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Friday, February 29, 2008


Monday is the beginning of my last week at my company. They have reimbursed me for one quarter of my MBA degree, however, now I have decided to leave. I signed a repayment agreement when they reimbursed me. They are going to deduct my last paycheck, my bonus, and my vacation pay from what I owe them. Leaving about $4000 left for me to pay that they would like me to pay off each month over the next six months. If I don’t they say they will send it to a collection agency.

It is legal in my state for them to deduct from my last paychecks I believe, but do I have any other recourse here? I read your article on tuition reimbursement and it was very interesting. Just wanted to hear your thoughts on this specific case.

Do you have any recourse? Why would you? This isn't an involuntary termination--you decided to leave. (If it was a layoff or a non-willful non-performance term, then I would argue your case, but it is not. You resigned.) When you made this decision, you knew you had signed a repayment agreement.

I lack sympathy.

Yeah, paying back money stinks. I would also like to get out of paying my mortgage and yet continue to live in my house. Somehow, I don't think the bank will go for that. (And for the record, I have a 30 year fixed mortgage and a great rate, so I can't even cry that I was duped as part of the sub-prime lending fiasco.)

Suck it up. Make the payments. Your MBA should have taught you at least a little bit about the legalities of signing contracts. If not, your mother should have.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The View From the Other Side of the Table

Susan Heathfield, shares a story of a clueless candidate she interviewed. (He listed his wife as a reference--depending on who did the dishes the previous night, that reference may or may not have been positive.) She asks for additional stories about bad interviews.

I think there are equally frightening stories from the worker's side of the table. Once, an interviewer asked me, "Do you need health insurance?" I was young and naive and didn't realize what he was really asking. By answering, he could easily ascertain my marital status. While the EEOC won't come after you for discriminating on the basis of marital status, the state I lived in would. He was being so clever and I was so naive I answered the question, honestly. (Yes, yes, in fact, I do need health insurance, as I may get hit by a truck/get pneumonia/develop a life threatening hangnail tomorrow.)

I didn't get the job. (Just as well, it would have been intensely dull and boring and who wants to work for such a person?)

If I'm ever asked that question again, I know how I'll answer it: "Does this job offer health insurance?" That turns the tables back on the interviewer and removes any legitimate reason he may have had for asking in the first place.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Surfing the Web

Why do most companies say you can’t use their computers, internet connections, etc. for anything other than business purposes when they know people probably check out Ebay from time to time or use their company email account to visit a blog site on occasion? Is this just zero tolerance to avoid a slippery slope or is there some other “evil” HR reason behind this?

I'm usually the first to point out evil HR practices, but I can't say that there is a single evil thing about limiting internet access at work. (Okay, I can. If your company blocks out brilliant sites, such as then we have problems. Remember, people, this is a work related site and you should read it every day! If I haven't published new content, re-read old content.)

Yes, companies know that people check e-bay, their home e-mail, read the NY Times and blogs and participate in internet forums. Some of this is harmless, some is not.

When you are working, you are being paid to perform work for the company. If you are busy selling on e-bay or arguing some point on a forum, you are not working. Companies should be alarmed that their employees are not working. If you are Christmas shopping, you are not working.

Now, all the activities that I've mentioned are fairly wholesome. There are certainly internet activities that are not wholesome. Since we all know what those are, I shan't mention them. Just know that if you so much as think about looking at an unwholesome site I will make sure you are fired without so much as two weeks pay. Don't do it. Don't risk it.

When at work, you should be working. If your company allows you to surf the web at lunch, go ahead, but realize that your IT department can track every site you visit. I've heard that the IT department can also see what passwords you are typing in, so a bad IT person can then access your bank account. I have no idea if it is true, but it's something to think about.

If you are violating your company policy (even if everyone else is doing it), you take on risks. Be in compliance. Make sure your manager approves of what you are doing and most of all, work while you are at work.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Misunderstood Disability

This is the hardest e-mail, esp. to a stranger, and I'll bet the oddest one you've received. I am a veteran with 13 yrs. served in the Air Force. I was injured in Desert Storm and medically discharged.

Here lies the problem, my doctors told me I talk as if I'm drunk or high on something.

My question is this; should I tell potential employers before an interview about this affliction? I have had what I thought were excellent interviews for good to menial jobs with no success.

I'm not stupid, I'm an electronics technician by trade in both the military and civilian sectors. I can't wait for the VA to raise my disability, if they do at all. I saw your site on the Internet and was impressed with your humbleness. What do you think, being an HR professional, I would appreciate any advice you can share.

Normally, I would say there is no need to disclose a disability before you need to. In your case, you need to disclose it soon. Why? Because if you sound drunk, to the recruiter on the phone you are drunk.

Now, I realize this is all sorts of judgmental on the part of the recruiter. (Please note, I am not judgmental because I am not a recruiter. Oh, strike that, I certainly am judgmental and so are all of you. It's how we get through the day--making constant judgments about things and acting on those judgments.)

As, I said, I'm not a recruiter, but I did play one for about 3 months. Granted, I was recruiting bank tellers (starting salary $8.56 per hour!), which is different than your qualifications. However, I can tell you that when someone was inappropriate on the phone, we rejected them regardless of how qualified they were on paper.

Now, my suggestion to you is that if you get a call from a recruiter (or hiring manager), the conversation should go somewhat like this:

Ring, ring (or in today's world, a sudden blast of some bizarre ring tone that you downloaded for $0.99)

You: Hello, This is Jim.

Recruiter: This is Karen from Acme Corp. I received your resume and application for an electronics technician job.

You: Thanks for calling, Karen. I'd just like to warn you that if I sound a little off, it's due to a medical condition. Fortunately, it just affects my speech and not the rest of my abilities. I'm very excited to hear from you, as I really respect the work that Acme Corp does.

Now, I would never recommend someone starting out saying, "Just so you know, I only have one leg" or "I'm diabetic, so I need regularly scheduled breaks and lunches!" But, because your condition can be misconstrued as "it's 10:30 a.m. and he's drunk?!?!" it's important to be up front about it.

I hope this helps and it works for you. I am not so naive as to think that having this condition won't make it more difficult to find work then it would otherwise (it shouldn't, but this is the real world and people are often afraid of things they don't understand).

This means that you will need to work twice as hard to find a great job. Remember to network, network, network. All those people you were in the military with, and know your work, are excellent places to start. And don't be afraid to reach out to people and let them know what you are looking for, even if you don't think they can help you.

Just last week, my brother-in-law called and asked if I would be willing to talk to a friend of a friend of his (catch how far removed I am from this person?) because he'd just been laid off and needed some advice on how to proceed. Sure, I said. After our conversation about dealing with his recent layoff he said, "When I figure out what companies I'm going to target, do you mind if I include you on my 'do you know anybody at this company?' e-mails?"

Brilliant, I thought. Rather than saying, "gee, I really want to work for Bob's House of Pets, but I don't know any one, so I'll just fill out this online application," he's going to send out e-mails to everyone he knows asking if you know someone who works for Bob's House of Pets. It's been my experience that people are generally thrilled to help other people get jobs. He knows I don't work for Bob's House of Pets, but he doesn't know who my relatives, friends and ex-co-workers work for.

Good luck on your job search and thank you so much for serving in the military. I really appreciate it and know you did it at a high cost.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008


As a former political scientist (yes, yes, after years of recovery I can finally say it in public that I voluntarily studied politics, which all of us now strive to avoid, but can’t because any time you turn on the radio, television or happen to glance at a newspaper, presidential candidates are shrieking out at you to vote for him or her or somebody other than that [insert evil opponent of choice]), one would think that I would be writing about the big news of yesterday: The Teamsters just endorsed Barack Obama.

While the political pundits are running around talking about how this is just another nail in the coffin of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, I have two words for them: Dick Gephardt.

Yes, I am just that nerdy and I can tell you that in 2003 the same union endorsed Gephardt and we all know how well that campaign went.

So, right now I’m neither impressed nor unimpressed and it hasn’t affected my decision on how to vote anyway. (Of course, I live in a late primary state, so presidential nominations are always finished by the time I hit the voting booth. I vote anyway—free “I voted” sticker and warm fuzzy feelings.)

More interesting on what should be a Teamsters front is an IRS ruling:
Just before Christmas, package-delivery company FedEx was slammed with a $319 million tax bill. The Internal Revenue Service ruled the company had misclassified about 13,000 drivers as independent contractors when, the IRS said, they really were employees.

Delivery Drivers could easily fall under the Teamsters, but they don’t because they aren’t unionized. And it’s difficult to be unionized when you aren’t even an employee of a company. But, here’s the IRS saying “if it acts like an employee and looks like an employee then it is an employee and the employer better darn well be paying their taxes.”

FedEx, of course, will appeal, but somehow I think this will have a bigger impact on Truck Drivers’ lives then will the Teamster’s endorsement of any particular presidential candidate.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Carnival!

It's the first birthday of the Carnival of HR. And boy has it grown. All of its loving caregivers have contributed greatly.

Check out the birthday wishes at HR Thoughts.

Getting Ahead

I recently realized how much I love working in HR since I was recently working in manufacturing as an HR assistant but was very hands on in the way that I did the same as the HR manager did before she moved to safety. After that I did some temp work and missed all my HR duties.

I completed my first week as an HR assistant at a great financial services company with 4 people in HR. I am the only one without my PHR and I fear I will have trouble moving up in this field without it but I feel like I'm stuck in a "catch 22" since I can't get my PHR without being in an exempt position but without my PHR I don't know if I will ever get an opportunity for a higher position. I currently have my associates with a concentration in HR but what do you think I can do to insure my HR career goes in the right direction?

I have 9 years of HR experience, 8.5 of which were as an exempt employee. I earned my PHR certification in June of 2007. I'm living proof that you don't need the PHR to get the exempt job.

First off, slow down. You've been in your HR assistant job for one week. (Well, one week when you wrote this, it's been a month, so now 5 weeks.) No one expects you to be promoted within that time frame. You also don't know enough to know if you can get promoted. So, take a deep breath, and relax.

Now, how to get ahead. You have an associates degree with an emphasis in HR. Fantastic. Go back to school and finish your bachelors degree. Please. Many companies won't put you into an exempt position without one. Go at night, go on the weekends, go online, but get the degree.

When you've finished that (probably 3-4 years, since you'll be working full time), and you have all this lovely HR assistant experience, you'll be ready to jump into an exempt role.

You may be able to find a job that will put you in an exempt role before you have the degree, but they will be more likely to take you if you are demonstrating that you are working towards it.

Don't turn down opportunities to learn at your current job. I love that there are only 4 people in HR. This means that you will be exposed to the broad spectrum of HR duties and responsibilities. Yeah! I love broad knowledge. You can specialize later.

Those boring power point slides that people need formatted? Volunteer to do that. Not because you love pointing and clicking, but because you may not be invited to the actual meeting, but if you read through the materials beforehand you'll gain the knowledge anyway.

Don't worry too much about jumping to an exempt role immediately. An HR assistant is a great place to start, especially with a 2 year degree. Work towards the 4 and gain all the knowledge you can and you'll go places. Don't worry.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


My co-worker, a peer has accused me of not doing my job, leaving early and skipping assignments. (NOT TRUE) He pulled me aside at work to accuse me of these things and did not tell management. He did say all of my other co-workers agreed with him that I was not "pulling my weight". Is this a form of harassment?

He did not threaten to tell management, was just letting me know.... but I feel like this is a scare tactic to get me to quit, or some sort of other targeting ploy to harass me.

I tried to ignore it.... but yesterday I found out (through a meeting with him and my manager) that two months ago he contacted my manager to tell her that I do not shave under my arms, and that it is offending customers. (no one SAID this, he could just tell) He did not feel comfortable approaching me about it at the time because the last time he approached me it "Backfired" on him.

Do I have grounds to go to HR about this? Do my peers have the right to discuss my shaving habits? That is not his business. Are my job activities even any of his business if they do not directly affect him??

"Rights" is a word that gets thrown around without anyone really thinking about what it really means. Of course, your co-workers have the "right" to discuss your shaving habits. Free speech baby. Now, does your company have to allow that? No. Do you have to remain silent about it? No.

Now truth be told, unless you are a life guard, I think you shouldn't be wearing anything that reveals the status of your armpits. Sleeveless is just not professional. (I know many people disagree with me. Get your own blog. How about I think it's available.)

If you are asking if his behavior is illegal, that's a different question. Perhaps. I would need to know more about him and you and what really happened. He sounds, basically, like a big jerk. So, let's handle him. We'll call him Steve.

Jerk: You aren't pulling your own weight. Everyone agrees with me.
You: Steve, that's just not true. You know it's not true. Furthermore, our boss knows it's not true.

And then you walk off.

Jerk: Your armpits are unprofessional and gross.
You: Your comments are inappropriate and border on sexual harassment. I'm going to report this comment to Human Resources/manager.

And then you walk off.

Jerk: You clocked in 3 minutes late today.
You just walk off.

You to your manager: Steve keeps questioning my performance and dress. Do you have concerns about either of these things? I'm happy to make changes in how I work, if what I'm doing is less effective.

Your manager may respond that you aren't pulling your weight and your armpits are gross. (They are--hair or not. Put some sleeves on.) Fine. Make those changes. If your manager is extremely wimpy, he may be relying on Steve to convey messages to the other employees. Why on earth is Steve in a meeting with you and your manager? It sounds like he does have some supervisory authority over you. In that case, you need to make sure you remain professional with him. He may have authority to talk to you about your late arrival, dress, or work habits.

If this is the case, you need to get that clarified with your manager. If it is not the case, the main thing is that you don't engage Steve and you do your best to ignore him. Do talk with your manager to make sure that you are performing up to expectations. Do report his behavior to your manager and/or Human Resources. Do this in a matter-of-fact way and not in a weepy "I'm picked on" way. Steve may not be sexually harassing you now, but he certainly seems capable of it. The company can't do anything about it if they don't know about it.

Steve enjoys yanking your chain. Don't let him yank it any more. He's stuck in 7th grade. You move on.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Does Anybody Have Any Candy?

I was in a locker room, getting changed when a woman asked the above question. Someone offered a cough drop. "No," she said, "I'm diabetic and I'm starting to feel shaky."

Well, everyone went into overdrive. One of the staff managed to pull out a bottle of juice they keep on hand for just such an emergency. I offered her a nutri-grain bar that I had in my purse. (Always prepared!) She took the juice and turned down the nutri-grain bar. ("I'm allergic to wheat," she said.)

A few minutes later, I overheard a conversation between this woman and a friend.

Friend: I didn't know you were diabetic.
Diabetic Woman: Yeah, and I hadn't eaten all day. (It was 5:30 p.m.)
Friend: Do you control it with medication or do you have to do insulin shots?
Diabetic Woman: I don't do either. I lost my blood sugar monitor as well, and I haven't been to the doctor in a year.


Diabetic Woman: I suppose I should go.

Now, let's recount the facts. Woman is diabetic, she hasn't eaten for at least 8 hours, she has no emergency food, she's allergic to one of the most common foods (wheat) that someone might have on hand, she doesn't take her medication, she doesn't monitor her blood sugar and she doesn't visit her doctor. However, everyone and their dog rushes all over to give her something to eat when she "needs" it.

This has not turned into a medical blog. (If it did, it would be extremely boring, seeing how my medical stories are limited to regularly scheduled doctors appointments and the occasional trip to the ER where the offspring got her cast.) This is, however a business blog.

I think a lot of businesses run the way this woman runs her life. We know we have problems, but rather than monitor them (blood sugar monitor), work on solutions (visit your doctor), implement proposed solutions (take your medicine), make necessary sacrifices (eat regularly scheduled, healthy meals), and work for our own success (do all of the above, and carry our own emergency food supply), we work on the panic principle.

Aaack, my business is dropping. I must do something now! Hire a consultant, cut 10% of my workforce, slash wages and benefits. Something! Right now! Quick!

What if we worked to anticipate problems? What if HR did it's job and analyzed how people were working and what things were really necessary? What if we helped the business to reorganize before the "shakiness" set in. Then, we have lots of different options.

Yes, sometimes a diabetic has problems with blood sugar despite all their efforts. This woman made no effort until it was a real problem. What if no one had had any juice? She could have been in serious trouble.

What if we see sales declining or costs rising and we just sit around and wait until it reaches crises proportions? Then we panic, and make decisions that probably aren't the best. These decisions can be damaging in the future as well.

Sure, sometimes what we need is to cut headcount. I think sometimes layoffs are an important tool for business growth. But, sometimes, we use layoffs as panic measures to reduce costs without really thinking of what the consequences will be. How will the business function after headcount is down? Are you changing your processes or will you just make your remaining staff work harder? What good is having your remaining staff continue to do what has been done all along? The underlying problem (whatever it is) will not be fixed, and it will eventually rise up and bite you again. Then you'll be in a panic, searching for juice.

Don't rely on someone to save you or your business at the last moment. Make sure you have plan and are monitoring it. Make changes that are good for your business, not reactionary, and you'll avoid most of the blood sugar crashes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Last Thoughts on Alcohol

I get more questions about DUIs, public drunkenness and other similar problems than anything else. I'm not an expert in this area and I think I've pretty much said all that there is to say about it. As such, I'm not going to answer any more questions regarding "oh no, I have a DUI! Do I have to tell a prospective employer?" unless it's a really interesting question that will cause tons of people to link to me, thus increasing my hit count.

It's all about my needs.

But, here are my last thoughts.

  • Driving while under the influence (of alcohol or other substance) is illegal and dangerous. And stupid. I know, you were young and you were dumb and now you are so mature, blah, blah, blah, blah. I lack sympathy. Don't do it. And don't blame your decision to drive on your impaired state. Before you got impaired you were planning to drive. Why didn't you make arrangements before you got plastered?
  • Yes, you have to list it on your application if they ask.
  • Yes, it will come up in a background check.
  • Yes, it can affect your chances of getting a job, even if it doesn't directly involve driving. It demonstrates exceedingly poor judgment.
  • If you have just one conviction and it was years ago, it probably won't hurt your chances of getting a job where driving is not required.
  • Yes, you can petition to get your record expunged--in some states and in some circumstances. Good luck with that.
  • And on the general alcohol front, just because they serve alcohol at a company party (or at a party where co-workers and bosses happen to be), does not mean you can get drunk. You can't. It will affect how others think of you.
  • This includes your co-worker's wedding. Sure, toast the bride and groom with the champagne provided, but let the bride's brother be the drunken fool at the party, not you. Your career depends on it.
  • Recovering from public drunkenness that happened in front of your boss is extremely difficult.
  • This applies even if your boss is plastered.
  • Did I mention you should never, ever, ever, drink and drive? Don't. I prefer that my family and friends and I arrive alive at our destinations, so please don't do it.
  • Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    Is More Education Better?

    I finished my BA back in October 2006 and received it in Human Resources Management. I haven’t worked since but am contemplating it now. I know that while I have the degree I lack real world experience and as such have been looking for an entry level HR job with moderate success. My question though goes to education.

    My friends and family have encouraged me to begin looking at getting my Masters degree. I am not opposed to the idea but I’m unsure as what to get it in. Human Resources is the field I want to work in. Eventually I would like to focus on Benefits or perhaps become a Generalist but I would like to make Human Resources my career. Should I attempt to get my MA in Human Resources even though I have my BA in it already or should I look to something outside my field? I’m getting conflicting opinions from those around me. Some people are telling me to stay in the field I love while others are telling me to get a degree in something else (MBA?) to show that I’m well rounded. What are your thoughts?

    Okey-dokey, here's the first question. If you graduated in October, 2006, why haven't you worked since? You may well have good reasons--you've been staying home with the kids or you're recovering from cancer are both good reasons. Bad reasons are I hate to get up in the morning, my parents let me live with them for free and I've been too busy building my tattoo and piercing collection to get a job.

    I don't know where you are. Let's assume that you have a good reason and your desire to get a job now isn't just because your mother says she's kicking you out in three months and she doesn't care if you have somewhere to go or not.

    Should you go back to school now and get a master's degree? While a fresh degree can be helpful in getting a job, I think it's better to gain experience. You say you want to work in Benefits or be a Generalist. How do you know if you haven't tried it? You may find out that benefits can be extremely complicated, plus everyone hates you because while you're trying to do the best you can with your limited budget, the employees see their rates rising and their coverage dropping and you are blamed for it.

    Not that this is a bad thing. I work with some fine benefits people. (I've also worked with some extra incompetent benefits people, but those people would probably say they've worked with some extra incompetent Evil HR Ladies. Let's just say we didn't see eye to eye and move on, shall we?) But, since you haven't worked in benefits, you don't really know if you would be a fine benefits person or an incompetent one.

    So, what does this have to do with school? You want to set out to "master" an area where you are a very beginner. I don't generally think it's a good idea to do this. And I speak as someone who went straight from undergrad into graduate school, with only a summer in between where I sold truck bumpers (true! Just ask me about bumpers.) There were 12 people who entered the political science Ph.D. program with me that fall. Do you know how many of those completed their Ph.D? Two. And it wasn't because 10 of us were dummies. It was that 9 of the 10 of us had come straight into the program with our bachelor's degrees thinking this is what we wanted in life. We were wrong. The two that finished had a little bit of life experience and had decided that this is what they wanted. And they got it.

    My point (and I do have one), is that while a master's degree is good, experience can help you decide what you really want to do with your life. You may get a job and find out that you really love something other than what you thought you did. I found out that I love HR, but I didn't even consider that as an undergraduate because the only HR person I'd ever come in contact with was the girl who did the hiring at Kmart. (See, I've had varied experience--truck bumpers, blue light specials. What more could you ask for?)

    So, how to get a job when you graduated 1.5 years ago and haven't worked since? Well, here are Evil HR Lady's suggestions for getting back into the workforce, tweaked especially for you.

    1. Do you know how to type, use Excel, Power Point and Word? If not, learn them RIGHT NOW. You will need these skills no matter what you do. Learn them and then apply at every temporary agency in your town. If you really want to check out HR, ask that you work in an HR department.

    2. Do a little web surfing and find out if you have any HR call centers in your area. (I don't know where you live, so this may or my not be a viable option.) If you do, go there and apply. These are generally inbound call centers that are filled with entry level people (like you) who take calls and answer questions regarding benefits and policies for other companies, all based on a script. You don't have to know a lot to begin with, but you'll learn a ton.

    3. Network, network, network. You never know what is available right under your nose until you start sniffing a little bit.

    4. Don't be afraid to take the administrative assistant position in an HR department. You have a degree, but you lack experience and you've waited a long time since that degree was granted, to try and find a job. Don't whine about filing and power point presentations, that's what being at the bottom of the ladder is all about. Just learn, learn, learn.

    5. After you've held a job for at least two years, then decide if you want to go back to graduate school. You'll get into a better school with some experience, and you'll be less likely to be wasting your time and money.

    Of course you'll decide that HR is the best possible area to be in. It's filled with exciting days and lots of free trips to the Caribbean. (Just to go down, fire a bunch of people in the morning and take a flight home that evening, but at least you drove past a beach, right?)


    I got tagged by William the Coroner. I normally don't play tag, but he said I was "hysterical." I am assuming he means that as "funny" and not as "some freaky crazy lady". Since I'm a sucker for compliments, I'll play his silly game, which is to list 6 habits/quirks/things about me and tag others. I draw the line at tagging others, but I'll list 6 quirks.

    1. Brownies have to be made in a plastic bowl and mixed with a wooden spoon. There is no other way to make brownies and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.

    2. If you want to talk to me about you favorite presidential candidate, I'm happy to have a conversation. If you just forward me and 42 of your closest friends things about said candidate, I will delete your e-mail and be less inclined to listen to you in the future.

    3. I really like the song "Total Eclipse of the Heart", but this video totally freaks me out. What were they thinking?

    4. And speaking of music, my husband and I are in a battle to win over the musical tastes of the offspring. I've been dosing her with Broadway Musicals and Billy Joel and he's been trying Lynyrd Skynyrd and Metallica. I feel confident that I am winning.

    5. Pantihose and pregnancy do not mix. Therefore, if I'm in a dress, I'm wearing socks.

    6. I'm an e-mail addict and I have no desire to seek help for my addiction.

    What Would You Do for $140,000?

    Hmmm, after watching a few reality shows, I know I wouldn't eat live bugs, or live on some island without indoor plumbing, while competing with other people who don't even own toothbrushes. No, $140,000 isn't worth that to me.

    (You, of course, may be willing to eat buckets of cockroaches for the same amount of money. To each his own.)

    Would you be willing, however to give up you job? CNN reports:
    In an effort to shave ongoing losses, General Motors offered lucrative buyouts Tuesday to 74,000 employees - its entire U.S. hourly workforce...
    To try to stem automotive losses that have dogged the company since 2005, the company is making a range of offers, up to cash payments of $140,000 to the remaining 74,000 GM workers represented by the United Auto Workers union.

    It's a buyout, not a layoff. The difference is that instead of being picked to lose your job, you can choose. Do you want to take the cash and run, or do you want to stay.

    62% of the population being targeted is already retirement eligible. 62 Percent! That, in and of itself, explains why GM is willing to do this. They want to get a cheaper workforce, and because of unions, those with the seniority haven't been going anywhere. They won't negotiate lower pay and benefits for themselves. And why should they? Secure job, lots of privileges. (For an interesting view on being low in seniority in a union--albeit a nurses union, not an automotive one--go read this post from Nurse K. Keep in mind that this is her experience at her hospital in her union. Not all unions have the same rules.)

    So, GM decided the best way out of this is to have a "do-over." Let's wipe out the workforce we have and get a new one.

    The new jobs won't pay as well, and won't have the fabulous benefits. But, they will be jobs. Will this work out for GM? Time will tell.

    So, would you take the money, or would you keep your job? It's not like there are a zillion other auto plant jobs waiting for you.

    (hat tip Blue Crab Boulevard)

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Anti-Fraternization Policy

    I took an entry level position in customer service at an inbound call center (inbound! not evil! well, mostly) a couple years ago, and have gradually been broadening my experience. I've taken classes at the local college and accepted every opportunity for job-related training. I transferred departments at the beginning of last year with a pay raise, but was still considered to be at basically the same rank. Hey, I mostly answer the phone for a living. It takes knowledge, and skill, and no small amount of diplomacy.

    Now I'm applying for a promotion that, if granted, will take effect within the next couple weeks. I don't know if I'll get it (trying not to count chickens here) but I know I got their attention in the interview. Even if I don't get this position, I expect to qualify for advancement fairly soon.

    Employees above the rank I currently hold are collectively tagged with the moniker "support staff," and there's a strict anti-fraternization policy between support staff and the customer service reps such as myself. This is company-wide, not restricted to people in direct chain of command. I have no interest in dating my co-workers, but I'm not sure how to handle pre-existing friendships. The policy applies not only to romantic or sexual intent, but to all socializing outside the context of work. If support staff encounter non-support staff at the grocery store, or the pub, or the local folk festival, there is to be no interaction at all.

    I have no interest in dating my co-workers. But I do have friends here. Part of the reason I kept this job (I originally expected to stay for a few months and then move on) is because I really like the people I work with. I know it isn't easy, but I think I'm aware of the potential conflicts and can work to keep my job and my personal life separate. But I'd be expected to have absolutely no outside interaction at all with people I've known for years, who I've invited to my home, who I have friends in common with outside of the company, and who are part of my attachment and commitment to this company in the first place. This is not a big city. And I've been working at this company most of the time I've lived here. Most of my social network is connected to my time at this company in some way, and my family lives on the other side of the country.

    I understand the reasons for having an anti-fraternization policy, but I think that the way it's handled - in a company that makes a big deal about hiring and promoting internally - is at best awkward and at worst harmful. They have split their staff into two classes, and I'm feeling a little rebellious this weekend.

    I'm not sure how to handle this. I've considered looking for work elsewhere, but I hesitate to jump ship when advancement here seems just within my grasp. Any suggestions?

    I don't really have any suggestions (but since when has that stopped me in the past?), but I'm boggled. You are supposed to pretend that your former co-workers don't exist if you so much as run into them in the grocery store? What a bizarre policy.

    I'm guessing that in a "support staff" role, you have some sort of supervisory role over the customer service reps. You may not be writing their performance appraisals, but you may be giving input. I don't know how work is assigned, but if you have some role in determining what the customer service reps do, they may be concerned that you will favor your old friends.

    Usually the fear of promoting from within is that you will not be able to manage people who used to be your peers. It looks like fear is driving this policy as well.

    So, now is the part where I make suggestions. Once you're actually offered the job, ask for clarification on the policy. (Don't do this before, as it may make them re-consider you for the job!) Explain your concerns--"I've worked with these people for 2 years and I don't think I can just treat them like I don't know them"--and see what is said.

    It may be a policy in name only--that is, it's only enforced if there is a problem. They may be able to give you better insight into the "whys." Their stated reasons may actually make sense to you. If they don't, then that will help you in your decision of whether to stay or go.

    I can see somewhat where they are coming from--it's so easy to favor your friends. I can also see that this would be a very difficult policy to enforce.

    Good luck on you promotion!

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    Fair Leave?

    I am currently on Short Term Disability for birth of my baby for 6 weeks. I have arranged to take 6 more weeks after that--FMLA. The company and department annual review period and increases fall during the time frame I will be out. My manager e-mailed me that my review and increase will occur after I return to work and will not be retroactive.

    I was wondering if this is typical and/or legal?

    A girlfriend of mine went through the same thing (different department) - annual reviews during her leave, and she did not have to wait till she returned and hers was retroactive. Is it legal for them to selectively apply this rule?

    Thanks in advance for your insight.

    Illegal? My non-lawerly answer is no, why would it be? It's not illegal to treat people differently. It's only illegal to treat people differently because of some sort of protected class. Now, granted, pregnancy has all sorts of protections, but since you both had babies, you can't argue that you were discriminated against because of your pregnancy.

    You can argue that your HR department is ineffective and just waiting for something to blow up in their faces. We HR types sometimes do that.

    There needs to be a set policy--increases/reviews given during leaves of absence--yes or no. Then it needs to apply to everyone. (And quite frankly, as someone who has run salary increase/reviews for an entire Fortune 500 company, the last thing I would want is the ability for individual managers to decide if someone's raise is retro-active or not.)

    You can certainly complain, but I recommend not doing it in a complaining tone of voice. Speak to your manager and say, "I'm a little confused. When my friend Linda, in accounting, had her baby, her raise was put into effect immediately. Has there been a change in policy since then?"

    The answer may well be, yes, there has been a change in policy. Or it could be that her manager violated policy, or that your manager is violating policy, or that accounting has a different policy than marketing. I don't know. But, don't get accusatory.

    Yes, yes, yes, we want managers to have flexibility. But, not on everything. This should be straight forward. But it's not, at your company any way. Like I said, I doubt it's illegal. As for it being typical, I've never yet worked for a company that gave increases while people were out. You had to return to get your increase activated. If you are on unpaid FMLA leave, it won't matter anyway. If you are getting paid, then thank your lucky stars.

    But, do ask, but ask nicely. And don't pitch a fit, either way. And remember, while your salary won't go up, you did just give birth to a beautiful new tax deduction. That's got to help somewhere. (I won't mention you also gave birth to a huge daycare expense--because I'll assume that your husband is staying home with the baby and he didn't work before anyway, so it's just a tax deduction, no extra expenses--because your mother gave you all your old cloth diapers that she saved for just such an occasion.)


    Most recently I switched jobs due to an enticing “creative & leadership” role and have been there for 3 months. Upon starting, I was asked to complete a presentation for my manager and “higher-ups”. I did a rough draft, presented it to manager and explained that I was planning to transition this into a more formal document.

    She told me to leave the document as is. I explained my concerns and she told me to leave it as is. Long story short, it was not fine. I presented, they (the higher-ups) hated it and she asked me to give up the project completely. When I told her “no thank you” she commented that since I am only in my mid 20’s, it’s ok to be stressed and that everyone would understand due to my age. As you can understand I was furious and started not to trust her. I don’t blame her for my poor work, but I do blame her for using poor manager skills and trying to make me feel incompetent. I revised the doc right away (my way) and sent it off to everyone in the meeting. They gave me praise, but also gave her the credit for “helping me” (ugh) She gave me half the credit in response.

    I have noticed that she knocks me a lot. I have asked her to double check a project before it leaves the department, she doubled checked it and explained to me in several ways why I was a disappointment and not good with details. There have been no improvements since then. Naturally, I can’t do anything correct. She continues to call me an equal, but treats me like an intern. I have not put the company in danger or risked losing money, so I don’t see why this criticism is necessary.

    I have a lot of resentment at this point, and while I know it’s been a short time, I don’t know how long I can work with someone who is not helping me improve my career.

    My question to my LONG story is: Do you see these as red flags, or am I just being sensitive to someone who doesn’t understand how to work with people?

    Flags. Red. Hmmmm, just what kind of danger do these flags seem to be indicating?

    From your description, I can see this in two different lights.

    1. Your manager really did think that your draft presentation was fine, and was shocked with the higher ups disagreed. So, now she has to cover her rear end by blaming you.

    2. Your manager needs to feel superior and because of that, she needs to have others around her that fail.

    Truth be told, both are terrible management practices.

    Just how does she treat you like an intern? Is it because she oversees your work, or because she has you making copies and filing things? Some bosses like to oversee a lot more than others. You've only been in this job for 3 months and she may not feel comfortable with you yet. Does she hover over the other people in the department? If so, it's not a personal thing, it's just how she manages.

    Is it age discrimination? Not legally. You aren't considered a protected class until you hit 40, which you haven't. But keep in mind, being young means you don't have a lot of experience. You may be brilliant--truly brilliant--but you just don't have a lot of experience.

    There are definitely flags, but from here I can't tell the color. What it is signaling is her management style. Here are the steps I would advise:

    Step 1: Arrange a meeting with her. Explain that you feel like you aren't meeting her expectations and could she please help you to understand what is required. If she's just a nit-picky hoverer, this meeting will be pointless in practical application, other than to make her aware that she's annoying you. If, however you have some short-comings in this area (not unlikely, given your short tenure), this will help to establish what you need to do to meet her expectations. And please note, your expectations of what this job would be like and what her expectations are could be two completely different things.

    Once you have expectations set, work hard to meet them and then go to step two.

    Step 2: Deal with it. Understand that she's going to criticize and hover and hang you out to dry whenever possible. Work your best. Make sure you don't present any "rough" drafts to her any more--just completed professional work. Sure, she'll want changes (That font on the power point presentation--is that Arial Narrow because I prefer Times New Roman.), but they will probably be minor.

    When you are meeting with her management remain professional and don't let your annoyance of the whole situation show. Just be professional and cheerful. Make it clear that you've done the work.

    Step 3: If this doesn't resolve the problem, then start looking for a new job. By the way, this resolution should take a considerable amount of time--so I'd say start looking for a new job when you've been there a year. There's no requirement that you stay in an unhappy job. Start looking. Incidentally, I find that some people agonize more over leaving a job then they do about leaving a spouse. That really should be the other way around.

    Micro-managing, power hungry, credit grabbing bosses stink. But, this same boss may really be trying to help you figure out the ropes in an area you are new in. If that's the case, you don't want to dismiss her to closely.

    Keep trying for a while, and see what happens.

    Thursday, February 07, 2008

    What is the Worst that Can Happen?

    Hello Evil HR Lady,

    I'm hoping you can help me with an uncomfortable situation. I promise this is not a fictional story. It really happened. And I'm hoping you can give me some honest feedback.

    I'm 43 years old and have been working in medical marketing for the past 7 years or so. For the last two years, my husband was on a short-term government assignment in the D.C area. I decided to freelance (writing and communications) during that time since I knew we would only be in the area for a short time.

    My husband was actually working for a certain government agency in the D.C. area. I'm still not clear on what happened...all I know is that his department was being investigated. One day, while conducting an interview for a book I was writing, I heard someone pounding on our front door.

    I was still in my PJs.

    I went down to answer the door and saw that there were a few people at the door. They were wearing sunglasses and windbreakers. As I started to open the door, a big, gurly guy began to push the door open. I yelled 'Noooooo' and tried to shove the door shut. My first reaction was that someone was trying to break into my house and I was terrified.

    Before I even realized what was happening, 20 people (cops, federal agents and people in black) were swarming into my house. The rather large fellow who shoved my front door open slammed me against the wall and pulled my arms behind my back.

    I realize this all sounds pretty wild and an episode of "24" or something...but it really happened. To say I was in shock was an understatement. They showed me the search warrant and began rummaging through my house while I was forced to sit at our dining room table for over two hours.

    I did point out that I was injured. My elbow was scraped up and badly bruised. One of the agents got a camera and took photos of my injuries. They asked if I needed "immediate medical attention" and I said "no." The last thing I wanted at that point was an ambulance showing up at my house. The neighbors were already stopping to see what was happening.

    Later that evening, my husband took me to the ER to get checked out. My blood pressure was extremely high and they noted the contusions/lacerations on my arm. I was given Valium and Xanax (for anxiety) and sent home.

    I realize that life is not fair, but I've never done anything wrong in my life. I'm your basic law-abiding person. I give to charity. I volunteer at soup kitchens. I love animals and am kind to old people. I have the same mood swings as any other peri-menopausal woman, but I'm essentially a good egg.

    So, imagine my surprise when I was contacted a week later by one of the detectives who was at my house. She informed me that a warrant had been issued for my arrest. This was beyond shocking. I was told that I was being charged with a FELONY - obstruction of justice.

    An attorney friend of mine assures me that the warrant probably happened because the cop who shoved me was worried that I would try to sue him. So he trumped up a charge in order to make it difficult for me to press charges against him.

    Maybe that is what happened. I just don't know. What I DO know is that once I realized what was happening, I was 150% cooperative. It was just that initial burst into my house that scared the wits out of me.

    My husband was caught up in all of this, but was totally cleared. He hadnt done anything wrong.

    So, just because I tried to push the front door closed when the cop tried to force his way in (and I didnt even realize he was a cop at that point) I was allowed to turn myself in and was booked, fingerprinted, etc.

    Two months later, I went to court and my lawyer managed to get the felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor of "disorderly conduct".

    So, the bottom line is, I now have a criminal record. My lawyer told me, "oh, it's only a misdemeanor. No one will care about that." But, I'm not so sure. We've recently relocated back to Southern CA and I'm afraid to look for work in my field. I have a good repuation in my industry, but I have no idea how I would even begin to explain this situation. It was the biggest nightmare of my life - and I've now been penalized for being scared to death.

    I cannot have any of this expunged because the state of VA (where this happened) does not do that.

    I know that companies do criminal checks. WHAT in the world would I say to a potential employer? Do I tell them upfront that I have an arrest record and explain what happened? I realize it sounds like a wild story, but my lawyer has agreed to talk to any potential employer and back me up.

    Will a company automatically reject me because of this? Will I be doomed to doing freelance work forever?

    I have been somewhat paralyzed by this situation and am hoping you can help me. I would like the unvarnished truth so that I know what I'll be dealing with.

    The company that I'm most interested is a Fortune 500 company. I'm terrified to even contact them about a job because of my situation.

    I apologize for this long email, but look forward to any insights/feedback you can provide.

    I normally would edit a question this long, but I found your story fascinating. I would comment on many aspects, but this is not a political blog. Suffice it to say that as a law abiding citizen, I would have freaked out like you did.

    You are interested in a Fortune 500 company, but you are terrified to apply because of your "record." Let me ask this question: What is the worst thing that can happen?

    Being a rather cynical and negative soul, I frequently assume the worst will happen, so this is a game I'm good at. Here it is: The worst thing that will happen is that you will apply for the job and they...drum roll please...won't hire you.

    Now, what will happen if you don't apply? Drum roll please...they won't hire you.

    Notice that you are currently living out the worst case scenario. Why do we do that to ourselves? You had a traumatic experience and you are letting it prevent you from going out and achieving a goal.

    Now, as someone who is so traumatized by even the fear of getting a speeding ticket that I am the annoying person going the speed limit (in the right hand lane, mind you, I'm not that annoying), I can see why you are upset.

    It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of a past conviction unless it relates to the job. I presume you are applying for a writing job, so I can't see a good argument for this being job related. Even so, it's a misdemeanor, not a felony.

    The hiring manager will likely never know. The staffing person has seen much, much, much, worse and you will barely get a yawn. Just be honest on your application. Take a deep breath and apply.

    You may or may not get the job, but it's doubtful that a misdemeanor that you've declared on the application will be the reason.

    Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    Who is the Boss?

    I'm in California, in a mortgage company. Can I require employees to pay to use Funding Suite, a tool to run credit for clients? They are abusing the right. The bill is way out of hand. What can I legally do.

    Legally, I have no idea. I am not a lawyer. I don't work in California. I don't want to be a lawyer (although I did score in the 95th percentile on a practice LSAT). I can't answer your question as to the legality of the whole thing.

    However, from an HR perspective, just who is running this company? It sounds like the employees are and management is running around wringing their hands saying, "Whatever shall we do? Wherever shall we go?"

    If you don't want your employees to abuse a system, don't let them. Make it a fireable offense. Or, if you are more compassionate (or a bigger sucker) than I am, make it a punishable offense that will eventually result in termination if they violate the policy enough times.

    I used to work for a credit union. Running a credit report without proper authorization was grounds for immediate termination. If we caught you running one for yourself, your friend, your neighbor or even a client without the proper i's dotted and t's crossed, you were kicked out on your rear.

    You know, we never had a problem with this.

    Unless your "employees" are actually "independent contractors" you probably don't want to get into the hassle of charging them for anything other then health insurance and lunch. Just say, "No more."

    With the housing marketing as it is, I'm sure there are a lot of out of work mortgage brokers who would love a new job, so if you fire, you'll surely be able to hire.

    Sometimes being the boss means being "mean." That's why managers make more money--we expect them to do hard things. Laying down the law is one of them.

    Monday, February 04, 2008

    HR Articles.

    Bootstrapper just put together a list of the top 100 articles every HR person should read.

    I haven't had enough time to read many of them yet, but there seems to be a lot of good info out there. Go check it out!

    A Rescinded Offer

    I need to know where I stand with this issue. I was offered a job with a company, they sent me an offer letter, I accepted. I passed the tox screen test and the background check. I was to start on Monday 1/28/08.

    They called me yesterday, the HR director and told me that the he would need to rescind the offer letter due to the position is going away. Now, after I gave my two week notice here, they have already filled my position and I am out on the street. What can I do about this?

    My first instinct was to go and tell you to beg for your previous job back, but I see that they have already filled it. (This, in and of itself, is highly unusual. It rarely takes less than two weeks to fill a position.)

    But, I still encourage you to go and beg for your job back--not to take it from the new person, but if there happens to be another position available at your old company, it wouldn't hurt to ask for it. You've proven yourself as a good employee there, so they might take you up on it.

    The thing you have going against you is that you've pretty well demonstrated that you want to leave. Some bosses don't take to kindly to that.

    So, let's say this doesn't work out and you are still unemployed. First things first you start networking like mad and pounding the pavement to find a new job. Thing are basically going to stink until you find one. When you interview for a new job and they ask why you left your old one explain what happened. Everyone will have lots of sympathy for you.

    Now, as to the company which rescinded the offer. You could threaten legal action. They made the offer in "bad faith" you could argue. This means that they knew there was a chance that the position as going away, but they chose to offer it to you anyway. You may be able to get a small settlement from them, but I doubt it. Ask for a month's pay and see if they cough it up to get you to go away.

    And HR People out there, don't do this. If you are so out of tune with the business you need to fix that, so you know what is going on. You should NEVER be extending offers to people when there is a possibility of a position elimination or reorganization coming up that will affect this new position. Yes, yes, no one has a crystal ball. However, you should know that an offer you make TODAY will still have an available position in two weeks. This is unacceptable behavior.

    Yes, I know, you don't have a seat at the table and no one told you this. Or you are staffing and the HR Business Partner didn't tell you. I still have no sympathy for you. This is your JOB. Figure out how to do it or get a new job.

    I once read an "ethical" dilemma about an HR VP who knew layoff talks were coming off and she was asked to sign off on a new hire that would require relocation. Should she tell people that there was a possibility of this position being eliminated, or should she go ahead and sign off?

    The "correct" answer was to go ahead and sign off, as to not violate the confidence of senior management. I fully disagree. Remember the "human" part of of HR? You post-pone the hire, even if it means losing the candidate.

    Yes, there are numerous reasons not to blab about a potential reduction before the time is right. But, you can put a particular position on hold without spilling the rest of the beans.

    And before HR people come here and write comments in ALL CAPS to show how wrong I am, and to blame it on the managers, what were you training your managers in? A Barn? This is bad for business and bad for your company. Bad Faith is bad business. HR and managers need to be operating as a team. No manager should be extending an offer that he means to rescind later.

    I'm about to start writing in all caps to show my displeasure, but I'm a professional so I won't.

    Back to the original problem. Find a new job. Do your best to check out a new company before you start working for them--although things like this are hard to predict.

    Good luck.

    Saturday, February 02, 2008


    Firstly, thanks for proving that HR people are not truly evil - but are maligned, perhaps somewhat like dentists. Thanks for your blog, it's very interesting, and truly different.

    Secondly, an interesting question for you: If you met a random Joe Blow on the street, What 5-6 questions would you ask him to be able to predict his salary? What do you think the most important factors are when it comes to remuneration (In general, or within a field!)

    I must say that I don't know how to take an assertion that HR people are like dentists. Speaking of dentists, I actually went to the dentist this week. No new cavities (my teeth are so filled, there probably isn't any room left for more fillings)! I always feel like a dentist appointment is like a performance appraisal: (I can see that you are having trouble reaching your back teeth. Do you need an explanation of how to brush? How about flossing? Don't lie to me because I can tell...)

    Anyway, your question. I presume you are asking because you, like me, suffer from a case of extreme nosiness. Or you are dating and trying to find someone to support you in the style to which you'd like to become accustomed. I'll play along--and throw out the challenge to my readers as well.

    If I wanted to figure out someone's salary without sounding like I was truly prying. (Now my friends who read this are going to be onto me!)

    1. So, what do you do for a living? (Make sure you try to get a title out of this question)

    2. What company do you work for? (This is important because different industries have very different pay scales. If their answer does not clue you into the industry or size of the company then we can go to question 3.)

    3. I think I've heard of them. Is that a large company? (Bigger companies tend to pay more than smaller companies and that question will help to open up info about the industry. If it's a non-profit, well then they probably are looking for you to provide the financial support in the relationship.)

    4. That's interesting, I don't know anything about [companies that do x or people that do y, whichever will yield you more info]. (I realize this is a statement, not a question, but it will get people talking. In reality, as they do this they will tell you more about the company and more about what they do. You'll want to find out if they supervise others, and if so, how many.

    5. What does your spouse do? (If you are trying to find out for dating purposes, this will also weed out any married people. I'm trying to be helpful on many levels. This also will help give you a clue because people tend to marry people with similar earning potential, unless one spouse is a stay at home parent, then this question doesn't really help.

    So, those are my nosey, salary eliciting questions. Of course, you could always be straight forward and say, "So, what is your annual gross salary, plus expected bonuses?" But in most cases, that won't get you very far.

    If you are asking because you are a recruiter, I recommend the direct approach. Otherwise good luck with the indirect quote.

    And readers, I expect your nosey questions in the comments.

    Government Help

    I am a manager of a very small, service oriented company(20 employees). I was promoted 3 years ago to my current position from the bookkeeper's position. I came with no previous HR experience, training or college degree. I have learned what I do know, right or wrong, by researching. I cant seem to find the answer to this question though.......

    Do employees HAVE to take a 1/2 hr break after 7.5 hours of work, or do we just have to allow them to. Is it their choice or do we have to force them to break?We have a lot of employees who don't want to take a break to get done early. I have called the state of Illinois on this and they read the information to me which is as clear as mud. They cant tell me either. Any input?

    I'm so glad the state was able to clear that up for you! Helpful, aren't they? I'm going to be even less helpful. Here's what the Department of Labor says:
    Federal law does not require lunch or coffee breaks. However, when employers do offer short breaks (usually lasting about 5 to 20 minutes), federal law considers the breaks work-time that must be paid...
    Bona fide meal periods (typically lasting at least 30 minutes), serve a different purpose than coffee or snack breaks and, thus, are not work time and are not compensable.

    So, it looks like you are safe on a Federal side. On an Illinois side, I have no idea either. You could spend money consulting a labor and employment lawyer, who will charge you a lot to say that the law is ambiguous.

    Here is what I (a non Illinois resident, non attorney) would do. Make it clear that everyone who wants to take a 30 minute lunch can. If they prefer to work straight through, that's fine and they can leave 30 minutes early. But, don't reward people for not taking the lunch. (No, "Gee, look at Bob. He gets so much done that he doesn't need a break!") I would also provide a twenty minute paid break as well.

    That's what I would do, anyway. But if the government shows up at your doorstep I don't know you and I don't know where you got such a foolish idea.


    I was dismissed from a job. I've been applying to other businesses and just found out that when someone calls this company to verify employment, etc., they say that I was dismissed.

    Why does that seem wrong/unfair? Or am I being a baby about this? There are two sides to every story but no one wants to hear this garbage.

    Just out of curiosity, what did you expect them to say? "Oh, it was all sunshine and roses until Jan left and now we cry ourselves to sleep at night?"

    Sorry, my evil side is coming out again. But, seriously, why wouldn't they say that?

    Now, I know a lot of companies won't do anything more than confirm dates of employment, or perhaps verify a title, for fear of a lawsuit. However, saying you were "dismissed" since you truly were, runs very little risk for them. It's something they can prove. Now, if they are giving details of why you were dismissed I would be surprised.

    What you need to do is be the first to present the information. On your application don't lie about your reason for leaving. When you are being interviewed and the interviewer asks, "Why did you leave your last job?" have an answer ready that is the truth. Don't whine about the unfairness of it all and if you say, "every story has two sides to it," my little manager brain is going to shut right down. "Here's someone who can't take feedback," I think.

    This may or may not be true, but it's what goes through my mind.

    I don't know why you were dismissed, so I can't help you come up with a good answer, but just make sure it is the truth. What gets you in trouble is unmanaged expectations--they are making this reference check thinking you were a voluntary termination. When they find out you weren't, bells start ringing and red flags start waving.

    Don't let that happen. They need to know before they ask.

    And for the rest of you, let this be a lesson to you. Don't assume someone (or some company) will give you a positive reference. You need to verify. Too many people have been burned by an unexpected bad reference.