PUT RESPECT FIRST
Several years back, Ryan Frischmann decided he wanted to get into software development, so he applied for a job as a lead developer at a small start-up in Rochester. During his inter view, he learnt that the role would be shared with a current employee who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The idea was that they would do the same job until his co-worker got too sick to work or passed away.
Ryan recognised t hat t his was a unique situation but he was willing to give it a tr y. “I thought it would be a great learning experience personally and professionally,” he says. The arrangement allowed his colleague the f lexibility he needed to continue working and gave Ryan the opportunity to learn from a more experienced colleague.
The t wo men shared the same role and responsibilities; Ryan worked full time at the off ice while his colleague worked from home when he was able to.
Ryan believes that the most important element in making their relationship work was respect. “I made sure he made the final decision on anything new in the development pipeline,” he says. “My colleague had built t he soft ware f rom scratch. He felt it was an accomplishment and so did I.” Ryan also worked to gain his co-worker’s trust. “I had to demonstrate to him that I understood his coding and methods. When he was sicker, he told me and the others that he was leaving his software in capable hands. This meant a lot to me.”
The job share lasted for nine months before Ryan’s co-worker died, and Ryan has carried on in the role. He says the experience has inspired him. “My partner had a lot of pride in his work and completed some of his best work when he was very sick. I never anticipated the effect it would have on me personally.”
Amy Gallo is a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review.
© 2013 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. © The New York Times 2013.