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Friday, November 30, 2007

Dress Codes

My office has a serious dress code interpretation problem. Business casual is taken to mean 1 step above how you would dress to go to Wal-mart at midnight. The dress code was lax and poorly enforced long before I was hired.

My problem is when there is a seriously issue like a skirt so short it leaves nothing to the imagination or "dress sandals" that are really just new flip-flops, I get no support from management. The supervisors say they have better things to do than look at what their staff is wearing, and the big boss prefers the short skirts.

Most of the time when I ask one of them to raise the issue with their staff they say they hadn't noticed the clothes. Today my boss was talking to an employee whose skirt made me ill it was so short, and he said nothing to her. He is her supervisor and I asked him to speak with her and I can almost guarantee he told her something like, " when you wear short skirts don't walk by Sally's office." (Okay, that may not be true but it was the vibe I got when I brought it up, like I was ruining his fun)

Do I call corp. HR and ask for help? I feel incompetent that I can't even handle something like the dress code but this is the most consistent issue in our office.

Are you local HR? It sounds that way to me, so that's how I will approach the question. We've had some previous discussions on dress code here, so read that--especially the comments. My readers are all brilliant, except for a few who I don't like to single out because I'm not that evil.

My question for you: Who is telling you to enforce the dress code? It's obviously not your boss, given his penchant for employees with short skirts. (And ladies, please, once you pass 19, men might still think you look hot in that little mini skirt but all the women are thinking, "oh my word, does she have fat thighs or what?" Just a little encouragement to dress modestly.) Is it corporate HR? Since you asked if you should get corporate involved, I'm guessing no.

I'm also guessing your desire to enforce the dress code comes from within. Now, first and foremost, I agree with you. Inappropriate dress should not be allowed at the office. Nice dress sandals, yes. Flip flops, no. Mini skirts or midriff baring blouses, no thank you. (Again, ladies, you do have a muffin top, so stop it with the low rise pants and the short length shirts. You don't walk around all day holding in your stomach and you haven't been to the gym in months and quite frankly, it shows.)

So, how to accomplish your goal of a dress code violation free workplace?

1. You can't just walk into a place and expect people to respect you. You are new. Things have been working "just fine" for a long time, thank you very much. Now, this last statement could be completely false. Things could be a disaster, but your senior management doesn't think so or they would have already changed things.

2. You need to earn respect and authority. Your manager needs to trust you. The other managers need to trust you. Figure out what their perceived problems are and start there. They don't see dress code as a problem, so to them enforcing it is annoyance. They undoubtedly see something else as a problem. As I said, start there. Solve that problem and your influence will grow.

3. If short skirts are "favored" you may have bigger issues than actual dress codes. Why would a self-respecting woman dress like that? She's getting rewarded some way. The reward may not be something she's cognizant of, but it is there. She's obviously getting "attention" from the boss. Is she also being rewarded financially or with better assignments? He may not be noticing he's doing it. She may not notice it. But, if it's happening, the appropriately dressed people are noticing it.

4. Number 3 opens you up to some huge potential problems. Sexual harassment, age discrimination, not valuing performance but appearance. Keep your eyes and ears open for this type of thing. Create an open door policy for employees to drop by your office. Review performance appraisals with a magnifying glass. Correct these problems, rather than the dress code itself.

5. Make sure you always dress appropriately. Don't get lazy and put your flip flops on.

6. Don't ask male managers to speak to female employees about their revealing clothing. You do it. For one reason, your male managers appear to like it. For another reason, it increases your risk of sexual harassment claims.

7. Send out general reminders about dress code. Wait until you've been there a while and established a positive reputation before discussing this with individuals.

8. For the "Wal-mart at midnight" looking folks (I've been to Wal-mart at 6:30 p.m., I shudder to think of what people wear at midnight), make sure you deal with the men and women equally. Women tend to be much more critical of women in such areas. Don't you be guilty of gender discrimination.

There are other things, but these are a few ideas to get you going. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Carnival of HR #21

Is now up over at Race in the Workplace.

Go over and read about orthopedic shoes, quiet employees and Munchausen Syndrom at work.

The next carnival will be over at The Cranky Middle Manager, so start getting crabby and get your submissions into Wayne.

Letter of Apology


I am in the process of trying to get rehired by a company. To be honest I was terminated about 1 1/2 years ago basically due to job abandonment. It's no excuse, but to explain my circumstances I was getting divorced-becoming a single mother (not by choice) & to sum it up had a meltdown and stopped showing up for work. They tried to contact me & I never responded. The rest is history.

Aside from this I was well liked & did an excellent job. I was recognized by the General Manager of the company as an exemplary employee. Everyday I regret leaving and the way I handled it. This is a top notch organization which I was proud to work at.

Recently a position became available for which I am very well qualified. I left a message for Human Resources that I am interested in the position, expressed my apologies & regrets etc. I asked if that if they would consider me for rehire to please contact me. Well, 4 hours later they contacted me & advised me to send a resume along with a letter of apology to get the process going. I am very encouraged by this, however I have never written a letter of apology for rehire and have no clue. I have searched the internet for a template of such a letter and have had no success.

Thank you in advanced for your help. I am so hopeful to regain a position within this company and would really appreciate any guidance you can provide.

I don't know of any such template. However, it seems like you have a pretty good chance, given how fast they responded. Since you mentioned your past mistake in your voicemail and they still called you back--so quickly--means that they are willing to over look the past. (Or they are incredibly desperate for candidates.)

They would have pulled your personnel file, and (hopefully) called your previous manager. He would have had to have given a positive review or you wouldn't be considered.

So, what to write? I don't know. "I'm terribly sorry for leaving without notice. My personal life was in turmoil. My life is now stable and I look forward to working for blah, blah blah"

That's probably terrible. I'm hoping that my brilliant readers will weigh in. Please?

A Smelly Problem

Dear Evil HR Lady:

In the office that I currently work in all the CSR sit out in the open. No this isn't the problem, the problem is that one of the lady's in the office seems to have, what I would call a hygiene issue, however you may bag to differ. She passes gas - ALL DAY LONG. Some days are way worse than other. I realize that this is a touchy subject in how you approach this lady however it does interfere with my job.

At least once a week, I have to leave my work area because the smell is so bad that it makes me gag and almost throw-up. Several of us have approached our HR/office manager however nothing seems to get accomplished. We are constantly told that it does not "directly" affect us (even though we can't stay in our area because of the smell) or that she can not do anything because of the nature of the issue. Do you have any suggestions for us or our HR department in how to handle this?

What solution do you propose? Should this woman be placed away from everyone else? Should she be fired? Should she be subject to public humiliation? Should you and your co-workers be provided gas masks? What about incense?

I ask because there isn't an easy solution here. You don't know what conversations have gone on between your unfortunate co-worker and HR or her manager. Nor should you.

It's true that your HR and management are full-fledged wimps. (Wimps, I tell you, wimps!) If that's the case, nothing has been mentioned. However, it's more likely that a conversation like this ensued:

HR: Smelly Woman, I don't know quite how to say this, but your flatulence is a bit, umm, excessive.

Smelly Woman: (Bursts into tears) I know, I'm so sorry. I have [name of complicated, serious medical condition] and this is one of the side effects. I've tried everything I can think of and nothing works. I'm so humiliated by it.

HR: Oh, I'm so sorry. Is there anything we can do to make your situation easier?

Smelly Woman: No, I'm so sorry. I'm working with my doctor on this. Hopefully it will get better.

Now, if that conversation has occurred, what would you want to have happen next? HR say, "Well, we're probably going to get sued up the wazoo for this, but we're going to have to fire you"? Would you do that?

I wouldn't.

If the area is conducive to a separate area, I might move the woman there. If not, well, I'd leave it alone as well.

You said that once a week it's bad enough to drive you out of your area. Unpleasant though that may be, it's not the end of the world.

Now, if the woman has no medical condition and she's doing it on purpose to torment her co-workers, then yes, she should be fired. (Can you even do that on purpose? I guess I should ask an 11 year old boy. He would know.) But, the firing wouldn't be due to the "medical" aspect, but rather due to the bad attitude.

Your problem is you don't know which one it is and you have no real means of finding out. Does this woman have any friends at work? My bet is that her "condition" prevents such a thing. We often are able to tolerate a lot more from people we like than from people we don't know. Get to know her and you may find a great person under there, that will make the smells much more tolerable.

And invest in a bottle of Febreeze. Spray your cubical when necessary. It helps neutralize odors.

If you really can't stand it, go find a new job. Customer service jobs are available everywhere.

Will You Please Sign Off on This?

#1 Dinosaur is a primary care doctor who encountered a sneaky plastic surgeon. It appears that said plastic surgeon sent a patient to #1 Dinosaur with a form to fill out. Fine. Except that at the bottom of the form it said this:
Surgery and alternative treatments were discussed with the patient. Complications of surgery and expected outcomes were also discussed.

Umm, no, says our friendly primary care doc. He's not the surgeon and pre-surgery consults are not his job and should not be his liability. He wisely did the following:
By the way, before I signed the form I crossed out the offending line, initialed it, and wrote in: Informed consent to be obtained by the primary surgeon.


Once upon a time I had the responsibility to maintain the organizational structure of the company with in our HRIS. This meant any documentation to conduct a reorganization landed on my desk. All these documents had to be signed off by the HR person responsible for that branch of the business.

More often than not, I would get documents that made no sense. The phone call to the HR business partner went like this:

Evil HR Lady: Hi HR Business Partner, this is Evil HR Lady. I'm looking at the reorg for marketing.

HR Business Partner: Why isn't it in the system yet?

EHRL: Ummm, I just got it 30 seconds ago and I have a few questions.

HRBP: Like what? Is it going to be in the system today?

EHRL: Well, for instance, what happens to John Doe? In the old organization he reported directly to Jane Smith, but he and his 30 reports aren't on the new org chart. The documentation doesn't mention who he now reports to and there is no mention of them being terminated.

HRBP: (long pause) I don't know.

EHRL: {pushes mute and then screams, "why do you sign on off on these things without looking at them!!! Then takes the phone off mute.) Well, I need you to find out. And while you are at it, it mentions that Jennifer Jones is being promoted.

HRBP: Yes, yes, yes.

EHRL: Her new salary is 22% above her old salary. That is outside of guidelines. Did you want that to go into effect?

HRBP: What? 22%! No. I hope they haven't told her. I'll call you back later.

Variations on this theme were repeated frequently.

Now, the HRBPs knew that there was someone like me to save their little rear ends, but they should have acted as if I wasn't going to pay attention. They should have read carefully and asked questions before approving anything.

I know why they didn't. HR is busy. Overwhelmed. Details like this sometimes get pushed to the side. Fine, then, don't sign off on it. Give it to your lackey to read through before signing off. Make sure you know what you are signing off on.

Our consequences are rarely as dramatic as the ones #1 Dinosaur could end up facing, but there are consequences. Read before you sign. Make sure you truly approve before you "approve" something.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Carnival Reminder

Get your posts into Carmen at Race in the Workplace pronto if you want to be included in this week's Carnival!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Time to Ask for a Raise?

Hello Ms. Evil!
I learned that we are interviewing someone for an engineering position who is asking for a salary of $110K. I don't know that my manager or our boss are willing to pay this. I just know that the email from HR to my manager, that he forwarded to me, stated that the interviewee wants that much. That is $30K more than I make. Now, I'm peeved because I'm supposed to be the "lead" of the group that this man will be in. Everyone in the group makes more than me. (In my position, I have access to this info.) They have more engineering experience, although not all directly related, but I have what experience is required for the position. Additionally, some of these gentlemen have to have their hands held (by me) when working in Excel or some of our other specialized programs. I am also performing managerial duties that they don't do.

I want to ask for a raise, but I am usually one to sit back and wait for my annual raise and accept what I get. Is this a situation where I should ask for a raise? I understand that people with 20 yrs more experience (and who are my father's age) expect to have higher salaries than me. They have more experience. They know more. (Maybe). On the other hand, their job requires 10 years exp, not 30. Many of them don't have 30 years directly applicable experience anyway. Besdes, I'm the one in the lead role -- if any of them were suitable for the role, then the boss would put them there instead of me. I will constantly be bothered by the fact that these people working for me make more money than me, but I'm not sure if I can ask for the raise.

Your company may well be taking advantage of you. Or, your skills may well not be worth more than they are paying you. I don't know. You should, however. You say you are the "lead" but make less than the other people on the team. They have more engineering experience than you do.

My guess (and it's just a guess, please correct me if I'm wrong), that you act as a project manager and coordinator. The other people are doing the actual engineering. Therefore, their higher salaries may be justified. Or, they may not.

Are you tired of my wishy-washer answer? Well, without more data and your position, their positions, the industry, the availability of engineers and the alignment of the starts at the time of your birth, I can't really tell.

You, however, should be able to figure this out on your own, with a little bit of research.

First, how long has this position that you've asked specifically about been open? If it's been open for 6 months and they've lost the past 3 qualified candidates to competing offers at higher wages, then the salary the candidate is asking for may be justified. If it's been open for two weeks, they've had 15 people apply--all of whom are qualified--and this is just the first guy they are interviewing, it's doubtful that he will get what he wants. The salary is most likely not justified.

(Unless you are willing to consider the minimum salary proposed by a candidate, don't bother interviewing, by the way. It's a waste of everyone's time.)

Then, you need to look at your job. How does it differ from your team member's jobs? Your skills may be different. Are they more or less valuable in the open market? Do a little job hunting yourself--you don't have to interview, but check around and see what is out there.

See if you can gather information on what other's in similar roles are being paid. If your salary is lower than theirs you definitely have a case.

You can always ask for a raise. The key is in asking properly. You don't go in, guns a blazin' and say, "Bob, Steve and Karen all make more than me. I'm supposed to be the team lead, dang it, and now you are considering this yahoo candidate for $30,000 more than me! This stinks. I need more money!"

This, is what we like to say, is a less effective method of getting a raise.

A better way is to gather information on the market rate of your job. If your company has paybands find out what your relationship is to the midpoint of that band. (For instance, a company will say "Jobs in category J are between $60,000 and $100,000, with $80,000 being the midpoint." If your salary is $80,000 a year, you are said to have a compa-ratio of 100%. If your salary is $70,000 a year you have an 87.5% compa-ratio.) If your compa-ratio is below 95%, you definitely can make a case based on that and your (presumably) stellar performance.

Yes, you should ask for a raise. You should have asked for a raise earlier. No one, but no one, cares about your career like you do. Managers have limited amounts of money to divide among their employees. If they know you will silently accept whatever you are given, you run a higher risk of getting the short end of the stick.

Keep in mind that different jobs command different salaries. For instance, in a pharmacy, you may have a store manager that makes less than the pharmacists she supervises, hires and fires. Why? If the store manager doesn't have a pharmacy degree she's easier to replace than the pharmacist who does. Or in something everyone understands, Katie Couric makes more money than her bosses.

Be positive and not argumentative. If, after you've done your research and shown that your job is worth more money and they are not willing to give it to you, you have to decide if you value that job more than money. If so, stay. If not, start job hunting. No one is forcing you to stay where you are underpaid.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Evil Lawyers, Evil HR People, It's All the Same

I am a middle aged woman who recently acquired a law degree (and bar admission) and wish to pursue a career in HR. So far, I'm told that my law degree is worthless in HR! I'm a bit surprised by this because my 30+ years of corporate experience (in administrative positions) tells me otherwise. HR as a function includes employee relations, which is a goldmine for plaintiff's attorneys. Let's face it - management and employees sometimes do not share an amicable relationship.

I assume that I will need to start in an entry level position and work my way up. Is it a good idea to "minimize" my legal education on my resume?

Any advise would be appreciated.

Surprisingly enough, I dealt with an extremely similar question back in July. Click over and read it and all the comments. There are comments from actual labor and employment lawyers!

Here's where your law degree is a liability for you. If I'm hiring an employee relations person, I want an employee relations person, not a lawyer. If I wanted a lawyer, I would hire a lawyer.

Richard Bales at Workplace Prof Blog reported a study that indicated that humans are disposed towards optimism--except for lawyers.

I found this highly amusing as my most enthusiastic, optimistic sibling is a lawyer. So I asked him. He said, "I can see why that is. All day long you deal with people who make bad choices and are arguing with other people making bad choices." Or anyway, he said something similar, as I didn't actually write it down because I didn't plan on regurgitating it until this very moment. (He can correct himself in the comments, if he so desires.)

My point with all this? Lawyers are adversarial. They are used to arguing a case. (Note that when you go to court, it's for "oral arguments" not for "a meeting with some nice donuts and maybe some fresh fruit for those who are watching their weight.")

Not saying this is bad or good, just saying that it is. Now, you may or may not be adversarial. You may have just gone to law school to learn the law and now you want to apply it to HR. Great. But, I see lawyer on your resume and I think, "adversarial." I do not want someone with that mindset in an employee relations role.

Yes, you must know the law to be a good HR person. However, the law you must know is limited and we have lawyers who we rely on if things get complicated. But, HR isn't so much of a "negotiating" with employees kind of a role as it is a "coaching" role.

We try to develop. We try to resolve. We don't try to argue. (Although, sometimes we do and sometimes we silently bang our heads repeatedly against our desks, but usually with our office doors closed--that is if we haven't been stuck in a cube. I currently have a head banging causing situation that I can't write about. All I can say is it's good that the employee in question is actually located several hundred miles from me because I might become a little more "adversarial" than I should and start banging his head against the wall.)

If you want to be in HR, you need to convince potential employers that, while lawyers are trained to be adversarial, you are not that type of person. You just have a firm understanding of the law. You want to develop people. You want to "resolve" conflicts, not win cases.

As with my other person with a similar predicament, I would recommend labor & employment law. Work for a law firm. Get an in-house position.

Now, that the advice is over, I have some questions for you. I'm curious as to why a "middle aged" woman would spend the time and money to go to law school when the end goal wasn't to practice law? That's something I would expect a 22 year old to do--I don't know how to get a job, so I'll just go get another degree! But, you've been in the work force for a long time and know the ropes. Ask yourself, why did you really get a law degree?

Prestige? It was close to your house? Big salary dreams? If you knew you wanted to do HR, why not get a master's in Human Resources or Organizational Development? Why did you choose law school?

If you wanted to be a lawyer, but haven't been able to secure a job and figured that HR was a good second choice where you could at least use some of your knowledge, well that I understand. I have a master's degree in political science, and we all know how useful that can be. (But it works--politicians are corrupt and self centered, some management is corrupt and self centered. It's all the same, really, except a distinct lack of bribery goes on in my current work.)

For those of you who have managed to wade through this long answer, (what can I say? It's Thanksgiving morning and Grandma is fixing the Offspring's hair, and everyone else is sleeping, so I have time), and who are not done with school, or are thinking about going back, I have some thoughts for you.

Why are you going into this particular program?

What do you think this degree will do for you?

What doors will open with this degree?

What doors will close with this degree?

Have you talked to alumni (notice, I used the plural) about how their degrees have helped them?

Is this the school you really want to be at? Why? Why didn't you pick a different school? If you could easily move, would you attend a different school? Why?

Will this degree raise my earning potential? Are you sure? What makes you think that?

I hate to see people finish school and go, "now what?" Or, "But I thought I could do X, but no one will hire me now!" Or, "I really wanted to work for company X, but they don't recruit candidates from this school."

Think before you jump into graduate school. Think, think, think. Then do it. Or not.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone is getting the next two days off work.

If you work retail, I hope your feet hold out for Black Friday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Secret Job Hunt

Hi. I’m the daughter of a high level executive banker. Right now I am trying to do a little research for him on the possibility of finding a new position in Western New York. Yup, that’s right, Western New York. Hey, I’ve got his new little grand kids hostage out here *smile*…so there is a draw.

The problem here is that my Dad is used to having headhunters call him. He’s never had to contact someone to find employment & we are trying to do this discreetly. Any suggestions? I’ve been reading your blog & you seem pretty savvy (and funny).

I'll do anything for someone who thinks I'm savvy and funny, so send me his resume and I'll personally find him a job! All right, just kidding. As I am not a recruiter, nor a head hunter, I'm not the world's best source. But here are some thoughts.

Where in Western NY? Buffalo? Rochester? North Tonawanda? If you insist on the latter you may be in for a tough search.

But, really, this is not unlike any other job search, it's just targeted geographically. He's used to head hunters contacting him--then he should have a file of head hunters (or at least a stack of business cards). Have him contact them (not you--that gets his resume thrown in the trash) and tell them he's looking for a job in that area.

It won't hurt and it might help.

The number one way to find a job is through networking, so you can't do it too stealthily. If you are already in Western NY, start talking to everyone you know. This includes your neighbors, your friends at church, your dry cleaner. "Oh, we are hoping Dad will move up here soon. He needs to find a job as District Manager in retail sales," you say, "do you know anybody who does anything like that?"

"Oh yes," someone will say. "My brother-in-law works for Bunnies R Us, and since they won their lawsuit against Toys "backwards R" Us (the court said the direction the R faced DID matter) they've been on a hiring spree."

"Oh, excellent, can I give you his resume?"

Honestly and truly, I once got a call from someone who said, "Your real estate agent gave me your phone number. He said you worked for [big company]. My contact at [competing big company] is ending in a month. Would you mind passing on my resume?" I said sure, took his resume, looked at it, sent it on to the recruiter (he was looking for a job in a department I didn't have a personal relationship with) and a few weeks later, he was hired. He went to church with my real estate agent. If he had kept his mouth shut, he wouldn't have gotten in the door.

My company gets over 1,000 resumes a week, so if you apply to our website, a recruiter may never even see it. While I didn't have a personal relationship with the department this guy worked with, I do have a personal relationship with my fellow HR people in staffing.

Now, once you've called the headhunters and started talking to everyone you know, have your father start researching companies in the area. Pick the two he would most like to work for and network yourself inside the door.

Tell him to subscribe to the newsletter at Ask the Headhunter. I think Nick is brilliant and helpful. He'll give you ideas on how to target specific companies.

And if your father is successful, I hope he likes garbage plates and white hots. Yum on the latter, but once you're older than 21 the former become impossible to eat.


I am working on my goals and objectives for 2008. I have two "projects" planned that I need to write business proposals for that will include the plan, the budget and the "return on investment." The two projects are to develop and implement a Wellness Program and develop and implement a Worker's Compensation program (specifically establishing a partnership with the local Urgent Care Center as well as establishing a return to work program).

My difficulty is going to be quantifying the benefit of such programs. I think the Wellness program will be easier b/c I can provide data supporting the number of absences related to medical issues or actual production numbers and the effect of illness. I can then provide an estimate as to how absenteeism will decrease and presenteeism will increase with the help of a wellness program. The real struggle is going to be providing the numbers for establishing a partnership. Both programs will be extremely time-consuming and the results won't be realized right away.

Can you provide even just a few suggestions as to how I can present the proposals in such a way that I will have quantifiable evidence to support the investment?

I don't know anything about either one of those programs, other than my company has all sorts of wellness programs and everyone I know completely ignores it. So, good luck with that! (Other than the on site gym, which people do use.)

But, my general advice on this is to ask yourself this question: How will I know when we're successful?

Are you successful when 50 people come to your wellness seminar? Are you successful when one employee gives up smoking? Are you successful when people visit your designated urgent care center rather than their own primary care doctor? Are you successful when the time on leave due to worker's comp issues is cut in half? By 10%?

What does success look like?

Once you've identified what success is, (and it needs to be something measurable--writing down "employees are healthier" won't cut it. Sick days are down is measurable.), it's pretty easy to write everything down.

The key is developing your programs so that they are effective and measurable. I do not know how to do this for these two programs. At least you are already seeing that the return will not be immediate. Make sure you put time lines in for effectiveness. And do your research--find out what other companies have done and what their results have been. ([Competitor] began a wellness program in 2003. By year end 2007 their health insurance costs had increased 10%, as compared with our 40% increase.)

Good luck.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Hi Evil HR Lady. It's so funny that you call yourself that; I used to work in HR and always felt perceived that way. We never have good news!

I'm writing to you with a question that seems to have no GOOD answer depending on the research I've done...and one that I have NO experience with.

I was working for a company. I got sold to a new one and then got leased back to the old one. Result? I've been considered a "contractor" with no benefits.

Nearly ten months later, I am about to be eligible for benefits according to the standards for freelance (or Project-Based) employees. November 1st is the beginning of the eligibility period. I have written to HR with my questions, so I can be ready for this date and not miss a chance to qualify for benefits.

Here is my question: What are the alternatives for someone when HR does not respond to questions regarding benefits? The benefits administrator is notoriously unresponsive, and yet, there seems to be nothing we can do! This can't be right. When it comes to money matters, the labor board can intervene. But when it comes to benefits, who makes sure that HR is doing their job? Who can I turn to for help? What are my alternatives?

Earlier this year, her unresponsiveness cost me the opportunity to accept my COBRA, and therefore made choosing a personal insurance provider more difficult and costly. I don't want to lose my chance this time around; I am entitled to these benefits, and want to make sure I get them.

What can I do?

Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

As with just about everything, it's not what you know, it's who you know. (Or in your case, it's not the substance of the question, it's who is doing the answer.)

Our benefits person is supposed to respond to my questions within 48 hours. Ummm, that doesn't happen. So, if I truly need an answer faster than 3 weeks, I have to cc not only that person's boss, but their boss's boss. (If I just cc the boss, she doesn't check her e-mail and I think her slacker minions know that, so it's not enough of a threat.)

The sad part is, the boss's boss doesn't really believe there is a problem, because if he's cc'd on an e-mail, I'll get a response within an hour.

What you have to do? Find the right person to ask and the right person to do the asking. The higher up the food chain the question asker is, the more of a chance of a response. This is sad, but true. You didn't get a response. Ask your boss to ask the question. If she doesn't get a response, ask her to ask her boss.

In the mean time, ask around and find out who the real problem solver at the company is. There is one--trust me. Once you find this person, your life will be blissful.

(And people, it is worth it to find that magical problem solver person. He or she can be lurking somewhere you'd never expect. I, for instance, can get a boat load of things fixed, not because of my current position, but because in a previous position I had a great relationship with the right people. I'm valuable to the average employee, but most people don't know that, because it's not in my current job description.)

I hope you get you benefits straightened out.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Big Hiring Mistake

Dear HR,

Tell me what you would do in this situation? My husband owns a company. He recently hires a CEO under an employment agreement for the period of one year at which time they would reorganize the company into a partnership.

My husband retains ownership and the position of the president of the Co.and is the CEOs employer. The CEO has worked for the Co. for aprox. 6 weeks. In that time he has alienated all of the employees to the point that they are ready to leave the co.

The IT person, who will also be a 10% partner says that he does not want to be in partnership with the CEO. The bookkeeper says that he is a bully, is unprofessional and does not have the skills to manage. The data entry person says that he talks down to her and encourages her to look for other employment.

He has stated that the employees are paid too much and he is paid too little, that my husband is not the boss, he is, throws tantrums and gives directive when he tries to make decisions without gaining all of the information, and generally does not listen to my husband or other employees concerning the business.

He has made statements about my husband to undermine his reputation and authority. My husband would like to fire him but is concerned that he has not given his enough time to learn the industry. What do you think.

I think you should get a lawyer and figure out how to fire the guy. I don't know what kind of employment agreement you have signed, but you better hope it's not one that will require you to give him a good chunk of the business to get rid of him. Get to a lawyer, now!

You are also concerned that you haven't given him "enough time to learn the industry." None of the problems you've mentioned have anything to do with a lack of understanding about the industry. They all have to do with a lack of understanding about managing people. You do not want a CEO who does not understand how to manage people.

One of the big mistakes managers make is not recognizing that they've made hiring mistakes. You hired him, so you must be able to fix it. Bah! Part of the game of being a CEO is playing without a net. You can't do the job and you are out of there.

Get rid of him. I just hope it doesn't cost you a fortune.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Carnival of HR #20

Is now up over at Guerilla HR. It's got a baseball theme, while Patrick (the host) claims to not even like baseball.

You certainly can't trust those HR types, can you?

The Next Carnival of HR will be November 28 and hosted by Carmen Van Kerckhov at Race in the Workplace.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuition Reimbursement

Dear Evil,
Love your blog! I'm curious if there are any laws governing tuition reimbursement programs. A colleague at a former company once told me that if a company offered tuition reimbursement, it had to be available to everyone for any subject of study. I didn't fully believe him because the policy stated otherwise, but I have never been able to find any information on the topic.

My company covers 75% of the cost of tuition for approved educational courses, after completion with a C or better. The requirement for approval is this: "Courses must be associated with obtaining a degree, completing a program of study, improving technical skills required in performing current job duties, or acquiring skills and knowledge for improved performance and advancement within [organization]."

Where is the line drawn? I work at an engineering firm, so most people have BS engineering degrees or 2-yr drafting degrees. It's reasonable that a drafter getting a BS in engineering is eligible. Management or MBA degrees are probably also slam-dunks. But what if someone gets a wild hair to pursue an English Lit degree? Or what if I get my MS in engineering but lay out a course plan that is clearly not focused on our industry (say all automotive-related courses instead of HVAC design)? Or, maybe it's okay for the admin asst with no degree to get an English BA but not for the engineer?

My guess is that it's the difficulty in drawing a clear line in what qualifies and what doesn't is why an employer might choose to just let any education program of study be accepted, hence my coworker's comment. Are there any laws about this? What do you see as common industry practice? I'd like to know before I go apply to have my Culinary Arts Assoc degree sponsored by the company ; )

Where is the line drawn? For your company, I have no idea. Call up whoever administers the plan and ask. There's no secret language used to try to trick you into taking a class and then deny payment. Just ask. Get pre-approved before you start the class.

Tuition Reimbursement is not a requirement, nor are there restrictions on what a company must do with it. (With the usual exceptions of it being non-discriminatory. For instance, a company can't say, "You must be under 40 to receive tuition reimbursement, as if you've made it to 40 without a degree you won't stick it out anyway.")

Some companies allow you to take any class your little heart desires. Others, require the classes to be in a degree or certification program, or to be in a subject area that relates to your job.

How I read your company's description is that unless your company is involved in the food industry your dreams of a paid for culinary school are officially dashed. But, call and ask. Won't hurt.

And since you didn't ask, but I feel compelled to share, I'll throw in my 2 cents worth on what I think a tuition reimbursement plan should include. First, I think it should be related to the business/job, but within a broad range. If your job requires writing proposals, then a degree in English would be acceptable. I'm a general fan of education and can see how [almost] any additional knowledge can be helpful in the workplace.

Second, require the person to remain at your company for a set time period after receiving the money. Generally, 3 years. If you leave in less than 1, you have to repay the full amount. 1-2 years, 2/3, 2-3 years, 1/3 and after 3 years you don't owe anything.

Why the mean repayment plan? Because otherwise people take advantage of you. A friend worked for a company that didn't require you to stay after receiving tuition reimbursement. They also had a generous plan that covered whatever school you wanted to go to. So, he went and got an MBA from the University of Chicago. (Cost: Lots.) That is, he and about 12 of is closest work friends. Upon finishing their pricey and valuable MBAs, all of them split for higher paying jobs.

That company made 2 mistakes: One was not requiring reimbursement if you left too soon. But the other was not actively "recruiting" their internal candidates with new degrees.

For heavens sake, companies, make provisions in your compensation guidelines to allow for big raises and promotions to newly degreed employees. If you would automatically consider a newly minted MBA from the University of Chicago--who was an outside candidate--as a candidate for a Director level position, make sure you allow your internal candidates with the same qualification access to those positions. Otherwise, they'll take their expensive education and go to your competitor. Don't say, "but that's a three grade level jump and we only allow a one grade level jump without approval from a Sr. VP and then the max we can do is two levels!" Policies like that drive me CRAZY. You've just paid for this person's MBA, take advantage of his new knowledge!

Take advantage of your company's tuition reimbursement if you are interested in getting a degree or improving your skills. If you don't have a bachelor's degree and your company will pay, start working towards one NOW. I don't care if you don't think you'll ever need it. You will. Get it, especially since you can do so cheaply. One class at a time, if need be. But, go get it.

Office Politics at Play

I am an IS Customer Services Manager of a large Children's Hospital.

I have an issue that I would appreciate your input on. Another IS Staff member, non-management, applied for my position, and did not get the job. I need to work with this Staff member on project related installations. This person does not report directly to me.

This staff member is determined to provide no cooperation, but it is done in a manner of giving the appearance that she is so busy attending to other fires that any request I have is either ignored, or not answered for an unacceptable period of time.

I have spoken with her direct manager, also less than an agreeable 'alliance' type of person.

I have bent over backwards with this staff member, trying praise (for the smallest things), favors when she 'conveniently forgets' she needs one of my resources, utmost cooperation. And, still she is seeking to underhandedly try to make me fail. Well, it won't happen. I have since gone to my VP to advise of the continuing issues and ask for direction.

The latest issue is a project pulled from her and given to me with pretty much no transition. She horded so much information we are now left with an issue of asking for additional funds for required equipment for a project with a 'closed budget'. My initial thought is to make her invisible to me, but, I am then becoming the type of person she is. While I am extremely capable of getting things done, there are some things that are better answered by this Staff member, rather than having to go to Finance, Purchasing, etc., and making IS look stupid. HELP!

First, my deepest apologies for you having to go through all this. Just be grateful she doesn't actually report to you, or it could be worse.

I know, I know, I'm not being helpful or reassuring.

What you have here is a resentful information hoarder. There are some people out there that subscribe to the belief that their value comes in knowing things that non one else knows. If they tell you, they lose their power. This, of course, can be quite frustrating for everyone else. (And not to mention, the world tends to fall apart when this person goes on vacation--which is part of her subconscious plan to show her value.)

I'm going to suggest two ways to go about this. One is through her boss.

When she says, "I can't do that because I'm doing x," just accept that answer from her. Then e-mail (document, document, document) her boss and state, "I need Y and my understanding is that [bitter woman] is the only one who can provide that for me. She, however, is doing x, and is unable to assist. Is there someone else on your team that could possibly help?"

Then go on to explain the project and what help you will be needing in the future. At everyone one of her refusals or delay tactics, respond in the same, calm manner, to her boss. You can cc her on the e-mails so you know her boss knows.

Now, you also have a problem with her manager, a "less than agreeable" type as well. Even less than agreeable types get fed up with constantly having to defend poor workers.

Now this method can either work, in the sense that manager will finally crack down on his annoying employee, or it will fail miserably, as both of them will grow to resent you even more!

Aren't you glad you sent me this question? Ruining your life even further in three easy steps!

My second option is to realize that she's not going away and she's not going to get over her anger at not getting your job. In this method, you just become realistic about your expectations. You are going to have to reach out to finance, purchasing, etc.

You ask [bitter woman] (via e-mail) for information on x. She responds, "I can't do that. I'm busy doing z." You take that e-mail and forward it to purchasing, "I am so sorry to bother you, but [bitter woman] is swamped. Can you help me with X?"

Gradually, you'll begin to gain the knowledge that this woman is hoarding (and you get your staff to gain it as well), and you'll develop good relationships with other departments. Thank them profusely for all their help. Send over a box of chocolates now and then.

"Purchasing Department--I'm so sorry to have bothered you for so many questions, but you've been so helpful and responsive. We couldn't have finished this project without your help." Attach that to a large box of chocolates and send it over. Trust me when I say they won't care that you are bothering them. They have food. (It's amazing how people that complain, complain, complain about how little they are paid will make the world move for some free chocolate or pizza.)

The end result of this method? Well, you are gradually phasing out your need for [bitter woman]. Keep your VP casually informed. Don't complain or whine about it, just casually mention it. "Boy, [Bitter Woman] must be swamped. She never did get around to providing the necessary information for the project we took over for her. I had to go to purchasing. So, do you have any exciting plans for Thanksgiving?"

Information hoarders are a major annoyance. Angry information hoarders are almost impossible to deal with. Good luck.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dress Codes

I wore new pants to work on Friday. They were black and very business appropriate. I paired them with a nice jacket and heels. I was very professional. Except that the pants were made out of some sort of stretchy cloth and I felt like I was wearing pajama bottoms, even though I didn't look like I was.

So, I was appropriately dressed and extremely comfortable. Ahh, the wonders of business casual. It made me think about dress codes, which was ironic because I got an e-mail from a Public Relations Firm about a Business Week case study on dress code.

Would you fire someone who repeatedly violated the dress code, but otherwise was an exemplary employee?

If you watch the video at the site, Jennifer Maxwell Parkinson, "The Dress Code Whisperer" (I did not make that title up, it's at the site)recommends hiring an image consultant.

That sounds good, in theory, but can seem to open up a whole host of worms. What if the employee is a member of a protected class? Yikes. You need to be sure it is a dress code issue and not a culture/age issue.

I do think it's critical that you have a clear dress code and stick to it. It's beyond difficult to get managers to enforce it. Anybody have any suggestions on how to enforce dress codes at your office?

You Will Be Laid Off

Well, aren't I just a ray of sunshine on this Monday morning. I can also tell you a few more cheery things, if you'd like: You'll pay too much in taxes. That shirt you got on sale wasn't really a bargain because it's ugly. The phone call from your child's teacher? It isn't to say what a joy he is in class.

But, back to our topic at hand. You will be laid off. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but the way the world works, many (if not all of you) reading this blog will be laid off at some point in your life.

For the record, I'm not opposed to it. Employment-at-will keeps businesses strong and the economy moving. Put too many protections in and it becomes difficult to get a job to begin with.

But, back to my point. You will be laid off at some point. Please be prepared. Even if you say, "My company offers severance and I would be able to find a job before my severance expires, so I'm not concerned," could you go a month without a pay check? If not, please start saving money now. There may come a time when you have to go a substantial amount of time without a pay check.

I regularly get people crying to me because it takes a month to begin severance pay where I work. It's not that money isn't coming, it's that they can't pay their bills today.

So, my doom and gloom message is a little reminder. Money in the bank=happiness. No money in the bank=teary calls to Evil HR Lady. All I can do is sympathize with you. I can't pay your mortgage.

And many people out there don't get severance. Your company is never so stable as to mean you have a job for life.

Please prepare? Please?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Thank You!

I cam in a respectable 3rd Place for the 2007 Weblog Awards for Best Business Blog. Since the winner and the second place blogs were both run by multiple people, who (it appears) get some sort of payment for blogging, I feel extra special.

Next year, maybe we can get some additional HR Blogs in the business category. HR really is the heart of business.

The 2007 Weblog Awards

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Forcing Payment

Dear Wonderful HR Lady,

I accepted a great job about 2.5 months ago. I've been working for nearly two months now, but I'm started to get a little frustrated over something I was promised.

As part of my offer, I was given $1,000 in relocation assistance. I signed a formal offer letter that said I would be eligible for it. Since I started, I've had to sign two forms because the HR lady said I signed the old form. In order for me to get the relocation assistance, she has to send it to the corporate office.

Originally I was supposed to wait 30 days to get it, although I'm now far past that deadline. I was counting on this money to pay my relocation expenses, which are sitting on my credit card, waiting to be paid. If I wasn't offered relocation, I would have made a larger counteroffer on my salary.

After 1.5 weeks of waiting on my check after the HR lady said it was coming, I approached her again. She sent off yet another e-mail to corporate.

Is there anything else I can do? I really need this money to pay my expenses. It took them 1.5 months to pay me back for my interview expenses, but they weren't as large.

New employee

Well, with a salutation like "Dear Wonderful HR Lady," how can I resist answering you? I'd like to give you some magic words that will make them pay up, but alas, I don't have anything.

Since the company has a corporate office, that you don't work at, I'm guessing the function of paying promised relocation benefits isn't done by the HR lady writing a check.

Companies are generally big, nasty, bureaucracies. I don't know your company, but here's a good guess: HR fills out a form, sends it to payroll. Payroll has a payment cycle and payments such as these are probably processed on specific days, once or twice a month. Payroll requires the request be received 7 days prior to the payment run. Your request got denied the first time because it was on the old form. (Payroll blamed their inability to pay it on Sarbanes-Oxley because that makes everyone shake in their boots.) Then your second form arrived 6 days prior to the payment run, so now you have to wait for another cycle to come to an end.

My point? You can beg and you can plead, but nothing speeds up a bureaucracy. Sure, if you get desperate you can go to small claims court, but that will make you persona non-grata around the office.

Ask for a specific date. If the HR Lady can't give it to you, ask who you need to contact in payroll. If that doesn't work, ask your boss to look into it. If that doesn't work, threaten (politely) the HR Lady by saying, "I really need this payment and I'm starting to feel like my only option is to take this to small claims court."

I don't think it will amount to that, though. These things just take time. And it's not as important to anyone else as it is to you.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Ego isn't a problem for those of us in HR. (Vote for me!!!) We are always humble and we carefully think through everything and make the best decision for the business and the people. We never do something to build our own power and we're the first to admit our own mistakes.

Okay, now that you are rolling on the floor laughing and wondering if I need therapy (yes, and you would too after 10 years in HR), I'll get to my real point. I just read a fabulous book, Egonomics by David Marcum and Steven Smith.

If you want to buy Christmas presents for your staff (or your boss, if you are brave) pick up a copy of this book.

Marcum and Smith explore the role of ego in business. Too much and you'll destroy yourself and your business, too little and people will walk all over you.

People tend to gravitate toward HR careers because they view themselves as "people people." (Although once there for a few years you realize that people are basically just lawsuits waiting to happen.) Anyway, our desire to like people causes us to want to be liked. Here's an interesting warning from page 91 (emphasis mine).
Jenny Chatman of the University of California at Berkely's Haas School Business studied 120 Northwestern students interviewing for jobs. Those who told the corporate recruiters what recruiters love to hear, such as "Your company has a reputation for being team-oriented, and that's something I truly value," landed jobs at twice the rate of their more reserved but equally qualified or more qualified peers. While telling interviewers what they want to hear may get us a job, it may also put us in the wrong job. If you're a recruiter influenced by praise, you're likely to hire the wrong person.

Yikes. I think this expands to managers in general. We all know about those brown-nosers that keep getting promoted when they shouldn't. It's letting your ego take over that causes this problem.

HR needs to be aware of ego and learn to manage it correctly. Not so easy, but at least learning to recognize it in ourselves can be the start.

The chapter on being defensive really struck me as a place for HR improvement and help. They write (page 73)
We resist feedback because we want and need to hold a positive image of ourselves. Anything counter to that positive image can be seen as a threat.

Boy, training managers to give feedback and to take feedback is about the toughest thing we do. It's very difficult to overcome that ego that says, "I must be number 1!" and instead say, "what do I need to do to be better?"

So, go read Egonomics (I promise they didn't pay me to endorse them, although they did send me a free book!) and you get to learn about how Mr. Rogers used his ego properly to win over Congress. If that doesn't inspire you, I don't know what else will.

Now, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, so go have fun and watch for spiders.


Posted by Picasa

Anybody want to get the mail for my mother? She'd appreciate the help.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Just a Little Reminder!

The 2007 Weblog Awards

Vote Evil HR Lady

You can vote every 24 hours through November 8. Vote early and vote often.

DUI Advice

Dear Evil HR Lady:

I am currently applying for a new job. The particular position I am applying for is working for a City... so it is a city/gov't job.

On the application are two questions:

Have you ever been convicted of any offense(s) other than a driving violation? (Exlude juvenile offenses if records legally sealed.) If yes, list offense(s) and date(s) of conviction(s) in the "Comments" section. A yes answer is not necessarily disqualifying. yes no

Have you ever been convicted of wreckless driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs OR has your driver's license ever been suspended or revoked as a result of conviction(s) of driving violation(s): list offense(s) and date(s) of conviction(s) in the "Comments" section. A yes answer is not necessarily disqualifying. yes no

OK- that said. I had a DUI in April of 1997. 10 years after a violation like that, it is no longer on your DMV record. I ordered a copy of my DMV record and it is clear- not tickets, DUI, nothing. So, my question to you is, do I have to reveal this on the application? What resource do they use to look at my background and how far back do they go? Any advice?

Also- if I do have to reveal it, do I have to answer yes to both of the questions above, or just the second one?


As just a little reminder I am not a lawyer. I never have been a lawyer. I did teach LSAT prep classes for Kaplan once upon a time, but that focused on logic questions not actual laws. I am also not an expert on DUIs, but I'll do my best.

First of all I don't know what the nature of your conviction was. I don't know how your state classifies driving under the influence. I am going to assume that you can answer no to question one.

But what about question 2? You'll notice that I've bolded a couple phrases. The word ever keeps popping up. So, the answer is yes, you MUST reveal this offense. If your state considers DUI a traffic offense only there's a good chance it wouldn't show up on a background check. But it might.

More importantly, falsifying information on your application is grounds for firing you. And when I say firing I mean firing for cause--no hope of severance, no eligibility for unemployment benefits.

So, is all lost? Absolutely not. It's illegal to discriminate against you due to a conviction unless it is related to the job. If your job doesn't involve driving, combined with the fact that the conviction was 10 years ago, it shouldn't matter. You also have the advantage that this is a government job and governments tend to be sticklers about following regulations.

Don't ever lie. It's easy to convince yourself that you'll never get caught. You might not, but you might and that can be a huge career destroyer. It's doubtful a 10 year old DUI will have any effect on your application, but not putting it on and having them find out later will ruin whatever chances you may have had.

Even if it's not on a driver's license check, it still exists. Remember, even if God forgives and forgets your neighbors never do. So even your ability to survive a background check can not stop your old buddy from getting a job in the neighboring cube and joking, "Hey, still driving around drunk?" Ha, ha, ha. And then your boss thinks, "I don't remember that," and he pulls your application and you're out on your ear.

Always, always, always, tell the truth. And for the rest of you, for Heaven's sake don't drink and drive.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Facebook, MySpace, et al

Hi -

What are your thoughts on social networking? Both from the perspective of, is it good to have internal ways to achieve social networking in the company, and is it fair to view a candidate negatively because you Google them see evidence of previous poor judgment such has her spring break pictures from ten years ago, or his blog blasting corporations?

Thanks very much.

I may be a hip, with it, blogger (Vote for Me!!!), but I'm actually quite clueless when it comes to social networking sites.

Networking, in general, is how you find a job. Sure, is fine and dandy and all that, but how you find a job depends a lot on who you know. These social networking sites increase the group of "who you know." The question is, just how much do you want them to know about you?

My friends at work have no idea that on weekends I put on my Wonder Woman costume and run around stopping crime, flying in my invisible jet. (The previous sentence is a lie, everyone knows that there is no such thing as an invisible jet. It's really a specially designed Piper Archer.) My question is, do I want a potential employer to know about this? (That's the real reason this blog is anonymous.)

The answer, of course, is no.

The problem with social networking sites is that it can cause a huge blur between your personal and your professional life. Sure, as your "buddy list" grows your chances for "ins" at companies increases. But, are you really going to get recommended for a job when your "friends" have seen pictures of you doing things that fall into the category of "really stupid."

Here's my stellar, crabby old lady advice: Keep your personal life personal. If you wan to have a MySpace page with scantily clad pictures of yourself don't say on there, "Hi! My name is Jane A. Doe! I live in Doetown IA and I graduated from Rutger's University in 2006. I try to do as little as possible at work so I can have more time to P.A.R.T.Y!!!!!" If you must write that, just leave out the Jane A. Doe part and call yourself, "stupid party chick."

I would advise HR to avoid looking at such pages when they are doing reference checks, but caution candidates that the internet is forever.

Now, as for more professional sites like LinkedIn, I don't think there is as much of a problem. But that is designed to be more professional. Use it for it's intended purpose--to get professional contacts. Not to brag about your weekend exploits.

Transferring Skills

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I am currently looking for a job as Administrative Assistant in a law firm, though my experience is solid Human Resources.

How do I convince the law firm I am qualified and that my skills are transferable?

Things to consider prior to answering my query:

I have a solid work record, my last three jobs lasting 6 years each.

I am a displaced worker as my company closed and laid off a few hundred.

I am competing with a different generation of candidates.

I truly am an awesome Administrative Assistant.

My skills are up to date and quite remarkable really.

I read your blog constantly. I know you will have advice for me.


Older But Wiser

Quite frankly, I don't think you'll have a huge problem. There are a ton of legal implications and knowledge required for HR and that will transfer nicely to a law firm. There are, however, some skills that you will need that you don't have.

I'm not a legal secretary so I don't know what they are. You should. Find out. Ask other admins at law firms what you need to know that you don't already know.

In your interview emphasize your fabulous skills and how you are excited and willng to learn. A key point here will be convincing them that you want to work in a law firm, you are not just desperate for any job. Hopefully, your layoff brought you some severance pay.

We often say that it's easier to find the right VP than it is to find the right admin. That means that even though your experience isn't specific, if your skills are transferrable and your personality is a fit, you shouldn't have a problem.

Good luck!

Starting Your HR Career

I want to get into more recruiting. I have been working in non-profit for 3 years and in college worked as a recruitment assistant. I worked in HR as a temp for 4 months as well. With that said, what are some of the positions that I should be applying for?

I've been getting calls back in recruitment coordinating. Is this a good place to start? However, I feel as though my previous experiences are relevant, in that I was recruiting, honing my writing skills, relational skills (employee relations) and learning administrative skills needed similar to what a person in HR would need. I feel a bit hesitant about taking such a low paying recruitment coordinator job, yet

I know I'm not qualified for corporate recruiting or the like. I'm not looking for a break to be situated where I'm not qualified but how should someone transitioning takle this situation. What should be my game plan? Should I get a certificate in HR? Should I take the position as a Recruitment Coordinator hoping that a few years down the road, I can be promoted?

This is a big transition and I would love some advice for the little guys out there dreaming and working toward corporate recruiting, HR consulting? Would a master's help? What are some suggestions? How did you do it? I don't want to limit myself and I know I can't expect a position beyond my capabilities. Advice would help. Thanks!

Curious and Seeking Advice

To answer all your questions (except for the "how did you do it?" question), yes. Take the job, get a master's degree, get your HR certification and a partridge in a pear tree!

Or not. A recruitment coordinator is an excellent place to begin. You'll learn the basics of recruiting, which isn't a bad place to start.

However, you do need to make sure that you don't get trapped in such a position for ever. Sometimes it's difficult to make that jump from a coordinator role to recruiter, or other HR position. If you are serious about an HR career, take the entry level job and start working on a master's degree at night.

Now, granted, this isn't entirely necessary. I do have a master's degree, but it's in Political Science, not HR or business. Having that degree helped me get in the door without much experience. (We tend to value degrees in HR--I think it makes us feel all kinds of important and smart.)

You can't get certified as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) or similar without 3 years of exempt HR experience. So, you need to work before getting certified.

Remember, though, that many HR people don't have degrees in HR, so don't worry about that so much. Just go for it.

I do, however, think that you learn the fastest in a small company with a small HR department. My second HR job was for a Credit Union that had 140 employees. I did recruiting, benefits and HRIS and helped with payroll. Talk about a learning experience.

Good luck with your new career path and welcome to the world of HR.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Best Weblog Awards

The 2007 Weblog Awards

I'm a finalist for Best Business Blog! Go here and vote for me. You can vote once every 24 hours.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Career Troubles

Dear Evil HR Lady,
I need some impartial feedback on my current job situation that is causing me massive amounts of stress. I feel perplexed and overwhelmed and don't know if this is something I can change or something that I need to accept or move on from. You do not need to publish my letter, but if you could provide me with any thoughts, I'd greatly appreciate them.

First, I'll detail a bit of my work history for you so you can see where I've been.

Job #1
Length of employment: 4.5 years
Satisfaction Level: Moderate - a steady (but meager) paycheck, but minor perks (flexible work hours, 5 min. commute, etc.) that made it decent. The work itself was rather mindless.
Reason for leaving: A job that was initially described to me as "entry level with no room for advancement" that truly was just that. I stayed for quite a while and there was no room for me to gain responsibilities. It was great for right out of college...but I was hungry for more.

Job #2
Length of employment: 8 months
Satisfaction Level: HIGH! Worked for a company that I LOVED, doing something that was challenging and interesting, making significantly more money than previous job, working with a great group who I'm still friends with today.
Reason for leaving: A month after I was hired, it was announced that the company was acquired and that the aquiring company would be dominating. Anyone that wished to stay on would be required to move from the current location (PA) to the dominant company's location (TX). I left at the first "decent" opportunity that was presented to me after this announcement (though I lingered on for a bit) as my severence would have been only 1 month's worth.

Job #3
Length of employment: 3 months
Satisfaction Level: LOW. The three departments managed that were managed by a particular VP regularly experienced complete turnover in less than a year. Commute time was unbearable (during my interviews, traffic was not at it's peak and I underestimated this. My fault entirely).
Reason for leaving: See above. Additionally, a manager of another department at Job 2 came here to be my manager. She immediately began job hunting and left shortly after I did.

Job #4
Length of employment: 1.3 years
Satisfaction Level: Varied. Perks: High (free benefits, decent salary for area, low commute time, good PTO plan, hands-off boss) Job Itself: High - when actually given work to do. Boss was fed up and looking for a new job during my entire tenure here. Her attitude prevented her from fighting for my ideas and did not provide me adequate support. Another issue is that my position was newly created and I floundered for at least 6 months b/c no one had a clear expectation of what I was to be doing.
Reason for leaving: Lack of boss support (from someone who i liked as a person), instability (CEO who restructured my entire department 2 times before I came, once while I was there and once again since I left. Eliminating 3 positions total w/in the department)

Job #5
Length of employment: June to present
Satisfaction Level: Low - due to commute time (changed once school was back in session), boss, one co-worker, duties at times. High - with some particular duties and the company itself.
1. My boss "the VP" (whom I report to) is a difficult personality for me.
The good: She has the ear of our CEO. Since I have started here, compliments have been coming in from those I've worked with and the 'complimenters' have passed along the praise to my boss. She has passed along the praise to our CEO. She does compliment me from time to time.
The bad: She's a snob and belittling. Very domineering in that she will literally talk over me and not give me an opportunity to explain my thinking. She has a tendency to micromanage.
2. The duties. I'm being paid significantly more than my last job, but given the duties of an admin. I definitely don't mind pitching in to help with these...but this shouldn't be my primary focus at this point in my career. Something I made clear to my boss during hte interview process.
3. The "manager" - I do not directly report to this person, yet she seems to have the authority to assign me tasks. She's made it clear to me that she's done a lot of things that are now my responsibility (I am again, in a newly created position) and has difficulty surrendering the things she considers "fun" to me. Therefore she passes along all the stuff she doesn't enjoy to me.

I've tried talking to Manager, she's seemed to understand/agree with my concerns, but then goes back to the way she has been doing things. Another co-worker is a friend from a previous job. I've discussed my issue with her and she understands but her duties don't align with this manager, so it's not an issue for her. I've contemplated discussing this with MY boss, but I fear 2 things.
1. She's very reactionary. I don't want to create a BIG issue...just have her understand my frustrations.
2. I fear her saying somethign to Manager and having her become even worse/snarky. She is a single working mom and seems to really value her career, which is understandable. But she also seems to feel that it defines her. make a long story short (too late, I know), I'm torn between looking for a new job or trying to make this one work. I just feel since I've left Job 2, which was PERFECT, I've become the square peg trying to fit into the round hole and nothing has been quite right. I also realize that I'm probably looking like a job hopper right now. I don't want to be...but I want to be happy.

So, dear HR Lady, is it me? Am I a bad employee? Am I picking the wrong jobs? How do I know if it's the "right" job? Or am I just destined to be unhappy?

Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!!

Since it is Halloween night (and I keep getting interrupted by strangely dressed young people asking for candy) I gazed into my crystal ball and discovered this: You ARE destined for unhappiness.

So sorry. I suggest you don't purchase any lottery tickets either.

All right, all right, some of this is your own making. Some of this is bad luck. Here are the things that are of your own making:

1. Commute time. You really, really, really need to get a handle on that. Sure, major contstruction problems can cause unexpected delays, but other than that, you should be aware. Always do the expected commute during rush hour if commute time is important to you.

2. Picking bad bosses. What? Bosses don't pick you? Well, they do, but you also pick them. It's called recruiting because the company is trying to recruit you. You should be interviewing them as well as being interviewed. They don't want to hire a bad fit, and you certainly don't want to be hired into a bad fit. I'm betting you paid more attention to the title and salary than you did the actual boss. Company cultures are extremely important as well. Some people just "don't fit."

3. Expecting other people to explain things to you. That job with the unclear job resonsibilities? It should have been resolved within the first few weeks. You should have taken the lead. (Technically, it's not your responsibility, it's the manager's--and they shouldn't have been recruiting without at least a basic understanding of the responsibilities for the position--but they didn't. So you have to.)

Now, other things are definitely beyond your control. A new boss transferred in, for instance, or the old boss quitting. (And FYI you bosses out there who are planning to quit. Knock off the new hires will you? It's unfair to hire someone and then on their first day inform them that you're leaving at the end of the week and you don't know who their new supervisor will be.)

Research on the company is super important. You probably could have learned that they were a takeover target if you had done your research. Did you understand their current financial state before you interviewed? I actually think very few people do the research they really should do. Yes, they find out about the job and aspects of the company that pertain to that particular job, but forget to look at the overall health of the company.

So, what should you do? First, stop looking for bliss at work. Second, stop letting the bad portions overshadow the good. Third, stick out your current job for at least a year, preferrably two or three years. There are going to be people out there that vehemently disagree with me on this one, but you don't haven't had any long term jobs since your first one. This makes you less desireable on the hiring side. The potential manager is going to say, "what is wrong with this person?"

Yes, usually I advocate getting out when you realize you've made a mistake, but you've been doing that and it hasn't gotten any better.

You've got a micro-managing boss and a non-boss who wants to be a boss. Fine. Figure out how to deal with them. What makes them tick? Why is your VP micromanaging you? Does she mico-manage everyone, or just you? If it's just you, chances are you are doing something she perceives as wrong.

You loved Job Number 2. You know what? You probably would have had problems there had the job lasted a longer time. Since everyone was in the same desperate boat (find a new job or move to TX) you probably bonded where you wouldn't have otherwise. I'm not saying it wasn't a fabulous job, I'm just saying you are probably over-idealizing it. It's like the old joke where the minister asks all the perfect people in the audience to stand. One older gentleman stands up. The minister, prepared to give a speech about how we are all imperfect doesn't know quite what to say. As he begins to sputter the man says, "I'm not standing up for me. I'm just representing my wife's first husband." First husband wasn't perfect, but the wife only remembers the good sides.

A job is a job. It's why they call it work. Yes, some people are able to find bliss at work. Don't expect it. (Someone else is going to disagree with me on this one, but what can I say? I'm a little negative.) Work on solving the problems you have now and those skills will help you in future jobs.

When you do start job hunting again, take your time and make sure you are interviewing companies and bosses as well. Do your research. Hopefully this will lessen the chances of unexpected uglines.

And for heaven's sake, please test out the commute and look for school zones before you accept an offer.