Monday, November 26, 2007

The downside of family-friendly workplaces

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Dilbert ran a small arc on family responsibility discrimination. The company decides to become "family friendly", and to compensate for the lost productivity, openly hostile to single people at the same time. So as not to run afoul of any potential copyright issues, you can go here to read the 11/22 strip and here to read the 11/23 strip.

While eating my leftovers, I got to thinking about what exactly it means to be "family friendly," and whether we are creating a new marginalized class of employees -- the young, the single, the childless -- all of whom are presumed to have the disposable time to work extra hours and pick of the slack for those who are the beneficiaries of family-friendly policies and the EEOC's new regulations against family responsibility discrimination. But, just because they are presumed to have disposable time, does that mean that they should necessarily bear the burden?

There are two ways to look at this issue. On the one hand, those without family responsibilities will in all likelihood some day have a family, and will need the same family-friendly policies about which they may now grumble and complain. On the other hand, managing a "family friendly" workplace is not just managing employees who have families and their attendant responsibilities, but also managing the employees without families, upon whom the added burden of picking up the slack for their co-workers often falls.

I have no answers as to the right approach. How to handle the problems posed by the Dilbert strips is largely an organizational issue. I am curious, though, to find out if my readers think that this is even a problem, and if so, how it should best be handled. Please post your thoughts below.