)   I can wear protective gloves if I feel happier (well thanks so much) but they want a united front on the main floor to look good. To hell with that, I’m outta there!!!”

“Someone in our place tested positive and we were not told until days later when none of us knew where they had been or what they had touched.  Some have now gone off sick and the rest of us are worried since it takes a while for symptoms to show.”

“They’re telling me I’m not paid enough to make decisions, that’s their job and they have decided that we should all be there when we don’t need to be.  On our pay, don’t think so.”

“I work on a front reception desk so am exposed to everyone who enters the building.  They haven’t supplied me with any protective equipment so far.  If I catch it they’ll just replace me.  Can’t say I feel valued at all, but replaceable, most certainly.”

“My managers are still using paper when they don’t have to, asking us to photocopy so that their hands aren’t touching anything.  Why not use common sense and digitalise everything they can while this epidemic is ongoing but that would take brains?  Oops, I forgot they don’t have any.”

“I live at home with people considered to be high risk.  I’ve been told to show up at work when I could work from home.  I’m so scared right now.  I would never forgive myself if I infected them.  The stress is unreal.  My manager is making me feel guilty because some others are in. I don’t know what to do.  I need my job.  This isn’t a game.  This is life or death.”

“I’m thinking of handing in my notice because of the inconsiderate approach to this epidemic by my employer.  He has said I should be in work but I can do everything online.  Why?  Some co-workers are self-isolating and some have gone off sick.  Nobody knows what’s wrong with them.  Feel under so much pressure atm.”

I appreciate that there are many out there who are working throughout this pandemic, those who cannot work from home.  To those people such as medical professionals, shop assistants and warehouse staff, those in caring professions, delivery drivers, waste disposal, cleaning staff, ambulance, police and other emergency services, those involved in the production of medical equipment and medicines and all who have volunteered in these critical times, your work and dedication is very much appreciated. (Sorry if I’ve missed anyone).

To those who can stay at home, STAY HOME and to those employers whose staff can work from home, DO YOUR BIT AND LET THEM.

Written by Anne McCrea

Coronavirus (COVID-19): what you need to do. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus [Accessed 29 March 2020]

Executive approves new powers to protect the public. Available at: https://www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/news/executive-approves-new-powers-protect-public [Accessed 30 March 2020]

The rarest commodity is leadership without ego: Bob Davids at TEDxESCP. Available at: https://youtu.be/UQrPVmcgJJk [Accessed 30 March 2020]

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