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I've been struggling to determine the right way to approach the following situation: My manager decided that I was the correct person to send on a grueling, long-term travel task, and he specifically stated that it was because I don't have kids.

On the one hand, I do have a bit of sympathy for coworkers with kids, as I believe it's tough, and that culminates in the form of me not really caring too much if they leave at 4pm to go pick up their kids while I stay until 7pm.

On the other hand, I had no personal input into the decisions these people made in their personal/family lives, so why should my work life be affected? Should your home life decisions affect my workplace decisions? Is it the manager's role to decide that my personal choice of not having kids (yet) should sign me up to help bear the burden of raising their kids?

closed as primarily opinion-based by gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Rory Alsop, mcknz, OldPadawan Mar 19 at 22:06

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Can you clarify whether you are part of a group of "equivalent" people? (like a team of 4 who do the same role or whatever) or why/how you were deemed to be the most correct person to send? – seventyeightist Mar 18 at 22:16
  • Yes, there are several team members which have equivalent roles and backgrounds to be able to perform the task. The only difference is that I'm the only one without kids. The manager specifically told me that my lack of kids was the sole reason I was chosen. – user2913869 Mar 18 at 22:25
  • What country are you in? Some countries have laws around flexibility for working parents. – JeffUK Mar 19 at 16:21
  • I was in a kind of similar situation a few years ago and found that in such cases it's way better to view the whole thing as an opportunity and a way to grow professionally, getting the bosses to trust you more and even brag about it a bit during future interviews. Once you'll have kids, it's possible you'll want such opportunities but won't be able to have them. – Radu Murzea Mar 20 at 11:55
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I think you're approaching this from the wrong direction.

You are complaining about how unfair it is that you have to do so much more difficult, strenuous work than your colleagues.

Instead, at your next performance review, you should point out to your managers how you are doing so much more difficult and strenuous work than your colleagues and request/demand that your pay reflect this.

This is an opportunity to better your financial position and it's up to you to do to make the best of it instead of crying about how unfair the world is.

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    hey there, I feel that the word "crying" is a bit strong choice to use towards OP, as it reads a bit insulting.... The rest of your answer is really good, though – DarkCygnus Mar 18 at 21:39
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    Yes there is bigger reward potential, but there is also a bigger risk potential. More difficult, strenuous work has a bigger chance of failure. The coworkers with kids get to float on with their standard "safe" tasks. Even so, if what you say is true, then I could then flip the argument: Is it unfair that employees without kids get better opportunities in terms of risk/reward/advancement? My original question was "Should employees with children get special treatment"? whether it be positive or negative? It's still a fundamental question in my mind. – user2913869 Mar 18 at 21:47
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    @DarkCygnus Hey, it's meant to be kind of strongly worded in order to grab the attention of the OP. I'm trying to get them to take control of their life and instead of seeing things like this as "unfair", use them as opportunities. As a child I would complain about how unfair it was that I had to do extra chores compared to my siblings. I don't do that today because effort is usually rewarded. – user1666620 Mar 18 at 21:47
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    @user2913869 You've got to risk it for the biscuit. Higher risk usually leads to better reward. If you're happy being the nail that doesn't stick out from the crowd, don't expect better financial reward. – user1666620 Mar 18 at 21:48
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    So, basically if you don't have kids you have to work harder - is that your answer? especially when you say the OP is "crying"... – Solar Mike Mar 19 at 7:38
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As the leader of a team and a parent I can see both sides. Your observation is correct, picking up the kids at 4pm does not mean that free time starts. Especially if they has small kids, you can expect that your coworkers will not have more free time than you, even if you stay until 7pm.

I would take it one step further: Every employee deserves special treatment in a sense that everyone has to be treated as an individual. Of course that makes "special" treatment not special anymore, but the norm.

A good manager will see that all the people in his team have different plans for their life and for everyone work fits differently in those plans. Some have kids and want to do a good job and be a good parent. Others want to concentrate on work, which is fine too. Others have to be protected from doing too much work to avoid burnout or other health issues. From the employer's side you can balance this with pay, carreer prospects etc. Maybe the parent accepts a lower salary and/or a bump in their carreer to spend more time with their kids. In general it is possible to treat your team fairly even if not everyone has the same approach to work life. I believe that the different views on life of a diverse team eventually is benefitial for the performance for your team.

Having said that, it is also the manager's job to properly explain their approach to their team. A statement in the lines of "You have to do this because X has kids and you don't." might not be the best way to do that.

What you can do is to evaluate the entire package of your personal workload, the results you deliver, available free time, carreer prospects, compensation, benefits etc. Do you have the feeling that your package is fair and balanced? If you think it's not, then you should probably talk with your manager.

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    I like the way you're describing individual treatment of every employee, since that makes much more sense than blanket "fair to all" policies that just end up leaving most or all employees frustrated. – dwizum Mar 19 at 12:39
  • @dwizum - correct, although I’d suggest stating that employees should be treated ‘fairly’, not ‘equally’. Just like your kids should be for that matter... – Jon Custer Mar 19 at 22:09
  • "picking up the kids at 4pm does not mean that free time starts" I've always found this kind of argument troubling. If my commute is twice as long as someone else, can I claim half of that is not my free time starting? – Gregory Currie Mar 20 at 2:52
  • @GregoryCurrie: Do you have kids who you have to take care of? – Sefe Mar 20 at 8:20
  • @sefe Is that relivant? – Gregory Currie Mar 20 at 9:26
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It isn't fair between employees, nor is it going to be

Trying to make everything fair in a workplace is hard, if not impossible. Everything will look unfair in someone's eyes. So I think you need to lower your expectations in that regard.

Treating this as an issue of whether it's fair on you vs your coworkers will only sour your relationship with them, when it wasn't their decision or responsibility.

Address the issue - fairness in your relationship with the employer

The treatment of other employees is not the issue, and the family justification is really a matter between them and the employer. If they were disabled, had agoraphobia or there were some other thing inhibiting them then fairness between you and them wouldn't be something you could even consider.

The issue is that you don't want to do this trip, and don't feel you are getting reasonable treatment. Perhaps you hadn't expected so many trips, or they have increased in frequency since people had families. Whatever the reason, the issue is between you and your employer to resolve the problem. They need to perhaps pay you more, or offer you more time in lieu, or grant you some promotion in acknowledgement of your broader role.

Disgruntlement is not in the interests of the employer

If this situation gets worse, then relationships within the team will be compromised and you may be likely to leave for greener grass. None of that is what the employer wants. So it is in their interests to find a solution that works for you.

Only by raising the issue and coming to it prepared with your own position on what you might accept by way of compromise can you find an acceptable solution. Once the problem is apparent, they can decide whether they want to meet your position or adjust the balance of who goes on what trip.

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If you don't want to or can't (having a good reason helps) do it you can always decline unless it is in your contract that travelling is expected.

Of course this might be received negatively, so dusting up that CV could prove prudent.

Regarding your question, no they largely shouldn't, except for emergencies.

It is discrimination or the very least at odds with the principal of equality.

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Certain dispensations for those with kids aren't unusual - and it makes sense for societal health in general to ensure that people can have kids and still be productive members of the workforce. Kids schedules don't always fit neatly with the 9-5 and you can't just put them away when they get inconvenient. But yes having kids (or not) is a personal choice that the person has made and accommodations shouldn't be a free pass.

I think what your boss did was flat out wrong - as much as possible any accommodations made for those with kids should avoid impacting on those that don't. In the interests of full disclosure I'm not exactly unbiased here - I had a co-worker many years ago who used his family as an excuse frequently (his wife had two "birthdays" one year!) and guess who always had to pick up the slack! It would be OK to ask you to pick up this task in exchange for some benefit in lieu, some time off or whatever. Just expecting you to always pick up the slack is wrong.

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I think it's a "Do ut des" case. People with kids or elderly people to care could have special needs, granted. You don't have some needs, so the right thing to do is to ask either for a monetary compensation for the sacrifice and making clear you're doing more to the management, or ask some flexibility if happens to have some needs, like entering late if you need some errands to do or have to follow some evening courses.

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Should employees with children get special treatment?

The short answer is No!

But employees without children should get no special treatment too...

In your special case this mean to me: The date (for example) of this travel-task should be so long in future, that all employees should be able to plan it. The frequency of this tasks for one person should not overstretch the "family network" (the persons, who have to fulfill private tasks instead of absent employee).

No question if employee have children, animals, old parents and so on -- or not.

In your case it sounds to me, that your manager go the path of least resistance...

You can use it to your benefit, how user1666620 explain or make afford to avoid the travel-task, like DigitalBlade969 propose.

But you can also try to make clear, that you expect the next similar task goes to another employee and the "no children" reason let you feel discriminated.

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