Halloween 2023 was a tough day in our house.
Every year, the holiday approaches with a great deal of parental anxiety not because we fret over what costume our 9-year-old daughter will select for the day.
Sheesh, that’s the easy part.
The hard part?
Waiting [hopelessly] for an invite from even one kid in her class to go trick-or-treating.
Every year, we follow the same routine. In early October, we start with hope that this year will be different. Hope begins to fade in the latter part of the month, where it becomes clear that an invite just isn’t coming.
Our daughter is extremely shy and, at times, struggles with friendships. She typically focuses her attention on friendships with one or two kids at a time, which tends to narrow the pool of candidates for friendship.
Employing the same tactic we’ve followed each of the previous years, we reached out this past weekend to the parents of a couple of kids she calls “friends” — one boy and three girls. The boy’s mom responded that he had other plans with another boy in class, which is understandable. After all, the genders begin to split in third or fourth grade, only to return when they’re college age.
The parents of the three other girls? We were met with either the usual lame excuses or silence. Frankly, I am not sure which was worse.
I know some of you can relate. There is perhaps no worse a feeling as a parent than to watch your child be rejected by their peers. And when other parents enable their kids to perpetuate the rejection, it’s a pill even more bitter to swallow.
All is not lost, however. When the boy above learned she had no trick-or-treating pals, he invited her to hang out after trick-or-treating for a candy trade.
Though the sting of rejection from the other girls still hurt, kindness won.
What Does This Story Have to Do with Employment Law?
To be clear, I ain’t looking for some pity party. Oh no! I know I join many of you whose daughter is on the outside of the popular girls looking in. In time, we pray our daughter will overcome these social obstacles but, in the meantime, she’s learned another tough lesson on how important it is to enlarge the welcome tent.
But some won’t overcome these obstacles.
A few of them are our employees.
So, a few observations on this feast of all saints:
- In all that we do, be kind. Always. Be. Kind.
- In our professions — HR professionals, leave administrators, employment attorneys –it’s easy to become cynical of employees, right? The migraine headache? Fake. The delay in returning certification? Fake. Let us remember: the overwhelming majority of our employees are good people in need of a workplace lifeline from time to time, like my daughter could have used from the girls above. For sure, we have no idea what many of our co-workers are dealing with in their own lives. They come to work with plenty of personal baggage, and each one copes differently with it. Next time they ask for time away from work or an accommodation, let’s lead with respect and support, not ridicule or silence.
- Finally, let’s not forget: Like parents to our children, we managers of people set the example. When we live by the Golden Rule in the workplace, our subordinates and co-workers see firsthand the respective culture we are trying to build. Use this real-life example as gentle reminder to reconnect with each other.
In a world in desperate need of kindness today, let it begin with me.