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Friday, November 21, 2008

Random Thoughts

1. I realized I’ve been in HR too long when I was reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my daughter and when Grandpa Joe tells about how Mr. Wonka just shut down his factory and fired all 10,000 workers and all I can think about is, “You can’t do that! You just violated the WARN act. Being mad at competitors is not a valid reason not to give 60 days notice.”

2. Why is it that if I can’t answer the phone when someone calls, but I call them back within five minutes, they are never at their desks? Ever. It’s like “I must call Evil HR Lady before I leave for that Mount Everest Expedition.” I find this even more bizarre when people call from their cell phones. I mean, did you call me and then accidentally flush your phone or something?

3. And speaking of phones, if you see a number come up on your caller ID and you don’t recognize it, don’t just call it back and say, “someone called this number.” If the person left a message, listen to it before calling back. If no message was left that means it wasn’t important, so don’t bother calling. Besides, you don’t know who it was! Leave it alone.

4. So, it’s 9:30 at night and I’m working. I send e-mails to three different people. All three respond within minutes. Shouldn’t we take at least some time off each day?

5. When I hear massive layoffs announced at companies, my immediate sympathies are with the HR people who have to figure out the whole mess and create the documents for everyone. I realize this is a sickness.

6. Pies for Thanksgiving this year will be: 2 Cherry, 2 Pumpkin, 1 Pecan and 1 Key Lime. The latter is not at all traditional. What can I say? We’re a wild and crazy kind of family.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Leading People. Leading Organizations

I'm a little bit tired and cranky. (Although not as cranky as Mr. Crabby pants who got 5 needles jabbed into his little thighs today. Sorry--just a bit of mommy blogging here.) So, when I read this I wanted to grab some HR VPs and bang their little heads together:
During the past year, several companies, including AT&T Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Cigna Corp., have been hit with lawsuits in which employees claimed that they were not paid for the 15- to 30-minute task of booting their computers at the start of each day and logging out at the end.

I'll leave the legalities to the lawyers (although for the record, I would never in a million years support such a thing and I believe they will lose the case). Let's talk about the people. Remember them? We're supposed to lead them. This is supposed to cause HR to lead organizations.

Apparently, we were leading them to self destruction. (Where are we and why are we in this handbasket? we might ask ourselves.) Sure, employees aren't "working" while their computers are booting up. They may even be, gasp! talking to their co-workers or drinking coffee. But, they are in the office. They can't be somewhere else. They have to be in the building. Therefore, they are at work and should be paid as such.

How do you even monitor such a thing? What if I come in, turn my computer on and get up to get a cup of coffee (which I wouldn't do because I don't drink coffee), but right then my phone rings. I answer it and it's my boss and I have a 30 minute discussion with him about work stuff. By this time, my computer is all booted up. Then I go get coffee (or rather water, which is what I drink at work). Do I have to clock out? What if I'm just going to the kitchen/cafeteria/water cooler and back? What if I run into Bob from Accounting in the kitchen and we discuss business stuff? Aargh! How would you even administer this?

Oh, I know, it's probably call center people, so everything is clocked on your computer. Still. If I'm required to be in the building, I should be getting paid.

But, let's say, for argument's sake, that AT&T et al are legally right. Computer booting time can be unpaid. Just how much do you hate your people? Do you want them to leave? Do you want to drain the lifeblood out of them? Do you not understand that your best employees will find new jobs and that as a result, the quality of your workforce will gradually decline?

United Healthcare received the lowest rating from hospital executives. This does not surprise me. You cannot run a good business without good employees. You cannot get and keep good employees without good policies. If HR is encouraging this type of policy (please let it be Finance who overrode the HR people on this, please?) then they should be ashamed of themselves.

Trying to save a few bucks will result in you destroying your company. Your people are your company. Stop being stingy.

Gah. Now I'm even more fired up and cranky. I'm going to bed.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Deb!

See, I remembered! Now you are in a protected class. The thing all of us HR types dream about.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Family Owned Business

My company is a family owned manufacturing business. The owner's son manages the place while the owner has moved to another state. The son hires a friend of his and promises to pay him more than the set amount that entry level employees make. This friend had no prior experience to warrant being paid more, nor has the company ever paid any employee in this position more than another in this same position (as a starting pay). In the past, this boss has also hired all 5 of his children and paid them more than anyone else. Is this legal? Is it ethical? I'm stuck in the HR/ payroll position and feel like I should advise the owner, which of course will bring about problems with this boss, who is not my direct boss. What to do?

I am not a lawyer. I do not offer legal advice. I do not pretend to offer legal advice. I don't even watch Law and Order any more, so I'm not even up on the nuances of NY criminal law. Not that this would matter in this situation.

Not being friends with the boss is not a protected class. This, in my way of thinking, means that you don't have any claim of discrimination if the boss pays his BFF more than he is paying you, or rather the other entry level workers. You may see it as stupid, he may see it as being generous to an old friend.

Hiring your children is not illegal either. Nor would paying them more than other employees be anything less than expected. Is it stupid? Probably. (Although, I wonder if it would be illegal to pay them extreme amounts of money in an attempt to transfer assets to them without IRS problems. Hmmmm, too bad I'm not an accountant either.)

As you are probably already aware, salary information like this gets around very fast although no one is willing to admit that they said the boss's friend/child is getting more money than everyone else. It ruins morale and if in addition to being overpaid, the boss's friends and children aren't stellar performers, it's going to increase turnover.

So, this is why it matters to you. It doesn't matter how much the boss pays someone or who he hires. (Does not matter. Does not matter. Repeat that.) It matters how the workplace is affected.

Should you go to the owner? Only if you regularly report to the owner. If not, then it's a phone call out of the blue to say that sonny-boy is a screw up. They either already know or they are in denial, so what good will it do? You don't even report to the boss, let alone his parents.

You should voice your concerns--to your boss. Your concerns are with employee morale, pay consistency and productivity. If the first and the last are not a concern--frequently people in family owned businesses expect the boss's children/friends to be given special privileges and while they may grumble about it, it doesn't really have an effect on performance--then don't bother. Now, if clueless friend gets promoted out of an entry level job without proper qualifications, then as an HR person it is your responsibility to lay out the problems with this approach.

If you have a regular working relationship with Sonny you may mention your concerns about morale to him. He may think he's a great guy who is helping people while you see him destroying the business. Now, if the owner happens to give you a call and ask what is going on, you can express your concerns, but don't call them up.