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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Different Rules, Same Company

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I work for a large company (there are over 5,000 people at my site alone). You would think that the same rules would apply to the whole company, or at least the whole building, but somehow the rules in my department are more strict than any where else. For example, the dress code is business casual. But, if I wear khaki pants I get chewed out, all the while I see people in jeans walking down the hall. I sit next to people in a different department. If one of their kids gets sick, they take their laptops and head for home. If my kid is vomiting my choices are to either take a vacation day (and get yelled at for not planning in advance--who can plan stomach flu in advance?) or get my spouse to stay home.

How can this be fair? Shouldn't a company have one set of policies?


Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,

To answer your questions, it's not fair and yes, a company should have one set of policies.

But, that doesn't help. Let's start with the fairness of it all. It's not fair. Remember back to 7th grade when you didn't get invited to the birthday party of the most popular girl in school, even though she was your best friend in 6th grade? What did your mother say to you? "Life isn't meant to be fair."

Ah, I'm such a comforting figure. Aren't you glad you asked?

First, let's give your boss the benefit of the doubt. What exactly is the company dress code? Is he enforcing it as written and other managers are being lenient? You can hardly fault someone for obeying the rules. Heaven knows the term "business casual" can mean 5 different things to 3 different people. But, even if the policy specifically allows for khaki pants, does your deparment have a reason for being more strict? Do you meet with clients or vendors on a regular basis? Do you conduct trainings or make frequent presentations? If so, there may be a valid reason for the stricter dress code.

As for working from home, Evil HR Lady knows far too well that stomach flu cannot be planned for. (I am also extremely grateful for a large capacity washer and dryer, but that's probably too much information.) Again, does your job require you to be onsite?

When I was doing recruiting, it was a huge burden on my co-workers if I took an unplanned day off. They would have to cover for interviews I had scheduled, all the while trying to get their work done. But, when I was doing data analysis, I could just as easily do that from home as I could in a cube. (Actually, I could do it better from home because cubes are so darn noisy.)

But, what if your manager is just a jerk? (I suspect that this is the answer you wanted, anyway.) This may well be the case. Some managers are convinced that they need to monitor your every move. Some may just want things done their way and no other way will suffice. If this is the case, then it's time to ask yourself these questions:

1. Are these issues making you miserable or are they just slight annoyances?
2. If they are making you miserable, are you focusing too much on things that should be slight annoyances? (Really, is a ban on khaki's so difficult? Even nylons every day won't kill you--I know, I've done it. I even had an internship once where I wasn't allowed to wear pants. No pants! And it was in winter.)
3. Are you learning and growing in your position? Is your compensation package good? If so, don't give up a great opportunity because things aren't fair. Good positions can be hard to come by.

Now, the truth be told, people quit jobs because they dislike their managers. Oh, they don't say that in exit interviews. (Almost everyone says the same thing--"I'm leaving because I just had this great opportunity pop up. It was almost like magic, so I really hate to leave, but I just have to take it." When, in reality, they've been interviewing at least twice a week for the past 6 months because they are desperate for a new job.) If enough people start leaving your department, hopefully senior management will eventually catch on that your manager needs an attitude adjustment.

Or maybe they won't. (Senior management can overlook obvious things, while latching onto minutia that do not matter. I think they teach you that at MBA school.) But, it's up to you to take control of your life and your career.

You work at a site that has 5,000 employees. That means there are 4,999 other positions as possibilities for you, without even having to learn new traffic patterns. Glean what you can from your current position, and then post out of the department.

Good luck!

Evil HR Lady

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