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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Punitive Measures

I work for a company with technicians who travel to residence/business for installation or service. At the end of each day the policy is that all time sheets are to be handed in, so that at the end of the week I am not doing the data entry and payroll for 36 people. I have made several comments to them asking to PLEASE hand them in. One person gives me a hard time. This week I made a memo that any employee who does not follow the company policy will be removed from direct deposit and will have to pick up their check from my desk. Was this legal? Any suggestions on how to handle this?

Not a lawyer, so not going to answer the legal aspect. (Although I will say that I wouldn't dare try this in California. They have wonky direct deposit laws that I am aware of.)

Is this a good method of getting people to behave how you want them to? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm guessing that this isn't just a case of someone who is too flaky to turn in their time cards on time. It sounds like someone thinks your rule of daily time cards is nit-picky and unnecessary.

Is it?

Just something to think about. Sometimes we set up rules that had a great reason in 1997, but that reason has gone away and we haven't changed them. I'm not doubting you, just pointing out that sometimes the reasons for things have gone away.

But, I assume this reason hasn't and doing data entry for 36 people is a huge task and you need the time.

Frequently, people see their own tasks as being "difficult" and the tasks that others do as "easy." "Man, I could get the payroll done in 20 minutes. I don't know what her problem is," may well have been said several times.

You can drag the offender into your office and say, "look, let me show you what is required," but that probably won't happen. So, instead, you set up a an effective stick. "Don't turn in your time cards on time and you won't have direct deposit, which means not only a trip in to pick up a hard copy check, but then a trip to the bank to deposit it and perhaps a holding period before the money is available."

Sounds like a great big stick. But, it may come back to bite you. Let's say Mr. Problem Child has his mortgage set to automatically come out of his checking account on the first of the month. Normally his paycheck is direct deposited on the 31st. You give him a live check and his mortgage payment bounces. He gets a late fee and then he comes in and yells at you and calls your boss and complains that you've ruined his life and his credit. Yes, yes, it's his fault, but do you want to deal with the fall out?

Is it that big of deal to have one person have a late time card? It may be--I don't do payroll for your company. But, if you can get the other 35 people done, it may be better just to drop it.

I am 100% sure that this guy is annoying as all get out. Heck, he's annoying me and I've never met him. But sometimes, it's better to let things drop.

If there is a power struggle going on, bugging him and whacking him with sticks will only make it worse. Dropping it may take away his need to bug you and the time cards might start arriving on time. Of course, you can set a final deadline, after which pay is processed the next week. (Unless, that is illegal in your state. Always best to know your laws!)

You could also try some sort of carrot method before the stick method. Everyone that gets their time cards in on time gets entered into a drawing for some token--it's amazing what people will do for a candy bar. (Or maybe not all people--maybe I'll just do anything for chocolate. I'm easily bribed.)

Good luck running your pay. Payroll is truly what makes the world go round--and no one appreciates you like they should. I do, though. I love getting paid.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about whether or not the employees have to come back to the office for any other reason than to turn in daily time sheets? If that's the only reason and this one person lives at the other end of the world and they aren't having to come back to drop off a work truck or materials, I can see why it might be an issue. Could he fax it to you instead?

Or he could just be an annoying person in general and is enjoying making you miserable.

Like EHRL, I like being paid. Heck, I appreciate anyone who hands me $$$! ;-)

HR Wench said...

I don't understand why anyone wants to tick off the person that does payroll.

Too bad you don't have time & attendance software. I understand money is tight in small companies - been there & done that. You would be amazed at how cheap some systems are though...

Anyways, one thing I've noticed no one has mentioned yet is going to this employee's manager. I mean, sure, you can let it go and forget it. That is always an option. Especially if your request is something that is not entirely reasonable, just your preferred way of doing things. But if someone is being "non-compliant" on purpose and is also being an all around jerk I'm all about going to their boss if I can't work it out with them.

I wouldn't mess with the direct deposit thing. Too many people have auto-withdrawal for bills as Evil mentioned.

Ask a Manager said...

I agree with Anonymous that if they don't have any other reason to return to the office at the end of the day, it would better to find a way for these to be submitted electronically (or whenever they're next in the office). Otherwise, I could see that being really annoying!

And I agree with HR Wench about going to the person's manager. You've set up a stick to try to push him into compliance, but the stick doesn't really have a direct connection to the behavior you're trying to enforce. It's really just ... a stick. Instead, why not go to the manager and say, "Hey, I need your help in getting Joe to comply with this policy?" And bring it up every time he doesn't. The manager has leverage with the employee that you likely don't have, and it's reasonable for the manager to consider "complying with office administrative policies" to part of the bar for the guy's performance.

Evil HR Lady said...

Oh duh. Go to the manager. Why didn't I think of that?

Anonymous said...

Couple of comments:

1) Your approach to this problem was to put out a memo to 36 people, in effect threatening them, because of the actions of one person. This is a typical, but completely counter-productive approach to problems create by a small number of people in an organization. The "good" employees get lumped right in with the "bad". Your actions, whatever they may be, should be directed at the offender, not the people who are already doing what you want them to. Writing the memo is easier, but not a good approach. This is how "good" employees develop bad attitudes.

2) As others have said, if you've already talked to this person and his behavior hasn't changed, go to the next level; either his boss or yours.

Mike Doughty

WaggieHR said...

I feel your pain. I am a HR/Payroll Manager for 120 employees(five states, seventeen stores). Long story short, I have encountered the same issue and it wasn't until I went to the CEO with my issues that I saw some results. Quickbooks has timesheets which may be a solution if your guys have access to email or to web. If not the previous company I worked for bought a time clock for $300. Some now are web based.

Totally Consumed said...

The person who wrote this question wouldn't happen to be named Roz (from Monsters Inc) would she?
~~~
Roz: Wazowski! You didn't file your paperwork last night.

Mike: Oh, that darn paperwork! Wouldn't it be easier if it all just blew away?

Roz: Don't let it happen again.

Mike: Yes, well, I'll try to be more careful next time.

Roz: I'm watching you, Wazowski. Always watching.

Evil HRISguy said...

Hmm, data entry "errors"?

Oh, you mean that wasn't 40 hours of vacation? Gee, I guess I was in a rush to get everything keyed in time for the payroll run.

Yeah, I know you can't do that, but it's just fun to think about.

We have some hourly employees who never input their time. We've gone to the manager -who doesn't care- so we track them down and get the info. It would be tempting to submit zero hours, but that might result in some nasty wage and hour legal consequences!

HR Godess said...

When I did payroll, I had a cutoff. For those who traveled, if their timesheets were not in to me by noon on the payroll day, they got paid just their straight time since I obviously didn't know how many hours they worked overtime. I was aware, however, if they worked at all since I did time AND attendance.

If they were running to get to a fax machine to get it in to me at 12:30 and called to say it's on it's way, I always complied and processed it. Once they got a couple of checks with just straight time after they busted their humps working tons of OT, it was amazing how quickly they adhered to the policy.

I would never suggest messing with someone's direct deposit. It doesn't seem ethical to me.

Anonymous said...

I certainly understand how maddening it is when an employee just doesn't care about semi-important things, like, uhm, GETTING PAID. I understand wanting to him them where it hurts, but the consequences of messing with someone's DD could be severe. I know if my payroll staff didn't pay me out of spite (which is really what it boils down to), I'd bring it to the CFO and demand that someone be spoken to about that. But given the current situation, what would I do? I would have gone straight to the manager and requested a formal sit down meeting with the employee. If the manager didn't feel it was necessary, I'd go to my manager and have them speak to the manager and explain how not turning in time sheets can have negative consequences on payroll processing. Then I would try and find a way to fix the situation. Is there a reason the person isn't turning in their time sheet? Is that an acceptable reason? Can we work out a solution? My guess is that he's just lazy and doesn't like you, but behavior like that might lead to something deeper...perhaps potential performance issues? The beauty of it, is that if you have a sit down meeting, and nothing changes, you can draft a disciplinary memo, and those things usually do something. If they don't it can effect his next performance review, and that, my dear, will hit him in the pocket book.

Anonymous said...

I certainly understand how maddening it is when an employee just doesn't care about semi-important things, like, uhm, GETTING PAID. I understand wanting to him them where it hurts, but the consequences of messing with someone's DD could be severe. I know if my payroll staff didn't pay me out of spite (which is really what it boils down to), I'd bring it to the CFO and demand that someone be spoken to about that. But given the current situation, what would I do? I would have gone straight to the manager and requested a formal sit down meeting with the employee. If the manager didn't feel it was necessary, I'd go to my manager and have them speak to the manager and explain how not turning in time sheets can have negative consequences on payroll processing. Then I would try and find a way to fix the situation. Is there a reason the person isn't turning in their time sheet? Is that an acceptable reason? Can we work out a solution? My guess is that he's just lazy and doesn't like you, but behavior like that might lead to something deeper...perhaps potential performance issues? The beauty of it, is that if you have a sit down meeting, and nothing changes, you can draft a disciplinary memo, and those things usually do something. If they don't it can effect his next performance review, and that, my dear, will hit him in the pocket book.

Leroy Grinchy said...

I am totally confused. Someone has a problem putting in their timesheet?

This is the one job duty I do not screw up! I don't know how this company you work at operates, but if we don't put in the time sheet, we don't get paid. End of story.

I think that cutting a check for someone who can't be bothered to do their time sheet is quite nice. I am not making a legal statement, but a personal one. I steer clear of any legal issue.

I guess they expect you to read their mind to determine what hours they worked then pay them accordingly. I'd like to work for this company as it does something nice, cuts a check for someone who fails to properly submit a timesheet, then worries about it. :)

Wally Bock said...

Two observations. First, as was said earlier, you're essentially sending an "I'm powerful-an-can-mess-with-you" communication to 34 people who weren't a problem. Seems like that make some of them unhappy.

Second, it also sounds like you're starting an escalation here. You've moved from "please follow the rules" to "I can tear out your direct deposit and stomp that sucker flat!" in one inelegant leap.

I know you hope that the recalcitrant tech will say to him/her self, "Wow! I never realized this was important! I'll make sure to comply from now on." But I don't think that's likely to happen.

Instead, I think that you will become the Direct Deposit Nazi and the subject of jokes among the techs. It is possible that the object of your affliction will also mess with you.

"How?" you ask. By working to rule in way that calls attention to your memo. If techie controls schedule that might mean driving slowly in from the farthest point in the territory to stay on the clock longer, then casually dropping by your boss's office with his time sheet and a comment about how techie wanted to be sure to get it in so you don't pull direct deposit. Or, perhaps, telling a valued customer something like, "I can't finish this job, I have to get back to hand in my time sheet or the payroll person will pull my direct desposit.

If you want to die assaulting this hill, go ahead. But you might want to make a better choice about the issues you want to go to war over.

JKB said...

The writer of this question fails miserably as a bureaucrat. Threatening to take an unsanctioned action such as stopping direct deposit, just screams for the tables to be turn on the payroll person.

Whereas, a true bureaucrat would follow the rules religiously. If after the deadline for the time to be submitted, some are missing, you email the persons boss asking for direction on how to code their time, straight time, awol, vacation, etc. As the timekeeper, you have no authority to decide how to list this employes time absent a time card. By putting the issue where it belongs on the employee's boss, you are within policy and somewhat safe although their is a risk the boss may retaliate against you for making them do their job. If possible, get a policy that once a day's time is encoded any corrections will be made on the same day the following week.

Follow the rules explicitly and put the enforcement of the rules on the person who is responsible. That is the true bureaucrat way.

BTW, if this person was concerned about making their mortgage payment, they would get their time in so they can get paid properly. As the timekeeper you are not their mother, you can only pay them for time properly claimed and approved.

class factotum said...

This story reminds me of a dance class I took. The instructor would stop us all, look at the ceiling, and say, "SOMEBODY is not rolling back on the left heel on the three count."

We would all look at each other and wonder silently, "Is it me? Why doesn't she just tell the person who is doing it wrong? We're paying to learn how to swing dance. We want to be corrected!"

But with her approach, none of us knew if we were the ones doing it wrong. Or right.

Katherine said...

We had the same problem at my work, except it was many people in a few departments, and wasn't the same offenders every time.

We reminded everyone of the written time card policy, which was to have time card in by Monday noon or risk not getting a direct deposit. Then we started enforcing it.

I'm a time card collector for my department NOT a payroll processor, but I know that payroll checked it out with legal, and it was not a problem for us to do this, but we had to notify the employees of it (even though we already have a written policy).

Ours may be different too, because we outsource our payroll, and if we don't have the information by a certain time (I think Monday at 5, 5 hours after the employee deadline) we cannot process a direct deposit.

I am in California, FWIW.

We had a few checks cut the first run after this happened (about 18 months ago), and haven't had any problems since.

I do think if I had only one offender I would go the manager/alternate disciplinary route, but ours was widespread.

Anonymous said...

We had this issue with a senior VP, she was just "too busy" to do it. After many attempts, I finally took it to the CEO. She has not been late since.

I do question the need to do this daily and manually. Electronic time sheets are cheap and much easier.

Erin said...

Your comments about "rules that had a great reason in 1997" remind me of the demotivator (if you haven't been there, you should check out www.despair.com) poster that reads, "Tradition: Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid."

Raymond said...

It's amazing that otherwise competent professionals can't seem to get their timesheets filled out. We have electronic timesheets and we have contractual requirements that specify daily entry of time. So if we're audited, there's a potential for the company to lose the contract which means no job for the employees who work on it. But there's a group that seem to think it's beneath them. Usually a word with their managers is the best bet and let the managers track down the employees. And you can also tie a portion of the managers' bonus to how well they get their administrative work done.

Like most companies, our payroll has to be processed by a certain time in order to get direct deposit submitted. You can't risk everyone else in the company not getting direct deposit for the one or two stragglers, regardless of their reason, so payroll goes when it has to go and anyone else simply has to make do with a manual check. There's no need to make a threat out of it, it's just a simple fact; you can't fault the bus for leaving on time. Direct deposit is a benefit, at least in VA, not a requirement.