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Friday, September 29, 2006


A while back, a Pie Eater asked a question on when to speak to a manager. I advised our pie eating friend that a manager would want to know about goofy employees who didn't behave properly with whipped cream.

I'm so pleased that Miss Manners agrees with me. Granted, her question wasn't about pie, but about a rude cashier. Her Advice: (may require registration--sorry!)
This is not to match or outdo the offender with a counterattack, but to report the incident to the manager. It would have relieved your indignation, and a conscientious manager would want to know why the business is losing a customer. And you should leave your speculations about mental health out of it.

So there, gentle readers, let management know.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wash Your Hands

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center had a problem with doctors not washing their hands as often as they should. Apparently, this is a problem in many hospitals. But they fixed the problem. Not with implementing punishments and dinging people's performance ratings. (Wouldn't have mattered anyway--the doctors don't work for the hospital.) The did it with Starbucks Gift Cards and a gross screen saver. The New York Times reports:
For the next six weeks, Silka and roughly a dozen other senior personnel manned the parking-lot entrance, handing out bottles of Purell to the arriving doctors. They started a Hand Hygiene Safety Posse that roamed the wards and let it be known that this posse preferred using carrots to sticks: rather than searching for doctors who weren’t compliant, they’d try to “catch” a doctor who was washing up, giving him a $10 Starbucks card as reward. You might think that the highest earners in a hospital wouldn’t much care about a $10 incentive — “but none of them turned down the card,” Silka says.

It brought compliance up, but not to the 90% level they wanted. (This is still not comforting to me--I would prefer 100% compliance, thank you!) So they took cultures from doctors hands, and made a screen saver that showed the resulting bacteria colonies. Then they placed it on every computer in the hospital.


And it worked. Carrots, not sticks. Educating not berating.

My only complaint is that I don't drink coffee, so I would not appreciate a Starbucks gift card. Of course, seeing how I didn't go to medical school, I don't think I'm at risk of being handed one for washing my hands either.

As Long As We're Talking About College

Newsweek has a civics quiz posted. The context is that people don't learn civics in college. So, go take it and see if you are a genius.

I missed one question. Oopsie! And I went to a University that required Western Civilization and American History courses. Oh yeah, and I majored in Political Science.

So, go see if you can beat the Evil HR Lady and then let me know.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Do You Want to Make More Money?

Sure, we all do. Bonus points for you if you just thought of Sally Struthers.

But, seriously, we do all want to make more money. And since most of us would like to do so legally, I'm grateful for this Yahoo Finance article, Ten Ways to Get the Most Pay Out of Your Job. Those ten ways are:


    Good advice all around. I just have one small objection--on point 2.
    [W]hen negotiating with a new employer, you might be able to swap a higher salary for a larger target award amount, Ms. Sejen says. Suppose the employer offers you a $100,000 salary and a target bonus of 10% of salary. You could counteroffer that you'd take a $95,000 salary if your bonus-award target was 20% of it. Your annual target pay then would be $114,000 instead of $110,000. "An employer might be willing to change the pay mix," Ms. Sejen says.

    I'm not telling you not to try it, but unless you are an executive or work for a small company, the answer is going to be no. Why? Because someone has to administer those bonuses. (And that person used to be Evil HR Lady, but thankfully, not any more.) Your bonus will be based on your performance and your grade/salary. Any other mix would be an administrative nightmare.

    And remember, it's all about my needs, so you HR people who make policy but don't have to carry it out (and you know who you are), stop thinking that this is a good idea. But, you non-HR people, feel free to ask. Just understand that you will no longer be on my list of friends.
  • Saturday, September 23, 2006

    Breaking the Rules

    Businesses make rules for a reason. Sometimes those reasons are irrational ones, but mostly (I'm an optimist at heart) there are good reasons for the rules--although many of them are long forgotten.

    But even good rules need to be broken now and then. As the mother of a potty-trained 3 year old, I appreciated this post about the need to break a few workplace rules. Julie Coulter Bellon writes about a trip to the post office when her 3 year old decided he needed to go potty now.
    I leaned over the counter and said, "Do you have a restroom we can use?"
    The teller barely looked up at me and said, "No. It is against the rules to let any public person use our facilities. If the inspector came while an unauthorized person was in the back, we could be fined. It is definitely not something we can do. We do not break the rules."

    Go read how Julie gets the obedient post office worker to bend a little workplace rule. If you've ever been caught with a recently potty trained child in a place without a public restroom, you'll appreciate her tactics.

    Friday, September 22, 2006


    I've been avoiding blogging about the HP scandal. Why? Because I'm guilty of pretexting myself.

    Now get off your high horse because I bet you are as well. Or your spouse is. Here's my most recent pretexting sin: Ordering a free credit report for my husband. It was easy. I know his social security number. I know his mother's maiden name. I know how much each of our financial obligations are and I download all credit card activity into Quicken regularly (he would say, obsessively), so any question Experian can come up with, I can answer it.

    Of course, after ordering the report, I printed it out and showed it to him at dinner. Nothing sinister going on here. Honest. (Although we do joke that since I pay all the bills I could easily have 37 maxed out credit cards and he would never know.)(I don't, by the way.)

    But, I'm done confessing my sins, let's talk about HPs.

    Private phone records were obtained through deception, among other things. Why? Because chairwoman Patricia Dunn wanted to know who was guilty of leaking information.

    I don't pretend to be an expert on such things. But here is Evil HR Lady's advice for HP. If you will be embarrassed when what you are doing is made public, do not do it.

    There. Isn't that easy? I don't care how much you want to know something. Use above board methods to find out.

    The difference in my pretexting adventures and HPs? I don't care if mine get splashed on the front page of the New York Times.

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Survival of the Richest

    I've been of the opinion that people should give me large sums of money simply for sitting in a leather chair and answering questions. (And if the chair had one of those built in back massage units, all the better--but I could function without it. I'm not picky.) Unfortunately, I have yet to find people willing to do this. And now I know why.

    Robert Kiyosaki writes for Yahoo Finance
    Traders like Steven were buying and selling commodity futures -- as well as put and call options -- as fast as they could.

    For Steven, it didn't matter if the market was going up or down. He was busily buying and selling as he ran between the gold and crude oil pits. In less than an hour, he'd made over $70,000 in profits. Not bad for a guy in his 20s.

    During that hour, I was standing next to a NYMEX employee. I asked him if he understood what was going on. He replied, "No. I've worked here for nineteen years and I've never bothered to learn. I like my job, and I don't like the pressure these guys go through every day." Although I didn't ask, I suspect he's lucky to make $70,000 a year.

    The NYMEX employee and Steven both made choices. One choice involved stressful, high risk, time consuming work that had potential for a great reward. (And, undoubtedly, potential for great risk.) The other came to work each day and did his job, but made no effort to learn about other's jobs or expand his skills.

    The resulting rewards differ vastly.

    It's not just like this in the stock exchange world. I see it in my own work life. I'm a hard worker and I'm good at what I do. In fact, between my first day in an HR department(1999) and when I turned in my letter of resignation after giving birth to Offspring (2003) I was able to more than triple my salary. I started out as an HR admin in the spring of 1999 and by spring of 2001 I had my own admin.

    However, since I resigned from full time work my rise to the top has been severely stunted. Not because of discrimination against working mothers, but because I made a choice. I work 20-25 hours per week now. I get regular raises and good performance reviews, but I don't put in the hours I once did.

    It's a choice. My choice was made very carefully. Is your current career location the result of a careful choice or do you blame the circumstances around you for your success or lack thereof?

    Kiyosaki concludes:
    One way to approach the coming changes is to ask yourself whether you'll be like my friend Steven Spivak -- trading rapidly, earning over $70,000 an hour -- or like that 19-year NYMEX employee, who's content to work for $70,000 a year at best. While both men are working for a dollar that's declining in value, one is earning more than enough of them to stay ahead of its erosion.

    Both options are available to each of us. Which reality you choose -- deciding on how much you can earn and how fast you can earn it -- will determine your station in life five years from now, when things start to get really sticky.

    More than once I've had people in my office complaining that their co-worker got a promtion, why weren't they getting promoted? Or, why is my raise only 3%? I've had the fun task of asking what they've done to deserve a promotion or raise. Usually the blustering response is that they've been here for X years and they deserve it.

    Nevermind that co-worker works harder, makes an effort to learn as much as possible about the business, making co-worker a more valuable employee. They've been here X years and deserve it.

    That, my evil friends, is what we HR experts call delusional behavior.

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006


    I received an update from our Over-managed friend. She writes:

    Evil HR lady, my micromanaging boss has flipped his lid, apparently. We are incredibly short-handed right now and in desperate need of at least 5 new employees for various positions, from an engineer to a project manager to an inspector. Well, our corporate office put an ad in the paper for new people, and my crazy boss became convinced that we had gone behind his back and put the ad in the paper without consulting him. So as we have been transferring calls to him from people looking for jobs, he has been telling them that the ad was a mistake and that we aren't hiring and don't need anyone right now. This is while he is working 20 hours a day covering all these jobs because we don't have enough people, and then complaining the whole time that "we don't know how bad it is". Have I mentioned that I work for the dumbest company ever? I am going to be so glad to leave this job.

    I don't have any HR wisdom to impart, but I did laugh about this.

    Investigative Reporting

    When you are bored, you probably do something interesting like playing sports or perhaps watch television. Evil HR Lady surfs the web for new employment law information. (I'm this fun at parties too!)

    I found this presentation on retaliation. This isn't some adventure movie information. It's all about how to avoid retaliation against a whistle-blowing employee.

    Good information from Morgan Lewis, a law firm that handles employment law (among other specialities).

    Now, in case any of you are still awake after reading the thrilling paragraphs above, after reading that I read Why Parents Who Batter Win Custody. What do the two things have in common?

    Well, if Sarah Childress, the author of the above custody article, worked for me investigating retaliation claims I would fire her in retaliation for being so incredibly biased in her report. (And I believe--not being a lawer after all--I would have great legal grounds for doing so.)

    Our friendly lawyers at Morgan Lewis give instructions on how to conduct an investigation (see page 18)
    How to do it right
    • Be aware of and follow established investigation
    • Act promptly
    • Be objective and neutral and keep an open mind
    • Consistency and respect are key

    Ms. Childress is not conducting an investigation, but she is writing about results of investigations. She writes
    It may seem hard to fathom how a judge could award custody to a parent accused of abuse.

    What about also writing, "It may seem hard to fathom how a judge could not investigate each claim of abuse before granting custody. Custody situations are often heated and there are many established cases of parental alienation syndrome."

    A quick Google search would have turned up information from the other side of the custody debate. For instance, in the The Florida Bar Journal J. Michael Bone and Michael R. Walsh write:
    Although parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a familiar term, there is still a great deal of confusion and unclarity about its nature, dimensions, and, therefore, its detection.(1) Its presence, however, is unmistakable. In a longitudinal study of 700 "high conflict" divorce cases followed over 12 years, it was concluded that elements of PAS are present in the vast majority of the samples.

    Now, why on earth am I writing about parental custody issues? It goes back to employee retaliation and investigation. If Jane comes to Employee Relations and says, "John is sexually harrassing me" we don't immediately fire John. We investigate. We ask Jane questions. We ask John questions. We ask their co-workers.

    Now, if, in the course of my investigation, I discover that John has repeatedly been accused of inappropriate behavior, more weight is given to Jane's statement. If, on the other hand, I discover that Jane has accused 14 people of the same behavior, John's statement will be given more weight.

    Now, you don't need to be an expert investigator to realize that if John and Jane have an extensive history of trying to sabotage each other's careers that additional investigation will be required in order to come to the truth.

    Again, from Morgan Lewis (scroll to page 19):
    • For each act of alleged harassment/discrimination, determine when it
    occurred, what happened, where it occurred and who saw the incident
    • Be thorough—every incident should be explored
    • For each incident, determine witnesses and relevant documents
    • Ask employee to provide a written statement (or sign interview notes)
    • Ask about employee’s expectations for investigation
    • Explain investigation process
    • Follow-up with an outline of each incident and solicit
    • Clearly state that the employee will not experience retaliation

    Great advice. Perhaps we can get our journalists to someday investigate correctly.

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    Jelly Fish

    Yesterday was Evil Marketing Man's birthday. To celebrate, we flew a little plane to an island that will remain anonymous so that I can remain anonymous. The coolest thing there was this Jelly Fish


    I've never actually seen a jelly fish in the wild before.

    And you thought I was going to blog about the spinless wonders that sometimes get promoted to be your superior. Well, maybe some other time. Posted by Picasa

    Friday, September 15, 2006

    Get a Life (or a New Job)

    Dear Evil HR Lady,

    I hate my job. My co-workers are idiots. My boss is demanding. The work is dull and I'm underpaid. What can I do?



    Dear Stuck,

    Get a new job. Or increase your social life so that work doesn't take as much out of you. But, really, get a new job.

    I know, I know, that wasn't the advice you wanted. People often feel trapped in their job. Getting a new one is scary. Interviewing stinks. Using all your vacation time to interview rather than lounging around on the beach in Tahiti is a pain. But, if you truly hate your job, get a new one.

    There are other companies that will offer benefits and pay you a salary. Truly, there are. And if you simply can't find one, then I suggest that you are not underpaid in your current job.

    Good luck with your job search!


    Evil HR Lady

    Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    Evil HR Lady Eavesdrops

    I totally did not mean to. But offspring and I were at Wendys and there was a man speaking very loudly. You know the type of person I am talking about--he was speaking loudly and in an authoritative voice so that all in the restaurant would know how smart and wonderful he was. But, that is beside the point.

    He was telling his buddies about a system administrator job he once held. Turnover was so horrendous that within 3 months he was the most senior person there. Now, my thought on this was maybe he annoyed the other employees with his loud talking self-importance. But then he said something telling. "They arranged all the cubes so the manager could see everyone all the time."

    Things like this make the Evil HR Lady want to bang managers' heads together. Professional adults don't want every second of their lives monitored. Really. They don't. Now I hear offending managers screaming, "but if I leave them alone for 30 seconds they are playing Doom and watching people set themselves on fire on YouTube!" I have no doubt that there are people like that. (Of course, now I'm curious if such a thing really exists on YouTube. So I went over and typed in the phrase setting self on fire and nine hits came up. I did not watch any of them. People are so strange.)

    If you hire someone who wastes their whole day watching videos on the internet, fire her. Or him. Just get that person out. Then let your professionals be professional. If you monitor the whole group, I can guarantee getting away with stuff will become the foremost goal of your entire team.

    If your voluntary turnover is through the roof, start examining how you are treating your staff. And be careful when you talk about it loudly in restaurants. Evil HR Lady may be in there.

    When to Tattle

    Dear Evil HR Lady,

    Do you have any thoughts on when someone should complain to management about customer service? Usually I just finish whatever transaction I'm transacting and leave because a. it is generally unimportant and b. the employee in question is generally at a non-skilled low wage job ( I mean I don't expect Tiffany service at Wal-mart.) If it somewhere where more skills and education are needed (like a bank) I take my business elsewhere.

    That said, I did complain to a manager last night. I went into the local pie-restaurant to pick up a pie (go figure) and was waiting for the whip cream to be added. And waiting. The teenager working the counter repeatedly asked the kitchen to hurry. Meanwhile the naked pie sat there while goofy-in-the-kitchen played around (note to kitchen workers--don't goof off in front of the open door). Finally the counter woman said, "Hurry, she's getting angry." Honestly, at this point I was annoyed but not angry, I mean we're talking minimum wage teenagers here, but then Goofy says "I don't care" and proceeds to add the whipped cream.

    It was the "I don't care" that did it. Much to the surprise of the counter staff, I asked to see the manager and asked her to please remind the kitchen that the customers can hear them. Manager was not pleased and said she would take care of it. I am assuming the manager really would want to know that.

    Any thoughts?



    Dear Pie Eater,

    I'm sorry, what was your question? I'm busy thinking about pies. Specifically apple pies and cherrie pies. Or perhaps, a nice key lime pie.

    Back to the question at hand. When should you tell management? The answer varies depending on if you are an external customer or an internal customer.

    First, as an internal customer (i.e. should you go to a co-worker's boss to compain about her work, or lack thereof) you have a vested interest in making sure the company succeeds. You also have an interest in keeping your co-workers happy. If you need data from Bob every month and you constantly tick Bob off your data is going to come later and later and then it will start to affect your performance. On the other hand, if you can make Bob happy, you'll move up to the front of his list. (A gift of pie is always appropriate, by the way.)

    My policy for myself and those who come to HR to complain is to ask the following questions before going over someone's head:

    1. Was your request reasonable? Now of course, the person will insist that yes, it was reasonable. Then when pressed she might confess that she knew about this presentation she had to give for a month and a half. Yet, two hours before she was supposed to stand before the Board of Directors she finally called the lowly analyst and asked for 14 graphs depicting sales over the past 3 years.

    2. Did you follow up directly with the person? Nothing is more annoying for an employee than being asked once to do something, never getting any follow up calls or clear deadlines, then suddenly being chewed out by management for "failing to get work done in a timely manner." Before you run to someone's manager (or HR--please leave HR out of this) make sure you've asked the person directly. I'll give you some sample dialogue:

    Sharon: Hey, Bob, this is Sharon. How is that report coming?
    Bob: Almost done. You should have it within the hour.
    Sharon: Thanks Bob! You're the best.

    Now, contrast that with this:

    Sharon: (To Bob's boss) Bob hasn't gotten the report to me. I need that report or else Mr. CEO won't have the necessary information to run this company! Do you want the stock price to plummit?
    Bob's Boss: I'll take care of it right now! (Storms off to yell at Bob.) Bob, why haven't you sent Sharon that report!
    Bob: She asked for it two hours ago and I'll be ready to send it in 15 minutes. I've been working on it non-stop since she called.
    Bob's Boss: (Grumbling and feeling stupid, but not wanting to admit over-reaction) Well, Sharon's very important. Make sure to keep her happy.

    Let's think about this. In both cases, Sharon gets her report. However, in the first scenario, Bob will start to like Sharon more and more and will be more willing to bend over backwards to get her what he needs. He may even be willing to go above and beyond for Sharon in the future.

    In the second case, Sharon is now someone Bob will not like. He will complain about her to his co-workers and they will all share their Sharon stories. Even Bob's boss will admit that Sharon is a jerk and he will take her less seriously. When Sharon calls that department, her requests will get punted to the new guy who accidentally sorts wrong in Excel, messing up the rows of data. This is not good for Sharon.

    Now, if your follow up call to Bob goes like this:

    Sharon: Hey, Bob, this is Sharon. How is that report coming?
    Bob: Listen lady, stop nagging me. I'll get to it when I darn well please.

    Then a call to the manager is in order. Or if someone is consistantly providing bad work and not responding to your suggestions. Or if you are more than reasonable in your requests and still not getting information you need. The key point here is that before you complain to management, you need to attempt to resolve the problem directly.

    As an external customer, you have the option of not coming back to the store. Management really wants you to come back. (Well, unless you are one of the people described here.) Therefore, the threshold that needs to be crossed before issuing a complaint is substantially lower.

    Again, questions to ask:

    1. Was my request reasonable? Are you trying to return something you bought six months ago, wore 12 times and no longer have a receipt for? If so (this is a little helpful hint) your request is not reasonable.
    2. Did you attempt to resolve it with the employee directly?
    3. If you were the manager would you want to know?

    If the answers to all 3 questions are yes, then let the manager know. If the answers to 1 and 3 are yes, then let the manager know. Now, Pie-Eater, in your case, the answer to question 1 was yes. (Your request for a pie with whipped cream was certainly reasonable from a pie restaurant. From an auto parts store? Not so much.)

    You get to skip question 2 because the errant employee was not the one you were dealing with.

    As for question 3, if I were the manager, I would definitely want to know that the employee entrusted with the whipped cream felt that torturing her co-workers was more important than serving her customers.

    So, Evil HR Lady supports you.


    Evil HR Lady

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    Some Sound Advice

    Another confession from Evil HR Lady: I talk too much. Especially when I get nervous. This results in people knowing way too much about me. This is a bad thing, according to Dennis M. Barden, a professional head hunter. He writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the perils of wagging your tongue when you need to be shutting your trap. He writes:
    I just got off the phone with a candidate for a leadership position at a major research university. I had called to discuss the candidate's background relative to the requirements of the job in anticipation of a formal interview. I began with the usual opening pleasantries -- my name and background, the agenda for the call, an acknowledgment of the common ground between us, and so on. After a minute or two, I asked my customary opening question inviting the candidate to share some of his professional story with me.

    Fifty-six minutes later I uttered my next complete sentence.

    At least he says that's an extreme example.

    Another example he gives (and this one terrifies me because if I had anything bad in my past--which I don't because I've only recently become evil--I would make this mistake)
    The candidate was nervous walking in the door. A job he had held a decade before had been difficult and public, and he was concerned that the members would be put off by what they might have learned simply by searching the Web. He walked into the room with his fuse already lit. When the head of the committee welcomed him and asked him to say a few words of introduction, he ignited. Thirty-seven minutes later, he came to the end of his story. The committee members had 10 questions left to ask and 23 minutes left in which to ask them. They had long since lost interest not only in the candidate's narrative but in anything he might have to say. They ended the session 15 minutes early.

    The irony? The committee was not even concerned about that old controversy.

    So Evil HR Lady's advice of the day is to remember when you interview that you are selling yourself. Don't point out your own flaws and let the interviewer talk. People love to talk about themselves. Save your glowing report about yourself for your mother, and answer the questions asked. No more, no less.

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    A New Job For Evil HR Lady

    If I ever decide to quit HR, I've found the perfect new job for me: Writing bad term papers. Seriously. The New York Times ran this article: At $9.95 a Page, You Expected Poetry?

    It cracked me up. Apparently, even the essays you buy off the internet are bad ones. Professors have caught onto Google, so you now have to pay extra to get custom papers written. This would be the perfect job for me.

    I was good at papers in college. My best feat ever was the time I went to the library at 6:00 p.m. to start on a research paper that was due at noon the following day. I am proud to say that I got an A on that paper.

    If it weren't for the whole unethical thing, I'd sign right up. That and I'd go crazy writing papers like the ones described in the article. Of course, the whole thing reminded me of this wonderful blog post from Suburban Dad. He wrote an article in the compare/contrast style so popular in Freshman English Classes. He, of course, compared Brokeback Mountain and Curious George. Here's a sample, and then go read the whole thing.
    Although Curious George and Brokeback Mountain share many similarities, they also share many differences. Both involve men in hats, but the meaning of the hat changes.

    Breaking Into the Business World

    Dear Evil HR Lady:

    I find myself in a strange situation. I like my job - but it pays peanuts, has a really long commute, and doesn't use my rather expensive college education. I can do it because my husband makes enough for us to get by, though. Unfortunately, my husband's work habits make me very uncomfortable, and if I were DH's boss, I would have fired him months ago. I want to be prepared to find a better-paying job if that
    ever happens.

    So I'm kinda-sorta job hunting, and I have time on my side. How do I go about making the best of this advantage? I have a B.A. in psychology and music, and I know I would be good at something administrative or organizational, but I don't have a business degree. I'm still in my 20's and look younger, so I don't know how to get past the "applying to be a secretary" stage to find something that would use my Ivy-league degree or actually have benefits. How do I find something, and how do I negotiate a reasonable package?



    Dear Searching,

    Interesting situation you're in. First, with the husband--hopefully he's at least good at his job, even if he has bad work habits. But since the only thing you can change is you, let's find you a new job.

    When young people ask me what to major in, I always tell them, "Major in whatever you want to, and get an internship in the field you want to work in." Who knows if this is good advice, as young people tend to run screaming from me. Of course, I tell them this just after I've lectured them to get a hair cut, turn the music down, and respect their elders. I'm such an old lady.

    At one point when I was working in HRIS (Human Resources Information Systems--the techy side of HR), we had people with the following degrees: Political Science, Finance, Hotel & Restaurant Management, Social Work, Health Care Policy, Information Systems, Criminal Justice, and Education.

    My point here is that HR will take just about anybody. Oh wait, sorry. My real point is that for an entry level job (which is what you want), companies really want someone who is bright and willing to learn. If I hire someone out of college, I don't expect them to have a clue about what they are doing, I just want them to be able to learn quickly.

    Here are the things in your favor:
  • You're bright and willing to learn. (I ascertained this by the fact that you wrote to Evil HR Lady.)
  • You have an Ivy League Degree.
  • You are not desperate unless hubby gets "transitioned" out of his job.
  • You are young (and therefore, businesses won't expect you to have gobs of experience)
  • You are currently employed. (It's easier to find a job when you have a job.)

    So, now for the advice part. First, figure out what you want to do. This may be the hardest part of your plan. My degrees are included in the list above. I had a master's and no idea what to do with it. I was afraid that if I told anybody that I wanted a specific job, it would cut me off from other opportunities. My indecision was what actually cut me off from opportunities. (At one interview, which I would like to forget, I actually said "this sounds like something I might want to do." I was very qualified for the position, but did I get it? Ummm, no.)

    Second, once you've figured out what you want to do, evaluate if you have the necessary skills. If you decide you want to be a neurologist, you are just going to have to go back to school. However, if you want to be an event planner (which would use your psychology skills, administrative skills and organizational skills), you need to move on to step 3.

    Third, start looking for jobs and talking to everybody. Call up event planners and ask them for advice for "breaking in" to the field. Find out what they did to get to that point. Re-vamp your resume to highlight the skills you already have. Try to gain additional skills.

    Fourth, if you don't find a job in step 3, do two re-evaluations--the first is to make sure this is what you want, and the second is if your expectations are too high. If it's the second, try to get an internship. With Hubby currently paying the bills, you may be able to volunteer your time in an internship. If you can't get an internship, go to every staffing agency in your town and say, "I want to work in an event planning department. I will do anything. Type, file, make cold calls, whatever, as long as I'm in that type of department." People will often hire you as a temp when you lack the skills necessary to be hired as a regular employee.

    Fifth, as you do the internship or the temporary job, learn everything you possibly can. Help with a variety of projects, ask questions, read whatever professional literature comes into the office. Your goal here is to gain knowledge. That way, as you continue to apply for regular positions you'll be able to speak the language of the profession.

    Sixth, remember to sell yourself in an interview! But, don't lie. If the interviewer says, "Have you had experience with the software, EventPlannerPro?" The answer is not, "No, never heard of it." The answer is, "No, I haven't had experience with that software. But, I have used x and y. I learned both of these rapidly and could do that with EventPlannerPro. I really enjoy learning new things and taking on new challenges."

    Seventh, when you get to the negotiation stage, make sure you've done your research on how much that type of job pays. Don't ask for $50,000 when the going rate is $25,000. For more tips on negotiation, read this and follow the links.

    Eighth, when you get that great new job, send Evil HR Lady some money.

    Good luck!

    Evil HR Lady
  • Friday, September 08, 2006

    Snakes in HR

    Oh, how I wish I had thought of this analogy. John Sullivan at Workforce Online, however deserves the credit. He writes:
    The movie "Snakes on a Plane" depicts the terror of being trapped in a confined space with life-threatening pythons, rattlesnakes and the like. While some might see this movie as having no connection to human resources, I see it as the perfect metaphor for the typical HR department.

    (I hope you can read the entire article. It may require registration, but it's free and you can sign up for regular e-mails about HR related stuff. I know all of you have wanted to discuss how to calculate turnover! I just know it.)

    While he thinks that some people might find a comparison between HR and Snakes harsh (not me, slither, slither), he's met many. And so have I. (Once I was even a hissing snake, but I swear the company was making a horrible decision--and they eventually came to the same conclusion I did.)

    Snakes terrorize and threaten. What do you do when you encounter a snake while hiking? If it's a coiled rattle snake you hold very, very still and you try to back off without disturbing the creature. What do you do when you encounter an HR person that is rattling and hissing about how a new program is going to ruin this/cause lawsuits/destroy employee morale? You back off slowly and she slithers back behind her rock, happy that her work is now done.

    The whole article is worth reading, and those of you in HR will find yourself smiling as you label your co-workers.

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Branching Out

    Ford Motor Company just hired a new president and CEO, Alan R. Mulally, who was formerly with Boeing. He has no automotive experience, but is being given the reins. William Clay Ford Jr., gave up those titles, but is retaining the Chairman title and responsibility.

    I think this is a great thing for Ford and a good example for everyone else. Here we have someone who has a huge family run business and he had the good sense to get outside input when needed. The NY Times reports:
    Since becoming chairman in 1998, Mr. Ford has steadily increased his grip on the company, adding titles. But in July, he told the company’s board that he wanted to bring in an outside chief, he said in an interview.

    Mr. Ford said of Mr. Mulally: “Our team needs a steady hand from somebody who’s been through turnarounds and knows what it takes and can say, ‘You’re on the right path, stick with it, it’s going to work,’ or ‘This isn’t the way to go, let’s refocus and go somewhere else.’ ”

    Sometimes it takes just that--someone from the outside. Now, I am a strong advocate of promoting from within (and hey, if my boss happens to stumble upon this, I'd like a promotion at year end--thanks!), but I'm also a strong advocate of getting people in from the outside.

    Have you ever wondered why your company tends to pay new people more than it pays old people? (Oh dear, that sounds ageist. How about new employees vs long term employees?) Not all companies do this, but many do. It isn't necessarily bad management practice. It's because good companies understand that sometimes you need an outside view. This practice subtly encourages turnover. (And your company should pay for performance so that the highly rated employees aren't making less than the new people, while the average worker is.)

    When you've been with a company a long time the company way becomes ingrained and you have a hard time seeing any other way. So, you need to bring people in from the outside. This does not mean you can't grow your own people. You should be doing that as well. But you need to be open to new ideas.

    Once I worked for a company that consistently appears on Fortune's Top 100 Companies to Work For List. The Chairman's attitude was "I may not know what you know, but I need what you know." Translated--he knew he needed to hire people who were better at some things than he was. If you've trained everybody under you, they only know what you know. Branch out. Don't be afraid to get new eyes looking at a problem.

    I'll be interested to see what changes outside leadership brings to Ford. Hopefully, for them, the changes will be good ones. If not, well I'll keep buying Toyotas.

    You're Fired!

    That is, if your name is Carolyn Kepcher. Donald Trump and Carolyn (you know her from The Apprentice) have parted ways. Carolyn, as you might expect if you were a fan of the show, issued a very classy statement:
    After 11 years with the Trump Organization, Donald and I had different visions for my future role in the company," Kepcher said in a statement. "Donald has been an extraordinary boss and a great mentor over the years, and I will always be grateful for the opportunities and experiences he has provided me.

    She's a class act until the end. The Donald, on the other hand, replaced her with his daughter and is phasing out Ross to make room for his son.

    Ahh, the perils of working for a family owned business.

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    Jessica Simpson and Tom Cruise and You

    You just knew that sooner or later I was going to have to start blogging about celebrities, right? Blech. Truth be told, most of my music was purchased when I was still in high school and the last movie I saw in the theatre was "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit." But, this headline amuses me, so I'm sharing.

    Jessica Simpson: Disaster Of Epic Proportions?

    Seems our friend Jessica may have "oversaturated her market with style (so to speak) over substance."

    And then there's poor Tom. You remember him, bouncing up and down on Oprah declaring his love for Katie Holmes, telling Brooke Shields that she should take vitamins to recover from postpatrum depression, and generally being weird. (I'm guessing I don't need to provide a link to justify the weirdness thing.) Tom recently got transitioned out of Paramount because "his recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount."

    So today's lesson is your actions may affect your job and your income. Tom Cruise may be a great actor and Jessica Simpson may be a great singer, but if you annoy too many people no one is going to want to hire/watch/listen to you. Keep Tom and Jessica in mind the next time you feel your individuality is being threatened by your boss's demand that you provide reports in black ink instead of the hot pink and teal you feel express your true inner self. Singing in your cube may be fun for you, but not for your co-workers. (Yes, I know you were choir president in High School. You are still annoying your co-workers.)

    So, stop being annoying and get back to work.

    Support for Pluto

    I know several of you felt bad that Pluto was transitioned out of planethood. It seems we are not the only ones. From Fox News:
    LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Size doesn't matter. That was the message as friends and colleagues of the late Clyde Tombaugh, the astronomer who discovered Pluto, gathered on the New Mexico State University campus to protest the International Astronomical Union's recent decision to strip Pluto of its status as a planet.

    I'm hoping Pluto wins.

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    Performance Appraisal Anxiety

    I promised I would comment further on Keith B. Hammond's article, Why I Hate HR. I figure since it's a holiday, it's unlikely that any company is doing something truly stupid today, so I thought I'd come back to this. I'd like to answer this question today:
    Why are annual performance appraisals so time-consuming -- and so routinely useless?

    Excellent question. First, let it be known that as a manager, there was nothing I hated more than writing and giving performance appraisals. As an employee, I desipise the self-evaluations (which I, being evil, somehow forget to write) and receiving performance reviews. I hate, hate, hate them and I agree with Mr. Hammond that they are time consuming and useless. But here is the short answer.

    Appraisals are time consuming because managers fail to document performance throughout the year so they have to dig through old e-mails, projects, ect. for all 6 of their employees within a week's time. If they would document during the year, they would not be time consuming.

    Appraisals are useless because managers don't use them throughout the year. If you would refer back to them regularly, they would be useful.

    And now the long answer: There are many reasons HR wants you to do an annual appraisal. I'll try to list them here.

    1. Managers fail to communicate with their employees. Shocking, I know, since none of you have ever had a manager who didn't communicate well. But, it's true. Managers are humans and nice humans tend to not want to say hurtful things to people. "Your work has not yet risen to the level of substandard" is not a nice thing to say. But, it needs to be said.

    Managers need to deal with employee problems, and they don't unless forced to. Sure, if there is an incompetent employee, he'll get fewer and fewer key assignments, but no one will tell the poor person he's in the wrong job. Performance reviews force that to happen. Especially in companies where there is a forced ratings distribution and a certain number of employees have to be classified as "not meeting expectations."

    On the flip side, there are great employees who don't know that they are doing a great job because their managers never tell them. These employees are frequently left on their own because the manager is too busy trying to deal with (albeit unobtrusively) the bad employee described above. Although the manager may be pleased as punch to have this type of employee on his team, he fails to mention it to the actual employee. Again, annual appraisals force this type of recognition as well.

    2. Employees need to know what is expected of them. Generally, an annual performance review includes goals for the next year. This is frequently the only time an employee finds out exactly what his expected of her. She can tack this list to her cube wall and make sure she is making good progress in all areas.

    The problem (and you knew there would be one) is that business needs can change rapidly and what your manager wrote in December may have no relevance to the work that needs to be done in June. A good manager will have regular one-on-one meetings with her employees and evaluate and change these annual goals as the need arises. Very few managers do this. If they would do this on there own, we HR types would get less fussy about annual appraisals. (Really, I'd suggest quarterly goal evaluation, but somehow I think that would cause MR. Hammonds to hyperventilate and I don't want to do that.)

    3. Mr. Hammonds guesses reason 3 without even realizing it:
    Companies, he says "are doing it to protect themselves against their own employees," he says. "They put a piece of paper between you and employees, so if you ever have a confrontation, you can go to the file and say, 'Here, I've documented this problem.' "

    Lawsuits are a very real problem. EEO and OFCCP Audits are a very real thing. Perhaps Mr. Hammonds has never dealt with a lawsuit filed by the OFCCP (and he wouldn't, being a writer and all--the paperwork would go to HR and he would not know about it), but I have. One company I worked for successfully fought back and won a lawsuit filed by the OFCCP. We were able to prove we were not engaging in discriminatory practices by producing evidence. A good portion of the evidence was employee performance ratings (along with other things, such as length of time in job, education and prior experience). We could show that while some people were paid more than others, there was a high correlation between performance rating and pay.

    Still, it took millions of dollars to "win" that lawsuit. (And I still have our outside counsel's phone number on my speed dial, even though I haven't talked to him in about 3 years. I'm scared to let it go.) Best not to get sued in the first place.

    Now, I can hear Mr. Hammonds shouting, "then just give everyone a rating and skip the darn appraisal!" Sure. Let's do that. "Bob, as you know, employees are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being 'exceeds expectation' and 5 being 'you want to start looking for a new job because you'll be fired within the month.' This year, you're a 4. Talk to you later!" Yes, yes, that would be effective. Even people with high ratings would not like it. "If I'm a 1, how come I'm not getting promoted? Where's my promotion?" Ahh, yes, managers still need to communicate with employees. And since you won't do it properly on your own, we'll require it of you.

    A written appraisal (properly signed by the employee, manager and HR) can cover the company's rear end. We're sorry it needs to be done.

    Performance appraisals can be extremely useful tools. They can open dialogues between manager and employee. They can serve as documentation for ratings. They can provide valuable information for future managers. They can help correct problems and they can reward good performance.

    Notice I used the word "can" repeatedly in the above paragraph. Why? Because it's up to the manager and the employee to get use out of them. If your manager isn't using the review properly, ask for it. If you are a manager, make notes throughout the year, meet with your employees regularly and come year end--that darn thing will just write itself.

    Sunday, September 03, 2006

    The Carnival of the Insanities

    This week's Carnival of the Insanities is up at Dr. Sanity

    Click over and read about Al Gore to Pluto to everything inbetween. If you've never read at Dr. Sanity's, you are missing out!