policy folder The worst communicated policy: Bereavement PolicyIn 1999 I was working for a financial services company. I had a boss that, at the beginning of my tenure I believed was great. Many of my co-workers had warned me not to get too comfortable and be careful. “When you least expect it, she will show her true colors.”

I just went a long with work. Fast forward to 2000. I was starting to hate my job. I am a pretty positive person and don’t try to let too many things get me down. And while I did not want to fall into the trap of what my co-workers had been saying, the negative atmosphere my boss was creating was not making it any easier. Basically I was in a tough place.

But this is about something else

This is not about my boss. This is more about a policy. So fast forward to December 2000. I had used up much of my vacation by the end of the year but I still had 2 days left in my vacation bank. I had planned on taking more of a long weekend rather then a full week vacation anyway so I wasn’t down about not having more vacation. I would straddle a holiday, taking that Friday off and leaving a little early on a Thursday. No big deal.

It’s a little more serious then it seems

The vacation wasn’t a big deal but me getting home was. See most of my vacation I typically save for the end of the year. But the week before my mom was admitted into the hospital as a result of heart complications resulting from years of problems with arthritus, diabetes and heart problems. So the week before I took a few days to go back home and spent some time with her. I could not stay… mainly because I had to be back to work. But I vowed I would be back the next to spend more time with her until she got better. The weekend I was going back was between Christmas and New Years.

December 28, 2000 - The phone rings

Ben, are you sitting down.” It was my sister calling me on my office phone. Her voice was trembling. I could tell she had been crying. I wondered what was wrong. Why she was so frantic.

Mom’s dead.”

My heart stopped. I almost dropped the phone. I can’t remember what was said. What other words were exchanged. All I know is that I went straight to the bathroom after the call was finished. I went into the biggest stall and I cried. I sat in the corner of that stall sobbing. Each time someone came in I would try to quiet myself. As soon as they left it would start again. I may have been in there for an hour. I don’t remember… but what I do remember is something related to a policy.

I went back to my desk and acted like nothing was wrong. Still planning to head out that day to go back home. My mother’s funeral would be sometime that following week. I went to my supervisors office and explained the situation. I was told something to the fact of “you only have a few days… you will have to use those… since you have no other vacation days…” I was basically told tough luck. You only have so many days and as long as you don’t use more that that you will be OK.

I wasn’t OK. It wasn’t OK. I was too sad to be pissed. I was too numb to really be mad. Too young to know any better.

Back then who cared about policy

At that time I barely ever read policy. Didn’t really know how to use or take advantage of my health benefits. Never took part in my 401K and company contribution plan. I just sort of worked. It wasn’t until about a year later that I saw the company details on our Bereavement Policy. I never knew what the term Bereavement was and I was in HR. I focused on other stuff in that job. If I would have known I would have had a few extra days to spend with family and greave.

Was my boss was a jerk? Yes! Was the fact that she did not inform me about the bereavement policy completely her fault? No!

Some of it was my fault. My fault  for not understanding nor being aware of what the company offered. With this weekend starting off the other holiday weekends to come, think a bit. Understand what your benefits are and the policies around them.

Has there been a policy in your company that you weren’t initially aware of but could have benefited from?

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