Important Notice:
This site has moved to, please update your bookmarks. If you were looking for a specific post, you can use the site search option or archives at the new domain to find it. Thank you!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lying Liars

My question pertains to terminating an employee for lying on their application. Does it matter how the company found out they lied? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Your question intrigues me because I'm trying to figure out how you found out about a lie in such a way that you are afraid to present the information as a reason for termination.

Keep in mind that private businesses aren't subject to rules of evidence that courts of law are. But, as a general rule, you don't want to accept heresay evidence for something as serious as a termination.

Generally, lying on an application shouldn't be an issue by the time someone is hired. Why? Because you should have done your background checks. These checks should include convictions, education and past employment. You should do at least employment verification checks with your candidates--did they really have the jobs they said they did?

But, something fell through the cracks and now something has come to your attention. If another employee came up to you and whispered in your ear, "hey, I worked with Joe at another company and he was fired for stealing computers," you may want to look into that allegation, but keep in mind that unless that other employee was directly involved with Joe's original termination, he could be 100% wrong.

Gossip is a very bad thing to base a decision on. Gossip cannot be trusted and should be independently verified before you make decisions. Keep in mind, that even if Joe did steal the computers, he may have negotiated a voluntary termination reason from the former employer and since he wasn't convicted of anything, he really didn't lie on his application.

You do want to make sure that you are treating all employees equally. Why are you digging more into this employee's application? If you are an equal opportunity digger, then go ahead.

If you don't feel like you have a rock solid case of lying, but you really, truly, believe your source and want to terminate, I suggest doing so with severance and having the employee sign a general release. Severance can make people go away quietly.

And for heaven's sake, do your indepth background checks before making the offer (or after making the offer, but make the offer contingent on a positive outcome). No one wants to hire liars and getting rid of one can get expensive. (Even if you are correct and the employee lied, it doesn't mean there won't be lawsuits and lawyers and severance payments involved. Is that worth the $100 you saved by not running a background check?)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Firing Procedures

My organization handed me an administration manuel w/ no hiring and firing procedures. I have a small staff and have had to fire on three occasions.

The procedural steps I do use were gained by asking other senior staff in hallways what they do in this organization.

And I have followed those procedures.

These procedures require a supervisor to be present at the point of firing as a witness. My department doesn't have a supervisor, so I invited the head of HR to attend the event. She sat w/ her head down through out the brief discussion. Body language reading... I'm invisible.

When the work at hand was concluded, I asked her if she was going to walk the ex employee out of the building, she raised her head and said huh...? I asked her if she knew her procedures, and she answered I didn't hear what he said.

I replied well he's walking down the hall. She followed him, he cleared out his locker, over.

Now I'm called into a meeting to review how I mis-handled the event. I have been documenting this employee for 7 months and produced a chronology of same to HR.

Please advise me as to how to respond to this.

Well, first of all, you don't know what "mis-handling" they are talking about and neither do I. There are several steps where a termination could have been mis-handled.

1. Leading up to the termination. I presume this is a termination for cause, as you said you have 7 months of documentation. Was HR involved in this documentation? Was the employee placed on a formal "performance improvement plan"? I don't know if this is standard at your company, but they generally are. Are you sure that the "process" explained to you by your peers was really the correct one? You'd be surprised at how often people think they know how to do something and really don't.

2. The actual termination. Terminations are tricky and I think HR should spend more effort training managers to do the actual job. (I think we should do more training on the hiring side too, but that's another post.) If you started to scream at the employee (I know you didn't), "You stupid idiot! Get out of here!" well, then, that's a problem.

3. Too many assumptions. You assumed that the HR head would walk the employee out. She assumed she wouldn't.

Now, let's pick on the head of HR, as I think she's got some real problems. First of all, what HR person allows a manager to go ahead with a termination without discussing the plan first? Unless you've done several terms together in the past, I can't imagine just waltzing into a term without speaking to the manager before hand. Of course, in my world, HR is always heavily invovled with terminations before the dreaded notification day.

Questions I will always ask:
  • Is the employee expecting this?
  • What type of reaction do you think will happen? (Note, this is generally a worthless question because terms are so unpredictable, but I recommend asking anyway.)
  • Do you think the person needs to be escorted out immediately?
  • Should I place security on standby?
  • Is there anything we should be aware of? For instance, does the employee car pool? If so, how are we going to get him/her home? Has there been anything notworthy in his life? Family or health problems we should be aware of? (This won't change the decision to terminate, but it is important to know about.)

  • HR, or another witness should always be in attendance because what the employee hears is not always what is said and it's important that you be able to cover your own behind. HR should be strong, confident in your decision, and provide back up in case of freak outs on the employee's part. HR should not sit in a corner looking uncomfortable. (How did she rise to head of HR if terms freak her out that much?)

    As to what to say in the meeting, first wait and see what their problem is with the whole thing. Talk about mismatched expectations. Show how you followed the procedures you were aware of.

    People get freaked out over terminations. Employees who don't take it well often call the top brass who then freak out and they want to blame someone. Sometimes I think that if you get too high up you lose a sense of reality. (It really is true, if you want action, go to the top. It's annoying as all get out, but it can work in your favor.)

    Likely, this will all blow over. The HR head is going to try to save face. She will not admit to not being involved properly, nor to being so uncomfortable in the meeting. Don't go describing what happened in that manner. Just say, "In my past experience, HR escorted the employee out. I assumed that would happen here and I apologize for not clarifying roles before." Yeah, yeah, you're taking the blame yourself, but people tend to respect people who do that more than those who force blame on others.

    Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    I Haven't Complained About Recruiters Lately

    Here is my situation.... I applied for a position, and was interviewed only to never be contacted again after the standard thank you notes were sent.

    I've found out that the company I interviewed with is e-mailing people who worked with applicants, but who weren't listed as references. You see, they sent an email to my current company in regards to another applicant. They sent it to someone who replaced this person, asking about his work, and why he left. I was asked about it, and not knowing anything (but secretly noting the email and the context in which it was sent), suggested it be forwarded to HR. We're a small company (less than 50 people), so everyone knew about it.

    My worry is that I left my previous position due to problems stemming from my supervisor passing me over for projects, and giving them to others in the group (I was the sole female in a group of 8). I left my position suddenly when finding another position, and giving no notice. I am concerned that this may have been related to the company if they contacted my previous employer, as they did for the fellow whose email I saw.

    I know you don't like the "is this legal" question, but I was wondering what I can do to minimize the impact from their contact if I ever have this happen again. I seriously doubt that I want to work for a company that doesn't ask for permission to do this, as I question what other information they obtain without disclosure. I'm considering the previous position a lost cause, even though they are still searching for someone to fill it (I interviewed 2 months ago).

    There are numerous things to talk about here. Let's start with the part where we pick on recruiters. NOTIFY YOUR CANDIDATES ABOUT THE STATUS OF THE JOB THEY INTERVIEWED FOR.

    Okay. Now I feel better. In today's day of e-mail and voicemail, there is no reason why a recruiter can't take 30 seconds to send a form e-mail or leave a voicemail saying, "Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us. We will keep your resume on file for one year and will contact you if we have a position we feel potentially matches your skill set." It's cold, it's impersonal, but at least it tells the candidate that they aren't still being considered. And for heaven's sake, if the candidate is still being considered but the bureaucracy is holding things up, tell the person. I'm sure someone else has a better canned e-mail. I'm not a recruiter, after all.

    Now, let's talk about contacting people not listed as references. As a candidate, I would hate that. As someone who has seen the unpleasant results of bad hiring, I stand behind it 100%.

    In my experience (not true of everyone's experiences, I know), reference checks are a huge waste of time. Why? Because a candidate that is at all competent is not going to give you the name of someone that despises him. He's going to list people who like him. If I don't personally know the reference, how can I judge the accuracy of what is being said? "Bob is a fantastic worker! I wish I had 3 people like Bob working for me." Great. But that tells me squat, other than you like Bob enough to say that.

    Conversely, if a recruiter requires a former manager to be listed, what proof do I have that you really were Bob's manager. "Hi, Karen, this is Evil HR Lady. I'm doing a reference check for Bob. When were you his supervisor?" Karen could be a true former boss, or she could be a next door neighbor who is pretending to be a former boss. You really don't know.

    But, to contact the company directly--ahh, that removes some of problems. You know you are getting someone that actually worked for Bob's prior company. You don't know if the person you are contacting is rational or not, however. (Of course, you don't ever know this on a reference check unless the person is known to you or is so incredibly crazy that they start screeching into the phone.) The recuiter may actually be able to find out something interesting. "Oh, Bob. Yeah, he was fired right after I got here." Or, "Man, I took Bob's job and I'm never going to be able to live up to his reputation. Everyone still talks about Bob this, and Bob that."

    Now, for the record, I think any recruiter that does this at the candidates current company is pond scum. Bob may well be conducting his job search in secret and it is unfair to him and to your company's reputation to pull stunts like that. But a former company seems to me to be fair game.

    (And I note that some industries are so close knit that by calling a former company you may as well call the candidates current boss because word spreads like wild fire. But, Bob would know that.)

    You want to avoid this going in. You may not be able to. One thing you can do is ask that they contact you before they contact any references, stated or not. You can also ask if they intend to contact people not listed. Of course, this makes it sound like you have something to hide.

    The moral of the story is that you never burn bridges (if you can help it--sometimes the bridge is already on fire, and there's not much you can do about it.) People talk and even though you never thought you'd need a reference from some former boss, he may be asked about you anyway.

    Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    Carnival Update

    Just to be wild and crazy (you know how us HR types are when we get together with the lawyers)the Carnival will be published on Thursday, rather than Wednesday--just this time.

    The reason is that our host, Michael Moore (the lawyer, that is, not the film maker), has changed jobs and blogs. The new blog is Pennsylvania Labor and Employment Blog.

    Send your submissions to mmoore at mwn dot com

    Failed Appraisals

    I relocated to a new state in 2006 and have just completed my first year at the company I am now with. So it's time for the performance review. I did my self review - the standard rate yourself from 1 - 5 on a bunch of different things blah blah blah. Today my boss came into my office with the review and said to me "You weren't here when we did the training on how to fill these out. We don't believe that anyone really exceeds 3 except maybe once in a while they have a 4 and maybe rarely we give a 5. Oh and if you have any room for improvement in anything at all to do with the item you need to rate yourself a 2. So would you please go back and redo your performance appraisal."

    That isn't what the review descriptions say. A 3 is in a nutshell an average performer who comes in the required hours, does what is required and no more or less. A two is someone who needs improvement just to meet minimum standards.

    I work whatever hours I need to to get the job done. I not only do the minimum but in the year I have been here I have suggested and implemented for my customers higher standards and extra services that this office has never before provided. I step up to help others with less experience and to back them up when they are not in ( some of them are not in a lot). I have designed technical checklists, am participating on a company wide team to redesign our proposal form ( for which I have been getting rave reviews from the woman in charge which my boss shared with me), handle the five largest accounts in the office and keep them extremely happy ( which again management knows and has commented on to me), mentor the newer employees and generally have tried in every way to be a role model and assist in bringing our service up a level. Which was one of the reasons I was hired - they've never had anyone of my experience or caliber here and sold me on coming in with an opportunity to give back some of what I have learned over the years to newer less experienced employees.

    But now I have been essentially been told to go back and redo my review and rate myself as average because that's how it's done here. I am not average - I am confident enough in myself to know that is not the case and I have received enough feedback from various colleagues and clients to know I am not being arrogant in placing what I feel is an appropriate value on my work. And no I did not rate myself all 5's - that would be ridiculous. In fact I don't think I gave myself any 5's. I mostly gave myself 4's and some 3's in areas where I feel I don't measure up to my standards.

    I don't intend to change my self review. I will be happy to listen to what my boss says about his rating of me ( which I suspect will be significantly lower than my self ratings) and I am always open to ways to improve what I do.

    Frankly I suspect the real issue here is that this office (for a variety of reasons) is in a rebuild mode and financial results are not as good as they would like them to be. My guess is that the salary raises are tied to review grades and they don't want to give me a raise so what better way than to rate me as average and keep the increase (if any) to a minimum.

    Whatever. Money is not my motivator however. My motivator is feeling that I have done a better than average job, have learned something new and will have an opportunity to expand into new areas and to keep being challenged. Today's conversation left me feeling completely de-motivated and irritated. I certainly don't feel very valued and am seriously wondering if I want to continue to give my all to a company that apparently has so little appreciation for what I have to offer.

    Disengaged and De-Motivated

    Oh for heaven's sake. Your management has no clue about the purpose of performance appraisals. Yes, I believe in paying for performance, but if you don't have a budget for large increases you don't give large increases. You take whatever your budget is and make sure your top performers get the top increases.

    A 5 point rating scale is silly unless you are actually going to use all 5 points. It sounds like your company really has a 3 point scale--2, 3, and 4--with 80-90% as 3s. In my never to be humble opinion, you might as well not have a rating system if you are going to lump everyone together. Why? Because, let's say we have a layoff and I need to eliminate 10 positions. If there are 100 people in the same job, and 5 are rated 4 and 5 are rated 2 and 90 are rated 3, how do I pick who goes? Sure, the 5 2 rated employees are out of there and the 5 4 rated employees are safe, but what about the remaining 5? Surely, all 90 of those people are not identical performers, but I have no documentation to show that they aren't the same.

    Sigh. You can't re-do your company's lame rating structure (and it may not be the entire company--it may be your director, or division, that has these lame-brained ideas), and so we are left with what you can manage.

    I totally get the idea of saying, "this is my self-evaluation and this is how I evaluated my SELF so it stands" and then taking whatever final evaluation comes your way via your supervisor. This is bound to tick off your manager. (And keep in mind, that sometimes managers disagree with policies that are thrust upon them, but they have to support the policy and PRETEND they love it. It's part of being a manager.) Do you want to do that? You may well. I would.

    I would tend to play dumb in this situation. "I see what you are saying, but the definitions on the self-evaluation form don't match up to what you're talking about. It says here that a 3 is an average employee. I look around and my [something quantitative here--customer satisfaction scores, for instance] are significantly higher than my co-workers. To me, that means I'm performing above average. Can you explain to me why I should put down a 3 for this?" Or, "What would I need to do for your to consider me a 4 in this situation?" And then wait for the response.

    It sounds like an overall bad situation. But, your manager needs to keep in mind that it is his rating that "counts," not yours. (Although I admit, I used to copy and paste from my employees' self evaluation when I wrote their final appraisals.) (And no worries about plagiarism, they all approved of my methods--it was to their benefit.)

    No matter what, make sure that either your original self-appraisal, or comments that you make on your final appraisal end up in your file. And keep a copy of everything. (Note to everybody else, please keep a copy of your performance appraisals. The employee records people dislike having to pull out paper copies for you. And they talk to us, and bugging the people who are responsible for firing you is never wise.)

    Your company is a perfect example of why performance appraisals are so incredibly painful. It's bad enough to have your flaws written about and discussed. It's worse to have your accomplishments ignored. The end result of policies like this is that poor performers feel justified in continuing on their lazy path (hey, I'm a 3, that means I'm average, so I'm doing fine), and good performers start looking to leave (I know I'm not average at my job, so I'll find someone else who appreciates me). In the long run, their attempt to save money by keeping ratings down will backfire.

    And since they are dumb enough to not know that just because someone is highly rated it doesn't mean you have to break the bank to keep them, they are probably too dumb to realize why their top performers leave frequently.

    Friday, May 23, 2008

    Hire/Fire Authority

    Not sure if this one is quite your ball of wax, but I'm looking for a way to say, as a positive statement, that I have had the authority/reponsibility of firing as well as hiring on my resume.

    Is there a better term to use?

    Ahh, excellent question. (See, now I'm much less crabby since I no longer have 10.5 pounds of baby pummeling my ribcage.)

    Having supervisory experience can mean a broad range of things and certainly not all supervisors have hire/fire authority. And many people who technically have hire/fire authority can't say boo! without 14 layers of people signing off.

    For the record, I think all hiring and firing decisions should be made through consultation of the direct manager, his manager and HR, but with the direct manager having greater input. Most managers don't have great management skills and it's helpful to have input.

    But, that is not your question. Your question is for your resume. I'm not a recruiter and I'll tell you that on my resume it states "managed team of."

    I don't know what type of organization you worked in. Generally, I think for situations where you managed professional level people, hire/fire authority is assumed. If you are managing in a retail or restaurant or factory environment a "supervisor" may not always have hire/fire authority. So,in that situation you'd want to make it clear.

    I think a more interesting thing to note on a management resume for another management job would be not only your role in hiring and firing, but in developing. I want a manager who knows that a big part of her responsibilities will be to develop.

    Is there a better word than fire? I don't think so. But I would talk about hiring, firing and developing employees. That is, of course, if you did all those things.

    I'm Alive

    We celebrated the new creature's one week birthday by him being awake at the time of his birth (3:37 a.m.). Sigh.

    But, I am alive and I intend to resume blogging. Even though I'm operating on a serious lack of sleep, I feel so much better now and should be considerably less crabby.

    Thanks for all your kind wishes and thoughts. Now, if you could all wish for him to realize that day=awake and night=sleep, that would be swell.

    Friday, May 16, 2008

    Adding Dependents: Evil HR Baby is Here

    I just got off the phone with the EHRL and she and the Evil Marketing Man are the proud parents of a 10 lb 8 oz, 23 inch bouncing baby boy.

    When asked for a quote EHRL replied, "Ouch."

    So congrats to the Evil Family and their new addition!

    Wednesday, May 14, 2008

    I Show Up and It's the Wrong Job

    I am a 19 year old college student about to start my first internship tomorrow. In January of this year I began sending resumes out to various golf courses/clubs (I am a professional golf major). I had several interviews and was offered what I thought was the 1st assistant professional position at a local country club. The job that I applied for as stated in my cover letter was the 1st assistant professional job. During my interview we discussed my experience working with junior golfers and also my working two days inside the pro shop.

    Yesterday when I arrived home from school I went to the club to sign the necessary paperwork and was given my job description and schedule. I was told that I was going to be a bag attendant (a job that any high school student could do) not the job that I was expecting. The pay rate and experience that I will get from this job will not meet my necessary requirements for my college program since we are required to write various papers etc about working in the pro shop.

    I did not say anything to my new boss when I saw this.
    I just didn't know what to do. I am supposed to start tomorrow, it is too late to look for another internship at this point but I feel that I was mislead about this position. I had several other offers for the 1st assistant pro that have since been filled and now I am a bag attendant. Should I say anything? How should I go about it. This is really my first full-time job and I don't want to get fired before I even start but I really want the other job! Please help me if you can.

    I'm going to say some things that might sound a little harsh. I'm doing it so you don't make the same mistakes again and trust that all of us made mistakes as we entered into the job world. (In one interview that I'd like to forget, when the interviewer asked if I had any questions, I said, "Doesn't this job get boring?" Ummm, are you shocked I didn't get the job?)

    I put three phrases in bold above. I want to address them.

    The job that I applied for as stated in my cover letter was the 1st assistant professional job. Please note that this is the job you applied for and not the job they offered you. Recruiters are attempting to fill positions and they may think you are a better fit for a different position than the one you applied for. There's nothing that says they can't do that. Your mistake was assuming that because you applied for the 1st assistant professional job, that was what they were going to give you.

    It's not a bad assumption, it's just that one should never assume anything in the job search.

    The pay rate and experience that I will get from this job will not meet my necessary requirements. Did you get an offer letter, or was salary discussed before you accepted? It should have been. Again, if the job you applied for paid $15 an hour, did you just assume that that is what you were getting? All offers should be in writing--even for summer internship jobs. If they balk at doing that, you don't want to work there, as they are unethical. You should not turn down other offers until you have a clear offer letter in hand, which spells out your title, supervisor and pay rate. Otherwise, you end up like this!

    This job won't fit the requirements for your school program. Did they know you were applying for an internship, or did they think you were applying for a summer job? Did they understand the requirements of your program? It's not uncommon for internships to require special things--as someone who has managed interns before, I've had to write special evaluations so they could get academic credit, for example.

    I did not say anything to my new boss when I saw this.
    This, I totally understand. Sometimes we're so shocked we don't know how to respond. (This happened to me on Saturday when some random woman came up to me at a park and started talking to me. She was complaining about the child in the stroller. She then said, "It's not even my child. It's my husband's girlfriend's son." Pause. "Our relationship is complicated." Umm, yes thanks for sharing!)

    Situations like this need to be addressed as soon as possible. It should have been addressed immediately, but you didn't. So, let's go from there and work on a possible solution.

    Your problem is that you don't have another job to go to, so you feel stuck. But, this job won't meet your requirements either, so you need to address this. Call up your new boss and ask to come in for a meeting. Explain that you thought you were being hired for the 1st assistant position and you were so surprised to find out that you had been slotted into a different role. "I understand that you probably have that position already filled, but what can we do so that I can get that experience?"

    Then work together to come up with a solution. Be flexible and not accusatory. If you start out with "You guys screwed up" you won't get anywhere. But, try to brainstorm with your boss. Make sure you are clear on your internship requirements as well.

    I don't know your manager. Maybe he did this on purpose in order to get a less than pleasant job filled, but maybe it was an honest mistake. If it was an honest mistake, your manager will be willing to work with you to come to a solution. If it was done on purpose, you may be better off working for a different company, even if it doesn't involve golf.

    If they officially registered with your college as someone for interns, you may be able to get your internship coordinator to help out.

    Good luck. I'd use some golf phrase, but I got hit in the face with a golf club when I was in 5th grade and I've avoided it since.

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    Exiting an Employee

    I am a head-hunter. I like to think I am a good head-hunter (we are all deluded in some way, I suppose) and I try and help my clients and my candidates get the job (I do get a fee when I do that properly).

    However, I have, myself, only ever worked in small organizations and there is one subject I would love to find further information on: resignation and exit interview (from large firms: I work with banks).

    -Resignation is typically done to the direct line manager. To what extend does HR get involved, other than administratively?

    -What are Exit Interviews for? I did extensive research (i.e. I read your WHOLE BLOG) and the one post you made on it is a little ambivalent. Now this question is really for my intellectual curiosity. My real question is: Should the employee be honest as to the reasons why he is leaving? Arguably in my position they are not fundamentally unhappy about the position they are about to leave (I called them, not the other way around) and so we will assume that the frustrations they have with their role are relatively minor.

    Resignations are a fact of life. In fact, a certain level of turnover is good for business--the thing HR cares about is not so much that someone is terminating, but that the right person terminates.

    You see, there is good voluntary turnover and bad voluntary turnover. We're interested in decreasing the bad voluntary turnover and increasing the good voluntary turnover.

    Once someone has resigned, though, you are right, it's pretty much administrative. (That is, in my never to be humble opinion, how it should be. I am not a fan of counter offers and think they should only be offered in the rarest of circumstances. My question when someone wants to make a counter offer is, "why weren't you paying the person that much to begin with?" Of course, the answer is usually something involving poor compensation structures, but I digress.)

    So, why do we want to do exit interviews? Well, because they are thrilling and break up the monotony of filling out forms all day. (Oh wait, exit interviews are paperwork. Sigh, I'll have to think of something else that's exciting. I know, I know, EEO investigations!)

    Exit interviews. First of all, we know people lie. "This was just too fabulous of an opportunity to pass up, although it pains me to leave because I love it here so much," means, "I've been networking like mad and stalking headhunters for the past year because I'm dying to get out of this nightmare." That is fine. We know that.

    We also know that the the main reason people leave their jobs is their managers. If you love your manager, you'll put up with a lot more. Because I know people won't be forthcoming (in most situations) about their true feelings regarding their managers, what I'm looking for more is trends. How many people are leaving in that particular department? How do they compare to other departments.

    Questions that I want to know the answer to, but don't generally get a straight answer to, are what company are you going to, and what is your new salary going to be? This can help HR know who our competition is, and if our pay structures are competitive.

    You state that because you called them, not the other way around, they must be happy with their jobs. Well, yes and no. An object at rest prefers to remain at rest. It's much easier to retain someone than it is to recruit someone new for that very reason. And it's much easier for someone to stay in a job then it is to find a new one. And how did you get their names anyway? If you are cold calling, well, that's one thing. But, generally when I've been contacted by headhunters and I've turned them down, they've always asked me the same question, "Do you know anyone who might be interested?"

    Sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes the answer is no. But, if I hand over a name of someone (by the way, I always ask the person first), it's because I know they are interested in changing jobs. If they weren't interested, you wouldn't have their names, in that scenario.

    Should an employee be honest? Absolutely. Should he be cruel and burn bridges? Never. Why are you leaving? Opportunity, more money, better hours, closer to home, can all be true answers, even if your manager is also driving you up the wall.

    We do gain valuable information. And I think a second level answer is more revealing than a first level. Almost everyone will say they are leaving for a new opportunity. The second level question is what makes this a better opportunity than what you have here? Salary, promotional opportunities, management experience, varied industry experience, etc all help HR to develop succession planning tools and development plans that can meet the company's goals, as well as help employees to be fulfilled.

    And you say you are in banking. Do you have a job available that only involves blogging, but pays a lot? I'm very interested.

    Friday, May 09, 2008

    Asking for Severance

    I started work in January 08 as an HR Manager for a very small company of 35 employees. I was told this week that they can no longer afford to keep this position as they are "hurting" for money. I am in a protected class and wondered if I should be asking for a severance package? Thank you.

    I will make no comment on the fact that they hired you 4 months ago and now realize that they can't afford the position. No comment whatsoever.

    There are several different possible scenarios here.

    1. The management at the company you work for is just darn stupid. They said, "hey we need an HR manager." (True, apparently.) "Let's hire one!" Then they did and they realized they had to pay you, which they couldn't afford. Oops!

    2. They have the money for an HR manager, but they don't like you, so they figure that telling you it's a financial thing is easier than saying, "you keep talking about KSAs and regulations and what's up with your OSHA worries? Plus, you keep trying to come to our meetings. This annoys us, please leave."

    3. As with situation 1, they realize they need an HR manager, so they hired you. Now that you are on board, they realize they are paying too much and have another candidate in the wings who will do the job for less, so they want to get rid of you and hire that person.

    I'm sure there are other possibilities, but these are the three main ones. You'll note none of them have to do with your protected class status. Being in a protected class doesn't mean you can't be terminated, it just means you can't be terminated because of your status.

    The reason why I'm confident your status has nothing to do with your termination is that they just hired you. One of the strongest defenses you can have to such a complaint is that the person who made the decision to hire you is also the person making the decision to fire you. Since you made no mention of a change in management, I assume that is the case.

    Now, the fact that they believed they needed an HR manager and you are an HR manager should put you in a good negotiating position--because they need help in that area.

    Should you ask for severance? Absolutely. Always ask for severance if you are being terminated. The worst thing that can happen is they say no. Your protected class status can help you here--not because it's relevant, but because they may not know that it's not relevant.

    I'm of the opinion that severance should be offered for all involuntary, not for cause, terminations. (Please note, I am not advocating a government mandate requiring severance. I am advocating that companies do the right thing.)

    So, ask for severance. I hope they give it to you. And ask for a reference for your job hunt. You'll need a good explanation for why you left after such a short time frame. And make sure you apply for unemployment as well.

    Tuesday, May 06, 2008

    No Legal Advice Here

    I have a co-worker (who also happens to be a house-mate). We had been working together at the same company for two weeks when this individual was fired this week due to inappropriate use of company property (extremely inappropriate web-site browsing) coupled with over-anxiety for a skill-test. I work at a security monitoring center where we are required to be level-headed at all times. When the date of the skill-test drew near, my former co-worker began to panic and spent the last two days before the test stating that they would be better off resigning, at times openly panicking during training and once bursting into tears.

    Anyways, that problem became moot after it was discovered that my former co-worker was browsing the web, on company computers and going to extremely inappropriate websites. This person was subsequently fired the following Monday.

    My house-mate is now intent on filing a law-suit against the company on charges of discrimination, stating that the company discriminated by firing this person because they were too emotional for the job. I believe that this is a waste of this person's time, due to the other factor involved in the termination

    My question is this: is my house-mate (former co-worker) within their rights to file charges against the company based on what has transpired?

    Discrimination is such a threatening word. It sounds like you have a real grievance when you say, "but they discriminated against me!" Well, discrimination isn't illegal. (What!?!?! Of course it is.)

    No, it isn't. We all discriminate all the time. We make decisions based on characteristics. (I discriminate against all sandwiches with mayonnaise. Blech.) I also discriminate against people who show up to job interviews inappropriately dressed. (Ladies, leave the Daisy Duke shorts at home. Okay, that was when I worked for an auto parts wholesaler, and I wasn't conducting the interview, but the woman didn't get the job and the entire office talked about her for weeks.)

    Now, there is a chance your house mate could win a claim based on a violation of the Americans with Disability Act, but given that he (to my knowledge) never asked for accommodations for such a disability, I think this is a long shot. Besides, someone who is too emotional to actually do the job may not have a reasonable accommodation available to him.

    If I was the HR person handling that, I would take his threat as an empty one. Why? If he's been looking at "inappropriate" websites, that is a slam dunk in and of itself. (Of course, I'm now waiting for someone to send me a link where a court said that looking at "inappropriate" websites at work was due to a mental problem covered by ADA.) This is a situation where a termination for cause applies, and I would even fight unemployment. Because I'm just that mean.

    No, it's not that I'm just that mean. Some things are just INAPPROPRIATE for work. Period. That is one of them. "Inappropriate" websites don't just prevent the person from doing his/her work, it also opens the company up to lawsuits. You don't believe me? Read yesterday's post about a bad radio station.

    Tell your housemate that he made a big mistake and he better darn well not do it again and he should go out and try to find a new job. Preferably something that doesn't bring out the emotional stress level this past one did.

    Monday, May 05, 2008

    Why Evil HR Lady Likes a Strict Workplace Environment

    Okay, first of all, I have a no bad language (Including crude, rude and socially unacceptable language) rule on my blog. You know that. (Or you should. No bad language, please!) And I think a similar rule should be enforced in the workplace. Why? Because it's not polite. And more than politeness, it can get very expensive. From Overlawyered:
    The Eleventh Circuit on Monday "held that Ingrid Reeves could proceed to trial with her hostile environment harassment claim -- which is to say, that if the jury agrees with her on the facts, it's entitled to award potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages -- even though the case didn't involve any sexual extortion, any offensive touching, any sexual propositions, or even any insults targeted to her personally. Rather, her complaints, as described by the Eleventh Circuit were chiefly related to "sexually crude language that offended her." Among the sources of that offense, per the court opinion, was "a radio program that was played every morning on the stereo in the office", per Eugene Volokh "a morning program on Birmingham's 107.7 FM during 2002-03, according to one brief".

    And you wonder sometime why we HR types put a damper on the fun.


    Many of the problems we deal with in Human Resources stem from managers being unable to solve problems in their departments.

    Now, I know full well that those non-management types aren't perfect little angels either. They cause the problems in the first place. (Or rather, it's a joint effort between everyone--it's one of the few things you can count on for a united team.)

    I don't know why we HR types are surprised. After all, do we give clear expectations on what managing people, or working in a particular environment should be like?

    The Voice of San Diego reports on a school that has had great success--by setting standards and expecting students to meet them. Except, they didn't just say "here are behavioral standards, meet them," they explicitly taught the students how to do so.
    "Schools assume that a student will come in, and just know what to do," school psychologist Steve Franklin said. "At Webster, teaching a student how to be a student is really important. We don't expect them to already know how to read, to do math or write. So why aren't we teaching these things, too?"

    Why aren't we doing the same thing? Oh, because we're so busy running the business, right? (Stop snorting you non-hr types, we really do care about the business.)

    Or, more realistically, we're solving the crises that come up. What if we explicitly taught managers what we expected of them? What if we taught employees how to be an employee at "x" company? I know, that would spoil all the creativity.

    Hogwash. Once you know the rules and the norms, then you can make informed decisions on if you wish to deviate from them. If you don't know, then you're just guessing and making uninformed or ill-informed decisions.

    If we're concerned about the business, consider the success of this school:
    Webster has seen suspensions plummet and test scores surge since instilling the Webster Way. Only 10 students were suspended last year. Test scores ranked Webster in the top echelon of demographically similar schools statewide.

    Wouldn't we want that for our companies? Wouldn't we want the business equivalent--profits to soar, turnover to plummet? (Voluntary and involuntary--I hate it when companies only look at voluntary turnover. High involuntary turnover means you have bad hiring practices, bad management practices, bad training, bad succession planning or a combination of any or all of those.)

    Sure it takes effort and getting management on board may be difficult. After all, if the senior manager didn't know how to manage, he certainly wouldn't be in the position of power, right? (Please control your guffaws, this is business.) What mistakes are your managers making repeatedly? How many layoffs have you done lately? How many grown-up versions of suspensions and expulsions? How many complaints have you had?

    (Via Joanne Jacobs)

    Friday, May 02, 2008

    A Lousy Raise

    I just spoke with our Finance Director, who indicates that, due to our company's subpar performance (of note: we conducted a 10% company-wide RIF in July '07), our typical 4-5% annual increases will either be
    (a) zilch;
    (b) 1.5 - 2.5%; or
    (c) option "b" plus the possibility of 1-2% more based on company performance when September '08 rolls around.

    To complicate matters, our pay increase formula typically includes comparison with market data (some are at market, some are below) and scores from performance appraisals. Any of the options presented by the FD throw our formula out the window, thereby ticking off employees who have (a) spent a significant amount of time on self-appraisals, multi-rater appraisals, appraisals with managers, etc. (I can hear it now -- "what's the point of appraisals?!"); and (b) know they are below market rate.

    I have highly recommended that, if at all financially possible, we go with any option that is not "zero,", knowing that, regardless, our staff of approximately 40 individuals will be upset and further demoralized by the news because they have been working hard throughout the last six months to get our numbers up.

    My question to you is this: In our small, close-knit environment, how do we best manage employee expectations for increases given the reality of the situation? *I* know that no raises or minimal raises are reasonable given our company's financial situation (I'd rather have a job than give everyone the raises they "deserve"), but we've had some other major internal morale issues lately (top managers started a shadow organization and left last fiscal year to compete against us -- it's ugly), and I can see this situation inciting employees to either (a) stay and quit, or (b) leave and cause all the issues that turnover in a small company creates. Another note: we are in a niche market that's difficult to recruit for. Additionally, we have approx. 65-70% of staff who have been with the company 5+ years.

    Thank you, Evil HR Lady! I appreciate your kind consideration and assistance!

    I feel your pain. You've lost a bunch of managers, you've laid off 10% of your workforce, and now you have to tell the remaining group that their raises will stink. Fun!

    Your company is small--40 people. They should ALL be aware of the situation already. In fact, with a company that small, every one of them should be able to have a direct effect on the financial success of the company.

    What is going on to improve the financial success of the company? Have the Finance Director, CEO, and head of HR (I'm guessing that's you) met with everyone and taken their suggestions?

    I guess I see this more as a business failure than as a need to spin things to make employees feel like they are getting a good raise when they are not. There may be a fundamental disconnect with understanding where the money comes from in a business. "I've worked hard, I deserve a raise." But, your work has not been successful for the company.

    Yes, that will go over great.

    What I would do is publicly tie compensation to performance--with the understanding that with increased COMPANY performance people could do much, much, better than the 4-5% they've received in years past. Long term incentives, such as stock, can really help the company in this situation.

    Because the company is so small, and people should be able to see the results of their work, I would recommend stock options or another profit sharing plan, in conjunction with performance evaluations and whatever raises the company can afford.

    The CEO may freak out (it's MY company and that cuts into MY profits), but there won't be any profits if the workforce is disgruntled or gone to a competitor. Keep in mind, as well, that it's more expensive to recruit new hires than it is to keep the current ones happy. If you can't afford a 4% raise now, how are you going to afford to recruit, hire (at market rate) and train new employees?

    This is not to say you need to give the higher raise, just that without giving employees a reason to work for the company's long term success, you'll be in that boat.

    I don't envy your situation. But, it's reality. And the good news is, if your people are paying attention to the news, they'll think that the economy is just about to crash into a recession, the likes of which have not been seen since the great depression. So, give them some gruel in the company cafeteria and tell them to like it! (Just kidding.)

    As usual, I am betting my brilliant readers will have other suggestions to make your life happier.