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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Carnival of HR #19

Is now up over at HRO Manager. Pop on over and get a Conan O'Brien quote for free!

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Trick Or Treat Training (Or How to Train for Terminations)

My first love is training. So, last night I developed and conducted some Trick or Treating Training. (For those of you who are rolling their eyes right now, rest assured that my husband rolled his eyes as well.) But, the Offspring is 4, and quite frankly knowing how to trick or treat is not inborn. So, here is what we did.

1. Explain the base rules: No trick or treating by yourself. You must wait for Dad to come home from work.

2. Explain the steps: Knock or ring door bell, wait until door opens, say "Trick or Treat!", take one piece of candy if offered, otherwise accept whatever is placed in your bag, say thank you, turn and leave.

3. Practice, practice, practice. You would think this would have been unnecessary, but there are many, many steps and different ones were forgotten.

4. Throw in some variation. "What a beautiful costume! Are you Cinderella?" This threw the offspring through a loop and we had to tell her it was okay to say "No, I'm Princess Presto.

Easy enough, right? I'm a crack pot for making my child practice trick-or-treating. After all, it's a basic skill and she could have picked it up by watching other children. And she went trick or treating last year--so what if it's been 364 days since her last trip around the neighborhood. Right? Right?

Why am I writing this? Replace trick-or-treating with "termination" training. It's not done regularly but for some reason HR tends to assume that because you terminated someone a year ago, you can do it again today without any additional help.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Whenever you terminate someone from your company--whether it's a layoff or a termination for cause--how the message is delivered can make a huge difference in how the employee responds and in the likelihood that a law suit will follow.

Here are some basic steps for training managers to conduct terminations. Surprisingly enough, the steps are similar to Trick or Treating.

1. Explain the base rules. Always have your i's dotted and t's crossed before you sit down. Have approval to the highest level necessary. Never do it by yourself. Always have a witness in the room. (Preferably HR, but another manager will do.) Understand your clear message. (This is a termination for cause, or this is a layoff--you'd be surprised how managers don't realize there is as huge difference between these two.)

2. Explain the steps. Clear your calendar, have your witness in the office, invite the employee into your office, (If you don't have an office, reserve a conference room where you can close the door. NO TERMINATIONS IN CUBES.) explain briefly and directly that the employee is being terminated. Do not hem and haw and do not leave any room for doubt. If appropriate, thank him for his service. Give any necessary paperwork to the employee. Tell employee he can go home for the rest of the day and can come back tomorrow for his things. Briefly answer questions, but keep meeting to 15 minutes or less.

3. Practice, practice, practice. Again, you would think this would be unnecessary--managers are smart and they can read a script. You've explained, let them go at it. But, this is wrong. Have you ever sat in a termination where your manager has stumbled so badly on the message that the poor employee thought he was being transferred to a new job? I have. It makes the termination even more painful.

4. Throw in some variation. How do you respond if the employee starts to cry? What if they start to scream? What if they run out of the office, hysterical? What if they threaten to sue? What if the employee argues that the company won't be able to survive without him and that you're a fool and furthermore, he'll go to Sr. VP and get his job reinstated?

Conducting terminations is scary. Don't make it worse by throwing the manager out there to "pick it up" by doing it a few times. Offer training and support.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Last Minute Carnival Submissions

Please get your Carnival of HR Submissions into info [AT] hromanager .com by October 30th. (That's tomorrow!)

The carnival will be posted Wednesday at HRO Manager.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Please Stop Annoying Me

Like most of your legions of fans, I was hoping for some advice. Review season is upon us at my anonymous law firm. I work for a section head and an associate. I have been with them for over a year and have implemented the following systems for them: customized daily news reports, notes from hearings they cannot cover, briefing memos on hot topics. I've learned the regulatory systems that apply to our area of practice, even though I am not directly responsible for the processes they involve for our office. No other assistant in my section is taking on these kinds of responsibilities for their people. Of course there is also the traditional assistant jazz- calendars, maintaining contact lists, expense reports, copies, saving them from their blackberries, etc. I love my job, the 2 attorneys I work with, and life is generally awesome, with my section head telling the higher ups in the firm that it is important I get a significant increase in pay.

Enter the new hr manager for our office. Apparently she has identified me as a "problem" employee because I've billed a significant amount of overtime to hone these skills over the past year (at the direction of the section head and previous hr manager). she's only been present for the last 3 months or so, but she and her deputy have essentially intimated that I need to stop billing overtime. When I came to the firm, I was told that there were serious penalties for failing to do so as a non-exempt employee. I absolutely do not abuse this system. I document everything I do and have no problem standing behind my overtime. I think she may be trying to avoid talking to the section head because she's heard he will tell her to go fly a kite. Now she's coming by my desk at random times to check up on me, looking at my computer screen and noting the time if I am in the office late. It's creating a pretty hostile environment and it's causing me to be distracted from what's important- aka my job and our clients. If I didn't know better, I'd think that's exactly what she is trying to do. Help! How do I build a bridge here? And do I have cause for complaint?

I'd really appreciate any consideration you can give on this one. It's making me miserable.

Thank you, evil HR lady. You rule.
Faithful Worker Bee

Ahh, an annoying HR manager. Who knew they even existed? First of all, here is what she should have done.

HR Manager (to your boss): We've noticed that Faithful Worker Bee (Were your parents hippies? Just asking.)has been billing a lot of overtime. Is this authorized by you?
Your boss: Yes
HR Manager: Okay. Just keep in mind that you need to keep to your budget.

The end.

But, that's not what has happened. First of all, you make sure you bill for every second you work. It is ILLEGAL to work off the clock if you are non-exempt, which you are. Do you understand that? Illegal. Your HR manager knows this.

She's convinced you're not working all the hours you're billing. You know you are. Your boss knows you are. The HR manager isn't in a position of authority over your boss or she would be taking this up with him, instead of annoying you.

The next time the HR Manager or her deputy peers over your shoulder. Stop what you are doing, turn around and ask brightly, "Can I help you?" She will sputter, "uh, no. Just wanted to see how you are doing."

Then you can say, "I've noticed that you are concerned about the number of hours I put in. As you know, my boss, the section head, approves all my time cards. He and the associate I work for, set my responsibilities. If you are concerned about my work life balance, please know that I'm very happy with how things are right now. Otherwise, could you take this up with my boss? I'm afraid I don't have the authority to change my workload. So, you're taking your overtime concerns up with the wrong person." Then turn around and go back to work.

Now, by making her very aware that you know what is going on, and making her aware that your boss is behind you, she can't pretend she's just casually checking up on all the employees.

When she appears again, turn around and say, "Can I help you?" Whatever her response is, just say, "If you are still concerned about my work-life balance, please talk to my supervisor. I am very happy with how things are."

Please let your supervisor know that she is hovering and it's affecting your effectiveness. She has some sort of agenda--not sure what it is--but she has one. It's not your job to deal with her agenda. You just need to move her annoying behavior from you to your boss.

A couple things could happen. One, your boss could decide that her hassle is not worth it and you could get your overtime taken away. (That is, you wouldn't be authorized to work any overtime. You MUST BILL FOR ALL TIME WORKED.) Or, he could make it quite clear that he will manage his own employees and his own budget, thank you very much, and she will slink away.

Just remain pleasant and cheerful with her. You could even throw in a few, "I appreciate you are concerned about mes" because if you keep it as a "work-life balance" thing, that's good HR speak and HR people like good work-life balances. (OR we say we do. Boy, do I have some stories!) If you start getting into the cost of overtime that becomes a different discussion and much harder to win.

Good luck.


(hat tip Highly Trained Monkey)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Degree Required

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I love your blog.

I work for a small entertainment company (25 people). I was hired as a production manager, and was expecting to be mentored by the producer who hired me. Unfortunately, the company lost a bid and the expensive producer was the first to go. I was suddenly thrust into a role far above my qualifications. I’ve managed to get the knowledge I need (your blog has helped immensely for HR matters), and the company gave me a 31% raise a few months ago after winning a different bid. Here’s my situation:

Due to the circumstances of my childhood, I left home early and didn’t know how to get into, nor could I afford, a regular college education. I went to art school until it became too expensive, dropped out, and took job as a letter carrier. Eleven years later, after buying and selling a few houses and getting myself together, I quit work and went back to vocational art school. I only hold an associate degree from a small, regionally accredited private school. I moved to the big city and have managed to climb the ladder in production management very fast. I’ve held jobs in a few major studios and have some nice volunteer work on my resume. I also have a pilot’s license. Now I’m 42. I’m worried about retirement and am wondering how long I can run the rat race in a youth filled industry. This job will probably end when the movie contract ends, and there are no retirement benefits here. I want to transfer my PM skills over to a stable industry, perhaps in internal publications or training videos at a finance corp. However, with just an AA degree, how am I going to get past the first glance? Is there a way to skirt the issue? Does self-education and experience count for anything? I admit that even I give preference to employees with college degrees when I’m recruiting…If the answer is “go get a degree”, well, I'm struggling with the idea of having enough energy to start from scratch while working 12 hour days, plus it will take years and years going part time. Any other suggestions for older people like me?

I'm going to be brutally honest with you. Does it matter that you don't have your degree? Yes. It does. There are some companies that will not so much as read the rest of your resume if you do not have a 4 year degree. Do I think those companies are wise? Well, no...and yes.

The HR department I work in will not consider you for a professional job unless you have a degree. Just flat out will not. Doesn't matter how many years of experience you have or what your knowledge base is. No degree, no dice. Now, your degree can be in vocal performance or underwater basket weaving (both only incidentally related to Human Resources as a whole) and we'll look at you, if you have the requisite experience.

There are some good reasons for this. A degree is a "proxy" for patience, endurance, knowing how to follow stupid policies and procedures that have no functional purpose. (Hey, it's all becoming clear now! This is why HR requires a degree.) It also says, "This person has accomplished something." And what that is is very defined.

Now, on the average resume it will say, "5 years project management experience." I don't know what that really means. But Bachelor of Science, Mathematics. I know what that means.

Now, does this mean we miss out on some quality people? You bet. Would I change the policy if I were Queen of HR? You bet. 20 years of experience in the working world does not equal 4 years at a University, that mom and dad funded where you spent most of your time doing things your mom and dad still don't know about.

So, you have experience and no degree. Are you sunk? No. You have one big advantage--you have experience on the creative side. Creative work is generally recognized as not requiring the strict structures that, say, accounting does. People tend to be a bit more lenient on the degree requirement on that side.

You are either creative, or you are not, and no number of "How to write a screen play" classes is going to change that. (Not that such a class isn't valuable. It is. It will teach you how to write a screenplay. Really. I, myself, took playwrighting (and yes, that is correct, you "forge" a play, you don't "write" one, although both spellings are correct) and learned how to write a play. Which I did. Would you like to read it?) There are tricks and requirements that you need to know.

However, you can learn that sort of thing on the job as well, which you have done.

My advice for the resume. Experience, first, education last. (Actually that's my advice for everyone not straight out of school.) Don't bring it up randomly in conversation, ("oh, I hope you'll consider me, since I don't have a degree...) and don't worry about it.

You will probably be automatically disqualified from some jobs, but not for all. Not everyone has the strict requirements that my department has. Don't be ashamed of what you've accomplished (I've produced a movie, managed a production team, written winning proposals but it's all worthless because I never took Biology 100). Be confident, be honest and if asked, say, "I have an associates degree and a pilot's license." And then talk about your pilot's license. My husband has one and boy, do people think that is cool.

Good luck with the job search. Nothing more fun than a good job hunt!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Family Friendly

Deb at 8 Hours & a Lunch and Kris, the HR Capitalist have been discussing Family Friendly workplaces. They both bring up great points about being employee friendly, rather than just "employee-with-small-children" friendly. I find myself agreeing with them. But, then I read Confessions of a Community College Dean:
My college is losing yet another wonderful woman employee this week. After trying valiantly to do the two-job-family thing for a while after her son was born, she finally threw in the towel and will stay home. It's a real loss for us. She's very good at what she does, and we'll have to bring in someone new who – even if good – brings a learning curve. In the meantime, her position will remain open a few months to save money. Some will do unpaid overwork to compensate, and some work will just slip through the cracks. This is how decisions get made.

The Wife and I did the two-job-family thing for several years, as my regular readers know. Even when she went to reduced hours, the day-to-day stress level was beyond belief. Life become little more than time management. And in some ways, we had it as good as it got: we could just afford a pretty good daycare center (with webcams), we worked (mostly) regular hours, and her parents were close by enough that they could be our emergency backup system when The Boy got sick and couldn't go in. Even with all that, it was just too hard.

Now, regular readers know, I'm a big believer that choices have consequences. They do. And no one else should be responsible for my choices.

But, what if you're Dean Dad and your desperately trying to hang on to a woman (or man, but in my experience it's always almost the woman) who is trying to balance work and family. He notes that in his own family the "stress level was beyond belief." Kids, daycare, two full time jobs.

I couldn't do it. Well, re-wind. I wouldn't choose to do it.

My company wanted to keep me. So, I was able to negotiate a part time position for two years and now I'm in a job share. (Job shares and part time are very different. Someday I'll write about that.) My husband's company offers on site daycare, which means that the Offspring goes to work with him on the days I'm in the office. She's across the parking lot, not across town.

Family friendly? You bet. Benefits that childless workers wouldn't need or want? You bet. (Although many childless friends have said, "I want to work part time" but when push comes to shove, they don't want the substantial drop in pay, prestige and promotional opportunity. And don't lie to yourself, the promotional opportunities rightly go away when you aren't devoting your entire life to the company.)

75 out of the 100 top companies for Working Mothers (as determined by Working Mother Magazine have a Bright Horizons day care center associated with the company.

I'm not advocating this, by the way. I'm just pointing out that choices have consequences. People make choices. Businesses make choices. What set of choices do you want to make?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Forced Labor

This has nothing to do with HR (well, maybe the aspect of getting some lazy jerk to actually do work), but it amused me, so I'm sharing.
The couple was stunned when they walked in the door to find the place ransacked, with many of their possessions scattered all over the place. And as Adrian went through the residence examining the damage in each room he was even more surprised to see the intruder brazenly stroll through the back door and run straight into him - wearing one of his own hats.

The startled burglar tried to run, but McKinnon pulled out a gun and aimed it at him. But he didn't call the police right away. Instead, this victim was devising a plan to make the robber pay for his crime on the spot. So he ordered the stranger to clean up the house. "We made this man clean up all the mess he made, piles of stuff, he had thrown out of my drawers and cabinets onto the floor," Tiffany recalls.

When cops were finally summoned, the suspect complained bitterly about the work he'd had to do, but they were less than impressed with his gripes. Neither were the McKinnons. "This man had the nerve to raise sand about us making him clean up the mess he made in my house," Tiffany emotes. "The police officer laughed at him when he complained and said anybody else would have shot him dead."

Friday, October 19, 2007

An Admirable Goal: The Wrong Method

Consider this: In the San Francisco area, a nurse with a bachelor’s degree can hope to start out with a salary of $104,000. The salary for a nursing professor with a Ph.D. at University of California San Francisco starts at about $60,000.

This goes a long way toward explaining why nursing schools turned away 42,000 qualified applications in 2006-2007—even as U.S. hospitals scramble to find nurses.

We need more nurses. Let's raise the salary. Hey, we still don't have enough nurses! We're paying a great salary, why don't we have enough nurses?

This is the discussion going on in recruiting meetings at hospitals in San Francisco. (I have no knowledge of salaries in other places, as I am not a nurse and I do not work in this particular field.)

The solution, it appears, is to raise, not the salaries of the nurses, but the salaries of the instructors. And hire more of them. And train more nurses--42,000 people wanted to be nurses and were turned away. And we still don't have enough nurses.

This is a problem that faces many areas. We need more people to do X, but there is a limited supply of people available to do X. So, we pay more money, but without people to teach others, there is still a limited supply. Business's (or hospital's) hands are tied. Right?

I'm not quite sure how this can apply to nurses--haven't thought it completely through--but here's an interesting solution: The Saint John Fisher Wegmans School of Pharmacy
In January 2005, the College announced that Robert B. Wegman, Chairman of Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., donated $5 million to be used for the creation of the Wegmans School of Pharmacy. The School, which opened in the Fall of 2006 with an inaugural class of 55 students, is the first of its kind in Monroe County and the fifth in the State of New York.

For two years, Fisher explored the viability of establishing a School of Pharmacy to help alleviate the projected shortfall of qualified pharmacists for the communities and hospitals in Central and Western New York.

Oh, how nice, you say. Mr. Wegman was being noble and good in getting more pharmacists into the community. Right? Noble. Good. Not at all self interested. Right? Well, wrong.

Note he is chairman of Wegmans Food Markets, inc. (Or rather, he was. He died a while ago. His son, Danny, is now the head of the business.) What does this grocery store chain happen to have inside it? Drum roll please...Pharmacies! And where are the bulk of it's stores located? Central and Western New York!

Rather than fret about the lack of pharmacists, this company did something about it. Now, granted, it would have been cheaper to just continue to pay pharmacists more and more money and try to steal them from competitors. But, companies like to do charitable things, so Mr. Wegman directed his money in a way that helped the community and his business.

Talk about thinking outside of the box.

Plus, I'm sure he got a nice tax deduction.

(hat tip: Kevin, MD)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Carnival of HR #18

Is up over at the HR Capitalist.

It's a baseball theme, so grab your bat and head on over.

The next Carnival of HR will be held on Halloween and hosted by HRO Manager, so get your goblins in a row and send over a post.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Time to Find Another Job

Dear Evil HR Lady,
I have been let go from a small community bank were I worked as a personal banker and I am not sure if I was fired or laid off. I loved my job and co-workers I never made "critical" clerical errors, never called in and I had customers waiting in line just to be assisted by me. There was no trail of write ups or warnings from management not one. I documented myself for something that occurred two and a half years ago. Anyway, what I am trying to say is I have been assured by the President himself and the SVP glowing referrals. They just said that I should seek another profession. Should I put their names on applications or not. I am not planning on trying to get them for wrongful termination but what happened to employee rights. I think that I am a great Banker.

Did you apply for unemployment insurance? I hope so. If it was granted, you can consider yourself laid off. If the company fought against your claim, you can consider that they fired you for cause. However, their willingness to give you a "glowing" recommendation indicates you were not fired for cause.

You think you are a great Banker. They said you should seek another profession. They may be dead wrong. However, it is very rare that a manager will actually sit down with an employee and say, "you are in the wrong job." I wish managers would do it more often.

Since it takes me a few weeks to respond to questions, there has been some considerable cooling down time. Call up the SVP who promised a glowing referral and say, "You said I should find another profession. Now that I've had time to think about it, I'd like to take your advice. Can you please help me understand what you observied as strengths and weaknesses? I thought I was doing a great job as a banker, but we're often blind to our own weaknesses. I'd like to be able to find a career that best matches my skills, and I thought you could give me some insight."

If he's willing to have this conversation with you, you will hopefully learn things about yourself. You may not. And be prepared to be ripped to shreds. But he may say, "you were really liked by all the customers, but your volume was considerably lower than your co-workers. You really are a people person, rather than a numbers guy."

As for a wrongful termination suit, that would only apply if you'd been fired for a reason protected by law. Being fired from banking when you are a good banker doesn't meet those criteria

Good luck in your job search. You may land in a new bank, and you may find out that you really would be better off doing something else.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I'm Sorry, I Didn't Catch That?

Isn’t there a law or best practice on how to approach employees who prefer to speak their foreign tongue in the workplace in front of other employees who do not understand what they are saying? Grant it, the majority of our investors are foreign, however, the company is based in the US and majority of the employees are Americans. It’s frustrating to be around people who may be talking about you in their native tongue. Furthermore, they prefer that you learn to speak their language by offering classes during the work week. Please advise. Thanks.

A law is very different from a best practice. I am not a lawyer and I don't like to give legal advice, so let's just stick to the best practice aspect of things. (Although here and here are things to consider on the legal side.)

So, a best practice. Why do you want an English only policy? I think this sentence sums it up: It’s frustrating to be around people who may be talking about you in their native tongue.

First: No one is talking about you because you just aren't that interesting. (Unless, of course, you are wearing one blue shoe and one brown shoe, which I did once. Remember not to buy the same style of shoes in different colors and then get dressed in the dark so as to not disturb your sleeping spouse. Your office is an hour away and you can't go home and change, so you will be forced to wear mismatched shoes all day.)

Second: English is the easiest language for you to communicate in because it's your native language. Therefore, [whatever language] is the easiest for your co-workers to communicate in because it is their native language.

Third: You really need a solid business or safety reason for the language rule and there doesn't appear (from the minimal information given) that there is one.

Fourth: This sentence: Furthermore, they prefer that you learn to speak their language by offering classes during the work week. This is the answer to your problem. Take the darn classes. It will help your career. And people couldn't be talking about you behind your back (they aren't anyway) if you took the classes.

The majority of your investors are foreign. They have made it clear that they want you to speak their language by offering you classes (free, I suppose) and not requiring all business to be conducted in English. This is what we say is a "big clue." Do you want to advance in this company? Take the classes. Do you want to be rated highly? Take the classes.

Each business has things that they value. I used to work for a grocery store chain. I was in corporate HR. I wanted to be promoted. The only way for me to get promoted was to get out of my comfortable cube and work in store management. I think grocery store management would be fascinating, but it's not a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday job. It's every Saturday and every Sunday. It's late nights and early mornings. I had to make a choice. Do I want to do what I need to do to move up in this company or do I leave? I chose to leave.

I would still highly recommend them as an employer to anybody else (great company), but their determination of what worked for their business didn't work for my schedule.

You want an English only workplace with nobody pushing you to learn another language. Go find it. (Just a word of caution, if you mention in an interview that you are looking for an English only workplace, I won't hire you and I would advise others not to as well. Why? Because that just screams to me a huge potential discrimination law suit when you won't hire someone whose native language isn't English.) Most professional jobs around these parts are English. Something involving safety will be English only. Go be an air traffic controller.

But, stop worrying about your co-workers. They are doing their jobs. You do yours. Take the language class. Learn what they are saying and jump into the conversation. If you feel like you are missing out on business information (for instance, side conversations during a meeting), just say cheerily, "I'm sorry, I didn't catch that?" or "Could you share that idea in English so I could understand as well?" But, keep in mind the response may be, "sorry, it wasn't about the issue at hand."

Hours Worked

I work for an organization that runs two professional minor sports teams and so I have a question about exempt vs non-exempt. I have searched for information, but sports entertainment doesn't pop up in the discussions. Most of our staff is labeled exempt by the organization including our inside sales "account executives."

We normally work 40 hour weeks, but during the season it can stretch into longer hours. During the season, the majority of the staff work 9 to 5 during the week day and then weekends or evenings if there are games.

While overtime is not paid for the extra hours, staff is allowed to take an equal amount of time off within a week of the extra hours worked.

Please advise.

From the information you've given me, I have no way to judge whether you should be an exempt or non-exempt employee.

But, if you are given compensatory time within the same week then you are not going over 40 hours a week. The (general) rule for overtime eligible jobs is that overtime must be paid for more than 40 hours in a set work week. For exempt jobs, they can work you until you drop--or quit.

It sounds as if they have labeled you exempt, but are treating you like non-exempt employees in terms of monitoring hours. They appear to be covering all their bases. (Ha!--Little sports joke there!)

This has given you precisely no new information. I hope your teams win this year.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Oh Be Wise, What Can I Say More?

My question is two fold...

Can someone get fired for dating a coworker?

If an employer has GPS technology on company vehicles and the company policy is that company vehicles are for business use only, to what extent can the employer go if someone used the vehicle for "personal use?" Can they ask the employee where he/she was and/or what he/she was doing? Or, can the employer only state the policy and repremand said employee for breaking it. Do they have a right to know what the employee was doing when they were in the vehicle outside of business hours? Is the employee obligated to tell them if they are allowed to ask? It seems to me that even though they are in a company vehicle there is still the issue of privacy considering it was outside of business hours.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Answer to question 1: Yes. You can be fired for dating a co-worker. You can be fired for picking your nose. You can be fired because your boss decided that he doesn't like what you eat for lunch. You can be fired for cause or no cause at any time. (Provided you are an at-will employee, which I assume you are.) The only reasons you cannot be fired are those protected by law--race, gender, pregnancy, taking approved FMLA, retaliation for whistle blowing, etc. (This is not an exhaustive list, by the way. Your state may vary.)

Now, would I want to have a policy in place that forbids dating co-workers? No. But I'm guessing this isn't a generalized "I'm a new HR manager and I'm trying to determine a policy question." I'm guessing someone is dating a co-worker.

I, personally, would have a policy against managers dating subordinates, but leave people on equal footing or in non-related departments alone. That's just me. I don't know what your company policy is.

The reason I wouldn't have a strict no-dating policy is that it's impossible to enforce, so when you do enforce it you end up doing so selectively--albeit inadvertently selectively. Then if you happen to enforce it with someone who is a different race, gender or age than someone else who got away with it, you're in trouble.

Question 2: Privacy. You do not work for the government, therefore the Bill of Rights does not apply to your bosses. (And for the record, I know that privacy isn't mentioned in the Constitution. I would argue that no such Constitutional right exists outside the rights to no unreasonable search or seizure and your right not to house soldiers. Several Supreme Court Justices disagree with me and argue that it is part of the "penumbra" of rights. This, however, is not a Constitutional law blog--and for good reason, as I'm not a Constitutional Lawyer. I could be, though, if I just went to law school.) Privacy has it's limits and I'm not a privacy expert. Employers can ask what you were doing in their property, and they have every right to restrict activity in their property.

If one is foolish enough to drive a GPS enabled vehicle that is expressly reserved for business use to a non-business function, one gets what one deserves. Now, the Evil HR Lady is not so hard hearted that if you used it to whisk your dying mother to the emergency room that I would fire you. If, on the other hand, you used it to take yourself and your workplace honey to a bar, that's another story.

If your company has a specific policy against dating co-workers don't date your co-worker. (And another reason this is a bad policy, how do you define dating? Is going to a movie with a co-worker always a date? Does dating require some sort of physical relationship? These are questions I don't want to make a policy on--Bob, we saw you and Jill holding hands. That's okay under the rules, but if you so much as give her a peck on the check, you are both fired!)

If your company has a specific policy against using company vehicles for personal use, don't do it. Ride the bus. Buy a scooter. Stay home. Don't whine about intrusions into your personal life when you've broken the rules.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What Do You Do All Day?

One of the jobs of HR is to understand the business. This means we need to understand what people do all day. Here some videos to help you understand.




Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Turnover (Not Apple or Cherry, Unfortunately)

Dear Evil HR lady,

I've been reading your blog for a few months, and feel like you give honest, straightforward answers, so hopefully you can help me understand my HR department's strategy.

I have learned that our HR department has been looking at company turnover. I realize that turnover is a hot topic in the business world, but from what I've been told it's a bad thing. The cost to recruit and train new employees is expensive, and we need to try to keep the employees we have. But recently our HR department is looking at departments with a low turnover rate and plan to increase turnover by decreasing annual raises within these departments.

Is this practical? Here’s were I’m confused. If you have a long term employee that has many years of experience and a wealth of knowledge that isn’t planning on quitting anytime soon, why would you want to get rid of them and hire someone that doesn’t know the job, train them, and risk having them leave after a year? I’m sure the motive is money, but bottom line I don’t see the big savings with this strategy.

Maybe I’m na├»ve, and you can shed some light on the subject from an HR prospective.

This is a subject close to my little HR heart. One cannot make a blanket statement that turnover is good or bad. Some turnover is good. Some turnover is bad.

Why would a company want a long term employee to leave? Well, let's pick an example. You have a long term employee in accounts receivable. She's been there 20 years. Never taken a class to update her skills. Complains about the new system that has been put into place. She knows a great deal, but refuses to share her information with others on the team, for fear that if they know how to do it, she won't be as valuable. Makes a ton more money than the current market rate for the job. If she leaves, that's good turnover.

For bad turnover, you have a long term employee in accounts receivable. She's been there 20 years. She takes frequent classes to upgrade her skills. She was the department lead on the new system implementation. She knows everything inside and out and actively teaches others. Makes a ton more money than the current market rate for the job, but because of all her additional skills and knowledge, management thinks it's totally worth it. If she leaves, that's bad turnover.

Now, granted, some companies get bees in their little bonnets and want to have the cheapest labor possible. That's when they start firing long time employees (or encouraging them to leave) and either bringing in new, cheap labor or outsourcing. Sometimes this is an effective business tool. If you look at the first lady above, she does nothing to justify her high salary. I've seen the second type get laid off as well, because someone from corporate doesn't understand her true value.

Sometimes, managers just want new blood in a department. Old and stable companies sometimes need a shake-up. Without that, they can easily be destroyed from within. Someone who is frequently heard to say, "but we've always done it that way," is probably someone who needs a boot out the door.

But, sometimes managers just want new blood because they want new blood--not that the people in the department have stale ideas. You frequently see this at the top of an organization. If a new VP is hired, the AVPs start freshening up their resumes. Why? The new VP may love you and she may not. If not, you are out the door. Managers at lower levels often don't have the flexibility to remove staff they dislike.

Recruiting and training is expensive. More expensive is having the wrong players on board. I fully admit, some managers absolutely refuse to see the talent of the people they have. They just want new. Some managers are lousy hirers as well. That's life.

Some companies have made bad compensation policies and can only correct them by eliminating current staff. Circut City, for example.

Some companies were protective of their staff and ended up suffering for it later. Kodak for instance. Here's a quote about their pay and benefits:
Since the company's founding, Kodak had maintained a policy of treating its employees fairly and with respect, earning the nickname of the 'Great Yellow Father.' It was George Eastman's belief that an organization's prosperity was not necessarily due to its technological achievements, but more to its workers' goodwill and loyalty. As a result, company benefits were well above average, morale had always remained high, and employees never felt the need to unionize.

Well, that's just swell, you say. Then read the next line in the article:
This protective culture came to an end in 1983, however, when the company was forced to reduce its workforce by five percent to cut costs.

If you go to Rochester, NY (Kodak's HQ) go see old Kodak Park to see what happens when you keep the wrong people on board. (Here is a preview.)

So, turnover. Good? Yes. Bad? Yes. Companies sometimes encourage it when they shouldn't and discourage it when they should be encouraging it. It's a tough game. A good HR department will help avoid those situations. Which is why HR needs to understand the business, not just have warm fuzzy feelings towards the employees.

Why I Have No Friends

I am the HR Specialist in an office of about 50. Most of us have been here for years.

In March a new company took over our office however, the only thing that changed was the boss. He is an expert in our line of work but has horrendous management skills.

A friend and colleague is having an extra hard time with him. Communication is non-existent. He will change policy on a whim and show up to her department meetings and contradict what she is saying. She does not know what's going on even in things that will directly affect her and her department yet another supervisor and another employee (not a supervisor or in my friends department) know every decision before he announces it. He schedules long meetings for no reason, and she resents taking time away from critical work for useless meetings.

Years of working with friends has forced me to set up friend time versus work time. I allow my friends to gripe to me "off the record" especially because it helps most of them work things out by having a neutral sounding board. I secretly use my HR mind tricks to help them see the other side.

This friend has made clear that her gripes are off the record however, her attitude is starting to affect my work. Also, I see this leading up to her quitting and I am torn between her wanting to be happy (if it means quitting) and knowing that she is the best at her job and it would hurt our company if she quits.

I think this may be more personal than HR but I need help figuring out what to do. Do I put her request aside and seriously talk with the boss about this? Do I talk to the corp. HR manager about morale in our overall office? I see the issues with his management style but everyone else seams to be adjusting and I have never heard of an HR policy on crappy managers.


See, this is why I have no friends at work. (Okay, to be honest, I do have friends at work--it's just that they are all fellow HR people.)

This is what I would do if I were you. The next time she complains you say, "Cheryl," given that her name is Cheryl, "We've been friends for a long time, but I am also the Human Resources person here and I represent the company. My job is to make sure that the people and the company are on the same page.

"From what you've told me, there seems to be a very serious disconnect between your boss and the company's health. In the past I've promised you that I would keep everything off the record, but it's reached the point that I can no longer do that. From now on, work related discussions are going to have to be on the record. I'm not doing my job if I allow this type of thing to go on, unchecked."

She may, actually, be relieved. She may be furious. It's hard to guess that sort of thing in advance. (Impossible, actually. Anyone who spends any amount of time in an employee relations capacity will tell you that you can be absolutely sure of the reaction that will come out of someone's mouth and then the person will have a very different reaction.)

The problem is in being nice. Nice is good. I like nice. But you have a duty to the company. So, if you have to choose between being nice and doing your job, you have to do your job.

Think of it this way--you actually labeled your e-mail to me "hostile work environment" and then noted that that wasn't actually the case. You knew that I would know that the phrase "hostile work environment" doesn't refer to angry bosses, but to an environment that violates Title VII protections (race, gender, etc). But, what if it was a "hostile work environment"? What if this boss was sexually harassing your friend? Legally you'd have "duty to act" or your company's liability would shoot through the roof. What would you do then?

Of course, you'd act. You'd be a fool not to.

This stinks. It really does. It's definitely what makes the perception of "evilness" in HR. But Human Resources people are there for the company. Refer your friend to your Employee Assistance Program if she needs someone to vent to. But remind her that all future work related conversations are "on the record."

Monday, October 08, 2007

Diversity--of Personality and Styles

In my experience, the biggest conflicts I've seen in departments are due to a diverse set of personalities, not differences in race, gender and age.

For example, Bob is a 8 to 5 type of a guy. You could set your watch by his comings and goings. He believes that the only work that counts is the work done between those hours. If you are not at your desk you are not working.

Steve takes calls in the car. (Hands free, of course, we wouldn't want Steve to be violating any laws.) He comes in when he comes in and goes home when he's ready. Steve generally works from home for 3-4 hours a night, after the kids are asleep.

Jenny requires absolute silence to work. She can't concentrate around other people and noise. She's started to come in earlier and earlier to get things done when it's quiet, but it's no use--once others show up and start yacking away, her cube becomes unbearable and her productivity drops.

Tom is a music man. He needs to be listening to something in order to work. He loves to have his radio on and keeps it as loud as he possibly can.

Jose is a political junky. He reads all the political blogs and listens to talk radio all day. If you stop by his cube you are likely to get a lecture of some sort.

Candice is also a political junky, but on the opposite side of the spectrum from Jose. If they should happen upon each other, well, the rest of the department runs and hides.

Do you see where the problems come in? Bob complains about Steve--how can he possibly be working if he's not in the office? Tom and Jenny are constantly at each other's throats. "Your radio is too loud!" vs "I can barely hear it!" And well, Jose and Candice drive the rest of the office nuts and constantly complain about each other.

Other personality conflicts come into play as well. Does the boss like independent workers or needy workers? Given my personality, I would say, "duh, doesn't every boss prefer independent workers?" But, I've seen bosses that don't think you are doing anything productive if you aren't constantly asking for help.

Sometimes people assign race or gender reasons to why they aren't getting along with a co-worker. (She just complains about my music because I'm X and he's Y.) Reality is, she'd still complain even if you were both X.

This is not to say that cases of racial or gender discrimination and prejudice do not exist. Of course they do. It's just to say that other problems exist as well.

So, what's a manager to do? Well, for one thing, get Jenny an office and Tom some ear phones. Or vice versa. Tell Jose and Candice to knock it off and leave politics for lunch and after work. Tell Bob to chill and Steve to get in earlier. Right?

But, then Jenny's office makes everyone else envious. "Why does she get an office? We're the same grade!"

And Jose and Candice both loudly proclaim that they are being oppressed because of their points of view. (Neither one recognizing that they have opposite points of view and are being given the exact same treatment.)

Bob and Steve? Both work best in their own environments. Why should Steve get in earlier? He's working until midnight almost every night. Bob's desire for strict schedules and guidelines also makes him an excellent quality assurance guy, which is what he is.

You still want to manage people?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I'm From HR and I'm Here to Help

Hi Evil HR Lady,

I just found your blog, and it's great. I'm writing because I am considering a career switch into HR. I'd love to focus on employee relations and helping to create work environments that are supportive, intellectually stimulating, and high achieving. The negative-nancy part of me is worried this isn't possible--can people in HR actually help employees? Or, in your experience, are you more likely to be put in the middle between employees and leadership to the point where you don't feel like you are helping the employees at all?

Thanks for your thoughts,

Ahhh, the negative-Nancy. A woman after my own heart.

Can HR really help? Or are we just a bunch of back room bimbos more concerned with issuing policy statements? (Just a reminder to our male employees. Golf shirts are NEVER appropriate attire, unless they have the company logo on them. We'd like to eliminate them as well, but the Chief Marketing Officer handed them out at his all hands meeting WITHOUT asking us (never do anything without asking us) and while we're really ticked off at him, we can't say anything because he actually could get our little rear ends fired. So, just remember, no golf shirts!)

Well, here's my answer based on my experience. With the proper HR leadership, an employee relations specialist can achieve miracles. You can resolve problems, set up flexible solutions, facilitate communication between arguing parties and make the world a better place. You can also terminate poor performers in a way which shows respect from them as people. You can make a huge difference.

With the wrong HR leadership you are rather worthless. Sorry.

HR in general has the opportunity to be a tremendous force for good in any business. However, they also have the opportunity to be a drag.

Your goal, as someone just breaking into HR, is to find an HR department that can do good. (As you get more senior, you can look for positions in challenging departments where you will change HR for the good).

Here is what I would look for:

1. An HR department that understands the business. What kind of training do HR people receive as it relates to the business? Do they ever rotate their employees through line management jobs?

2. An HR department that has respect for people as one of its mottoes. It doesn't have to be expressly done up in a poster, but what does this company do to show it respects employees?

3. An HR department that encourages flexibility among employees. This varies from industry to industry, but ask the question: "Joe's daughter really wants to take dance. For this to happen, Joe needs to leave every Wednesday at 4:00 in order to get her to dance. He is willing to come in early on Wednesday. He also regularly works 50 or so hours a week as an accountant and is a strong performer. Can Joe leave at 4:00 on Wednesdays?" If the answer to that is "NO!" then walk away. The end result can be no (depending on the situation), but if they refuse to look at an individual case, you don't want to be there. (And I would argue that HR shouldn't be involved in that decision anyway--they should have trained their managers to handle that stuff, but it will show up at HR's door.)

4. In contrast to the above, you do want an HR department that follows guidelines. Randomly enforcing rules is a killer for employee morale.

5. An HR department that is gutsy enough to fire poor performers. Nothing makes HR departments seem more useless to the average employee than their inability to get rid of problem workers.

6. An HR department with minimal bureaucracy. There is always paperwork in HR. (Some of it mandated by your friends, the federal government.) But how many forms need to be filled out and how many signatures gathered to authorize Joe (above) to leave at 4:00 on Wednesdays? How about to change Joe's title or cost center? If it's excessive, run like the wind.

There are definitely other things to look for if you want to be in an HR department that can make a difference. I'm sure (I hope!) that my colleagues will join in with their ideas.

We can help. We do help. We need the right people. So, if you're the right person, jump on in!

The Old Boss Switcharoo

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I started my current job in April. When I accepted the job, I had a hard time deciding between it and another offer from a similar company. The deciding factor was that I really liked the manager of the group I was interviewing with (let's call him Bob). He was a proponent of work-life balance, very easy-going and had a good reputation. I had had several conversations with him on the phone about some concerns I had about the type of work I'd be doing, and he alleviated my concerns. My offer letter stated that I would be reporting directly to Bob. However, on my first day, I was told I would be reporting to someone else under Bob, let's call him John. I had never been given any indication that I might be reporting to John. John was a new manager and had only two people below him. I was assured I was "on the same level" as the rest of the group, but would be managed by John. In my first week I spoke to Bob about how I was surprised about the change and he said that the offer letter went out with him mistakenly listed as my manager, and asked if there was a problem. I said no (what was I supposed to say?) but have since had a bad working relationship with John. He is a micro-manager, very political in the organization and not supportive of work-life balance. He's everything I didn't want in a manager, and I absolutely would not have taken the job had I known I was going to report to him.

At this point I'm actively seeking employment elsewhere. I have tried to accept with working for John - I have talked to him about my concerns and have also expressed to Bob that I'm not happy with the arrangement. It's pretty clear nothing is going to change. So my question is: When I quit, do you think I will have any right to not pay back the sign-on bonus I received, since the terms of my offer were not met? I received my offer letter almost 3 weeks before I started the job, so they had plenty of time to alert me of the mistake but never did.

Your direct question (do you have to pay back the sign on bonus) would be best handled by a lawyer who read your actual offer letter. You may have a case, but I would bet not. (Companies definitely have the right to change your supervisor--if not, they could end up in violations every time a manager quit or was transferred or promoted.) I do think you would have more of a case if you had stated, when you first found out, that you would not have taken the job had you known.

For the record, I think you are wise to realize that this situation is not going to work out. So many people stay in jobs that they hate, hoping that things will get better. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't. However, you have no legal or moral obligation to stick around.

I have a sneaking suspicion that John wouldn't be unhappy to see you go either. Managers dislike managing people who hate them as much as you hate being managed by them. You may be able to negotiate a deal where you go quietly without having to repay, or only repaying a portion.

And make sure payroll calculates your repayment. Sign on bonuses have taxes withheld at a supplementary rate, which means a good chunk is taken out. You only have to repay the amount you actually received. So, your sign on bonus was $10,000. Your net check was $6500. You repay the $6500. Payroll will adjust your W2 to take care of all the tax implications.

And let this be a lesson to you sign on bonus people--don't go spending until you are sure you are happy.

Just be glad it wasn't a relocation deal. Relocation for a home owner can run over $100,000 in my neck of the woods. In that case I'd tell you to suffer.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Carnival Newness

Look over to your right to see the latest Carnival listing! That way, it's always available and easy for me to maintain.

Happy Friday!

My Boss Hates Me

I work at a private country club. I have been a Director of Tennis for nearly 18 months with this company and have been threatened with termination 4 times in the last few months. The reasons have varied from I am never there, to my staff is not happy with me, to I am a poor leader in my department, to the membership does not like me.

I completely understand that this is a private club and as such the membership could dictate my position. However, I have an evaluation from the membership last year that rated me at a 3.97 on a 5.0 scale; the third or fourth highest rating in the club. Also, I have detailed work records showing that I average 50 hours a week every week at work, with multiple weeks in the 55 - 65 hour range.

I have records showing I have consistently had 6 days or less off each month for the last 6 months including sick days/vacation days. The staff issues could be a valid point however, my staff has been called into numerous, private meetings with our general manager and I have not been allowed to voice my opinion on those meetings. Instead I have been treated to a steady diet of meetings with my general manager about the poor morale and lousy working conditions my staff deals with. However, my staff has never filed a single complaint nor voluntarily asked for a private meeting to discuss work place behavior. My staff itself are all on 40 hour work weeks due to hourly and wage laws.

Finally, the leadership comment has disheartened me the most. I was brought on board at this company to handle a financial and personal crisis in the department. Since my hiring I have maintained our department budget for 15 of 18 months, coming in under budgeted loss for last year and most of this year, until my general manager took over purchasing and overspent this past 2 months.

And I am still being held accountable for such purchases even though I no longer had any power on the ordering. I have a track record and history of awards on my resume for outstanding leadership, attended college on a "Leadership Scholarship," and have several "Outstanding Employee of the Year" awards from previous employees. Leadership for my staff has included training on various computer programs we utilize, delegation of duties (some of which I had to re-assume due to procrastination on my staffs part), lesson planning, etc.

I apologize for the length of this email but I have grown increasingly frustrated by my lack of options at this time. We have no internal HR Department at our club and I feel that any complaints (that are backed by documentation) on my part will only result in my termination.

Please advise and thank you for your time.

In answering your question I am assuming that everything you wrote above is true. This is how I see it. Your boss does not like you. He may have irrational reasons for not liking you (your hair color, the type of car you drive, the type of bottled water you prefer). He may have completely rational reasons for not liking you (you constantly clear your throat, you are a better worker than he is and he's afraid you'll take his job).

But, reasons not withstanding he doesn't like you. What he is doing right now is making a very thorough effort to document performance "problems" so that he can fire you.

You live in an at-will-employment state (although I don't know the particulars of your state's laws) which means that, technically, he doesn't need any reason to terminate you. You can just be sent out the door with nothing more than your last pay check.

Here is what you need to do.

1. Decide if this is a job you really, really, really want. If not, start job hunting immediately.

2. If you've decided to fight for your job, arrange a meeting with your boss. Present the information you've given me here and say, very clearly, "I understand that you do not feel that I am doing a good job. The results of my work show that I am meeting and exceeding the expectations laid out when I was hired. Can you please explain what I need to do to be successful in your eyes?"

3. While your boss stammers an answer (your employees do not like you! you are over-budget on supplies! the club members like you better than me!) calmly take notes and repeat. "Are you saying that my employees do not like me? Can you show me what their specific complaints are? I really enjoy all the people I work with and am under the impression that we get along well." or "The only months we've been over budget are the months that you were responsible for ordering supplies."

4. Document, document, document. (That's what he is doing, by the way)

5. If Step 3 doesn't resolve the issue, (It may--sometimes when it becomes clear to someone that what they are systematically doing is very noticeable), you go over his head to the Club board president. (This may kill your career, though, as I don't know the culture. fair warning!) Ask her opinion on the situation. If you have the member's backing, your boss is simply an annoyance. If you don't, well polish up that resume.

6. When you are fired (if steps 3 and 5 don't work), apply for unemployment. Your boss will try to use the "Evidence" he has gathered to say that you were fired for cause and are not eligible for unemployment. You present your evidence that you were not fired for cause at all. Hope you win.

It's not a happy and sunshine answer because dealing with people means dealing with their irrationalities and their preferences. That's life. Sorry about that.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

ADA Question

Hello Evil HR Lady!

I have this niggling little question relating to an ADA issue. The background could run to, oh, 15+ paragraphs--it's all med related. Basically, last years, i had some medication related issues (I'm bipolar) that offended my cowrkers (OK, side effects made me smell). i got these under control, but then I had to tweak some stuff and it happened again and we (my doc and I) had to change assumptions about what happened. Both times involved time off for me. Apparently, I had agreed, with my supervisor and the ADA coordinator, to have my psychiatrist notify them in writing of any medication changes.

Well. I changed meds recently. i let slip to my supe that I did. the med I changed to was the one we originally thought was the problem--though now we are actually sure it wasn't. They, however, were never told. I never realized I agreed to any such thing. The reason I changed is because, well, the stress level in my office was...erm, driving me crazy. Er. Ahem.

So anyway, I've got an ADA coordinator breathing down my neck for a letter.

Cut to the chase: I don't want to give her jack. The most I intend to give her, and my doc is fully behind me (after the first 'issue", where we had a 90 minute after hour session--$200/hour...) is basically a letter saying "CNS has changed his meds". I don't think she can even ask that much legally, and I'm quite sure she can't demand any more.

Oh yeah--I had been hoping they'd forgotten and it'd just pass. but my supe brought it up yesterday. What he said about it was that she said the letter was "mandatory". Quite frankly, in normal times, that ticks me off--but I'm switching meds because I'm severly off-kilter and at this point, due to fears of "offending" my coworkers, we have dropped one med and the other is not yet effective. So I am effectively unmedicated and kind of a pissed off bastard.

But I do try to be polite.

thanks for your time

Now for the usual disclaimers. I am not a lawyer. I am not an official expert on ADA. I am not the Queen of England. (I know there was some confusion over that last point, what with me being anonymous after all. Do you think Queen Elizabeth blogs? That would be interesting.)

I've bolded a few things in your letter. According to my understanding, these things are illegal. Your illness has already been certified as an ADA (American's with Disability Act) eligible. I am going to assume that is the case. Here is information from the EEOC itself:
6. Should the corrective effects of medications be considered when deciding if an impairment is so severe that it substantially limits a major life activity?

No. The ADA legislative history unequivocally states that the extent to which an impairment limits performance of a major life activity is assessed without regard to mitigating measures, including medications. Thus, an individual who is taking medication for a mental impairment has an ADA disability if there is evidence that the mental impairment, when left untreated, substantially limits a major life activity. Relevant evidence for EEOC investigators includes, for example, a description of how an individual's condition changed when s/he went off medication23 or needed to have dosages adjusted, or a description of his/her condition
before starting medication.

In plain English, your medication status doesn't change whether or not you qualify under ADA. Therefore, if they have certified that your illness is eligible (which it appears that they have) they do not need to know what medications you are on.

Now, companies only have to make "reasonable" accommodations. This can vary from company to company and situation to situation. If your condition prevented you from performing the essential job function you can be terminated. If the accommodation you need is "unreasonable" you can be terminated (or not hired in the first place).

I don't know what, if any, accommodations you need to perform your job. The central issue seems to be the unfortunate stinky side effect of your medication. I don't know how bad the smell is, but it wouldn't be unreasonable in some jobs to place you in a separate area. It would be unreasonable in other jobs. (For instance, in a desk job, you could be given a cube/office away from others. On a manufacturing line where everyone has to stand two feet apart, that would not work.)

My advice. Print out the above paragraph and the next time your ADA coordinator wants a med list, hand it to her and say, "why would you knowing what medications I'm on be relevant to this situation?" Then just keep repeating yourself.

Second piece of advice, (I edited your question for space, so my readers are about to be confused), you are unhappy in the job because of the work itself. You feel underutilized. Start looking for a new job. Put your resume together and head out job hunting. It's easier to find a job when you have one, so start looking now.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Carnival of HR #17

Is now up over at The Work Clinic. Natalie's in the UK so it's up bright and early in the US.

The next Carnival will be on October 17th and hosted by our favorite HR Capitalist, Kris Dunn. Get your submissions in to him!

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 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.

The July 9th Carnival will be hosted by Natalie Cooper at Personnel Today.

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!

Maternity Leave

No, no, not mine (sorry for making you unnecessarily excited, Mom). Maternity leave in general. It's an interesting topic and one that people don't generally like to discuss--because it's a sensitive topic and if you say anything against it you are a woman hating jerk, or just down right evil.

Well, since I'm evil and a woman, I figure it's time to speak up. Well, that and The Naked Economist brought it up first. He writes (after a conversation with his wife):
1. Maternity benefits are expensive. And the more generous the firm in this regard, the more expensive the policy.

2. Even an expensive maternity policy makes perfect sense if it helps to retain valuable employees. But the more often a firm gets "burned" by an employee who accepts generous benefits (beyond what's required by law) and then quits, the less sense the policy makes.

3. The more generous the policy, the more it hurts to get burned.

4. If enough women accept generous maternity benefits but don't ultimately return to work, some rational firms will decide that expansive maternity benefits just don't make financial sense

The end result of this, economically speaking, is that firms will cut back on maternity leave. If every pregnant woman gets the same "benefits" and a large enough number take the benefits and run, firms may consider going back to only the benefits required by law.

Now, for full disclosure, when I was 12 weeks pregnant I told my boss that I was pregnant and that I was most likely not coming back. After the Offspring made her appearance, I took six weeks of disability leave and then resigned. My boss then offered me a part time telecommuting position which I accepted and I am still at that company.

The Naked Economist (Charles Wheelen) makes the following suggestion (again based on his wife's suggestion):
Suppose a firm wants to offer a maternity leave of 6 months at 100 percent salary, rather than the bare minimum of 6 weeks at 60 percent pay. Great. But why not fold those benefits into an employee's paycheck over the year in which he or she comes back to work -- or two years, or whatever? That's what my wife would like to see.

I really like that suggestion. Why not? Yes, there are some obvious problems, mainly that you need the money when you are not working, not when you are working. But it makes more sense than handing out generous benefits without any guarantee that the employee will return.

One of the problems I've always seen with generous maternity leaves is that it makes hiring females of child bearing age much more expensive than other employees. Let's face it, even though men can take FMLA leave for the birth of a new child, I have never known any to take more than a few days. My Brother-in-law's company offered paid paternity leave. He took it, but not consecutively, so he was never out more than two days in a row. You don't have to hire someone to fill in in that type of situation, where you would for a six month leave.

I don't know what the best solution is, but I think that Naked Economist guy has some very good insights. Of course, now I wonder what kind of Google I'm going to get. I have a feeling, some people are going to be disappointed.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Time Equals Money, but Extra Money Does Not Equal Extra Time

I received a copy of Curt Finch's new book, All Your Money Won't Another Minute Buy: Valuing Time as a Business Resource and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us.

1. I think HR understands the importance of other people tracking time--IT, Lawyers, non-exempt employees, but struggles with the idea of tracking our own time. I so often go from project to project and back, that I feel it would be difficult to track my time. Why should HR implement time tracking in our own department?

Staff justification is one reason that I've seen. When a company is under financial pressure--just like an airline customer of ours has often been--the big executives often look to HR as a place to cut people. After all, they often think, "HR is pure overhead, right?" Once you have data that indicates who is working on which projects, like "Pilot Union Negotiation" or "Health Benefit Cost Analysis Project," then those executives are forced to make a decision on which projects to cut, not which people. It tends to make HR jobs more secure.

2. My business has a lot of people who "think." Since we eventually make an awful lot of money off what these people think up, how would you recommend tracking time for this group?

Knowledge workers think. Most Americans are now or soon will be working in jobs that are all about thinking. That thinking is our new cost of production today, the inventory of our century. Surely some of their thinking is coordinated and directed towards some kind of goal, and completion of that goal is eventually desired. Time tracking can give insight into the ROI of those activities. If such knowledge workers are not tracking time, then some of them are inevitably working on something that will never make money for the company, and they should perhaps consider redirecting their efforts towards something that the market will reward them for. If you're associated with activities that clearly make money, it makes for a better resume, better compensation, and a better feeling of self-worth.

3. Part of your argument for Time Tracking is so that we don't have to "remember" what we did--there will be a record. While part of that is appealing to an HR person (Bob, we talked about your performance on June 2 from 2:15 to 2:22, I have it right here!), another part of me thinks that level of accuracy just isn't needed. I'm sure you'll disagree, so convince me.

If your time is less valuable, then it is probably less worthwhile to track it. For example, most companies consider people who work for minimum wage to be more fungible. If your time is expensive, however, then knowing where it goes is more critical. I once worked at a company, TKG, where we increased our revenues by millions and ran off a competitor with nothing more than excellent time data and an attitude problem. Your company can do that too and some of those millions will trickle down to the frontline workers (or you should quit anyway because there's a company culture problem.) Of course, some smart manager has to care and look at the data for any of this to be useful.

4. What's your best argument for getting exempt employees on board with the idea of time tracking?

If your company continues to flounder about without a deep understanding of the costs of production of knowledge work, you will get crushed by whichever one of your competitors figures it out first. Change is accelerating in our world. You have to get out in front of it and innovate to win. But if you don't understand the costs of that innovation, you will fail. It's not that some projects shouldn't be risky and expensive--they should--but you need to be managing all of these risks and costs consciously. Consciousness in this arena requires an understanding of project costs, which requires that you track your time.