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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of the best days of the years. Let's face it--it's a holiday that is about candy. What is there not to love?

There are no family obligations. No presents for picky relatives. (Not that any of my relatives are picky--especially the ones who read this blog. Love ya!) You buy a couple of pumpkins, carve 'em up and throw them on the front porch. Then you buy more candy than you should and you hand it out to adorably dressed children. (I don't much care for the 16 year olds that put on one of their dad's ties and show up at 9:30, with not so much as a word--just an outstretched hand.)

And that's it! That's Halloween.


UPDATE: I just found this article about teens who trick-or-treat. Seems I'm not the only one who is annoyed.

Monday, October 30, 2006


The Carnival of the Insanities is up over at Dr. Sanity. There are great posts and a link to 5000 Years of Middle East History in 90 seconds. Talk about cool.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Job For Those Who Don't Want to be Wealthy

Dancer. That's right, according to this Bankrate article" the wealthy dancer is an oxymoron.
"The vast majority of dancers cannot make a living off of dancing alone as a performer," says John Munger, director of research and information for Dance/USA, an American dance service organization. "I believe less than 3,000 actually do in the entire nation."

So why do all my friends make huge sacrifices to get develop their daughters' dancing skills? I'm not talking about dance class once a week. (I'm in favor of that--it's good exercise.) I'm talking about 4 hours of class a day. Putting dance ahead of homework.

I wonder if they know the expected payoff? I think not.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why I Don't Live in an Apartment

NYC apartment woes.

Enough said.

UPDATE: For SheSaid who doesn't wish to register with the NY Times. (I have a hotmail address that I use for all such registration.) Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“One night, the sound was so horrendous I went up and knocked on the door for the first time,” said Ms. Bielfield, a retired publishing and marketing executive in her 70’s. “She opened the door and in the background I could see this youngster”— the neighbor’s 5- or 6-year-old grandson — “jumping up and down on a trampoline. With no carpet underneath. She said, ‘I’ll do whatever I want’ and slammed the door in my face.”

One downstairs neighbor, an elderly woman, grew irate when the 5- and 10-year-old boys upstairs bounced balls. “She would complain to the doorman, the super, the managing agent,” said Jennifer Roberts, a senior vice president at Bellmarc who had sold the boys’ parents their three-bedroom apartment in the East 70’s. “One day, she came upstairs when the mother wasn’t home, and she took the ball and hit the kid.”

But if noisy toys and boys are torture, one could argue that three 200-pound teenagers wearing cleats and playing football overhead at 11 p.m. is more on the order of hell itself.

Then, there were the mandatory “team meetings” organized every few weeks in the younger women’s living room. The object was to “tear apart every problem, but she would focus on things like dirty dishes in the sink, that we had too many plants and too much furniture, causing damage to the ceiling below our apartment. And whenever we would bring up any problems with the lack of heat”—at times the temperature dropped to 50 degrees in the winter —“or the freezer, she would say, ‘That’s not my problem.’ Anytime you would challenge her on something, she would say, ‘I’m not going to renew your lease.’ ”

After reading the article again, I'm extra pleased with my decision.

Why You Shouldn't Lie

We had a discussion on lying a while back. My position is that lying is never appropriate. I bet Eric Poehlman wishes he had listened to me. From the New York Times Magazine:
Poehlman pleaded guilty to lying on a federal grant application and admitted to fabricating more than a decade’s worth of scientific data on obesity, menopause and aging, much of it while conducting clinical research as a tenured faculty member at the University of Vermont. He presented fraudulent data in lectures and in published papers, and he used this data to obtain millions of dollars in federal grants from the National Institutes of Health — a crime subject to as many as five years in federal prison.

One of his lab techs turned him in, rightfully so. Fascinating article.

Monday, October 23, 2006

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

Apparently the same way you get to be CEO--practice. Fortune reports
For one thing, you do not possess a natural gift for a certain job, because targeted natural gifts don't exist. (Sorry, Warren.) You are not a born CEO or investor or chess grandmaster. You will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. And not just any hard work, but work of a particular type that's demanding and painful.

Well, that's a cheery thought for Monday morning. Demanding and painful work ahead! Actually, it can be cheery. It means if you want success you can achieve it, despite your lack of natural talent.

Of coure, I don't know how the author can state that "targeted natural gifts" don't exist. Of course they do. Some people are born being able to carry a tune and some are not. Granted, even the natural singer needs to practice, practice, practice in order to be successful. I, for instance, love public speaking. (I know, I know, I'm a complete whack.) That's definitely an inborn trait.

But, if I wanted to make a living at it, I'd definitely have to develop that talent.

So, read the whole article and get busy doing painful practice.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Evil Hr Lady Gets Religious

Okay, truth be told I'm already religious. But I'm not a Southern Baptist. I make no attempt to understand the finer points of Southern Baptist Theology. Still, I found this article, Texas Seminary: No Speaking in Tongues interesting--from an HR point of view.

It seems the trustees voted and, with one dissenting vote, they made the following declaration:
Southwestern will not knowingly endorse in any way, advertise, or commend the conclusions of the contemporary charismatic movement including private prayer language. Neither will Southwestern knowingly employ professors or administrators who promote such practices.

I support the right of any religious body--be it a school or a church--to set the standards for their curriculum and staff. I just wonder how you are going to enforce this.

The dissenter wants the Southern Baptist Convention to weigh in on the matter, which (I infer) means that the SBC doesn't have an official position on the doctrine of speaking in tongues. It also suggests to me that leadership isn't quite unified on this.

Any time there is change in an institution (be it religious or secular) you need unity from the leadership for effective change. I've seen numerous times where some corporate big-wig announces, "Our new policy is X" but meanwhile his executive team is going about undermining him. The end result is a more divisive workforce.

You need unity at the top for big change. (Although I admit, I don't know how big of a change this is. Was it happening often? I have no idea.) If this Southern Baptist Seminary had come to me for advice, I would have told them to get the SBC to weigh in first, then create it's new policy and get full support prior to announcing. If you can't get full support, well, that's why you "transition" people out of your organization.

It seems harsh, especially for a religious group, but successful companies do it all the time. Granted, if this isn't a major component of the school, it may not matter. But, someone thought it was major enough to alert a reporter at the Associated Press--and the Washington Post saw fit to publish it.

But overall, HR Advice, get your unity first.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Body Art

Tattoos are becoming more prevalent. Which brings up the question, what do employees do about that? Do they refuse to hire people with tattos? Do they require they be covered? Categorize them as acceptable and unacceptable? (Flowers and hearts, okay. Knives plunging through skulls, not okay.)

The Associated Press examines the issue. Some quotes:
The face of the young American worker is changing, and it's increasingly decorated with ink and metal. About half of people in their 20s have either a tattoo or a body piercing other than traditional earrings, according to a study published in June in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. That figure, which is higher than the national average, is growing, said Anne Laumann, the study's co-author and a dermatologist at Northwestern University.

Personally, the thought of voluntarily having someone jab a needle into my skin a thousand times is enough to keep me away from tattoos forever. That and as you "mature" you tend to sag. (One of my college roommates had an eagle on her stomach. She's since had 4 children. I cannot even imagine what that thing must look like now. Surprisingly, she doesn't send out pictures of it in her annual Christmas card.)
For some companies, allowing body art can be a boon - it attracts young workers that may not feel welcome in more conservative environments, said Paul Forster, CEO of the job search Web site (which shows that postings for tattoo artist have surged in the past year). Forster allows body art in the office, and about a quarter of his 25 employees have it.

What do you all think?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How Often Should You Lie?

The only acceptable lie is when your Aunt Grace* asked if you enjoyed her special dish at the family reunion. Other than that, never.

  • Don't lie on your resume.
  • Don't lie in an interview.
  • Don't lie in your performance review.
  • Don't lie about why you need a day off. (You don't necessarily have to say why you need a day off, but don't say, "my grandmother is sick" when you really have a job interview. It's perfectly acceptable to say, "for personal reasons.")
  • Don't lie about why you left your last job.
  • Don't lie about your gaps in employment.
  • Don't lie about your salary, your qualifications, your workload or anything else.

  • Hopefully, I've cleared up any confusion.

    No lying.

    *If your Aunt is named something other than "Grace" you can't lie, ever.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    You Can Complain, Or You Can Make Money

    First off, I stole the headline, from Ben Stein's column in the NYT. Now that I've confessed that sin, let's read Mr. Stein's ideas.

    The rich certainly have more money than the poor (that is, after all, what makes them rich). You can either moan and groan about that fact, or you can do something to make yourself rich. (Hint, HR is not the way into multi-million dollar salaries. Sure Sr. VPs of HR at large companies make $200,000-$400,000 plus stock and bonuses, but I would be shocked if you're ever promoted into the president's job.)

    Here is some of his advice:
    • You do not get to it by studying African feminism in the 19th century, whether or not you are at an Ivy League college. You do not get to it by studying Bulgarian poetry. You do not get to it by any field of endeavor or study that is esoteric and has no connection with helping other people either become healthy or make money.

    And this:
    • You are always better off working in a field where torrents of money are sloshing through and you can grab a handful as it goes by. That means Wall Street. Finance is the ultimate great business.

    Go read the whole thing.

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Wal-Mart Woes

    Dear Wal-Mart,

    I realize you didn't ask for Evil HR Lady's Advice, but you should have. You see, I understand a jury just determined that you had forced employees to work through breaks and to work off the clock.

    This is what we call "stupid" behavior. Sure, you may disagree with Pennsylvania state labor laws. And sure, your employees may prefer to work straight through rather than having to spend 30 minutes, unpaid, in a Wal-Mart break room. But, it's against the law and you can't do it.

    Understand that? Here is what you should have done and what you should do in the future.

    1. Every day run time card audits to make sure that people who worked 6 hours (or whatever the law is for the particular state in question) got a 30 minute lunch break. Every day.

    2. Make sure your employees and your managers know that missing breaks is a firable offense. Then follow through. Employees need to understand that if they don't get a break their manager can and will be fired. Employees also need to understand that they have to take a break. Some will rebel. I don't care. It's the law, so they either take it or they lose their job.

    3. No more working off the clock. Ever. Again, this needs to be a firable offense for both management and staff. Tell your managers that if they can't get whatever task done without having people work off the clock then the person who has to do the work is the salaried manager. I guarantee that managers will find a way to get the work done rather than have to do it themselves.

    4. Stop putting so much junk in the center of your aisles. I realize this has nothing to do with labor laws, I just find it annoying.


    Evil HR Lady

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Dealing With A Disability

    Dear Evil HR Lady,

    For years I was practically trapped by panic disorder that got worse and worse until I had panic attacks that would last 6 or 7 hours at least 5 days a week. It made me incredibly avoidant and increasingly dependent on others as many normal situations would literally knock the wind out of me. I would force myself out at times, even into very stressful work, but working while having the same adrenaline as if being chased or falling or something was impossible after a while. Then the miracle of modern science stepped in. I took a pill, thinking it would be useless, and then the panic stopped and the world opened up.

    That was then and this is now - two distinctly different worlds, one dark and forbidding and the other normal and filled with light (okay, I live in Seattle so that might be a bit of a stretch).

    I'm by no means too fearful now to go up to anybody and ask for a job, but no corporate HR department would allow me to be hired, would they? I'm not complaining. People certainly suffer worse. But it's very frustrating to feel that there is a whole industry which is, in a very real sense, dedicated to keeping people like me out of the workforce.

    Dave in Seattle

    Dear Dave,

    Would a corporate HR department allow you to be hired? Absolutely. In fact, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) most companies can't not hire you due to your panic disorder.

    The EEOC gives the following example:
    An individual diagnosed with schizophrenia now works successfully as a computer programmer for a large company. Before finding an effective medication, however, he stayed in his room at home for several months, usually refusing to talk to family and close friends. After finding an effective medication, he was able to return to school, graduate, and start his career. This individual has a mental impairment, schizophrenia, which substantially limits his ability to interact with others when evaluated without medication. Accordingly, he is an individual with a disability as defined by the ADA.

    If you change schizophrenia with panic disorder, it sounds very similar to you. You developed a disorder which severely impacted your life and now you've found a medication that works for you. Thank goodness for pharmaceutical companies!

    But, being prohibited from discriminating against you and actually hiring you are two very different things. Let's tackle getting the new job.

    First, are you required to disclose to an employer that you suffer from a Panic Disorder? No. But under ADA, if you need accomodations, you are required to disclose. But, you don't have to do it at the interview stage. And any accomodations need to be reasonable. What reasonable is varies from job to job. For example:

    Reasonable: For an accounting position, you need space that is relatively quiet.
    Unreasonable: For a lifeguard position, you need quiet to concentrate.

    There is lots of advice on when and what to disclose. Some of the advice that I like the best is from Rutgers University's Career Servcies. Monster also has good advice.

    My advice is to not disclose before you receive an offer. I advise this for your own peace of mind. That way, you know they are not rejecting you because of your disability. And you may not need to disclose at all if you feel your medication allows you to function without any special accommodations.

    If you've been out of the work force for a while, try going back in with temp agencies. They are generally less demanding. If you've been consistently working and are just looking for a new opportunity, attack that job search as you would if you didn't suffer from panic disorder. Remember, you are selling you, not a disorder.

    Recruiters can smell confidence, so practice interviewing. Read up on sample questions and get a friend to help you prepare. Make sure your resume is polished and up to date. If you've been out of work for a while, be prepared to answer questions regarding why.

    The secret that most job seekers don't know is that the recruiter and the hiring manager desperately want you to be the right person? Why? Because the manager hates interviewing and wants to get back to work, and the recruiter's performance ratings are based on how fast she can fill positions. So, all you have to do is be the right person! Read up on the company. Be able to articulate what you can do for them. And then do it.


    Evil HR Lady

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Will You Please Object?

    Peter Lewis reviews Amazon's new Unbox in Fortune. You can pretty much tell his feelings about it, by looking at the headline: Two thumbs down for Unbox: Amazon's new movie service is a horror show, says Fortune's Peter Lewis.

    The idea of trying to download a movie when Netflix will send me anything I want is just foreign to me, so I don't particularly care about the service. (Although I do love Amazon for everything else. My family should take note, if I can't order it from Amazon, you are probably not getting it for Christmas.) But, what I do wonder is why a wonderful company can make such a bad product.

    Peter Lewis wonders the same thing. He writes:
    Of all the smart and talented people at Amazon, did no one dare say, "Wait, our new service bites! It's slower than a trip to Blockbuster, more expensive than a DVD, absurdly restrictive on how the consumer uses the movie, delivers lower resolution than a DVD, and requires running a cable from the PC to the TV if you want to watch the movie on something larger than a PC monitor"?

    This is what Evil HR Lady wants to comment on. I believe what we have here is a bad case of Groupthink going on here. At the moment, Wikipedia defines Groupthink as:
    [A] mode of thought whereby individuals intentionally conform to what they perceive to be the consensus of the group. Groupthink may cause the group (typically a committee or large organization) to make bad or irrational decisions which each member might individually consider to be unwise.

    Businesses have a real problem with this. Or, at least every company I've ever worked for has a huge problem with this. And I know I'm guilty of giving into the Groupthink mentality. More than once I've remained silent when I thought something was a really bad idea. Why? Because I thought I would be shot down and end up ticking off a superior, so why take the risk?

    Of course, there was one time I defied the rules of Groupthink and loudly objected to a proposed project. The company that we were hiring to do the project had demonstrated nothing but sheer incompetence and I said as much. The result? I got pulled into my boss's office and was given a lecture on propriety. Way to encourage further Groupthink!

    However (and I'm not taking credit for this whole thing, there were other objectors as well), finally the powers that be came to their senses and canceled the project. It, undoubtedly, saved the company millions of dollars.

    When that nagging little voice is telling you, "This is a really bad idea," you should probably speak up. If you feel too much pressure to remain silent in the meeting, feel out a co-worker one-on-one and see if they share similar thoughts. Then figure out how to articulate why it is a bad idea and present it to the project leader.

    Keep in mind that there may be facts and figures you haven't seen yet. But, a competent project leader will be happy to discuss them with you. An incompetent leader--well, so sorry you have those in your midst.

    You may just save your company from making a colossal mistake. Of course, you may get pulled into your boss's office and lectured as well. (Sorry, Evil HR Lady makes no guarantees!) But, at least you will have opened the discussion. Ask yourself, do you want Fortune reviewing your project in the same light?

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    Bored with Business Travel? Try Being Wealthy!

    I don't travel a great deal for business. In fact, when I do "travel" it involves driving to another site that is 15 minutes away. So, I am definitely not an expert on business travel.

    Still, I was intrigued by this NYT headline: There’s Simply No Excuse for Being Bored on a Trip. We do love to go strange places, so I was hoping I could learn something.

    John Heaton's article begins:
    FROM time to time, I hear business travelers complain about how unexciting their trips are. This is nonsense, for the most part. Business travel can be great adventure if you’re curious.

    I was with him at this point. Then he goes on to describe how he stays in the native hotels and peppers people with questions. (Does he speak all the languages he is questioning people in? Or does he have the luxury of traveling with an interpreter? I'm feeling skeptical so I'm voting for the latter.) I was starting to dismiss him at this point. Then I got to this paragraph:
    For the next two hours, as we pored over maps, he told me tales of the archipelago and uncontacted tribes. His stories were so compelling that I decided to change my travel plans. For the next two months, I crisscrossed the islands, hardly seeing another white face. The highlight of my trip was being the only outsider to attend the funeral of an important Dani chief. What started as a business trip ended in a real adventure.

    Yes, I can afford to do that. Can't you? Just take two months off work so you can crissross islands.

    So, while you are having a 6 hour layover in Pittsburgh, remember if you are bored, it's not because the airport is boring, it's because you are! Or, you are not wealthy enough to avoid business trips that involve layovers in Pittsburgh. I'm betting it's the latter.

    Evil Stupid HR

    Somebody found me through a Google search where they entered the words "Evil Stupid HR." I'm always pleased when someone finds me through Google. (I feel so famous!) This, however, made me wonder. Just what was this person looking for? I have a feeling they weren't looking for a Christmas present for their favorite HR professional!

    So, if you are the person who searched for "evil stupid HR" send me an e-mail with your woes. I'd love to hear from you!

    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

    News Update

    I apologize for my blogging shortage the past few days. Things have been a bit crazy. But, rather than give my normal long winded blog, I'll give you a few news items from the past few days.

    I think this is my favorite.
    If you want a job at the Philadelphia Park Casino, you'd better bring your dancing shoes.

    Job applicants said they're being asked to dance to “YMCA” or a Bon Jovi song — with blow-up guitar — during interviews at the Bucks County Visitors and Conference Bureau in Bensalem

    This wasn't just for people applying to be dancers or general entertainers. Accountants had to perform as well. Now, the Evil HR philosophy is that companies are allowed to do stupid things if they want. So, more power to the Philadelphia Park Casino. I hope it works for them. (Well, not really. I oppose gambling, so I hope they, specifically, fail miserably. But I support their right to have stupid interviews.)

    Did you know that professional football players have a low life expectancy? I was shocked when I read this, but Evil Marketing Man's response was, well, duh.
    It is not a widely disseminated, downloaded or discussed fact that the average life expectancy for all pro football players including all positions and backgrounds is 55 years. Several insurance carriers say it is 51 years.

    It just goes to show that with the right compensation package, you can get people to lop off up to 20 years off their lives.

    And finally, have you always wanted a cat, but can't have one because you are allergic? Well, your wait almost is over.
    At the start of next year, the first kittens — which the company calls “lifestyle pets” — will go home to eager owners who have been carefully screened and have been on a waiting list for more than two years.

    Since it announced the project in October 2004, the company, Allerca, of San Diego, says it has received inquiries from people in 85 countries seeking to buy a cat bred so that its glands do not produce the protein responsible for most human cat allergies.

    Which also just goes to show, there's a market for everything.

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    Managing People

    Dennis Hastert has a tough job. I'm not talking about the complications of trying to pass legislation he wants and stop legislation he opposes. That's the easy part. The hard part for him would be all the people he has to manage. The New York Times headline reads:

    Hastert Fights to Save His Job in Page Scandal

    I'm not going to go into details of what this page scandal is, but suffice it to say it does not involve books or magazines. I'll just let you go here or here if you want more information.

    This is about managing people. Hastert has it tough. He has to manage a bunch of people who were chosen by other people (the voters in their hoome districts), have their own agendas (get re-elected), are trying madly to take over his position of power (every last one of them) and who have a tendency to do phenomenally stupid things. Oh, and he can't directly fire any of them. He can ask them to resign, but if he wants them fired he either has to convince their voters or get the entire House to vote to expell the person.

    This is one of the many reasons I took my degrees in political science and headed into Human Resources rather than Washington D.C. But, politics happen in the corporate world as well. Managers are ultimately responsible for what their employees do. In most cases, however, they aren't fired for the bad things done, they are fired for how they respond to them.

    His response (or lack thereof) is exactly why Hastert is in trouble. Voters consist of a lot of people with experience managing others (either employees or children--same difference, really) and they know you can't stop stupid or just plain creepy-wrong from happening all the time. But they know that you don't just hope it goes away.

    You have an employee who sexually harasses someone else? How you handle this could cost you your job and, potentially, your company a huge sum of money. You have an employee who is embezzling funds? I don't care that he's your brother-in-law, bust him or you're going to jail with him. You have an employee that does sloppy work? Get it corrected or you start to look bad.

    Theoretically, managers should be able to hire and fire who they want to. That's the theory of at-will employment. In practice, it doesn't work that way. When you get a job as a manager, you are handed a staff. You can't fire them because your company has policies and procedures you must follow (mostly good). The lawyers are concerned about discrimination law suits, and everyone wants to be nice. (Nice is good, but it can make managing people difficult.)

    When I interviewed for my first job where I would have an actual staff reporting up to me, the HR VP asked me, "Why do you want to manage people?"

    I responded cheerily and enthusiastically with something along the lines of, "I have a lot of experience and I believe I can grown and develop the department. I enjoy working with people and am looking forward to taking this next step in my career."

    She laughed at me and said, "Managing people is a pain in the [neck]." I got the job, but she was right.

    Fortunately, for me, I've never had Hastert's problems. Hopefully, I never will.

    Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    I Have No Comment

    Bikini-Clad hair stylists may be good for business, but I certainly hope it turns into a hiring nightmare.

    I Always Suspected that Spinach Was Bad For You

    I admit that when I first heard news of the e-coli tainted spinach, I giggled. The NPR anchor just sounded so serious when he (or she, I can't remember) informed the listening audience that there would be an upcoming story on spinach that was terrorizing the nation.

    But, e-coli is a terrorizing disease, and deadly. 187 people have gotten sick from it, at least one has died (2 other deaths are suspected). The FDA banned the sale of all fresh spinach until they figured out the source.

    Turns out the bad spinach was all from California, but it's affecting spinach growers everywhere.

    The Washington Post reports on spinach growers in Maryland. Even though their spinach was never contaminated, people are terrified and they are concerned that they will be unable to sell their crops. (In fact, Evil HR Lady stood behind two women in the company cafeteria last week who were debating purchasing soup. The soup had spinach it, so they decided not to "take the risk." I did, however, because I know that 1. cooking kills e-coli and 2. no way did my company pay extra for fresh spinach to put in the soup. The spinach was definitely not part of the recall.)

    And so, now time for my point. You work hard, you follow the rules, you do a good job, and someone else in a different company can mess something up that causes you financial devastation. Isn't that a cheery message to start your Tuesday with?

    So, advice today from Evil HR Lady is the same advice the Boy Scouts give: Be Prepared. For what? Anything.

    And go eat spinach grown in Maryland. It's healthy and tasty, and here's a fabulous recipe using it. Curried Chicken-Coconut Soup.

    Monday, October 02, 2006

    You're Hired (please???)

    For those of you who enjoyed reading about Pluto being fired, you'll enjoy reading about an attempt to hire a new number 2 guy for Al Qaeda.

    Here's a snippet:
    HUMAN RESOURCES: Congratulations! We’re promoting you to the Number Two spot!

    ACHMED: Number two? But what about —

    HUMAN RESOURCES: Uh, he’s moved on.

    ACHMED: And the guy with the mustache?

    HUMAN RESOURCES: Relocated.

    Go read the whole thing at National Review Online.

    Think Before You Sign

    Did you know A Chorus Line was based on the lives of real chorus line dancers? I had no idea. Of course, I've never seen it, although my junior high choir did sing "What I Did for Love," which, in retrospect, probably shouldn't be sung by 13 year olds.

    I'm digressing again. So, the play was based on the real life stories of real life chorus line members. They signed away the rights to their stories for $1. In the original production, they were given royalties as well, but with the current revival, they aren't seeing a penny.

    According to the New York Times:
    At a rehearsal break during the first workshop, the performers were handed release contracts, under which they would give Mr. Bennett rights to use all the interviews in exchange for $1. The document stated that real names could not be used in connection with the stories without consent.

    “I knew it was wrong,” said Priscilla Lopez, who told her own story in the character of Diana Morales. “But I thought, ‘If I don’t sign this, I’m not going to be a part of it.’ ”

    Eventually, everyone signed, even though there were misgivings then, and regret now. Here is speculation on why everyone signed:
    Tony Stevens, who along with Mr. Bennett and another dancer, Michon Peacock, organized the first taping session, said that the willingness to sign also came out of the dancer mentality. “When you ask an actor to do something, their first response is to ask ‘Why?’ ” he said. Dancers, on the other hand, do not ask questions; they just perform.

    So, here's Evil HR Lady's question: Are you treating your career as a dancer or as an actor?

    A friend of mine worked for a company that had not had their employees sign non-compete agreements. One year they decided to rectify that situation and produced astoundingly unfair non-compete agreements just before bonuses were to be paid out. Everyone was told--if you don't sign you don't get a bonus.

    These were bad non-competes. They included clauses that prevented employees from working for competitors in any fashion even if the employee was laid off. And because they were in the drug industry, they prevented people from getting jobs in any medical profession at all. They were so broadly written that, technically, the company could stop you from leaving your job as a sales rep and going to work as a janitor in the local hospital.

    People freaked, but they started signing. They wanted bonuses, and they thought, "they'll never enforce it to that level." Until one director said, "No." She convinced her department that their freedom was better than a bonus.

    Then another director re-wrote his, removing the over-broad clauses and told HR he would sign his version, but not theirs. His department followed suit.

    In the end, bonuses were paid out to everyone, including those who didn't sign at all. My friend was very glad that people at this company had actor mentalities and not dancer ones.