Are Single Workers Treated Differently?
In a classic episode of the TV show "Sex and the City," Carrie Bradshaw realizes that she's spent thousands of dollars on gifts for one of her married friends. Between bridal showers, wedding gifts and eventually baby showers, she has devoted much of her time and money celebrating her friends' life choices. It dawns on Bradshaw that, conversely, no one gives single people any kudos for their decisions to stay single or not have children.
The episode makes clear that Carrie Bradshaw, the representative for singles everywhere, has no personal rift with her married friends. Her beef is with the culture that unjustly rewards one group of people over another.
For many single workers, that issue follows them into the workplace.
Different rules for different people
A recent CareerBuilder.com survey found more than 21 percent of workers who have never been married believe their companies show favoritism to married co-workers over single ones. Even more workers who have never been married (nearly 30 percent) claim their company provides more flexibility for married co-workers over single ones.
Ken Wisnefski, president of marketing company WebiMax.com, believes that you don't have to make the same rules for all workers as long as you're appreciating the circumstances of everyone.
"All workers are different," he reminds. "If you have the means, approaching all workers as an individual can have a positive impact on your business." Because he has a moderate amount of workers compared to larger firms, he can give individual attention to his employees.
"For instance, I understand parents with school children may need to drop them off or pick them up from school. I know that employees living further away are concerned with the morning and afternoon rush hour. I know that it may be easier to call a single worker with an emergency rather than one with a family," Wisnefski admits. But he also understands that his writer might want to go surfing in the morning, so as long as it doesn't negatively impact the company, the option is available. "Understanding them and their lives outside of work makes it easier to manage them and to get more production out of them."
Some workers think preferential treatment arises not from your marital status, but rather from your parental obligations. Jennifer Wakefield, director of public relations for the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, remembers a situation that irked her when she was a bankteller in college.
"I've not noticed a disparity between single versus married, but several years ago with a previous employer, employees with children received four hours of PTO per month to attend school plays and functions," Wakefield recalls. "However, as an employee without children, I was not allocated time to see my nephew in school plays and functions."
John Welton of Voce Communications agrees that the system is set up to accommodate workers with children, though he took a step to equal the playing field. In his office of young professionals, he's seen over half of his colleagues take maternity or paternity leaves at one time or another. They've also incorporated flexible work-from-home days into their schedules. Welton isn't bothered by the demands of his co-workers' lifestyles and realizes that everyone's situation is different.
"Unless my cat gets sick, I don't have the same requests they do as far as motherhood, fatherhood or sick children," he explains. But he also realized that in his mid-size company, every absent worker puts more stress on others, so he decided to ask for a much-needed rest.
"I spoke with my boss, saying that after covering for over three paternity and maternity leaves over the course of almost a year, I needed one of my own," Welton explains. "I was granted leave -- we called it 'John's leave.'" He was able to turn his regular vacation time into an extended break. He came back from his break refreshed and ready to jump back in. Perhaps more importantly, Welton felt that his boss had displayed a great amount of trust and appreciation for his work. And that's something all workers, regardless of their situations, look for in an employer.
Copyright 2009 CareerBuilder.com