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In light of the question from the linked question (asked by another user); and the corresponding answers and commentary: Using gym at workplace during work hours

Assume that I now I have an answer for management in how to address future questions about the gym/rec-area use during normal business operating hours and why management encourages employees to take advantage of it.

Is there any reasonable method of re-approaching the mishandled client in question from the original topic (or any similar client that questions your company's management or policy, concerns, or makes unusual requests from your company as a point of selection consideration), and correcting the situation, respecting the necessity to save face from your company's end, without insulting or insinuating anything negative upon the client for asking in the first place?

How do I throw management a rope after the fact?

Edit: I know this is rhetorical, but it seemed like a very natural followup concern to the original question; and while I invite the answers to be tailored to fit the specific topic of example, the generalized approaches would probably apply in many other cases.

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Please don't think of this as 'throwing management a rope'. What you are trying to do is change your management's mind. While you may have established in your own mind that the client was 'mishandled', your management may not agree. –  DJClayworth Dec 8 '12 at 16:27
    
It could be a valid case either way. I have often times seen this happen, and often the management didn't really want to go in the direction they did, but handling and appeasing the client promptly was, at the time, the biggest concern they had. They knew after the fact they dug thsemselve in, and quite openly and directly admitted it to the staff. –  JustinC Dec 8 '12 at 16:37
    
Does management want to make this change? Maybe a better question would be how can I convince management to change the policy –  Chad Dec 10 '12 at 17:14
    
This depends on who you are, why you are trying to help, and how and why management got into that situation in the first place. It also depends on what the company-client relationship is based on. In other words, this is impossible to answer unless you have those details, which you don't. Rhetorical questions are basically the opposite of what we want on Stack Exchange. –  NickC Dec 10 '12 at 18:23
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Since this IS rhetorical, I'll pose a few more assumptions in the answer. To limit the number of potential answers, I'm assuming that the hypothetical management agrees with the employee solution. In other words, that employees and management have come down to a "yes, but we told the client..." impasse.

Reason for assumption: I can't in a single question handle the 1000s of ways out there of changing management's mind, all of which are influenced by a dizzying number of other conditions... so I'm assuming that employees and management are more or less in agreement, so this is just company/client

1 - Current contract?

The trickiest case is one where your company has a contract with the client. You'd think that particularly with respect to a gym or something similarly personal, that this wouldn't be common, but if you think about DoD contracting, where huge behavioral stuff can be declared in the contract, you could have some really annoying corrallaries that could be a contractual breach. For example a contract that says "site security monitors all entrances for working hours, 9-5 Mon-Fri" - then you could have a great deal of confusion when the conditions to change to "work hours are flexible - 7am-7pm, M-F". Now there could be an issue where the client contends you need to cover the door for 4 additional hours a day, which is going to be a huge cost.

I've seen worse.

These are going to have be ironed out on a case by case basis. Ideally, you can work out an update to the contract with the lawyers that doesn't cost anyone too much money. But this could be a dealbreaker and you may end up waiting out the contract. There are often very creative and cost effective solutions if both parties can agree, but it'll take creative negotiation to get there. It will always be a matter of making sure client concerns are represented with careful thought on the part of the company. And the realization that the client won't pay more just to change the scene for employees.

2 - Relationship, no contract

If this is a less formalized relationship, you may be able to approach it as a notification. If the relationship is one with high trust and low formality, you can likely notify them of a plan to change the policy, check in and get the customer concerns, address them, and move forward. It could be as simple as a phone call or a one on one email. The important part will be to make sure there's no change in in the quality of the work.

It's worth it to:

  • notify and ask for comments
  • notify of final plans and date of implementation
  • check in over time on the client's perception of behavior.

3 - teams working together

Realize that sometimes it's a big deal when teams work together and culture shifts. It can be entirely within an organization where two sites work differently, or it can be between client and company where two teams work as one. Changing the benefits of one team can profoundly change another's satisfaction. Realize that small changes can have big impact and set norms that prevent the situation from decaying.

A big one I remember is that my last company had floating holidays while our customers had fixed holidays. From what I could tell, we stayed staffed up well enough that customers never noticed our holidays, but it was impossible to meet a customer deadline when all the points of contact took a fixed holiday. We had to be quite careful to plan schedules so that nothing was too close to a fixed holiday when approval would be required.

Even though both teams got the same basic number of days off, the way that they were taken was a big deal. With the gym example - if one site gets better gym privileges, they better be real clear that "oh, I was late cause I was in the gym" is an unacceptable excuse or the privilege will be revoked.

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Your management could announce that there has been a policy change regarding working hours. Employees are henceforth allowed "flexi hours", which means the office stays open from 6 am to 8 pm (the timings mentioned in the earlier question). Employees are expected to put in 8 hours of work, but they are free to choose when they do so in consultation with their reporting manager. I suppose this would be a suitable middle ground, which allows the management to save face, while also not alienating their employees or the client.

In the longer term though, moving away from a time-based work tracking to a result-based work tracking would be a better option (as mentioned in some answers in your earlier question).

Edit I forgot to clarify something very important: get the client involved in the policy change decision. It has to be handled very tactfully and diplomatically. For example, your management could tell the client that to make optimize use of our resources (computer systems load, parking space congestion, etc.), we are considering "spreading out" the work timings, and ask them what their thoughts are, and whether they have other alternatives to suggest.

Of course, the client's management will be smart enough to read between the lines, but making them feel like they are being part of the decision would make it a lot easier to get their agreement to what is eventually agreed to. Keep in mind though, that you have to be prepared to have your proposal shot down, but involving the client reduces the probability of that happening, and also leaves lesser burned fingers.

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The earlier/linked question wasn't mine, just to be clear. I like the general approach with this answer, but wouldn't a sudden or abrupt policy change perhaps beg more concern from the client, especially when it was about something they specifically questioned? I realize nothing will be perfect in this scenario, as the scenario is a tricky river to nagivate no matter how it's handled. –  JustinC Dec 8 '12 at 6:25
    
You raise a very valid point, and I had forgotten to address that in my original answer. I have edited it now. –  Happy Dec 8 '12 at 6:39
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Sorry the "client" should not be allowed to get involved in the micro management of your staff this is management 101 –  Neuro Dec 8 '12 at 16:03
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@Neuro I totally agree with you, but this is a damage control problem. The "client" should not have been involved in the original policy change to start with (refer the other question). Now since the management did involve them in the first place, they are already in muddy waters, and the "conventional" wisdom has to be set aside a bit till you get out of it. –  Happy Dec 8 '12 at 16:07
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Ah in that case take the Civil service route set up a working party with members from staff and management to report back in 6 months then have the report considered by the management at the next meeting that has facilities on the agenda - by that time it can be quietly dropped. Watch a few episodes of yes minester to get the Idea –  Neuro Dec 8 '12 at 16:20
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In this specific case, the client company had enough leverage to be able to push through conditions that don't appear to be related to any obvious H+S issues - in fact quite the opposite. They requested change also runs against what is widely regarded as being a positive working practice (flexiworking) and as a result will have a negative impact on the corporate working culture and is seen as a "loss of perk" by staff.

Management have not fully explained why this change is required, but the "elephant in the room" is why the client had sufficient leverage in the negotiations for the company to risk a likely employee backlash.

Without understanding the client leverage, it is impossible to know how you can address this in terms of getting the call reversed.

If you trust your immediate line manager (or another manager in the organisation), I would suggest informally and one-on-one asking them to explain to the team why this change had to be made, because employee morale is suffering as a result.

If you don't trust your management, then you need to ask yourself if this issue is a "deal breaker" for you, personally, or whether you can adjust to it, and make the appropriate choices.

I would add that bad policy calls usually get inverted over time - but to save face this often takes time - sometimes 12-24 months.

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From the background you've given on this question, It looks like it's just you, (the employee/employees) that feel management has painted itself into a corner. Has management sought anyone other than management's own input on the situation ( if they even feel this a situation)? Have they attempted to even bribe you guys by maybe throwing in more equipment or something? An awful, saddening lot can be inferred from a move such as we have here, about that shop's Mgmt

No good deed goes unpunished. Don't give unsolicited advice to a group of people who so readily threw employee satisfaction to the wolves for the sake of the Almighty Buck.

If you really feel that strongly about it though, HR is your first port of call, as a group. Don't go in there alone or be singled out as the one facing the opposite direction in the march of progress. Ask your HR contact if there is anything at all that can be done or if they feel mgmt will be willing to compromise by adding and removing an hour in either direction or designating an hour after lunch as gym time or something.

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