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).

A Flawed Hero

Welcome to the first installment of my new history blog. This blog, which will range over centuries and continents, looks at people and events that fascinate me. I’m beginning with a 20th-century soldier who was also a lawyer.

Blair Mayne photo

© IWM

Robert Blair “Paddy” Mayne was born in 1915 in Northern Ireland. In the late 1930’s, he was a professional rugby player, legendary for his ferocity on and off the playing field. He would often sneak out of the team’s hotel to go drinking. The night usually ended in a brawl with other patrons of the pub.

Mayne might be remembered only as the bad boy of Irish rugby if not for World War II. He immediately enlisted in the Royal Ulster Rifles, a conventional military unit. Not surprisingly, he didn’t fit in well. Fortunately for Mayne, the Special Air Service (SAS) was created in 1941 and he immediately transferred to it.

The SAS was the brainchild of David Stirling, another misfit serving in a conventional British unit. His idea was to take a small mobile force behind enemy lines in the North African desert to attack enemy supply lines and Luftwaffe airfields. His idea was accepted because in 1941 the British were losing more often than winning.

51HMfH-930L._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_SAS recruits were trained as paratroopers. They did most of their training on the ground due to a lack of aircraft for training missions. How do you train a paratrooper without jumping out of an airplane? Paddy Mayne is credited with the solution: recruits jumped out of a jeep or truck moving at 30 mph while wearing full-kit (120 pounds).

After training, SAS personnel disappeared into the desert to begin attacking German airfields. A typical attack began with a few men infiltrating the enemy airfield and planting explosives on the planes. In the next phase of the attack, a larger unit would drive on to the airfield in jeeps to strafe the enemy troops responding to the bombs.

2484339_orig_Paddy Mayne's medals

© IWM

When not in combat, Mayne continued his drinking and brawling habits. His insubordinate, hard-living behavior is believed to be the reason he was never awarded the Victoria Cross (the British equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor). After the war, he returned to his career as a solicitor.

Paddy Mayne is a fascinating man because of his contradictions. He was almost superhumanly brave in combat. But he never overcame the demons that triggered his drinking and brawling. He died in a road accident at the age of 40.

His exploits with the SAS are covered in Rogue Heroes (seen above) by Ben Macintyre (2016).

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.

Interested in reading more highlights from history like this one? I’m building a whole new blog for them! It’s coming soon, but in the meantime, be sure to sign up to receive emails with each new blog. Sign up here!

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Who Will Be the Lucky Winner?

Another update from the Jungle…

The anticipation is killing everyone in the office—except Kate. Two months ago, her boss Steve announced he was finally retiring (and about time, according to some co-workers). Now, several co-workers are desperately campaigning for his job.

unnamed-59Kate doesn’t want the job. She has years of supervisory experience, but she’s no longer interested in riding herd on a bunch of people who are used to doing whatever they want. She still intends to enjoy the show as others compete to replace Steve; corporate succession fights are as ferocious as mixed martial arts fights, only with fewer rules.

Matt shows up every day in neatly pressed slacks and a shirt, instead of his usual t-shirt and jeans. He’s even traded in his dirty sneakers for a less battered pair of loafers. He is sucking up to the Board of Directors with gift cards, lunch dates and leather-bound notebooks extolling his brilliance.

Matt doesn’t know that Walter anonymously forwarded to every board member a video from an old Christmas party of Matt gyrating around the dance floor modeling various women’s garments. Walter had saved a copy for an emergency just like this. Walter doesn’t want the job; he just doesn’t want Matt to get the job.

unnamed-61Meanwhile, Kim bustles around clutching her iPad with a thoughtful frown. She’s trying to look authoritative, which isn’t easy to pull off when you’re barely five feet tall and weigh less than a fully-grown German shepherd. She proclaims to everyone that it’s time a woman was given the job.

Her pitch spooks the board chair into believing she’s a militant feminist out to destroy older white men such as himself.

unnamed-64Every morning, Kate braces for the stream of excited co-workers who stop by to tell her their theories on who should replace Steve. Their gossip updates Kate on the shifting alliances among her co-workers.

How should Kate respond to all the gossiping?

  • She can pack a sandwich and a six-pack to enjoy while she watches her co-workers destroy each other.
  • She can take notes so that she has more material for the bodice-ripper novel she hopes will make her rich and famous.
  • She can remain the confidante of her co-workers, functioning as a safety valve for the emotional rollercoaster that happens during succession battles.

unnamed-62In the actual situation, an outsider was hired to replace “Steve” leading to an exodus of disappointed internal applicants, and a new round of alliances to win favor with the new guy.  Office politics will remain a standard workplace feature as long as human nature remains the same.

HR can mitigate the damage caused by office politicking by encouraging senior management to set clear criteria on the qualifications and process for hiring.

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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Freedom from Rules

Another update from the Jungle…

unnamed-47Linda opened her business one year ago when she was fed up with all the petty rules and employee bickering at her last job. Her friends Julie and Rhonda joined her. They agreed that their new business would be a happy place where workers were free to be creative and enjoy coming to work. That was the last time they agreed on anything.

Their infectious optimism enticed customers to try their products. But soon, they were overwhelmed with customers but lacked the organizational structure to keep up. The storefront was shambles, and their workshop was littered with half-finished orders.

After the usual 90-hour week, Rhonda skipped a day to catch up on her sleep. Since she neglected to tell the others, their shop was closed when a customer arrived to pick up her order. When Linda returned to the office after making a delivery, the fuming customer taught her a few new words. As soon as the offended customer left, Linda left a scathing voicemail on Rhonda’s phone, using some of the words she had just learned from the customer.

unnamed-45Two hours later, Rhonda galloped into the office. She screamed at Linda that she had been working non-stop for months and couldn’t take it anymore. She continued, saying she wished she had never left her old job just to work with such an ungrateful witch. Julie bounced out of the workshop to say that Linda’s rotten inability to set priorities was the cause of their problems.

Then Julie noticed that one of the customers was recording their fight with her cell phone. Julie chased the customer around the store trying to grab her phone. The customer fled out the door with Julie still chasing her. Rhonda collapsed onto the floor sobbing hysterically.

When Julie returned, the store was empty of customers. Linda announced that she was tired of not knowing where the other two were or what they were doing.

What options are available to Linda?

  • She can close the business and go live in a hut in the Rocky Mountains to get in touch with her feelings.
  • She can ditch her friends and start over with her worst enemy because she’d at least know what she would be getting into.
  • She can adopt some basic HR policies to ensure the business can grow without imploding.

Most new business owners want to avoid written rules because they dislike bureaucratic boondoggles. They quickly learn that there is a huge difference between bogging down in bureaucratic rules and creating a framework of HR rules to allow the business to grow effectively.

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 Not-So-Little Prince

Another update from the Jungle…

unnamed-36Vicky is the HR person for her company because her business partners are guys who would rather face a starving lion bare-handed than deal with employees. Lately, she’s been seesawing between the urge to kill one of the younger workers or to knock his block off.

Gus is a 30-something millennial who thinks he is a prince who can set his own rules. So Gus ignores the rule that says he should show up on time to work everyday. He also ignores the one that says he should tell his supervisor if he leaves the office during the workday.

Vicky learns that Gus has continued to ignore her verbal warnings when she receives a phone call from Frank, the company founder. Frank is a brilliant man, but he refuses to learn how to use an electronic calendar, his email account, or the internet. When Frank started his career, people actually talked to each other. He sees no reason to change his unnamed-34work habits now.

Frank asks if she declared a work holiday without telling him because he’s alone in the office and needs help with the copier. Vicky is flummoxed. She runs through the list of all twenty employees while Frank breathes heavily down the phone line. Gus is missing.

The next day, Vicky calls Gus to her office. Gus arrives twenty minutes late and slouches into a chair. He takes a big gulp of his energy drink, bored and disinterested, and demands an explanation for being dragged away from his work.

unnamed-35Vicky stares at him through a red haze. The last time a young male addressed her in such a surly tone, he got whapped up-side the head and lost his driving privileges for a month. But her son was sixteen at the time, not a 30-something! With superhuman strength, Vicky restrains herself.

She explains to the oblivious Gus that their small staff requires collaboration, and that means notifying others when he leaves the office. Gus drains his energy drink and tosses the container in the trash, splashing Vicky’s foot. He suggests that Frank should be given an iPad with everyone’s calendar loaded on it. Then he would know where all his staff is at any time. Vicky feels the red haze gathering again.

unnamed-37What options are available to Vicky?

  • She can congratulate herself on her self-restraint for letting Gus live.
  • She can look around for a frenemy who can be conned into hiring Gus.
  • She can give Gus a final warning but begin planning to replace him.

In the actual situation, the millennial was given another chance to improve. He is apparently still unaware of how close he is to termination for cause.

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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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.

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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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