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).

She’s So Yesterday

Another update from the Jungle….

Shelly owns a small company that is growing rapidly. She’s hired four new employees in the past year, including Anna and Zach.  They are ambitious and full of energy.  Zach is now Shelly’s right hand helper, replacing Shelly’s former right hand, Claudia.

Claudia was the first employee Shelly hired. She’s not ambitious or energetic; she moves at a pace akin to a sloth needing a nap.  But in many ways, Claudia is responsible for Shelly’s success because she did all the tedious, time-consuming administrative work while Shelly was busy beating the bushes looking for clients.  Best of all, Claudia was willing to be flexible about her pay when cash flow nose-dived.

Unfortunately, what worked back then isn’t working now.  Last week Claudia spent hours obsessing over a simple task until Anna told her to shut up because she (Anna) would handle it. Five minutes later, Anna was done and stomped out of the office in search of another double espresso.  Shelly emerged from a client meeting to find Claudia waiting to complain about Anna’s rudeness. 

Claudia also feels threatened by Zach who is now making decisions that she and Shelly used to make together.  Claudia shuffles around with a woebegone smile, feeling unappreciated and scared that she’ll be replaced.   The more she worries about being replaced, the more she gums up everything.

Shelly feels guilty because she knows what she owes to Claudia, but she also sees Claudia’s limitations. Claudia’s sluggardly pace is causing permanent grumpiness.  Zach and Anna are in favor of tossing Claudia out on her ear.  Shelly is also growing tired of the drama.  She no longer has time to spend hours helping Claudia agonize over every decision or listening to her complain about Zach and Anna.

Shelly’s been struggling for months to figure out what to do about Claudia.  What are her options?

  1. She can promise Claudia a huge severance package as an enticement to leave. 
  2. She can hire an HR manager and delegate responsibility to listen to whiny employees, like Claudia. After all, why else hire an HR manager?
  3. She can create a new role for Claudia in recognition of her contribution to the success of the company, but that shunts her aside so that she doesn’t slow down co-workers.

Different skill sets are needed at different times in the development of a company.  Small business owners often struggle with accepting that early hires may no longer have the necessary skills and need to be transitioned into new roles or moved out the door.  Having clearly defined roles and tasks makes it easier to complete these types of transitions.

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 Exactly Are You?

Another update from the Jungle….

Otis feels a bit frazzled lately.  His lawn care business has to speed up preparations for the busy summer season even though it’s only February.  A mild winter fooled Mother Nature into starting spring much too early.  Now his customers look at their scruffy flower beds and patchy lawns and fear being lawn-shamed by the neighbors. Otis’ phone is ringing non-stop.     

Otis isn’t ready for the upsurge in business. His year-round employees, Jose, Angel and Miguel, can’t handle all the appointments. Between customer calls, Otis is speed-dialing his usual summer helpers.  His summer crew is a motley bunch, including college students, a massage therapist and a former professional soccer player with more tattoos than a career felon.

Otis always treated his summer workers as independent contractors or 1099 workers. As 1099’s, these workers are self-employed and responsible for all employment taxes.  Many of his summer workers prefer this arrangement because they are running businesses of their own and besides, they like getting more money now.

Now as Otis begins calling his summer helpers, he hits an unexpected snag with Matt.  Matt is the son of a friend, originally hired as a favor for Matt’s dad.  Matt doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up so he is an average worker.   He livens up the place, though, practicing his Spanish with Miguel, flirting with the massage therapist despite her obvious lack of interest, and staging drag races with the mowers. 

But Matt is lukewarm when Otis calls about returning for another summer.  Matt says that he met a girl in a bar who is a pre-law student and she said Otis is breaking the law by not paying him as an employee.  Matt says that he wants to be treated as an employee because he wants overtime pay, health benefits and lots of paid leave.    

What options are available to Otis?

  1. He can let Matt ferment like the compost heap behind the equipment shed and move to the next name on the summer hire list.
  2. He can ignore the issue on the grounds that his company is too small to be noticed by the IRS or the state’s labor department.
  3. He can rummage through the IRS website looking for information on how to tell the difference between a W-2 and a 1099 worker which will take up time that he doesn’t really have at the moment. 

There is no bright line test dividing 1099 from W-2 workers; it depends on the total circumstances. Basically, the more control a company has over how and when the work is done, the more likely the worker is a W-2 employee.

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

There’s Got to Be a Better Way

Another update from the Jungle….

Bentley is the operations manager for his company.   He’s also the HR manager thanks to his boss.  Duncan owns the company, but he hates dealing with messy employee problems.  He bribed Bentley with a pay raise when he offloaded the employee problems on Bentley.

Since that fateful day, Bentley has done his best.  At first, HR was fairly easy despite Bentley’s complete ignorance of employment laws.  He fired Tim, a sticky-fingered employee who bragged to a co-worker about padding his expense account with fake receipts.   Firing Cindy for showing up at 9:30 am whenever Bentley and Duncan had morning meetings was also easy.  One of Cindy’s co-workers hated her guts for reasons Bentley didn’t ask and was happy to rat her out for lying on her timesheet. 

However, Bentley began to dread handling HR problems around the time he learned of the Sam, Wendy and Sue love triangle.  Wendy was a department supervisor who began having an affair with Sam, who was already dallying with Sue.  In a workforce of 35 people, it’s impossible to hide such a torrid soap opera.

Bentley learned of it the day he heard an awful screech and ran to the common area to find Wendy and Sue rolling around on the floor biting and clawing.  Bentley acquired a scratched cheek and a dented shin before he dragged them apart.  But trying to sort out the HR repercussions made Bentley realize he needed help.

Bentley asked about HR help during a meeting with their insurance agent. Their agent offered Bentley access to an online HR library provided free by the agency.  Bentley quickly learned that “free” access was costing him hours a week clicking through pages of regulations and guidance.  He had no idea which of them applied to a company of his size.

Bentley would love to off-load the HR responsibilities, but the only person offering to help is Brenda.  Bentley thinks she’s an insinuating weasel who likes power and he’ll be eternally damned before he lets Brenda get her sticky mitts on HR.  

What options does Bentley have?

  1. He can continue going with his “gut” and hope he’s doing the right thing. 
  2. He can ask his best friend who works for a giant corporation how they handle employee issues.    
  3. He can convince Duncan that they need a professional HR person who can help Bentley figure out what he needs to do as the HR manager. 

Small companies face a conundrum. They need a knowledgeable, trained HR person long before they can justify the payroll cost of adding an employee dedicated to HR.  Fortunately, small employers have many options for HR assistance available at varying price points.

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’m Going Crazy!

Sondra is good at starting businesses because she knows how to convince people to part with their money.  Her latest venture almost doubled in size during the first year.  But every spare dime went back into the business often leaving her a bit short when it was time to fund the payroll account.

Being short on payday wasn’t a problem with her first hire, her sister Lena.  Younger sisters can be bullied for the sake of family solidarity, but Sondra’s best friend, Marla, demanded payment on time every week.  Marla’s now her ex-BFF and is blocked on Sondra’s personal and business social media sites.

After the bruising fights with Marla, Sondra decided to hire people she didn’t like.  At least when they screwed her, Sondra was prepared to be disappointed.  This clever talent acquisition plan worked until Sondra opened a second retail location.

With two retail locations and a constantly expanding line of products, Sondra can’t keep up with the details.  It seems that the more she sells, the less money she has in the bank. Adding a second store also quadrupled her headaches because she now bounces between the two locations without accomplishing much.

She is constantly bombarded with employee requests for time off from work.  A few employees think that their work schedules are advisories allowing them to come and go as they please.  She’d like to fire the laggards but that would mean the store lacks enough staff to stay open.  Besides, she needs to revise the job descriptions before reposting the jobs in hopes that the next batch of employees has the qualifications she wants.

Sondra’s been delaying taking action because she hates administrative tasks. But she also knows her business is beginning to implode because she’s stuck making up the rules as she goes. 

What are some options for Sondra to regain control of her life and business?

  1. She can sell the business to a competitor and become a management consultant telling other entrepreneurs how they can be successful like her.
  2. She can create an employee handbook that explains time and attendance and leave policies (among many other things) so that employees don’t waste her time asking her about these issues.
  3. She can set aside time each week to do a high level review of what her business needs so that it can grow successfully.

Many small business owners become bogged down in the details of running their business and fail to grow smoothly.  A critical point of failure happens when a business lacks an effective process for hiring and retaining employees.

Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor helps small businesses with up to 50 employees to create HR policies that work for the company and its employees.  Then we integrate the HR policies into the company-wide compliance program for a more seamless, lower risk operation. For more information, contact us at info@complianceriskadvisor.com.

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Holiday Horrors Past

Another update from the Jungle…..

It’s December and Adele is planning the company’s holiday party again. It’s one of her least favorite duties in the whole year.  The company is a manufacturer.  During the Great Recession, the company clawed its way back to profitability by finding new markets and replacing a quarter of the employees with industrial robots.

The original workforce consisted of individuals who abandoned school at the earliest opportunity and who disappear for a week each year when hunting season opens. They remain skeptical of the company’s promise to not replace them with a robot. Supplementing this group is a handful of IT geeks who program the computerized robots.  Adele long ago decided that it is impossible to plan a holiday party to suit both groups.

When Adele joined the company, she discovered that the company’s owner, Emmitt, stocked the break room with gallons of cheap booze and handed out gift cards for a turkey or ham at the local chain grocery store. Adele spent years trying to improve the quality of the holiday party only to see it all go horribly wrong two years ago.  She still shudders when she remembers.

Hearing strange noises from the plant manager’s office, she and Emmitt went to investigate. Opening the door, they found the plant manager and Emmitt’s wife enjoying a much more private party.  Emmitt leaped into the room, clearly intent on murdering someone. Adele tripped him, allowing the plant manager to grab his pants and run for his life. Emmitt’s wife hid behind the desk, shrieking hysterically.

Adele is still in therapy hoping to un-see what she saw. Emmitt is now divorced, a teetotaler, and has gotten religion. Last year, there was no booze and everyone was forced to watch a performance by Emmitt’s daughter’s mime troupe.  Adele circulated through the room discreetly urging co-workers to remember that one of the teen-aged mimes was closely related to the guy signing their weekly paycheck.

What are some options available to Adele this year?

  1. She can give up on the holiday party and suggest they give a paid day off to everyone so they can party on their own.     
  2. She can make reservations at a local entertainment facility for workers and their families and set a drinks limit.       
  3. She can use all her accrued leave to take a long sea voyage until January.

Companies are becoming more creative with their holiday activities, opting for entertainment packages like laser tag or themed parties and volunteering at local non-profits.  Whatever your company does, enjoy the holiday season. 

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

Bacon, Bags and Bayou

Another update from the Jungle…..

Gwen became the temporary manager of Wade’s department when he failed to return from a business conference in New Orleans.  While reviewing the expense reports submitted by several of Wade’s subordinates who also attended the seminar she noticed some odd charges on their company credit cards.

David bought industrial sized plastic trash bags with his company card.  He told Gwen that he hosted a party in his hotel room that got out of hand and he didn’t want to burden the housekeeping staff with the cleanup.  Tiffany said she bought a dozen bottles of household cleaners so that she could help David clean his room.

Jillian claimed that she needed to buy twenty rolls of duct tape to mail her seminar materials home, but Gwen didn’t see any postage charges. Ethan said he bought ten pounds of bacon because he often feels hungry in the middle of the night.  He declined to explain how he cooked bacon in his hotel room.

David, Jillian, Tiffany, and Ethan also racked up substantial charges for a boat ride into the bayou. They told Gwen they chartered a boat tour as a reward for putting up with Wacko Wade at the conference.  Then they regaled Gwen with the saga of Wade’s behavior at the conference.

During the opening segment of the conference, Wade raised his hand just before a scheduled break to ask a series of questions based on a garbled hypothetical.  By the time the presenter had responded, the entire break time was gone. That meant the next presentation started late, which also meant delaying lunch.

At the end of the day, Wade was at it again, asking another series of convoluted questions. Shouts of rage echoed around the room and people twisted in their seats trying to locate the idiot holding up their chance to get sloshed in the French Quarter.  The presenter was also annoyed because he wanted to ditch his suit and tie. He cut off Wade in mid-question.

By the second day of the conference, audible death threats floated in the air near Wade.  His subordinates skipped lunch to huddle in Ethan’s room, evolving a diabolically clever plan.  They began communicating via Instagram messages at Tiffany’s suggestion since these messages aren’t saved in a database.    

Of course, they didn’t tell Gwen about their diabolically clever plot; only about Wade’s obnoxious behavior.  As she stared at their innocent expressions, Gwen sensed that she might be missing something.  She wondered, “Is it worth it to ask HR to begin an internal investigation”?

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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Halloween Horror

Another update from the Jungle…..

Louise strolled into the office on Thursday morning humming quietly to herself.   She was looking forward to seeing the Halloween costumes that her team would wear.   She tried to imagine how some of them would top their everyday attire.

Jake dresses in black and changes his hair color  each month.   His current orange mop makes him look like a black post with a pumpkin stuck on top.  Bill wears ratty old clothes that even Goodwill would throw in the rag pile. 

Her new sales manager, Emma, is a self-identified witch who dresses in gauzy flowing outfits.   Since taking over sales, revenue is up, customer complaints are down, and there are no past due accounts.  Louise has heard rumors that the owners of slow paying clients develop extremely painful rashes, but she’s not asking any questions.   

The office was quiet when Louise arrived.  As she walked past Jake’s work area, a sticky note caught her eye. The note said, “Pay up by Friday or the pig gets it!”  Louise stared at the note, aghast. Was one of her employee’s being blackmailed?

She needed to fortify herself with a double espresso from the coffee shop next door.  As she waited to be served she remembered that she hadn’t locked the office door.  So she hurried back to the office.

As she walked through the door, she heard Emma sobbing noisily and saw her cradling a box.  Emma thrust the box at Louise, tearfully babbling about a murder with poison. Louise looked in the box.  It was a dead rat.  “Eek”, squealed Louise falling back a pace. 

Louise inched away from Emma until she could turn and dash to her office.  She needed more than a double espresso.  She needed a slug of the single malt whiskey left over from a client event while she thought about what she had seen.  Had one of Emma’s potions gone hideously wrong?  Was another witch using dark arts against Emma?   Would company sales nosedive while Emma mourned a dead rat?

That was the start of an internal investigation which left Louise dazed at how much happened in her company without her knowing about it.    Jake and Bill had a lucrative side business playing poker.  At a recent poker night hosted by Jake, Bill stole a stuffed pig sitting next to Jake’s computer.  After a series of Instagram posts showing the stuffed pig suspended over a Crockpot of steaming liquids, Bill left the ransom note at Jake’s desk.

The investigation also revealed that the dead rat was Emma’s beloved Patches. Emma had brought her dead rat to work while she waited for her vet’s office to open. The necropsy (animal autopsy) revealed that Patches died due to a weak heart; he hadn’t been murdered with poison. 

Sometimes HR isn’t as scary as it seems at first glance.  Happy Halloween!

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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Lunch with Leeann

Another update from the Jungle…..

Brenda made a hideous mistake today.  She agreed to have lunch with Laura, forgetting that Laura would invite Leeann.   

Leeann is a controller.  She isn’t bossy or pushy, but somehow everything moves at her pace. She shows up late for work most days, usually with a long explanation. The cat got sick. The dog got loose and she had to search the neighborhood for him.  The kids were sick.   Instead of telling her to get her lazy butt out of bed an hour earlier each workday, their idiot boss just shrugs.

Today, as usual, Leeann wandered around the office chatting about how much work she had to do.  Five minutes before they were to leave for lunch, Leeann remembered that she needed to return an important phone call.  It will only take a minute, Leeann assured them. Fifteen minutes later, Leeann was finally ready to go after a stop at the restroom. 

As they finally headed out the door, Leeann offered to drive because she needed to run an errand on the way back from lunch.  She dug into her giant, squishy purse for several minutes trying to find her car keys.  Brenda slid into the back seat feeling light-headed from rage, despair and hunger.

Leeann stared out the windshield and sighed. Then she dug through the console for her sunglasses. After another sigh and a seat adjustment, she finally backed out of the parking space.  Leeann paused at the exit to debate with Laura about where to go for lunch. 

Brenda lost patience and said loudly from the back seat, “Just pick one. I’m starving”.  Brenda’s stomach was growling so loud that the noise was audible to a passing pedestrian. 

After lunch, the trip back to the office detoured to a drugstore so that Leeann could drop off a medication for a refill.  As they waited in the drive-through lane that snaked around two sides of the drugstore, Brenda considered her options.

What options are available to Brenda?

  1. She can lean out the car window and scream, “Help! I’m being kidnapped!”     
  2. She can leap out of the car and call Uber or Lyft to take her back to the office.       
  3. She can make a mental note to never, ever have lunch with Leeann again. 

Every office has a Leeann.  To limit the productivity and morale hits caused by your office’s Leeann, set clear performance metrics.  Then apply a combination of coaching and progressive discipline until she either hits the required metrics or doesn’t.

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.

Ebook Link

Join the HR Compliance Jungle today. Click here!

Follow us on Facebook & Twitter!

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

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

Freedom from Rules

Another update from the Jungle…..

Linda 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.  Soon they were overwhelmed with customers, but lacked the organizational structure to keep up. The storefront was in 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.

Two 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 and wished she had never left her old job 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?

  1. She can close the business and go live in a hut in the Rocky Mountains to get in touch with her feelings.   
  2. She can ditch her friends and start over with her worst enemy because, at least then, she would know what she’s getting. 
  3. 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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Join the HR Compliance Jungle today. Click here!

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

Little Miss Helpful

 Another update from the Jungle…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What options are available to Charlotte?

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

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

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

Ebook Link

Join the HR Compliance Jungle today. Click here!

Follow us on Facebook & Twitter!

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

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