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).

Falling to Pieces

Another update from the Jungle…

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Patsy, named for Patsy Cline, has a pretty good singing voice. She moved to Nashville with visions of international fame dancing through the lyrics in her head. Once there, she took the first job she could find while seeking out a record deal.

She never landed that record deal, and her last three employment gigs were as abbreviated as her open mic gigs. But her luck is about to change. She just got a job with a regional company that is distantly connected to the music business. Sure, it involves doing boring stuff that she did at several of her previous jobs, but she enters the new employer’s offices with a smile on her face and a spring in her step!

After a day with HR, filling out paperwork and learning about all the things that can get her fired, Patsy’s enthusiasm wavers. But she arrives early the next day determined to do well. The HR rep shows her where the bathroom is located and guides to her a rabbit-hutch sized cubicle. Then the HR rep abandons her to go deal with a crisis.

rawpixel-718387-unsplashPatsy leans around the cubicle corner to ask Doris for a little assistance. Doris is on the phone. Rebecca, on her other side, clues Patsy in to a few basic procedures, such as which database takes which customer information. Patsy realizes from prior experiences that she’s just gone through “orientation” and gets to work.

In the first week, almost all her work is rejected for a variety of reasons. Patsy tries to explain to co-workers this was the way things were done at her last job. Her supervisor says in front of co-workers that she doesn’t care how the company’s main competitor does business.

Before her first paycheck, Patsy is demoralized. As her probationary period ends, the HR rep tells Patsy that she’s being dropped because she “just doesn’t get it” and her co-workers think she’s whiny.

What should Patsy do next?

  1. drew-beamer-457833-unsplashShe can reach across the desk and slap the HR rep for not ensuring she received proper training.
  2. She can leave quietly and bad-mouth the company on her Facebook page.
  3. She can find a friend like Merle Haggard’s “Leonard” to help her until her singing career takes off.

The above scenario is a composite of many employers who expect to find ideal employees without investing in training. It’s a doomed process, one similar to hoping you’ll meet your life’s soulmate in a 2nd Avenue bar on Saturday night.

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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Hands Off!

 Another update from the Jungle…

unnamed-151Cecily is a senior level executive at her company. Of course, she has paid a price while clawing her way to the top; her first husband left their marriage in exchange for a sizable chunk of Cecily’s retirement account.

Cecily decided to lose a few other things after her divorce. She shed twenty pounds and hired a personal trainer named Rory. Soon they were whipping up more than weight training. The more buff Cecily felt, the more she doted on Rory.

unnamed-152She reasoned that if men could have trophy wives, then she could have a trophy husband. Cecily was overjoyed that Rory accepted her marriage proposal. Of course, marriage to a much younger man comes with a price too. Cecily spends every spare minute at the gym trying to keep her girlish figure so that she remains physically attractive to Rory.

Her workout schedule leaves her irritable. She’s also insanely jealous of Rory. All these symptoms are duly noted by Danielle, who has been scheming to replace Cecily since joining the company. Danielle flirts with Rory every time he visits the office.  

Yesterday, Rory stopped by the office to drop off Cecily’s cell phone and reading glasses she had left at home. As he walked away from Cecily’s office, Danielle suddenly popped up at his elbow taking deep breaths to show off her best feature.

unnamed-147Cecily came out of her office to confirm she would be able to have a romantic dinner with Rory that evening. She saw Danielle oozing around Rory, white teeth flashing in a seductive smile. With a jealous shriek, Cecily leaped for Danielle’s throat. The women crashed against the wall and rolled into the elevator lobby, a writhing mass of biting, kicking and hair pulling.

The women were pried apart by Rory with a little help from Walter. Walter is the owner and he’s flabbergasted to see his Chief Human Resources Officer rolling around the lobby floor with one of the rising young executives. He needs to do something fast.

unnamed-154What are Walter’s options?

  1. He can encourage Cecily to join the women’s division of the ultimate fighter competitions.
  2. He can fire Cecily and Danielle for setting such an atrocious example while violating dozens of HR policies.
  3. He can give them a second chance in recognition of the cost of replacing them but require them to undergo counseling.

In the actual situation, the HR officer did not fight the provocative co-worker but she limited her husband’s visits to the office. HR employees who violate HR policies should be treated the same as other employees when deciding on disciplinary 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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Trash Can Troubles

Another update from the Jungle…

unnamed-106Gwen, the HR manager, arrives at work in a really bad mood. She’s running twenty minutes late after sitting in traffic on the giant parking lot otherwise laughingly referred to as an interstate highway.

By the time she walks in the door at work, she’s seriously thinking of slugging the first person who gets on her nerves. She faces a gauntlet of raised eyebrows as people look at their watches. Only Ellen is stupid enough to make a sarcastic crack about Gwen’s tardiness.

Gwen dumps her purse, her carry-all, and keys on her desk and heads for the coffee pot. Her day slides downhill again. Someone set the empty coffee pot on the burner without starting a new pot brewing. As she fills the coffee maker, she decides it’s time that the owner, Tim, joins the modern era. She will buy a single cup coffee maker with the company credit card and tell Tim the purchase is for HR supplies.

alexa-mazzarello-457546-unsplashGwen mellows slightly after she has a cup of coffee. Back at her desk, she cranks up her laptop and begins reading her emails. The first one is from Laurie, whining again about needing a window view as an accommodation for her unspecified medical condition. Gwen sighs. The company works from a converted warehouse. No one has a window view, not even Tim. Gwen marks Laurie’s email for later in the day and opens the next email.

unnamed-16It involves the Case of the Traveling Trash Can. For weeks, every female employee has been fixated on the mystery of the moving bathroom trash can. The consensus is that the trashcan should be set close to the toilet. But someone is moving the can closer to the sink.

The trash can turmoil is beginning to put a serious dent in productivity as the women eye each other suspiciously. Last week, Gwen found Anita loitering near the bathroom, trying to spot the evildoer moving the trashcan. Gwen is exasperated with all of them and the trash can.

What are Gwen’s options?

  1. unnamed-108She can nail the trashcan to the floor with a 10-penny nail so that it never moves again.
  2. She can view the whole mystery as beneath the dignity of an HR manager’s job.
  3. She can buy a second trash can for the women’s bathroom so that only the cleanup crew is inconvenienced by having to empty an extra trash can.

In the actual situation, Gwen bought a second trash can for the bathroom. When employment laws and company policies can’t fix an HR problem, a little old-fashioned common sense will get the job done.

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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Employee of The Month

Another update from the jungle…

Ella returned to work after the Labor Day holiday smugly satisfied that her diabolical plan to help her co-workers was on track. As the HR manager, she had always supported management decisions no matter how cuckoo. But her loyalty to the company shriveled with the return of Frank.

unnamed-87Frank was brought out of retirement to fix the most troubled division of the company. He told Ella and his subordinates that he had six months to improve the bottom line. His grim expression inspired fear and loathing among his subordinates. Sure enough, within a week, Ella was processing termination paperwork so fast her laptop crashed from overuse.

Pam was fired for insubordination which was easy to believe because she argued constantly. Her last manager claimed Pam would argue about whether the sun rose in the east. Ted was fired for chronically showing up late.

unnamed-89Then Frank went gunning for Anna for incompetence even though her last performance review said she practically walked on water. He accused April of winking sarcastically during a staff meeting. When Ella pointed out the lack of documentation or witnesses to back up these reasons, Frank replied that HR managers can be fired for insubordination just like any other employee.

unnamed-86That’s when Ella conceived her fiendishly clever plan. She began meeting surreptitiously with selected employees in Frank’s division to confirm their suspicions that Frank was out to get them. She promised to help them by editing their resumes and coaching them on their interviewing skills. (She keeps up with the latest HR industry trends by attending lots of SHRM seminars.)

Before long, she was processing resignations as Frank’s subordinates bailed out for greener pastures. She asked tech for a new laptop.

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Now she’s sitting in her office editing another resume when Frank and his boss barge in to accuse her of disloyalty to the company. Ella realizes that some fink must have spilled the beans about her activities.

How should Ella respond?

1. She can reply that as the HR manager and a female over 40, she’d welcome the opportunity to talk to the EEOC about any threats to her job.

2. She can thank them for stopping by as she wants to give them her resignation so that she can open a job placement consulting business.

3. She can point out that Frank’s division will soon be the most profitable in the company as employees leave voluntarily.

In the actual situation, Ella was a supervisor who achieved 100% turnover as her subordinates moved on to other jobs where they felt more valued as employees.

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That’s So Yesterday!

 Another update from the Jungle…

Robyn is the newest employee and she’s super excited about her new job. She was relieved to get a job offer because she was afraid she had blown the interview by exclaiming “Awesome!” too often. More importantly, her student loan grace period was expiring.

unnamed-74Of course, there is a downside to being the only millennial in the office. The first time she mentioned Instagram, an absolutely ancient co-worker, Clay, reminisced about his Kodak Instamatic camera. They stared blankly at each other across a technical gap much wider than the difference in their ages.

When Clay realized that Robyn wouldn’t burst out laughing, as his grandchildren often do, he began pelting her with questions. A crowd gathered as Robyn gave him a tutorial on the social media apps his grandchildren talk about. Finally, Clay leaned back in his seat, sighed, and admitted he was glad that he’d soon be old enough to retire and not worry about all this tech stuff.

unnamed-72Arlene, in the next-door cubicle, confided that she is addicted to Facebook. Robyn bottled up her giggles, almost bursting an eardrum, because her mother taught her to be polite to her elders. Robyn rarely checks Facebook anymore; it’s so yesterday.

Word has spread that Robyn can fix things. Every day, she fixes the digital display of someone’s smartphone. At least once a week, Clay asks her to fix his laptop. Clay never learned to type and he has thick fingers. Consequently, he often hits the wrong key. After the third or fourth “damn,” he bangs away at the keyboard until the laptop freezes up. That’s when he yells over the cubicle wall to Robyn.

unnamed-69Robyn has technical challenges too. She is embarrassed by the company’s outdated website and is desperate to upgrade it before her friends notice. She’s also volunteered to do daily social media posts after realizing the company does zero internet-based marketing. The HR manager knows that Robyn is getting frustrated and is desperate to keep her with the company.

How can the HR manager help Robyn?

  1. She can ensure that she has first dibs on Robyn’s technical help because she also has trouble with her smart phone apps.
  2. She can encourage Robyn to develop a side business as a social media consultant.
  3. She can urge the company owner to create a new digital marketing position for Robyn which will also help the company’s bottom line.  

The above scenario represents countless workplaces these days as millennials begin exerting their influence. HR can help integrate millennials by updating job descriptions to reflect the new technical skills needed in the workplace and by including them in succession planning.

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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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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Join the HR Compliance Jungle today. Click here!

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