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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Exit Interviews

I had someone send me an e-mail asking for recommendations for vendors to do exit interviews. I've never worked with a vendor for that, so I have no idea. (I'm sure he'd appreciate your input, though, so comment away!)

But, he also asked: 2) What is the best method (direct contact with term'd employee, websurvey or paper survey)?

Excellent question. First, let me tell you about my love/hate relationship with exit interviews. I'm a data girl, through and through. (Kind of sounds super-heroish, doesn't it? It's Data Girl! She's brought her SPSS and Excel spreadsheets to save they day!) I like data.

But, as they say, the plural of anecdote is not data and unfortunately exit interviews tend to be little more than collected anecdotes.

We know that the number one reason people leave their jobs is because of their direct supervisors. But, I've never seen that as a number one reason on any report of aggregated exit interview information. The number one reason I always see popping up? "Opportunity."

Personally, I think opportunity is about the last reason people start looking for that new job in the first place. After all, if that opportunity doesn't come with a bigger pay check and a less insane boss you're not going to take it. If you are satisfied with your current job you are not going to start looking.

Because the biggest reason to leave is management and that information isn't accurately recorded in an exit interview, we have to glean what we can from the other data. But, since even the worst of managers rarely have more than a handful of people working for them, it's difficult to tell whether that one person who left for "opportunity" had really just outgrown the job or if the manager was a raging lunatic. We can put information together and aggregate it at high levels, but this doesn't always give you real information that you can act on.

Always, always ask for primary, secondary and tertiary reasons for terminating. This helps you identify things like salary, benefits, work hour and company culture issues.

Keep in mind that most people know they can't burn any bridges and they will assume that anything they say in an exit interview can end up back at the desk of the offending boss. "But we promise confidentiality!" you say. Hogwash. You can promise all you want, but they won't believe you.

The reason they wont' believe you is that they are smart. They know they are the only person from that boss to quit in 2009, so if you give any "feedback" to said supervisor he's going to know it comes from you.

So, paper, face to face or online?

No, yes, yes.

Aren't I helpful? I like the face to face because people will spill things in casual conversation and you can read their facial expressions.

Paper? Only if your employees don't have individual computer access. Give them an online survey to fill out prior to their last day. Then you don't have data entry costs to pull the info together.

Online, see above. But, I'd like, ideally, to take it one step further. Ask for an e-mail address for the employee in our original survey. Then, after they've been gone for 6 months, send them a new survey to fill out.

Why? Because they are removed from the situation and have a new perspective. The "perfect" new job now has the real boss and the real co-workers and the real projects to go with the idealism. Asking them what they thought of the last job at this point is going to give you a different view.

And what do you do with all this information? Well, there is no point in gathering it if you are not going to act. Trends need to be dealt with. Groups with high turnover need to be looked at more closely. Numerous salary complaints (and ask about new salary--they may or may not tell you, but ask) or indications that people are leaving for a LOT more money needs to be dealt with.

But, you cannot go to the one manager who was identified as the reason for termination and tell them. Even though no one believes you will keep the information confidential, it's critical that you do. But, it's also critical that you find other ways to deal with your bad managers. Otherwise, why ask?

My Online Alter Ego is Ruining My Reputation

How can you help salvage your reputation when someone who shares your name is an idiot on line? I'll give you some hints on how to handle online stupidity over at BNET.

Should I Rat Out a Toxic Co-Worker?

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I have a toxic coworker in my research lab. She is controlling, neurotic, and passive aggressive. I have to interact with her since she manages all the data for the studies I work on. My boss recognized her poor treatment of her direct reports and assigned those people to report to me instead.

In addition to her bad behavior, she also is inefficient, resistant to change, incapable of handling tasks like scheduling , and takes weeks to do what should take hours. I cannot bring concerns directly to her because she gets extremely defensive and rejects any suggestions I make in a knee-jerk fashion, which requires me to get director approval on everything in order to make any changes.

I am leaving the job to go to grad school this coming fall but am hoping to come back to the lab after I have my degree (at the suggestion of the director). Should I keep my mouth shut, leave gracefully, and hope things are better when I am looking for a job there later? Or do I say something to my director, who is always very responsive to my concerns? Honestly if she is still in the lab when I am looking to come back, it might sway me to look elsewhere, and I know the director would be upset if that were to happen since he really likes me

Go to BNET (sorry for the click through) and read what to say about a Toxic co-worker.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How to Work for a Younger Manager

What do you do when your co-workers and boss are all younger than you? If you're not fitting in, it might be culture, not strictly age, that's getting in they way.

I give you some suggestions over at BNET. Go read, comment and recommend it. Plus, isn't the picture cute? I wonder whose darling little boy that is.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Employers are Racists!

Okay, not my employers. Rather, my question writer's employers. (And for the record, I'm not anybody's employee. I'm an independent contractor. Feel free to offer me projects for large sums of money.)

I work for a small family business where HR functions are handled by accounting and the department manager. I manage a very small workforce that contributes a great deal to the bottom line. I have recently conducted interviews for a position that is soon to be available. The problem is that the best candidate is a minority, and the owners of the business are racist.

They are not overtly racist, they just put the microscope on every minority I hire, especially minority women. My direct supervisor is not a member of the family, but everyone else above me is. I feel that I would not be helping this candidate to hire her since I can guarantee that I will be asked to terminate her before her probationary period ends for “unsatisfactory performance.”

If I do not hire because my higher ups are racist, then am I guilty of discrimination? I have decided to hire the most qualified person, who is a minority, but I can count the calender days until I am instructed to terminate. What do I do?

Go over to BNET and find out the smart way to battle racist employers.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Quality Candidate

I love medical blogs. Dr. Grumpy got a patient who was also looking for a job.

Watch out, this same lady is probably applying to jobs in your office.

How to Help Your Boss Give You a Promotion

During my last review I asked my manager, who is a senior vice president, about a promotion. He indicated that he would begin to think about what a promotion for me would look like and discuss it with HR. At the end of our conversation he stated that due to a possible acquisition, I might expect a promotion in the next 6-9 months. Well the acquisition has not taken place, yet but I still want something to happen. It has been over six months; should I bring the promotion conversation up again? If so, what should I say?

If you want a promotion, head over to BNET. I'll give you some ideas to get going.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Public Perception of HR

I got the following in a comment from Twitchh:

And a good HR manager recognizes that employees are assets, not liabilities, but we all know that the general perception of HR is not one of sunshine, sweetness, and light.

Perhaps that's because most people's experience (as you're seeing here), either direct or vicarious, is that if/once HR gets involved with *any* situation concerning you, things are *not* going to be resolved in your favor.

Do you have any suggestions for educating HR professionals to avoid the behaviors which reinforce this perception, perhaps even going so far as to spur HR into thinking of "mere" employees as people instead of replaceable cogs?

The problem with educating HR professionals is that we're used to doing the educating,so we think already know everything. This, of course, is true. We do already know everything, so stop bothering me and go fill out some forms. Thank you.

What behaviors reinforce this perception? I'm sure all of you could list a thousand of them. Unprofessional behavior, mysterious terminations, sneaky reductions in force, training courses with no benefit to the employee, and lectures on "hiring the best person, but you are low on minorities in your department, I'm just saying."

Now, I can give you reasons (and good ones at that!) for all of the above. Well, except the unprofessional behavior. I bet the rest of my HR friends could as well. Who can't give good explanations for all of this? The rest of the business world. Why? Because, we the masters of employee communication, stink at communicating.

Sometimes we don't communicate on purpose. We don't tell you the date of the upcoming reduction in force because it wreaks havoc on the business if everyone knows it is coming on Tuesday, March 16. The unknown is bad, yes, but the known can sometimes be worse.

The problem is, in my way of thinking, is that after we announce the RIF on Tuesday, March 16, we are still secretive. We don't share whether this was phase 1 of 2, or of 10, or if that was it, or what the plans are under the restructured company.

We give you lectures about meeting your Affirmative Action Plan goals, but we don't truly explain why we have to do this (government regulation), how the company benefits from this, what the consequences would be if we don't, how diversity is more than just a rainbow of races, and how we are working to build unity across the organization.

As for treating people as interchangeable and replaceable, well there's some logic to that too. For many, many, many positions there are thousands of people out there who could do the job and do it well. There are hundreds that could do that job better than for the person who gets hired. So, yeah, we may treat you as replaceable because you are.

But, this also means we're replaceable. (Well, I'm not. I'm one of a kind, unique and special, just like everybody else.) But, we forget that replaceable doesn't mean that there aren't consequences for replacing.

It takes time and money to bring a new hire up to speed. It takes time and money to search, recruit, interview, offer, negotiate, and hire a new person. It takes time and money to terminate someone. When someone leaves they take their institutional knowledge with them. This is often invaluable information that isn't written down anywhere. Some of these things just can't be effectively written down.

SHRM says managing people, managing organizations. Well, if people are our specialty, why do people hate us? And it's not just because we deliver the bad news. I love my dentist and he frequently delivers bad news to me in the form of a large bill and novocaine shots. (I suspect he owns a boat, but he claims the cost is due to his own children's orthodontic needs. I call foul.)

We joke about how we came into this line of work because we "like working with people" and how that was quickly beaten out of us. I have this theory that some of us (especially employee relations types) see employees as negatives because we only see the bad side. Sure, we're supposed to be available for all that good employee development stuff. But, instead, we're usually just called upon to tell Sally she has a hygiene problem and Bill that he's going to be terminated for going poor performance, and blah, blah, blah.

We need to be better communicators. We need to understand the financial consequences of our decisions. We need to refuse the responsibility for the company party (hand that off to Public Affairs), and instead plan the company succession protocols.

I love HR. Honest. With all of my cold evil heart, I love HR. Because I think it has potential. I've seen great HR. I've worked for great HR people. But, we need to get more of us up to speed and communicating and working with and not against. If people are our most valuable resource, let's cherish them. And for heaven sakes, let's get a good HRIS in place so that we don't have to bother you with paperwork.

How to Get That Elusive Promotion

Surely you deserve a promotion? Right. Of course right. Because if you read Evil HR Lady you are clearly superior to all of your co-workers.

Clearly, I need a little bit lower self esteem. At I answer a question about how to get a promotion.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Is HR Dying to Ambush you?

Of course we are. What else does HR exist for?

Just kidding. This is another post about the inner thought process of HR.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

5 Ways Women Can Take Control of Their Careers

Studies show women make less money than men do. So, take control of your career. I'll tell you how over at BNET.

A Twitter Question

I decided I should sign up with Twitter. I, of course, wanted to be Evil HR Lady over there as well, but someone has already take then name.

Fair enough, there are plenty evil HR ladies in the world. But, this particular person hasn't posted any "tweets" so I'm guessing she's not too dedicated to the whole idea. I can't figure out how to contact the person and beg for the name. (I might even be convinced to send genuine Swiss chocolate in exchange for the name.)

Any suggestions? Or is it you? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at

Even if your boss loves you

For the past 10 years, I’ve been an IT Program Manager at a Fortune 100 company. In my last annual performance appraisal, in March 2009, my manager gave me the top performance rating and advised me that I was the only person in our group to receive that rating. He said he would probably recommend something in the 3-4 percent range. Then, a week later, my company froze salaries and recognition programs for all employees.

A year later, the company has announced that salary planning will resume and that any actions will take place in April 2010. I fully expect to be given the same performance appraisal as I was in March 2009. I have researched salaries and believe I should receive a 6 percent increase but would accept a 4 percent raise. How do I approach my boss about this?

Hop over to BNET and find out why you are not getting a huge raise

Change is good for the soul

I've made some changes recently. First, I have a new new e-mail address. It's now.

Second, I feel a bit like Dobby, the house elf. You see, I'll be wanting paying for my work now. (Plus, my socks don't always match.) As such, I'm now on the BNET.Com career site. And they give me actual money. Weird, I know.

I promise not to have sold out, although if you start noticing me making references to how much I love CBS television shows, you should call me on it. CBS may be the parent company for BNET, but I'm still in Switzerland and, therefore, don't have CBS. And if I did, it would be in German, which just loses something. Although, I do have to say, the Simpsons are just as funny in German, if not more so. But, that's not a CBS show, so I think I'm not too sycophantic.

Never fear, I'll post links here, and I'll still keep some unique EHRL content here. But, it gives you one more place to warm your cold little HR hearts.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Laid Off

An inlaw of mine is almost 65 years old, and has worked as a project manager at an engineering firm for 35 years. Last month he was laid off... with four weeks of severance. Because he thinks a) since 4 weeks is what's in the company bylaws and b) that (based on no actual input from the company that I can see) he might get contract work for them one day, he doesn't want to talk to a lawyer. I say the worst case scenario is he doesn't get four weeks of severance, and best case can be a whole lot better.

Did I mention that he just came back from a 7 month leave in October to recover from surgery? Evil HR Lady, he has no college degree, did not become an engineer, has health issues, and lives in the economic cesspool that is greater Detroit. Am I being overly pessimistic about his prospects, or just pragmatic? In your opinion do we need to gently bring him around to the idea that he might as well start a legal negotiation, because he's got a very tiny realistic shot at a professional future, and needs something to live off of? I suspect part of the reason he's so reluctant to do anything is because it would mean acknowledging how little he was valued by that company, but the situation is what it is, and I say no sense pretending he was treated well, or will be in the future with fantasy contract work. And he says it was a layoff, but he was the only one let go at that time. Others have been let go previously.

I'm a big fan of severance. It keeps things civil and your terminated employees from initiating lawsuits. Note that I said initiating lawsuits, not from winning lawsuits, because, quite frankly termination lawsuits are hard for a former employee to win.

You see, you can terminate anyone at any time for any legal reason. (Assuming no contracts and at will employment here.) What you can't do is terminate someone for illegal reasons. In your inlaw's case you may say, "Look he was terminated because he's almost 65." Yes, that is illegal. You may not terminate someone because he is 64.5 years old. But, you certainly can terminate someone who is 64.5 years old, provided that his age is not the reason.

But, your question is should he file a lawsuit, right? Well, I'll be honest with you--there is a probability greater than zero that you could win and still end up with less money. Why? Because the lawyer has to be paid. If the company bylaws stipulate 4 weeks of severance and they offered 4 weeks of severance and (and this is key) they offered 4 weeks of severance to other people they have terminated, then in order to win anything, he's going to have to prove illegal discrimination.

Now, I would tell a company that they need to be extra careful because the burden generally falls on them to prove that they didn't illegally terminate someone. But, that advice flips when you are talking about filing the lawsuit. You know who wins in a lawsuit? Lawyers. Yep. Everyone else is dragged through years (literally) of tedious, painful, litigation.

You don't want to go to court. There is a real possibility that he could get more money if he simply threatens (or, better yet, has a lawyer threaten--some of them will write a letter for you for a few hundred dollars). But, there is also a possibility that no future consulting work will be the consequence of that lawsuit.

So, here is what I would do. 1. Ask for a copy of the Summary Plan Description. If they've let multiple people go, there should be one. (He should have a copy already.) It will state how severance is calculated. If his is calculated as per the plan, then that is that. 2. Call up an employment lawyer and ask for a short consultation (confirm the fee beforehand). Don't call up one of those "were you hurt in an accident? Let's sue!" lawyers because they won't know what to do. Ask the lawyer's advice on the potential age discrimination claim. 3. If the lawyer thinks there is a valid claim, have her write a letter asking for a reasonable increase in severance. 4. Then let it go. Take the 4 weeks (or whatever additional severance is offered) and get on with life.

Employment lawsuits are not kind where you get million dollar payouts. The psychological toll of such a thing is not worth the money.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Moving Out

I have a friend, a really good friend whose father got remarried and they moved to the stepmother's house. My friend, recently turned 18 or 19 at the time, was told to expect to pay room and board. A set price was never agreed on, or truly determined. They own a paper route, where they get up in the morning, drive to a predetermined place and pick up the stacks of papers which they deliver to businesses and other places. She was put on the payroll, and told she would be getting somewhere around 20-25 dollars out of the paycheck and that the rest would go to room and board. She agreed.

Recently she has gotten herself a part time job, but still does her Saturday on the route. Not only do they not pay her for that day, at all, they also make her do some of their days during the week, and refuse to give her any money then either. They then complain that she owes them money. Is any of this fair, or legal, and is there anything she can do about it? She would quit the job, seeing as she is on the actual payroll, just not receiving the check (they pick it up, she never even sees it) but they have threatened to kick her out before. The ones who handle the finances for the paper route are actually her new step-grandparents. Can they get in trouble for this as well?

She is trying to save up money to move out, but when they constantly say she owes money that isn't going quite as planned.

This is more of a question for Dear Abby than it is for me, but because I'm always sure I could do a better job than Dear Abby, I thought I'd answer it.

Yes, her father and her step mother are being jerks. Yes, there are things she can do. Yes, she should move out. Is her mother in the picture? Perhaps she could help.

Let's talk about money, first, though.

You say that they put her on "payroll" and that the father/step-mother pick up the pay checks. I highly doubt that she is on a payroll of any type. Most newspaper delivery jobs are done by independent contractors. (Or at least they are in my experience.) This means that the newspaper company essentially sells you the papers and you get to keep whatever money you collect on top of your costs. Things have become more centralized over the years, with the newspapers doing the billing rather than having the paper boy go door to door collecting.

My guess is that her step-grandparents are the ones with the contract with the newspaper and everything else is under the table. If she was an employee, she would have been provided with a W2 by January 31 so that she could file her taxes. If she was an independent contractor, she would have been provided with (most likely) a 1099 for the same purposes.

I doubt she received any such thing. Which means that no one, not even the US government, considers her an employee.

Now, could she call the Department of Labor? Yes. Could she file a complaint that her paycheck is being held from her? Yes. But, will this solve any of her real problems? No! It will make them worse. Because, she still won't have anywhere to go and now her father and step-mother will be angry at her. Yeah! And then they'll kick her out.

This is one of those situations where (assuming all facts in evidence are, in fact, facts) she needs to stop this silly part time job thing and get a full time job. I know, I know, easier said than done. Then get 2 part time jobs. Or 3. As long as these are legal jobs, it doesn't matter what they are. Clean toilets. Work fast food. Clean toilets at fast food restaurants. And get out of the house.

Move in with friends. Have roommates. Live in someone else's basement apartment. Rent a room in a house. Whatever it takes.

It stinks, but this isn't a question about employment rules (although there are violations all over the place), but about becoming an adult. It's not fair (although, I'll totally agree that rent should be paid by the over 18 year old set that still lives at home, unless they are full time students, and even then I'm in favor of part time jobs).