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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Just When I Was Trying to Defend HR

I had plans to defend (well and do a little bit of mocking) HR today, but I'm afraid some HR VP has spent too many hours at the hairdresser and too little talking to actual humans.

Radio Shack just fired 400 people via e-mail.

Please, let us pause while I bang my head against my desk. Here is the company's defense:
Company officials had told employees in a series of meetings that layoff notices would be delivered electronically, spokeswoman Kay Jackson said. She said employees were invited to ask questions before Tuesday's notification on a company intranet site.

I, for one, am not impressed. We warned them to check their e-mail before, so it's okay! And then we didn't even provide a human to answer questions, we set up an intranet site. How progressive and technologically aware they must be at Radio Shack.

Radio Shack, you are not making Evil HR Lady's job any easier. I am supposed to be the Evil HR person, not you. How can I be considered the authority on the evil side of HR when I would never imagine doing such a thing?

Here is what the e-mails said:
The work force reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated.

The thing that amazes me the most is this is not single person's decision. There were meetings about this. Finance, HR, IS (remember--employees could ask questions on a website!) and the CEO had to agree to this. (Well, IS didn't have to agree--they just had to carry out the plan.)

Of course, the CEO must be new at his job since their previous CEO resigned in February after "questions about his resume's accuracy." Oh my word, has Radio Shack's HR department never heard of a background check?

I'm sorry, I have to end now before my blood pressure goes through the roof. What are the take away's from today's post?

1. Don't work for Radio Shack. Sure the severance package was okay, but talk about tacky.
2. Do not fire via e-mail. I don't care if you warned people in advance, just don't do it.
3. I was concerned that after a few weeks I'd run out of material. Thanks to people like this, I can blog forever.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I Am Offended

I found this article, Why I Hate HR, today. I realize that the article is over a year old. What can I say? Perhaps I can quote Mr. Hammonds: "HR people aren't the sharpest tacks in the box."

I would say something both witty and withering, but I'm not smart enough to think of anything. I'm just sitting in the corner sobbing because some B-School graduate thinks I'm not smart enough. Waaahh!

Except I am, thank you very much. And so are my co-workers. (Well, most of them...) I've met complete idiots in HR. I've met complete idiots in finance, marketing, legal, IS, research and, most recently at a home improvement store. I've also met brilliant people in all of those departments. (Even the home improvement store.)

It's undoubtedly true that the "best and brightest" MBA candidates steer clear of Human Resources, but that does not mean HR people are less bright than the MBA students. (Although many of my colleagues have MBAs.) The reason I don't have one? I don't want one right now. That may change some day. In my experience, HR is largely female. Females tend to be the primary child rearer. Many women with small children don't want to be fighting their way up the corporate ladder.

He also seems shocked that HR professionals rarely identified finance classes as being important to their career. Can I say, duh? I've been in HR for over 7 years, in several different positions. Finance isn't what I do. Why would I say that a finance class was especially helpful if it wasn't?

But, Mr. Hammonds asks some excellent questions:

Why are annual performance appraisals so time-consuming -- and so routinely useless? Why is HR so often a henchman for the chief financial officer, finding ever-more ingenious ways to cut benefits and hack at payroll? Why do its communications -- when we can understand them at all -- so often flout reality? Why are so many people processes duplicative and wasteful, creating a forest of paperwork for every minor transaction? And why does HR insist on sameness as a proxy for equity?

Excellent questions and I'll give you the inside answers. But later. I have to go do something other than grab for the brass ring.

I Have A Number in My Head

An old friend (we'll call him Steve) shared his job hunt experience with me. As a recent graduate from a top graduate program, he was being courted by two separate companies. After interviewing, Company A's Staffing Rep told him how impressed they were with him and then asked him for his salary requirements. Being Steve's first real job out of school, he didn't have a really good idea. So, he did some research, came up with a number and e-mailed the staffing rep back.

1.5 weeks later, staffing rep responds that Steve's request is a bit high and that he wasn't "comfortable" negotiating. (Who hires a staffing person that isn't comfortable negotiating?) He told Steve that he had a "number in his head" and Steve should try again and see if he could get a little closer, all the while reminding Steve what a fabulous candidate he was and how much they were interested in him. Steve (wanting a job) tried again. Staffing rep took 2 weeks to get back to him.

In the meantime, Steve interviewed with company B, who didn't make him guess an appropriate salary and responded quickly with an offer. Guess which job Steve took?

I guess that the first staffing rep thought he was being funny. Or maybe he didn't really like Steve. Either way, he was an unprofessional dork. Sure, ask for salary requirements. No problem with that. But then give the candidate a figure.

Please, staffing reps, don't be evasive with a candidate. And don't wait two weeks to respond to e-mails. And, if someone has come in to interview, please let that person know the status. It's not hard and it's your job.

But, the next time I interview for a job, when they ask me my salary requirements, I'm going to say, "I have a number in my head..."

And You Think You Have Employee Problems

The Richmond Times Dispatch reports:
Roughly half of all sexual impropriety reported in U.S. prisons and jails last year was perpetrated by correctional staff, not inmates.

Great. And it turns out that female staff were the offenders in 2/3 of the cases. Hmmm, not what one would expect. The article is interesting and reminds me of two things. 1. I do not wish to go to prison, ever. 2. I do not wish to work in a prison, ever. As if I needed reminding.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Money, Money, Money

Dear Evil HR Lady,

Why do companies "request" that you not discuss your salary with your co-workers?



Dear Talkative,

Two reasons: 1. People are largely immature whiners. 2. Everyone else makes more money than you do.

Let's deal with the points in order. Truly, I have found that people like to whine, whine, whine about their salaries. Sometimes their whines are legitimate, but often time they are already overpaid or brought their own misery upon themselves.

I've been fortunate (or unfortunate) to have access to not only my salary and the salaries of my co-workers, but my boss's salary, her boss's salary and so on and so forth all the way to the CEO. This is great because I'm nosy. This is bad because there is nothing I can do about it. The first rule of having knowledge like mine is you keep your mouth shut.

Why do you want to know how much money everyone else makes? It's probably not truly academic. You want to know so that when you find out that the guy who comes in late every morning and pushes all difficult projects onto you and then proclaims his greatness at every opportunity makes more money than you, you can go to your boss and whine. "He makes more money than meeeeeee!!!!!!"

Then, when your boss does nothing, you come whine to HR. "My boss won't give me a raise and I deserve it!" Quite frankly, I'm trying to figure out how to get my boss to pay me more money and don't have time to deal with your little problem.

I've found that most managers try to pay fairly. Employees sometimes have a difficult time seeing this, as they don't truly understand what their co-workers do. Your "slacker" co-worker who comes in late every morning may have negotiated this schedule when he was hired. He may work 3 hours at home every night. Or perhaps he has some specialized skill that is in high demand. Or, perhaps he just interviews really well and is an excellent brown-noser.

Point 2: Everybody makes more money than you do. Let's face it, it's true. So why do you want to know that? Keep yourself happy and pretend that you make the most money of anyone in the office. (Of course that will keep you awake nights as you ponder how the CEO can afford yet another Gulfstream 5 when you can barely afford your Honda Civic.)

If you really think you are underpaid, go interview for a few jobs. You'll find out rapidly if your current salary is good or bad. (If no one wants to hire you, your current salary is good. If everyone wants to hire you for more money than you make now, your current salary is bad.)


Evil HR Lady

p.s. I need a raise.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Knowing Which Runway You Are On

I apologize in advance for the depressing nature of today's entry. Fox News Reports:

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A commuter jet crashed during take off early Sunday and burst into flames, killing 49 people and leaving the lone survivor in critical condition. Investigators were trying to determine if the plane was on the wrong runway and ran out of pavement.

The plane was on the wrong runway. This is either pilot error, control tower error, or a combination of both. And now, we leave fact regarding this particular accident and go into pure speculation.

The pilot was probably unfamiliar with the airport. Even small airports can be confusing, and the control tower can give many instructions rapidly. The pilot should have said, "We're unfamiliar. Can we have progressives to the runway?" But I bet he didn't.

Mr. Evil HR has asked that numerous times and never once has air traffic control refused him.

Each runway has a different number. If the number you are on, doesn't match the number in your notes, again, contact air traffic control and ask for clarification.

How does this relate to your career? (After all, I am here to help.)

Sometimes we are afraid others will think we don't know what we are doing. So we try to do it on our own. We neglect those in the towers that can see the bigger picture. We don't ask for clarification on the instructions we've received. All because we are afraid of what others might think of us.

Who is in the control tower? Your boss, your mentor (get one!), your colleague, your former boss, an old college professor and even your spouse. Ask these people for help and guidance before you do something that is potentially career threatening.

Now, somewhere a pilot is going to say, "But Evil HR Lady, not all airports have control towers." That is true. But you still have resources. You have your airport maps, you can speak to air traffic control, and you can get out of your plane and walk inside the office and ask someone. And if you think your plane can't get off this runway without crashing, don't start the propeller.

You want to be on the right runway. If you need help getting there, get it. Just because you've successfully flown out of hundreds of airports before doesn't mean you are prepared for this airport. Ask, listen, learn and pay attention. And when you learn the lay out of your career airport, make sure you serve in the control tower for others. A crash is good for no one.

I promise, I will be funny tomorrow.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

No One Wants to See Your Armpit

Really. I swear this is a true statement. Have you ever had someone come up to you and say, "What a lovely armpit you have?" No? It's because no one wants to see it!

I feel better now. What brought on this armpit rant? I'm glad you asked. Dress codes fall under Human Resources and making them always involves long meetings with people spouting different unreasonable ideas.

Irrational Colleague: Women can't wear pants! Men can't wear pants! No pants! Only Kilts.

Diversity Specialist: No, kilts would disciminate against those who aren't Scottish. We are an inclusive organization. Our dress code needs to reflect the diversity of our organization. Everyone has to wear clothing from their ancestral country of origin, not just the Scots. Lederhosen for those of German Ancestry, Traje for those from Guatemala---

Irrational Colleague: How are kilts discriminitory against non Scots? And what ethnicity is your polyester suit from?

Evil HR Lady: What if we just say, no jeans, no see-through clothing and everything between your neck and your knees needs to be covered?

Irrational Colleague and Diversity Specialist turn in horror at the rational suggestion just made.

So, that's how dress code meetings go. Which is probably how the Federal Air Marshalls ended up with a coat and tie dress code. The Air Marshalls knew that they stood out and they knew they lost their anonymity. But, somehow the management (and I bet HR) couldn't see that it was a problem. Heck, the last time I flew I was afraid I'd violated the dress code by not wearing either Daisy Dukes with a Nascar T-shirt or all black. Fortunately, they still let me on the plane. If I in my green capris and white shirt felt out of place, imagine how the air marshall in her panty-hose felt. And how easy it was to spot her.

Fortunately, the Air Marshall dress code people came to their senses (read: someone was on vacation) and they are are now being allowed to dress at their discretion.

This makes a lot more sense for allowing the Air Marshalls to blend in with the crowd. Hopefully this will make them less conspicuous and more likely to be able to catch the bad guys.

Still, I would have had one big requirement: No sleeveless shirts.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I'm Sorry, Your Services are No Longer Needed

Sun: Pluto, would you please step into my office?

Pluto: Sure, I just need to finish this orbit--

Sun: That won't be necessary. This will just take a few minutes.
(Pluto steps in)

Sun: This is Miss Mars, from Human Resources. I believe you've met?

Mars: Actually I don't think our paths have ever crossed.

Pluto: (Now nervous) Hello.

Sun: Pluto, you may have heard that the Astronomers were having a conference.

Pluto: Yes

(Mars smiles nicely, attempting to convey warmth to someone she's never met.)

Sun: Well, they evaluated the planets, and your position has been eliminated. I realize this can come as a great shock--

Pluto: Excuse me?

Sun: I realize this can come as a great shock, but the astronomers have agreed that a ninth planet is no longer needed. Miss Mars has some information on what you need to know as you transition--

Mars: We've prepared a nice package for you, in reference to the long time you've spent as a planet.

Pluto: I'm being fired? As a planet? What did I do wrong?

Sun: It's not about what you did, although your orbits have overlapped Neptune's, and well the Astronomers feel--

Pluto: The Astronomers feel? Have you ever made an independent decision in your life?

Mars: Why don't we go have a chat with Mr. Moon. He's in outplacement.

Pluto: You can't just fire me.

Mars: You're not being fired, you're being transitioned to a Dwarf Planet. It's a great position and you'll meet other dwarf planets.

Pluto: I'm not in this for the social aspects. I'm just as good as Neptune, or Venus, or you, Miss Mars. I'm going to take this up with the Universe!

Sun: I'm sorry, Pluto, but the universe is in complete agreement. I thank you, and the entire solar system thanks you, for the time you spent as a planet. You added so much to our little system, but it is time for you to move on. As a dwarf planet, I'm sure new and exciting opportunities will be made available. Now, if you'll just follow Miss Mars, to Mr. Moon, you'll have your outplacement opportunities explained to you.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Micromanagers or why Evil HR Lady Looks Slightly Like A Rutabaga

Dear Evil HR Lady,

My boss is a micromanager and feels he must go over his written instructions with me to make sure they are clear. I do not need him to explain his instructions. I have worked for him long enough that I understand what he means better than he does. How can I handle this?



Dear Over-Managed,

The Evil HR Lady feels your pain. She once had someone give her a full page, single spaced typed document explaining that she would like lines added to a report. Oh, and the font changed. Then this person called to make sure the Evil HR Lady understood. This may have been the moment that Evil was added to the HR Lady’s name.

First question: Do you need this job? Why don’t you just quit and become a life guard? In most places that means winters off and a tan! What a great job. Evil HR lady wishes she had a tan. As it is, she looks like she’s been kept underground for several years and has only recently been plucked up. Mr. Evil HR says it is the rutabaga look.

All right, Evil HR Lady will assume you need the job. Do you have a good relationship with the boss? Does he have a sense of humor? If so, try saying, “Steve, I understand what you mean better than you do. I’ll let you know if I have any questions.” Then lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.

If your boss has no sense of humor or you are so annoyed with him you couldn’t say the above line without it coming out like, “Listen you stupid idiot, I learned to read in the first grade!” then this is a bad idea. Look around your office. Does he micro-manage everyone or is it just you? Sometimes micro-managers just have to be ignored. You may just have to grit your teeth and deal with it. If he’s just micro-managing you then either your co-workers have figured out how to get him off their backs (ask them!) or you used to need micro-managing. (Evil HR Lady will give you the benefit of the doubt here and assume you don’t need to be micro-managed. Although she will say she knows people that do need it.)

Try interrupting him or completing sentences:

Micro-managing boss: See where I wrote, “file this report…”
You: Under Q for quality assurance. Yes, and then I will create a power point presentation detailing blah blah blah
MMB: But make sure you use-
You: The company template. Yes, Steve, you wrote it right here!

This technique will probably fail miserably, but Evil HR Lady can shut her office door (she wishes she had a door, unfortunately Evil HR Lady just has a cube) and feel like once again she has done her duty and helped others.


Evil HR Lady

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sometimes, Even HR Does Something Stupid

This article about pamphlets Northwest Airlines gave to their unstable work force actually made me guffaw. Prior to this, I didn't even know it was possible to guffaw--I thought it was just a term writers used.

Evil HR Lady is Evil, but even so, she is not this evil. Someone should stop worrying about dress codes and whether open toed shoes are allowed in an office environment and read pamphlets before they are handed out.

Not that they aren't good hints--Heaven knows the neighbor's trash is your treasure--but someone should have said, "This lets everyone know that Northwest is aware that we either aren't paying their employees enough or that Northwest is going to be firing people." Either way, bad, bad idea. They should have asked the Evil HR Lady for advice first.

Can I Fire Someone Because She Bugs Me?

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I am a manager of a small healthcare facility with a staff of 8. I hired a new nurse who was very competent and intelligent, but who was instantly disliked by another nurse (we'll call her the "old nurse"), who had been there for many years. The "old nurse" went about trying to undermine the new nurse in every way. She constantly pointed out the slightest mistake or imperfection, and succeeded in getting some of the other staff members on her side, so they all came to me and wanted the new nurse fired. I didn't want to let her go because she was more intelligent and competent than the other nurses and had the potential to be a greater asset to the company. I told them I couldn't fire her just because they didn't like her when she was otherwise competent in every way.

So, Evil Lady, would I have had grounds to fire the new nurse? Can you be fired just because someone who has been there longer doesn't like your style? How do you get employees to grow up and just get along, for heaven's sake?


Fed Up Manager.

Dear Fed Up,

The Evil HR Lady has to make some assumptions with your question. She assumes you are not in a unionized facility (8 people are unlikely to make a union) and she assumes you don't live in any whacko state like California. (Not that there's anything wrong with California, they just seem to like to make laws because they can. Not because they should.)

As long as everyone is an "at will" employee, feel free to fire away. As long as you aren't firing someone based on their Race, gender, pregnancy status pizza preferences, etc. Ooops, Evil HR Lady got carried away. Currently the law allows you to fire people for preferring Ham and Pineapple Pizza, which the Evil HR Lady thinks is a shame. Most companies have clauses in offer letters regarding the "at will" status of an employee. (And as a little legal note, the Evil HR Lady is not a lawyer although she has seen almost every episode of Law & Order which should count for something. Unfortunately, it doesn't authorize her to give legal advice, although it should.)

But your bigger question is how do I get my staff to stop acting like toddlers? (The Evil HR Lady is paraphrasing, and it's not really a good paraphrase: Junior High Students would be a better paraphrase, but she shudders whenever she thinks about Junior High.) The standard HR answer is that you should focus on Team Building or have a big warm fuzzy staff meeting where you explain that we are all together in this and we need to get along. Big Hugs! Then your problem will go away.

The real answer is this petty undermining behavior exists at all levels. Evil HR Lady wouldn't put up with it. Fire the Old Nurse. (Remember, Evil HR Lady is not offering you legal advice! No Legal Advice here!)


Evil HR Lady

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I'm a Woman and I Don't Make Enough Money.

But enough about my needs. (Well, there is never enough about my needs, it's all about me! Sorry, I'm digressing again.) I found this article fascinating.

Women do care about other humans. That's why so many of us get into Human Resources in the first place. (And then it turns us into people hating social recluses.) Because we care we take others into consideration before we charge for services or accept a job. At our annual reviews we worry about the co-worker whose raise wasn't as high as it should have been.

Caring is good. Great. Care. Give everyone a big hug. But care about yourself when it comes to your salary. Negotiate when you get that job offer. If they offer $75,000 and you counter with $80,000 the worst thing that is going to happen is they will say, "No, $75,000 is firm." Your potential manager isn't going to start crying and say, "Oh, I really wanted to hire you, but now that you've asked for $5,000 more I can't hire you. Boo hoo!" And, well, if he did, I wouldn't want to work there anyway.

And if they won't negotiate on salary, try negotiating on benefits or flexibility. I negotiated a job share situation. (This is what gives me time to be an Evil HR Lady. At work, I'm very good.) I know people who have negotiated flexible schedules, part time over the summer or extra vacation.

In every other area of your life I want you to care about others. But when negotiating salary or setting rates---it's all about your needs. For more information on how to negotiate see this Wall Street Journal article.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Moving On

Dear Evil One,

I notice that top-level management types are always "moving on to other challenges." Is this just a euphemism for fired? Are there any signs to tell us low-level types that the old boss really did get a swell new opportunity or that we better start to worry about our own jobs?



Dear Clueless

Are you actually accusing those company-wide e-mails about how sad we are by Sr. VP's departure or (frequently) his/her decision to take early retirement of being intentionally misleading? I am shocked! Companies would never be misleading about personnel changes! Never!

Or perahps I should re-write that as "Yes, they probably were fired" or as we HR types like to say, "Transitioned out of the organization." As for whether your job is in jeopardy or not, that's impossible to tell. Are you a slacker? Did your company just get raided by the FBI? Did you alienate your co-workers by sucking up to the now fired boss? Is one of those alienated co-workers your new boss? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then polish up that old resume. If not, don't panic yet, but polish up that old resume! Resumes can always take more polish.

And, FYI, even if you did suck up to your previous boss she probably can't take you with her if it was a company initiated term. That's something companies want you to sign away your right to do in exchange for those golden parachutes you hear so much about. Of course, you'd be free to find out where the old boss went and approach her, but she can't contact you.


Evil HR Lady

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Customer Service?

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I went on a job interview recently and the HR person said, "Give me an example of how you went 'above and beyond' in customer service. This was not a grocery store clerk job. This was a director level finance position. What gives?

NOT in customer service

Dear NOT hired,

Ooops, I meant, Dear NOT in customer service. Did you answer the question like this:

Once, this lady asked me to get a cart for her and I did.

Because someone answered that question that way for me. Of course, he was a grocery store clerk at the time, so it was understandable. He was applying to be an intern, reporting directly to me. Come to think of it, that was a bad year for intern applicants. Another candidate commented on my obviously pregnant state by saying how hormonal and impossible her sisters had been when they were pregnant, but I digress.

All jobs are customer service jobs. You just have to define your customer. Who was your customer in your previous job? Your boss? The company? The CEO? The stock holders? How about this:

I identified gaps in the relationship between HR and Finance during our budgeting cycle. In order to keep headcount accurate and aligned with dollars, I involved HR in the budgeting process. Blah, blah blah.

Of course, the real secret is to involve HR in everything. We think we should be anyway.


Evil HR Lady

Your Human Resources Guide

Professionally, I'm not in Employee Relations or Staffing. Why? Because I don't like people. Okay, I do like people. In fact, there are even people that I love. Just not people who whine (what employee relations deals with) or people who lie (what staffing reps deal with).

But, I'm all about making your life better. So, if you ask me a question, I'll do my best to answer it and I promise to only mock you if you deserve it.