I call up the SP later and say to him: ‘You’re a senior guy and you have been with us for some years now. You have, on past occasions, taken up work, at personal inconvenience. You also know how important this assignment is to us. If I tell you to continue working, you would regard me as also insensitive. If I tell you to pack up and return, it means upset customer and possible loss of business. So I trust you to take the call yourself. And I will back your decision.’
PS: The SPM decided to return from the assignment prematurely, he did undergo a minor surgery that put him out of action for a few weeks; he appreciated that we stood by him. He went on to do well with us for a few more years. The customer did hit the ceiling initially; we explained the compulsions and he saw us going to great lengths to protect his interests and he continued to stay with us thereafter.
These are tough times for a manager to take decisions. Trusting (a good) employee’s judgement in such adverse conditions is a kind of employee empowerment of high-order that corporates often shout about. A strong message such as this willingness to bite the bullet has enormous pay-back. Nevretheless, the manager must exercise due-diligence and be seen to be in firm control of the situation right thru. And he must quickly resolve in a way that takes into account divergent interests. If one thinks hard enough, numerous ‘gray’ solutions would pop up between the ‘will’ and the ‘won’t’ that the two parties in conflict could be persuaded to accept. Or, there are ways to soften the ‘will’ or the ‘won’t’. In any case, time is the essence; the more the situation festers the more difficult becomes the acceptance of a middle ground.
Did I put the employee’s interest ahead of my customer’s interest, against the credo of a service provider? No, I was bringing back alignment of the two stake-holder interests as much as the situation would allow, still swearing by the same credo.