When We Care, It’s Only Natural to Go Too Far

By Craig Partin

Watching a baby learn to walk is nerve-racking. Those first wobbly steps followed by the gyrating hips, flailing arms, and of course, the big bulbous eyes darting about the room; it doesn’t matter who you are; there is an innate need to lend the baby a hand. Yet we all know, if that little beauty is going to learn, we must sit on our hands and bite our tongues.

Family enjoying downtime with their two children. One and girl and the other a boy. While they enjoy leisurely use of mobile devices.

It’s entirely natural for us to care about people we feel a sense of responsibility towards. And this dynamic was never more prevalent in the business travel and mobility industries than during 2020. From the sheer amount of health unknowns to constant government updates to the lockdowns, social distance requirements, and of course the restrictions, while halting all relocations was prudent, if we are honest with ourselves, it was also the equivalent of committing the baby to life in the crib.

Maybe a bit dramatic, but nonetheless, when we are responsible for another’s safety and security, let alone their comfort, we tend to fly right past “optimal” and land somewhere near eliminating all potential liability.

This need for a balanced approach was the crux of my conversation about the future of Duty of Care with the brilliant mobility minds of Joan McCarthy Mack, Synergy’s VP of Supply Chain; Scott Carroll, President of Odyssey; and Charles Ameno, Global Mobility Leader at Intuit during last week’s Worldwide ERC’s Spring Virtual Conference.

While the conversation offered many great points (check out Synergy’s recap Tweet thread here), there is one point, in particular, I’d like to zero in on as I believe it provides the best framework for us to look to the future of transferee care.

In speaking to Intuit navigating the process of reinstating domestic relocations, Charles noted his legal team advising transferees not to fly instead, encouraging them to drive. To this, Charles immediately noted the fact more people die in car accidents than while flying.

At first, the point feels somewhat counter-productive, yet if you think about it—as was Charles’s point—if the policy’s goal is guarding transferee safety, what are the appropriate frameworks to make this decision? Is it a company’s liability? If so, that feels more like a restriction than actual care. And how are you supposed to build transferee trust and confidence when you treat your transferees like toddlers learning to walk?

Or is it more fundamental than that? At what point are we protecting ourselves at the cost of the transferee experience?

To Charles’s point, if we force a transferee to drive and god-forbid they fall victim to a car accident, did we really uphold the legal definition of Duty of Care? It is very easy to find logic in the argument; while planes posed a greater risk to contracting COVID-19, they were statistically safer to the absolute preservation of life than traveling by car.

And let’s not forget, what about a transferee’s preference? At what point do we trust them to make a personal decision based on their capacity to manage their own safety and security?

Father doings arts and crafts with his two children on the dining room table.

This all boils down to Charles’s main takeaway: organizations and suppliers must listen to their main stakeholder, the transferee. Duty of Care policy must consider personal circumstance exemptions and be flexible enough to adapt and find a balance between protective guidance, legal liabilities, and transferee optionality.

While we must uphold our Duty of Care, we must also remind ourselves we have a Duty “TO” Care about what’s best for the transferee. And just as babies fall when learning to walk, their success depends on our ability to balance our fears with the trust we’ve done everything in our power to guard them against undue harm.

Learn more about how Synergy is building a culture of care here.

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