Effectiveness impaired by health: What to do?

When Instrument Repairman Frank Nelson lost an eye in a car accident, it created work problems in addition to the physical and psychological trauma. A competent employee before the accident, Nelson's performance was adversely affected.
By Raymond Dreyfack July 1, 1998

When Instrument Repairman Frank Nelson lost an eye in a car accident, it created work problems in addition to the physical and psychological trauma. A competent employee before the accident, Nelson’s performance was adversely affected. His productivity faltered. He made excessive errors reading and adjusting gauges.

This saddled Maintenance Foreman Chuck Raven with a problem. On the one hand, Frank was a longtime and valued employee who had been hit with a health catastrophe. It was against Raven’s nature to strike a man when he was down. On the other hand, Frank’s poor productivity was playing havoc with the schedule, and his errors were producing problems.

Raven discussed the situation with Frank, who promised to be more careful and try to work faster. But Frank’s problem wasn’t motivation, attitude, or experience. He was less productive because of his impaired eyesight.

“Frank, does the doctor expect your sight to improve?”

“He’s not optimistic, but you never know.”

Two weeks passed with no change. If anything, the errors grew more numerous. Raven was torn between his compassion for Frank and his supervisory responsibility. He decided to consult his boss.

Pulaski’s advice: Plant Engineer Jeff Pulaski frowned as he heard Raven out. “This is a tough one. Frank’s a 10-yr veteran with a fine work record. But we can’t ignore the reality. He works on close adjustments and sets gauges not always easily accessible. The job call for above-average vision. A person with impaired sight couldn’t perform the work efficiently.”

Pulaski shook his head. “I know of no openings for a man with Frank’s talent and experience. Still, you can’t fire a man with his fine record and length of service. I can think of no way to use him productively, unless — “

Pulaski looked thoughtful. ” — unless we created a job for him. How would you feel if we made Frank a troubleshooter? He would be used to identify problems and work out solutions, then turn over the detail work to someone else.”

Raven’s face brightened. “That’s perfect!”