Author: Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of HR, see my weekly blog HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which publishes every Wednesday morning. To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Little Miss Helpful

 Another update from the Jungle…..

Charlotte marched into the office determined to be cheerful. She turned on her computer and then trudged to the break room for a cup of coffee.  Fortified with caffeine, she sat down to read her emails. The opening sentence of the first email left her snarling.  That vicious little twerp!   

The email was from her co-worker, Hannah, asking Charlotte to send a packet of information to a customer. Her email implied that Hannah was once again saving a customer relationship. Naturally the email was copied to their supervisor, Cassie. 

Charlotte was furious. She had been working with that customer for months and had hand delivered the same packet of material several weeks earlier. She was scheduled for a follow up meeting with the customer tomorrow.   She would have explained all that if Hannah had talked to her.  But Hannah rarely coordinated her activities with Charlotte even though their projects often overlapped. 

The dupes in the office thought Hannah was sweet and helpful; they would never believe she intentionally screwed a co-worker.  Hannah didn’t fool Charlotte who recognized Hannah’s symptoms from an earlier point in her own career.  Hannah was young, insecure and she craved approval so that she could feel indispensable. 

After re-reading the email several times, Charlotte decided to wait to knock Hannah into orbit.   Charlotte’s years of experience in office politics made her realize that she’d only sound petty and bitchy if she complained.  She could be patient like a lion lurking in the tall grass waiting for lunch to trot by.

Later that morning at a staff meeting, Hannah droned on as usual reporting all her activities in excruciating detail. Charlotte day dreamed about non-lethal ways to settle the score with the nincompoop. Homemade fudge laced with laxative might hurt others. Boiling oil would ruin the carpet.  Maybe she could accidentally trip Hannah as they left the conference room.

Then she heard her name and blinked away such pleasantries.  Hannah was sanctimoniously reminding everyone in the room that she had asked Charlotte to follow up with the customer.  Cassie smiled fondly at Hannah and turned to raise an eyebrow to Charlotte.

What options are available to Charlotte?

  1. She could sarcastically explain that if Hannah ever bothered talking to her, the idiot would know Charlotte was already taking care of the customer.     
  2. She could start a catfight with Hannah to entertain their co-workers who had grown bored with the celebrity feuds on the internet.       
  3. She could recognize that Hannah’s misbehavior arose from fear and insecurity and let it go. 

Every workplace has insecure people who build themselves up by tearing down others. Rather than testing the limits of the workplace violence policy, use emotional intelligence to recognize the root cause of their obnoxious behavior so that you can calibrate your response appropriately. 

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 can also follow me at HerSavvy.com. My column appears the 3rd Tuesday of each month.

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He Can’t Quit. He’s Fired!

Another update from the Jungle…..

Gene is mad as heck and he no longer cares who knows it. He slouches through the office emitting a fog of discontent as toxic as a radiation leak.  Gene has always been hot-headed and stubborn, so it took a couple of weeks before his co-workers realized something is different this time.

Gene’s attitude cratered a couple of weeks ago when he had another run-in with his manager, Eric.  Eric is almost as hot-headed and stubborn as Gene and they’ve clashed endlessly. If they would each take a moment to think before speaking, their differing skills would make them a great team. At least, that’s what the HR manager, Jan, believes. 

She’s spent so much time counseling them and resolving their bickering that she’s sick of both of them.  Of course, an HR manager can never admit that, so Jan continues smiling through gritted teeth.  But she’s on constant alert for the next explosion. 

The explosion duly comes at this morning’s staff meeting. Eric announces a new project and asks for suggestions on how to most efficiently complete the project.  At first, no one says a word as they try to decide if Eric is actually interested in their suggestions or just following a technique learned in his recent manager training. 

Gene looks at his co-workers, looks at Eric, and then launches into his suggestions for completing the new project.  As he talks, Eric’s jaw clenches and he takes a deep breath, preparatory to blasting Gene’s suggestions into orbit.    

Before Eric runs out of breath, Gene jumps up, knocking his chair into Dean’s elbow, causing Dean to spill his coffee. Dean leaps to his feet cursing fluently and swatting ineffectually at the coffee splotches on his slacks.

Gene bellows, “You’ve insulted me for the last time. I quit!”  He rips off his security ID badge and hurls it onto the table where it skitters into a water bottle knocking it over before bouncing up to ricochet off a light fixture.  Bodies lunge in all directions to avoid the ID badge and the water shower.   Gene stalks out the door of the conference room.

Eric bolts from the conference room straight into Jan’s office.  He glares at her, chest heaving and announces that he wants to fire Gene before the SOB can quit. 

What options are available to Jan?

  1. She can suggest that Eric and Gene settle their differences in the octagon ring like a couple of UFC fighters.   
  2. She can rejoice knowing that she’ll be free of their petty bickering because, one way or another, Gene is leaving.         
  3. She can begin the termination process and then meet with Gene to explain the consequences of a voluntary resignation. 

When co-workers can’t get along, larger companies may be able to transfer one of the feuding pair to another department.  Small employers often need to decide which employee is most valuable to the company and then terminate the other person’s employment.

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 Thief of Ideas

Another update from the Jungle…..

Helen sat in her boss’ office stoically waiting for him to wind down from his latest temper tantrum.  As she waited, she reflected on the fact that Henry wasn’t such a bad boss when he was in his right mind.

Unfortunately, Henry was frequently not in his right mind.  He ran his company as if he was the dictator of a tiny oppressed country, but few of his employees were willing to be oppressed.  They complained incessantly to Helen, the HR manager.  She was hired because Henry knew he had a problem even if he wouldn’t admit that he caused the problem.

It’s the only company Helen’s ever worked for that required her to sign an employment contract agreeing to stay for at least one year in exchange for a giant bonus.  Before the ink dried on her signature, Helen realized it would be difficult to earn that bonus. 

She has been trying to fix employee morale. Her first suggestion, a tuition reimbursement plan, caused Henry to erupt like a Yellowstone geyser.  Why should he pay for his employees to get educated? He had built the company with hard work (and unacknowledged luck) and his employees should be willing to work as hard as him. 

A day later, Henry told Helen that he wanted her to create a program to reimburse tuition because he had big expansion plans and he needed his staff to keep up. But he insisted that employees must agree to stay until they had worked sufficient hours to generate profits equivalent to the reimbursed amount. He wanted to recoup his investment.  Henry’s switcheroo left Helen feeling dazed and confused. 

That’s how it’s gone for six months.  Helen proposes an idea; Henry shoots it down. More often than not, a few days later he adopts her idea after adding his unique twist.  Helen feels exhausted trying to manage him while maintaining her own sanity.  She is beginning to wonder if the big bonus is worth putting up with Henry’s negative energy field.

What options are available to Helen?

  1. She can occasionally demonstrate her softball batting skills by wapping Henry with her laptop when he gets too obnoxious.   
  2. She can do as little as possible for the next six months, collect her bonus and then wave goodbye to Henry.     
  3. She can use his contrariness to her advantage, suggesting changes in a way that allows Henry to believe the changes are his idea.

Bullies like Henry refuse to accept any idea unless they are convinced the idea was originally their own. Handling these types of co-workers and supervisors requires emotional maturity and the strength to refuse to be bullied.

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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Heck, No, You Can’t Go!

Another update from the Jungle…..

Fred was looking forward to a brilliant career. He’s young, educated and ambitious. His ambition has already helped him overcome the handicap of his parents naming him Rolex Fredericksburg, in honor of the city where he was conceived and his father’s favorite watch brand.  He graduated from college with honors and immediately landed a great job.

Of course, his brilliant career depends on getting past the Condor-sized buzzard he works for.  Randall seemed like a nice guy when Fred interviewed with him.  Randall rambled on at length about the training opportunities offered by the organization and how the organization believes in promoting from within. He bragged about his subordinates who have gone on to amazing careers.

Fred saw his brilliant future shimmering before him and immediately accepted Randall’s job offer.  He volunteered for special projects to gain experience and applied for every training course he could find.  Randall was overjoyed to have such an ambitious young man working for him and shoveled more projects on to Fred. 

Last week, Fred found another opportunity for advancement.  Of course, it would mean a temporary reassignment for two years to a distant office, but the additional experience and skills could ignite the trajectory of Fred’s career.  This morning, Fred meets with Randall to present his proposal.

Fred says he’ll return after two years and he’ll lead workshops to train others on what he learns during the two year reassignment. Randall stares blankly at him, then at the one page proposal. No, he says, evading Fred’s eyes, he can’t sign off on the proposal. Fred is much too valuable to the team to be lost for two years. Besides, there’s no guarantee, aside from Fred’s promise, that he will return to Randall’s department.

Fred glares stonily at Randall. His honesty and integrity are being questioned by the idiot who hired him less than a year ago.  His initial impulse is to jump up, run around the corner of the desk, and knock Randall into orbit.  Instead he excuses himself and walks out.

What options are available to Fred?

  1. He can slap the taste out of Randall’s mouth and tell HR he was temporarily insane with disappointment.
  2. He can begin a surreptitious campaign to push Randall into early retirement in order to clear the hurdle in his career path.
  3. He can quit at the first opportunity and pursue a brilliant career elsewhere.

In today’s tight labor market, employers who fail or refuse to invest in the development of their employees are likely to lose their best people to competitors who are willing to make the investment.   

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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Feeling Groovy

Another update from the Jungle…..

Marsha is too young to be an original hippie, but she does a great job channeling the 1960’s with peasant blouses and baggie pants or flowing skirts.  She likes herbal remedies, some of which she cooks up in her kitchen.  Her homemade dishes are the reason Wayne, the owner, now caters the potluck lunches for the office.

During Marsha’s eastern religions phase, the office reeked of sandalwood. Marsha said it helped her maintain her inner calm in the midst of life’s chaos. Since she lives in a state of perpetual crisis, none of her co-workers were convinced of the healing properties of incense. 

During her Native American phase, she decided to purify the office by burning sweet grass. Unfortunately, the bushel basket sized wad of smoldering foliage set off the sprinklers causing water to run out of the downstairs light fixtures.  Wayne is still fighting with the landlord to save his lease and with his insurer to cover the damages to the downstairs tenant’s office.

Marsha is an excellent worker when she focuses on her job, which is why Wayne didn’t fire her after the sweet grass fiasco.  Yet, he’s regretting his generosity because Marsha’s newest obsession is CBD oils. She says the oils have cured her anxiety, her forgetfulness and her insomnia. 

Marsha is so wrapped up in talking about the wonderful qualities of CBD oils that she sometimes forgets important deadlines. Two weeks ago, Wayne had to pour several scotches into the owner of a key client during an expensive dinner to convince him not to fire Wayne’s company. 

But Wayne’s life just got worse. Marsha now sells CBD oils.  Co-workers scatter at Mach speed when they see her toting a canvas bag with her product.  Last week Wayne ordered her to stop selling her oils on company time because he needs her to do the job he’s paying her to do.  Today he came into the office unexpectedly after a lunch meeting was canceled and found Marsha conducting a QVC-type demo of her oils for co-workers too slow to escape.

What options are available to Wayne?

  1. He can join Marsha as a latter day hippie and begin acting groovy.
  2. He can assign her to a virtual office to reduce her ability to interfere with the office routine.
  3. He can find a replacement and then hire a feng shui practitioner to purify the office after Marsha leaves.

 

CBD oils lack the chemical compounds that cause an hallucinogenic effect and so are not within the scope of drug use policies.  As long as usage doesn’t interfere with an employee’s ability to do her/his job, employers should take no action.  

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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Visit us: http://www.complianceriskadvisor.com/

I’ve Got My Eye on You

 Another update from the Jungle…..

Jayne accepted the first job offer after college because she was worried about making her student loan payments. She also wanted to prove to her parents that she could take care of herself.  In hindsight, Jayne wondered if living at home was really so bad because her new employer is insane.unnamed-5

During the endless rounds of interviews employees gushed about the joys of working for the company and its founder, Wesley, but Jayne was an English minor in college and she can read subtext. She quickly picked up on the jokes about timed bathroom breaks and monitored phone calls.

One young woman sheepishly admitted that she was busted for her negative comments on her personal Facebook page.  All the employees in that interview session laughed when Jayne said that she had heard that employees couldn’t be forced to provide access to their personal social media accounts to their employers. They assured Jayne that it was no big deal.unnamed-1

Jayne was young and desperate so she took the job despite feeling uncomfortable.  At orientation, she was required to sign a confidentiality agreement that allows the company to search her personal belongings at any time to ensure that confidential information is not stolen.     

Jayne’s discomfort zoomed into paranoia after she updated her LinkedIn profile with a description of her new job.  The next day, Rhoda, the HR Director, told Jayne that she had violated the company’s social media policy which covers postings on LinkedIn.

unnamedThe policy requires employees to include a statement that Wesley is a brilliant and inspiring boss and the employee is privileged to work for and learn from him.   Rhoda also told Jayne to change her head shot because it didn’t show her as a happy, loyal employee.  Jayne asked how she could show loyalty in a photograph. Rhoda shrugged. Jayne returned to her cubicle, a blob of raging paranoia.

What options are available to Jayne?

  1. She can stroll around the office humming the lyrics of a Buffalo Springfield song, “paranoia strikes deep/into your life it will creep”.
  2. She can embrace her paranoia and flit around the office in a Star Trek uniform talking to her co-workers about Klingons.
  3. She can hide in her cubicle pretending to work while she searches for a new job.

Most employers have social media policies setting parameters on what employees canunnamed-4 post and reserving the right to monitor employees’ social media for violations of the policy.  However, the more restrictive and intrusive these policies are the more likely that they will be found to have violated federal and state 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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Exit Strategy

Another update from the Jungle…..

Millie is employed because her mom is friends with Janice, owner of the company.  Millie’s mom begged Janice to hire Millie and promised that Janice wouldn’t regret it. Janice agrees.

Millie learns of her new job when her mom tells her, that starting bright and early the following Monday, she will be working for Janice, but Millie doesn’t want a job. She wants to be an actress beloved by millions.

Late Monday morning, Millie floats into the office to find her new co-workers hard at work.  Janice takes Millie on a quick tour of the office, introducing her to everyone and explains basics, like the schedule and benefits. 

Millie perks up when she hears about the benefits. She says she needs to leave early the next day to go to an audition. She enthusiastically describes the play and how she expects this show will be her big break into professional acting.  She asks if she can give a provisional resignation now in case she has to pack for Broadway on short notice.

Recovering her composure, Janice explains that until the big break arrives, Millie may want to learn a few things about her current job.  Millie is uninterested in the job, but she soon realizes that Janice’s company can teach her plenty of new stuff that she can use to advance her career in the theatre.

A few weeks later, a couple of Millie’s co-workers discreetly approach Janice. They have been following Millie’s social media posts so that they can keep up with her acting career. They believe Millie is contacting prospects and clients of Janice’s company to invite them to support her career. 

Janice drops everything to take a quick spin through various social media platforms looking at Millie’s posts.  What she sees convinces Janice that it’s time to dump Millie at the curb.  In her haste to fire Millie, Janice forgets to protect her company’s data.

Within days, Janice realizes that Millie is still accessing her company’s systems.  Millie’s social media shows that she is using Janice’s documents and processes to build a rival business while waiting for her big break in the theatre.

What steps should Janice take next to protect her company?

  1. She can become Millie’s patron, underwriting her acting career as a way to obtain some return on her investment in Millie.
  2. She can call Millie’s mom to complain that Millie is a rotten kid.
  3. She can create a checklist of all company systems that need to be updated to terminate Millie’s access.

 Most employers have well-developed on-boarding processes, but pay less attention to their termination process.  A termination process can protect company resources from misuse by former 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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And That’s When I Snapped, Your Honor

Another update from the Jungle…

unnamed-239Sarah sat at her desk and pondered how she’d get rid of the body after she kills her youngest team member. The dumpster behind the building is a no-go; the police always dumpster dive for clues like dead bodies. There’s no swamp nearby either where she can hide the body. Sarah sighed.

Sarah didn’t plan to become homicidal. She has a tidy little business that makes money while allowing her to offer a few perks to her young staff. She knows she’s not a bad person but now thoughts of murder whirl in her brain. She wants to kill Taylor, a young millennial who is incredibly talented but has an infuriating habit of demonstrating a lack of common sense.

The problem surfaced months ago when Taylor sided with a client against Sarah in the middle of the client meeting. At the time, Sarah thought her hearing had gone wonky.

unnamed-237Sarah has always offered a lot of freedom to her staff because she believes that gets the creative juices flowing. But there’s a limit. So immediately after the client meeting, Sarah explained the importance of not disagreeing with the person who signs your paycheck, especially in front of clients. Taylor mumbled a sort of apology.

Since the disastrous client meeting, Taylor has alternated between sulky and charming. She complains about her schedule, her pay rate, and the obnoxiousness of certain clients. In short, Taylor is acting like a bratty teenager. Sarah secretly wonders if it’s cosmic payback for all the grief she gave her own mother during her teenage years.

Earlier today, Sarah allowed Taylor to attend a new client meeting because Taylor referred the prospect to Sarah. Taylor told the prospect that she was overworked for her pay rate, that Sarah’s fees were pricy for what was offered, and wrapped up by saying that she looked forward to working with the prospect. That’s when Sarah began contemplating murder.

What options are available to Sarah?

1. She can read a couple of true crime books to learn how to dispose of the body.
2. She can confine Taylor to a supporting role with no client contact so that she can salvage some of the value of Taylor’s skill set.
3. She can offer a severance package to Taylor in exchange for leaving the company.

Millennials were raised in an era when every child received a medal for participation rather than actual achievements. As a result, they may expect workplace rewards for routine performances. HR policies can’t explicitly fix such workplace assumptions but an on-boarding process and internal training can help adjust workplace expectations.

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.

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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Check Out Time

Another update from the Jungle…

unnamed-230Bettysue loves the holiday season but this year she’s frustrated. Her children are grown and have other plans so they won’t be coming home. Her husband just says, “sure, honey, whatever” when she asks his opinion. Her husband has long-since concluded that the secret to their marriage is to keep his mouth shut, stock up on suitable beverages, and hide in his man-cave until after the Super Bowl game.

So Bettysue spends her working hours plotting how best to spread holiday cheer. This year, she decided that her workplace should have a multicultural party. She’s not deterred by the fact that the workforce has little religious or cultural diversity.

Her boss, Deena, has long-since concluded that letting Bettysue decorate the office is the most profitable use of Bettysue’s time since she clearly doesn’t have her mind on work. A couple of years ago, Deena insisted that Bettysue ought to actually do her job despite the seasonal slush. The results were so awful that Deena had to meet with her mental health counselor every day in the following January. Deena now sees the holiday excesses as a cost of doing business.

unnamed-227Bettysue’s coworkers have enthusiastically joined in because decorating beats working any day of the week. Now miniature menorahs, fake Yule logs, and a plastic Christmas tree create a fire hazard in the elevator lobby. A Kwanzaa fruit broom serves as a seasonal centerpiece in the middle of the conference room table.

Multicolored tinsel adorns every doorway and most cubicle entrances. A sprig of mistletoe was tacked over the breakroom door until Arlene, the HR director, yanked it down, muttering about sexual harassment.

unnamed-233However, most of Bettysue’s time at work is devoted to buying things online. Her Amazon Prime deliveries now exceed regular business deliveries to her employer. FedEx, UPS, and the post office have offered to set up a mini hub at the building to handle the volume of deliveries.

What should the company do next year?

  1. They could have a daily party since none of their employees are working anyway.
  2. They could shut down for two weeks in late December since no one is working.
  3. They could pay a bonus to volunteers who agree to provide minimal customer service while the office shuts down during the seasonal distractions.

Many non-retail companies either shut down at the end of December for two weeks or allow most employees to use vacation/PTO during that time. Employers believe this policy improves morale and productivity in the first quarter of the next year.

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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Let’s Do It Again Next Year!

 Another update from the Jungle…

unnamed-222Craig decided he couldn’t face another office party with the same old cheese log and Ritz crackers and Dirty Santa game. So he told Helen, the HR manager, that he made an executive decision as the company owner to try a different sort of party. Craig has decided everyone will enjoy a tour of the local micro-distilleries.

Privately, he plans to use the tour to finish his holiday shopping. He can sample the local whiskeys and buy a few bottles for clients and vendors and maybe even a few family members. He ignores Helen’s objections about potential liability and begins Googling local tour bus companies. Employees cheer when they hear of his plan. For the first time ever, every employee shows up early to board the bus.

unnamed-221At the first distillery, AJ disappears. Helen eventually finds him out back of the building sharing a hand-rolled cigarette with a distillery employee. AJ says the employee is his cousin. Helen drags him back to the tour to sample the whiskey. Craig buys four bottles.

At the second distillery, Craig buys another dozen bottles. AJ and Carla buy a case a piece and stagger to the bus to stash their purchases. At the third tour stop, everyone heads straight to the tasting room, ignoring the tour guide. AJ, Carla, and Craig huddle close to the server begging for seconds. Craig buys another case. The bus storage areas are filling up.

unnamed-223Helen makes an executive decision to cancel the remainder of the tour. She herds everyone back to the bus. Lenny is singing obscene sea shanties. Helen makes a mental note to ask IT to audit his internet activity so she can find out what Lenny’s really been doing at work. Helen spends the return trip calling spouses, Uber and Lyft to arrange rides for everyone.  

The bus finally rocks to a halt in the office parking lot, spilling Lenny down the aisle, still singing. AJ staggers up the aisle cradling a half-empty bottle where he misjudges the last step and sprawls on the ground. He doesn’t spill a drop.

What should Helen do next?

  1. She can blackmail Craig to give her a couple bottles of whiskey in exchange for ensuring their insurance carrier never hears of this party.
  2. She can research what it would cost to have the holiday party in Las Vegas next year.
  3. She can suggest a drink limit for next year’s party.

Office parties come with risks, including worker injuries and host liability for alcohol-related accidents. As with so many risks in life, moderation and common sense are the best guides.

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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