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Friday, March 13, 2009

I quit!

Well, only temporarily.

In all actuality, I did quit my job, so technically I'm no longer an Evil HR Lady, but I hope you'll allow me to still play one on the internet. My PHR certification is still valid, anyway.

I didn't just quit to be lazy (ahh, laziness). I quit so that I could accompany my husband to his new job, in Switzerland. (Technically, I am legal to work there, but I'll be too busy eating chocolate and cheese to hold down a job, don't you think?)

The movers are coming today and they are packing up my computer. I will not see the computer again for two-three weeks. And it's a desktop, so no I couldn't carry it with me on the flight.

So, if you send me e-mails or comments or whatever and I don't respond, it's not that I don't love you dearly, it's that I have no internet access.

I'll "see" you in a few weeks. Send me some interesting questions.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Telecommuting Bosses

I’m interested in your thoughts on management by telecommuters. I worked for 10 years for a large non-profit organization in DC. About 2 or 3 years ago, they began to allow more people to telecommute. My much younger, green director worked from home 2 or 3 days a week. Her immediate boss (the dept. head) lived out of state was only in the office 2 weeks of the month. I could have opted to work from home (WFH) myself, but I was in a “body-count dependent” carpool, plus I would be bored and distracted at home all day.

I had been friendly coworkers with my boss for several years before she became the director. She had 4 children under the age of 7 and a long commute, so I completely understood her desire to WFH. Therefore, I was shocked one day on a con call when I told someone I couldn’t talk to them that afternoon at 1:00 because I had a doctor’s appointment, but could we do it later in the afternoon. My boss, who was also on the call from her home, caught me completely by surprise when she called me out about going to the appointment that she knew nothing about. Mind you, this organization was pretty laid back about these types of things and it had been close to a decade since I had to get prior permission to visit a doctor, particularly since I was going during my lunch. Also, the topic to be discussed was not of a timely nature.

One hour, 15 minutes later, when I returned from the doctor’s, I had waiting for me both an email and a VM informing me to code my time as PTO and, in the future, to always let her know when I was going to be out of the office. This from a woman who could be getting a pedicure at that very moment for all the rest of us knew. I always just assumed that during her WFH time, she was caring for her children, taking them to the doctor, picking them up from school, etc. It certainly did not bother me because it’s a new world, right? It’s all about results and not so much about bottom-time-in-the-chair, right? Well, apparently not for the daily schleppers.

Every morning I fought traffic to meet my carpool at 7:30. We then jumped from one car to another, in all weathers, schlepping bags, laptops, coats, etc. Then we fought traffic again to get to DC. In the evening, we did it all over again. I did this five days/week for years only to be called out on a doctor’s appointment by someone wearing a bathrobe?? I was livid. What a ridiculous (and hypocritical) double standard. Needless to say, a huge row ensued. I decided right then I was leaving the organization. I stayed there until I found another job (about 3 months) and have now been happily employed for 16 months, with another telecommuter for a boss. However, he has never treated any employee this way. He is older and more seasoned and -- I suspect -- knows how to pick his battles.

I’d be interested in your comments on this situation and how telecommuters can successfully manage daily schleppers without such hypocrisy.

I think you've mistaken telecommuting for not working.

That bugs me.

If your boss, with 4 children under 7, has them home with her while she's working, she's remiss in her duties. Yes, yes, I'm all about results, but you cannot effectively put in an 8 hour day with 4 little helpers. Sure, keeping an infant nearby is one thing, but 4 is impossible.

My bet is that your boss had them in daycare. Or she had a nanny. I'm sure she occasionally picked them up or took them to doctor's appointments. She undoubtedly told her boss she was doing so as well.

I agree with you that your boss over-reacted about your doctor's appointment. But, why didn't you talk to her about it then? Instead, you had a huge fight with her where you probably made comments about working in a bathrobe. This is what we like to call foolish.

You could have apologized and explained that your previous boss hadn't required prior notification for short amounts of time out of the office. She probably would have accepted your apology and life would go on.

You pointed out that she used to be a peer. She probably felt like her new underlings weren't respecting her and chose to assert herself in this situation to "show who is boss." It was a foolish and inexperienced thing to do. But, it had NOTHING to do with telecommuting.

I'm a fan of telecommuting. Ideally, I like to see partial telecommuting and partial in office time. I think that is the best solution for team cohesiveness and work-life balance--for those who desire to work from home. Not everybody does. I telecommute because of commuting distance, but if I lived close to the office, I'd prefer to work in one.

You decided you couldn't work for this woman, so you found a new job. Yeah! Many people would suffer and moan and complain. You actively sought work elsewhere and found it. It's possible you could have salvaged the relationship, but you chose not to. This is fine.

But don't let her inexperience put you against telecommuting. And don't let your pesky gender bias get in your way either. I noticed you haven't accused your new, male boss off extra-curricular activities during the day. Be careful what you assume. It can come back to bite you.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Credit Checks

We already run criminal record, adult maltreatment and child abuse registry checks, but what about credit checks? Employees who are unable to manage their financial lives results in us having to deal with garnishments, difficulty in make direct deposit of checks (either they keep changing accounts or can't get one at all) and petty theft or worse. What is the best way to do this and what are the pitfalls? We are a nonprofit serving people with disabilities and a staff of 90 plus.

I'm not so sure you want to get involved with credit checks. First of all, people claim that credit checks are discriminatory because minorities tend to have lower scores. Whether this is due to discrimination or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that a perception of discrimination can open you up for law suits and win or lose, the employer always has to pay costs to defend.

Garnishments are a non-issue. You can have stellar credit and still have a garnishment. (For instance, some states don't allow you to write an actual check for alimony or child support--it comes out of your paycheck directly.) Your payroll should be set up to handle garnishments.

You can make it clear to prospective employees that your company will honor all legal garnishments and you will not discuss them, but the person must take it up with the state. I realize that won't stop your payroll manager from being screamed at. But, as I said, credit checks won't make that go away.

Your second concern is direct deposit. I'm guessing, given the nature of your work and your nonprofit status, that your employees are not highly paid. You aren't going to find adults making $10 an hour with credit scores in the 800s. You are also going to find that many of them don't have bank accounts at all. (In fact, a friend who is a payroll manager at a large company said she finds that many professional level people from certain countries also don't use bank accounts, or at least not direct deposit. They get live checks and sometimes wait months to cash them.)

My best advice is to stop fighting the lack of direct deposit problem and just acknowledge that some percentage of your workforce prefers a live check. I know it's more expensive. I know it's a huge pain. But, there it is. You can do things to encourage direct deposit. (See if you can join your business to a credit union--that could help. I have no idea how that is done or if that's even feasible, but it seems like a good idea.)

The last thing is petty theft. Again, I don't think a credit check is going to help you with this. Someone stealing $10 in supplies from an employer isn't going to have that theft show up on her credit report. If prosecuted, it would show on a criminal report. I realize you are trying to weed out people who are in bad financial straits and therefore tempted to commit petty theft.

While that may be your best justifiable reason for running a check, the liability that opens you up to--I think you're obligated to show how a good credit relates directly to the job--isn't worth it. Instead implement policies and practices that discourages and punishes petty theft.

Now, don't make your policies so punitive that people are scared to accidentally take home a company pen. One thing to keep in mind is that companies typically allow their office staff privileges that their hourly staff don't get. For instance, you don't freak out at all if Jane in accounting photocopies her Christmas letter on the color copier every year (100 friends she sends to!), but if Jill in housekeeping takes home a plastic mug you are all over that, even though Jane cost the company a lot more.

But, go ahead and let people know that taking company supplies is unacceptable and grounds for termination. And then do it.

As I said, I don't think credit checks are the answer to your problems. Perhaps better interviewing techniques, or raising pay to attract a more skilled set of employees. If these aren't feasible, print some paper checks, garnish away, and lock up your supplies.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Blogging and Your Career

I have heard many stories about job applicants who are rejected because of drunken photos of themselves that they have posted on the Internet.

Don't worry. I have no plans to start posting pictures of my wild parties. However, I started a blog recently. I know that it is common for prospective employers to search the Internet to dig up dirt on job applicants, so I am wary of putting too much personal information, good or bad, on my blog. My concern is that some employers might refuse to hire me because of my political, religious, and ideological views. Is this a valid concern? What suggestions do you have for blogging so that I do not hurt my future career? Thanks for your advice.

Ahh, internet anonymity. A subject near and dear to my heart. Obviously I'm someone who was concerned because I didn't start out blogging under my real name. (Incidentally, although I don't blog under my real name, I write under my real name, Suzanne Lucas, at US News.)

So, the answer to this is very important to me. I can't give you a definitive answer, but I think I would be hesitant to put my name out there if I was putting information down I didn't want to come up in a job interview.

I came to the realization that the next time I'm on a job search, I want to work for a company that likes Evil HR Lady's views. If they don't, I really don't want to work there. (Unless I get desperate, then I'll deny, deny, deny!)

But my blog is related to my job. I'm very careful not to comment on companies I've worked for or even specific industry related things. I want everyone reading this to know that my views represent MY views and not any company's views.

You aren't looking to do a professional related blog. You're interested in politics, religion and ideology. Can that hurt you? Sure. Especially if you take super whacko views on something.

Would I be careful about what I put in the internet? Absolutely. Would I want to know before hiring someone that they held a firm belief in the the flatness of the earth and want Kansas to be declared the center of the universe? Umm, yeah.

Would I advise recruiters and hiring managers to scour the web looking for any bit of evidence of what a candidate writes? No. Would I label a recruiter remiss if she didn't run a google search on the candidate in addition to a background search? Yes.

So, can your blogging hurt you? Yes. Be careful what you say. Blog anonymously, but as you do so, remember that your anonymity is really a false sense of security. It's not THAT hard to figure out who someone is if you really want to know.