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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Delta, Delta, Delta, Can I Help Ya, Help Ya, Help Ya?

You would think that with my naturally sunny disposition and tendency towards fashion perfection that I would have been in a sorority in college. Alas, you would be wrong. I actually attended a university that did not allow them, but even if they were allowed, I would never have joined one. Not my thing.

First, let me say that I believe in freedom of association and that you should be able to choose your own friends--and therefore choose who to exclude. I believe (perhaps incorrectly) that sororities (and fraternities) are technically social organization and can make there own rules. Discriminating on the basis of race is still probably illegal, but I don't know. I'm not, after all, a lawyer. (Perhaps my lawyer brother would like to comment.)

However, blatant and stupid discrimination and forcing out people is wrong, wrong, and wrong. Delta Zeta should be ashamed of themselves.
Worried that a negative stereotype of the sorority was contributing to a decline in membership that had left its Greek-columned house here half empty, Delta Zeta’s national officers interviewed 35 DePauw members in November, quizzing them about their dedication to recruitment. They judged 23 of the women insufficiently committed and later told them to vacate the sorority house.

The 23 members included every woman who was overweight. They also included the only black, Korean and Vietnamese members. The dozen students allowed to stay were slender and popular with fraternity men — conventionally pretty women the sorority hoped could attract new recruits. Six of the 12 were so infuriated they quit.

I love the six that were "allowed" to stay that quit. I would probably not be friends anymore with the six who stayed.

In business, when we hire people we want people with the necessary skills but who also "fit" into the department. Companies have "personalities" and cultures and some people don't fit. For instance, someone who is very laid back would not "fit" on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange. The poor person, regardless of how smart he was, would not survive. Better not to hire him in the first place.

The problem the Delta Zeta sorority made was determining "fit" based on race and body size. See Evil HR Lady bang her head against the wall.

The scary thing is, I'm afraid this will "work" and the Sorority will attract the skinny, mean, drunken bimbos that are stereotypes of what a Sorority should be.

I've I was a Deta Zeta alumnae, I'd probably be taking that off my resume right about now.

Carnival Reminder

Hey, you HR Types, remember, in one week our 2nd Carnival of Human Resources will be occurring! This is a great way to spread the news about the wonderful world of HR and get yourself some hits.

Submit your favorite post to evilhrlady at hotmail dot com and you will be able to join in the party!

I Think, Therefore I Am

Dean Dad over at Confessions of a Community College Dean named me as one of the bloggers that makes him think. I'm so pleased. Thinking is good--after all, think how much better your company would be if the people in charge actually did some of that from time to time? Truth be told, he makes me think. My original career goal was academia, so the inner workings of higher ed is fascinating to me as well.

I read more blogs than I should, so limiting it to 5 is difficult and I just can't do it. Instead I'm going to do 6. I'm such a rebel.

RedKudu. She's a high school English teacher who I pray gets to teach my children some day. Since she's in Texas and I'm on the East Coast, it's doubtful this will happen, but I still have my dreams. In addition to describing some of her lesson plans, she talks about teaching, her hilarious students, educational controversies and her adventures in customer service. A day isn't complete without a hop over to Red Kudu.

Daryl Cobranchi. As with RedKudu, Daryl is an edublogger, but with a different slant. He's a homeschooler and writes about homeschooling, politics and astronomy. To borrow a phrase from Dean Dad his politics are not mine, but he's so eloquent about them, I love to read. I never thought much about home schooling before I came upon him, but now I understand a lot more about it.

Dr. Flea. Dr. Flea is the pediatrician I want for my child. Too bad he's anonymous and lives in a different city, or I would track him down. He comments on medical issues, shedding light on things such as the Gardasil controversy and parents who demand "treatments" for common colds. Love him!

Dr. Helen. Where does one even begin? She's a forensic psychologist who comments on everything under the sun, with a psychological slant. I've learned so much from her about how humans think and interact. Her post from yesterday on how men and women express depression differently turned a little lightbulb on in my head. As an HR professional, that was one valuable piece of information. HR is very female centric and I had never thought about this difference in gender.

Nick Corcodilos at Ask the Headhunter. It's not really a blog, but he sends out a must read weekly newsletter for any person who is now or ever will be looking for a job. I've mentioned in the past that I hate recruiters, so when I found him I was anxious to find out what makes recruiters tick. Well, he's not a recruiter, he's a headhunter and a brilliant one at that. I'm not in the market for a new job, but I know I will be some day, so I read him faithfully. Sign up for his newsletter while you're at it.

Jay Shepherd at Gruntled Employees. First, what a great name for a blog. He's a labor and employment lawyer who gives us lawyerly insight on HR law and how to keep our employees from becoming "disgruntled." Fascinating stuff.

Whew! Even with going over my limit of 5, I still feel like I have about 20 more to share. I really, really, need to update my blogroll.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How to Avoid Being Fired

Dear Evil HR Lady

I am a 15 year old high school student who will be starting his first summer job this summer. The question I want to ask you is, What are several basic steps one can do to avoid being fired from his or her job? For example, what did your subordinates do in order to be on your good side, and to prevent you from firing them?


Dear Catsagdn,

First, if I had a summer job, I would hire you. But I don't, so I can't. But I can already tell that being fired won't be a problem for you.

At fifteen, you're likely to be in an unskilled, entry level job--restaurants, grocery stores, theme parks, yard work, etc. (I understand landscaping companies pay better than fast food, by the way. It's harder work, out in the sun, but no grease!)

Most of the people you will be working with will be young and inexperienced as well. So, I'm going to change your goal of "avoiding being fired" to "be the manager's favorite employee and hopefully get a raise by the end of summer and at least a guarenteed job next year." Boy, that was a poorly written goal!

Anyway, this advice is coming from someone who has not only had people reporting to her, but was also Burger King Employee of the Month (I have a plaque and everything). Here are the steps:

1. Be on time. Every day.
2. Dress appropriately. If you're at a place with a uniform, wear it with your shirt tucked in and the proper shoes. If no uniform, check out the dress code and follow it.
3. No bad language. Ever.
4. Smile and be helpful to the customers. Always. Customers are sometimes idiots, but you be nice. If a customer gets belligerant, call the manager over.
5. Work while you are there. I realize this seems obvious, but it's not. If there are no customers, straighten shelves or wipe down counters. Fold clothes. Volunteer to help someone else.
6. Manager ask you to do something stupid, like wear a cow suit and stand in front of the store? Do it anyway.
7. Be responsible.
8. Go above and beyond in your customer service.
9. When Evil HR Lady comes in, give her a discount. (Just kidding--do not hand out discounts to ANYONE, including your obnoxious Aunt Joan, without your manager's approval.)
10. Have fun working.

If you do these things, not only will you not be fired, you'll soar at work. Everyone of us has worked that first job. It's scary and it's hard, but you'll do fabulously well.

I welcome other suggestions for our job hunting friend.

Evil HR Lady

Monday, February 26, 2007

Potential Pregnancy?

Dear Evil HR Lady –

I’m looking for advice on how to handle the following situation.

I left my job 3 months ago and to take some time off – with no deadline as to when I would resume work. Then, a handsome and ideal job fell in my radar. The company has extended a generous offer to me. It’s a senior management position. The kicker is that we have trying to get pregnant for the last 3 years. In the last year have been receiving medical help. In fact, I’m in my last week of an infertility treatment cycle and will be taking a pregnancy test in 7 days. Mind you, this is the 3 attempt – so we haven’t been successful yet. I plan on accepting this offer. The question is, do I tell the company that I have plans to start a family or that in 7 days I will know whether or not I’m pregnant. I feel compel to say something because the position I would fill is important to the organization. I don’t think my pregnancy would diminish my ability to contribute – but I don’t want to start off a working relationship with the perception that I tricked them.


Dear New Senior Manager,

I hope all goes well and you are pregnant. In the past I've recommended disclosing a pregnancy so as to not end up in a hostile environment. (Keep in mind that discriminating against you because you are pregnant is illegal, but difficult to prove.) However, you don't know if you are pregnant yet--you just might be pregnant. Disclosing at this point seems like too much information.

However, I'm a bit concerned about you. Why did you take three months off? Was it for the pressures of dealing with infertility? If you did, you're not alone. It can be a terribly stressful time and you aren't the first person to need time off. My big concern is if you aren't pregnant. Then what? Are you prepared to go through another round of treatments?

If you are going to need time off for these treatments, you'll need to explain early. Unfortunately, I don't believe you can be guarenteed time off for treatments, as it's not fully decided whether infertility is covered under ADA. Keep in mind that as a new employee, you aren't eligible for FMLA either.

Since you are planning to accept the offer, regardless of the result of the pregnancy test, and since they can't rescind it, I would not say anything at this point. Wait unti your pregnancy is established and then go forward. If you were further along, I'd have you tell now, but since you're not, wait a bit.

Good luck with everything,

Evil HR Lady

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Performance Appraisal? Check.

Well, I've finally had my yearly performance appraisal. I am, of course, a wonderful employee. (Would you expect anything less from me? Afterall, I am evil and I am in HR, so of course it's a perfect match.)

My boss did point out one, umm, less than perfect area: I'm too negative.

While you ponder on that, I will tell you that yesterday I took the Offspring to a birthday party. Twenty 3 and 4 year olds in a small house with the heat on and a Sleeping Beauty look alike who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket actually had me thinking, while walking down the stairs, "you know, if I fell down these stairs and broke my leg, I could leave this nightmare early."

Anyway, my boss said that I'm a little too negative. I don't know where on earth she gets that idea.

Carnival of the Insanities

Is up over at Dr. Sanity's place.

My favorite this week is 25 tips from the frugally insane.
11. Why pay for expensive jigsaws? Just take a bag of frozen fries from the freezer and try piercing together potatoes.

12. Smell gas? Locate the suspected leak by striking an ordinary match in every room in the house until a loud explosion reveals the source of the escaping gas.

13. Always keep a stick of butter in your pocket so that if you get your head stuck in railings you'll be able to grease your ears and slide out.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

How Did Your Mother Get to Be the Head of a Korean Bank?

Why aren't you married yet? Are you dating anyone? Umm, hi Mom! Okay, not hi, my mom because I'm happily married, but unless you got married at 19, your Mom has said that or is saying that to you. So, it looks like your mom just got a new job--managing benefits at a South Korean bank.
A top South Korean bank is sending a group of its single female employees on a blind date trip to North Korea, hoping that romance will make them happy at the office, an official said on Tuesday.

Hmmm, when I think "Hot single guys" I always think, "North Korea!" Don't you?

The bank pays dating service fees as part of their benefits package. I think I'll bring that up next time I'm talking to our benefits counsel. "Hey, I have this great idea..."

And just how is this dating trip supposed to make the bank's unhappy females any happier? If they do hit it off with a North Korean hottie, how is that going to work out? "Sure, I'll give up freedom here in South Korea and move on up to be with my northern dream boat!" Somehow I don't think the North Korean government will be too hip on exporting their single guys to South Korean bankers.

The whole singles/dating scene reminded me of Deb Owen's defense of being single. (She says she got it from Karen, but I couldn't find it on her site. I do want to give credit where it is due.)

My favorite:
2. Married people are not necessarily better catches simply because they were caught. I mean, have you taken a look at some of the married people out there? Seriously. Even Frankenstein got married. Obviously married people are not superior people.

Hmmm, is there a correlation between Frankenstein and North Korea?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Carnival of Human Resources

Welcome to the first Carnival of Human Resources! Many people have submitted fabulous posts about this lovely world of HR. The next Carnival will be in two weeks (March 7), so please submit your posts by March 6, and you can join the carnival. Submissions can be sent to evilhrlady at or by clicking on the e-mail me link on the side.

And, now, let the Carnival begin!

Because this is the Evil HR Lady's blog, it makes sense that our first post would be Satan's Training Brochure. I always suspected that it existed, but now I know. Wayne Turmel braved fire and brimstone to bring us back this brochure. Here are some sample headers:
  • God Only Wishes He Was in Sales: getting the rest of the organization to appreciate your brilliance
  • Getting To Maybe:- Delayed Decision Making For the Budget-Constrained
  • Mastering PowerlessPoint: Perfecting the Defensive Presentation
  • The Seven Habits of Not-Completely-Useless People: Working Just Hard Enough To Keep Your Job

  • Clearly Lisa Rosendahl didn't take any of the above classes. She deals with decision making and makes it pretty clear that she recognizes the issues around the decisions. Sometimes there is more than one way to see things:
    I have a Human Resource Specialist who made a decision a few weeks ago. Without getting into the HR details of it, this was a pure matter of interpretation. The service line does not agree with the decision. For me, this decision comes down to value. The decision made placed the value differently than where the service line is placing it. Is one value judgment right and one wrong? Absolutely not. May the decision change? Maybe and maybe not.

    Deb over at 8 Hours and a Lunch talks about taking employee suggestions seriously. She writes :
    who better knows how to improve a process than the people using it? sure. management and leadership are an important component in making improvements work. but sometimes the elegant solutions come from the factory floor, the person answering the phones, the programming gurus, those on the front lines.

    but listening to employees and implementing improvements they’ve recommended can be an opportunity for something sometimes less obvious. it can be key to helping you develop them as well.

    Development and business improvement in one easy step. What more could an HR department want?

    And finally, from me, a post about workplace bullies. I've encountered them. I think you have too. I think they took Satan's training classes. Hmmm, maybe I'll look at that brochure again.

    Tuesday, February 20, 2007

    I Wonder What He Would Have Done if the Car Was a Lexus?

    Kidnapping faked to avoid wife's wrath.
    SAN RAFAEL, California -- A man who allegedly faked his own kidnapping to keep his wife from finding out he crashed her new car could face criminal charges, police said.

    Police said the 35-year-old man told them two kidnappers held him up Saturday and ordered him to drive to Santa Rosa, where he crashed the car into a wall to escape.

    The man was actually heading to a casino when he crashed his wife's 2007 Ford Focus.

    Absolutely nothing to do with HR or business, but I just had to share.

    Monday, February 19, 2007

    Taking Responsibility

    Jet Blue messed up in a big way. With last week's ice storm, instead of canceling flights, they loaded up planes and stuck people on the runway--hoping the storm would break. It didn't and people were stuck for hours and hours and hours.

    Just thinking about the horror of it all makes me queasy.

    But, their CEO is recognizing that the problem wasn't the weather and it wasn't air traffic control and it certainly wasn't impatient passengers. It was Jet Blue.
    David G. Neeleman said in a telephone interview yesterday that his company’s management was not strong enough. And he said the current crisis, which has led to about 1,000 canceled flights in five days, was the result of a shoestring communications system that left pilots and flight attendants in the dark, and an undersize reservation system...
    ...Mr. Neeleman said that throughout the chain of events, he had overestimated JetBlue’s ability to find people and get them into position.

    He's identified the problem and is going to go forth to fix it.

    We'll see how well it works. It's almost March, so paralyzing winter storms are hopefully on they way out.

    I'm impressed that the CEO is taking responsibility and acting to fix the problem. Let's see if it works.

    Saturday, February 17, 2007


    I was in Junior High in 1987. So, even though I've always been an evil genius, I wasn't in HR yet.

    However, that didn't stop me from getting the phone call from our company's legal department. We were being sued. For what, I don't know (I don't ask--the less I know, the less likely I am to be subpoenaed and my main goal is to stay out of court). But, they wanted to know the name of the sales rep that had called on a particular client in 1987.

    Hmmm, as I said, I was in Junior High in 1987. I was busy having bad hair and big teeth and generally being, well, 14. (Incidentally, I was awarded the Social Studies Student of the Year award in 1987, so it was a banner year.)

    I do have access to our company's now defunct HRIS. It goes back to 1990. I called a colleague who has access to the Sales Calls system--it goes back to the mid 1990s.

    I provided a list of employees who were active in 1987 and whose territory in 1990 was in the same state as the client in question.

    Given that they find the right sales rep, what is he going to say, "Ummm, 1987--ummm, did I work for [big company] that year? Ummm, I did? Okay."

    All I know is if the lawsuit proceeds along the same line as Scooter Libby's trial, the sales rep better have good notes.

    Bizarre. And the more I think about it, the more I want to know what the lawsuit is about. But, as I said, I'm not asking because I don't want enough knowledge to land me in a witness chair. My memories of 1987 are limited to what boy I had a crush on (Dan), and who my best friend was (too unique of a name to actually put in a blog) and the song "Sincerely" which we sang in Glee Club. Other than that, I'm not saying a word.

    Bizarre. I am curious as to what the lawsuit is all about. But, I'm not going to ask.

    Friday, February 16, 2007

    Happy Birthday to Me!

    Where are all my presents? Hmmm, did you forget to send them?

    All right, it is my birthday (I'm 22 this year! Well, I look 22 anyway...)

    For my birthday I would like to start an HR Carnival.

    If any of you HR or Business types--or people who know HR people--would like to submit one of your posts, e-mail me at evilhrlady at hotmail dot com and I will get the party started.

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    Workplace Bullies

    Have you run into one? I have. One in particular was a fellow HR person. She would call me and scream and yell and tell me I wasn't doing my job right. She was nasty. In fact, my whole department hated her--but the HR VPs thought she was fantastic and she kept getting promoted.

    When she quit to go be the head of some other poor company's HR department, all us non VP types breathed a sigh of relief and made a mental note to never go work for her new company.

    Why does this go on?

    Well, allow me to pull some information from another field--education. In Playground Heroes Ken Rigby, Ph.D. and Bruce Johnson, Ph.D. argue that it is not the teachers who can stop bullying. Why?
    School authorities are commonly unaware of what is going on. This is not to blame them. It is simply to recognize that bullying goes on in the company of peers and rarely in the company of teachers. Children see it happening, but the teachers do not. Only occasionally do students tell.

    Did I ever call up the Sr VP and say, "this lady is a nightmare"? No, I didn't. Neither did any of my peers--or my boss. Could it be that they were fully unaware?

    Is the business world just like a playground? I certainly can see the logic in arguing that. The study's authors do give another reason for failure to stop bullying--and a solution as well: Having the bully's peers disapprove.
    On those rare occasions when a witness does object to bullying, there is a good chance that the bullying will stop. Indeed, several researchers have reported that bystander objections effectively discourage bullying at least half the time.

    I'm looking back to the meetings where I and others were screamed at. What would have happened if, rather than biting our tongues we'd said, "Excuse me, but you're not acting appropriately. If you have a problem with these numbers/report/programs, let's talk about it, but if you are going to scream we're going to leave."

    Because I believed that Sr. Management was aware and would have supported her, I kept my mouth shut and took the abuse. But perhaps, like teachers over bullies, they were unaware and perhaps would have responded if we had stood up to her.

    (Via Joanne Jacobs.)

    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    Happy Valentine's Day

    In honor of the holiday of love, go buy an I love Human Resources T-shirt.

    No, I'm not selling them. My t-shirts would be much different, which reminds me--I need to work on my campaign bumper sticker. Evil in 2010.

    To celebrate the Evil Family is trapped in our house due to a lovely winter storm. We're going to make snow candy once Offspring's room is clean.

    101 Dumbest Moments in Business

    CNN Money has a list of the 101 Dumbest Moments in Business.

    My favorites so far--

    Number 3
    In August, McDonald's runs a promotional contest in Japan in which it gives away 10,000 Mickey D's-branded MP3 players.

    The gadgets come preloaded with 10 songs - and, in some cases, a version of the QQPass family of Trojan horse viruses, which, when uploaded to a PC, seeks to capture passwords, user names, and other data and then forward them to hackers.

    Number 8
    "Help us find Hoffa ... and enjoy fares from just $39 each way."

    - Marketing copy for Spirit Airlines's "Hunt for Hoffa" game, in which visitors to the carrier's Web site are asked to dig for the remains of the missing union leader. Besieged by complaints, the airline drops the promotion.

    Number 20
    Los Angeles-based Fiji Water runs magazine ads for its bottled water with the headline "The Label Says Fiji Because It's Not Bottled in Cleveland."

    Cleveland officials retaliate by running tests revealing that Fiji bottled water contains 6.3 micrograms of arsenic per liter, while the city's tap water has none.

    Fiji counters by saying its own tests found less than 2 micrograms per liter.

    I haven't finished reading all of them, but what fun.

    Monday, February 12, 2007

    Fired With No Explanation

    Hi Evil HR lady,

    I was fired yesterday. The reason HR gave me was basically "It didn't work out." I was so shell-shocked at the time that I didn't ask for a clearer explanation, but the real reason is that my supervisor and I had a personality conflict.

    My question: is there a way I can get a more exact explanation from the company for my getting fired? I would like something clear, because knowing the two parties, I imagine my supervisor had to go to her boss with something more credible than "I don't like her" to get me fired, and I'd like to know what that was.



    Dear Confused,

    First, let me offer you some sympathy. Losing your job is never pleasant--especially in a situation such as this. I hope you get a great new job quickly, that pays significantly more than the old one.

    As to learning about the firing itself, my best answer for you is maybe you can find out, and maybe you can't.

    The first thing to understand is that almost all employees in the United States are "at will" employees. This means you have no contract and you can quit or be fired at any time--for cause or no cause. Companies are not obligated to pay severance, but some do in such situations.

    Second, since you were fired on Friday, I suggest the first thing on your to do list on Monday is to visit your local unemployment office. This website from the Department of Labor should help you with that. Apply for unemployment. Your company may contest it. If they do, they'll be required to show that you either a. quit or b. were fired for cause. Hopefully you'll be granted unemployment. It's not a huge amount of money, but any money is better than none. If they contest it, you'll find out more about what they were thinking.

    If you were working for a small company and your boss and her boss were close, it may well be just a case of "I just don't get along with her." Or more likely, "I don't like her as much as [outside candidate] so let's do a quick fire and hire." Small companies frequently neglect to have consistent policies and practices and make decisions this way. While this is perfectly legal, you need to be really careful because it can open you up to a whole host of problems.

    In a large company, or one with established policies and procedures (and a good HR department), there probably was a lot more involved. There were probably meetings where things were discussed and documented. You have a legal right to review your employment file and you should go ahead and do that. Don't be surprised if there isn't anything substantive in it. Especially since you think a personality conflict is the root cause.

    But, you suspect there was more at play. So, try to find out. Wait a week--when things have calmed down and you're not angry. (Or at least, less angry.) Then call your former boss and say, "I understand that we had a few personality differences and I understand that contributed to your decision to terminate me. However, I would like to understand all the reasons behind your decision. I'm interested in moving on in my career and I don't wish to make the same mistakes again. Will you help me to understand what I can do to improve myself as an employee as I move on?"

    Say this calmly. Perhaps write it down and read it. (I would probably start crying--so I'm definitely not saying it would be easy.) My wimpy side would say e-mail it, but your former boss probably doesn't want anything documentable.

    Be prepared for a barrage of all your faults--real and imagined. If you truly want to know, just let her talk and take notes. If you just want someone to scream at about the unfairness of it all, skip the phone call.

    But, you must also be prepared for a boss that doesn't want to talk. She doesn't have to. You're an at will employee and the official reason for firing can be, "because I wanted to." Most people like to hear themselves talk, though, so you'll probably get some information. Especially if you couch it in terms like, "what did I do wrong?" and "help me improve." Not, "why on earth did you fire me? I'm brilliant!" Which, of course, you are.

    You may find out some very interesting information this way. It may help you correct flaws in your own personality. Or it may just make you glad you are gone from that job.

    For other people who currently have personality conflicts with their bosses, you may want to start looking for something new. It's just always better to work with people you get along with.

    Again, I'm so sorry you lost your job. I hope all goes well for you.


    Evil HR Lady

    Saturday, February 10, 2007

    Who is in the Cube Next to You?

    You think you know your co-workers, but do you really? Of course not. Most of us aren't in jobs that require psych evaluations (although I could make a case that employee relations people really should go through such a thing--dealing with problems all day long can be quite strenuous). Is someone like this sitting next to you?

    The astronaut:
    [Lisa Nowak]is charged with the attempted murder of a woman she believed to be her rival for the affections of a fellow astronaut. Police officials say she drove 900 miles to Florida from Texas, wearing a diaper so she would not have to stop for rest breaks. In Orlando, they say, she confronted her rival in a parking lot, attacking her with pepper spray.

    Captain Nowak was in disguise at the time, wearing a wig, the police said. She had with her a compressed air pistol, a steel mallet, a knife, pepper spray, four feet of rubber tubing, latex gloves and garbage bags.

    Those who know her say they are mystified. “I was in shock,” said Dennis Alloy, 43, of Tysons Corner, Va., a friend and high school classmate. “When I knew her, I couldn’t imagine an evil bone in her body.”

    Or, the Cubicle annointer:
    Evelyne Micky Shatkin worked at University of Texas at Arlington, where she had had a series of disputes with a co-worker, which after mediation, resulted an ultimatum from Human Resources: further problems could get you fired. Not satisfied, Shatkin held an after-work "prayer session", where, with another employee, Linda Shifflett, "anointed" the absent co-worker's cubicle with olive oil, purportedly because of fears that the co-worker was demonically oppressed, chanting "You vicious evil dogs. Get the hell out of here in the name of Jesus. ... I command you to leave." A third male co-worker, who had agreed to participate in the prayer, became uncomfortable with the use of monounsaturated fats, and reported the matter. The other two, acknowledging that the third was not an active participant, were fired, and are now suing, claiming religious discrimination (as well as age and sex discrimination because the third worker was not fired). (Eva-Marie Ayala"Women said peer was 'demonically oppressed'", Fort Worth Star-Telegam, Dec. 23; AP, Dec. 23). Shame on the Liberty Legal Institute for bringing the suit.

    Or the Head of the Cartoon Network (although we admit, he probably wasn't in a cube):
    The head of the Cartoon Network resigned Friday following a marketing stunt that caused a security scare in Boston.

    The announcement about Jim Samples resigning was made in an internal memo sent to Cartoon Network staffers.

    In a statement to employees, Samples said he regrets the stir that the stunt caused.

    "It's my hope that my decision allows us to put this chapter behind us and get back to our mission of delivering unrivaled original animated entertainment for consumers of all ages," Samples said.

    Or the illegal immigrants who asked immigration officers for a job:
    A group of day laborers mistook the ICE agents as employers seeking help. The day laborers approached the agents in a parking lot, which the agents were using to regroup after an unrelated investigation. The agents say that after some questioning of the day laborers, they arrested 24 individuals on immigration charges.

    "Fugitive aliens and other immigration status violators flaunt our laws and threaten the integrity of our immigration system," says John Alderman, ICE acting field office director in Baltimore. "Although ICE conducts targeted enforcement actions, we will not ignore immigration violations we encounter during the course of doing business."

    Of those arrested, 10 were from Honduras, eight were from Mexico, five were from El Salvador, and one was from Peru. ICE says six had criminal records in the United States, eight had been previously removed and two had final orders of removal from an immigration judge. One individual from El Salvador had been caught attempting to cross the border illegally six previous times, according to ICE.

    Friday, February 09, 2007


    A friend sent me a link to an NPR interview with Annabelle Gurwitch, who has a new documentary out called Fired.

    The NPR interview is great. Best part his her advice to "not answer the phone" when HR calls. "They're not calling to see if you want a new ... chair." She said you can't be fired if they can't get you on the phone. Just as a hint from someone who does firing, if you become difficult to find, we'll fire you via FedEx.

    Listen to the interview and then click on the second link to see the preview.
    I so want to see it, but it's not playing near me.

    How to Gain the Eternal Love of the Evil HR Lady

    In January my job share partner and I did a ton of work on a huge project for people in a different department. (Still HR, but not my department.) It was complicated, technical and critical and everything went well. Yippee! The other department people were wonderful and worked hard as well. We thought highly of them at the time.

    Now, we love them. Why? As a thank you they sent us Ghirardelli Tower. One to each of us. At our homes, so we didn't even have to share with our co-workers.

    Now we'll always put their requests first. Did I mention we love them?

    Planes, Politics and Business

    Three of my favorite topics--all rolled up in one post. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it.

    Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House, can ride in a military plane. As someone who has flown commercially and has flown in a private plane (albeit a 4 seater Piper Archer that only gets around 120-150 NMH), I can testify that private is so much easier. No long lines. No security. You ready to go? You leave. You land at an airport--usually the FBOs have nice treats and a supply of mouthwash, feminine hygiene products, hairspray and lotion in the bathrooms. What more can you ask for?

    Well, if you're Nancy Pelosi, you ask for a Bigger Jet. She claims it is because the one used by the former Speaker can't make it to her home in San Francisco without stopping.

    I have a hard time believing that. She says it's about security and not about her comfort. While I can't see any reason why it could truly be a security issue, she blew that by her next offer: Flying Commercial.
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she might decline the use of Air Force planes to travel from Washington to her San Francisco district because the Pentagon won't guarantee her an aircraft that can make the trip non-stop.

    ``I have said that I am happy to ride commercial if the plane they have doesn't go coast to coast,'' Pelosi said today.

    Nancy, darling, now you're sounding like a martyr. It's not about security--you'd be much safer on a military jet. It's not even about time. The amount of time it would take to fly commercial (including delays, missed flights and security lines) would be so much longer than flying in the military jet and stopping in North Dakota to refuel.

    So, her extravagent request got exposed and now she's backpedaling and she's going to end up worse off than she was before. What did our mothers tell us? If you can't say something nice (about your free jet rides), don't say anything at all or you may und up in a middle seat in coach squished by two people who don't believe in regular showers? (I think that was how my mother said it, anyway.)

    So, what does this have to do with business?

    Just ask Mark Fields.
    The head of Ford Motor Co.'s (NYSE:F - News) money-losing North American operations on Thursday told employees that he had given up use of a corporate jet for personal travel, an expensive benefit that had come under fire...
    Fields trips from Detroit to his home in Florida became controversial in recent weeks after the provision in his contract was highlighted by a Detroit television station and challenged at a time when the automaker is losing billions and slashing jobs.
    The cost of flying Fields for the fourth quarter of 2005 was $214,479, according to a proxy statement filed by Ford with the Securities and Exchange Commission in April. The automaker has not yet disclosed the cost for 2006.

    Those that have to fly coach are not amused by such extravegant perks. For some reason, people will put up with excessive stock options, second homes, and drivers, but boy do we not like executives using corporate jets for personal use.

    Speaker Pelosi should remember this if she wants to maintain her power. Most Executives should remember this--you never know when it will appear in the paper.

    Wednesday, February 07, 2007


    I was reading Confessions of a Community College Dean and this struck me:
    I learned this week that The Boy 's kindergarten class breaks up every few days for different reading levels, with TB and a few of his friends staying in their classroom while most of the class goes elsewhere, and a few kids from other classes stream in. They're the 'honors' group, in a sense. The fluent readers.

    They're five years old.

    Although the larger class is admirably multicultural and multiracial, there isn't a single black kid in the honors group.

    It's the second half of kindergarten, and the tracking has already started.

    It just didn't occur to me that it would start so early.

    You remember from your school days--tracking. You were in the honors group, or the slow readers group or the advanced math group, et cetera. That all ended when you left school, right? Wrong.

    The reality is, if you work for a large company, you're probably assigned to a group. In fact, your information and a profile are probably loaded into your company's Succession Planning tool.

    This is great and good--it allows managers to plan ahead, see where weaknesses are and fill the management pipeline. It allows you to recruit people with strengths where your company has weaknesses and develop what needs to be developed. But, just like the track you were placed into in Kindergarten, it can be very difficult to change tracks.

    Case in point from a friend:
    I received my performance evaluation this year and my manager rated me "average" (3 on a 5 point scale). I asked what I need to do to be considered a 5 by the end of this year. She said, "that won't happen. Can you imagine the paperwork to justify a 2 level move?"

    See, she had been "tracked" as an average performer. It will take her considerably more effort to be rated higher than someone who was previously tracked as a high performer.

    So, what do you do about it? It depends. How much do you like your job and/or company? If you really want to stay where you are, you need to work harder and smarter than everyone else. You take whatever developmental classes you can take. You volunteer to take on the hard assignments and realize you will be criticized more than the "fast tracker" who sits next to you--regardless of what level you perform at.

    My friend's manager gave her a clue that this path will be hard--she doesn't even want to consider the paperwork involved. This seems to me to be a ridiculous notion--if she does high level work, shouldn't the only paperwork required be a performance appraisal saying so? But, apparently not at her company.

    I advised my friend to look for a new job--within the company if she wants to stay, but the easier path would be to look elsewhere. Why? Even with a new manager, your record follows you--just like your "permanent record" in school.

    If you decide to move to a new company you get a clean slate for the first little while. Just remember, you'll be put into a track within a few months of landing that new job, so make sure you're constantly going above and beyond in the new job.

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007


    The Carnival of the Insantities is up at Dr. Sanity's place. My favorite for this week is a link to this Saturday Night Live Commercial that reminds you how to manage debt.


    I'm going to criticize a professional advice columnist again. Here's the letter in today's Dear Abby:
    DEAR ABBY: I am writing on behalf of my friends at work. We have a co-worker, "Madge," who had a stillborn baby last year. It was tragic. Our problem is, she keeps a photo of the deceased infant with its little eyes sewn shut on her desk in plain view, so that if we must interact with her (we have an open cubicle layout) we have to see it.

    Is this appropriate? Ninety percent of the employees here are women. Most are appalled. Others say, "Well, it's all she has."

    Madge is expecting again, and we are rooting for her and the baby. However, in addition to all this, she is mean and gossipy. Madge tells everyone what to do and how to do it -- which is not in her job description. I hope that when the baby arrives she will soften and not be so bitter. But, Abby, how on earth do we blow off that photo? -- APPALLED IN THE MIDWEST

    DEAR APPALLED: While a person's desktop is usually private territory, I agree that the photograph you describe is inappropriate in an office environment. Because Madge feels the need to keep the picture of her stillborn baby close, it should be kept in her purse with other family photos, or in her desk drawer.

    How very sad that poor woman must be. The person who should deal with this delicate problem is the boss or the supervisor.

    If a manager came to me with this situation, I'd ask the following questions:
    1. Are other people allowed to have pictures of their family/friends/children on their desks?
    2. Would this picture be appropriate if the baby had lived? (Granted, the eyes woudn't be sewn shut, but otherwise is it appropriate--size, placement, etc.)
    If the answer to both these questions is "yes" then there is no way I would ask "Marge" to remove the picture of her baby.

    I think the real key here is in the author's last paragraph: Marge is "mean and gossipy" and "tells us what to do." This is not about a memento of a lost baby. This is "we don't like Marge. If it was Carol in this situation, we'd understand, but Marge is a jerk." I'm surprised (well, not really) that Abby missed that part. Volunteered information that has no relation to the topic at hand is usually the most important piece of information.

    The manager needs to address the Marge as a jerk issue, but not that picture. Granted, if she has it in a portrait size frame you can ask her to have a smaller picture to be more in line with the rest of the department (but it needs to apply to everyone--no pictures bigger than 5x7 or something). Chances are if all goes well with the new baby, the new baby's picture will take precedence over the deceased baby. But if not, deal with it.

    UPDATE: I found an entire discussion the topic at Etiquette Hell. It was an interesting read.

    Monday, February 05, 2007

    Planning in Advance

    I didn't watch the Super Bowl. In fact, I didn't even know who was playing until last night. But, I did manage to catch this commercial:

    Ha! It applies to your job as well. Make sure you have marketable skills up to date. This is especially important for people who are strictly managers--you know, you just supervise others and don't know how to do the "work."

    When layoffs come, it's that manager level that gets cut first--after all the work still has to be done. Just keep up on your skills.

    Thursday, February 01, 2007

    Employees as Walking Lawsuits or Liability Part III

    A whole bunch of people are going to get their rear ends fired--not laid off, I hope--but fired. And I hope they start with whoever the top person is that approved this stunt all the way down to the admin who knew about it but didn't do anything about it. From the New York Times
    Boston temporarily closed parts of bridges, subway stations, an Interstate highway and even part of the Charles River on Wednesday after the authorities found what the police described as suspicious devices at nine places.

    But the devices, which included circuit boards, turned out to be part of a marketing campaign by Turner Broadcasting to advertise a cartoon television show, “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.”

    This may be creative, but it is a bad, bad, bad idea. You can say we're overly paranoid about terrorism. You can say we're not paranoid enough about terrorism. But the fact remains, law enforcement takes weird electronic devices found in key locations, like bridges, very seriously.

    One person has been arrested, and I imagine others will follow. They'll probably not end up in jail, but rather paying huge fines. The Mayor of Boston is ticked and planning (it looks like) to not only sue but press charges:
    “It is outrageous, in a post-9/11 world, that a company would use this type of marketing scheme,” Mr. Menino said in a statement. “I am prepared to take any and all legal action against Turner Broadcasting and its affiliates for any and all expenses incurred during the response to today’s incidents.”

    So, the next time one of your employees has a "fabulous, creative idea," please run it by legal. Or someone with half a brain.