Author: Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer's size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

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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