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Saturday, September 29, 2007

One Title, Coming Up!

Hi, love your site.
I am working for a consulting company, we consult with all kinds of businesses, the two primary are a bowling center and a hotel (currently under construction), but I am getting business cards printed, and now need a title.

So I am SPHR, certified, and worked for a quasi government "one stop" job and career center. I will be working mostly in the areas of handbooks and policies, and HR audits. I am also the "girl Friday" for my current employer, so I do a lot of crazy things; the marketing for the bowling center, running errands, along with the HR duties.

So I am asking for some help. The owner said I can make it up, VP of HR was one of his suggestions, he was joking. He is the "Operating Partner" and the General Manager/Owner, and Managing Member, for the companies he owns and consults for.
HELP! Thank you so very much. Right now I am thinking HR Consultant.

I'm still pondering being a bowling alley consultant. For some reason this cracks me up. (At the university I attended, we were required to take two P.E. classes--one "Fitness for Life" class and one elective. My elective? Bowling. I figured, P.E. credit and the only sweat was from the rented shoes!)

I think HR Consultant is fine. HR Manager comes to mind, but that seems more like you are managing your company's HR rather than consulting for others. (I believe you are consulting for others--correct me if I'm wrong.) You could also make yourself Lead HR Consultant or Senior HR Consultant.

Anyone else have any suggestions?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

You Can Either Meet or Work

I haven't had much time to blog (I know, I know, where are my priorities?!?!?) because I've been spending way too much time working.

Well, not "working" but rather being "in meetings."

Now, we all know that I have a small problem with negativity, but here is Evil HR Lady's helpful meeting tip:

15 HR people in any room is about 12 too many.

The meeting I have been in have involved the following people: 2 people from staffing, 3 from employee relations, 6 HR business partners, 2 labor and employment lawyers, 1 labor and employment consultant and 1 relocation specialist.

How much do you think gets accomplished at these "meetings"?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

An Interview with Me!

Michael Moore at PA Employment Law Blog has just published an interview with me!

Thanks Michael!

Carnival Reminder!

The 17th Carnival of HR is only 1 week away! Make sure you get your submissions in to Natalie CooperPersonnel Today. Send your submissions to Natalie!

As a reminder, keep it down to one post per blogger. And if you could--something that you've written in the past couple of weeks is preferable.

The October 3rd Carnival will be hosted by Natalie Cooper at Personnel Today.

The October 17th Carnival will be hosted by Kris Dunn at HR Capitalist

The Spooky October 31st Carnival will be hosted by HRO Manager at HRO Manager

The November 14th Carnival will be hosted by Patrick Williams at Guerilla HR

The November 28th Carnival will be hosted by Carmen Van Kerckhove at Race in the Workplace

The December 12th Carnival will be hosted by Wayne Turmel at The Cranky Middle Manager

The December 26th Carnival will be hosted by Ann Bares at Compensation Force.

The January 9th Carnival will be hosted by Ask a Manager at Ask a Manager.

The January 23rd Carnival will be hosted by Deb at 8 Hours & a Lunch.

The February 6th Carnival will be hosted by Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership.

The February 20th Carnival will be hosted by Lisa Rosendahl at HR Thoughts

The March 5th Carnival will be hosted by Gautam Ghosh at Gautam Ghosh - Management Consultant

The March 19th Carnival will be hosted by Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership.

The April 2nd Carnival will be hosted by Rowan Manahan at Fortify Your Oasis.

The March 16th Carnival will by hosted by Ann Bares at Compensation Force

The April 30th Carnival will be hosted by The Rainmaker Group.

The May 14th Carnival will be hosted by The Career Encourager at Career Encouragement

The May 28th Carnival will be hosted by Michael Moore at PA Employment Law Blog

The June 11th Carnival will be hosted by Jon Ingham at Stategic Human Capital.

The June 25th Carnival will be hosted by Evil HR Lady at Evil HR Lady.

We're always looking for new hosts, so send me an e-mail at evilhrlady at hotmail dot com if you want to host. And get your submissions into me!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Headaches Caused by Someone Else

We recently had to fire the head of one of our satellite offices. Very shortly after his termination, it came to our attention that one of her new hires was not working out. We have a requirement that all employees at that office at that site are on call on a rotating schedule. The head of that office hired an individual who could not come in on that schedule. To further complicate things, this manager forbade anyone to contact HR on the pain of instant termination. Therefore, I did not find out about any of this until after her departure.

The problem is that we need to terminate this employee because he can not fulfil the on call rotation requirement due to a family issue. For other reasons, this employee is not completely working out, but this is the main issue.

The complicating factor (there is always at least two, aren't there?) is that this person is in a protected class and already feels that they are being discriminated against. This person was hired based on that protected class status because the site manager's former brother-in-law was a member of that same protected class and the manager thought it would be great to work with another member of that protected class. This person should never have been hired, because they can not complete the basic requirements of the job. A new job was created for him because the site head really wanted to work with this person to practice her Mandarin. The job he was originally hired for? The position is still open because we can't afford to hire someone else for it with him on the payroll.

Unfortunately, the former site manager is the only one who speaks Mandarin and no one else can communicate with this gentleman. As a result of this, this individual feels discriminated against and has made multiple complaints that people don't socialize with him as much as they should. This person has great conversational English skills, but he does have trouble with the technical side of things.

He was insulted when it was gently suggested that the company would cover ESL classes through an adult education program. There is relatively decent comprehension, but when there are safety issues involved (the job involves multiple areas where one could be seriously injured or killed), it is important to be able to understand instructions and warnings. When another employee yelled for him to stop what he was doing, he called the HR office to file a complaint that he was being discriminated against and treated like a child. The employee was doing something that, had he continued for another five seconds, would have broken a very expensive air filtration system for the hospital. He was also standing on a ladder in a loud room and one would have to yell to be heard in the first place. Perhaps it's a hostile work environment for him, but there is a good possibility that it may not be. We have sent the company vice president and the president out there on separate occasions to observe how people get along and investigate any allegations of a hostile work environment and found nothing amiss.

In any case, we need to let him go because he can not be on call. There is no way around this on call thing without other employees having a case for preferential treatment. Or if we let him go, are we going to be sued through hell and half of Georgia?

Well, well, well. If you appeared on my doorstep with this problem I'd say, "Ummm, I'm really busy right now, but my job share partner gets back from maternity leave next Tuesday. Can it wait until then?" Then I'd quickly shut my door and put my fingers in my ears and sing loudly, "I can't hear you! I can't hear you!"

Okay, it's not that bad. You do have some difficulties, and they all begin with your fired manager. Things like this, I suppose, are among the reasons you chose to terminate him in the first place.

One good rule of thumb when you have to fire someone in a protected class is to have the person who hired him fire him. That way the person has less of a claim of discrimination--after all, if Bob was willing to hire you in the first place, the termination must not be related to your race, gender or age. But, you can't do that.

You have a clear case of the person not being able to perform the job. Simple termination? Right? Of course not. This is because the person can perform the job he was truly hired for--helping the former manager learn Mandarin.

My solution? Since he can't do the "job" you need filled and you certainly won't replace him for what he is doing, you label it a position elimination and offer him a huge chunk of severance in exchange for signing a general release.

Yes, it's more expensive than saying, "sorry, but you are failing in your job." It, however, is less expensive than getting sued. So, offer the guy 3 months salary (or whatever your severance policy is) and extend his medical benefits (if applicable) for 6 months. In exchange, he signs a release saying he won't sue you. Make sure you consult with your labor and employment lawyer when you draft the release. There are a lot of things that should and should not be included in such a document.

Let this be a warning to all of you who are letting bad managers slide by. Bad managers do bad things, such as hiring people who can't do the job. Then the company has to take responsibility for such employees. Keep on top of your managers and provide training and development for them. And get rid of the bad apples as soon as possible.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Peace & Quiet--or Not So Much

Hello Evil HR Lady,

I enjoy reading your blog! I'm not sure if this question is within your "realm" but if you have the time and inclination, any input would be helpful. A bit of background: I'm the (relatively new) chairperson of a 14-person dept. at a small, 4-yr college. Chairs are members of the faculty and since we are a unionized faculty, I am technically NOT the immediate supervisor of the other faculty in my dept.

That said, the chair is usually the first person a faculty member comes to (and certainly students do this) when they have a complaint about one of their colleagues. My department recently moved into a newly renovated building and all the faculty offices are lined up along a long, hallway, each next to the other.

My office is 2 floors below, so I am not "with" my colleagues. The new faculty offices, unfortunately, do not seem to offer much soundproofing. Even with the office door closed, noise from conversations in the hallway, "loud-talkers" having phone conversations and of, course radios tend to filter in. In addition, there is a diversity of needs that people seem to have for working (ie.writing lectures, grading, writing grants, etc.) such as:"I work best with music in the background""I don't want to have to close my door all the time when I am working in my office""I need a very quiet environment to work""I like my door open so students feel welcome"etc.

Currently, there is one person has a very low tolerance noise, especially for music playing in her work environment and her office is directly across the hall from an individual who not only has a loud voice and entertains students in loud conversations involving much laughter (wish I had profs that were like this) also likes to play his radio "so low that I can barely here it myself". They both like to keep their doors open. The quiet person requested the other turn their radio down or off the other day as it was distracting her from her work. The radio person became upset saying the request was unreasonable as the volume was already very low. Furthermore, the quiet person has others around her with loud phone voices (not much to do about that).

Tensions are mounting. The easy solution is to have a "no radio" policy or a headphones only policy. I have been told that this is not fair to those who require some sort of background music to work and why would we then not require the ones requiring quiet to wear noise-blocking headphones. It does seem sort of strict to have a "policy" about this. Can't we be adults and use common sense and good manners? Sigh. So I'm wondering - in office environments similar to this, cubicles etc. is this an ongoing issue? Is there more to this than to me, what would seem to be a simple solution - the default is as quiet as possible or is the background/music requirement for working as valid as the need for quiet? Thanks for reading through all this.

Ahh, behaving like adults. You know, my experiences lately tell me that children are expected to behave more like "adults" than adults are. Two kids can't get along? We say, "Billy and Sally, you have to be in the same class all year long. You will have to learn to be nice to each other or you will both be in the corner much of the time." (Well, we say that until Billy and Sally have their screaming irrational mothers show up and lecture us for daring to discipline their little darlings, but once again, I digress.)

First of all, I'm going to direct you to one of my favorite blogs, Confessions of a Community College Dean. He has more direct experience in this subject, and he's very interesting. But, all HR people have experienced the "my co-worker is bothering me!" whine.

Yes, rational people would say, "hmm, my colleague is bothered by my music. I'll wear headphones." Or, "I'm bothered by noise, I will shut my door." But that is no fun. So, it comes down to policies.

It's unfortunate that you are having these problems with people in offices. Most of corporate America seems to be living in cube land, where the problems are much more pronounced. (Thankfully, I have an office. I didn't about a year ago, even though what I deal with is confidential even in HR standards. We were finally able to prevail on the powers that be when my job share partner, after having a long discussion with an attorney regarding an employee's termination, turned around to find that same person standing in the neighboring cube. Fortunately, she hadn't heard anything, but we were finally able to knock some sense into the space planning people. Boy, I am full of digressions today.)

I wish I had a magic solution for all of this. You can ask people to keep the noise down. You can re-arrange people so that the loud talkers are together and the quiet people are together. You can require that professors shut their doors when they are having conversations--but from a liability standpoint, I would prefer to keep the door open in such situations.

What I would do with the chronic complainers? Bring the entire group in together and say, "You know, the walls are really thin. Some people need music to concentrate. Some need silence. We all have students in and out of our offices. What do you all suggest?"

Chances are, no one will have any good solution. The tensions are probably running high not because of a radio, but because of competition amongst your faculty. But, they will be forced to stop coming to you with complaints because you'll be able to smile sweetly and say, "Karen, we discussed this in faculty meeting. I'm not sure what you want me to do about it."

Now, of course, if anyone is being egregiously loud or super sensitive to noise, you can help that person come to their senses. (Easier said than done!) Since you aren't a direct supervisor,though, I don't know how much influence you really have.

Good luck!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Exceedingly Poor Judgment

I've seen enough in my life to believe that this is true. Sometimes people can exercise such poor judgment you almost feel sorry for them--after all, being that stupid must hurt at least a little. Plus, the lawsuit payout...
She said that the medical director called her into a meeting and informed her, in front of witnesses, that she is too old and ugly to work at their hospital. He explained it's about marketing, and that the hospital is updating its image. He said that only young, beautiful nurses would be allowed to work at the hospital. He also said that patients want beautiful nurses taking care of them, so she had to go. She was shown the door after thirty years of faithful service to the hospital.

I know that when I was in the hospital, I wasn't thinking about what the nurses looked like.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fruity Drinks and Communication

Do you remember that old song? The Pina Colada Song? I always thought the people in that story were phenomenally stupid and wouldn't be able to repair their marriage after both were willing to cheat.

Turns out, I was (as always--well, as occasionally) right.
A Bosnian couple are getting divorced after finding out they had been secretly chatting each other up online under fake names...

"It was amazing, we seemed to be stuck in the same kind of miserable marriages - and how right that turned out to be.

"We arranged to meet outside a shop and both of us would be carrying a single rose so we would know the other.

"When I saw my husband there with the rose and it dawned on me what had happened I was shattered. I felt so betrayed. I was so angry."

Yeah, well, duh.

So, why am I writing about this? Turnover. Bad turnover. Your employees leave you for new, exciting careers. It's quite possible that you could have offered them what they left to find--they just didn't know it was available. Likewise, you scour the universe looking for a perfect candidate to do X only to find out that a current employee is currently scouring the universe for a job to do X--only the two of you haven't communicated.

I once had a VP of HR tell me, "My job is to develop my people. If you are in the same job for more than two years, I start to worry. I don't want to lose good people, I want to develop and move and promote good people."

You can only do that if you are communicating. Don't be a manager that punishes people for looking for internal positions. Don't be an employee who keeps your career goals secret.

And most of all, stay out of the personal ads and chat rooms and talk with your spouse from time to time. Sheesh.

(Hat tip: Frank:)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Firing Someone with a Medical Condition

Hello Evil HR Lady!

I would like to say I love your website - I just stumbled upon today and I think it's great.

My question is - how do you fire someone with a medical condition? We have an employee who isn't very competent and her skills lack significantly yet she has worked for the company for 6+ years. (We're in the graphic design business - so it only creates more work for the people with skills.) And no one from HR will fire her because she has medical documentation saying she suffers from migraines.

She will miss days - sometimes a whole work week at a time due to her migraines. For example - in 33 working days she missed 16.5 - due to food poisoning and migraines. Isn't there a way to fire someone because they suck at their job and don't do much when they are "working." Any advise would be helpful.

Before I begin I am going to give my standard disclaimers--I am not a lawyer, I am assuming you live in the US in a state that has "at-will" employment.

Now my answer.

You can fire anyone, healthy, sick, black, white, pregnant and suffering from emotional distress. I'll repeat, you can fire anyone as long as you don't have some sort of employment contract.

FMLA, if it applies in this situation, has limitations. (Food poisoning, by the way, probably does not qualify.) Yes, the employer has to give you time off if you have a certified FMLA illness. But, that doesn't mean you can be a poor performer when you are at work.

There is increased risk when you fire someone who is in a protected class or who is subject to FMLA. The person may sue and sometimes the best thing to do is offer severance in return for signing a general release. For the record, you can't waive your right to FMLA. If the company is required to grant the leave, they must do so.

You have to make clear that the reason for the termination is not sickness, but performance. HR and her managers may not be interested in firing because they are wimps or because it is easier to keep this person on board than it is to deal with the paperwork involved in terminating. There is a maximum of 12 weeks of FMLA per year and if she's taking 16 days off in 33, she's going to max out that 12 weeks (60 working days) pretty darn quickly.

You can't do squat about it, by the way. It's not your decision to hire or fire. It's not your decision to assign out work. What you can do, is do your work. And by "your" work, I mean "your" work. Not her work. Document your assignments that involve her. For instance, send an e-mail to everyone on the team that says.

I just wanted to be clear about the Jones account and my responsibilities.

John: XYZ
Sheryl: QRS
Steve: ABC
Heidi: LMN

XYZ must be completed before Steve can begin ABC. I've attached a complete project plan.

I realize it's dull, it's boring and it squashes your creativity. Do it anyway. You're going to have to pick up her slack anyway, you just want to be clear that it wasn't your assignment in the first place.

But, the key thing is just letting go. You cannot solve this problem. You cannot make her headaches go away. You cannot get her to be productive when she is in the office. Your managers already know she is a slacker. She grates on your nerves. You just have to take a deep breath and ignore it.

Easier said than done, I realize. But that is what you, as a co-worker, can do. She can be fired. They don't want to do so. Sorry about that.

Top 100 HR Bloggers

Bootstrapper has published their choices for the Top 100 HR Bloggers.

I'm pleased to join several of our Carnival Colleagues on the list. And pleased to find some new sites I haven't been to before.

Carnival of HR #16

Welcome to the 16th Carnival of Human Resources. Because we've had so many, I think it's time for a nice staff meeting to discuss the carnival and other important HR business.

Of course, even though I've organized the meeting, I have some objections that such meetings are just too administrative and I would like to cut some of that. Being wiser than I, the "Career Encourager reminds us all that if we offer some contrast things will be more appealing and interesting.

Anna says, "Hey, if you want interesting, how about some magic?" Carmen counters, "yes, magic is definitely interesting, but what if we contrast that with some Diversity training that is boring and ineffective?" Well, maybe not.

"I believe we're really concerned about credibility" Michael says, "and making sure we aren't just 'paralegals for management.'" Daniel nods his head solemnly: "For instance, how we handle whistle blowing can effect our credibility and protect us from legal consequences. Like Lisa says, we not only need to be credible but we need to accurately assess other's credibility."

Jon reminds us that we not only need to be credible, but accountable. He suggests being "RACI" which wakes up Ask a Manager. "For some reason," she says, "that reminds me about dating and interviewing. It's our chance to evaluate candidates and assess their credibility."

Rowan sighs, "I wish candidates would take control of their job hunt. So few do and they could be so much better if they did."

Carl responds, "Maybe we wouldn't have to do so many interviews if we stopped giving people so much money. Maybe retention would be better with lower raises and more spa trips."

"Well," MabelandHarry says, "You need to find out what people really want. That's the key." Wally sighs, "It's not just about giving them stuff, it's about teaching them to manage their careers."

"I agree," says Michael, "but we need to make sure we're doing it legally. For instance, EAPs are good things but don't absolve us of responsibility."

Everyone nods, until someone (who shall remain nameless says) pipes up with, "Hey, I thought I was promised donuts at this staff meeting. I have way too much to do if there aren't going to be any donuts." And he/she gets up to leave, Natalie calls out "Make sure you come to the blogathon September 24!"

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Is HR Without Adminstrative Headaches Possible?

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I am currently at university (in Sweden) and will have my degree from a program aiming at HR (including i/o psychology, some other behavioural sciences, economics and labor law). I am just about to start applying for "real" jobs. :) I have some experience from an HR administrative position during summer, and also a few years of experience doing other things. During summer, when I got to come up with a proposal for how a competencies module for a new HRIS to be implemented should be built and what it should include, that was a lot of fun. Interviewing a candidate for a position was also rewarding. Filing papers into folders, or typing data into a database, for hours and hours, decidedly less so.

I am an intelligent, responsible person, a fast learner and I feel confident that I could be great at organizational development and tangent areas. "Good enough" as I may be, I will never be a great administrator because I am so bored by doing work without thinking or being creative. I try to make it more interesting when doing that kind of work, but that only goes so far. I don't mind SOME administrative work, esp. not administrating "my own stuff", but I am truly afraid of ending up in a position doing predominantly that.

Do you have any advice for how I can try to, basically, avoid the boring stuff and work at and be great at the fun stuff? Especially considering I am just about to start my career.

Thank you for a great blog!

First, a disclaimer, I know nothing about Sweden, so I am answering this question from a US perspective. I did call Sweden once and when the woman answered the phone, in Swedish of course, I said, hesitantly, "Can I speak with [name]?" she immediately responded, "Yes, just one moment please. May I tell him who is calling?" And I thought, if someone called me and I answered in English and they responded in Swedish I could never just switch into Swedish with no problem. But, I digress and I shouldn't have taken Hebrew as my foreign language in college because it has NOT been helpful.

So, can you just do the fun stuff? No. Sorry. Especially not at the entry level.

You enjoy organizational development? Great. But, as you sit around thinking, eventually thoughts will have to get down on paper and into Power Point. Seminars will be scheduled and handouts printed. Even if you had an admin to do the "putting together" part, you'll still have a ton of administrative work along with it.

You enjoy employee relations? Great. You get to talk to people. Help them solve their problems. Make the world a better place. And then you have to fill out paperwork--document performance issues, conduct employee exits where you have to check off boxes that say you've collected a badge and they have 3 days of remaining vacation.

You enjoy staffing? That's an administrative nightmare here in the US. Better make sure you save the criteria you used for every search or you could be in big trouble for discrimination. Don't forget that not knowing a candidate's race is not an excuse for not being able to submit statistics on the racial makeup of your candidates. Then you have to schedule interviews, review paperwork, copy forms.

You want to do HRIS? Well, welcome to paper central. Who do you think makes sure those lovely forms that have to be signed get sent out and collected? Who does all the reporting?

Comp? Ever heard of a year end salary increase program? Sure, you get to strategize on the best percentage for increases and help managers determine how to go about dividing their available money. But you still have to make sure every eligible employee gets a raise or a reason for not getting one. And then let's talk about salary surveys.

Are you ready to run screaming? It's not that bad. Really, it's not. And you'll find paperwork in any department you go to. And as you start out, one of the worst things you can do for your career is say, "I'm too smart to file/staple/fill that form out. Get an admin to do it." Yes, there are many tasks that a trained monkey could do. However, a trained monkey is much more expensive than a low level HR person.

HR is great. I love it. I try to automate my administrative tasks as much as possible. But, in my experience you can never avoid them completely.

Generally, things such as typing data into databases fall on administrative staff unless it is a special project. I don't think you have to worry too much about that. Make sure when you are interviewing you have a clear understanding of what the job's expectations are. Just because the title says "trainer" it doesn't mean that you won't be responsible for maintenance of the training database. This is fine, you just need to know about it and what that entails.

Good luck and welcome to HR!

Monday, September 17, 2007

What to Include on a Resume

I've been working a temp position since August 20th, but it is currently set to end later this month. How long should you work at a position, before putting it on your resume?

The reason I ask, is because my last long term job ended June 22nd. I worked a total of 7 days for one agency (PP) as an exec. admin asst. in late July/early August. Then I was placed on my current assignment with another agency (A), which should be around 6 weeks long. Looking at my resume, it's pretty much full of temp agencies. I worked for a few years (2001-2005) in California, then for agency A for a few months after moving back to Indiana. Then I found a direct hire position, but left that position for a placement with another agency (FPS), where I worked for 11 months. The position through FPS ended in June, which brings me to where I am now.

Should I put my 7 day placement with PP on my resume, as it will give me something for the months of July/August on my resume? Or leave it off, since it was so short? I think that if I am careful with my wording, I can probably fit both on my resume, and still keep it to 2 pages.

Well, you are smart to limit the length of your resume. The maximum you want is two pages--unless you are an often published writer and need three pages to list all your publications.

To include a 7 day temp job or not--this is how I'd do it. I'd write:

Temp Agency, June 2006 to Present
  • Acme Corp, Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Bob's House O'Pancakes, Administrative Assistant
  • Big Corporation, Administrative Assistant

  • Then under that I'd list all the stuff that I did. Especially since one administrative temp job is very similar to another. (In my experience--your experience may vary.) You don't need to put that you scheduled meetings at Acme Corp, and that you scheduled meetings at Bob's House O'Pancakes and that you scheduled meetings at Big Corporation. One time should be sufficient.

    If the temp jobs were longer term and had greater variety then maybe you would want to list them out separately, and just leave off the one week job.

    For the record, I think temp agencies can be a great way to get your foot in the door to a company or a profession.

    I wish you the best of luck!

    Friday, September 14, 2007

    Another HR Problem

    Please help!

    I am the HR Assistant for the HR Manager at my job. It is just the two of us in the department. She has reprimanded me on three different occasions regarding the clothing I wear to work. And each time I ask her specifically, what can I , or can't I wear. I need guidelines! And each time she added something different. But she of course follows it up with don't worry, your always dress professionally.

    What's not fair is that she told me not to wear a specific sleeveless top, while about 10 other women in the office wear sleeveless. She told me mine was a little to far over the shoulder, therefore showing more skin. Sleeveless tops are sleeveless tops. Depending on your body type, they might fit differently. The top I wore was very professional and not too far over the shoulder. I let her know how I felt, and that I believed this was absurd because I have been trying really hard to go by her suggestions, but how am I supposed to feel when other women are wearing what I was told not too?

    I even pointed this out, and she told me to be her helper and let her know when I see this type of clothing. She even told me to shop at Wal-Mart and go to a tailor to get the straps on my tops hemmed. Basically, I feel I am being treated unfairly. I am being singled out. This has created feelings of resentment. For the past month I have been scared about what I wear to work! I am nervous that at any moment she will call me in and criticize my clothes - again!

    I dress very professionally in the workplace. This issue has been bothering me for quite some time, and I need some advice. I have documented all of our meetings, and our conversations. I have also noted names of the other women who wear the same thing I got in trouble for. What do I do? I don't feel comfortable speaking to her about this again.

    When I give her my opinion, she just stares at me. I want to go to my GM and explain to him that this issue has created a negative environment for me and that I go home mad every day. My thoughts are on my clothing instead of my work. Do I go to my GM about this? Any other advice?

    Thanks so much!

    Unfortunately for you, you've come to the wrong person to complain about the unfairness of not being allowed to wear sleeveless shirts. But, since that's not really your question, we'll leave my fashion opinions here.

    Your manager doesn't like you--or she believes you have more potential than you are living up to. It's quite possible that she feels threatened by you. Unfortunately, when you dislike someone it is very easy to pick out things and label them faults, when you would ignore the same thing in someone else. Likewise, when you feel threatened by someone, the way for mean people to deal with that is to try and destroy that person.

    So, your options--deal with it or start looking for a new job. (Although I would find it difficult to not laugh at the idea of buying clothes at Walmart and then taking them to the tailor. It seems to defeat the purpose of going to Walmart in the first place.)

    In my opinion, mentioning it to her again won't do any good. Neither will mentioning it to the General Manager. Ask yourself, how would he respond?

    Response 1: Thanks for telling me. I think I'll go fire the HR manager.

    Response 2: Why are you telling me this? I'm trying to run a business. Dress code is HR's problem.

    Response 3: That's terrible. I'll talk to the HR manager right now. That will make your life a living Hell!

    I'm guessing that you're hoping for Response 1. I'll give you my professional opinion that it's not likely to happen. A good GM will know if his HR manager is being irrational and he doesn't need you to tell him.

    The only person you can control is you. Going home angry every day is only hurting you. It's not doing anything for your career and it's not hurting your boss. Because her complaints are unpredictable, you need to sit down and evaluate: Is this job worth the annoyance and frustration or not? If the answer is no, then dust off your resume and start job hunting. If the answer is yes, you'll have to deal with it.

    And by dealing with it, I don't mean grit your teeth and take out your frustration on your friends and family. I mean, make a conscious decision that you are not going to let this bother you. When she criticizes your outfit, apologize politely and say whatever is true about it. "Dawn is currently wearing something very similar" or "This is the 6th time I've warn this outfit. What caught your eye about it this time?" Then forget she said anything.

    If you don't let it bother you and you don't get steamed, it's possible that the bullying will stop. (And please understand, this type of behavior is bullying.) Work your hardest and you'll get noticed for your work.

    Thursday, September 13, 2007

    Your Permanent Record

    Remember the threat from your elementary school teachers? If you do something bad it will go in your permanent record! Horrors. You would never get into college, let alone live any sort of productive life with a black mark on your permanent record. It was enough to keep a young Evil HR Lady sitting up straight and paying attention. (Okay, I slouched and constantly read novels during school, but I was quiet and I did well on tests, so the teachers ignored me.) (Second parenthetical, my mom is going to kill her self laughing at the thought of me being quiet.)

    Well, it turned out that your elementary school teacher was exaggerating on the effect your permanent record had. Your college didn't even request a transcript from your elementary school. All that being good for nothing.

    You think you've outgrown permanent records? Well you haven't. You have a new one now, called a Personnel File. Everyone has one. Everyone should have several. They are permanent, except when they are not.

    Daniel A Schwartz at the Connecticut Employment Law Blog writes about people requesting their personnel records.

    The worry is that people are fretting about lawsuits, which he says is worrying for no good reason. I think personnel records are an interesting piece of information that we ignore too often.

    Have you ever gotten a new job offer and then suddenly realized you didn't keep a copy of your non-compete agreement and you don't know what your restrictions are? (No comment on how silly it was to lose your copy of that. I'm evil, not mean.) You can get it from your personnel file. Feel like the company isn't living up to the promises in your offer letter? You can get a copy from your personnel file.

    But, what (I suppose) most people are looking for are their performance appraisals and secret things placed there by their bosses. You should look at it.

    Yes, it drives the record people nuts to have to pull your file, have you come over and look at it anyway. You should do it.

    Why? Well, it turns out, much like your elementary school record, it was permanent but only in elementary school. It didn't follow you to college. When prospective employers call for a reference, they aren't going to be given a copy of your file. If they call HR, chances are they'll get confirmation of your dates of service an your job title and that's it. If they call your manager, they'll maybe get the real scoop.

    So, why take the time to look at this permanent record? For internal transfers it is extremely important. A company won't share with outsiders, but they will certainly share with insiders. This is why it's important to insist a copy of your own self appraisal is attached to your manager's appraisal of you in the file. Get your side of the story in there.

    And sit up straight and pay attention and don't poke the person next to you or you'll have to write "I will pay attention in class" 500 times before you can go to recess.

    Carnivals and Lists

    Remember to get your Carnival submission into Evil HR Lady (that would be me!) buy Monday night, September 17. (I'll let you define night by when you go to bed. I'm flexible that way.)

    Also, the HR Capitalist has his HR Power Blog listing up. I've dropped by two in his ratings, so now I'm traumatized. Is there an ER rep for the blog world?

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    Employee Relations

    Another scenario:

    A woman with a heavy accent walks into your office and explains that she is returning to her native Russia this spring and as such she needs today, September 12th, off. You are a bit confused and asks for an explanation. She sends you to this website. You read:
    The governor of Ulyanovsk region in Russia is offering prizes to couples who have babies in exactly nine months - on Russia's national day on 12 June.

    Sergei Morozov wants couples to take the day off work to have sex. If a baby is born on national day, they will receive cars, TVs or other prizes.

    Mr Morozov has declared Wednesday "family contact day" as part of efforts to fight Russia's demographic crisis.

    My response, of course, is that according to she doesn't need the 12th off. She needs the 20th for a due date of June 12.

    Aren't I helpful?

    (hat tip Ann Althouse.)

    And I can't help but think that this HRVP would make "family contact day" an official company holiday if he was working in Russia.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007


    A while ago I made a comment over at Ask a Manager that I preferred e-mail over telephone calls and meetings. (I couldn't find the actual post, but it's a true statement.) I got the following e-mail from Rachel Prosser:
    Dear (not so) Evil HR Lady.

    I really enjoy your blogs, even though I don't live in North America. I was curious at your comment on AskaManager's blog that "I wish people would stop calling me and just use e-mail"

    My experience in my last corporate job (Senior Lawyer, in a 6000+ employee public organisation working in a strategic/policy area) was the reverse. I often wished people would just talk to each other more .

    Although if asked a legal question, I would sometimes make them put it in writing so they had to properly think through the question first.

    Yes, sure e-mail can be fine for a simple factual question where you need to keep a record of the discussion, and you don’t want to be misinterpreted (or to have evidence on your side if you are.) It can be convenient, because you can read it when you wish, and interruptions by phone are a pain. It can also be good if you want to be super-careful you are complying with policy.

    But, it requires a high-trust environment, and acts as a magnifier of divisions where there is low trust and suspicion. For many, many things I found it much better to cut off the e-mail exchange and have a proper conversation rather than e-mail tennis. Even voice-mail tennis could be more helpful. It enabled any false assumptions to be ironed out and to build relationships. And hearing someone’s voice means you have a chance of a relatinoship.

    I found people would revert to e-mail in low-trust situations, which then amplified mutual suspicion. “aha I have evidence he said x”; “honestly he’s saying x can you believe it...”, “’listen to how he put this, he obviously.....”

    Devoid of a human relationship, people would read in the worst. They sense that what’s being written is being done to “cover the back” of the manager, and no-one likes to be treated in a way which assumes you’ll be on the other side in litigation.

    The use of e-mail also provides as a way of distancing a manager from staff. I’ve seen managers rever to non-committal, weasel-worded replies which are compliant with policy, but which are a way of avoiding and honest and personal relationship. “He’s toeing the party line”, she’s treating me like a statistic.

    E mail is handy if you are going to have to make a diary note of the call anyway, if there’s a high trust environment with relationships built away from the e-mail, and if it’s a factual request (how many days annual leave do I have?) which the recipient is likely to want to work on in a batch, or need to research. In a situation where the employment relationship is already bad, it can help provide evidence for the subsequent employment/industrial tribunal/litigation.

    But it can waste time with minor points bouncing back and forth, and good relationships are better built by speaking to people.

    Very good thoughts.

    Monday, September 10, 2007

    When HR is the Problem

    I'm the Controller for a small, but, what used to be, rapidly growing firm, 135 employees total. We've always had weak HR, but our recently hired VP of HR seems to take the cake--or at least want to make cake. We have equity problems, no performance appraisal system, high turnover and low morale. His solution for turnover? Recruit more, through offering candidates wine and cheese. His solution for low employee morale? Inviting employees to the parking lot for a tail gate party that includes a keg of beer. His solution for equity issues? If you come and whine about your salary, you can--more often than not--get a raise. Sometimes this even occurs before I know about it, via verbal promises made to employees before I get the paperwork to approve the transaction. These actions seem to be the rule, rather than the exception. When I’ve posed the question to him about where to pull these additional monies he’s throwing around, his response is “You can always find extra cash.”

    I'm the bad guy because I put the financial kibosh on many of his expensive alcohol fueled ideas. He makes people "feel good" and is a real cheerleader. Yet, none of the longstanding problems are getting solved. I’m looking out for the company by getting the proper insurance in place to protect us from his stupidity/increased exposure resulting from the above events. I don’t know what has to happen for the company to realize that our HR dept is paving the way for our ultimate downfall. I mean, HR is supposed to be the dept who would normally be expressing concerns about these types of activities, right?

    Any thoughts or advice on properly handling, or at least, better coping with this situation would be much appreciated.

    Somehow it hadn't occurred to me that I should be planning keg parties in the parking lot. Perhaps I am not ready for a VP position, like I previously thought.

    Alcohol and business, in my humble opinion is a bad idea. Some people can handle a beer in a business setting. Others get sloshed, drive home drunk, crash and the company gets sued.

    But, you know all this. Your problem is with the HR VP. I wish I could give you some secret "HR" words that you could say to this guy and have him go, "Ohhh! What I should be doing is working on pay equity issues!"

    I am hoping my brilliant colleagues will weigh in on this, but in the mean time I'm going to give it my best shot.

    You are the controller. You speak about dollars. Your CEO should be able to speak that language. The HR VP--hard to tell. Some can speak in financial terms, some cannot. (I suspect you have the latter.)

    When presented with another one of his plans, ask, "What's the ROI on this one, Bob?" He'll probably look at your blankly. (Note, not saying all HR people would look at you blankly, but I suspect this isn't the guy's strong suit.) He'll defend his position. Say, "Sounds like fun, but what do you expect to get out of this?"

    Make him come out with the expected result. "Everyone will have a good time?" will probably be the expected result of the tail gate party. You can counter, "It will cost us X for the added insurance, Y for the actual cost of the party and Z for taxis to get people home. Having a good time isn't enough. How do you expect this to reduce turnover? Have people been complaining about the lack of beer at work?"

    Okay, so the last sentence is probably over the top. (Of course, yes, people have been complaining about the lack of beer at work. Not me, by the way, I don't drink.)

    When he wants to give someone a raise (unless it's you, of course--we do have our priorities here) ask this question. "How are you going to make sure this is equitable? Did you know that males are more likely to ask for raises than females. Therefore, if our compensation structure is based on people asking, you're going to end up with skewed salaries--with men making more than women who are performing the same jobs. I'm not sure we have the financial ability to pay out on the inevitable law suits."

    Stop trying to tell him what he can and cannot do. Just make him justify his position to you in financial terms. He'll either learn how to do it--and will start to see the folly of his ways--or the CEO will see that he can't justify his own projects.

    It's HR people like this that really chap my hide. HR is supposed to support the business. There is a reason it's called "work" not play. Besides, who says that the employees want to spend their "play" time with people at work? I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than have a kegger.

    Employees always want more money. This is true. But even more than that, they want to be respected. And trust me, you don't feel respected when you have to go beg for an increase. And even getting an asked for increase doesn't increase your warm fuzzy feelings for the company. It just leads to more negativity. (If you're willing to give me a raise when I asked, why weren't you willing to earlier? Are you just trying to pay me the least amount possible? This job stinks. I'm going to take my new salary and go apply for new jobs. Maybe I can get two increases within months!)

    Don't be mean and don't be negative. Just keep asking questions. Demand explanations. And if that fails, cut his budget. (Just kidding on the last part. Ha! Ha! I love finance!)

    Friday, September 07, 2007

    Employee Relations Part III

    Read part I and part II. Make sure you read the comments. They are, as usual, brilliant.

    So, who is the problem employee? Karen or the manager? Or is it a little bit of both. My gut is to take Karen's side, but that's probably because I'm the mother of a young child who occasionally gets ill. But, I also appreciate that business is about making money and the manager (who I should have named, but I didn't) is effective at that.

    My point in all this? Employee relations is not easy. Let's look at all the things going this Employee Relations Manager has to deal with. (Many of which I have gleefully stolen from the comments.)

    1. High performing manager who stinks at her employee communication skills. Ask a Manager says:
    I'd ask the manager: "Have you talked to Karen about your expectations for things she needs to take care of during unexpected absences?" If the answer is no, well, that's the first step. Don't discipline someone for not meeting an expectation you never laid out.

    So what about expectations? We all have them. Karen and her manager aren't aligned on those expectations. Wally says:
    The point about clear expectations is dead on. Clear expectations are both stated and enforced. Merely having a policy does not constitute clear expectations.

    2. A recruiting tool (we're family friendly!) that isn't enforced in all departments. It may be in some, but not in others. As EvilRJ said:
    But if Marleycorp's policy is clear (and only your own death or illness is acceptable) then maybe a written warning is a good reminder to start planning the move to Scandinavia.

    And Tim Lacy says:
    The company policy is flawed. No parent should be restricted for taking a sick day for his/her kid. Nothing should be done to/with Karen.

    But what if an employee has 6 children who are prone to strep throat, ear infections and mysterious middle of the night vomiting? Should the company allow that person 10x the number of days off they give to other people? How do you develop a policy that will truly balance business needs and employee needs? And how does the ER rep work within flawed policies? Because reality is, that's your job. Yes, we try to do what is "right" but we also have to do what is "within policy."

    3. A high potential new employee who is upset and likely already looking for a new job.

    4. ER person stuck in the middle of a political nightmare. If you do the "right" thing for Karen and her co-workers and try to get the manager some training to help her communicate with her employees; or to help her learn to monitor end results rather than face time; or to not require people to work and take vacation days at the same time; you may end up being on the receiving end of some discipline yourself. After all, this manager has won the praise of Sr. Management. She gets the job done.

    5. Trying to explain how high productivity but low morale and high turnover is going to eventually lead to low productivity and high costs may fall on deaf ears.

    6. Must sort out who is exaggerating more--Karen or her manager? In this sort of situation, I assume that both are either leaving out important details or embellishing others. As Lea said:
    As I'd also ask the manager what she said when she talked to Karen on the day in question, because while Karen felt yelled at, there's no guarantee that that's what the manager did.

    That's another problem--feelings. Karen felt yelled at. It's doubtful the manager felt she yelled. Which person is right? Both of them. Perception is the person's reality. Sometimes ER has to help people get their perceptions in line with reality.

    I could write more, but I need to go to bed. Employee relations is complicated and not all about handing people tissues and firing bad employees. It's about blending of managers and employees and people and policies and striking that magical spot where what is good for the employee is good for the business.

    Tough world.

    I'll definitely put up some more scenarios in a week or so. I found everyone's comments so fascinating.

    Thursday, September 06, 2007

    Another DUI Problem

    Hi Evil HR Lady,

    I was working as a contractor for this company for about 5 months. Company offered me a Permanent position and I accepted it. When I fill up backgound check form I mentioned DUI but I was afraid to mention details about it. As a result of background check they came to know that I had 2 DUI's and a probation violation that was in my record 2 yrs ago.

    I was sent home from the work, and I was told that if this information is incorrect I could dispute the background check report. Company will give me 3 days to do so. I don't know what should I do. All the information on the background check report are correct. I believe the reason they send me home was because I did not mention all the details on the background check application. Could this be the reason?

    What should I do to convince them that I did not try to hide anything. I was trying to be as truthful as I could. My manager said he could give me 5 to 7 days instead of 3 days. Should I dispute the background check report and request re backgound check and fill all the details or if I could do that at all. I am a very honest and hard working employee and my managers and Directors were proud of my work. I am not sure If i could be able to get the Job back.

    Yes, your lack of details is undoubtedly the reason you are being terminated, or rather not brought on board.

    If I were your manager, there is probably nothing you could say to get me to take you back. Why? It's not because of the DUI (although 2 DUIs and a probation violation scream "IRRESPONSIBLE!" which makes your desirability as an employee quite low). It' because of the dishonesty.

    You were afraid to mention the details, but it is the details that got you in trouble. Notice that they didn't care that you had the DUI. (And it's illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of a conviction unless the conviction is related to the job.) What they did care about was that you didn't tell the truth.

    Yes, there is a possibility you wouldn't have gotten the original contract work if you'd said, "two DUIs and a probation violation", but you wouldn't be where you are now if you had been honest.

    Your best bet--explain to your manager that it is all correct, that you put the original DUI on the application, but left off details. Apologize profusely. If you truly are a good worker, he may give you another chance.

    And just to everyone else, please, please, please be honest on your applications. I know other people lie. Other people get caught, too.

    Employee Relations Part II

    Scenario I, part II (read part I) and Part III)

    As a skilled employee relations expert, you manage to convince the high performing manager to not proceed to a written warning stage at this time. You explain that you would like to speak with Karen and give her a formal "verbal" warning, which will be documented, but does not carry the weight of a "written" warning. You volunteer to explain to Karen the seriousness of the problem.

    Your reason for this is because you want to know Karen's side of the story and your well honed ER sense is telling you that this award winning manager may be the cause for her department's high turnover--after all, managers are the number one reason why people quit their jobs.

    Karen comes into your office and is visibly upset. "I don't know what to do!" she says, dropping into your office chair. "Two weeks ago my three year old had the stomach flu. I had to stay home. I sat next to my sick child with my lap top on my lap and running conference calls on my phone. I put in 10 hours of work on that day. Then I get called into my manager's office and informed that since I was out of the office, I have to use a vacation day. Vacation day! I worked my tail end off all day. I only get two weeks vacation as is, and to be forced to use up one when I've worked all day is ridiculous.

    "One of the reasons I took this job was because of the family friendly policies you advertise. The recruiter assured me of flex time and telecommuting and all sorts of great things. None of them are true.

    "So, yeah, I didn't work yesterday. I did put an out of office notice on my e-mail and my voicemail, but if I'm going to have to use a vacation day and get a lecture, then no way am I doing any work. I didn't answer the phone when my manager called because after she yelled at me the first time, I figured if she had anything important to say, she'd leave me a message."

    So, now what do you say to Karen?

    Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    Carnival of HR #15

    Is up over at Fortify Your Services.

    Once again it's a fabulously informative set of articles. I do have to say that the carnival seems to get submissions from the best and brightest minds in HR.

    The September 19th Carnival will be hosted by Evil HR Lady at, well, Evil HR Lady.

    The October 3rd Carnival will be hosted by Natalie Cooper at Personnel Today.

    The October 17th Carnival will be hosted by Kris Dunn at HR Capitalist

    The Spooky October 31st Carnival will be hosted by HRO Manager at HRO Manager

    The November 14th Carnival will be hosted by Patrick Williams at Guerilla HR

    The November 28th Carnival will be hosted by Carmen Van Kerckhove at Race in the Workplace

    The December 12th Carnival will be hosted by Wayne Turmel at The Cranky Middle Manager

    The December 26th Carnival will be hosted by Ann Bares at Compensation Force.

    The January 9th Carnival will be hosted by Ask a Manager at Ask a Manager.

    The January 23rd Carnival will be hosted by Deb at 8 Hours & a Lunch.

    The February 6th Carnival will be hosted by Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership.

    The February 20th Carnival will be hosted by Lisa Rosendahl at HR Thoughts

    The March 5th Carnival will be hosted by Gautam Ghosh at Gautam Ghosh - Management Consultant

    The March 19th Carnival will be hosted by Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership.

    The April 2nd Carnival will be hosted by Rowan Manahan at Fortify Your Oasis.

    The March 16th Carnival will by hosted by Ann Bares at Compensation Force

    The April 30th Carnival will be hosted by The Rainmaker Group.

    The May 14th Carnival will be hosted by The Career Encourager at Career Encouragement

    The May 28th Carnival will be hosted by Michael Moore at PA Employment Law Blog

    The June 11th Carnival will be hosted by Jon Ingham at Stategic Human Capital.

    We're always looking for new hosts, so send me an e-mail at evilhrlady at hotmail dot com if you want to host. And get your submissions into me!

    You're Fired, eh?

    The Evil family just got back from a fabulous Canadian vacation. We spent most of our time in Ottawa, which is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Queen Victoria making Ottawa the capital of Canada. (It was an utterly fantastic city, by the way. I highly recommend it.)

    We took many tours, including the East Block Tour. The offices of several of Canada's early leaders have been preserved, along with the Privy Council Room.

    Outside this room is a coat and hat rack. (This is Canada, of course. It does get a bit chilly in the winter.) According to our guide George-√Čtienne Cartier, Minister of Militia and Defense used to be the last to arrive at these Cabinet meetings. He enjoyed rearranging coats on the coat rack. If you were being promoted, you would come out of the meeting to find your coat moved to the right. If you were being demoted, it would be moved to the left. If, perchance, you came out and found your hat and coat in a pile on the floor? Well, it's been nice knowing you.

    I think several people would prefer to conduct terminations in this same non-confrontational way.