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Friday, December 29, 2006

Why I Hate Recruiters, Part 2

I received the following e-mail at my Evil HR Lady e-mail.
Dear Hiring Authority,

My name is [SPAMMER] and I am a Recruiter in Boston. I have several strong candidates who would be a great fit for your posted Administrative position and I would love to share their resumes with you.

Each has been pre-screened for communication, presentation and Computer Software skills and all are wonderful!

Because I represent a full service agency, please let me know of any other roles where my services would be of value.

I look forward to the possibility of partnering with your company in helping you with all of your hiring needs. Thank you!

Career Consultant
[Headhunting Firm]

So, I responded:


If you even bothered to read my blog, you would know I don't recruit, so therefore I have no admin positions available. I will, however, be blogging about this.

Happy New Year

Evil HR Lady

Well, I guess I put the evil in my name because I received a prompt response:
Dear Evil HR Lady,

I did just check out your blog and you are quite funny and creative...but I must ask...Why are you so evil? My apologies for including you in my mailing to HR professionals. It will never happen again-I promise. Please don't be too evil to this little recruiter...I'm feeling a little scared knowing that I crossed you. Have a wonderful New Year...may it be filled with many more funny and interesting stories to blog about.

Warmest Regards,

Not Evil Yet Career Consultant :)
[Headhunting Firm]

Ahh, she redeemed herself. A very prompt apology--plus she said the magic words (that I am funny and creative, of course). Now, she just needs to read my blog every day and share it with all her co-workers and friends. And then, get SHRM to advertise on my site. Or better yet, find me a job that requires me to do nothing more than blog about HR that pays fabulously well. (I don't, by the way, need benefits, so that opens up a whole range of jobs for me!)

Finding the right person for a job is very, very hard work. And if she truly has qualified administrative people, that would make her valuable--if I were a recruiter, which I'm not. (Or, if by chance I were looking for a new admin for me, which I'm not, although I wish I were, which should probably be its own post.)

Our Spamming recruiter friend almost found something out the hard way--you need to know who you are contacting before contacting them. I absolutely wouldn't have minded if she'd sent an e-mail to me saying, "Dear Evil HR Lady, I've read your blog (and you're really funny), and wanted to introduce myself. I'm a recruiter who specializes in administrative support blah, blah, blah. If you know anyone who is looking for quality blah blah blah," I wouldn't have felt a strong desire to blog about it. The most important aspect of that letter would have been that she would have addressed it to ME. As it was I could tell I was blind copied which generally means she's sent it to every e-mail address she could possibly find.

And now, since I am only evil because I am in HR, I won't mention her name or her company. But other bloggers are not so nice. So, if you are going to send out mass e-mails, realize that once something hits cyberspace, you've lost control of it.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mess, Mess, I love to Make a Mess

The title of this post is a quote. I will think warm thoughts of you if you can identify the source. Anyway, messes.

I'm in a job share situation, which means I also share a desk. I'm a walking disaster area partnered up with a neatnik. However, in my efforts to make our working relationship functional, I agreed to her totally irrational need to keep a clean desk, and she doesn't say anything when I eat all her candy. (Note to job share partner, bring in some chocolate covered pretzels.) It's a good deal.

So, imagine my delight when I saw an article in the New York Times headlined Say Yes to Mess. Ahhh, victory is sweet.
Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat “office landscapes”) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts.

See, I'm a better parent and more creative then she is. (Our salaries, however, are identical--hmmm.) Of course, when you think HR, you don't generally think creative, nice or cool. You generally think (judging by the Google searches that land people here) that the only creative thoughts coming out of HR are ingenius ways to pay people less and fire them more quickly. (Incidentally, I can whip up termination papers in a matter of minutes. Yes, even with a clean desk!)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to search for the Offspring. I know she's around here somewhere. Perhaps under that pile of paper.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Diabetes in the Workplace

Fascinating article about diabetes in the workplace.

Evil HR Lady's advice for companies trying to set policy--run it by the New York Times test--you know, would you want what you did to be on the front page of the New York Times? I bet UPS would have preferred that this didn't end up there.

I don't know how I feel about the accommodations for diabetics. No one I am close to suffers from the disease, so I am very unaware. I do think, however, eating at your desk should be a no-brainer type accommodation.

Beauty Pageants

As a child, my sisters and I used to live for the Miss America, Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. We watched them live, recorded them for later viewing, and even made our own beauty pageants by using the family video camera (this was the '80s so the camera was huge and attached to an actual VCR that we dragged around).

I have since lost the pageant love. I haven't seen one in years, but I've been interested in the latest pageant news. First, it turns out that Donald Trump owns Miss USA. Who knew? (Kind of creepy, actually.) Second, apparently good little girls aren't winning. (I have noted that Vanessa Williams, who was dethroned in the 1980s--I'm too lazy to look up the exact year--is the only Miss America who really succeeded in show business. Intereseting, isn't it?)

Miss USA, Tara Conner, was allowed to retain her title after she had a little too much inapproriate fun at a NY nightclub. Now, Miss Nevada has had her crown revoked for risque photographs posted online. (And no, the link isn't to the photos, it's to the Washington Post. I'm not that kind of blogger.)

Time for our little HR application. First, I hope Mr. Trump has specific rules about how such pictures are not permissable. Second, I would have liked to see Miss Conner kicked out as well. Kind of makes you wonder how someone as ruthless as the Donald (or as he portrays himself to be) would let someone like that stay "on staff."

But, since most of us aren't in the position to choose the fate of beauty queens, a better application would be this. Nothing is quite as permanent as an embarrassing situation. As I like to tell my Sunday School Class, God may forgive you and forget your sins, but your neighbors never will. Your spring break your sophomore year in college could have been 10 years ago, but it may cause you problems in your current job.

So, you must always be good. You never know who is watching--and who is taking pictures. Don't yell at the cashier at the grocery store--the person in line behind you may be someone you are supposed to interview with (or interview) tomorrow. Most companies don't appreciate obscene pictures of their employees surfacing anywhere.

So, be good.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hungry? Good.

Once a month I conduct a 5 hour training. That's 5 hours on my feet explaining our complicated HRIS (that would be the computers that store all your HR data).

The class starts at 12:00, but a free lunch is included. I'm all for free and I'm always in favor of lunch. However, I rarely eat more than a half a sandwich, or a cup of fruit. I always felt like I could train better when my stomach was empty. So I felt rather vindicated when I read this:
According to a fascinating article in the March, 2006 issue of Nature Neuroscience, the stimulation of hunger causes mice to process information more quickly and to retain it better – in general, making them smarter. According to the researchers, humans almost certainly experience the same connection between hunger and peak brain function.

This makes intuitive sense--at least part of it. You don't sit around after Thanksgiving dinner and solve differential equations. Being slightly hungry can increase performance. So, no more huge meals at meetings.

In order to read the original article you need to pay for the Journal Nature Neuroscience. In case you think you might want to, here is the link. Just a warning, though. Here's the text of the abstract:
The gut hormone and neuropeptide ghrelin affects energy balance and growth hormone release through hypothalamic action that involves synaptic plasticity in the melanocortin system. Ghrelin binding is also present in other brain areas, including the telencephalon, where its function remains elusive. Here we report that circulating ghrelin enters the hippocampus and binds to neurons of the hippocampal formation, where it promotes dendritic spine synapse formation and generation of long-term potentiation. These ghrelin-induced synaptic changes are paralleled by enhanced spatial learning and memory. Targeted disruption of the gene that encodes ghrelin resulted in decreased numbers of spine synapses in the CA1 region and impaired performance of mice in behavioral memory testing, both of which were rapidly reversed by ghrelin administration. Our observations reveal an endogenous function of ghrelin that links metabolic control with higher brain functions and suggest novel therapeutic strategies to enhance learning and memory processes.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Marriage, a Job, It's All the Same

How long did you date your spouse before you decided to get married? Three months? Six months? 14 years? An hour?

An hour? Some of you are shocked, yet we make decisions to offer job and accept jobs based on an hour or two of interviews. On a day to day basis, we spend more awake time at our jobs than we do with our spouses. Despite the difference in courtship time, manager/employee relationships are very similar to marital ones. Especially the problems that erupt.

The New York Times ran an article about the problems in marriage. Almost all of them can relate to the workplace. For example:
For instance, when the couples were asked whether they would start a family within a year of their marriage, nearly three-quarters said they hadn’t discussed the timing and were in disagreement on that point

Oops, did you discuss everything you really should have before you accepted a job? For instance, is your department's policy to work late into the night any time someone in senior management says "boo!" or do you push back? I'm a push back person (and, by the way, it's never hurt me), but right now I report to a "jump" person. It's a conflict, but I never would have thought to bring it up in a job interview.

Another example from marriage:
“A young man, a newlywed, thought his role was to be responsible for all the decision-making for the couple,” Mr. Eisenberg said. “However, the couple had never discussed those issues, and his assumptions came as a surprise to her.”

Did you discuss how decisionw were made when you were interviewing? Do you discuss it with the people you interview. In lots of departments all the decisions are made from the top, but all the responsibility is on the lower levels. If you are in those lower levels, would you have taken the job if you had known?

New questions to think about next time you are job hunting--or hiring. You only have a couple of hours, let's make it quality interviewing time. After all, you'll spend more time with this person than you will with your spouse.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Try Composing the Help Wanted Ad for This

Larry Penny, 71, director of East Hampton’s natural resources department, said... “we don’t keep a certified whale-vomit expert on staff.”

Just where would he find one if he wanted one?

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Performance Appraisal time. What else could you possibly be thinking?

I know, everyone hates them. I hate them too. So, to be helpful, here are some hints for managers and employees.

Tips for Managers
  • Just sit down and write the darn things. Starting them is the hard part. Just get started and it will take less time then you thought.
  • Copy and paste from the self-appraisals your employees submitted. If they didn't submit them this year, make sure they do next year. And have them submit them electronically. I mean, if worker Bob has already written a paragraph about how he truly embodies the company value of "teamwork" and he truly does, just take his paragraph. Then edit it to fit.
  • Copy and paste from last year's appraisal. If your employee is still doing the same job, you can use some of the language from the previous year's appraisal. These are not meant to be literary works of art, they are meant to transmit a message.
  • Be honest. If Bob is consistently late to work, put it in the appraisal. If Sharon offends clients because she makes snide comments about their clothing, let Sharon know.
  • On the honesty front, don't write a glowing appraisal ("Sharon truly embraces quality") and then give a low overall rating. Be consistent. Point out the good and the bad.
  • Tell your employees how they can improve. ("Sharon's thoughtless remarks about other's attire is holding her back." "Bob needs to be in the office no later than 8:30." "Susan needs to consistently format her Excel spreadsheets before submitting.") Frequently, this is the only guide employees get.
  • Write actual goals for each employee and then make your own goal to regularly follow up.
  • E-mail a copy of the finished appraisal to the employee at least a few hours before you meet with her. Why? This will give the employee more time to internalize your comments and your discussion will be meaningful. If you are like most managers, your employees have little idea of what you actually think about their performance. Don't blindside them.

  • Tips for Employees
  • Write your self appraisal. I know, I know, it's probably too late. Make a note to do so next year. This is your chance to gush on about how wonderful you are. This is also the chance to bring up all the stuff your boss doesn't know about. (Which, in most cases is a lot. I'm not trying to insult managers, I'm just saying that especially for high performers, you do a lot that your boss doesn't know about. Let him know.)
  • If you get a bad appraisal, no weeping. Just as there is no crying in baseball, there should be no crying in a performance appraisal. If your boss blindsides you (he shouldn't) say, "I wasn't aware of these issues. I'd like to take time to think about them. Can we meet next week?" And then make sure you do.
  • Use the performance appraisal as a chance to suck up to your boss. Why not? It can't hurt and it might help for next year.
  • If there are no goals, or the goals are unrealistic (Sharon needs to double her client base by February is an unrealistic goal), discuss them now. Theoretically, this is what you will be graded on next year, so get it clear now.
  • Remember your manager hates these more than you do, so be kind.
  • If you disagree with your manager's assessment, take the time to write a response to be included. Don't whine and say it is not fair. Just document the inconsistences. What good does this do? Well, if you apply for an internal position to work for me, one of the first things I'm going to do is call employee records and get a copy of your previous appraisals. I'd like to hear your side.

  • Have fun with your appraisals. Fun writing them, fun getting them. And remember, once they are done you can go have some holiday fudge.

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    Where I Do Want to Work

    Best Buy. Not in their stores, mind you. My knowledge of electronics consists of plugging things in and hoping they work. But, for their corporate offices (in HR, of course). Why? They have a Results Oriented Work Environment.

    What this means, in practical terms, is that no one cares when you work or how much you work, only that your work gets done. Doesn't that sound heavenly? Some examples:
    In employee relations, Steve Hance had suddenly started going hunting on workdays, a Remington 12-gauge in one hand, a Verizon LG (VZ ) in the other. In the retail training department, e-learning specialist Mark Wells was spending his days bombing around the country following rocker Dave Matthews. Single mother Kelly McDevitt, an online promotions manager, started leaving at 2:30 p.m. to pick up her 11-year-old son Calvin from school. Scott Jauman, a Six Sigma black belt, began spending a third of his time at his Northwoods cabin.

    Of course, one of the comments on the article is from an actual employee, he explains:
    I work at Best Buy headquarters and I live ROWE everyday. This article makes it sounds like the meeting rooms are empty and the lunch room is echoing at noon. That is not the case at all. From my experience, the vast majority of people still work a fairly regular schedule, but they may come or go during off peak rush hour times, or may spend an extra day at the cabin, etc. In general, people are still around the office, but with the freedom to choose when to leave. I love ROWE, but it really does blur the lines between work time and free time, which is both good and bad. I find it difficult to not check my emails throughout the evening, even after a full day at the office. I know other poeple are working and I could get a response to my email anytime. At the end of the day though, I will never work for another company that does not offer ROWE.

    Just give some people the flexibility they want and they'll pretty much work normal hours anyway. This, of course, makes sense. You want to be in the office when your kids are at school and your friends are at work. But, if you want to take piano lessons, you can because you can leave early on Tuesdays.

    This would be an ideal work environment for me. Now, I just need to get a job there. And, they'll need to provide full relocation, since I don't live in Minnesota. Plus, I'll probably need a new winter coat. Hmmm, do I really want to do this?

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Should You Stay Home When You Are Sick?

    I admit it. I thought when Ann Landers died that they should have hired me to replace her, rather than that Amy woman. Granted, I not only had no relevant experience, I didn't even apply. They should have just known to hire me.

    But they didn't. So I'm resigned to reading and critiquing their advice. (Such a difficult life I lead.) Ironically, the column I am commenting on today is an old Ann Lander's column. Creators Syndicate still publishes one of her columns every week. Go figure. Here's the first letter:
    Dear Ann Landers: I would like to respond to that "sick worker" who simply could not afford to stay home because she needed all of her paycheck.

    My cousin, "Joy," worked in a large office. One of her co-workers came in with a terrible cold and flu. The co-worker said she felt lousy but she simply could NOT stay home because her pay would have been docked. Joy caught the cold, which resulted in flu and then pneumonia. One lung collapsed, and she never really recovered. In fact, she nearly died.

    Many years ago, when my son was in nursery school, one mother sent her toddler to school even though she knew the child was ill. She said she couldn't miss work and wasn't able to find anyone to stay with the boy. It turned out to be polio.

    Thousands of people die from the flu every year. Please urge your readers to stay home if they are ill. No paycheck is worth threatening the lives of fellow workers. I spent most of my work years in management. If employees knowingly came to work sick, I would fire them. They have no right to endanger the lives of others. -- La Mesa, Calif.

    Now, in one sense, I agree with the writer. (Ann agrees with her and then tells everyone to get a flu shot, which I haven't done.) But what is sick? I've had a cough for week and a half. For 3 or 4 days last week I lost most of my voice. Should I have stayed home from work?

    I didn't, by the way. I also went to a choir practice (that was especially fun with no voice!), grocery shopping, made meals for my family (okay, so on Wednesday I ordered pizza--mmm, pizza) and generally went about my life. Could you imagine how much the world would slow down if every time someone got the sniffles, we all locked ourselves in our bedrooms with pots of herb tea and lightly buttered toast? (Now I'm hungry.) I can and your boss would fire you.

    First of all, I think companies should offer a reasonable amount of paid sick leave, separate from vacation pay. Second, I think if you are really sick you should stay home. Third, I wouldn't go around blaming specific people for the illnesses you catch. You could have picked it up from the hacking co-worker. You could have picked it up from the UPS guy or the lady who used the cart before you at the grocery store. Heck, in googling this topic, this cheery sentence came up:
    Someone with mumps is contagious from about a week before symptoms appear until about nine days after they start.

    Isn't that nice? It's true for the common cold and the flu as well, although neither asymptomatic contagious period is as long as the one for the mumps.

    So, should you stay home from work if you are sick? Yes, if you are too sick to work then you should stay home. But no whining about co-workers who come in sick. Especially if your company has no paid sick leave. In that case, go whine to HR.

    Monday, December 11, 2006

    Quitting Without Giving Notice

    Of course, except in extenuating situations, you should give notice before you quit. But, this is an extreme example of an employee who stormed off when things didn't go his way.
    Top tenor Roberto Alagna has stunned opera-goers at La Scala in Milan by storming off stage in the middle of a performance after he was booed.

    The Franco-Italian singer, who was playing a leading role in Verdi's Aida, walked off minutes into the second night of the opera house's new season.

    His understudy rushed on wearing jeans and carried on Sunday's performance.

    For further reading:

    6 Reasons You Shouldn't Quit Without Notice

    Hat Tip Ann Althouse.

    Taking Your Work Home

    Blackberries are apparently causing problems in families. Mom and Dad just can't leave it alone.

    From the Wall Street Journal:
    The refusal of parents to follow a few simple rules is pushing some children to the brink. They are fearful that parents will be distracted by emails while driving, concerned about Mom and Dad's shortening attention spans and exasperated by their parents' obsession with their gadgets.

    I am blogging about this for three reasons. One, companies are not truly "Family friendly" if their employees are expected to be reachable all of the time. So, stop saying that you are.

    Two, it really is rude to be using your Blackberry during other events. Your children's year end talent show is boring. Even your kid is not as talented as you like to think he is. And very few second grade choruses can sing harmony. Still, it is rude, rude, rude to be sending e-mails during the performance.

    And three, to make Oliver glad that he read my blog today. Remember to limit blackberry time after Clara arrives.

    Saturday, December 09, 2006

    More Cover Letters

    After reading the delightful cover letter by our bitter job seeker, I thought I'd see if I could find additional bad cover letters. And I did.

    Killian Advertising posted samples of "Cover Letters from Hell" that they've received. Some samples (the comments are theirs):
    "The colors red, blue, and lavender are those that I identify with the most. I feel they accurately describe my personality. I choose red because I turn red when I get embarrassed ...." [That "red" thing must come up daily. We pulled the plug on this because you get the drift; the subsequent "blue" and "lavender" explanations didn't substantially improve her employment chances.]

    "Another reason [you should hire me is] your web site is very unfriendly and may sway some clients into not working with you. People use websites of companies such as yours for research and your website thinks that it is witty, but comes off very dull and cheezy." [Editor's note: This is the first entry in a new category we call "Insult Your Way to the Top!"]

    Hat tip to the National Association of Manufacturers" blog (it sounds boring, but it's not, I swear).

    How You Write Your Resume Really Matters

    Theoretically, you are you and you'll be the same you if I hire you, no matter how you've written your resume. Right? (Do I win a prize for the most uses of the word "you" in a single sentence? I should.) But getting hired is the hard part, so you want your resume to reflect you in the best light possible.

    As an example of why how you say something matters, here's a little video. I'm sure you've all seen the movie. Take the word movie and switch it to "resume," then say, "If I was looking for a nanny, would I bring that Mary Poppins person in to interview?"

    I didn't think so. Now, go re-write your resume.

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!

    There's always at least one thing to surprise you when you get married. Sure, you may think you know the person, but there will be something lurking in their family that your beloved just didn't want to share until it was too late. In my case, it was Evil Marketing Man's family tradition of watching A Christmas Story repeatedly on Christmas day.

    Well, part of the tradition is everybody but my Father-in-Law complaining about having to watch it over, and over again. So, now it's grown on me. And now I wish I had thought of this: A budding entrepreneur bought the house used in "A Christmas Story's" outside shots and redid the inside to look like the house in the movie.

    And now it's a tourist destination. Brilliant. And enough to make me almost want to visit Cleveland.

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006

    You Didn't Ask Me, but You Should Have

    Another confession--I regularly read the letters posted at Dr. Laura's website. They are sometimes interesting, but usually amusing. Today I wanted to bang my head on my desk as I read a letter from a woman who is returing to the work force after being a stay at home mother for the past 8 years.

    Getting a professional job after an 8 year lapse is difficult. I agree. The writer complained that some agencies wouldn't work with her because of the lapse. So, she decided to write a nontraditional letter explaining why she was gone. A quote:
    If you consider me "brain-dead" because I was a homemaker and mother, than I do not want to work for you. You obviously have no idea what type of organizational skills, and multi-tasking it takes to raise such a large family. If you consider what I did to be honorable, and a wise choice, than we need to talk.

    Aiyee! I'm a strong proponent of staying home with your children. Most of my friends quit their jobs when they had their first baby. My mother was out of the workforce for about 15 years. I work part time in order to maximize time with the offspring (although, ironically, I'm letting her watch Clifford while I write this). But, I would throw this woman's resume in the trash without even looking at it.


    Because she's confrontational and has the clear expectation that hiring managers don't respect stay at home mothers. Plus, she gives way too much information. Another snippet:
    The biological mother of the 5 children decided line-dancing and boyfriends were more important than raising her kids. She abandoned them.

    We gained full custody of all 5 children. We haven't seen the mother since.

    How tragic, but how inappropriate for a cover letter. I don't want to know that even after I've known you for several months. That's something you would tell me after we are friends, not before I interview you.

    At first, I thought her idea to be upfront about why she'd been out of the workforce was wise--don't pretend you've been employed when you haven't been. But, my goodness lady, don't be so rude!

    And next time, come to Evil HR Lady with your employment dilemmas. Not Dr. Laura. I'm just as mean and I have no commercial interruptions.


    If there is one thing in HR that I'm absolutely passionate about, it's laying people off. (Someone asked what makes me so evil and this, apparently, is it.) Okay, I don't like laying people off. But, I see it as a necessary evil. What I am passionate about is doing it the right way.

    I acknowledge that it's rarely pleasant (some people have volunteered for a package and they are thrilled). In fact, it's a miserable thing to do. But here is how you do it to make it as tolerable as possible.

    1. When you know layoffs are coming, let the employees know they are coming and what general groups will be effected. (I'm not saying announce that "Everybody under John Doe in Finance--you will be out of here!" I'm saying, announce, "We will be reducing our work force by 2% in Finace, and IS.") This is not without consequences--good and bad. The good consequence that people who are interested in taking a package will come forward and let you know. You are not obligated to make your decisions based on that, but it's certainly helpful. The bad consequence is that some high performers will immediately start looking for a new job and if they find one before people are notified, you may lose some.

    2. Give a decent severance package. Please, please, please, offer severance. I know, you aren't legally required to do so (in most cases), but please offer. I suggest a minimum of two weeks of pay for every year of service with 8 weeks minimum. You can have people sign a "General Release" in exchange for the severance. (This is a document that says, essentially, in exchange for this severance payment, I won't sue you.)

    3. Tell people one-on-one and have the manager, not HR, be the actual deliverer of bad news. An HR employee should be there, but the message should come from the direct manager. The only exception to this rule is if an entire department is being laid off. Then you can tell them as a group, but only if the entire group is going.

    4. Have the notification day be the last day worked. This may seem heartless, but people who know their job is ending in two weeks are bitter and they share their bitterness with their colleagues and it's just bad for morale and increases your risk of being sued.

    5. Do notifications in the morning and all as rapidly as possible. Don't let them drag out throughout the day. Notify the people who are being terminated and then hold a meeting with the remaining employees to tell them the layoffs are finished. It stops the paranoia.

    6. Allow people the dignity of cleaning out their own desks without a manager or security standing over them. You trusted these people for years, trust them for another hour or two to get their stuff together and even files they may need off their computers. This is a layoff--not termination for cause--so don't treat your employees like criminals. If you have valid fears that someone would do something destructive, then take that into consideration. Otherwise, be nice. I have personally been involved in laying off well over 1000 people and not once has a notified employee done something malicious.

    7. Provide information about benefits, severance packages and time lines. Be honest. Tell them what happens if they sign the general release and what happens if they do not. Do not be evasive. Encourage them to speak with their own attorney.

    8. Above all, do not follow any of the examples at this link. Here are some samples:
    I didn't get it but the guy next to me did. We went out for lunch and when we came back his security pass wouldn't work so I let him through the gate. We passed the boss's office on the way to our desks. He went in and said "I need a new pass. Mine's failed." The boss said "Your pass hasn't failed. You don't work here."
    and took the card out of his hand.

    I got the boot on a Suday after spending an 80 hour week wrapping up a critical project for my employer. I was in San Francisco, preparing to fly back to Boston. The company I worked for canceled my corporate travel card the prior Friday. When I tried to book a flight back home, I was told that the card was cancelled.

    Naturally I called my boss on his mobile phone ans asked what was up. He didn't expect the call, he said that HR was supposed to call me on Friday with the news. I asked my now ex-boss to purchase a return flight with his Traval card in my name at the SF airport. He refused.

    I ended up buying a ticket back home with my own money. My ex-employer refused to reimburse the ticket because I had been technically terminated on Friday.

    I ened up going to small claims court to get the cost of my plane ticket. My ex-company showed up with a lawyer and were set to dispute a $360 plane ticket. The corporate attourney saw the situation for what it was and said that they would pay my plane ticket, stating that it was a "clerical Error". I still had to pay the court filing fees and court costs. In the end, I got $220 back.

    Friday, December 01, 2006

    Normal Ranting or a Real Problem

    Dear Evil HR Lady,

    How should one react when an employee is told by the corporate office over the phone that they may not have any more vacation advanced to them and the employee rants and raves about how unfair it is and finishes with, "I am so frustrated, I could kill myself! And the bank [continues ranting]" Should one document the incident and then:

    1. Assume the person is just venting watch the employee closely in the future;
    2. Send upper management to her location to take a closer look at the situation and then debate the merits of options 1 and 2 with someone;
    3. Take the threat seriously and advise the employee the next day, after her temper cools, that she must get counseling before she returns to work (sadly, we do not have an EAP);
    4. Take the threat super seriously and have her escorted off the site where she is working as a subcontractor at a federal facility, which will likely have her clearance revoked and cause her to lose her job and any chance of working in that field in the future;
    5. Something else I've missed?

    Love your blog, by the way!


    Dear Anne,

    I really, really hope this is purely a hypothetical question. Although I have a feeling that it's the same type of hypothetical question that I used when I said to my husband, "would you be upset if I told you I managed to put a six foot scrape along the side of the car?"

    I took your question to my evil colleagues and they all said, "Yikes." That was the only thing they agreed on. One said, ignore it, normal rant, but especially don't do number 4. A second said:
    At minimum, I would say document and three. Even as angry as I’ve been about certain work situations in the past, there’s always a line about how much “venting” is appropriate. For them to even consider uttering that line, let alone saying it out loud, indicates a problem. It’s so interesting that you should have to tackle this one now. I was just this morning relaying to my husband the need for a company to have a dr’s clearance upon an ee’s return from any LOA, to reduce the company’s exposure and potential for liability. I think that’s exactly the thing that this person needs to consider. And especially in today’s environment, people can not be afraid to seriously address these issues. Does this person want to be responsible for the next major news headline? These are the types of scenarios where if you can look back and say with a clear conscience that you did what you were supposed to do in order to address the situation, then you have done the right thing.

    Initially, my gut response would be to see what their policy says in this situation, but the lack of one is why I’m assuming this person e-mailed to begin with...another example where lack of policy, procedure and employee assistance programs can open up a business to tons of exposure.

    A third said that pychologists have to take all suicidal/homicidal threats seriously (even if they are 100% sure the person is just venting), and so should HR.

    My vote most closely goes with your third option. Your company has no EAP (employee assistance program), but I think you should discuss with the ranting employee that what she said was not appropriate and that she needs to be evaluated. Then I would have the company hire someone to evaluate her. Whatever the cost for a psychological evaluation, it would be cheaper in the long run and much safer for your company. Asking an employee to go out and find her own counselor before returning to work is a really high burden. If her temper really is a problem, asking her to pay for one could make things worse.

    If there isn't really a problem, the company will be out $200-$300 for a licensed professional to talk to the woman. If there is a problem, the company will have just saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars dealing with the aftermath of an employee pushed over the edge.

    Good luck,

    Evil HR Lady