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Monday, December 31, 2007

Head of Jargon

Dear Evil HR Lady (I'm sure you're not)

Could you please tell what is the difference between 'HR Director' and 'Head of People'?

Many thanks,

One is hip and trendy. The other is not. I hate "innovative" titles. Put them back in the box, please.

Head of People sounds like you manage all the people. Which you don't. So, stop trying to pretend.

Maybe my not-so-evil readership think there is a real difference. I think it's just a title thing to make the HR leadership seem more in touch with the "people." Personally, I think Head of People is too close to the old "Personnel." I don't want to go back to that era.

Diversity Thoughts

I'm not a huge fan of diversity departments, trainers or the ever present, "we're not telling you to consider race in your hires, but you better have more minorities on board by this time next year or it will affect your performance appraisal."

Then, you have "diversity training." Carmen has talked about diversity training that is ineffective. But, what if it's worse than ineffective? What if it opens you up for legal trouble?

Hans Bader at Open Market writes:
Gail Heriot, a law professor and member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, reports on the sexual harassment training she received at the University of San Diego, in a state (California) where such training is mandatory under state law. She points out that the training sent the message that criticisms of affirmative action by white male employees are something that the employer should “nip in the bud” through investigations.

This is exceedingly dumb legal advice, since criticism of affirmative action is protected against retaliation by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and other laws, even when the affirmative action program criticized turns out to have been perfectly legal. Even the very court rulings that have upheld private-sector affirmative action programs, such as Sisco v. J.S. Alberici Const. Co. (8th Cir. 1981), have allowed employees to sue employers who retaliate against them for criticizing affirmative action.

Bader goes on to document other nightmares of sexual harassment and diversity training.

What to do, what to do? Companies do such training to prove that discrimination is "not allowable here," but if they do it in a foolish fashion, they end up in illegal practices. A sexual harassment example from Mr. Bader:
In Hartman v. Pena (1995), the Federal Aviation Administration got sued for sexual harassment after it subjected employees to three days of diversity training that scapegoated white males. After a federal judge refused to dismiss the case against it, the agency had to pay out a settlement to the white male employee who sued.

So, here is the short version of the Evil HR Lady school of diversity training. I'll be happy to come present this at your company for a small large fee. Contact me for the actual numbers.

1. People are different.
2. We should be polite to people--even those who look/talk/dress/act differently than we do.
3. Jokes about race/gender/religion/sexual anything are not appropriate for the workplace. Save them for your friends and family, not your coworkers.
4. Remember, that when you are with your co-workers or boss, even if it's at happy hour after work, you are still at work. If you are at the grocery store and you run into your co-worker, you are immediately at work.
5. If someone makes a comment that insults your race/gender/origin/hairstyle/significant other/religion say to them seriously, "I found that comment offensive." If they don't know you find something offensive, can you really expect them to change their behavior?
6. If you say something that you don't mean to be offensive and find out someone is offended, please apologize and don't do it again. I don't care that your co-worker is over sensitive and that joke about how many people of [ethnic origin] it takes to change a light bulb is really, really, funny and this is the only person in the planet that finds this joke offensive, apologize and don't tell it again.
7. Stop being so darn sensitive. Assume that people are not racist/sexist at heart and that their offensive statements are without malice.
8. There is no such thing as a "diverse" candidate. There can be a diverse slate of candidates, which would mean you have a bunch of candidates with different backgrounds. There can be a candidate which would help you achieve your affirmative action goals, but there is not a "diverse" candidate. So, stop saying that.
9. Remember point 2? We need to be polite to everyone.
10. Leave dating out of the office. It only results in problems (and, well, a few happily ever afters, but boy the potential problems are huge and I am in HR and I do worry about such things).

As I said, this is the short version of my diversity plan. But, I think it's better than the Diversity Trainer who teaches that:
Participants must "come to recognize that race impacts every aspect of your life 100 percent of the time." Meanwhile, "anger, guilt and shame are just a few of the emotions" whites should expect to experience "as they move toward greater understanding of Whiteness."

No thanks.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Carnival of HR #23

Is up over at Compensation Force. I'm so glad that the rest of you remembered to submit posts. I've been so stressed over Christmas and year end I forgot all about it.

Go over and read it!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Telecommuting Dreams

Hi I love your blog, so I am submitting a question/situation that I hope that you can help me with.

Telecommuting is not looked upon favorable even though Congress is trying to change that. The reason I am asking about telework/telecommuting is because I would like to do it when I am pregnant. I did it for 2 ½ years before accepting this position within the same office. As part of the acceptance, I had to give up the telecommuting part.

It was because I was a paid “intern” and interns couldn’t do that. Now my boss says oh no it’s because it is not appropriate for the work. All of the work is conducted via the server. I have a laptop for work that docks into a docking station, phone card, all in one printer/copier/fax/scanner and cable internet (wireless system) installed at home. I also have software on my computer that lets me receive calls on my computer (messages and faxes). She has let me do it to work over 400 hours of OT this past year. She just doesn’t want it to be used for regular hours.

My last pregnancy, this same boss let me telecommute for 2 days a week. This was at 26 weeks. However, she said I can only do it for three weeks. Not sure why as my dr had written a note for till the end of pregnancy. So I had a medical excuse. I commute an hour each way and the drs felt it was too much. At the end of that 3 weeks, I decided I needed to totally go out and asked my dr to write the medical note. He readily agreed. I ended up delivering at 35 weeks. Every single pregnant woman in the district/agency has been allowed to telecommute with a medical note during pregnancy.

My husband and I want a third child. Then this one will be it. How do I get my boss to let me telecommute during pregnancy. A medical note would be no problem. Due to the nature of why it would be high risk, my primary care dr would actually want me doing telework from the beginning. My ob and perinatologist would agree to a medical note as well, but in the second trimester. My fine points are that I am the only person in the office that knows how to upload, change, add solicitations to the website.

Pretty much everything with my job can be done from home with the exception of me being physically present in the office. It would be a win win situation and I just need for her to see that. I want to be able to still contribute. Only I will have to do it from a different location. An hour each way to and from work will make my perinatologist’s blood boil (last time she told me I had no business commuting back and forth and needed to be on bedrest). I am a higher level grade, a GS 11. Our office is also short handed. I guess if she tells me no, that I could bring an EEO complaint as all the other pregnant women in the District were allowed to work from home during and after their pregnancies. I would rather not do that. I will if I need to.

So how do I present it to her as a win win situation. She gets to keep an employee that has a lot of knowledge (I have gotten the highest ratings on all of my performance appraisals and performance awards each year). I still get a paycheck without using up all of my leave (which there is only about 8 weeks of due to this medical problem and would be taken when the baby is born). I am willing to accommodate and do what I need to do. She is a very old fashioned person. She is 56 and getting ready to retire in a year. She doesn’t understand computers or technology well. She has never said that I didn’t do a bad job on telework, just that she doesn’t want me to do it consistently. Actually she says I do a good job on it and present constant evidence of what I do while at home. She says she is not one of those people that can be focused and do work from home. I am one of those people. I work best from home! So any help that you can give me to arrange this with her and so that it works for both of us would be greatly appreciated.

Here are the facts of the case as I see them:

1. Your boss doesn't like telecommuting employees
2. You knew this when you accepted the job
3. You want to get pregnant and telecommute while pregnant
4. You can effectively do your job from home
5. Other women have been allowed to telecommute during pregnancy

I like telecommuting. I work from home from time to time and find it to be quite effective. But, not for everyone.

Your problem is your boss doesn't like full time telecommuters. Unfortunately, you knew this when you took the job, so it's not like it was a big surprise to you. Some bosses don't like it at all. They feel like if they can't see you, you must not be working.

I'm a big fan of results oriented work, rather than time clock punching. Some managers cannot separate out the two. They are utterly convinced that if you are not right where they can see you, then you must be watching Oprah. (This is false, you are actually watching HGTV and spray painting regular household objects to turn them into Christmas decorations!) Now, I will say that my neighbor telecommutes full time and she confessed that she has procured a board that she places across her bathtub. This allows her to sit in the bathtub, with her laptop, and work in luxury. I told her I hope she doesn't get electrocuted. I suspect your boss fears just such a set up and that nothing productive can be accomplished covered in bubbles.

So, how do you convince your boss? I suspect at this point you can't. You've shown her all the evidence. You've put in overtime from home. Other people do it successfully. You've done it successfully in the past. She does not like it.

Pregnancy isn't automatically covered by the American's with Disabilities Act. Your high risk pregnancy might be. Depends on how much it affects your life in other ways. Even if it is, telecommuting is not required as a reasonable accommodation under ADA unless it is the only accommodation. This may be your best tactic. If your doctors insist that you must work from home or not work at all, after the second trimester, (I think your OB and Perinatologist are going to pull more weight on this issue than your primary care doctor--don't push your luck) you may be able to accomplish your goal under "reasonable accommodation."

It will be difficult for your boss to argue that it doens't work with the organization because other women do it. (Of course, that begs the question, are men allowed to telecommute? Most pregnant women do not need special accommodation during pregnancy, other than a dedicated bathroom stall, and the more protections we make around pregnancy the less desireable young female hires become. Pregnancy, to me (a currently pregnant employee, I might add) should not automatically result in special accommodations.)

With your doctor's note and the other people in the department who do so, you may be able to go over her head.

However, have you thought about transferring to a new position? I don't know how government jobs work, but I imagine you could look into that. Look for a boss that is more favorable to such arrangements. I know I've mentioned this before, but you knew she didn't like telecommuting when you took the job.

Frequently, we accept obligations and then get all huffy when we have to meet those obligations. It's like marrying someone because you are so sure "he'll change." This is one of the dumbest things people do and they do it all the time. (Sure, he drinks now, but once we're married he'll settle down. Or, sure, she's whiny and clingy, but once we're married she'll feel more secure and stop whining.)

Good luck with your pregnancy and your job. I hope you can work something out.

UPDATE: Stella Commute gives a much better answer here. She obviously has more experience in this matter than I do.


Dear Evil HR Lady,

I have a question for you. I was laid off in a senseless "cut-just-to- make-cuts" decision by clueless upper management (who, by now, I already know are the truly EVIL ones - not HR).

The thing is, I know that as soon as the company's profits come in line (once the aforementioned evil bunch are ousted), I'll be able to get my job back immediately. My question is - I know that there's some time limitation for when you can re-hire someone for a job that they were laid off from. Do you know what this is? I'm in Washington state.

There is no such thing as a time limitation by law. If your company wants to hire you back today they can. If they want to hire you back in 5 years, they can. Any limitation would be imposed by the company itself, it's not legal.

If you are in a union, there may be recall rights that will expire after a certain amount of time.

If you had to sign any documents, the information should be contained within your release or the accompanying information.

However, please don't count your chickens before they are hatched, or put all your eggs in one basket or any other poultry related trite sayings. If you "know" you'll be hired back I have to ask how you know this. You say the bad management will be fired.

Maybe, maybe not. Even assuming you are right and they are completely incompentant doesn't mean that they'll actually get fired. It may just mean that they will continue on in their ineffective management style.

Go look for another job. Don't count on this one to be there for you.

Christmas Meme

I got tagged by The Happy Employee, so I thought I'd kind of play along. It's too close to Christmas to tag anyone else, so I'll just answer the questions.

1. Wrapping or gift bags?
I wrap, but despise it. I find the whole wrapping thing tedious.

2. Real or artificial tree?
Real. We drive up to the middle of nowhere and my husband saws it down himself. (The farm has men with chain saws that will do it for you, but it's much more traditional to saw it ourself.) We get a 9 foot Douglas Fir every year. It takes up way too much space in our family room.

3. When do you put up the tree?
First Saturday in December

4. When do you take the tree down?
Sometime in January before the last township tree pick up.

5. Do you like eggnog?
It's all right--non-alcoholic only.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Hungry Hungry Hippos

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Five of them. The first is a white porcelin one made for me by a youth leader when I was 16. Then I have three international ones--from Peru, Kenya and Nepal. These three were all purchased from 10,000 Villages. They sell fabulous nativity scenese from all over the world. The last is a cheap wooden one, purchased for $1 at a garage sale. The offspring plays with that one.

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
A make-over. Sure, it sounds like a good gift, but the woman who gave it to me alternated between talking on the phone, insulting me, and putting on thick purple make-up. It was a wonderful thought, but it turned out awful.

9. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail, but I haven't sent them out yet this year.

10. Favorite Christmas movie?
It's a Wonderful Life.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
I would love to do my shopping early, but my husband's family is very big on "lists" and no one wlll give me a list until after Thanksgiving.

12. Favorite things to eat at Christmas? Fudge

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?

14. Favorite Christmas song? Baby, What Are You Going to Be? My parents had this on a Mormon Tabernacle Choir album, purchased in the early '80s. I would love to find it again, but have been unsuccessful.

And on that thought, Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sometimes This is What I Want to Send to People


Have you ever had one of those days, where people ask you inane questions? Of course you have. Don't you wish you could just reply with this bunny picture?

(And somebody sent this picture to me, so I did not take it. If it is your creative work, let me know and I'll either give you credit or take it down, whatever your preference may be.)
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Thursday, December 20, 2007


After reading your response to the women with 2 DUIs, I was hoping you could give me some insight. Here is my story:

I graduated college in December 2004. I accepted a job right away. I was 23 years old at the time. 3 months into my job, I got a DUI. I jumped through all the loops and have not had a problem with drinking since then. The night I did drive under the influence, I had very poor judgment. It definitely was a profound learning experience that I will never let happen again.

Three years later and I am ready to look for a new job. I have been asked to be interviewed by a great company, and they sent me a formal application. Of course one of the questions included is around if I have had any convictions other than a minor traffic offense. Of course I have, and I do plan on disclosing that I got a DUI.

My question is how much will this affect my chance to get the position? Do employers truly not judge, especially if I have had a clean record since?

Employers aren't supposed to let a conviction affect their decision to hire someone unless that conviction is related to the job. Supposed to is the operative phrase. Will they? Hard to say.

The conviction was 4 years ago and you've been good (or not caught!) since. We'll assume the former. This shows you realized your mistake and are determined not to repeat it. That said, one DUI conviction shows exceedingly poor judgment on your part (which you know).

Personally, if you were my top candidate I wouldn't let this affect my decision. In fact, I don't think this type of information should be revealed to the hiring manager. It should be placed on the application and the recruiter should only bring it to the attention of the hiring manager if the job involves driving or operating heavy equipment or something related. I think this should be the case for all convictions.

There are tons of reasons to not hire someone. It's easy to say, "It's not because of your old DUI conviction that we're not offering you the job, it's because your skill A isn't as good as another candidate's." (Not that anyone tells you why they aren't hiring you, they just don't hire you, but if you were to sue, that would come up. I don't advise suing, by the way. Suck it up and keep looking. That's my motto!)

I hope you get this job, and I hope you continue not to drink and drive.


I am student and I am doing a project on social situation in HR. Do you have any ideas that I could do my project on? I was thinking about presenting information on Christmas and Halloween parties at work. Thanks for your help!

Since the semester is now undoubtedly over, and you had to do your own darn homework (see how evil I am?) I'll respond to your question.

Work is work. Social life is social life. Don't confuse the two. You are at a work party? Party on, dude, right? No. You are still at work. Work=work. You are hanging out with friends and your boss happens to be at the same restaurant. You now must be on work behavior.

I am such a party pooper. (It's genetic, by the way. When my siblings and I complained to my grandmother that my father didn't understand the teenage need to do fun stuff my grandmother said, rather matter-of-factly, "your father was never a teenager." I have now turned into him, except for his insane desire to get up at 5:00 a.m. What is up with that?)

When I'm queen of the universe, work parties will occur during lunch. Free food (good food, please) and no alcohol will be served. See, party pooper? (Full disclosure--I don't drink anyway, so I don't feel slighted in such situations.)

When a company sponsors an event, liability attaches. You serve alcohol and you better make sure people have a way home that doesn't involve driving their drunken selves.

Employees (especially the non-management types) feel obligated to attend company parties, regardless of whether they want to or not. This makes it another "work" function. Even if you invite spouses/significant others to make it a real "party, all that means is that now your employees have to find a babysitter, pay a babysitter and spend an evening with people they see all day anyway.

Okay, so I don't like office parties. Other people do. I'm happy to hear their opinions. Just don't make me come to your office parties.

Halloween costumes? Sure. I'm all for them. During the day. Depending on your business.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Smoking and Your Job

A reader sent me a link to this article about a Florida company which has banned all employees from smoking--even at home, and asked for my thoughts.

I don't know why this reader thought I'd have an opinion on this, as I seriously lack opinions.

Ha, ha, sorry about that. Here's my opinion. I think Franklin D. Roosevelt was a terrible president and that the New Deal did more to damage the United States than almost any other policy. (What policy would fall into the "almost" category, I don't know off the top of my head, but I'm leaving it open in case I remember something.)

I am not some rambling mad woman (well, yes, yes, I am, but not on this topic. Do you realize how many days until Christmas and that payroll wants any changes for the January 15th pay by this Thursday? Are they mad?), this actually relates.

New Deal legislation prevented companies from paying market rates for jobs. This was in the hopes that companies would hire more people. What happened is that companies began offering non-cash benefits, such as health insurance, to attract employees.

The government encouraged this by giving company offered health insurance tax breaks, not offered to individuals. As a result, more companies began offering health insurance.

Good, right? I don't think so. This Florida company shows the end result of that. In order to get good employees you have to offer good health benefits. In order to offer health benefits you need to be able to pay for them. If your employees are sick or have bad habits (such as smoking, drinking or eating entire cartons of Ben and Jerry's ice cream--one carton does not equal one serving, by the way) then your health insurance costs go up.

Solution? Have healthier employees. How to do this? Well, prohibiting smoking sounds like a pretty easy way to do so.

Don't like it? Get a different job. Still don't like it? Complain to FDR.

Boy, I'm all political today. Vote Herbert Hoover!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Career Transition

I recently retired from the Air Force in October 2007. What advice would you offer me as far as transitioning back into the civilian world? I have a resume that I wrote a few months back, are there any services which might be able to offer me some feedback on how I could improve my resume?

There are a ton of resume services out there, but I don't know any personally, so I'll have to decline to recommend one. It may be worth your time and money to have someone look over it, but there are no hard and fast rules for resumes other than these (which I'm sure someone in the comments will disagree with):

1. Check your spelling. Six times. Have your wife/husband/neighbor/dry cleaner check your spelling.
2. Check your grammar. (See above for details)
3. Limit your resume to 2 pages (unless this is some resume where you need to list all your fabulous publications).
4. Customize your resume to the job you are looking for.
5. Leave off that "career objective" statement at the top. I have no idea if recruiters like those but everyone I've seen is so generic and annoying that it lowers my opinion of the letter writer.

As to how to transfer your Air Force career into a civilian career, don't over think it. You've been working for the past twenty years and now you want to keep working. Excellent. Determine what you want to do and research the companies you want to work for and go for it.

You may be sitting there thinking, "but I've been blowing things up for twenty years and every time I search on 'explosives' on I get no hits!" I actually have a friend who just retired from a company that marketed bombs. Yes, actually bombs. He was a bomb marketer. (He always went to the best conventions.) So, don't doubt your ability to find a job that fits your skill set.

You may find it difficult to go from a military world to a civilian world, but don't let that scare you. Start networking, especially among your friends who retired before you did. They know the ropes and they know you.

Good luck with your job search and thanks for serving in the military. Those of us who live in freedom thank you.

Stuck in Sixth Grade


Why is it that we get weather like this on a weekend? Even though I'm an adult, I still wish for these things during the week, so we wouldn't have to go to work.

Yes, I lack something in the company cheerleader department.
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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Enforceable Severance Clauses

I have, I think, a simple question. -I recently left a job from a Fortune 500 company because of discrimination issues. They gave me a severance package, however they said they would pay until Jan. 22nd unless i got a new job. If the new job paid less then what i was making then they would only pay the difference until jan. 22nd. I should have negotiated this better, but I just wanted to get out:(

My question is....if I accept a new job before then 22nd, is there anyway they can find out like IRS, public info, ect? I feel that I should be owed that money regardless and still would want to accept my last check.

To answer your question, yes they technically could find out. They won't and even if they did they wouldn't pursue it because the amount of money would be so small it wouldn't be worth their time and effort. At worst, you could expect the money you owed to your previous company to be turned over to a collection agency. This could affect your credit.

Now, to answer the question you are clearly avoiding. Should you try to cheat your former company? The answer is a big, resounding, no. No, no, no and no. Looking into my crystal ball I see that you signed a General Release in exchange for this severance. This clearly spelled out the terms of your agreement, including this clause about obtaining new employment.

Do not sign documents that you do not agree with. While I believe your company wouldn't do anything about it, they might and you would lose and you'd have to pay back the money and face legal fees. Why would you want to put yourself into such a situation?

Personally, I think you previous company is foolish and makes things more difficult for themselves in the hopes of saving a few bucks. Dumb, dumb, and dumb. If a clause is going to cost the company more to enforce than it will save them, they need to stop and consider why they put it in there. My bet is some senior HR person has a bee in his little bonnet and wants it there. People who actually carry this stuff out think it's foolish, but their power is limited.

Companies offer severance to people like you (who feel they were discriminated against), do so to get you to go away. Honest. It's not out of sense of fairness (oh, you were wronged, so we must give you cash!), it's out of sense of "this person is ticked and will sue. Even if we are sure we would win the lawsuit, the bad press and the cost are not worth it to us. Let's give her a small amount of severance and she will go away."

So, since that is the goal, it seems counter productive to include a clause that requires you to come back and report your new job. It seems especially counter productive to include a clause that discourages you from finding a new job. Happily employeed former employees=people who leave you alone.

So, in summary (I feel like I'm writing a bad Freshman English paper, although let the record state that I never took Freshman English because I passed the AP English exam), Yes, you are legally bound to report new employment to them. No, they probably won't come after you. Yes, your previous company has foolish policies.

Good luck with the job hunt. I hope you find a fantatstic job. And I hope you filed for unemployment as well. If you didn't, go back and do so now.

(One little off topic hint--if you are being terminated, make sure you don't negotiate a "voluntary" termination reason. Sure, it sounds nice to be able to say you resigned, but it makes you (generally, your state may vary) ineligible for unemployment benefits. Also, if you are being fired for cause, try to negotiate a non-willful non-performance or position elimination termination reason instead. For cause=no unemployment.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Making Money or Costing Money?

The accountant lamented to the banker, "How come you make so many times what I make?" The banker responded, off handedly, "Because I make money and you cost money."

Good point. Which do you do?

Carnival of HR #22

Is now up over at The Cranky Middle Manager. Hop over and read it.

Next up, Ann Bares at Compensation Force.

Policies Preventing Success

This New York Times articles caught my eye. The first, Tracing Business Acumen to Dyslexia begins this way:
It has long been known that dyslexics are drawn to running their own businesses, where they can get around their weaknesses in reading and writing and play on their strengths. But a new study of entrepreneurs in the United States suggests that dyslexia is much more common among small-business owners than even the experts had thought.

They have had to overcome a great deal and therefore, don't fear challenges. Dyslexics are better at delegation and in picking who to delegate too, apparently. The study (while small) suggests that 35% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic.

The NY Times states:
“Entrepreneurs are hands-on people who push a minimum of paper, do lots of stuff orally instead of reading and writing, and delegate authority, all of which suggests a high verbal facility,” Mr. Dennis said. “Compare that with corporate managers who read, read, read.”

Indeed, according to Professor Logan, only 1 percent of corporate managers in the United States have dyslexia.

Hmmm. Does HR play a role in setting up that type of culture and those requirements? You bet. Should we? Maybe. In some cases it makes sense, in others, not so much. For a position that needs to be highly innovative, wouldn't it make more sense to lessen some of the tedious responsibilities to open it up to entrepreneurial types?

What about micro-managers? Please, heaven help us, we want to get rid of them. They drive us insane. They are in our offices complaining about their employees. Their employees are in our offices complaining about them. If they could go away, our lives would be much happier. The coping skills dyslexics had to gain to survive make them (apparently) less likely to micro-manage.

Why is there so much reading at the top? Just what are these people reading, anyway? I know at my company most changes to employees have to be approved by rather senior people. This is an example of micro managing at its worst. If you report to me and I want to promote you and I have money in my budget (and it's within guidelines, blah, blah, blah) why should I have to get approval from my division head? I know, I know, equity and fairness. Bah! I know what's going on in my department better than they do.

If I'm making bad decisions, coach me. If that doesn't work, fire me. Don't micro-manage me.

Will hiring more dyslexics solve all our problems? Of course not. Will removing barriers to their success help? Perhaps. It comes down to being able to determine what is necessary for the job, rather than what traditionally has been done. We need to be able to separate out the two.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Would Your Company's Bureaucracy Allow This?

Park Place, Boardwalk, and a hidden map with a secret escape route? For Allied POWs during World War II, Monopoly® games came equipped with real-life "get out of jail free" cards.

Wow. I did not know that. I'm not a big Monopoly player because my attention span is way too short for that type of game, but fascinating.

The article goes on to state how they went about it:
In 1941, the British Secret Service approached Waddington with its master plan, and before long, production of a "special edition" Monopoly set was underway. For the top-secret mission, the factory set aside a small, secure room -- unknown to the rest of its employees -- where skilled craftsmen sat and painstakingly carved small niches and openings into the games' cardboard boxes.

Along with the standard thimble, car, and Scotty dog, the POW version included additional "playing" pieces, such as a metal file, a magnetic compass, and of course, a regional silk escape map, complete with marked safe-houses along the way -- all neatly concealed in the game's box.

It made me think--if the British Secret Service approached my company about something like this, would the bureaucratic processes put in place--largely by HR--allow this to go through? Could it be kept secret? I swear, the more "top secret" something is the more people are involved and the more meetings occur.

I'm a big fan of allowing managers to act. Could yours in this situation? Even your senior management? Or would the policies and practices put a stop to it.

Think about it. Your CEO wants to move 10 employees into a different room. How many people would have to know and authorize that? Why so many?

Something to think about, anyway.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

What Is Your Purpose?

Hello Evil One.
I am leaving my company because of my HR department. The HR Mgr. has been sleeping with our boss for at least 4 years. I work for a private company that has a very impressive clientele. The worst part is that the HR Mgr. has only 50 employees to tend to, yet she needed an assistant. Her assistant is 28 years old and has little to no experience. The assistant has caught on to the devious tricks of claim denials, endless lunch hours and inappropriate language. The boss is letting the place get ghetto and we are all at his mercy. The tricky part is that I have a good standing with the boss's wife, should I confront her about this?

Let me tell you a little story. When I was about 8 we lived next door to a man named Joe. Joe smoked. Now, in church and in school I had learned about the evils of smoking. God didn't want us to smoke and further more the Surgeon General (whatever that was) had determined that smoking was hazardous to one's health! Wow! Joe must not know this.

So, with the zeal only found in 8 year olds, I determined to tell him. After all, the only logical reason he could still be smoking was that no one had told him. I had only just learned about the Surgeon General's determination, so it made sense to me that someone not in the second grade would not have learned such a thing.

He was outside on his porch smoking when I decided to share my new found knowledge. I just knew that Joe would immediately crush out his cigarette, throw out his pack and thank me for saving his life. So, I stated very clearly and authoritatively, "The Surgeon General has determined that smoking cigarettes can be hazardous to your health."

Well, Joe didn't stop smoking and he didn't thank me. Instead he said, "Shut up little girl." I was devastated and ran inside, too embarrassed to tell my parents. I avoided Joe after that.

My point (and I do have one) is this: Your boss's wife either already knows or she doesn't want to know. You telling her is going to accomplish what? She won't hug you and say, "Oh, thank you for telling me! I will now fire the incompetent HR manager and her dingbat assistant! Then I will leave my husband and start on the life I've always dreamed of, shoveling elephant poop in Arkansas!" She will say the equivalent of "shut up little girl" and go on with her life.

Your only purpose in blabbing would be to make you feel justified in leaving and to fulfill that inner desire to gossip. Let it go. How do you know this anyway? Can you really be sure that's going on? If the office gossip has gotten to you, it's gotten to her.

Go to your new job and leave the old one behind.

This Person Will Be Sending You His Resume Shortly

From Fat Doctor:
PaniniFreak emailed me that the secretary at the high school where she teaches got a panicky call from a parent this afternoon.

The mom wanted to know who would clear the freshly-fallen snow from her son’s windshield before he came home.

I kid you not.

This mother will also accompany him on the interview and do the follow up herself. Then she will call you back and demand to know why he didn't get the job.

This is one of the reasons I don't do recruiting.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Exempt Pay Deductions

Hi Evil HR Lady,

I am an exempt employee (recruiter/sales) and never get paid overtime. Our evil admin lady is a real clock watcher and wants to deduct from our sick and or vacation time anytime we are out of the office "unaccounted for".

For example one day I took my wife to work and was 30 minutes "late". That is I arrived at 8:30am instead of 8:00am. I called in and the people that count knew where I was. However Evil Admin lady deducted 30 minutes from my vacation time. That very evening I worked until 7:00pm. And I was on call for the whole week taking phone calls at night and on the weekend. Over course I did not get paid for any of this - but had to cop a deduction in my vacation time.

I understand that an employer can set schedules - even for exempt employees - but is this behavior illegal or just annoying?

My vote? Illegal.

My second vote? Stupid too.

Now, my lawyer friends may jump in and correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think so. You can be disciplined or fired for being late. You can get a lousy performance rating and given all the lousy assignments. But, you can't have your pay docked.

My source for all this is our very own US Department of Labor. Here are some dull quotes from them:
Being paid on a “salary basis” means an employee regularly receives a predetermined amount of compensation each pay period on a weekly, or less frequent, basis. The predetermined amount cannot be reduced because of variations in the quality or quantity of the employee’s work. Subject to exceptions listed below, an exempt employee must receive the full salary for any week in which the employee performs any work, regardless of the number of days or hours worked. Exempt employees do not need to be paid for any workweek in which they perform no work. If the employer makes deductions from an employee’s predetermined salary, i.e., because of the operating requirements of the business, that employee is not paid on a “salary basis.” If the employee is ready, willing and able to work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available.

Now that you didn't read that brilliantly written paragraph, I'll put it into bullet points for clarity:

  • Salary cannot be reduced due to reduced quantity or quality of work
  • You must receive a full week's pay if you perform ANY work during that week (there are a few exceptions, such as if you quit on Monday, they don't have to pay you for the whole week)
  • If the employer makes deductions then you are not "salaried" and are therefore eligible for overtime
  • Even if there is nothing for you to do, you must be paid if you are willing, ready and able to work.

  • The technical language is all spelled out at the above link. The administrator likes her little power game. Your company doesn't wish to pay you, and everyone else she does this to, overtime. Talk to HR. If they don't care, present them with a bill for the overtime you are due.

    Thursday, December 06, 2007

    Internal Policy

    I came across your website this morning and I think it’s great! I have a very complicated question that I’m hoping you can help me with or at least point me in the right direction to get my answer. It’s a little complicated, but here it goes….

    About two and a half years ago I worked for a big Corporation (we will call it XYZ). After six months of employment with them, they started doing lay offs. At that time, I went and sat down with my immediate supervisor, knowing I was the new kid on the block, we discussed my options of whether I should stay and try to weather the storm, or take a new opportunity that had just come my way. Because of the uncertainty of what was coming up, I decided to take the new opportunity, and he was very supportive of my decision. When I left, I left on good terms with an “eligible to be rehired” on my record.

    Two years have gone by. I applied for a new position at XYZ. I got the first interview, and the hiring supervisor really liked me and felt I was a strong candidate for the job. I told him I had worked for this company up front and before going further in the recruiting process, he had my employee record pulled up to make sure I was re-hirable. When it came back that I was, he proceeded to have me come back for a second and third interview. I interviewed with his immediate supervisor, and they decided they want to hire me. But here’s the catch…. After all that, it seems that XYZ must have an internal policy that they do not rehire, and any rehires have to be sent to a panel for review to see if they will rehire or not, even if the hiring supervisor wants that person. Is it legal for them to have an internal policy like that without it being posted on their website somewhere? Can they do that without it being public notice to all potential candidates that apply? They do have the question on there about have you ever worked for them before, but no where does it state that they will not rehire even if the employee record stays that you can be.

    Companies can have whatever policies they want to have as long as they don't violate any laws. So a policy against rehiring people is perfectly legal. And why wouldn't it be? Clearly if you've worked for them in the past, they aren't discriminating against your race or gender. (I suppose you could argue that they are discriminating on the basis of age because you are now older, but I doubt it.) As long as the policy is applied to everyone, or they have clear exceptions that don't violate laws they are good to go.

    Policies can be created, implemented, removed, updated and turned on their heads 3 times a week if a company wants to. (Although they don't because policy development takes more time than potty training and if you've ever done the latter you'll appreciate the difficulties faced here.)

    However, I would question why they interviewed you in the first place. Either the recruiter was an idiot (possible) or he was not informed of this policy (more likely) and the hiring manager wasn't either, or someone is lying to you.

    It's a stupid lie. They do not have to rehire you. You weren't even laid off so you can't even argue you have callback rights. (Which you wouldn't unless you were union, which I doubt you were.)

    But, my advice? Forget about it. Go find another job. Companies do stupid things. Having a no rehire policy is one of those stupid things. It's not illegal. It's not even immoral. Just a bad idea. Go work some place else.

    Career Development

    Dear Evil HR Lady

    I know that you're evil. You work in HR and you even mention it in your name.
    But still, I think you're the person who could give me some precious advice.

    I've been working in HR for almost 10 years and am looking for a new challenge. The difficulty is that I don't really know what to look for now. I've done it all: hiring, calming down employees, advising managers, saying no more and more often and also some firing. So should I continue on this path and become the "super-generalist" leading a team (people management would be a new challenge), or should I start specializing in one area?

    I've got about 30 years ahead of me before retirement and I believe that I'm not a Peter yet.

    What do you recommend?

    Thank you so much for your advice!

    Whatever you want.

    Really. 30 years ahead of you is a long time. You want to be a super generalist now? Go for it. You want to manage people now, go for it. You want to be a specialist, go for it.

    See, aren't you glad you took the time to write?

    There is no clear career path for HR. It depends on what you want to accomplish and what you want to do with your life. I work in a fortune 500 company. I DO NOT want to be a Senior VP of HR for such a company. I don't. Really. Not interested. So, I'm not choosing that path.

    I've been a specialist almost all of my career and I enjoy the specialist life. There's little employee contact in my current job (some, but not tons), but lots of policy and procedure, which I like.

    If you want to climb a corporate ladder you need experience managing people. You also need strong experience in all areas. You didn't mention compensation, benefits or reporting/metrics. The latter has become so much more important, even in the past few years. You don't necessarily need to know how to do it, but you need to understand and apply the results.

    If you want that brass ring, try to work your way into a job outside of HR. Get some business experience and then come back. Get that MBA.

    But, if you don't want that (after all, at the end of the day, all you have is a brass ring), don't go chasing it.

    The important thing is for you to realize there are consequences to your actions. Going to the next job will help determine what jobs you are eligible for after that. If you have a specific end goal, or more realistically a specific "10 years from now" goal, and you know someone who is there, make an appointment. Go talk. Ask what she was doing 10 years ago, what mistakes she made, what she would have done differently.

    Then follow that.

    I do, however, think it's easier to go from a generalist role to a specialist role than it is to do the reverse. Others may disagree. In fact, I hope they do (or agree) in the comments, to give you a better idea of how they've gotten where they are.

    Avoiding a Question

    I got sent a question about interviewing a potential HRIS manager. I punted to Evil HRIS Guy and he answered, in part:
    Have you any experience with outsourcing, or dealing with a SaaS vendor?

    Chances are your senior management is going to read a trade rag or buy into the groupthink that outsourcing saves money at all costs and you are going to have to deal with outsourcing. If you have, tell me about it and how you would deal with a vendor with poor support?

    This is why I sent it to him, because, of course, he's right and I wouldn't have thought of it.

    My one thought on hiring someone technical, if you are not technical yourself, is get someone techy to interview as well.

    When I was hired as an HRIS manager, Mr. Techy said to me, "Your resume says you know Microsoft Access."

    "Yes," I said, "I can't do visual basic or SQL, but I do have a great deal of experience with queries, forms and reports."

    He gave me an inquisitive look, "Do you know what an update query is?"

    I thought the man must be an idiot. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Access knows that. "Yes," I said.

    "Can you give me an example of how you have used an update query and an append query?"

    I did, and I thought it was strange--until about a year later. I was hiring a temp. "Do you know Access?" I asked.

    "Yes," she said.

    "What have you done in Access," I asked.

    "Queries, forms, reports, you know," she said. I didn't delve any deeper.

    Turns out she had run queries that other people had written. Done data entry on forms other people had developed. Run reports other people had written. Oops. She was shown the door two weeks later.

    And I learned my lesson.

    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    Time to Start Looking

    I am an HR manager for a retail outlet. In the last year our company has gone through management changes.

    When I originally started there was a CEO, Controller, three District Managers, a VP, and Office Manager and three accounting personnel. In August of last year, they hired a CFO. I got along quite well with the new CFO and we worked on switching payroll companies and other projects.

    In December, the Office Manager position was eliminated. The next day a new CFO came on board and the previous CFO became the COO. A week later they hired a new controller. Two weeks later two of the accounting personnel left which left me to do all the a/p, payroll, purchasing, and accounts receivable.

    Then we hired three replacements. The receptionist is rather dingy and her excel skills are sorely lacking. Hire number two was a purchasing assistant but she does no more than what is required of her and even that she doesn't do well. Hire number three is accounts payable and if she isn't late, calling in sick or leaving early she is a hard worker.

    I brought this to the attention of the COO since he is who I directly report to and he wanted me to help him more with store operations. Would be wonderful if I had someone to delegate to. He said he would bring this to the attention of the CFO who these people report to. The CFO did nothing. Last weekend I went into the office for my normal routine and I walked by my bosses office and it was very empty.

    Come to find out Monday morning due to sales being down, they let the COO go. I had a long conversation with the CEO and he says he does not want to be involved in daily functions he leaves that up to me. We discussed where the company is losing money and we had a meeting with all department heads to discuss how we can improve operations.

    I feel like this is a positive step. My issue I guess is that I have been put in a position where I am Office Manager/HR Manager, Payroll, Accounts Receivable. I know due to finances I won't receive a raise. They are even scaling back the Christmas party. I'm wondering is it time to start to look seriously for another job or should I ride the waves and see the outcome in six months? I have been with company just over two years.

    What do you have to lose by leaving? What do you have to gain by staying? Pull out the old pen and paper and make two lists. Pros and Cons of leaving.

    The job may have problems, but if it's 5 minutes from your house and allows you flexible hours so that you can take your yoga classes and go to craft fairs to attempt to sell your sculptures made out of old soup cans and glass beads it may be worth staying no matter what else the cost. (Because, let's face it, your sculpture sure as heck ain't paying the mortgage.)

    Are your current responsibilities going to help you in the long run?

    Is the situation so stressful it's affecting your personal life?

    Have you looked at the market lately?

    One advantage of job hunting while you still have a job is that you have options. My general advice in such situations is to go out and look. See what pops up. Just make sure you have your list of benefits from staying already made, so that you can easily compare it with new offers.

    If the company you are at is having financial troubles then you need to be prepared for losing your own job. It happens. Even to nice HR people.

    Is HR Not Respected?

    I’ve worked as a wholesaler (employee benefit specialist) most of my career and came over to the retail side simply because I didn’t like what “so-called” benefit consultants were doing to their clients (i.e. HR professionals like yourself) or not doing. I believe I can do a better job.

    Further, I don’t believe HR professionals get the professional credit they deserve from upper management. It’s starting to change, but has a long way to go.

    Would you agree?

    Yes...and no. I deserve more respect. And more money. A lot more money. And an office with a window. Right now I'm in an old file room and there are no windows and the furniture is that old metal stuff (not the chair--it's not that primitive) and they won't let me put up a cork board because it's not standard. "I'm in an old file room. Everyone else has wooden furniture and you're telling me I can't have a silly cork board?!" I said. "Yes," they said. Facilities has more power than they should.

    I'm digressing. Yes, HR deserves respect. Sometimes. Sometimes we do it to ourselves.

    Respect isn't granted, it's earned. HR people that are rubber stamping sycophants don't deserve respect. Business people who work on the people side in order to make sure that the company does the right thing for the people and the business, they deserve more respect.

    Employee relations people who navigate critical situations and resolve conflicts that can save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) in lawsuits and help retain the best talent deserve respect. Employee relations people who play favorites and ignore problems until they explode don't deserve respect.

    HE people who don't take the time to develop their own employees but turn around and lecture line management on developing their employees rightly should not be respected.

    There are some fabulous HR people and departments. There are some real screw ups. Some times we end up in departments that have been headed by screw ups for years and we have to earn respect. It's our responsibility.

    And welcome to the dark side.

    Racial or Business Decision?

    I work at a relatively small financial institution in a large city. My division is running a month-long promotion to attract new customers. My boss has pretty much being signing off on all the promotional materials we will be needing from our design department. I haven't been allowed any input. When the promo materials first came over for approval, the items featured pictures of two families, one Caucasian family, and one African American family. Both my boss and her boss decided that the pieces looked "too crowded" and asked that the African American family be removed. I was unaware of this discussion at the time and only found out about it later but given that I am a subordinate, I likely would not have been able to have a say in the matter. Previous experience leads me to conclude that.

    Well, because of an error when the electronic files for the posters were sent to the printer, the first version of the signs were printed, the ones that included the African American family. Since it was the design department's error, and not the printer's, the printer rightly refused to reprint the signs for free. My boss then demanded that the design department foot the nearly $1,000 bill for reprinting the signs. At this point, I did learn the full story and asked why we needed to reprint the signs at all? There were no real errors on the signs. The only "problem" was the inclusion of the African American family. The decision to remove the family from the rest of the materials was bad enough but why were we spending more money to compound the issue? I was told that the decision was made and to stay out of it.

    HR Lady, what is going on here is making me sick. I am one of only two non-white employees on our floor and the only non-white manager in this division. I have tried to explain to the people I work with why this decision bothers me and no one will listen. I don't feel Like I can go to HR because my boss' superior, who made the decision, is the son of the Board Chairman and I seriously doubt that he will care what I have to say. HR is, as a result, very weak in this company. Everyone
    answers to the Board chairman and his son and does whatever they say. Do I have any other recourse?

    What type of recourse are you looking for?

    Stop and think about that. Just what would you like to see happen? An apology? To whom? To you? Why? Because you are non-white and the family they removed from the photograph was non-white? If they had made the decision to remove the white family and left the black family there, would they need to apologize to the white people at the office?

    I realize I'm being annoying and not making you feel any better. I just want you to think through what you are asking for and why you are asking it.

    You were hurt by their decision. It sounds like your department took a financial hit as well. But, if the picture was too crowded and one family had to go, how do you know it wasn't done with a coin toss? A $1000 print run sounds awfully small to me, so was this directed towards a specific community? If so, what was the racial make-up of that community? More white than black? Maybe it made good business sense.

    From your e-mail, I have no idea if the people you work for have racist feelings or not. In my experience, most people do not. They are trying to do what is best for the business. They may not have the same experiences you do, and as such they may make decisions that can have unintended consequences.

    So, what's your responsibility here? If you believe that their decisions involving race are having a detrimental effect on office morale or business results, then you need to be able to show that. Not through, "it's not fair and it makes me angry," but through facts and figures.

    The conversation goes something like this:

    You: Bob and Karen, I've been running some numbers and I've learned the following. Our market area is 43% minority, but 95% of our print ads feature white people only. I'm wondering if we're missing out on some potential clients because of our advertising decisions.

    Karen: I'm not sure changing our ads would increase our minority clients. Remember, 57% of the market area is white.

    Bob: We don't want to offend the majority of our target audience.

    You: I've thought about both of those things. Here is some information that shows...

    And then you present your research. This will go over much better than, "You took the African American family out of the picture for no good reason you racists!"

    It's not always about race, although sometimes people feel that it is. Give people the benefit of the doubt.


    Just found your blog and have a question you can post ;)

    So I took a job recently and was 6-7 weeks pregnant and didn't reveal it until 13 weeks.

    I wonder how that is perceived in the industry from an HR perspective....

    I wouldn't ever reveal a pregnancy to anyone other than my doctor and my husband until after 12 weeks. In fact, I waited to tell boss until I was 16 weeks and would have waited longer, but, well, you can't hide it forever.

    But, that's not your question. You were newly pregnant when you took the job and didn't reveal it and you feel a little guilty.


    I don't know how all HR people feel, but I'll tell you this. It is illegal to discrminate against someone because of her pregnancy. Therefore, if they wouldn't hae hired you because of the pregnancy they would have been violating the law. Therefore, you do not have to feel any guilt, as they could not legally consider it anyway.

    (This isn't to say that people don't actually consider it, they do. But, legally, they shouldn't.)

    I look on pregnancy as a great thing, so congratulations! Keep in mind, though, that you won't be eligible for FMLA, as you won't have been an employee for a year before the baby is born.

    For all you other women who are thinking about getting pregnant, I would caution you not to tell your boss until you are at least 12 weeks along. Miscarriage rates are high in the first trimester and you may not want the world to know. Now, if you have severe nausea or other problems you may have to say something, but otherwise, shhh until after week 12.