One employee was experiencing personal problems; she recently gave birth and at the same time, she has to deal with estrangement from her partner. Another employee steps in to do the work of the troubled one, doing her assigned tasks and assuming all responsibilities for her, without prior permission of the supervisor. Although the intentions of the sympathetic employee are noble, the mistake of the set-up is that one employee should not shoulder the responsibilities of another without going through the formal channels of authority.
Every employee is hired to accomplish tasks within his job description and could only assume other responsibilities under the authority and consent of a higher office such as the supervisor or division manager, and even then, only if the superior thinks that the other employee could perform beyond and more than what he was hired and being paid to do. If I were the head of the organization where the said incident happened, I would ensure to prevent the same from happening again.
Although the second employee could perform the job of the problematic employee, I would not be appeased knowing that my people are switching jobs and making decisions without the prior knowledge of a supervisor. They are simply driven to the act by their personal instincts rather than as sanctioned by the company. The distribution of tasks in a company should be directed by a certain structure that eliminates as much as possible, if not completely, whimsical or emotion-driven decisions by the staff that change expected routines.
Firstly, I would institute a policy, or reiterate through a memorandum if a certain policy has already been included in the staff guidebook only it is hidden among the hundreds of other rules there, that no employee should undertake the responsibilities of other employees even if both employees occupy the same rung in the company hierarchy and thus, have similar job descriptions. Responsibilities carry their respective accountabilities.
If the substitute performs poorly or make a serious mistake, he should be held accountable along with his superior who assigned him to do the task. Substitution of tasks if ever it is needed should be made official and accompanied with the corresponding paperwork so that the substitute will not only assume responsibility for the additional assigned task including the blame for any mistake committed and reward for any achievement attained, but also get remuneration for it.
Those who disobey this policy would be sanctioned with a written and verbal warning. Continued violation would affect the regular performance evaluation of the offender and in turn, his future prospects with the company. For employees with personal problems, I would hire a part-time psychologist as part of the clinic staff so that these employees would be encouraged to open up about personal troubles that may affect their jobs without fear of getting fired or their pay being affected from non-performance or incurring absences.
A psychologist could also guide employees to deal with their personal problems while not neglecting their duties. In consonance to this, I will also make it another policy of the company that no employee should be fired or fined for having personal problems that may affect his performance on the job unless the problems would permanently make him unable to perform it for the rest of his life although these troubled employee would be asked to avail of the company-provided professional help.
For problems that would affect the financial stability of the worker, the company would also institute a low-interest loan scheme. The endpoint of these programs is to make the employee feel valued so that they would be more open and unafraid to approach upper management if they think that their performance is being affected or would be affected by their personal problems.