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).

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 because she’s cursing herself mentally for not hiding from Fred who irritates her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Whose Side Are You On?

Another update from the Jungle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What options are available to June?

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

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

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

Until next week,

—Norma

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Breakroom Bores

Another update from the Jungle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

What options are available to Anna?

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

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

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

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Wanna Bet?

Another update from the Jungle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What options are available to Ellen?

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

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

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

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What Did You Do This Weekend?

Another update from the Jungle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s going to be a long, hot summer.

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

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I’ve Got A Plan

Another update from the Jungle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

What options are available to Dave?

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

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

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

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He’s Not Fitting In

Another update from the Jungle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

What options are available to Sue?

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

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

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

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Why Was I So Nice To The Punk?

Another update from the Jungle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What options are available to Janice?

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

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

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

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That Should Have Been My Promotion

Another update from the Jungle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What options are available to Abigail?

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

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

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

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Now What?

Another update from the Jungle…

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

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

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

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

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

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

What should Michelle do next?

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

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

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

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