It’s Not What I Expected

Another update from the jungle…

Blythe grew up in a small rural community where everyone was a farmer or owned a business that supported farmers. Blythe decided early in life that she didn’t want to marry a farmer and that she was too socially liberal to ever be happy, so she left for the closest big city.

She soon discovers that small-town liberal is actually socially conservative in a city. She is surrounded by people who don’t look like her, talk like her or think as she does. After a series of boring jobs, she’s still looking for greener pastures.

She decides to indulge her love of cooking by applying for a job at a nearby bakery. The bakery is within walking distance of her apartment, a bonus, since her car is broken down and she has no money to fix it.

Blythe enjoys working at the bakery except when she works with Monica. Monica is a militant supporter of LGBTQ rights. She has a Marine buzz cut and wears men’s shirts with blue jeans. She also has earrings in some interesting places on her face.

The more Monica tries to persuade Blythe to agree with her, the more determined Blythe is to resist. Blythe didn’t cave into the conservative Christianity she grew up with; she isn’t about to succumb to the polar opposite view. Blythe thinks Monica is obnoxious and rude. Monica thinks Blythe is a hopeless hick.

This morning, the bakery owner, Carla, dances through the door of the bakery. She says that a gay couple just hired her to make their wedding cake. A nearby bakery turned down the job because the owner said the recent Supreme Court decision means he doesn’t have to serve people who offend his religious beliefs.

Carla is ecstatic because she expects to get more clients. She and Monica dance around the bakery crooning to an old Backstreet Boys song, “I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, as long as you pay me.” Blythe watches, appalled.

What options are available to Blythe?

  1. She can study transcendental meditation in hopes it will help her adapt to city ways.
  2. She can complain to the owner that she’s offended by the bakery’s “gay agenda.”
  3. She can find a new employer that more closely matches her own social views.

Diversity is a great goal in any workplace. However, in small companies, it may not be possible to bridge the gap of differing social views. Rather than continuing to be unhappy, an employee may be better off looking for a different employer.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Where Is He?

Another update from the Jungle…

Dax is a quiet guy who does his job with a minimum of fuss or recognition. He’s so quiet that three years after joining the company, the owner asked if Dax was a new hire.

Dax keeps to himself. His only friend at work is Fred, the loudmouth in the next cubicle. Fred is like a TV set babbling in the background, ignored by everyone. Fred likes talking to Dax because Dax never challenges any of his braggadocio.

One day, Fred shows up at work and Dax isn’t there. After two days, Fred ambles down the hall to Megan, the HR rep, to ask if she knows where Dax has gone. Megan needs a moment to process Fred’s question, silently cursing herself for not hiding from Fred. He irritates her!

Megan is so surprised at Fred’s concern for Dax that she decides to act immediately. She looks at her attendance records and sees that Dax should be at work. Megan knows that Dax and Fred’s supervisor is out of town on business and wouldn’t be aware that Dax is a no-show.

Megan’s heart races as she remembers the last time an employee fell off the radar. She asks Fred if he’s noticed any recent changes in Dax’s behavior. Fred isn’t sure. She calls Dax’s cell, but it goes to voicemail. Then Megan calls his emergency contact, his mom, who says she hasn’t heard from Dax in over a week.

Megan decides they should check Dax’s home. No one answers the doorbell. As Megan tries to peek through the curtains, an elderly neighbor shuffles on to his porch and says he’s part of the neighborhood watch and will call the cops if they don’t leave immediately. Eventually, the neighbor admits he hasn’t seen Dax for “awhile” but thinks that he likes hanging out at the zoo.

Megan and Fred head to the zoo. After wandering past lions, tigers and bears and screaming children, they find Dax slumped on a bench near the reptile house. He stares listlessly at them. It takes an hour of earnest conversation to convince Dax to call the EAP hotline to ask for a referral to a local counseling service.

Mental health issues are headline news these days. If you are interested in learning about tools to lead others to treatment or in helping to de-stigmatize mental health treatment, check out http://www.mhmarketing.org/. This year’s seminar is scheduled for July 26th and 27th, 2018 at Lipscomb University, Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve attended in the past, and it gets better every year. Thanks to Austin Harrison (Austin@mhmarketing.org) for founding this seminar.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Whose Side Are You On?

Another update from the Jungle…

Harriet is having a tough time adjusting to her new job. The work isn’t that difficult because it’s similar to work she did at her last employer.  Her problem is that she’s walked into a war zone.

A few weeks into the job she was engulfed in a nasty argument about donuts.  She innocently agreed that cream-filled donuts are good. The cake donut supporters glared at her as Nan pointed out the extra calories in the cream. Harriet replied that she didn’t eat donuts and so she really wasn’t qualified to say which is better. But the damage was done. Half of her co-workers hated her.

Last week she sat quietly ignoring a heated discussion about whether cats or dogs are better pets.  Dorothy insisted her prize Persians are the best pets ever and handed out slips of paper with information about the Facebook page she created for them.

Wayne sneered at her Persians and whipped out his phone’s photos of his two Doberman Pinschers. Then he outed Harriet as a dog owner and demanded that she agree with him that dogs are superior.  Harriet smiled nervously as the cat people sneered at her for owning a Yorkie (“toy dog”).

The battles go on and on.  Half the office wants to order pepperoni pizza while the other half wants cheese pizzas.  At the monthly office birthday party, Dorothy and Rhonda throw a fit because they wanted a vanilla cake, not a chocolate cake.

Harriet’s fed up with all the petty bickering. She now eats lunch alone and huddles at her desk with earplugs to shut out the din around her.

Julie, the company owner is also fed up with the petty bickering. She orders June, the HR rep, to fix it. June sighs and wonders how she can possibly fix it when no one can explain why the office is so divided.

What options are available to June?

  1. She can create an HR policy ordering everyone to get along or they’ll be fired.
  2. She can divide the employees into teams and have them compete on “Family Feud”.
  3. She can institute a social event at which employees must learn something new about an employee with an opposing viewpoint in the hopes they’ll find some common ground.

The workplace is a microcosm of the larger community. As workers spend more time outside of work living near and talking to like-minded people, the social divisions may seep into the workplace. Employers can reduce these distractions by keeping employees focused on the business goals that ensure everyone remains employed.

If your company struggles with HR issues, CCRA can help you create HR policies appropriate for your company size, and serve as a resource to your staff as new policies are implemented.

Until next week,

—Norma

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Breakroom Bores

Another update from the Jungle…

Anna drifts into work un-enthusiastically. She finds her work dull and once commented, in the presence of a senior manager, that a trained monkey could run the whole department and no one would know the difference. In fairness to Anna, she didn’t know the senior manager had entered the room. But senior managers aren’t paid to be open-minded about the opinions of lowly workers.

Anna’s been stuck in the cubicle world version of purgatory ever since, assigned only the dullest work. Anna thinks her boss has instructions to make her life so miserable that she’ll quit. But Anna’s not about to leave before she vests in her 401(k) plan because she’s not losing the employer’s match; they owe her for doing their boring work.

Lately, Anna’s manager has ratcheted up the pressure. He assigned Beth to the cubicle next to Anna.  Beth is a gregarious soul who talks non-stop about her clever children who are on track to make Einstein look stupid. Her husband is the best in the world, except when he forgets to take out the garbage.

Anna initially tried joining the conversation. She described her day at the zoo with her niece and nephew. Beth cut her off with a condescending smile, saying that a mere aunt has no idea about the joys of child rearing. The other mothers crowded around Beth’s cubicle nodded.

Fortunately, Beth spends a lot of time in the breakroom where she has a bigger audience. Lately, she’s been fixated on childbirth due to the imminent birth of a co-worker’s first child. Beth spends hours describing in excruciating detail each labor pain she felt during the birth of each of her three children.

It’s chasing the men away from the breakroom. Yesterday, Anna found a herd of them huddled near the doorway holding empty coffee mugs. They looked like wildebeast, wondering which of them would be snagged by a crocodile while crossing the river. Like the wildebeest’s desire for fresh grass, the men need fresh coffee. One by one, they plunge in, heading for the coffee pot.

What options are available to Anna?

  1. She can complain to the HR rep, another mother, about Beth’s non-stop chatter.
  2. She can join the men hiding from Beth’s incessant chatter about her personal life.
  3. She can bide her time until her 401(K) vests and then leave for, hopefully, greener pastures.

It’s natural for workers to tell stories about what is most important to them. However, employees should be encouraged to respect the differing interests of their co-workers by not oversharing.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Wanna Bet?

Another update from the Jungle…

Will is competitive about everything. He mows his lawn in elaborate circles so that the cut grass has a pattern and looks more attractive than his neighbor’s lawn. He buys the biggest gas-guzzling SUV every year so that he can look more impressive when he takes up two parking spaces in the employee parking lot.

His competitiveness extends to the workplace where it is warping what used to be a friendly betting pool. The betting pool began as a bragging rights wager on the outcome of the Super Bowl. Will’s influence means that the pool now operates year-round and requires cash bets.

Will keeps the spreadsheet on which all bets are entered and spends most of his time updating it. Will’s co-workers think he ought to quit the company so that he can join a professional bookmaker’s operation. He’d still be taking money from other people, but there would be no pretense of friendship.

Josh was a friend until he got tired of Will calling him a loser. Josh’s reputation for picking losers is skewing the betting pool. Everyone waits for Josh to pick a team so they can pick that team’s opponent.

Adrian was also a friend until he picked a winner only for Will to claim he never received Adrian’s bet. Adrian was furious because it was the first time he had won the pot. He thinks Will deliberately screwed him so that Abby could win. Everyone knows Will has the hots for Abby.

Watching with alarm is Ellen, the HR manager. She watched Josh transform from a pleasant, friendly guy into a snarling mess. But she’s most worried about Adrian. Last week, she stopped Adrian before he could slash the tires on Will’s SUV.

Today, Adrian and Will met in the hallway, remarks were passed, and Adrian whapped Will with a coffee mug. Will’s punch missed Adrian but left a big hole in the wall. When Ellen and a supervisor arrived, Will and Adrian were rolling around on the carpet, punching wildly and spattering blood on the nearest spectators who were betting on the winner.

What options are available to Ellen?

  1. She can suggest that the company sponsor Will and Adrian as UFC fighters.
  2. She can argue that the betting pool should be banned because it causes too much excitement.
  3. She can suggest the betting pool be non-monetary and time-limited.

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal law that prohibited sports gambling. Each state can now change its laws to legalize sports gambling. Employers should consider how these anticipated changes may affect their employees.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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What Did You Do This Weekend?

Another update from the Jungle…

Summer has arrived! Renee, HR manager for her company, walks around the building, slurping coffee and taking a head count of the survivors of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s ten o’clock in the morning, and workers are still straggling in.

Renee sympathizes with her co-workers. She threw her alarm clock across the bedroom this morning. For a moment, she contemplated rolling over and drifting back to sleep. But she has to go back to work sometime, so it might as well be today. As she stepped into the shower, she wondered again why she chose her profession.

Now, as she strolls around the office, she remembers why she likes her job, at least most of the time. People are so interesting. Employees are people, and they are acting very interesting this morning.

In the break room, size-4 Tina is bemoaning over eating during a family picnic. She’ll get fat, she complains to Fred and Sam. They eye her trim figure and say nothing; they’re not stupid. The larger-than-size-4 women glare at her as they pour their coffee. Abby brushes past Tina, accidentally dumping coffee on Tina’s sandaled feet. Abby apologizes profusely and refills her mug. The other women smile sourly as Tina swabs her feet with a paper towel.

Renee disappears down the hall before Tina can corner her to complain about Abby. She sees Don shuffling toward her. He’s bright red. He explains that he fell asleep at pool side and his friends thought it was funny to watch him turning pink, then red. He may need to take some time off to recuperate from the sunburn. Renee murmurs sympathetically and turns to greet Ted.

Ted’s eyes are red-rimmed and sunken. His coffee mug is the size of a Big Gulp drink. He and his wife have three preschoolers, including a six month old baby. Ted mumbles that his 4-year old did a swan dive off the back of the sofa, knocking her teeth loose. The 2-year old exists only to have temper tantrums, and the baby has colic. Ted hasn’t slept for two days, and he’s glad as heck to be back to work.

Renee pats his shoulder consolingly and encourages Ted to look forward to the surly teenage years. She watches Don and Ted shuffle away. Renee sighs and heads for her office.

It’s going to be a long, hot summer.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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I’ve Got A Plan

Another update from the Jungle…

Meg is mad as heck at a couple of people. She’s mad at Beth who she sees as a competitor for the next promotion. She’s even more mad at Dave, their supervisor, who is one of the dimmest bulbs Meg has ever known. Dave’s dim because he can’t see that Beth is a detriment to the team.

Beth works diligently at every task assigned to her. She’s the to-go person for Dave when he needs some help with short deadlines. She is pleasant but doesn’t hang out with co-workers. She doesn’t join the gossip sessions about other employees and never seems to complain. Meg is convinced it’s all an act. No experienced worker can be that pure of heart and deed.

After weeks of stewing about it, Meg has finally hatched a scathingly brilliant plan to solve all her problems. She sits at home one evening, gloating over how great life will be when she convinces Dave to shove Beth out the door. The very next day she puts her plan in motion.

Meg begins her campaign to get rid of Beth by asking Dave to join her for lunch. Dave occasionally has lunch with subordinates so he doesn’t suspect a thing. Meg lets Dave choose the restaurant, hoping to mellow him further.

As they eat their burgers and fries, Meg talks about the major project that will soon begin. She suggests changes to how duties are assigned. She says it will increase efficiency. But her changes are revolutionary, requiring complete restructuring of the organizational chart. As a result of the restructured org chart, several jobs, including Beth’s, will be eliminated. Meg blithely suggests that these workers will be much happier working in a different division of the company.

Dave methodically eats his burger and slurps his cold drink as he listens to Meg. His expression gives nothing away, he hopes, but inwardly he’s cursing his stupidity for agreeing to go to lunch with Meg.

What options are available to Dave?

  1. He can flee the restaurant and use Uber to get back to the office.
  2. He can make a new rule for himself in which he never goes to lunch with any of his subordinates again.
  3. He can recognize that Meg’s proposal arises from jealousy, thank her for her suggestions, and then take no further action.

In the actual situation, the manager decided to go to lunch with his subordinates only if they went as a group. He also began plotting how he could move the trouble-making subordinate out of his division.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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He’s Not Fitting In

Another update from the Jungle…

Sue is the HR manager for her company, and she’s trying to figure out what to do about Mo. She needs to decide how to handle all the complaints she’s received about him. Instead, she’s brooding on the unfairness of her life.

She could have taken a vacation to someplace nicer, say, the big island of Hawaii. It’s only got an erupting volcano. She’s sitting on a powder keg that could erupt into serious bodily injury or multiple EEOC investigations. She thinks back to how it all began the day Mo started working for the company.

Mo is a recent immigrant to the U.S. He has several university degrees earned in his country of origin which aren’t recognized by U.S. authorities. As a result, Mo is working at a job far below his skill level. He’s not a bad guy, but he hasn’t quite figured out the customs of his new country.

His biggest problem is that he annoys the women in the office. His female co-workers lecture him on equality and women’s rights. He listens with a polite smile, but the message isn’t sinking in.

The women complain that he never cleans up after making a mess in the breakroom. He tries to pawn off the most menial tasks on female co-workers. Most irritating of all, he won’t hold the elevator when he sees a female co-worker dashing toward it at the end of the day. The women are talking openly about knocking some of his sexist edge off Mo with a blunt instrument.

Mo’s supervisor is no help. Fred’s too busy scheming how to win his next promotion to notice what his staff is doing. Fred’s female subordinates would be happy to wave goodbye to Fred if he gets his promotion. They blame him for not coaching Mo to act more “American”.  Sue tried coaching Mo herself recently but got the same smile as the other women.

What options are available to Sue?

  1. She can join the other women who spend their lunch hour window shopping for blunt instruments with which to blunt Mo.
  2. She can encourage Fred to watch Mo like a hawk until he finds a justification for firing him.
  3. She can recommend that Mo be reassigned to a manager who is better at coaching workers to grow and improve.

In the actual situation, HR was unable to find an adequate solution to the problem because senior management failed to take the issue seriously. The misunderstandings continued until the company closed the office as part of a reorganization of operations.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Why Was I So Nice To The Punk?

Another update from the Jungle…

Janice feels old and unappreciated. She does her job quietly with little fuss and needs minimal supervision because she’s seen and done it all before. In fact, she manages everything so smoothly that she rarely draws attention.

Janice didn’t mind the lack of acknowledgement for her contributions until a few months ago. That’s when her work space was invaded by a much younger worker, Mercedes.  Mercedes is friendly with a hint of insecurity because she’s learning to do tasks she’s never done before.

Janice remembers joining a new company and being “trained” by an old bat who deliberately omitted key information, hoping Janice would fail. So Janice is happy to pass along tips, hints and advice to help Mercedes learn her job.

But Mercedes is ambitious and her insecurities leave her craving public affirmation of her contributions. She sees everyone, especially Janice, as a threat.  She begins copying their boss on nitpicky emails, asking Janice for information rather than simply asking her verbally. They sit less than five feet apart.

Janice doesn’t say anything because she doesn’t want to sound like a whiner, but she’s rapidly reaching the conclusion that Mercedes is the Wicked Witch of the South. Janice daydreams of teaching Mercedes a real lesson in bureaucratic backstabbing. It all remained a fantasy until today’s staff meeting.

Mercedes is reporting at the staff meeting about a project she inherited from Janice. She drags out her report with lots of “ums” and “uhs,” explaining how she revised the metrics and pulled together all the information. Never once does she acknowledge her debt to Janice who created the whole thing so that Mercedes only had to collate information and do some data entry.

Janice looks at their boss who is smiling at Mercedes like a proud mom watching her clever child successfully finish the school recital. Janice feels the top of her skull evaporating in a mushroom cloud as Mercedes is praised.

What options are available to Janice?

  1. She can spike Mercedes’s protein shake with a laxative before the next staff meeting.
  2. She can create a fake resume showing Mercedes as the most brilliant person since Einstein and mass mail it to every recruiter in the country.
  3. She can recognize that Mercedes is immature and let someone else kick the stuffing out of her (figuratively speaking, of course).

Sometimes, managers are so focused on coaching younger workers for success they forget to acknowledge the contributions of older workers. Building a team means recognizing the contributions of all team members.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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That Should Have Been My Promotion

Another update from the Jungle…

Abigail is deeply depressed about her job. She was passed over for a promotion again. Her boss, Maryanne, thinks she’s just sulking. Of course, Maryanne is a busy manager and seldom wastes a moment thinking about Abigail.

Abigail doesn’t need much managerial oversight. She’s a self-starter who steadily slogs along to reach all her goals ahead of the deadline. She’s good at spotting potential problems and seems to effortlessly incorporate solutions into her pre-existing time table. Her diffident attitude disarms her more pompous co-workers who usually resist efforts at teamwork or productivity during working hours. As a result, Abigail can achieve fantastic results.

She would be a great manager if not for a single, glaring failure. She seems to lack confidence and belief in her own abilities. She annoys co-workers by vocally agonizing over major decisions and often second-guesses herself.

So when Maryanne was looking for someone to promote, she ignored Abigail and picked puffed up Paul, a shameless self-promoter. He likes being in charge because “supervising” means he does less actual work.

Co-workers secretly despise him because he has the ethics of a cornered rat. But they laugh at his jokes because they know he’s in tight with the senior managers. Besides, he’s funny when he imitates a co-worker’s personal habits. His most frequent target is Abigail.

Paul is smart enough to see Abigail’s abilities even if she’s riddled with doubts. He usually asks for Abigail when he’s put in charge of a project. She does the work; he takes the credit. Since he doesn’t want anyone to know who’s really running the show, he adopts a condescending attitude when talking to her.

He never hesitates to notify senior managers about his brilliant leadership capabilities. So when the promotion opened up, they suggested to Maryanne that Paul would be a good choice.

What options are available to Abigail?

  1. She can continue stewing about the injustice of the stupid management team for ignoring her skills.
  2. She can spray paint “loser” on Paul’s sporty new car when no one’s watching.
  3. She can seek professional help to overcome her habit of second-guessing her abilities, then get a new job where she will not be handicapped by previous performance evaluations.

Many low-key workers are passed over for promotions because of doubts about their abilities. HR can help by encouraging management to pay for professional coaches to help these workers develop the skills needed to be a successful manager. The company will benefit from having a wider, more diverse pool of potential candidates for promotions.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Now What?

Another update from the Jungle…

Michelle is sitting at her desk, diligently working on a tedious data entry project. Just because it’s a regular part of her duties doesn’t mean that she enjoys doing it. Suddenly, her manager looms into view.

Sam is a pretty good manager, as managers go. Michelle’s had lots worse than him. But he gets fixated on the stupidest things. Last week he decided to change the information that he wants to track in the database she’s working on. As a result of this change, Michelle spent most of the week revising her database to add the new information.

Michelle wasn’t mad about that. She’s worked on projects before where Sam changed his mind about the metrics halfway through the process. She had already set up her database to track the new information Sam wants. What made her mad is that two months ago, when she suggested including this information, Sam dismissed her suggestion without thinking about it.

Michelle really wants to limit her work-related stress because she has plenty of personal drama at home. Her parents are resisting her efforts to move them into an assisted living facility because they think it’s a plot to have them declared mentally incompetent. Her teenage daughter mopes that her life is blighted forever because Michelle refused to let her attend a party hosted by a classmate while the classmate’s parents were out of town.

But it’s a new week. Michelle is sitting at her desk, drinking a double espresso, waiting for the caffeine to kick in. Suddenly, Sam pops up at her elbow. He says that an email she sent yesterday contained erroneous information.

Michelle asks if Sam wants her to send another email correcting her earlier one. No, he says, that’s not necessary because it doesn’t really matter. He just wants to be sure she knows that she made a mistake. Michelle stares blankly at Sam, calculating the consequences to her career if she tries to brain him with a laptop computer.

What should Michelle do next?

  1. She can give in to her impulse to brain her manager with a laptop computer and damn the consequences.
  2. She can plan a vacation on a deserted island to get away from work and family annoyances.
  3. She can ignore her manager’s nitpicking criticisms as her co-workers do.

Workplace relationships are often our longest lasting human interactions aside from our families. As with families, annoying habits disrupt our working relationships. HR can help by ensuring that new hires and existing employees are a good “fit” for the team.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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I’ve Got My Eye on You

Another update from the Jungle…

Nathan is a good worker when he feels motivated to work. In the beginning, he was excited because it was all so new, and he felt challenged by his job. As he gained experience, he became bored by the repetitive tasks that make up his job.

Boredom was soon replaced by a feeling of being hunted. It hit him like a ton of bricks during a weekly meeting for his work crew. As Nathan listened to his manager, Bill, droning on about the latest productivity initiative, it reminded him of living at home with his mom and dad.

His mom nagged him to eat his broccoli so that he’d stay healthy. His company’s wellness program nags him to eat well so that he doesn’t develop chronic health conditions that are expensive to treat. His dad lectured him about the joys of working hard. Bill tells him that working hard will get him noticed and promoted, right before assigning a dirty, sweaty job to Nathan.

Now, Nathan can’t look at Bill without seeing his mom or dad ranting at him to get off the couch and clean his room or mow the lawn. His voice squeaks occasionally when talking to Bill as he slides back into his teenage years. Why can’t he be left alone to do things at his own pace?

This week Nathan’s disillusionment turned into paranoia when Bill introduced the latest productivity initiative disguised as a safety tool. Warehouse employees must wear a wristband that monitors their movements to ensure they are following safety protocols. Bill says it’s just like the monitors athletes wear when they are participating in designing new video games.

Nathan looks at his shiny new wristband, feeling like he’s got no place to hide. This must be how lab rats feel when hunting cheese in a maze. He can feel the invisible eyes on him, ready to nag him into better habits, just like being at home with his mom and dad.

What are Nathan’s options?

  1. He can pretend he’s a rebel in a science fiction movie and fight the evil empire by trying to outwit the wristband monitor.
  2. He can accept the loss of privacy as a trade-off for having any job that allows him to not live with his parents.
  3. He can look for another employer that does less surveillance of employees.

Having the technology to do something doesn’t mean that implementation is a good idea. Employers who create a good corporate culture have employees who are productive without surveillance technology.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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They Think He’s Great

Another update from the Jungle…..

Jason is the greatest asset to his company since it was founded decades ago. At least, that’s what he believes. He’s always the first to volunteer to help the team, and he smiles at even the lamest jokes told by the boss. He absolutely oozes sympathy for co-workers going through a rough patch.

The bosses also think that Jason is wonderful. At almost every staff meeting, the head honcho thanks Jason for helping out on something or other. No one ever asks his peers how they feel about Jason.

His peers agree that Jason is always the first to volunteer, especially if the boss is within sight and sound. Yet somehow, Jason never works up a sweat. At the last volunteer day, filling food baskets at the local food bank, Jason was seen chatting with the food bank’s executive director. Meanwhile, his colleagues were slinging cases of canned goods around the warehouse.

As for sympathy, Katie curls her lip at the very idea of Jason caring about others. Katie notices that Jason’s kind words feel empty and insincere, not even skin-deep. When Katie’s goldfish died, Jason stopped by her desk, looked at the dead fish, and said “Sorry, Charlie, you’re not the king of the sea anymore”.

Jason’s always making snarky comments like that. He said he liked Angela’s suggestion to implement a flex-work schedule because he could use an extra day off to improve his golf game. He bragged appreciatively about getting a gift card to Sonic drive-in after winning a trivia contest during the annual employee appreciation day.

Katie thinks Jason is a selfish pig who says whatever he needs to say to win brownie points with the boss. At today’s staff meeting, the boss enthusiastically announced a friendly contest to guess who will win the World Series. Katie couldn’t care less about baseball and declines to participate. Of course, Jason is front and center, bantering with the boss about which team to support.

What are Katie’s options?

  1. She can slap the smarmy smile off Jason’s face.
  2. She can ignore Jason and the boss as they engage in a mutual admiration society.
  3. She can focus her energies on improving her skills to move to a different department or a new employer.

Every work place has a Jason who plays the game to get promoted or avoid having to work too hard. HR can reduce the effects of these types of morale killers by creating performance metrics that rely on data rather than the subjective opinions of a manager.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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April Fool’s. Not.

Another update from the Jungle…

April Fool’s Day was three days ago, but some idiots are still pulling pranks. Danny showed up early on Monday with nylon fishing line which he used as a tether for a stuffed mouse he bought at a pet store. The morning was punctuated with screams as he yanked his mouse across the hallway each time the elevator doors opened.

Pam, from the HR Department, confiscated Danny’s mouse and threatened to let his co-workers beat him to a pulp if he tried the same trick on Tuesday. On Tuesday, Danny showed up with whoopee cushions and plastic snakes. By lunch, Pam had collected his entire stash.

This morning, Pam was waiting for Danny in the elevator lobby. While Danny distracted her, his co-conspirators sneaked in to the break room to raid the recycling bin in the kitchen. Jim and Barbara are military veterans, and they want to create a homemade bazooka they heard about while in the service.

First, they cut the ends off aluminum soda cans and duct tape them into a long tube. Then, they poke a hole in the bottom of the last can to create a breach. A crowd of curious co-workers gathers to watch. Barbara stuffs a tennis ball down the tube. Jim produces a cigarette lighter and ignites a spark. With a whoosh and a shoomp, the tennis ball hurtles across the room and smashes a hole in the plasterboard wall. Everyone scatters as Pam runs in to the break room.

Pam knows what’s really wrong with Danny, Jim, and Barbara. They’re bored and restless. The company has been fighting a hostile takeover for months, and employees are afraid of job cuts if the takeover happens.

During the slower winter months, everyone simply waited, too cold to care.  Now, spring is here, and employees are twitchy as the takeover saga continues. Management has been very slow about updating employees on what’s happening.

What options are available for Pam?

  1. She can announce a contest to keep the April Fool’s Day practical jokes going for the entire month.
  2. She can begin playing her own practical jokes on co-workers to show that HR isn’t always the “Department of No.”
  3. She can suggest that management hold a “town hall” meeting to update employees on the hostile takeover and what it means for the employees.

Having a little fun to break the monotony and pressure is important. But sometimes hijinks are a symptom of a deeper problem, such as uncertainty due to workplace changes. HR can help by encouraging management to regularly communicate with employees to reduce the uncertainty.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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When Crazy People Collide

Another update from the Jungle…..

Rick is a nut. Everyone knows that he’s a nut. He’s also the founder of the company. Marie is becoming a nut, trying to limit the damage he creates. She’s the HR representative for the company. Being the HR rep for a nut is a very difficult job.

Rick says he likes to “go with his gut,” leading to impulsive decisions, like changing the company’s vision statement and branding every couple of months. But his craziest decision was hiring Jack as the operations manager. Jack has no management skills and spends most of his time preening in front of the mirror in his office or chatting to the most impressionable females in the office.

Soon, Jack begins to think he actually knows how to do his job and pushes his ideas for improving productivity. His ego expands to fill the room which doesn’t leave enough space for Rick’s ego. Staff meetings are now a minefield with Rick sniping at Jack and Jack making snarky comments. As Rick and Jack compete to win every argument, co-workers compete to stay closest to the door to escape ground zero when the egomaniacs go nuclear.

The end of Jack arrives swiftly and brutally. At this morning’s staff meeting, he disagrees with Rick on the new design for the company logo. Rick is outraged because he designed the new logo. He roars that Jack is disloyal. Jack replies that Rick is crazy, causing Rick to froth at the mouth with rage. Rick leaps across the table to throttle Jack.  Jack swings a fist at Rick’s jaw, misses and sprawls on the conference room table.

Co-workers flee for their lives. Behind them in the conference room, Rick screams “you’re fired!” as Jack bellows “I quit!” Marie is the only employee remaining in the room with them. She empties a pitcher of water on them to interrupt their fight before they can break the furniture. Now, Marie is completing the termination paperwork for Jack, who is whining about the unfairness of the world and Rick’s insanity.

What should Marie do next?

  1. She should include directions to the nearest liquor store in her exit interview, so Jack can quickly drown his sorrows on his way to the unemployment line.
  2. She should consider changing careers to something less stressful, like bronco rider or high-school teacher.
  3. She should give Jack some career advice on how to disagree with the nut in charge.

Some workplace problems simply can’t be fixed by HR staff. Employees who work for a nut must decide whether to continue working for the company or to leave for greener pastures.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Can We Speed It Up?

Another update from the Jungle…..

Susie shuffles into the conference room and slumps into a chair. Her boss, Alan, smiles from the other end of the table. He believes that Susie is a dedicated worker because she always arrives early for staff meetings. If he only knew! Susie shows up early to get a seat in the corner away from Alan so he won’t notice her total lack of interest.

Slowly, other employees shuffle in. They know the meeting will drag on with lots of wasted time, so there’s no point to being prompt. Alan continues waiting for the stragglers while Dana tells an inane story about her recent trip to the dog groomer. Alan finally calls the staff meeting to order twenty minutes late. He raises his voice to be heard over shuffling papers and private conversations.

Susie slumps lower in her seat. Next to her, David holds his phone below the table’s edge, playing Candy Crush. Susie glances around the table at her fellow sufferers. Tim and Cary are silently laughing at the same time, proof they are texting each other again.

A couple of months ago, Susie suggested timing speakers in hopes of speeding up the meetings. Alan was cool to the idea, probably because he likes to make rambling speeches himself. The worst offender is Dana, who says “um” and “uh” constantly while shuffling her papers and saying “what else did I do”, as if anyone cares. Susie decides that if Dana is as disorganized at home, she feels sorry for the dog.

Fred’s the lucky one. He’s temporarily banned from staff meetings after suddenly lurching to his feet while Dana was speaking and shouting, “I can’t take it anymore! Shut up, already!” Now, he cruises past the glass door to smirk at his co-workers who are stuck in the business equivalent of hell.

What options does Susie have to maintain her sanity through lengthy pointless staff meetings?

  1. She can suddenly roll off her chair onto the floor, feigning death in hopes that ends the meeting.
  2. She can play Candy Crush on her cell phone.
  3. She can accept that nothing will change and learn meditation techniques that enhance patience.

There are many ways to handle internal meetings, such as staff meetings to avoid wasting time. One method used by a retired Army general while working for a major retailer was to remove the chairs from the meeting room, forcing everyone to stand and deliver. His meetings ran on time and ended promptly after 15 minutes.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Spring Fever

Another update from the Jungle…..

It’s been a long, hard winter at Melanie’s company, with employees stuck in snow drifts or struck down by the flu. Melanie began wondering if her company could survive as deadlines were missed due to under-staffing.

Then, the sun came out, forsythia and daffodils began blooming. Trees showed an aureole of red as they began budding. People shed their heavy winter coats. Alas! A cold snap killed the daffodils, and left everyone twitchy as spring never seemed to arrive.

Dan’s an optimist, and he’s been trying to think at work and practice his golf swing simultaneously, getting ready for spring. Two days ago, as he thought about his brilliant ideas, he swung higher and faster. Suddenly, a horrible thud echoed through the office, followed by a crash and a scream.

Melanie dashed out of her office to find Randy sprawled on the floor, clutching his bleeding face. Dan knelt beside him, trying to stop the bleeding while stuffing his golf club under his desk. Melanie hauled Randy to his feet and marched him out the door to her car to drive him to the emergency room. Hours later, she returned to report that Randy needed stitches but would be okay. She banished Dan’s golf clubs from the office unless they were locked, out of sight, in his personal vehicle.

Today, Randy returned to work and accused Dan of trying to kill him. While Melanie tried to mediate their fight, she heard Karla yelling at Teresa about stinky take-out food. Teresa retorted that her garlicky take-out was less offensive than Karla’s cheap perfume fumigating the place, and then proceeded to point out Karla’s dark roots showing because she was too cheap to pay for a salon dye job.

Melanie sailed in to separate Karla and Teresa, closely followed by Dan and Randy, hoping to see the office equivalent of a mud wrestling match. Eventually, everyone grumpily returned to their desks to sulk.

What can Melanie do to alleviate her employees’ spring fever?

  1. She can sit in her office, occasionally venting a primal scream of frustration, and hope that scares her employees into doing their jobs.
  2. She can buy cheap rum and fruit juice for her staff and tell them to pretend they’re on a beach in an island paradise.
  3. She can plan an impromptu outing to take her employees’ minds off their troubles as they wait for spring to actually arrive.

Everyone gets cabin fever waiting for sunshine and getting outdoors after months of dreariness and cold weather. HR and management can help with morale boosters to lift everyone’s spirits.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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I Need a Job, But Not That One

Another update from the Jungle…..

Nancy has been the HR manager at her company for several years. Over that time, she’s looked at scores of resumes and interviewed many job applicants. She has a lot of practice since her employer tends to have less than ideal employee practices, leading to a revolving door.

Nancy converted her experience into a thriving hobby of helping friends of friends and family to spiff up their resumes and practice interviewing techniques. She thinks of her unofficial placement service as passive resistance to her company’s less than stellar notions of how to treat employees. Her boss thinks she’s brilliant at spotting talent without realizing that her hobby is the source of the candidates she uncovers.

Last week Nancy agreed to meet with Mercedes, who recently moved to town and would like some help with her job search. Mercedes shows up ten minutes late. Mercedes says her family moved to town about six months ago, and she’d like a job that allows her to use her college degree in marine biology.

That’s unfortunate, thinks Nancy, since they live in a land-locked state, a time-zone away from the ocean. Nancy takes another look at Mercedes’s resume to see whether any of her work experience might be transferable to another industry. Mercedes volunteers that she’s had a couple of job interviews but they weren’t “right” for her. What wasn’t right about them? asks Nancy.

Mercedes says the first company requires some evening and weekend work, but she wants her weekends free. The other interview was with a company in a neighboring suburb. Mercedes doesn’t want to sit in traffic, and besides, the salary they offered was too low. She’s really hoping for a job that pays a salary comparable to what she made on the west coast.

Mercedes rambles on for several more minutes on what she wants from her future employer. She has a garbled explanation of why every suggestion made by Nancy won’t work for her situation. Gradually, Nancy realizes that Mercedes has just wandered on to earth from a distant planet.

How might Nancy advise Mercedes?

  1. She can tell Mercedes to have a nice life and bail on her.
  2. She can suggest that Mercedes look for a modern day Daddy Warbucks to take care of her.
  3. She can give Mercedes a few pointers on refining her job search to increase the chance of finding a job she wants.

HR managers (and small business owners) expend many hours reading resumes from job seekers who aren’t clear about what they want to do. Some decide to outsource the task to placement services.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Oh, What I Have Suffered!

Another update from the Jungle…..

Pete is frustrated. His business has been tanking for the past month, and he’s having trouble coping with the mess. The mess began when Cheryl showed up to work with a fever and coughed and sneezed over everyone. She slumped at her desk complaining of aches and pains, but insisting that she couldn’t possibly have the flu because she’d gotten a flu shot.

During lunch, Amber went shopping for disinfectant. She returned with a giant shopping bag and set to work hosing down every surface in the office. The fumes aggravated Becky’s asthma, and she turned blue while searching for her inhaler.

Pete drove Becky to the doc-in-the-box clinic around the corner from the office. The nurse practitioner suggested that Becky should go to the emergency room. Pete dragged Becky back to his car and drove to the hospital. He called her husband to meet them at the emergency room.

Hours later, he returned to the office to find that all his employees had fled for the day. He left a voice-mail message for Cheryl, ordering her to stay away from the office until a doctor signed a note saying she was not contagious. But the damage was done.

The next day, Becky called in sick from her hospital bed where she was undergoing testing for pneumonia. Bob called to say he had whiplash from the violent sneezing fits that had kept him awake all night. Amber showed up but sat slumped at her desk, guzzling cough syrup like it was soda pop.

Within forty-eight hours, Pete’s entire staff was out sick with the flu. Pete huddled at his desk, sneezing and wheezing, and plotting revenge on Cheryl for making everyone sick. Eventually, his employees began straggling back into work in various stages of recovery.

What can Pete do to avoid a repeat next flu season?

  1. He can offer more paid leave so that his employees don’t show up sick.
  2. He can allow his employees to work from home so they won’t bring their germs to the office.
  3. He can shut down his business during flu season and go deep sea fishing until it’s healthy to come back to the office.

This year’s flu season is severe, affecting the bottom line of many businesses. Flu shots help but don’t guarantee that the inoculated person will avoid getting sick, since there are many different strains of flu. Flexible leave policies and work schedules can alleviate some of the disruptions caused by epidemics like the flu.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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The Morning After

Another update from the Jungle…..

Karen expected her long-time boyfriend to pop the question at a special Valentine’s Day dinner. Instead, he dumped her with the dessert. Karen drove home in shock and drank a whole bottle of red wine while she tried to figure out where it all went wrong. She dug out her secret stash of dark chocolates, but some things can’t be fixed even by chocolate.

Karen awoke to a hangover and a feeling of being watched. She rolled over to find her cat observing her with lofty disdain. She briefly contemplated calling in sick, but bosses should lead by example, or so she’s been told. So she dragged herself out of bed, swallowed several aspirin, and trudged out the door to work.

At the office, Karen ran into Sherry (literally) when they rounded the same corner from opposite directions. Sherry’s hot herbal tea splashed generously over both of them. Karen snarled and pushed past Sherry, who tottered back to her cubicle to have hysterics.

Jim glanced at Sherry across the cubicle wall, thinking that he ought to do something. But he wasn’t any good helping his wife when she cried so what could he do for a co-worker? He dropped to the floor and crawled on hands and knees toward the exit.

Meanwhile, Sue vaulted a low cubicle wall to evade Karen and ran down the hall to the HR rep’s office. Teresa, the HR rep, was sitting quietly at her desk, feeling good about life, when Sue caromed off the door jamb, bounced against the bookcase, and dropped into a chair gasping for air. Teresa studies her in gathering alarm. Sue’s shin is bleeding and one shoe is missing.

Sue says Karen has finally had the big mental break with reality that her subordinates have been betting on for months. Teresa listens helplessly. Her HR training didn’t really prepare her for these sorts of emergencies.

What should Teresa, the HR rep, do next?

  1. She can hide in her office and hope the situation resolves itself.
  2. She can join Karen’s subordinates in texting alerts to each other warning when Karen leaves her office to search for victims to criticize.
  3. She can go down the hall to investigate and to assess whether Karen needs some personal leave to recover her composure.

Unfortunately, the personal dramas of employees and employers spill over to the workplace. When the soap opera involves a supervisor, the damage can spread rapidly as subordinates are sucked into the emotional morass. HR can help by taking swift action to intervene and mitigate workplace disruptions.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Will He or Won’t He?

Another update from the Jungle…..

For weeks, Karen has been skipping merrily around the office. Her subordinates agree they’ve never seen her so approachable, so agreeable, so nice. When Sherry knocked over her coffee mug spilling herbal tea all over a report, Karen only smiled benignly. On an average day, Karen would have screeched like a banshee about clumsiness and smashed the coffee mug.

“What has mellowed out their normally high-strung boss?” they wonder. Little do they know that Karen is expecting a big announcement from her boyfriend, Dean. They’ve been dating for years, and lately Karen has noticed some changes in Dean’s behavior. She thinks it means that he’s finally going to pop the question.

It’s Valentine’s Day, and Karen has nudged Dean into remembering to invite her to dinner at her favorite restaurant. All day Karen mentally rehearses who she wants to invite to the wedding and who she wants as bridesmaids. Karen meets Dean at the restaurant because he says he won’t have time to swing by and pick her up. At the restaurant, Dean sits deep in thought for much of the meal. Karen waits impatiently for the big moment. She drops a couple of broad hints about an autumn wedding.

Finally, as dessert and coffee arrives, Dean begins talking. He tells Karen that he’s met someone else. Actually, it’s a long-time co-worker of his that he’s finally noticed after years of working side by side. He tells Karen that this is their last evening together. He hands over his key to the condo as he tells her that he’s already collected his personal stuff from her condo while she was at work.

Karen listens in disbelief. Suddenly it all becomes clear to her. She had to drive alone to the restaurant. He agreed to her favorite restaurant because he knew she wouldn’t make a public scene in her favorite restaurant.

What will happen to Karen’s subordinates now that their boss has been crushed by the light of the moon? Find out in the next installment of “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not”.

Much as employers would like to believe that employees’ personal lives have nothing to do with them, the workplace is regularly disrupted by personal dramas.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Did PTO Policies Inspire Paid Sick Leave Laws?

Another update from the Jungle…..

Last week’s story was about a sick employee who would not take time off from work because she didn’t want to burn through all her PTO days. As a result, she infected many of her co-workers spreading misery to everyone. If her company had offered paid sick leave separately from her PTO, would she have taken time off to get well rather than coming to work sick?

Years ago, employers began combining vacation and sick leave into a single category of leave called personal time off (PTO). PTO was administratively easier for employers to track in their HR and payroll systems. As an added bonus employers didn’t have to worry about violating HIPAA privacy because there was no need to verify that an employee was sick. It was easier for employees, too, since they didn’t have to fake symptoms or explain the gruesome details of their illness to justify their sick leave requests.

But PTO policies can be unnecessarily restrictive. A former employer of mine allowed only ten days of PTO a year. The practical effect was that everyone showed up sick in order to save a few days for a paid vacation. PTO restrictions didn’t apply to the owners or senior managers. Not surprisingly, morale was tanked, and turnover was astronomical.

Poorly designed PTO policies raise employer costs through poor morale and permanent recruiting efforts. Not only that, the policies seem unfair to workers. So it’s not surprising that many states are considering paid sick leave laws. Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington now require paid sick leave. Washington, D.C. and a growing number of cities also require paid sick leave.

Tennessee is unlikely to enact a paid sick leave law any time soon. However, Tennessee employers with multi-state operations need to plan how they will address these laws.

  1. They should compare the cities and states where they have operations with those that require paid sick leave and verify they are in compliance with applicable laws.
  2. They should revise their employee handbooks to address paid sick leave laws, either by creating a separate handbook for affected locations or adding jurisdiction-specific addendums.
  3. They could design a company-wide paid sick leave policy to comply with all the jurisdictions where they have operations.

Deciding whether to change a PTO policy to add more days or creating a separate paid sick leave policy depends on a number of factors, notably the company’s corporate culture and the cost of offering the revised benefits.  The worst decision would be to ignore this issue.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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You Make Me Sick!

Another update from the Jungle…..

Sue likes her job except at this time of year. First, she had to listen to coworkers talk about their snow and ice adventures. Now she’s listening to many of them cough, sneeze and wheeze all day. Flu season seems worse than last year based on the disgusting noises she’s hearing in cubicle world.

In the next cubicle is Patty who has the flu although she claims it’s just a head cold. Sue’s pretty sure that Patty showed up at work while she had a fever because three coworkers quickly succumbed to the crud after getting too close to Patty.

Now coworkers run away when Patty lurches into sight. Sue can’t escape because they share a cubicle wall. She wipes down her cubicle hourly but that’s not enough. Sue’s heard less gross noises from her cat, Pixel, when he’s coughing up a hair ball.

She complained to Meg, the HR rep, who stopped by to suggest that Patty might be better off at home in bed. Patty croaked that she didn’t want to waste all her PTO days because her husband has promised her a really nice vacation this year. If she uses all her PTO, she won’t have any days left for her vacation.

Meanwhile, their supervisor, Wesley, sits in his office up the hall doing whatever bosses do all day. He can close his door, thinks Sue resentfully, and tune out their suffering. Wesley is young, and he is fixated on not screwing up his future promotional chances. So he blindly enforces the rules on attendance arguing that he has no power to change them.

The company policy sets out a limited number of PTO days a year and doesn’t allow any carry-over. The owner discourages working remotely because he’s afraid staff will goof off. Sue and others grumble quietly because they doubt the company will revise its PTO policy.

What can Meg, the HR rep, do to help the grossed-out employees?

  1. She can set up a sterilization chamber at the entrance and require all workers to hose themselves with disinfectant before entering the office.
  2. She can ramp up recruitment efforts to replace employees who leave voluntarily for better benefits or involuntarily with the EMT’s.
  3. She can suggest that the company revise its PTO policy to allow extra days during seasonal events like flu season.

Employers face a dilemma. They need to balance productivity and staffing requirements against the losses caused by sick employees who show up to work. Adapting leave policies or allowing employees to work remotely are two options.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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What’s Your Classification?

Another update from the Jungle…..

At this time of year, as we all think about income taxes and payroll withholding, the perennial issue arises. When is a worker an employee (IRS Form W-2) and when is a worker an independent contractor (IRS Form 1099)?

For decades the answer was straightforward: look at “control”. When a company controls what, when, where and how a worker performs assigned tasks, the worker is an employee. By contrast, independent contractors are given a task and a deadline, and they control how, where, and when they complete the task.

Then life got complicated. In 2015 the Dept. of Labor (DOL) proposed raising the salary level of the overtime rule to $913 per week. Employees with weekly wages below that amount would be entitled to overtime pay if they worked more than 40 hours in a work week. It meant that more employees would be eligible for overtime pay.

At the same time, the DOL adopted the “economic reality” test. If the economic reality was that a worker was financially dependent on the company, then the worker was a W-2 employee. The practical effect of the test was to eliminate the classification of “independent contractor”.

To understand why the DOL took these actions, it helps to understand the philosophical approach of regulatory authorities. Regulatory authorities, including the IRS and DOL, recognize that someone will always find a way to game the system. (Remember the tax shelters that allowed some people to claim they had no taxable income?) So the regulators try to deter gaming by creating tediously detailed regulations that everyone complains are strangling businesses and the economy. (Of course, we eventually learn how to game new rules and complain when they change again.)

In 2015, the DOL wanted to deter perceived abuse of the “exempt” status in the overtime rule, and it wanted to ensure that more individuals would be covered by an employer’s group health plan as contemplated by the Affordable Care Act. To meet these objectives, the DOL proposed raising the salary limit and adopted the “economic reality” test.

The economic reality test was withdrawn, and we’re back where we started with the “control” test. The proposed overtime rule was also withdrawn, and the DOL is considering raising the salary limit but by a lesser amount.

However, it’s still critical to properly classify workers because the consequences of getting it wrong can be financially catastrophic. DOL civil penalties start at over $1,000 per employee per violation. The IRS can assess civil penalties and require a company to restate years of tax filings. Misclassified workers can sue for lost wages and benefits. It’s a triple whammy that few companies could financially survive.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Want To Know What I Think?

Another update from the Jungle…

Sam always gets excited in January. Well, maybe not excited, but he briefly becomes animated and shakes off the fog in which he usually works. Sam gets excited about completing the annual employee satisfaction survey.

His company does their annual employee satisfaction survey in January. They used to do the survey in November but eventually concluded that the timing was awful. By November, employees had completed annual open enrollment in the group health plan and had received their annual performance reviews.

The survey became a forum for complaining bitterly about the rising cost of the health plan’s payroll deductions. Employees who didn’t receive pay raises complained bitterly of biased bosses, lousy working conditions and a lack of parking spaces. So the CEO made an executive decision to move the survey to January.

Sam doesn’t care when the employee satisfaction survey is administered because it’s all a game to him. Outwardly conforming, inside he’s a subversive weasel. He does an informal survey of his co-workers to find out what they are most disgruntled about and then advocates for what they hate in the survey.

Last year, Sam said that the CEO’s latest management fad initiative was the most brilliant change the company had ever tried. Sam’s co-workers hated the initiative which eventually flopped due to foot-dragging. The year before, Sam voted in favor of a company picnic knowing his co-workers weren’t enthusiastic and then was “sick” the day of the picnic.

Sam wasn’t always a devious weasel. Once upon a time, he was happy to give his honest opinion to anyone crazy enough to ask him. Then a former boss oh-so-coincidentally repeated verbatim all the unflattering survey comments during a staff meeting. Sam stopped believing that the survey is anonymous.

How should HR respond to employee distrust of the survey?

  1. HR can suggest that the company stop administering employee satisfaction surveys since the survey could make employees feel like lab rats in an experiment.
  2. HR can continue the status quo and set up a department-wide betting pool about the survey results.
  3. HR can suggest outsourcing the survey to a third party vendor so that no one at the company sees raw data and anonymity is preserved.

Employers are increasing the number of surveys administered each year in the hopes of improving employee engagement. While surveys can be helpful, it’s critical that employers promote trust between management and employees by (1) guaranteeing anonymity in the survey response and (2) making objective, positive changes based on the survey results.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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What’s Her Excuse This Time?

Another update from the Jungle…

Linda shows up late at least twice a week. She always has a story to explain why she can’t get to work on time. The kids got up late, missed the bus, and she had to drive them to school. The parakeet was sick. The dog escaped from the backyard, and Linda chased him for half an hour before catching him.

Linda’s manager, Jack, is fed up with the excuses. Before Christmas, he uncorked some colorful language to suggest that Linda should set her alarm an hour earlier so that she could get her act together to get herself to work on time.

Jack told Becky, the HR manager, that if this were a sports league, Linda would be traded to a bush league team if he could find one stupid enough to take her. He wants to fire Linda in hopes it will improve the morale of his department. Becky sighs inwardly and reminds him of the progressive discipline policy.

It’s January, that non-festive season of arctic cold, snow, sleet, ice and general misery. Last night, the latest North Pole blast arrived from Canada and dumped several inches of snow on the town. Jack made it to work because he’s got four-wheel drive and he’s a former Marine who refuses to surrender to anything unless directly ordered to do so.

He arrives at work a few minutes late and begins checking on the status of his subordinates. Cindy left him a voicemail saying her hilly street is impassable. Since she never misses a day, Jack believes her. Rob’s message says he’ll be there as soon as the tow truck pulls his pickup truck out of the ditch. The next voicemail is from Linda. She can’t get to work because school is closed and she doesn’t have a sitter for her kids.

Jack slams down the phone and digs out the already-prepared termination paperwork. He signs and dates the form and then marches down the hall to Becky’s office.

What should Becky do next?

  1. She can suggest that Jack go work out at the on-site gym for a couple of hours until he gets over his anger.
  2. She can process the termination because she’s tired of dealing with the saga of Linda and Jack.
  3. She can point out that Linda actually has a “good” excuse this time and should be given one more chance.

At this time of year, the weather can interrupt the best intentions of employees.  As a result, the weather should be included as a factor when deciding if termination of employment is appropriate.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Nobody Understands Me

Another update from the Jungle…..

Susie returns from her holiday break feeling wonderful. Her sister hosted Christmas dinner so Susie avoided days of frantic cleaning at home. Then she got extra sleep because last week her kids were staying with her ex and wrecking his new girlfriend’s place. Life is good.

She pulls into the parking lot at work mentally reviewing all she has to accomplish today. She parks in her usual slot and reaches for her bag on the rider’s seat. As she grabs the door handle, she freezes. She spots danger ahead!

It’s Miranda, a morose co-worker whose life resembles the most depressing country music song ever. Miranda rehashed her D-I-V-O-R-C-E so many times unkind co-workers suggested that her husband bailed in self-defense.  Another time, Miranda’s dog ate some chocolate and made an emergency visit to the vet’s office. Miranda wandered around the office hysterically predicting that her dog would die and then complained about the vet bills.

Susie works in a different section of the company and made the mistake of being polite to Miranda several months ago when they met in the break room. Susie is an optimist who is friendly to everyone, at least the first time she meets them.

Unfortunately, Miranda was starved for an audience and latched on to Susie. Before Susie had poured a cup of coffee, Miranda had launched into a dramatic account of the elder abuse inflicted on her mother at the nursing home. Susie’s suggestion that speaking politely to the nursing home staff might be better than screaming was summarily rejected by Miranda.

That’s how it’s gone ever since. Miranda’s sister is a self-centered person who refuses to help with their mother. Miranda’s daughter has a nose ring, orange hair, and a worthless boyfriend. Miranda tragically soldiers on, despite the world being against her.

What options does Susie have to avoid talking to Miranda this morning?

  1. She can stay in her car and leave a voicemail message for her boss saying she is too sick to come to work.
  2. She can sneak into the office and hide from Miranda like all the other employees.
  3. She can boldly but politely excuse herself if Miranda tries to talk to her.

Some employees are morose because they are temporarily overwhelmed by the problems in their lives.  These employees may be directed to the company’s employee assistance program (EAP) by their manager or HR. However, some employees appear to enjoy chaotic lives and don’t want to change. In these cases, damage control is necessary to avoid tanking the morale of their co-workers.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Did You Hear What They Said?

Another update from the Jungle…..

Peter and Paula have worked together for years and are best friends at work. Their friendship grew during the tough years, like taking pay cuts during the recession and working past midnight on New Year’s Eve to salvage the contract with a major client.

They’ve got each other’s backs. Paula covered for Peter when his drinking temporarily got the better of him. Peter lied to their boss about Paula’s frequent absences when she was devastated by the death of her cat. Co-workers rely on them for everything from problem solving to boosting morale. But there is a downside to Peter and Paula’s morale-boosting.

They boost morale by joking and clowning around which makes everyone laugh until it all slides over the invisible line into bad taste. The jokes are sometimes risqué and occasionally sleazy. The raunchier comments are aimed at each other, which is why co-workers haven’t complained. If Peter and Paula aren’t offended by their trash talking, why should others take offense?

The truth is that some of the other women make off color comments too. A few enjoy mild flirtations with Peter without any intention of going beyond words. It’s all a way to relieve the tedium of the daily routine.

But workplaces are constantly evolving as new workers are hired. The new employees don’t understand what Peter and Paula have done for the company which allows them to be occasionally sleazy and off color. Diane and Jane agree that Paula is a cheap tramp who sets back women’s equality every time she speaks. They also agree that Peter is a jerk.

Inevitably, a complaint about sexual harassment slides onto the desk of Sue, the HR manager. She’s heard a spate of these complaints lately and is feeling a bit burned out on the topic. But she’s also been warning Peter and Paula for years that they are skating on thin ice as far as the company’s HR policies are concerned. Now that an official complaint has been filed, Sue calls Peter and Paula to her office.

What options does Sue have?

  1. She can slap the taste out the mouths of Peter and Paula for ignoring her previous verbal warnings.
  2. She can recommend that one of them be transferred to a different department even though that will reduce efficiency in their current department.
  3. She can tell Peter and Paula to save their trash talking for after hours.

Workplace expectations are evolving rapidly regarding sexual harassment and what will be tolerated. Employers should take sexual harassment complaints seriously but not over-react.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Don’t Anyone Touch Anyone!

Another update from the Jungle…..

ABC Corp always seems to catch the latest trends late, thinks Karen. She’s the HR manager for her company and she’s watched for years as the news headlines play out at the office. Now she’s seeing an uptick in sexual harassment claims.

This morning before Karen could finish her first Diet Coke, Vanessa stopped by to complain that Hank had touched her inappropriately. Inappropriately how, asks Karen. Vanessa says that last week Hank patted her on the butt and since then he’s been looking at her in a suggestive way.

Karen sighs inwardly. Before the company switched to electronic records, Karen devoted a large, four-drawer file cabinet to Vanessa and Hank. Vanessa is always complaining about something. Hank has a reputation for saying things that others would leave unsaid often being a little too “friendly” with his hands.

Karen fortifies herself with a second Diet Coke and begins calling in Vanessa’s co-workers to find witnesses. Dorothy says she didn’t see any inappropriate touching but admits that she dislikes Vanessa and Hank and avoids them as if they have the plague. Amanda says that she dances a highland jig to stay out of range of Hank but generally considers him harmless.

Sue shrugs and says that Hank has patted her on the rear many times. When a project is successful, Hank often pats people on the back or the butt. She dismisses it because she thinks he’s just acting like the jock he was. When Sue tires of it, she kicks Hank in the shins, as she did with her older brothers when they were obnoxious. Dan and Joanne confirm Sue’s interpretation of Hank’s hands-on approach to thanking co-workers for a job well done.

Karen sighs deeply and reaches for another Diet Coke before she calls in Vanessa. She tells Vanessa that she believes Hank used poor judgment but it is unlikely that a claim of sexual harassment can be proved. She encourages Vanessa to tell Hank immediately to not touch her if he again pats her on the rear.

What other options does Karen have?

  1. She can institute a new HR policy that says no employee may touch another employee during business hours.
  2. She can encourage Vanessa to join a nudist colony to overcome her sensitivity about the human body.
  3. She can advise Hank to be less “friendly” since not everyone finds his behavior innocuous.

Context is so important. What one person may find offensive another may not. It’s important to take sexual harassment complaints seriously but to not over-react.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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3 Revisions For Your Sexual Harassment Policy

Another update from the Jungle…..

It’s amazing how quickly our social expectations are evolving on the topic of sexual harassment. Not so long ago, off color comments, body groping and other objectionable behavior was tolerated, particularly when committed by powerful people. All that is changing and employers need to adapt. Here are three suggested revisions for employers reviewing their sexual harassment policy and training.

Managerial Support

Every employer I worked for insisted on annual sexual harassment training for the staff. But most managers never showed up for the training or left early. That’s unfortunate, since the most common form of sexual harassment is still male bosses harassing women subordinates.

But accusing the boss of inappropriate behavior is the fastest path to ruining a woman’s career. That’s why Harvey Weinstein wasn’t publicly accused of sexual harassment until after he lost his status as a Hollywood power broker. Employers can avoid a Weinstein moment by requiring managers to participate in training and to set the example on what behavior is acceptable.

Realistic Training

One employer I worked for used the same training video year after year until employees stood in front of the screen, miming the actors and repeating the dialogue. The scenarios were blindingly obvious, like the woman who gets fired after refusing to date her boss. Everyone got their ticket punched for the yearly training and no one learned anything.

Training materials must include realistic scenarios of everyday occurrences. Training must also acknowledge that deciding what is harassment can be subjective. I once worked with a man who always spoke in double entendres. Most the women in the office claimed that they were outraged, but they continued flirting with him. Was he harassing them or not? That’s a much more realistic scenario than the boss dating his secretary cliché.

Clear Complaint Process

Deciding whether to complain begins with actually reading the relevant section of the employee handbook. The relevant section is usually buried in a long paragraph at the end of the anti-harassment policy section of the handbook. It may not be clear whether the complaint process applies to other situations, including the separate sexual harassment policy.

Assuming the harassed employee decides to make a complaint, she (or he) will immediately have two fears. What if the process requires reporting to your supervisor and that’s the harasser? How does the person complaining avoid retaliation? To be effective, the complaint process should be easy to read, have alternative paths for reporting a complaint, and ensure confidentiality as much as possible.

Our society is evolving.  Employers need to move quickly to adapt.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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It’s Got To Be Perfect

Another update from the Jungle…..

It’s a week before Thanksgiving, and Abigail feels overwhelmed and deeply stressed. Between her job and her home life, the demands on her time make her want to run away to a Caribbean island and forget it all with lots of rum.

It all started when her brothers informed her that she would be happy to host the family gathering. As part of the festive occasion, their mother will be in residence for a week. Abigail loves her mom, but the thought of a week living in the same house makes her blood run cold. Mom will be offering “advice” on everything from how to arrange the Pilgrim centerpiece to the best way to carve the turkey.

To prepare for the arrival of Mom and the family, Abigail engages in a frenzy of cleaning each evening after work. She ropes in her husband to help her clean. He grumbles about the last time they hosted the family when his TV remote was broken and his man cave was invaded by munchkins who spilled Kool-Aid on the carpet.

Abigail reminds him that it was his side of the family last time and opens another bottle of red wine. She figures that at the rate of one room and a bottle or three of wine per night, everything will be ready by Thanksgiving.

At work, it’s hard to concentrate. The red wine is catching up with her. Today, she’s sitting in a staff meeting ignoring the reports of co-workers and waiting for it to end so she can get back to her to-do lists. Rick, her supervisor, finally wraps up the meeting by asking if there are any questions. People push their chairs back, ready to run.

Everyone is rising from their chairs when Myra says she has a quick question. Everyone settles back in their seats glaring at Myra. Myra wants to clarify her role in a project due in late January. Abigail is infuriated. That’s two whole months away, after the holidays. Abigail thinks about all the things she needs to get done before next Thursday. It’s all too much.

What are Abigail’s options?

  1. She can beat Myra senseless with the remaining cheese Danish.
  2. She can fall on the floor and roll around pretending to have a seizure in hopes that will end the meeting.
  3. She can take a deep breath and remember that perfection is unattainable and so stressing about the holidays is a waste of time.

We’ve all been there. Take a break from trying to achieve perfection and have a fun holiday.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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3 HR Practices to Consider on Veteran’s Day

Another update from the Jungle…..

This Saturday, November 11th, we will celebrate Veteran’s Day. This national holiday originated after World War I to commemorate the war which officially ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Since then, the holiday has expanded to commemorate all military service personnel in our country’s history.

In recent years, the solemnity of the occasion has been obscured by a tendency to label every military person as a “hero.” But a “hero” is an idealization. So labeling all military personnel as “heroes” can make it more difficult for these individuals to admit they need help with mental health issues arising from their days in the service.

For almost two decades, our all-volunteer military has cycled repeatedly through war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as many other parts of the world. The length of the wars means that they have repeatedly switched between combat and peace time deployments. This cycle has greatly increased mental health strains on active duty individuals, veterans and their families. Those issues don’t go away when an individual leaves the military for civilian life.

Employers who hire veterans can ease the transition with these 3 HR practices.

  1. Support mental health programs for employees. Veterans (and other employees) often avoid treatment out of fear that they will be unfairly stigmatized as “crazy.” More employees will seek help if senior management actively supports use of an employee assistance program (EAP) and the mental health benefits covered in most health insurance policies.
  2. Ensure that anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-bullying policies are enforced with the goal of limiting the potential for workplace violence. Employees dealing with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may be more likely to react inappropriately when facing a perceived threat. (Not all veterans develop PTSD and not all PTSD sufferers are veterans. Domestic violence survivors and residents of high-crime neighborhoods often have PTSD.)
  3. Review how your company handles Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requests for accommodations.  Some employees may function better in a quiet, secluded corner rather than in crowded, noisy cubicles. Other employees may flourish if they can sometimes work remotely. A flexible approach is more likely to ensure your company keeps good employees, including veterans.

This Veteran’s Day, let’s honor our veterans by treating them like the veterans of former wars were treated: men and women who did their duty and then returned to peace-time employment. Help them transition to civilian employment with enlightened practices for handling mental health issues. It will be good for all employees.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Go Back To Your Cave

Another update from the Jungle….

Once upon a time, at a company not so different from its competitors, a new employee was hired. Addison was bright, cheerful and had graduated from college near the top of her class. She believed that hard work was all she needed to advance her career.

As with every fairy-tale, an evil troglodyte lurked in a cubicle down the hall. His name was Larry. He joined the company many years ago and never advanced beyond cubicle world. Beneath a façade of pleasant chitchat lurks a very angry employee.

Addison bumps into Larry in the break room as she tries to figure out how to use the single cup coffee maker. Larry helps her while sarcastically commenting about how good life was when they still had the Mr. Coffee machine. Addison finds his acidic commentary mildly amusing and thinks he might be a friend.

Alas for the fair maid. At the next staff meeting, Larry questions the decision of Wanda, the manager, to designate Addison as the leader on a new project. Larry privately thinks he should be leading the team based on his seniority. Addison seals her fate by saying she’d be happy to have his help. Wanda shrugs and agrees. She’s a manager, not a knight in shining armor trying to rescue a fair maid, especially one too stupid to sniff out danger.

Addison’s first hint that she is not going to live happily ever after happens at her first team meeting. Larry interrupts repeatedly with helpful suggestions, all of which she rejects. During the next week, Larry visits each team member to express his concerns about the imminent failure of the project due to Addison’s inexperience.

Wanda hears via the grapevine that the project is tanking so she calls Addison in for a status report. Larry sees Addison walking down the hallway towards Wanda’s office. Quick as a flash he scampers down the hallway, pushes past her, and turns in the doorway to Wanda’s office to smirk before slamming the door in Addison’s face.

When Addison finally meets with Wanda, Larry’s poisonous comments have taken effect. Wanda says she’s worried about progress and needs to replace Addison with an older, more experienced worker.

What should Addison do next?

  1. She can loudly proclaim that Larry the troglodyte has sabotaged her career and begin crying.
  2. She can plot a suitable revenge against Larry, but he’s had years more experience at this sort of backstabbing.
  3. She can search for a mentor to help her learn how to fight troglodytes in the future.

In the actual situation, the new employee gave up believing in fairy-tales, resigned and joined a competitor, feeling older and slightly wiser. Avoid this fairy-tale by implementing effective HR policies.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Stop Him Before He Talks!

Another update from the Jungle….

Jack was an honors student in graduate school and he’s possibly the smartest person ever hired by his company. On paper he looks fantastic. That’s why his boss, Mitch, was so anxious to hire him. Acting in haste means that Mitch is now regretting at his leisure.

Jack is actually a pretty decent person, but he is a socially inept basket case. He misses every nuance of human behavior. By the time he understands a joke, everyone else has stopped laughing.

At his first staff meeting, Jack sits staring at his co-workers. At the second staff meeting, when Mitch calls on him, Jack describes a magazine article he is reading about a new management theory. Mitch’s jaw drops. His question was about the draft budget for the following year. Worse is to come.

Mitch’s staff is invited to join the semi-annual client appreciation event. Jack shows up early before the caterer has finished setting out the food and drinks. He explains that he wanted to be on time. He gobbles up food as if it’s his last meal for a week.

After banishing his hunger, Jack stands in a corner near the refreshments table and stares at everyone as they arrive, much as a zoo keeper might study an exotic animal. Anne, senior vice president of procurement for a key client, smiles at Jack while waiting for her drink and makes the mistake of engaging him in conversation.

Fifteen minutes later, Mitch spots Anne sidling away from Jack, her face frozen in a smile. He gallops across the room. Jack is describing the mating habits of sperm whales, based on a National Geographic show he’d watched last night on TV. Mitch is aghast. He kicks Jack in the shin and shoulders him aside, preparatory to ushering Anne away from the scene of the crime.

The next morning, Mitch invites Jack in for a quiet conversation on appropriate small talk during a client shindig.  Jack is hurt; he thought he was being friendly.  Mitch stares at him, helplessly.

What are Mitch’s options?

  1. He can join Jack’s co-workers in teasing Jack for his social awkwardness.
  2. He can build a reality show around Jack and sell the concept to a cable TV channel.
  3. He can try to teach basic social skills to Jack while limiting his contact with real people, like clients.

In the actual situation, the inept employee was a good employee in all other respects, so co-workers took turns looking after him at client events. Clients eventually grew used to the employee.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Grow Up!

Another update from the Jungle….

Jerry feels besieged and over loaded. He’s the CEO, and he ought to be busy lining up new customers. Instead, he’s staggering from one crisis to the next as his team fights each other.

It all started when Sue accused Wayne of undermining her authority in a staff meeting. At the staff meeting, Wayne asked questions that put Sue on the spot. Wayne always tries to understand the nitty gritty details by asking a lot of questions. Occasionally, his fascination for details is beneficial, like the time his questions uncovered a technical gap that would have cost the company money. But most the time he just comes across as obnoxious and obtuse.

Sue erupted like a geyser. She told Wayne to shut up and focus on doing his own job. Wayne retorted that he couldn’t do his job if the inputs from her team are sloppy and incomplete. Sue naturally defended her team and added that the company was a better place to work before Wayne was hired.

Wayne now refers to Sue as a word that rhymes with witch. Sue uses even more inflammatory language to describe him. Since they’re supervisors, they’ve managed to drag their respective subordinates into the fight.

Wayne’s team buys a different brand of coffee for the break room rather than use the brand preferred by Sue. Sue’s team confiscates all the office supplies in the supply closet. Her team also password protects all their work rather than sharing with Wayne’s team.

Inevitably, deadlines are blown on their latest product. Jerry calls an all-hands meeting to find out what is going wrong. Within five minutes accusations are flying. After fifteen minutes, a shoving match ensues between Sue and Wayne as they blame each other for the delays. Sue hurls a cup of coffee at Wayne. He retaliates by grabbing her notes and shredding the pages.

Jerry is shocked, then outraged. His whole business is on the line for a couple of chuckleheads with the emotional development of children.

What options are available to Jerry?

  1. He can fire Sue and Wayne for breaking company rules on workplace violence.
  2. He can start a side business featuring Sue and Wayne as featherweight prize fighters.
  3. He can counsel Sue and Wayne to act like grownups and work together for the company.

In the actual situation, the employer chose the third option, in keeping with the company’s progressive discipline policy. The employer’s decision was based on an assessment of the supervisors’ capabilities and skills. Both managers were also encouraged to seek anger management counseling.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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He Stopped Loving Her [Yesterday]

Another update from the Jungle….

Chloe is an intelligent, educated woman who worked hard to become a manager. She worked such long hours that she had no time to search for true love. So she did what many other intelligent but desperate adults do. She searched her office for Prince Charming.

He wasn’t really Prince Charming. He was Tom from the IT department. Chloe learned a great deal about him when she was assigned to co-lead a cross departmental task force with him. It began innocently with daily meetings as they organized their team.

One evening as they wrapped up another long day, Tom announced that he was starving and asked Chloe if she’d like to join him for a late dinner. Soon they were meeting for lunch and dinner. In the blink of a star-struck eye, they progressed to meeting across the kitchen table at breakfast.

When Tom went out of town on business, he had a dozen roses delivered to Chloe’s office. The office grapevine buzzed louder than a bee on a hot summer afternoon. The buzz was so intense that Patricia, the HR manager, decided to have a chat with Chloe. She reminded Chloe that the company has a non-fraternization policy, and if Chloe and Tom violated it, they could both be subject to disciplinary action. Chloe airily informed Patricia that she and Tom were just friends.

Poor Chloe forgot that in fairy tales, not everyone gets to live happily ever after. As the task force wound down, so did the romance. Tom volunteered for out-of-town business trips because he was trying to accumulate enough airline miles to vacation in Hawaii. Chloe ate leftovers alone in her kitchen.

When a workplace romance fizzles people behave badly. Chloe sniped at Tom during the weekly managers’ meeting.  Tom confidentially told his closest friends that Chloe was a nut, thus ensuring the story spread through the office until it reached the ear of the CEO.

The CEO hates dealing with people problems. He tells Patricia to make it all go away.

What options are available to Patricia?

  1. She can recommend that Chloe and Tom be fired for violating the non-fraternization policy.
  2. She can recommend that Chloe and Tom be sent for couples counseling.
  3. She can include the slightly disguised details in her next popular bodice-ripper novel, which she writes under a pen name.

The above office romance scenario is so common that everyone has seen it at least once. Having a non-fraternization policy is essential to managing the risks of a costly settlement when it all goes bad.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Next!

Another update from the Jungle….

Pam owns a small company and she’s preparing for her next round of job interviews. She feels like she spends a lot of time hiring new employees because she has a revolving door as employees bail out for bigger companies that offer more fringe benefits or higher pay.

She approaches the interviewing and hiring process with a mixture of dread and anticipation. She gets excited when she thinks she may actually find that perfect match of personality and skill set to fit her company. But more often her anticipation evaporates into dread or even fascinated horror.

One recent job applicant, Stuart, earnestly explained that he would not be able to provide identification if he’s hired because the CIA might find him and then his life would be in danger. Sam listed his probation officer as a character reference since that was the only person who saw him on a regular basis. Tamara said her mother was forcing her to look for a job and how long would the interview take anyway.

Pam went home that night to pour a stiff triple shot of single malt scotch. As she sipped her scotch, she thought that finding a good employee is as difficult as finding Prince Charming. No one ever looks as good in person as they do on paper.

The next day, Pam is back in the office shuffling through a new stack of resumes. She weeds out the ones with typos and scary details. Then she sets up a new batch of interviews. The first interviewee, Kim, has a nose ring but says “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am” when responding to questions. Annie, the next contestant is covered in neck and arm tattoos and wears a metal-studded dog collar. Sam sits bolt upright and barely utters a complete sentence.

Pam is getting desperate. She needs employees to keep her business afloat.

What are Pam’s options?

  1. She can accept the fact that her employees won’t stay long and adapt her business model to reflect the reality of the revolving door.
  2. She can outsource much of the hiring process which will save her time. Of course, a staffing agency may not have any better luck than her at finding appropriate job applicants for her company.
  3. She can close her business and go work for a distillery since her single malt scotch is the only thing bringing her happiness at the moment.

The above examples of job applicants are taken from actual interviews, although names have been changed to protect the innocent, the scary, and the downright weird.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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The Root Of All Evil

Another update from the Jungle….

It all began so innocently with a run-of-the-mill claim of discrimination. Helen, the HR manager, sighed heavily when the claim hit her desk. Sally, the employee making the complaint, is far from being a satisfactory employee. On the other hand, Ben is her least favorite manager due to his inability to follow even simple rules on how to treat employees.

Grumbling to herself, Helen drives across the state to their work location to begin investigating. She settles and calls Sally in to make a statement. Sally shows up clutching a fistful of photocopied pages from the employee handbook with passages highlighted in neon green.

Sally spends the next two hours explaining how Ben has violated each highlighted policy. It’s a litany of slights, put-downs and hurt feelings that culminated in not being invited to Ben’s beer and barbeque party. Helen privately fantasizes about how much fun it would be to drop kick Sally and Ben out of her HR life. But when she hears of the beer and barbeque outing, she gets a cold chill familiar to any experienced HR person. What has Ben been up to?

Helen get rid of Sally and calls in other employees to ask for more details about Ben and his parties. What she learns almost straightens her perm. Davy gives her details of the barbeque and beer party that leaves Helen wondering if Ben was aiming to set a Guinness world record on beer consumption.

Assistant manager Jim tells her that Ben initiated him into the management ranks by taking him out for a celebration. The celebration included weekly trips through the honkytonks, road houses and nightclubs in a tri-county area. Jim says he only mentions it because he’d like to know if there is an HR policy to cover his treatment for alcohol addiction.

Helen calls in Ben for a chat. Ben says he’s had it with Sally’s whining and demands that she be fired because she’s a lousy worker. He becomes evasive when Helen asks him about the drinking parties.

What should Helen do next?

  1. She can make her fantasy come true by drop kicking Ben off the earth, or at least, out of the company.
  2. She can ask Ben to include Sally and other female employees in his beer and barbeque events as proof he’s not discriminating against them.
  3. She can give Ben a written warning about the myriad HR policies he’s violated and require him to take additional training in HR policies.

In the actual situation, senior management decided to give the manager a second chance at his job. However, his actions were closely monitored by the HR Director and senior management.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Credit Hog

Another update from the Jungle….

Erin is a manager for her company and she’s got a problem employee named Rose.  Rose is a mediocre worker who is only good at self-promotion. She takes credit for other workers’ hard work.

There was the time that Rose did nothing on a department project. But in the meeting with Walter, the company president, Rose talked like she had run the whole show and kept everyone on task. The real project leader, Tim, had to be dragged from the room before he could strangle her.

This year Walter decides to buy a booth at a local business fair and asks for volunteers. Rose naturally volunteers. Walter publicly thanks her while her co-workers privately bet on when she’ll actually show up.

The day of the business fair arrives and Rose is nowhere. Erin and the other volunteers begin setting up their booth by spreading a special tablecloth with the company logo over the booth’s table. The tablecloth is heavy and it takes three people to wrestle it into place.

Sweating profusely, Erin and the other volunteers return to the parking lot to begin carting boxes of brochures and promotional items from Erin’s SUV. By the time the last box is lugged to their booth (far end of the hall from the entrance), everyone’s soggy with sweat.

That’s when Rose shows up. She grabs a bottle of water and announces she’s here to help. She begins helping by criticizing the table display. Tim, who did the heavy lifting and is soaked in sweat, reaches for Rose’s throat. Quickly Erin jabs him in the stomach, pushes him back and tells Rose that she can rearrange the table as she likes since she’ll be taking first shift.

Rose doesn’t hear because she’s smiling and waving. Walter appears through the crowd. Rose immediately steps forward to give him a quick summary of how the booth is set up. Her sweating co-workers glare at her as she again steals all the credit for their hard work.

What can Erin do next with Rose?

  1. She can nominate Rose to lead the first team of humans to colonize Mars.
  2. She can assign Rose to low prestige and low priority projects where she will fade into oblivion.
  3. She can explain to Rose that stealing credit for the work of others is unethical and will have dire consequences for her career.

In the actual situation, co-workers eventually refused to work on teams that included the credit hog. Coping with credit hogs may require HR and the manager to create an individualized career plan that nudges the employee toward better work habits.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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You Never Talk To Me.

Another update from the Jungle….

Mary’s adventures in small business ownership continue. [See 8/2/17 post for original adventure.]  Her staff is small and spans decades. The only thing the employees have in common is a desire to work in an entrepreneurial environment.

Such a diverse workforce means lots of different styles of working. Alex and Stan, her two youngest workers, communicate almost exclusively by text messaging. They look a bit like shepherd’s crooks, bent at the top after years of looking down at their iPads and smart phones. Jon, her most senior worker, despises text messaging but loves email.  

Mary worries that the lack of actual conversations will make her team less effective.  So she tries to get everyone talking by holding a team building exercise. But Jon only likes exercise that involves hunting big game in the Rockies.  He doesn’t even pretend to enjoy the team building exercise. Alex and Stan think a team building exercise means competing in on-line video games rather than playing alone.  They tune out after ten minutes to play games on their smart phones.

Mary abandons team building. Her next brilliant idea is to offer free beer at staff meetings. She sets a two-free-beers limit because she doesn’t have the budget for unlimited thirst. The team gathers at a table in a local sports bar but no one talks to each other. Jon swivels constantly in his seat to look at all the TV screens showing various sports. Alex and Stan slump in their chairs looking at their social media feeds, beers forgotten.

Mary decides her team has sufficient team spirit, although her spirits need a stiff brandy to recover.  After a weekend of agonizing over what to do, Mary is still trying to figure out how to build a functioning team that actually talks to each other.

What should Mary do next?

1. She can ignore previous experience and try another team building exercise.
2. She can order her staff to meet, ply them with more alcohol and hope they eventually learn to talk to each other.
3. She can accept that her workforce is meeting deadlines and keeping clients happy and allow them to communicate in their preferred methods.

Most businesses today have a diverse workforce spanning decades. Ensuring the different age groups and work styles gel into a cohesive team can be a challenge. HR representatives can help management to adapt the workplace routine to fit all age groups and their communications styles.  

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Holiday Hijinks

Another update from the Jungle….

Lucy was ambivalent about returning to work after the holiday weekend. She enjoyed the long weekend, of course. But as the HR manager she expects to hear wild and weird stories from other employees about what they did during the break. She’s not disappointed.

Walter shows up on Tuesday with a broken arm. He was at his favorite sports bar on Saturday with a group of friends watching several sports events. When his favorite team took the lead, he was so excited that he jumped off his bar stool. Unfortunately, his victory dance ended further away from his bar stool than he realized. Arms flailing, Walter succumbed to gravity. His right arm broke his fall with an audible crack. He spent Saturday night at the emergency room. He tells Lucy that he needs a reduced work schedule because typing one-handed is tiring.

Sheila shows up with a scowl, from which Lucy deduces that her marriage is still headed toward divorce. Sheila’s been complaining about her husband for two years to a diminishing crowd of friends. She can clear a room faster than a barrel of snakes. Sheila told Lucy to mind her own business when Lucy suggested that her personal life should be kept out of the office.

Tom didn’t show up on Tuesday. He overindulged on beer, brats, potato salad, and other goodies at his family’s annual cookout. His wife says his stomach will be back to normal in another day or two.

Lucy looks up as a shadow falls over her desk. It’s Bob, the company CEO, and he’s looking dyspeptic and annoyed. He drops into the chair next to Lucy’s desk and takes a deep breath. He wants to know if he can kick a few people for doing dumb stuff on their own time over the weekend.

What should Lucy tell him?

  1. She can tell him that kicking might break his foot so he should try hitting people with a blunt instrument.
  2. She can offer to write a policy that outlaws fun during off hours.
  3. She can caution him about trying to regulate employee behavior outside the office.

Many companies have HR policies that cover high risk behavior, such as bungee jumping, motorcycle or car racing, and other high risk activities. However, attempting to dictate employee behavior outside of work is generally frowned on.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Gung Ho Grace

Another update from the Jungle….

Grace joined the company a couple of months ago. She’s young, ambitious, and ready to prove she’s capable of fulfilling her new job description.  She’s also afraid to ask too many questions for fear that co-workers will think she’s not able to do her job. She’s heard that you should fake it until you make it, and she’s faking as hard as she can.

That makes her impatient with Jane, a co-worker who is supposed to be training her. Jane started working at the company around the time Grace entered middle school. Over time her job duties have evolved and she can’t keep up. So her boss, Aggie, decides to redo her job description and hire a younger person who can be trained by Jane to do some of the overflow work.

At the very first training session, Grace repeatedly interrupts as Jane tries to explain how the work flows and how the database evolved to its current form.  After ten minutes, Grace is tired of listening and decides she knows enough to jump into the job. She brusquely thanks Jane and logs in to the database.

As Grace dabbles in the database, she becomes increasingly frustrated because she can’t find the information she’s looking for. Finally she breaks down and asks Jane for help. Jane explains a quirk of the database that would have been revealed in the eleventh minute of their first training session.

Grace assumes that Jane deliberately set her up for failure. Jane thinks Grace is a gung ho twerp. The fight is on. Grace copies Aggie on every email to Jane and often words the email in a way that implies Jane has either withheld information or is incompetent. Jane fights back with all the skills learned in years of climbing the greased pole of a corporate career.

Eventually, Aggie realizes that she needs to do something because Grace and Jane are ready to tear each other’s hair out by the roots. She calls them into her office.

What should Aggie do next?

  1. She can tell Grace and Jane to grow up.
  2. She can fire them both and start over with new hires hoping they will get along.
  3. She can explain that they are both valuable to the team and they are both needed due to the expanded workload.

In the actual situation, the supervisor tried individual counseling after the group session failed horribly.  However, personalities don’t change and first impressions are difficult to overcome. So the situation wasn’t resolved until one of the warring workers quit.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Can We Get By Without Her?

Another update from the Jungle….

Georgia is the manager of a group home for disabled adults. It’s not easy caring for people who have trouble remembering what they did five minutes ago or who need help with what is euphemistically called “life activities.” But they are a breeze compared to dealing with employees.

Job seekers who can stomach the idea of helping with bathing, cooking, and light housekeeping usually disappear when they hear about the pay. It’s not that families of the disabled don’t care about their loved ones but they usually have no idea of the true cost of care. Or as Georgia’s boss constantly complains, everyone wants Cadillac coverage for the price of a Chevy.

The latest employee through the revolving door is Krystal, a twenty-something whose parents stopped paying her cell phone bill and put a padlock on the refrigerator. Taking the hint, Krystal realized that her parents wanted her to get a job.

Krystal is a so-so employee. Georgia puts up with her because the home is usually short-staffed. But Georgia resents spending so much of her time trying to motivate Krystal to do the bare minimum in her job description.

Last week, Georgia learned that Krystal had again failed to take Lenny, one of the disabled adults, to his favorite restaurant. First, she said she forgot. But when Georgia stared silently at her, broke down and admitted that she didn’t feel like eating greasy food with Lenny. Georgia’s blood pressure spiked. She retorted that Krystal didn’t have to eat the food; she just needed to drive Lenny to the restaurant so that he could.

Today, the employees are gathered for the monthly staff meeting. Georgia reviews a recent situation where one of their charges was injured when he tripped over the TV remote which was lying on the floor.  She explains new procedures that the company wants them to follow to avoid a repeat injury.

Georgia asks the employees if they understand the new procedures. Krystal rolls her eyes and mutters audibly “bitch.” Everyone turns to look at her. Then they look at Georgia.

What should Georgia do next?

  1. She can lean across the table and slap the taste out of Krystal’s mouth.
  2. She can fire Krystal and escort her off the premises with well-placed kick in the rear.
  3. She can remember how short-staffed they are and give Krystal a written reprimand and a second chance.

In the actual situation, the company gave the insubordinate employee a second chance based on staff shortages. But they started the search for a replacement.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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See, What Happened Was…

Another update from the Jungle….

Lexington & Concord is a professional firm that hires summer interns every year. El Cee, as it’s fondly known, has a reputation for training summer interns by making them work long hours with minimal feedback on their performance. Interns are happy to suffer knowing that if they survive, they will increase their chances of receiving a good job offer.

Kate, the HR manager, thinks the summer interns should be rewarded for their hard work. She convinces Charles, the senior partner, to have an end of summer party for the interns. Charles reluctantly agrees.

The party is held at the home of Rob, a senior partner in the firm who likes to brag about his possessions.  Unfortunately, Rob and his wife, Sally, choose this day to enact their version of the War of the Roses.

The guests arrive in time to watch Sally yanking off her wedding ring and hurling it into the shrubbery. The members of the firm are used to the Rob and Sally soap opera and swerve around the fight with the ease of practice, headed for the drinks by the pool.

Kate quickly steers the interns to the outdoor kitchen and pool area. After asking several partners to chaperon the interns, she dashes away to break up the hosts’ fight before the neighbors call the cops.  She finds Sally sobbing hysterically, but Rob has vanished.

When Kate returns to the pool, she spies Rob propped against the shoulder of a young intern. As she approaches, Kate hears him making suggestions to the young lady that freeze the marrow in her HR bones.  Before the intern can respond, Kate grabs Rob’s elbow to drag him away. Unfortunately, he staggers against Kate. They both topple into the pool.

Several people dive in to rescue them.  Kate clambers out of the pool and looks around in horror. Her summer party is turning into a Roman orgy with half-naked people frolicking at poolside.

Now it’s Monday morning and Kate is in Charles’ office trying to explain what happened at the party. What should she say?

  1. She can say she’s resigning to start a new career as an event planner.
  2. She can imply that it’s Charles’ fault for not attending and using the force of his disapproval to keep everyone in line.
  3. She can promise to never again share her ideas for boosting morale.

In the actual situation, the firm banned parties for summer interns. HR professionals can help their companies by setting clear guidelines on behavior at company sponsored events.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Hey, Y’all, I’d Like A Job

Another update from the Jungle….

It’s been a long day and Mary is catching up on her emails. As she deletes all the unsolicited introductions from sales people trying to sell her stuff she either doesn’t want or can’t afford, she wonders again if she was completely nuts to open her own business.

When she’s not avoiding obnoxious sales pitches, she’s dealing with job seekers. She can track the college graduation season simply by the number of unsolicited emails she receives. She rarely reads the attached resumes because of the first impressions created by the emails. The smart graduates use proper grammar and complete sentences in their emails. The smartest graduates actually look at her company website to see what kind of business she runs.

She sighs and clicks on the next email. Its contents strike her so forcibly that she takes a big swig of her single malt scotch. She glances out the window to see if it’s a full moon; it’s not. It’s also too early for the solar eclipse. No natural phenomenon explains the email she’s reading.

The email says, “Hey, y’all, I just graduated from college and I’d love to come work for you if you’ve got an opening. If you don’t have any jobs right now, please keep me in mind when you do. Thx, Candace.”

Mary’s received some strange introductions from job-seekers. She was once chased two city blocks until she realized the crazy man running after her wasn’t a stalker; he was trying to hand deliver his resume.  She’s had friends ask her to hire their college-aged children because some of those young people are otherwise unemployable.

Mary knows that millennials are much more informal than her generation of workers. But Candace’s email introduction surely takes the prize.  This clueless waif graduated from college without ever learning how to present herself to a potential employer.

What should Mary do next?

  1. She can hit delete and ignore Candace because it’s not her responsibility to teach millennials how to apply for a job.
  2. She can drink more scotch and save the email for the bad days when she needs a quick laugh.
  3. She can remember her own job-hunting mistakes and email Candace some kind advice on how the power of first impressions affects gainful employment.

Informality is preferable to the strict workplace hierarchies of the past that stifled innovation and creativity. However, informality should never cross the line into disrespect. HR can help by encouraging college placement offices to teach soon-to-be-graduates how to properly approach prospective employers.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Welcome To The Real World

Another update from the Jungle….

Mercedes is a millennial who was recently assigned to Sandy’s department.  Sandy likes working with younger people who are natives of the digital world and can show her how to use her smart phone apps. They are young, enthusiastic and some, like Mercedes, are idealists.

Mercedes wants to change the world. After college, her parents supported her for an additional year so that she could work at a non-profit. Her record of clever ideas for the non-profit helped her get hired at Sandy’s company.

In her first week, Mercedes suggests some relatively inexpensive software upgrades that improve efficiency and save money. Most of the savings come from job cuts as tasks are automated. The older workers who are let go aren’t qualified for other open positions and management cut the training budget back around the time Mercedes was born. Mercedes doesn’t notice the job losses because she’s on to her next big idea.

Her next big idea is an IT systems upgrade that may save the entire company millions of dollars. Unfortunately, the upgrade will also cost tens of millions of dollars, require the company to shut down entirely for six months, and cause massive job cuts. She announces her idea to Sandy’s boss, Bob.  He thanks Mercedes and boots her out of his office.

Mercedes doesn’t understand how Bob can be so dim-witted as not to see the long-term benefits. She won’t listen to Bob or Sandy when they tell her that the company simply can’t afford to give up six months of sales to rebuild IT systems from scratch.

Mercedes thinks that Bob and Sandy are being negative because they are dinosaurs who don’t “get” new technology and how it improves the world. Mercedes decides she needs to bypass the unenlightened ones and go straight to the top.  She tells Sandy that she wants to pitch her idea to the company president.

What advice should Sandy give to Mercedes?

  1. She can encourage Mercedes and then watch as the company president explodes like a geyser at the thought of losing six months revenue.
  2. She can suggest that Mercedes drink fewer cappuccinos and increase her wine consumption in the hopes she will have fewer brilliant ideas.
  3. She can tell Mercedes that the company president will be more receptive to her ideas if she can come up with a plan to offset the short term costs.

Idealism is a wonderful quality but not necessarily in the workplace. Idealistic employees can be encouraged to volunteer with local non-profits. HR can help by encouraging management to offer paid leave for volunteer work.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Back Off!

Another update from the Jungle….

Don is taller than most of his co-workers so that he often seems to loom over them during conversations. He also has a habit of standing really close to people when he talks to them, particularly much shorter women. Aline is one of the shortest employees in the office.

Aline claims he often stands toe to toe with her. She can’t prove that he’s attempting to intimidate her, but she has her suspicions. She’s only five feet tall, and she’s used to men, and some women, using their superior height to try to intimidate her. It’s been happening since grade school.

She doesn’t like it, but she refuses to back away.  She throws back her head and looks a long way up to meet them eye-to-eye. She told Michelle, the HR manager, that she’d rather have a permanent crick in her neck than get pushed around just because she’s shorter than most people. But she admits that it bothers her when her personal space is invaded.

Aline’s office is small, not much bigger than a converted closet. Once she’s seated behind her desk, she can only get out on one side.   Don has a bad habit of coming into her office and standing at the corner of the desk so that he blocks her into her seat.

Today when he strolls in and stands at the corner of her desk, Aline’s not in the mood to be polite. She points to the chair across the desk from her and orders him to sit down. Don grins and sits down. They begin discussing the project they are working on.  Aline periodically looks at some charts.

Don wants to look at the charts, too. He stands up and says he’ll come around the desk to read over her shoulder. Aline’s had enough. She picks up the stack of charts and tosses them across the desk to Don. “You can read them from there,” she replies as she orders him back to his seat.

How should Aline handle Don in the future?

  1. She can kick him in the shins when he stands too close.
  2. She can refuse to work with him and probably get stuck with an even more annoying co-worker.
  3. She can accept that every job has its petty annoyances and drink more wine each evening.

Looming over shorter co-workers could be considered bullying depending on the circumstances. There are no easy answers to resolving these types subtly aggressive behavior but HR can use training in micro-aggression to set workplace expectations of what is acceptable.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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I Thought We Were Friends

Another update from the Jungle….

Rebecca is a real pain. She seems nice when people first meet her. But her former boss once compared her to a cancerous cell or a virus, spreading evil in the company. Abby agrees.

Rebecca was the first person to befriend her when Abby began working for the company. Abby was so grateful that it was several months before she realized that every encounter with Rebecca left her deeply depressed, often on the verge of tears. Abby is self-conscious about her weight and a speech impediment that causes her to slur words like Sylvester the cat. Rebecca has a way of drawing attention to Abby’s most sensitive characteristics.

Rebecca once begged Abby to walk with her to the coffee shop because Rebecca said she didn’t want to go alone. While waiting on her latte, Rebecca picked up a muffin for her breakfast. Suddenly, she turned to Abby and said “Here, this is too fattening. You eat it. I’ll get myself a banana.” Abby was so shocked she couldn’t explain that she had already eaten breakfast at home. She felt humiliated because the barista overheard Rebecca’s comment.

Rebecca often imitates Abby’s speech impediment, especially if there’s an audience. Abby’s told Rebecca to stop it because it is not nice to mock people. Rebecca says she’s just “picking at” Abby and doesn’t mean any harm. Rebecca also accuses Abby of being too sensitive. It all leaves Abby feeling like every misunderstanding is her fault.

After one humiliating episode, Abby is discovered crying in the bathroom by Michelle, the HR rep. Michelle is exasperated with Abby’s lachrymose acceptance of Rebecca’s special brand of “friendship.” But now that she’s seen Abby crying, Michelle knows she needs to take action. She meets with Rebecca to remind her of the company’s anti-bullying policy. Now Rebecca runs around telling everyone that Abby can’t take a joke.

What should Michelle do next?

  1. She could tell Abby to stand up for herself and stop being a victim.
  2. She could ignore the situation and hope it fixes itself, probably when Abby quits.
  3. She could confer with Rebecca’s supervisor about the next step in progressive discipline.

Bullying is becoming more subtle in the form of micro-aggressions.  Deciding when behavior crosses the invisible line between teasing and aggression is difficult because it all depends on reasonableness. What would a reasonable person think or feel in a similar situation? There are no easy answers but HR can help set workplace expectations of what is acceptable.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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The Morning After

Another update from the Jungle….

George rolls over and groans. It’s the morning after July 4th and he needs to go to work. George would love to call in sick, but he’s used all his accrued PTO.  As he shakily goes through his morning routine, he reflects on the long weekend that was.

George used his last PTO hours to take off Monday, knowing that he planned to have a good time over the weekend with his buddies. His memories of Friday night are fuzzy, involving a sports bar, overpriced drinks, and a contortionist from a circus or a zoo or something.  On Saturday his wife dragged him to a picnic with their church group. After gobbling down a couple of hot dogs and a bowl of potato salad, he joined his buddies for another evening of overpriced drinks.

Sunday he recuperated, sort of, staying in bed most of the day.  His wife was unhappy because he hadn’t managed to do any of the chores that he said he would. She walked around the house humming Highway 101’s hit “Whiskey, If You Were a Woman”.   George may be hung over, but he’s not stupid. It’s almost a relief to go to work today.

George staggers out the door and slides into his car. He makes it to the office safely, parks the car, and gathers his dignity for the stroll into the building. His co-workers smile at him and surreptitiously start a betting pool to guess when he’ll collapse face down on his cubicle’s desk.

Sally, his manager, notices his shaky hands clutching a mug of coffee in a death grip and frowns. She’s been worried for a long time about George.  He’s a likeable guy, hardworking and knowledgeable when he’s sober, but it’s obvious that he has a problem. Sally consults Connie, the HR manager, and they decide to call George in for a meeting.

What should they say to George?

  1. They could berate him for showing up too hung over to do his job and threaten to fire him.
  2. They could sanctimoniously point out the obvious, that he’s an alcoholic, and needs to change if he wants to keep his job.
  3. They could show concern by offering to help him get into a treatment plan to deal with his alcoholism before it costs him his job.

Holidays can be difficult for employees with addictions. Employers can help their employees, and the company’s bottom line, by offering an employee assistance program (EAP) and having an HR policy that encourages treatment first as an alternative to disciplinary proceedings.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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I’m In Charge!

Another update from the Jungle….

Mary likes the arts and has volunteered for years with several non-profits. Recently, she was offered a paid part-time position. The pay is barely above minimum wage but includes a parking pass and it fits with her full-time job’s schedule. Mary enjoys being paid to see the shows.

Mary’s enthusiasm for her part-time arts job soon wears thin. Suzy is another part-timer who was recently promoted to manager to help supervise the part-time staff during peak attendance hours.  Mary thinks the part-time managers are selected for their willingness to work longer hours for a small pay increase and not for their actual abilities.

Suzy is a perfect example. She bustles about acting important but has never been a manager. Under pressure, she becomes brusque to the point of rudeness. Since her main role is to resolve problems with unruly or disgruntled patrons, this creates interesting situations.

On a recent weekend, several patrons are shocked when their high-priced tickets to a special event are rejected.  Suzy arrives as Mary is explaining that the ticket office can help sort out their ticketing problem.  Mary explains to Suzy that the tickets are not scanning properly.

Suzy examines the tickets and tells the patrons that buying from scalpers is never a good idea. One patron turns red with fury as he says the third party ticketing company he used is a recognized distributor for the non-profit. Mary offers to show the patrons to the ticketing office but Suzy orders her to stay at her post. Suzy stalks off.

Twenty minutes later, Suzy is back.  In front of other workers, she tells Mary to never leave her post again. Mary points out that she didn’t. Then Suzy accuses Mary of “throwing gasoline on a fire” by telling the angry patrons that the ticket office could fix the ticketing problems. Suzy claims that the patrons will think this guarantees them admittance to the sold-out show. Mary’s temper rises.

What are Mary’s options?

  1. She can complain to Suzy’s boss but he is unlikely to take action unless other employees have also complained about Suzy.
  2. She can suggest that Suzy take Prozac or learn yoga to deal with the stress of being in charge.
  3. She can accept that Suzy’s accusations arise from feeling insecure and brush it off unless Suzy continues to criticize her.

Non-profits face the same employee issues as for-profit companies but often mistakenly believe they are exempt from employment laws. As a general rule, they are not and should consider how best to minimize their risks of violating employment laws.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Join the HR Compliance Jungle today. Click here!

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Too Busy to Work

Another update from the Jungle…

Fran is a passionate woman who supports many worthy causes. Every day she arrives at work, gets a cup of herbal tea and begins looking for an audience to unburden herself.

Today she is convinced that milk cows are emitting so much methane that they are destroying the world’s oxygen. She methodically dunks her tea bag while trying to persuade Brenda to give up yogurt for breakfast in order to save the environment. Brenda scrapes the last bit of yogurt from the container, curls her lip and maliciously informs Fran that her tea bag is leaking its contents.

Sarcasm is wasted on Fran who is too wrapped up in her causes to notice. She ignores Brenda’s snotty comment and goes in search of a new audience. She corners Will and Mike to explain how she thinks stray dogs should be saved from the dangers of the street.

Mike points out that pet shelters are full and often have no choice but to euthanize animals. She tears up at the thought of dead puppies. Will is a “manly man” who enjoys fishing and hunting. He also believes in conservation but detests Fran’s moralizing. So he retaliates with a story of deer hunting which ends with him killing Bambi’s mother.

Fran is so distraught that she has to talk to someone who understands. Fortunately, she can always count on Linda for a sympathetic hearing. Linda assures her that she feels Fran’s pain.

Unfortunately, none of these causes contribute to actually doing work, which is, after all, why Fran shows up every day. Passion is exhausting. Fran can only work about twenty minutes before she needs a rest break.

Fran’s supervisor, Mindy, is also exhausted from frustration. She’s taking heat for low productivity caused by Fran’s lousy work habits and the interruptions to other employees’ work. She’s tried performance improvement plans without success. She’s thinking of skipping the initial steps in the progressive discipline policy and going straight to justifiable homicide in a bid to save her own career.

What options are available to Mindy?

  • She can watch murder mysteries seeking pointers on how to get away with murder.
  • She can move Fran’s workstation to a windowless closet and chain her to the chair in an effort to increase productivity.
  • She can search the company’s HR policies for a valid reason to fire Fran for poor performance.

In the actual situation, the passionate employee continued annoying her co-workers with her causes until she realized her career had stalled. She left the company to find success with a new employer.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

Ebook Link

Join the HR Compliance Jungle today. Click here!

Follow us on Facebook & Twitter!

Visit our website!