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Friday, June 27, 2008

Carnival Poll

We're having a bit of a "discussion" behind the scenes regarding the Carnival of HR. The question is, should a host be able to require submissions on a certain theme, or should they just deal with whatever gets submitted.

My opinion is that I have no opposition to an occasional theme, but I wouldn't want it to be a requirement for every carnival. Some dates just scream theme. (Well, at least, to me, they do.)

So, vote in this poll. We'll go with whatever the consensus is.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Carnival of HR

I know. It's a day late. (Unless I get distracted and then it will be two days late.) I should be fired. In fact, this isn't the only reason I should be fired. Let that be our carnival theme: Reasons to fire Evil HR Lady.

1. HR Wench writes about the Americans With Disabilities act and Age Discrimination in answering a question about a school teacher. I'm neither disabled nor over 40, so I'm not a likely candidate for a law suit. Therefore, I'm easy to fire.

2. Chris Young thinks HR really doesn't want to reduce turnover--it's too scary. David Wentworth at even tells you how to downsize. So, getting rid of me is no problem at all.

3. John Ingham has his Mojo. Then Amit Avasthi talks about a new term Glocalisation. Your talent is where it's at. You need to be able to see it to bring it out. Sounds like it would work with Mojo. These are two words not normally in my vocabulary, so I should definitely be terminated.

4. Susan Heathfield talks about knowing your audience. You see, it's not all about you--it's about your audience. Well, I want it to be all about me.

5. Micheal Moore presents the E-Verify nightmare. And, Recruitment 2.0 talks about Northern Ireland's reporting requirements (Catholic or Protestant?). Never mind firing me. Just shoot me now.

6. Gautam Ghosh gives us 5 Skills for Success. Being positive is one of them. Well, Ask a Manager positively does not like Employee of the Month Programs. I'll join her in that negativity, which, I guess, means Guatam can fire both of us. Except that Ask A Manager is correct about employee of the month programs being a poor substitute for real retention strategies, so maybe fire me and promote her. But, speaking of negativity, HR Minion gives us signs that an employee has gone negative.

7. Wally Bock wants to be Left Alone in order to have time to reflect and make good decisions. He says this is important for leadership. Dan McCarthy also addresses good ideas for leaders through a Leadership Exchange program. Now, if only I could get fired so I could go work for Wally or Dan.

8. Alvaro Fernandez presents a new book, Sway, and discusses why smart brains makes stupid decisions. People with smart brains often end up in middle management, which then turns them, well read Wayne Turmel's The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Cubicle and find out. Let's just say that I have a smart brain which made a stupid decision to over-schedule her Wednesday, resulting in a late carnival. Definitely a fireable offense.

9. Lisa tells us how to Crush Positive Employee Relations. I should be fired because I took it as a delightful "how to" guide, instead of the "how not to guide" it really is.

10. Michael D. Haberman got his seat at the table stolen. (Okay, not his, but still.) He reminds us to get out of HR to learn the business. I should be fired so that I'm forced to escape.

11. Totally Consumed tells us to be honest when providing job references. The Career Encourager reminds us that, in a job search competition isn't a bad thing. But, Denise O'Berry reminds us that after we're hired, we need to make sure we can trust our team even when we don't see them daily. It's all so kind and friendly, that there isn't really a reason to fire me in these posts. So, I guess I'll continue blogging.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's Just Not Working

Expat question for you: I am recently hired by a large international Hospitality organization. The welcome, after the very aggressive recruiting, has been disappointing.

Somebody hinted at the possibility that "the company had let me down" during my probation time and therefor could be found responsible for my relocation costs. (Normally, if the employee resigns during their 3 months probation time, the cost for the return tickt and moving expenses falls back on the employee.) What exactly does this mean: the co. has let someone down on their contract?

As I am in month one of my probation time, I am kind of curious what the answer is.

I have no idea what your company policy is. I have no idea what country you are now located in. I'm going to answer this based on my worldview, so it may or may not apply.

So, you don't like the job. There's no technical breach of contract (that I can divine from a short question--which I encouage short questions as they save me the editing time) unless you got here and they said, "oooh, that offer letter, we're not going to be paying you that salary and so much for relocation costs. You have to repay everything we've already spent." Instead, you don't like it.

In my world, we'd say tough cookies. Now, we'd say tough cookies to your face, but behind the scenes we'd be screaming at the recuiter and the hiring manager who brought you in with tales of greatness and then dumped you into reality.

Can I say it again? Let's be honest when we are recruiting. Let's tell our candidates what the problems are. Best interview I ever had (and I took the job, by the way) was when the hiring manager said to me, "I'll be honest. There's a lot of policitical stuff going on. I'll try to protect you from some of it, but I can't guarentee you won't get caught up in it." She then warned me that her boss was, shall we say, unstable and would yell and scream but rewarded people who put up with her shenanigans with high pay raises. I KNEW what I was getting into. Fortunately for me, her boss was fired three weeks after I started. But even if she hadn't been, I had no illusions going in.

But, it's too late for that. You're there and you don't like it. But, you've only been there for one month. ONE MONTH! You only have to stay for 3 to not have to repay your relocation costs (which seem very small, considering). My advice to you? Suck it up. Three months aren't going to kill you and you may find out you like it better then you thought you did. New jobs are often awkward and you start to feel stupid because you don't understand how the company operates. And, since you are a new country, there is a new culture to go with it.

What I would do is first go to your manager and explain your concerns. She may be able to come up with a solution. Perhaps change some aspect of you job to make it a better fit for you. She doesn't really want to go recruiting again. However, if she's just as annoyed with you as you are with the job, she may feel it's the best deal to hand you a return ticket home and wish you well.

Unless the country you are in has laws that vary from this, they are under no obligation to pay for your return because you are "unsatisfied" with the job. If you, contractually, have to repay for terminating voluntarily in less than x number of years, you'll have to repay.

This can be one of the reasons jobs with relocation are so scary (both domestic and international). You don't really know if you'll love a job until you get there (or a town, for that matter). But, you're on the hook for a huge sum of money if you
don't stick it out. (Full relocation can cost a ton of money--especially international relcations. We're talking in excess of $100,000.) I advise people to relocate cautiously.

But, managers don't want an unhappy employee either. So, talk with your boss. Work on a solution. If that doesn't work stick it out three months and graciously resign. Getting yourself home will be on your own dime, but so be it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Please Don't Tell Anyone Who Told You This But

I am also an Evil HR Lady. They even call me 'The Warden'. I think they're kidding but I wear it as a badge of honor nonetheless. I am the HR Director and I have 4 Evilettes who handle most of the basic HR functions while I handle more of the big picture and really, really drama filled stuff.

My question is; how do I handle those situations where an employee comes to tell me something that they want addressed but want to remain anonymous? Sometimes these things are so specific and there is really only one way I could know about it.....a 'snitch'. Unless I catch the person doing it, it's hard to bring it to their attention without being obvious. Sometimes I am able to 'catch' someone and sometimes not. Any thoughts?

Wow. I bow in the honor of an HR Lady called "The Warden." That is awesome. Or really, really bad and you should be nicer. One of the two.

I'm really, really tempted to send you to my favorite day care provider to tell you how to handle it. ("Are you tattling? I don't listen to tattlers, so go play.")

That's actually a great way to handle things that aren't serious. ("John keeps coming in late." "Are you tattling on John? I don't listen to tattlers. Go work.") That and, "well, have you asked Susan to stop clearing her throat 64 times an hour? No? Try that," cover you for most of the situations that arise.

But the real problems come when it's not something you can ignore. When it's not that Susan is repeatedly clearing her throat, it's that she's stealing product, then you have to do something. Then there are the things such as sexual harassment that can open the company up to legal liabilities. You have to act.

So, how to do it without letting the target of the investigation know who brought it to your attention. Sometimes this is impossible and you just have to tell the person that while you would love to leave them out of it, it's impossible to do so. If the complaint is that John's supervisor is asking for "inappropriate" favors from him, you can't exactly just wire tap the supervisor's office and send John in there to run a sting operation. Nor can you just follow the supervisor around all day hoping he'll forget you are there and say something inappropriate.

The reality is that people know that even if a "case" is decided in their favor, their working life could be made into a nightmare. (John's supervisor is no longer sexually harassing him, but he receives worse assignments and subtle putdowns that turn the team against him.) Therefore, John doesn't want to be associated with the problem, just make it stop.

You can't. In some situations, you do just have to suck it up and deal with it, names and all. Of course, this is a huge catch 22 because if you can't keep it confidential fewer people will come to you and if fewer people come to you it's more likely that you'll miss things that are going on. Then your employes could claim that the reason they didn't come to HR with the problem was because you made it difficult to present a problem. Hoo-boy, then you're in for more trouble.

So, some suggestions on things that aren't going to blow up immediately. Mandatory training. I know, I know, unpleasant and difficult to just pull one bad egg into it. So, don't. You should be having regular training on health and safety issues, harassment, etc, so if you have regularly scheduled training, either the employee in question has recently completed it or will be due for additional training. Then you can simply "follow up" on the training. This will give you an excuse to talk to the alleged offender without bringing up the situation.

If it's something like stealing (probably not a legitimate training you could do on "why you shouldn't steal from the employer"), that's an immediately fireable offense, so less risk ruining the complainer's life if it's found to be true. Plus, it's not like you can be sued for someone stealing something. (I'm sure now I'll get a link where that happened.)

Part of the problem, which you know, is that people want HR to step in and solve all problems for them--rather than being growning up and solving it themselves. Still, as the Warden (I do love that) you've obviously gained some level of respect that the average employee and manager doesn't have. Use that to your advantage when you are explaining to an employee that there is no way you can keep their name out of it. "If you have further problems, let me know and I WILL take care of it." Who could not believe you?

For the less serious problems, I would let the "person who brings it to your attention" (I've been using "complainer" but that sounds too negative), decide if which they want more--the problem dealt with or anonymity. Of course, you can keep your eyes open and if you do see something deal with it, but not all workplace complaints need to be dealt with.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Part Time Exempt

I am an exempt employee, this is not only stated in my written offer letter, but also by the fact that my job specifications include independent authority, hiring and firing influence, and management of a department. I am paid over the weekly minimum amount for exempt status. I am in agreement that my job is that of an exempt employee.

However, I am paid by the hour. I am not expected to work any hours other than 9 to 5 (since my employer is paying me by the hour, they have a specific amount budgeted for my job title). I leave work at 5, even if tasks are not completed, with no adverse effect on my performance rating. They do not ask me to do more than what I can get done in that time period. I also am the only part-time employee, working only 3 days a week.

In addition, I do not receive any paid-time off benefits.

My question is this: should I keep my mouth shut and just enjoy the fact that I have regulated work hours and can leave at 5, even as other co-workers slave away into the night (I'm not eligible for OT, as I'm exempt, and it wouldn't be approved anyway, as they only have limited budget for my position)? Or, should I discuss with my manager the fact that as an "exempt" employee, I should receive company holidays (at least the ones that land on a regularly scheduled work day) because it's affecting my "salary"--which should remain consistent, given that I'm an exempt employee? There's a slight chance this would open the door to a possible "work until the job's done" discussion, but it's not likely.

I believe the fact that I get no paid sick or vacation time is legal, as they classify me as "part-time". Their written PTO policy for full-timers does not apply to me, as I'm a different class (part-time). Correct?

I think you should ask for holiday pay--for the holidays you are scheduled to work. I agree that that seems fair, especially if all other employees get it.

Are they required to give it to you? Well, no. You're right that it cuts into your pay if they don't. This would seem, on it's surface, to go against the principle of exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act. It really doesn't because even though your job could be classified as exempt, how they are acting indicates that it is not. Plus, there are exemptions from the exemption rules (got that?) that allow companies not to pay you for full days not worked.

Now, don't freak out. I haven't just changed your job description on you or said you wouldn't classify for exemption, it's just that by paying you by the hour they have chosen to not treat you as an exempt employee. Now, since your offer letter states you are exempt, could you pitch a fit? Maybe, but I'm not a lawyer nor am I an expert on FLSA.

The only disadvantage to the company for paying you like this is that if something strange happens and you end up putting in more than 40 hours one week, they'll have to pay you overtime. From what you said, this ain't happening.

There are very few professional part time jobs and lots of people who want them. I actually work part time and you should see the line up I have of people wanting to know when I'm going to quit so they can have my job. (Well, they want part time, plus my boss and my department are awesome, plus sometimes I get to travel to New Jersey, and who wouldn't want that?) There are trade-offs to the reduced schedule. You can decide if they are worth it to you, or not.

So, my advice, ask for holiday pay. I would give it to you. But, I'm a soft-hearted part time employee myself. If you don't ask, the answer will be no. If you do ask, the answer might be no, but it might be yes. Keep in mind that no one cares about your pay check like you do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Too Dressed Up

Hi! I am the Director of Public Relations/Community Liaison for a non-profit counseling center in Wyoming. I am a young(in my 20's) professional female with a college degree and a passion for what I do. Recently I was pulled aside by my Executive Director and Clinical Director and given a lecture on my dress.

I dress in very professional business suits and dresses that are no shorter than knee length with business heels everyday, and I have worked hard and enjoy wearing designer clothes(Dior, Prada, etc). I was told that I needed to tone it down and think about wearing jeans, etc because I was dressing too professionally and that coworkers had complained that it made them uncomfortable. They then continued that donning designer shoes/bags/dresses makes my coworkers feel like I think that I am better than them. I was told that this is Wyoming and business is casual. Am I nuts or does this sound absurd to you? Thanks for your response

You're nuts. Heck at my office, people pay $5 to be able to have the priviledge of wearing jeans once a year in order to raise money for March of Dimes.

Sorry. If your co-workers and boss (especially the boss)are wearing jeans and you're wearing a Prada suit with heels, you are inappropriately dressed.

Not that I would recognize a Prada suit if it bit me (I'm way too old and fashion challenged, plus a little bit cheap), but there are times it is inappropriate. I don't know much about Wyoming's dress code (does a state have a dress code?), but I did grow up in a town where suits were known as "marry 'em or bury 'em" clothes. Someone in a suit was out of place in most settings outside a church.

Now, I'm not one to criticize your sense of style and as long as your armpits aren't showing I'm fine with whatever you are wearing. However, there are consequences to all of our actions. The consequence for dressing up is that you co-workers feel uncomfortable.

They may be irrational. You may be the only appropriately dressed person in the entire place. It doesn't matter. Perception is reality and their reality is that your outfits make them uncomfortable.

As a commmity liaison, you should understand the importance of being able to communicate with your community.

Now, you don't have to dress exactly like everyone else. That might be a little creepy, because it's not your style. Dress like you would dress for business casual.

If your suits are too important to you to give up, fine. But, there will be consequences to that choice. Since the leadership at you company doesn't approve, a consequence could be a lack of career growth. Take a hint from your bosses and follow their leads.

Interview with Me

Totally Consumed interviewed me. Find it here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Hairy Situation

Help evil HR lady!! The tables have been turned!

I’ve just recently been told my HR Manager position has been eliminated (darn those salespeople, why couldn’t they sell more!!). But hey, I’m an evil HR person; I know the tricks to make this work.

Now that my colleagues know I’m being let go, they are all commenting that I need to get rid of my goatee (yes, I am an evil HR guy). Here is my (admittedly unusual) question – do employers really care about applicants with facial hair anymore? It’s not for religious reasons, and I keep it well trimmed. What’s the deal? I’d love to hear what your readers think!

Anonymous (but hairy) HR Guy

My personal opinion? As long as you are dressed properly and your facial hair is neat, it won't matter. If you have the facial hair and it's sloppy and has your lunch in it, then no. But, I don't hire, so I've created a poll:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

HR Roles

First I must say how much I’ve enjoyed your blog – it helped me a lot when I applied for a new job last year.

Now (for only the second time in my career) I work for a company that is large enough to actually have an HR department!

My question is, I see references to roles such as ‘HR Generalist’ and ‘HR Business Partner’, and I’m sure there are more I haven’t found yet.

Could you please give a quick summary of the various HR roles and the differences?

Oh the desire for Snark is overwhelming me. I may not be able to hold back.

Companies differ and you can have two people with identical titles at different companies do very different jobs. These answers are based on my experiences, YMMV.

HR Business Partner: Works closely with the business leaders to help develop strategy and give general guidance. They take the "business" POV in dealing with a conflict between management and an employee. Things like reorganizations and succession planning falls on their shoulders.

HR Generalist: Most large companies don't truly have a generalist, although I suspect this term is sometimes applied to employee relations people (See below). A true generalist does everything--benefits, hiring, business partner, employee relations.

Employee Relations: Instead of looking at the department as a whole, they tend to deal with individual problems. Have a problem with an employee? Go there. Have a problem with a manager? Go to ER. Employee discipline problems, performance reviews, all that kind of fun stuff falls on Employee Relations. They also work very closely with the HR Business Partner.

Benefits: People with a benefits title can do a variety of things. Your senior benefits people will be choosing health plans, negotiating with vendors and developing policies. The junior people will be solving employee benefit problems, working with the vendors and making actual changes to individual employees.

HRIS: This stands for HR Information Systems. People with HR Analyst often fall into this category. These are the techie and numbers people of Human Resources. On the tech side, the run the HR systems. The can be the actual HRIS itself, where employee data is stored (employment history, salary, grade, etc) or supporting systems, such as training and development systems and resume tracking systems. Then there is the reporting side. These people provide data--usually to the HR business partners--to help them make decisions. Turnover, headcount, trends, etc. all come out of the HRIS and other systems and are put together by the analysts. This is an extremely important group that is often overlooked. HR can't provide value without knowledge, and these people keep the knowledge. (You might have detected that I began my career as an HR analyst.)

Staffing or Recruiters: In house staffing departments are responsible for hiring. They do more than just find and interview candidates. They work with the business to develop accurate job descriptions, train managers on how to conduct interviews, vett candidates, relocate employees, source candidates, review resumes, interview (and phonescreen), manage vendor relationships and act as ad hoc employee relations people. A good recruiter can make a manager's job so much easier. A bad one? Well, you'll suffer the effects of that for years.

Compensation: These are the people who figure out how much you should be paid. And how you should be paid. You'll also find people labeled HR Analyst, or Compensation Analyst in this group. They evaluate and grade job descriptions, determine exempt vs non-exempt status, develop annual increase programs, determine bonus levels, and do statistical analysis.

Organizational Development: They sit in leather chairs and think. They annoy the rest of us who do the work. Sorry. They look at how organizations function and develop strategies for increasing productivity and maximizing effectiveness.

Training: They develop and present training to employees. This can run the gamut from technical training to sexual harassment training (how to prevent it, not how to do it) to executive development. They work with line management to determine what employees lack and then figure out a solution to that. They are often associated closely with OD.

Labor and Employment Law: These are the lawyers. We love them. They keep us from making stupid and illegal mistakes. Or at least they advise us that we are making stupid mistakes and then we do it anyway.

Those are some of the basics. And I managed to keep the snark out of it. (At least for the most part.)

Carnival of HR

If you look over at my sidebar, you'll notice that the Carnival of HR listings have been updated. You'll also notice that there are a ton of available dates. (So, I kept listing until 2009 ended. I got a little carried away.)

If you are interested in hosting a Carnival--either for the first time or as a repeat host--send me an e-mail at evilhrlady at hotmail dot com.

It takes me a while to respond because I'm undoubtedly typing one handed while nursing a baby, so please forgive me.

Friday, June 13, 2008

You Just Don't Understand

My job involves ten and a half months of working 9-5 and six weeks of working 8-8 and occasional weekends due to government department deadlines

Apart from my co-worker, J, who works 9-5 throughout, because she has kids.

I have brought this up with my boss since we all have the same client allocations and I do not feel that I should be working unpaid overtime in order to help cover J's list, simply because J has kids and does not want to make arrangements for their care after work - her family all live in the area and there is no shortage of after-school clubs etc.

Furthermore, this is of particular concern to me since I have a chronic pain disorder and need to rest - obviously it is impossible for me to make arrangements to leave my pain elsewhere!

My boss tells me that 'well, J has kids, it's difficult. You don't understand'. I pointed out while I don't have kids, the 4 hours per day of overtime - which need not be so lengthy if she were doing it too - is wearing me out and making me ill.

I was told to 'Stop whining'. I am retyping my CV.

Kids are difficult and you just don't understand. Us working mothers should be paid triple what everyone else makes, plus only have to work 9 to 5 and we get to leave early if one of the little darlings has a school performance (in fact, those are so painful that we should be paid overtime to attend those performances). Ohh, plus, we should get 10 sick days for us, and 10 additional sick days for each child. Because it's HARD being a working mom.

Please write again when you have a real problem.

Sorry, I couldn't resist. Of course, right now I'm basking in the freedom of maternity leave and writing this post when I should be painting my front door. (Did you know that you should paint your front door and frame every few years? Me neither. Turns out that if you don't, and you live where I live, your frame will start to rot and you'll have to spend $1300 to get a new frame installed. Trust me, I know on this one.)

But, it is hard to hold down a full time job and manage children. And it is true that until you've done it, you don't understand. But, really, that's not your problem.

I'm all for flexibility for anyone who wants it. But, flexibility should come at a cost--to the person getting the flexibility, not to the rest of her department. A manager should be clear in the hiring process that this job entails 6 weeks per year of intense unpaid overtime. If you can't do that, then you shouldn't take the job.

Now, for all you know, when "J" was hired they struck this deal where she would always be able to leave at 5:00, even during the busy season. She may have negotiated a lower salary in exchange for this. Your manager certainly shouldn't be discussing her salary arrangements with you.

But, even so, your manager needs to realize that granting one employee flexibility should not mean dumping work on another employee without adequately compensating that employee.

You've explained your concerns to your boss. You have been told to stop whining. You are working on your resume. Excellent. I would try one more time with the boss. And leave J out of it. You don't know what she's negotiated. You don't know if her family is willing to take the kids. And, you don't know if she has the money for the after school programs. And she might well have all those things available to her, but she doesn't want to do it for whatever reason. That doesn't matter to you.

What matters to you is your job. So, have the conversation with your boss over your responsibilities.

Is there another solution that would work? Can J's clients be spread over 3 or 4 people? Is there something that can be done to streamline the work? Can you get a raise?

The important thing when discussing inequities at work is to leave out any mention of slacker co-workers. They are not your problem. Your problem is your workload. Your manager is not managing well, so you'll have to help him balance your workload out. J and her childcare arrangements should not enter into the conversation. If the boss brings it up, don't go there. Just keep talking about your workload.

And yes, looking for a new job seems like a good idea.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Prying Supervisors

Is a supervisor allowed to ask an employee why they need to take the day off? The employees at the child care center that I manage are required to complete a request form when needing to take off part of the day or the whole day, stating when they need off and why. The form is primarily used to track the need to arrange for substitute teachers to fill in for the absent employees, but it does ask that they state the reason for their request.

Once again, a nice legal disclaimer. I am not a lawyer. I do not pretend to be a lawyer and I do not give legal advice.

But, in all seriousness, why wouldn't a supervisor be allowed to ask an employee why they are taking a day off? I mean, talk about making a stilted workplace.

Now, would I advocate that supervisors should interrogate employees before granting time off? Absolutely not. In fact, I am more of an advocate of letting your employees be adults and letting them determine when they need to take a day off. I would even remove the question from the form. But, to ban supervisors from asking? Silliness.

In your setting, it's not practical to have employees be able to take off when ever they want--because you need substitutes. There are, perhaps, a limited number of substitutes available to cover classes. Let's say you have 20 regular teachers and 3 substitutes available. If 4 people ask for the day off, what are you going to do? (You can't work with fewer people without sending kids home--there are undoubtedly state mandated ratios of teachers/students. I know there are in the offspring's daycare.)

Well, the grown up thing to do is to say, "Hey, 4 people are asking for this Friday off. Is anyone willing to take next Friday instead?" Most likely someone will say, "It's my mother's birthday and we're driving to Cleveland, so I really need it off," and someone else will say, "I was just going to catch up on yard work, so I'll do next Friday instead." Ahh, problem solved.

But, if the problem can't be solved that way, the manager has to make a decision. I would hate to use reason for the request as the decision maker (it's too fraught for hurt feelings, and claims of discrimination). You can use time of request (first to ask gets it off), seniority, or something else.

If I were you, I'd let my employees know that you don't care why they need the day off--they can even leave that line blank on the form. (I presume you can't change the form, as it comes from your corporate office.) If you get in trouble from your bosses, then tell them to fill it out, but you'll ignore it. Then say, "If more than 3 people request the same day, I'll let all of you know and hopefully you can work it out. If not, time off will be granted on a first come, first serve basis, provided that you have the available time."

Now, there will be a time when 3 people have asked for a day off in advance and the 4th person then asks saying, "My husband is having surgery, so I have to take it off." What are you going to say, "Sorry, you're the fourth person, so he'll have to drive himself to the hospital"? See, reason rears its ugly head. Knowing the person's reason is going to make you much more likely to try to find a way to accommodate the request. If the reason is, "i want to go tanning before I go to the beach on the weekend," you're not going to bend over backwards and pull strings.

But, again, until your employees give you a reason to to trust you, trust them. Most will give you a reason anyway, in casual conversation. In all but the rarest circumstances, reason shouldn't matter in granting the request.

Monday, June 09, 2008


I worked at car Dealership One for about six months. I was named sales person of the month. I consistently sold more cars than anyone else on the sales floor and I actively participated in all sales meetings and even started training other new sales associates who started working at the dealership. I was eventually promoted to the internet sales department and did very well. I was scolded and reprimanded for having too many people there and selling too many cars. After that conversation, I quietly spoke to the general manager of the dealership and turned in my resignation.

I was hired on by Dealership Two as an internet sales manager. I was thrilled about the move up and shared the news with a few of my friends and former co-workers from Dealership One. Of course, I knew this news that I shared with them would make its rounds through Dealership One. I was fine with that because I left on good terms and had nothing to hide from Dealership Two. In fact, I listed the general manager from Dealership One on the application that I filled out for Dealership Two.

I started work and was doing very well. I shared this news with one of my co-workers from Dealership One. As soon as the general manager of Dealership One heard of this news, he decided to place a call to the manager of Dealership Two to find out how I was doing.

He asked several questions about my performance, how much money I was making, and how many cars I had sold, as well as how my personality was fitting in with the new group. My current supervisors refused to answer any of these questions stating that it was not appropriate for them to discuss my performance or achievements with him without my prior consent. Good job, new dealership! At least someone was acting professionally.

After this phone conversation took place, the general manager from Dealership One told everyone during a staff meeting that he found out where I was working and how I was doing. He said I was making less money at Dealership Two than I was when I was still working for Dealership One and also that I was worse off and unhappy. He said it was a shame that I was headed toward a downward spiral and that he would be there to "give me a good talkin' to" if I ever came to my senses and asked for my old job back. He also made several comments about how my poor performance and attitude problems got me into this "situation" and that he hoped none of his current sales people went down the road I was traveling down.

How should I handle this situation? Should I contact him and ask what he was hoping to accomplish by spreading false rumors? I want to handle this very professionally so as not to compromise my integrity or my name in the car industry, but I also want to ensure that he does not continue to act in this manner going forward.

Well, you have some advantages here. People talk--but they don't only talk to this one sales manager. Your current sales manager not only didn't say bad things about your--or believe any of the bad things your former manager might have said--but told you about it. That is an excellent sign. People who lie eventually will not be trusted. Keep in mind that after your former boss blasted you, the co-worker who knew the truth about your success undoubtedly told the other sales people that your boss was, ummm, incorrect.

They just lost respect for him as well.

I see two options for you. Option one is to just let it go. Your record at your new job will speak for itself. If you are performing at a high level, your current manager would be a fool to let any rumors bother him. You can just wait for the natural order of things to occur, and boss one will eventually get what is coming to him.

Option 2 carries risk, but it is also a little bit more fun. Your previous boss said what he said because he assumes he can get away with it. He assumes that either you won't find out (dumb assumption) or that you won't say anything. He also assumes that his position as the boss ensures that his current salespeople will suck up to him, so he has no worries. You can pick up the phone and call him. Just be direct. Don't ask for an apology or an explanation. Just tell him that you know what he is saying about you. Something like this:

"John, I hear you've been talking about me in staff meetings. I'm honored that you are still concerned about me. Trust me, I'm doing just fine in my current job."

The advantage of this approach is that he's not expecting you to say anything, but in the back of his mind he thinks that IF you say something you'll be a screaming mess and he'll get to be all defensive and this will justify his statement because you are obviously unstable. By just letting him know that you know he's talking, he's been warned.

If he continues, I'd just let it go--unless it starts to affect your current job. The nice thing about sales jobs is that there are hard numbers to go along with performance. If, for a future job, he bad-mouths you, you'll be able to produce your actual sales numbers to show your performance.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Layoffs--the Employee's View

A friend sent me this article, Terminated: Desperately seeking plan B. Having been at least peripherally involved with thousands of terminations, but never having (yet) been laid off myself (my day too, will come, I'm sure), I found it fascinating. Especially this part, where the staff realizes that layoffs are happening:
In seconds, we are all back in the parking lot, slapping a Post-it on Jana's car -- "Meet us at Rotelli's" -- and fleeing a quarter-mile down the street on foot so that when the boss comes back out, there will be no one here to fire.

I can just imagine the freak outs on the part of managers and HR when they go to collect the next victim and find the whole office has gone to lunch.

Go read the whole thing.

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.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Drinking at Lunch

I am a Project Manager who was reprimanded for going out to a restaurant for lunch with several employees. One of them had a beer and upon returning to the office he commented to the newly appointed (inexperienced and unqualified) "Executive Assistant" what she missed for not going with us. I don't believe the company is liable if we are hourly paid employees during a lunch not paid by the company and not related to work in any way. I would like to clear the air before my upcoming performance review.

Your "inexperienced and unqualified" executive assistant apparently knows enough to know that drinking at lunch is inappropriate. Telling her that she missed out on such an event further indicates a lack of maturity on your team's part.

Here is Evil HR Lady's rule of co-workers: When you are with people you work with you are AT WORK. This means that even though you weren't getting paid, you should consider a lunch out, at work. Think about it this way. If you had sexually harassed a co-worker instead of watching him drink alcohol, could you successfully argue that "hey, we were at lunch, not work, so I can harass him all I want"? I didn't think so.

And here is the Management Corollary: When you are with people who you manage (either as a true manager or as a project manager), you are still the boss and their actions will reflect upon you accordingly. This is true, again, even if you are on your "own time."

Alcohol at lunch is downright stupid. Sure, it's your "own time," but do you want to have an employee who was drinking 30 minutes ago working for you? Of course not. (Well, you do, but most people do not.)

Sure, I've heard rumors of the 3 martini lunch, but those days are gone. (At least in my experience. I've never worked in investment banking and even if I did, I don't drink at all.)

I don't know squat about the liability issues (not a lawyer, remember?), but I do know that you should suck it up, admit you were wrong and grovel for forgiveness at your performance review. Yes, I understand that you weren't drinking, but you obviously condoned the activity and blamed the Exec Assistant for your problems and judgment lapse.

And next time, if going out to lunch brings temptations inappropriate for the office, stick to the company cafeteria.