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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Past Transgressions

I have come across some information at work and I don't know what I should do about it. Please help!

I work in a sales environment. I have been there for over one year now and I love all of the people for the exception of the one person I work for most directly -- I will refer to her as Andrea from here on. She is loud, obnoxious, dresses far too casually, and lies about every single thing that she does, yet still seems to be the apple of upper management's eye no matter how badly she errors or how much money she costs the company.

I was searching online last week to make sure a popular search engine would direct visitors searching our names to our company website. While searching, I came across some information about my co-worker's past. It was not something I was looking for or something that I ever would have imagined that I would find. The websites that I found were public websites containing detailed information about her prior arrests and convictions of drug trafficking, drug possession (crack cocaine), and carrying illegal tools (i.e. a crack pipe). I have verified this information to be absolutely accurate and is definitely related to Andrea without any doubt whatsoever.

I have not told a single person at work about this information because I assumed that she disclosed this information on her application for employment. However, I was able to view her application (which I was allowed to do for reasons not relating to this incident) and it was not disclosed.

Here is my dilemma: I am worried as to whether or not I should bring this information to the management's attention. I do not want her to get in trouble or lose her job even though I do not like her. Everyone makes mistakes in their past (and this was ten years ago) and I truly don't think that she deserves to have all this brought up again after she's started a new career (she lost her last job and ended up in the news about it because of the nature of her previous career path), but I am worried from a liability standpoint. What if she is still consuming illegal substances and ends up injuring someone at work because she cannot control herself (or her driving, which is a huge part of what she does every day) in a particular situation? One other person at work found out about this information within one day of when I found out about it because we were both checking to see if our names were directing people to our website through a popular search engine. This person brought it to my attention but we did not discuss any of the details because I did not feel that this was appropriate, but now it is known that I, too, have this information.

If I bring this to the attention of management I do not want them to think that I am bringing this up to damage her reputation or get her fired. It is well known that we do not like each other and that we work together only for the better of the company. I simply want to do the right thing but I'm not sure what that is. I could be making this into a huge deal over nothing and perhaps the best thing to do would be to keep the information to myself. Our company policy is that we do not hire people who have prior criminal backgrounds due to the nature of the business. She signed waiver forms to have a complete background check, police report check, credit check, fingerprint scan through a national database, and a drug pre-screening (four years ago), but obviously something was overlooked somewhere. Please share your thoughts on this situation. Your guidance is appreciated.

You know, I'd really like to believe that you are altruistic and only have the company's best interest at heart.

But, I don't. Not for a second. You don't like Andrea, and dollars to donuts, neither does your co-worker who also found out about Andrea's past.. (What on earth does googling your company name have to do with googling all your co-workers? Not saying you can't do that, but puh-lease. Don't try to pass off your "what's our Google ranking" with "I wonder what I can find out about Andrea.")

You found out some nasty stuff and have "authenticated it." (How? Asking her? DNA samples? Just wondering.) And further more, I'm trying to figure out how on earth you got access to her application file? I can count on one hand the number of times I've needed to reference someone's application and I'm HR. I can't figure out what information a salesperson would need from her co-worker's application. I can't come up with a legitimate reason. (I'm sure someone has one, I just can't think of one.)

If Googling your co-worker's names was a legitimate assignment, then you would have written up a report summarizing your findings. Then it would be allowable to say, "When you Google Andrea + Company name you get police records for someone with the same name. When you google John + Company name you get a link to "who we are" page on the company website. When you Google Katie + Company name you get a link to a weight loss forum." If the offense is ten years out (and I know there wasn't anything more recent because I know you tried to find more dirt), then they probably couldn't have even considered it when they hired her. Sure, the lying on the application part is reason not to hire someone, but they did and I don't care how you authenticated the information, unless your brother was her actual crack dealer you didn't authenticate it.

You will be the person who looks bad. Andrea will look like the victim.

Leave it alone. Do not discuss this with your fellow dirt digger. Get back to work and stop surfing the web. If this information comes to light and someone comes to you and says, "how come you didn't tell us about Andrea!?!?!?!?" you can simply reply, "Our company policy is to run a background check on everyone before they are hired. I assumed that management was aware of this information. Additionally, Andrea's past is not relevant to her current performance."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Top 10 takes top 10 lists from various bloggers. Now they've posted mine!

It's probably not quite what you'd expect from me, but I hope you find it amusing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Counter Offers

I work in California and have recently been offered a similar position with a new company. I turned in my resignation letter today and my boss asked me what it would take to make me stay. I told him that if they increase my salary to match the new offer I would stay.

After he talks with his boss and HR, he tells me that they will match the offer but they want to see a hard copy first.

I'm wondering if this is violating my privacy rights to salary information. I'm also hesitant to provide a copy of the new offer because I do not want to jeopardize this new position if the negotiations fall-out. Perhaps I could mark out the name and contact information of the new company....

I think you should thank your boss for his confidence in you, and take the new job and leave.


Because you went looking for a new job for a reason and it's highly doubtful that that reason was money. Oh sure, we all want more money. Me too. But, money is rarely the reason why people start looking for a new job.

I hear screaming from the crowd. The crowd is saying, "But I just went out looking for more money! I didn't have any other reason for looking for a new job. I love my job! I do! I just want more money.!"

Sure, fine. So, why did your boss not offer you more money before you presented him with an offer from a new company? Hmmm?

I believe it was because the company you worked for did not value you any higher.

Sure, your boss would love to give you more money but company policies prevent it.

Stupid company. They need to be watching out for their best people and meeting their needs. And if you truly loved your boss you wouldn't have been out looking for a new job in the first place.

There is another reason why you went out job shopping. Think about that. Most people who accept counter offers leave within a year anyway.

If you decide you want to continue on with the negotiations, go ahead and show them the offer letter. If you are concerned that doing this will jeopardize your job offer, that means you don't trust your boss or the HR person. Why on earth are you staying with a company where you don't trust your boss not to actively screw you over?

Think about that for a moment.

Take the new job and good luck.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Team Building

A friend had to go to a mandatory "team building" event. You can probably guess my opinion of such things, but some people like them. Wasting time "building unity" by doing a silly activity such as building a raft, making a dinner or negotiating a ropes course is bad enough during business hours, but this event was held in the evening.

You remember the purpose of evenings, don't you? It's time to be at home.

During this team building activity, a nice HR person (who undoubtedly had a hand in organizing the whole event) talked about how they were having a turnover problem. The theory was that by building cohesiveness everyone would start to love their team so much they wouldn't dare leave.

I think HR should have thought, "Gee, maybe it's that whole work-life balance thing creeping up on us. Maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't require people to spend their evenings at team building events!"

Sometimes we get caught up in the latest fad or program and we think, "gee, won't this be fabulous!" and we forget to ask if this is actually helping the business by truly meeting the needs of the people. Yes, the activity you came up with might be "fun," but most people consider work, work and want to find their fun elsewhere.

Or we think that for a team to be effective they need to be bonded in some significant fashion. And that perhaps trusting my coworker to catch me as I fall backwards will improve performance all around. Frankly, I'd rather trust my coworker to get her part of the project done on time. That builds team cohesiveness better than anything else, in my humble opinion.

So, next time you go implementing some sort of program, stop and think about how this will really affect business performance. Is it helping or inadvertantly hurting?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vacation Micro Management

Need an opinion. I am an owner of a small-mid size consumer and auto finance company. We currently staff 6-7 full time employees. I was having a recent conversation with my office manager/supervisor regarding our policies on vacation. In a nut shell we offer 2 weeks of paid vacation from April through October. The supervisor has just earned a 3rd week for reaching 5 years (anniversary date) with the company. The only stipulations other than the months vacation can be scheduled is that 1 full consecutive week be taken and for those having 2 weeks, the second week can be split into a 3/2 or 2/3 day format allowing for some flexibility. I’m not a fan of that and would prefer that all vacation be taken in full one week increments M-F. I have kept the split format for the second week as a perk for my employees. Previously we also did not allow vacation to be taken at “month end” either because of the process we go through to close out our month. Due to some better and more efficient software the process is cut to a 1/3 so now we allow vacation to be scheduled around that time. Another perk in my opinion that I agreed to at my employee’s request. I also ask that vacations be posted by April 15th of each year so proper planning can be accomplished.

We recently had an employee to schedule his full week’s vacation Wed-Tues kinda screwing up two weeks if you know what I mean and now has two other split time vacations scheduled. This was an oversight on my supervisors part for not catching it but not intentional. At explaining “again” why we keep this format I restated that this is the reason I am a proponent of consecutive weeks not splits. Other wise if you’re not careful you’ll have folks out every week of the summer doing these mini vacations. I made the off color comment that it kinda goes back to them being a bit spoiled. She made the comment that this was the strictest vacation policy she had worked with before.

Sorry for the verboseness of this but I wanted to paint you a picture. In your experience as an HR professional does it sound like my vacation policies are “strict”? Being the owner and knowing that I try and perk them as much as I can in other areas too; I was quite offended at that comment and I guess am looking for an outside opinion. THANKS for your time!

I think you are thinking about this a little too much. What's the point of vacation? Honestly. Why give vacation at all? Well, because people wouldn't work for you if you didn't and because, drum roll please, people perform better if they have a break from time to time.

Now, I know nothing about the auto financing world, but I can't imagine that the winter months are so furiously busy that no one can take a single day off. So, why limit vacation time to the summer only? If part of the problem is having people out of the office, spreading it out over an entire year should help with that problem. Then you have less of a chance of two people wanting to leave at the same time.

What do you do when someone's brother-in-law decides to get married in February? Or someone's first grandchild is born in December? Are they not allowed to take any time off? Now, avoiding a gathering of inlaws might be a perk to the job, but what grandmother is going to want to hold off visiting the new baby, who happens to be in Keokuk Iowa?

On the number of days at a time, taking a week off consecutively does have some benefits, among them being an opportunity for fraud detection and a true chance to rest and relax. Requiring people to take the remaining vacation in one two and one three day chunk seems pointless.

You state that one employee "screwed" up two weeks by going Wed-Tues. Again, not knowing anything about car financing, but I can't see why this is. And what's wrong with a mini vacation? In fact, if my job is to cover for you while you are out, I'd much rather have you gone one day at a time than 3 days in a row. If you are just going to be out on Friday, most likely you'll work extra hard on Thursday and then anything that's not pressing I can just hold for you to do when you get back on Monday. If you're gone for 2, 3 or 5 days in a row, then I'm forced to do more of your job, which puts pressure on me.

I don't like more pressure on me, and neither do most of your employees.

If I were you, I'd loosen the hold on vacation. Let people take their vacation when they want to. (Although I do agree with a no vacation for the last week of the month/quarter/whatever super busy time you have, rule. That's good business sense and responsible employees wouldn't ask anyway, except in extreme circumstances.)

I think you'll find that it won't be nearly as disruptive as you fear. Most people want to do a good job and appreciate being given control over their own lives, as much as possible. You say that you spoil them. Excellent. Spoiled employees are happy employees (as long as you are also providing feedback and improvement plans and goals and all that other fun stuff that comes from being the boss). You want spoiled, but not rotten employees.

Have a marvelous vacation yourself. Switzerland is nice this time of year.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Random Swiss Fact

My computer is fixed. Yeah! It took a little longer than I thought because our friend did not have the right part. He knew what part I needed, though, so he wrote it down for me. I took it to the computer store and presented the written part number to the nice man behind the counter.

This man, by the way, spoke English, and apologized to me for his subject/verb order. "I need to work on my English!" he said. I thought that if I could get both a subject and a verb in German I wouldn't care about the proper order, I'd just be thrilled I'd communicated something.

Anyway, the computer store (and I find this amazing), does not accept credit cards. Cash or debit only. They sell computers! And big screen televisions! And fancy computer equipment.

I can only imagine that a place like that in America would go out of business if it didn't accept credit.

Fortunately, my part was only 29.90CHF, so not buying on credit wasn't a hardship. Still, I was amazed. They definitely have a different attitude towards credit over here.

Monday, May 11, 2009


So, you are all wondering, what in the heck is she doing? Just sitting around and eating chocolate? Where are the posts?

Well, I am sitting around and eating chocolate. But, the reason for the lack of posting is that I blew up my computer.

Yes, smoke was coming out of the back. Yippee. Normally I would borrow my husband's computer, but he was on a business trip to New Jersey, of all places. Sigh.

My computer will (hopefully) be functional tonight. (I'm using my husband's right now.) Let's hear it for super-friendly-computer-savy computer people from church, who when he heard about my plight came over and volunteered to attempt to fix it. (He said if he's attempt doesn't work, then I would be wise to just buy a new computer as the cost to fix it would be more money than it would be worth.) I just have to say that this experience just adds to my opinion that the people of Switzerland are just so incredibly friendly.

Of course, I still don't know what people are saying to me 90% of the time, so for all I know they could be insulting my hair style, but they do it in a nice tone and with a smile, so I presume niceness all around.