A reader writes:
So my area’s getting a major snowstorm this weekend, starting Friday. 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. We live in New England, we’re no stranger to bad weather, and I take the commuter rail in from home for the time being, and I really don’t want to be that employee that chickens out when the weather’s bad. I’ve heard that’s really frowned upon.
Of course I have gone into work when it’s been raining or lightly snowing, I just don’t want to put myself in a dangerous situation or risk being stuck in the city overnight. Or worse, for days. I also stayed home during Superstorm Sandy. My manager was okay with that, but I felt bad because most people did show up before being sent home at 10.
As a manager yourself, what’s your position on employees who stay home due to bad storms?
If they’re good employees with good judgment, I absolutely trust them to make sensible decisions that I’m not going to second-guess.
The only times that I’ve ever questioned an employee’s decision to stay home because of weather, the employee was someone whose work ethic I already doubted. (And when that’s the case, managers have an obligation to pay close attention to those employees and address the problem in a reasonable amount of time. It’s not something that they should just resign themselves to, like, “Oh, there goes Jane again, taking any chance to stay home from work. Oh well.”)
However, that’s me (and other good managers). There are certainly managers out there who do indeed frown on people staying home in a bad storm, even when that decision was incredibly reasonable … and even when local officials are ordering people to stay off the roads.
So this is a case of knowing your manager. Is your manager a generally reasonable person who means what she says? Or is she the type of person who would tell you to stay home if needed but then penalize you for it, even if only subtly? If you don’t know because you haven’t worked with her long or something like that, then err on the side of assuming that she’s reasonable, and make a responsible — but not alarmist or hysterical — decision for yourself. (And if you’re uncomfortable with that, 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?)
You can also just ask your manager directly about this: ”Is it really okay to stay home tomorrow if we’re concerned about getting stuck in the storm?” And pay attention to how she answers, not just what she says. It’s the difference between “Yes, of course stay home if you need to!” and “Well, if you really don’t feel safe coming in, I’m not going to ask you to, but it looks like we should be okay, so please try…”