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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Not at all Strange

I get a weekly e-mail from BLR called HR Strange But True. It's usually some fluff about resumes or such. Interesting, but nothing to blog about.

Until the last e-mail. They proclaim that "Sexists Get Paid More!" This, is a "strange" phenomenon. Bah. They have not thought it through.

First of all, let's get rid of the inflammatory language. Sexists connotes someone who thinks women aren't capable of competing with men. That's not what the study says at all. Why don't we say, "Traditional Men Get Paid More!" That, I think, is a bit less biased.

Anyway, BLR is in shock (shock, I tell you!) that men who want a wife that stays at home make more money then those with more "egalitarian views" do. It's all about choices, people.

If a man believes that the best situation is for him to be married and have a wife that does not work, then guess what? He's most likely to marry a woman who will stay at home. And what will that wife be doing? Taking care of the house, the kids, paying the bills, waiting for the plumber, arguing with the phone company, and generally taking responsibility for a million different things.

The man who believes the best situation is for him to be married to a woman who also works will most likely be married to a...drum roll please...a wife who also works. What does this mean? Well, he's got to either share in all those responsibilities listed above, or he is a real jerk who lets his wife, who works as much as he does, take care of all that stuff plus his marriage is shakier because she's angry at him for not helping. What about the woman who works with a working husband? Or the single person? All of these people have essentially two jobs--the one at home and the one at work.

The "traditional" man has someone else taking care of all the outside hassles of life. He, essentially, only works one job--the one he's paid for. Does it not make sense that he should be able to focus more on work? He never has to worry about having clean socks or missing an important meeting because one of the kids is puking.

It's all about choice. And it shouldn't surprise anyone that there are consequences with each choice.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Important Carnival of HR Update!

The Carnival of HR has a new home! Yeah! All the updates and info you need is over there.

Ask A Manager has taken over the responsibility of tracking and guiding the carnival. She's awesome.

Party on!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Power of [Passive Aggressive] Suggestion

This week, I had an employee come to me and complain about other employees not washing their hands after using the bathroom. They wanted me to put up signs telling people they need to wash their hands before returning to work. Needless to say, I do NOT work at a McDonald's. My (rhetorical) question is this: does putting up a sign telling people to do something or not do something actually work?? If so, I need to rethink our whole office communication plan. It might save me a whole lot of time and trouble.

First question for the person who asked this question: How do you know that people aren't washing their hands? Are you hanging out in the bathroom? Really? Because I believe that studies show that even avowed non-washers wash their hands when someone else is in the bathroom.

My second question is why would anyone think that someone who is brazen enough to walk out of a public restroom, observed by a co-worker, and still not wash their hands would see a sign "reminding" them to wash their hands and go, "Oh! I'm supposed to wash my hands after piddling? I had no idea! Thank you place of work for telling me this. I shall now wash my hands."

Not gonna happen. Not even close.

I will say, though that there is a time and a place for passive aggressive notes. And that place is here, and nowhere else. Otherwise, if you won't say it to their faces, leaving notes won't help. (I was strongly tempted to leave a "If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie, wipe the seatie" sign when someone in my office used to hover and then not wipe up after herself. I mean, honestly, are you that delicate that you can't clean up after yourself but expect the rest of the world to do it? Actually what I would have liked to do is put a sign saying, "I don't know who you are, but if we find out, you're going down." I didn't. You shouldn't either. But, geesh, people, have some consideration for others!)

I would be willing to bet (if I were a gambling woman, which I'm not), that the complainer has other problems that need to be addressed. People don't come to HR over this unless there is an underlying issue. Sure, they may say, "Sue in accounts payable doesn't wash her hands!" while they are chatting, with people giving furtive glances at Sue and wondering about the bacteria colonies on her keyboard, but they don't come to HR about it. This is someone who is frustrated over something else and needs a little control in her life. (I just switched from gender neutral into female, because I'll also bet this is a woman. I don't think men care about this and if they did and saw other men not washing their hands they'd say, "Dude, you didn't wash your hands" instead of coming to HR.)

So, no. I don't think a sign will solve any problems. I think the problem isn't handwashing. I think it's something else.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Carnival of HR Reminder

There has been some serious slacking in the Carnival world and we don't want to get bad performance reviews because of it.

If you hurry up and make a submission, you just might make today's carnival at Sharp Brains. Send an e-mail to alvaro at sharpbrains dot com.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuition and Quitting

I was reading your blog about Tuition Policies. I'm in a very unique situation and wondered your advice.

My previous company paid for my Tuition for 1 year, then they informed me that they were going to outsource my job, and I wouldn't have to pay this back.

However, they refused to give me a set time frame for my last day of work. Since I was a new home owner, and would only receive 4 weeks severance pay I felt I would be gambling on finding a new job with a small time frame, so I decided to leave once I was offered another job. Now, I put myself in the position to re-pay what they paid for my tuition. I noticed in your blog that you said . . ."it's next to impossible to get that money back if the person doesn't willingly cough up the check", I just wanted to know your thoughts on this topic? What can the company do, if I don't repay this money?

The company can take you to court and sue you and they would win. Yeah! Just what you want to do. You want a court judgment issued against you.

Now, the probably won't, but they might. You don't want it to come to that. You also signed a contract and legally you are obligated to repay, since your resignation was voluntary. Now, since you had already been told that your position was being outsourced, you might be able to argue that this was a version of a constructive discharge. Usually this is applied when your company makes it so miserable that you have to leave. I could argue that by telling you your job is eliminated and not giving you a time frame, the only rational decision was to quit and therefore you were forced into it.

I doubt you could win that argument in court. And as I said, you don't want to go to court anyway. Plus, you are an honest person and want to do the right thing. It's one year of tuition. Step up to the plate and approach the person responsible for such things. Present your case and say, "under the circumstances, I believe it's fair if I repay 1/3 of the tuition. After all, my job was scheduled for outsourcing and I saved you the cost of 4 weeks severance." They'll probably jump at it, given that they don't want to go to court either.

Keep in mind that the person who manages the tuition reimbursement program probably does not have the authority to approve such a thing. So, if she immediately says no, ask who would have the authority to approve a deal and go to them. Frankly, I think they'd be fools not to accept it. You may have to negotiate a little bit and pay a bit more, but I doubt they'll come after you for the whole amount.

Or, you could get someone who is a complete policy nut who will become apoplectic at the mere thought of granting an exception. If so, I'm sorry.

I feel your pain. And for the record, I think you made the right decision. No point staying on when you have an indefinite term date. Companies that do that type of thing to you should be offering stay bonuses, but even those are rarely worth turning down a real job for.

Good luck in your new job.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

On that School/Forms Theme

Check this out. It's a parody of a school form. I need to get more creative and make up a new hire form.

Advance Vacation Notice

I am currently looking for employment (I was laid off) and was wondering about how to ask for a few days off that I know I would like to take. I am completing my MBA in December, and the graduation is in a neighboring state, which would require a few days off for driving, plus the actual ceremony and celebration. Since I already know about this desire for time off, when would be the appropriate time to mention this, in the event that I am interviewed and/or offered a position? I am ok with being told it is not possible, if that is the employer's policy, but if I can take the time off (even without pay), I would prefer to do so. I don't want to offend the employer by them thinking I would always be asking for time off, but also feel the kind of employer I want to work for would be understanding for this special occasion.

First, good luck with the job hunt. It's a painful, but hopefully fruitful time. Second, congratulations on the MBA. (Almost! I probably shouldn't congratulate you until you actually receive it.)

Now, as for time off at the end of December, take a deep breath and don't worry about it. Everyone and their dog wants to take vacation at the end of December and no future employer is going to be shocked by the request. (And, FYI, if you came and worked for my company, we shut down between Christmas and New Year's Day anyway, so everybody gets time off!) This is something I wouldn't even bring up in an interview.

I would, however, bring it up in the negotiation phase. Once they've offered you the job, then you can mention, "I'm graduating from [MBA Program] in December and the graduation ceremony is on December 22. I'd really like to take December 21-23rd off. Would that be a problem?"

Chances are the answer will be no. If the answer is yes, then you get to decide if the new job is worth missing your graduation.

This would be a problem if what you wanted was 6 weeks off to tour Africa or something. Two-three days off to attend your own graduation is not an unreasonable request. And a manager would be a fool to not want you to work for them because you have something so reasonable scheduled. (Heck, I once hired someone who said she couldn't start for three weeks because she had a vacation planned between the offer and then and didn't want to request time off. I needed her on board for various reasons and said, "come on and you can take that vacation paid!" So she did and she went on her vacation and 7 years later she's my job share partner, so aren't I glad she came to work?)

You're almost done with your MBA and you've been laid off, so I presume you have work experience to go along with your degree. This means you probably aren't looking for entry level positions where you have to work six months before getting a single day off. Most companies will pro-rate your vacation time anyway. If you were hired in October in a company that offers 2 weeks of vacation per year, you'd have 2.5 days of vacation to use by year end anyway. (10 days/12 months=.833 days per month X 3 months=2.5 days of vacation.)

Good luck with the job hunt. May you land one quickly.

Monday, September 08, 2008

An Ethical Question

I've been tapped to choose an important service provider for our small business. In taking bids, I've discovered that one of the bidders may have run afoul of the law in another state, but likely settled without any criminal charges (a white collar crime). I learned this from a competing bidder, but believe it to be true. I know this person, and have worked with them before in another business (the incident was a few years before that, evidently). Their work was always of an excellent quality. The person does NOT know that I'm aware of the incident, and the bid is in line with the others.

First, should I notify my boss of this, even if I believe it will not affect the providing of this critical service?

Next, should I use this person in the first place if the offense may be interpreted as having to do with a lack of character? I know frighteningly little about the facts of the case, I'm afraid.

Lastly, if we reject the bid for this reason, do I have an ethical responsibility to tell this person why, and how I found out?

I'm not sure I'm the right person to ask an ethical question to. Why? Because I spent a good part of Saturday trying to figure out how to cheat at Candyland. Not because I wanted to win, mind you. But because I wanted the game to end. As soon as one of us would get in striking distance of the blessed end of the game, that person would draw Mr. Mint or Grandma Nutt or some other blasted character that would send you backwards. Aaargh! Could somebody just win the darn thing?

But, for the record, I didn't cheat and fortunately, the offspring won, so there was no tears and (horrors) demand for a re-match. So, I guess I am an ethical sort.

So, you heard a rumor that someone who you have worked with in the past did something extra bad in their past--not that you are very clear on what--and you wonder what to do with that information. This is a horrible gut-wrenching situation to be in. You want to do what is right. You don't want to embarrass somebody needlessly. What if you tell your boss, the guy doesn't get the contract and it turns out that his competitor is lying? Aaargh!

Here is what I suggest: Talk to the vendor directly. Tell him you heard a rumor and you are very sorry, but you need to talk to him about it. This stops the gossip altogether and gets to the heart of things. If he says yes, that was him, then he gets an opportunity to explain and you take all the information to your boss and decide if you wish to continue working with him.

If he says no, that's not true, well then you've got a more difficult situation. You've got one vendor saying his direct competitor is a criminal and that vendor denying it. Oy. I still say your boss needs to know. I'm not a fan of gossip, but this situation speaks to the character of one of them, it's just hard to tell which one.

Since you don't believe this "problem" will affect his performance, you could just let it all go. But, the problem I see with that is that any criminal behavior reflects on the integrity of the person. (Incidentally, the rules around criminal CONVICTIONS and hiring don't apply--to the best of my knowledge--when you are seeking a vendor, rather than an employee. Since he wasn't convicted, this is moot anyway, but I thought I'd bring it up.) And telling you this information reflects on the integrity of the competitor. (Not saying he's a bad person, mind you, just saying "why is he telling me this? Is it to give himself an advantage? Or does he really think it's important.)

So, now that I've given a long winded answer, I'll summarize your three questions.

1. Yes, you should notify your boss. But, first speak to the vendor directly.

2. Depending on what you find out, it speaks to someone's character, and I think that's important to know. Keep in mind that lots of people have made mistakes in life and if it's been a while and he's done good work for you in the past, you probably don't care.

3. Yes, I believe if you are going to take this information into consideration, you need to talk to the person. I'm into being open and honest. If he did this, it's lurking in the back of his mind anyway and you bringing it up won't devastate him (I hope!). It will allow you to clear the air.

4. And no matter what, investigate this yourself. This means more than google.

I'm feeling a bit uneasy about my answer now. Someone else chime in and give a better one. I hate situations like this!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I've Really Got a Headache

We have an employee that has had consistent attendance problems over the course of her employment (4 years). There are times where it is better and then she falls back down again. A two week stretch of good then a bad run for a week.

Recently she has been claiming that she can not work because she has migraine headaches. This is a new excuse for her. I am trying to determine the liability to the company if we write her up for excessive tardy’s and absenteeism. I have researched migraines and I can not anything conclusive.

My first question is why has this gone on for 4 years? That makes it harder to deal with. Remember, problems seldom heal themselves. 'Tis better to deal with the problems when they first rear their ugly little heads--or headaches in this case.

Now, do you have an attendance policy? If yes, have you been enforcing the policy across the board? I suspect not, because an oft absent employee would have been terminated a long time ago--before the migraines started. But, things are as they are and here we sit.

Two things (at least!) you need to keep in mind--the Americans with Disabilities Act and FMLA. Do migraines fall under ADA? Well, the best answer I can give you is maybe. (See, aren't I helpful?) The question is does, do her migraines "substantially limit" a major life activity? If yes, then you must make reasonable accommodations for her, provided she can do the job. If no, then it doesn't apply and you don't have to accommodate her.

Let's assume they are substantial and ADA does apply. What is a reasonable accommodation? Taking time off whenever she wants is not reasonable, in my book. Depending on the job, working flexible hours, dimmed lighting, reduced computer usage or something else can all be "reasonable accommodations." If migraines truly are her problem, perhaps one of these accommodations will solve the work problem.

It probably won't, though. I imagine a migraine strong enough to substantially limit a major life activity won't allow her to function through the day, even with all the reasonable accommodations in the world. Which brings us to FMLA.

In order to qualify for FMLA she needs a doctor involved. Once the paperwork is filled out and she's granted "intermittant" FMLA--which means she can take off when she needs to for her illness--she's limited to 60 days (12 weeks x 5 days a week) of time off due to her qualifying illness. After that, you can terminate her for absenteeism.

FMLA is tricky because while she is out on an FMLA approved absence you can't count any work she didn't do against her. It's easier to administer a traditional FMLA leave where multiple weeks are taken together.

If she doesn't qualify under FMLA and she's still absent fire her.

But acknowledge that you should have dealt with this years ago. You should have an attendance policy in place and if her multiple absences violated that, then she should have been terminated. Without an attendance policy it's difficult to be fair across the board. She should be an at will employee, which means you can terminate her at any time. But, if you are concerned that she will cause problems, offer her some severance in exchange for a general release. Make very sure that you don't ask her to waive her rights to FMLA, because from what I understand, that's not waivable.

Good luck!

How Sending My Child to School Taught Me About Why People Hate HR

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Me? I'm a fan of transparency, efficiency and as little paperwork as possible. It seems the school system tries to be opaque, mind-numbingly slow and filled with paper. As I navigated the system, I started to think "this is why people hate HR," because as much as I love letting people know what's going on, I know not all HR departments are like that.

In order to get Offspring #1 enrolled in school I had to make one trip to the district office, two trips to the doctor's office (one to get a copy of her vaccination record--which the school needed RIGHT NOW, right now being 6 months before school started), one trip to the dentist and 2 "required" trips to the school itself. (I put "required" in quotes becaused I refused to go to one of them. They wanted me to physically appear on a Thursday, between 9:30 and 11:00 to drop off a form. I said "this is why God gave us the post office" and mailed the form in.) All of these trips involved filling out forms.

Today, I picked the offspring up from her first day of school and received a whole new stack of paperwork--much of it with the same information I had already filled out on numerous other forms. And this must be returned no later than tomorrow.

Things like this drive me absolutely batty. Why do I need to fill out 3 (yes 3) different forms that list my emergency contact numbers? Can you please tell me? I understand the need to make sure about vaccinations and allergies, but what is the purpose for a dental form? When asked the school nurse said, "she can't go on any field trips without a dental form." Umm, okay, because you might stop for a couple of fillings and a good cleaning?

Now, let's talk HR. How often is an inquiry into why a form is needed is, "because it's policy"? Does everyone in HR even know why? Do we explain that HR needs to sign off on promotions, new hires, etc because we need to check that compensation guidelines aren't violated, as well as maintaining pay equity across the department? Or do we say, "Just fill out this form." Worse, are they filling out the form and you are just signing off on it without even reading it?

Do you ever have people fill out the same information more then once? (In case you are saying, "of course not," stop and think. Do new employees have to fill out an application and new hire paperwork that both ask for name, address, etc?) Are these things filled out on paper and then you pay someone to type it into your HRIS, or does the applicant type it into an online system? If so, does that system transfer the information to your HRIS and Payroll systems?

Here's another thing that bugged me about registering for school. We had to register no later than February 28. At that point we could request either morning or afternoon kindergarten, but they wouldn't guarantee either. When did they tell us what we were assigned to? August. Yes August. Why on earth did it take so long? I have no idea. And the explanation I was given was "we haven't decided how many classes to have." And when they did send out the assignments, the principal was on vacation, so there was no one to complain to if you got an assignment that you didn't agree with. The neighboring school principal did the same thing. Can we say hiding from responsibility?

Have you ever tried to get a hold of the actual PERSON who made a bad policy decision? Or does "run-around" come to your mind? If HR wants to make a policy, fine, but we better be willing to stand behind it, answer questions and deal with the fall out.

Why does it take so long to get policies changed? Why does it take 3 weeks to get an exception granted? Why does it take an interminably long time to get a new hire on board? We may have darn good reasons for all of these things, but it's rarely transparent to the employee. What they see is delay and stalling and answers that are either lies or uninformed.

Note that none of this deals with the actual true responsibility of the schools (educating children) or HR (providing and developing and retaining the best people for the company). It's all the administrative stuff that must be dealt with. Screw this up and people begin to distrust you on the other things.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I'm in HR and currently have a job where I was responsible for creating a training program. I was the first person to do this for the company and everyone thinks I'm doing a fantastic job. Actually, I'm in 2nd gear. I came from a completely different industry and was in a generalist/manager position. In this capacity I worked like a dog and was generally miserable. But I felt I was doing a good job - I implemented some clear improvements, and saw real change happen. Here, I feel like I'm not doing that great of a job, I have too much free time, very little oversight and the people who need to attend training are not coming anyway.

I have an opportunity to apply for a competing organization, where the director seems more involved. I feel very loyal to my current boss, but need more oversight, guidance and structure than I am getting. My current organization would probably not be able to find a replacement given the location. The wild card in this is that I am currently trying to conceive. At which point, I'm not sure if I would want to stay home for awhile (12-18 months), come back in a part-time situation or come back to FT after 3 months. Since I've become so spoiled and lazy, what if I can no longer perform to higher expectations? I have shared with the potential director that starting a family is on the horizon, and this seems to be understood. I don't, however, think it's ethical to hop jobs and then either a) leave them in a lurch or b) feel like I cannot stay home if I want to because I changed jobs so recently (which also brings up FMLA).

Okey-dokey, let's slow down. First of all you have an "opportunity to apply" for a new job. No telling if you'll get it. This worrying may all be moot anyway. Second, you are "trying to conceive." Congratulations! May you be rapidly successful. But, you may not be. It make take a considerable amount of time to achieve pregnancy.

Now, from a practical advice standpoint, if you change jobs and get pregnant in less than 3 months you won't be eligible for FMLA. (Not that FMLA is the be-all-end-all of maternity leave, but it is what it is.) You have to have worked for a place for a year, and they must have at least 50 employees in order to even be required to grant you the 12 weeks leave. They may have a different maternity policy altogether.

Another thing to think about is that if you do get pregnant, you may have one heck of a pregnancy. Sure, you may be lucky to simply have an expanding waistline and a few delicate little kicks starting up around 20 weeks, or you may get the morning/afternoon/evening sickness that will send you to the emergency room to be rehydrated. You just don't know. So, would that be a good time to be in a brand new job? Hmmm, probably not.

If we pretend there was no TTC going on (and please, in casual conversation with co-workers, this is never something to bring up. It tells us way too much about what you are doing with your weekends.) what would I say? I'll tell you. With bullet points because it seems like a bullet point kind of an answer.

  • Apply for the new job. No harm in interviewing and finding out about the company.

  • You say you are not challenged at your training job, yet people aren't coming to their scheduled training classes. Well then, there's a challenge for you to dig into. Figure out how to get people to want to come to training. It can be done!

  • Don't worry that your current company won't be able to replace you. I know, it's flattering to think "the whole world will fall apart if I leave!" but reality is, you are expendable. Sorry, but you are. They will find someone new or they will realize the function isn't needed.

  • If you think you might possibly, in some strange universe, want to stay home after giving birth (longer than maternity leave, that is), or want a flexible schedule (from home, part time, longer leave) and your current boss would be amenable to that, I wouldn't leave. Finding that flexibility is hard and worth some cost. (For the record, I took a 16 week maternity leave--starting back on Thursday, sob!--and will be working from home now. Do I love my boss? Yes, she's fabulous and flexible. Is my job itself ideal? No. I'd rather, actually, be doing training, but I'm not giving up the fabulous deal I have now.)

  • You can perform to a higher expectation. Just because your current job is easy, it doesn't mean your brain cells have stopped functioning. Don't worry about that.