budget cuts

April Fool’s. Not.

Another update from the Jungle…

April Fool’s Day was three days ago, but some idiots are still pulling pranks. Danny showed up early on Monday with nylon fishing line which he used as a tether for a stuffed mouse he bought at a pet store. The morning was punctuated with screams as he yanked his mouse across the hallway each time the elevator doors opened.

Pam, from the HR Department, confiscated Danny’s mouse and threatened to let his co-workers beat him to a pulp if he tried the same trick on Tuesday. On Tuesday, Danny showed up with whoopee cushions and plastic snakes. By lunch, Pam had collected his entire stash.

This morning, Pam was waiting for Danny in the elevator lobby. While Danny distracted her, his co-conspirators sneaked in to the break room to raid the recycling bin in the kitchen. Jim and Barbara are military veterans, and they want to create a homemade bazooka they heard about while in the service.

First, they cut the ends off aluminum soda cans and duct tape them into a long tube. Then, they poke a hole in the bottom of the last can to create a breach. A crowd of curious co-workers gathers to watch. Barbara stuffs a tennis ball down the tube. Jim produces a cigarette lighter and ignites a spark. With a whoosh and a shoomp, the tennis ball hurtles across the room and smashes a hole in the plasterboard wall. Everyone scatters as Pam runs in to the break room.

Pam knows what’s really wrong with Danny, Jim, and Barbara. They’re bored and restless. The company has been fighting a hostile takeover for months, and employees are afraid of job cuts if the takeover happens.

During the slower winter months, everyone simply waited, too cold to care.  Now, spring is here, and employees are twitchy as the takeover saga continues. Management has been very slow about updating employees on what’s happening.

What options are available for Pam?

  1. She can announce a contest to keep the April Fool’s Day practical jokes going for the entire month.
  2. She can begin playing her own practical jokes on co-workers to show that HR isn’t always the “Department of No.”
  3. She can suggest that management hold a “town hall” meeting to update employees on the hostile takeover and what it means for the employees.

Having a little fun to break the monotony and pressure is important. But sometimes hijinks are a symptom of a deeper problem, such as uncertainty due to workplace changes. HR can help by encouraging management to regularly communicate with employees to reduce the uncertainty.

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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Welcome To The Real World

Another update from the Jungle….

Mercedes is a millennial who was recently assigned to Sandy’s department.  Sandy likes working with younger people who are natives of the digital world and can show her how to use her smart phone apps. They are young, enthusiastic and some, like Mercedes, are idealists.

Mercedes wants to change the world. After college, her parents supported her for an additional year so that she could work at a non-profit. Her record of clever ideas for the non-profit helped her get hired at Sandy’s company.

In her first week, Mercedes suggests some relatively inexpensive software upgrades that improve efficiency and save money. Most of the savings come from job cuts as tasks are automated. The older workers who are let go aren’t qualified for other open positions and management cut the training budget back around the time Mercedes was born. Mercedes doesn’t notice the job losses because she’s on to her next big idea.

Her next big idea is an IT systems upgrade that may save the entire company millions of dollars. Unfortunately, the upgrade will also cost tens of millions of dollars, require the company to shut down entirely for six months, and cause massive job cuts. She announces her idea to Sandy’s boss, Bob.  He thanks Mercedes and boots her out of his office.

Mercedes doesn’t understand how Bob can be so dim-witted as not to see the long-term benefits. She won’t listen to Bob or Sandy when they tell her that the company simply can’t afford to give up six months of sales to rebuild IT systems from scratch.

Mercedes thinks that Bob and Sandy are being negative because they are dinosaurs who don’t “get” new technology and how it improves the world. Mercedes decides she needs to bypass the unenlightened ones and go straight to the top.  She tells Sandy that she wants to pitch her idea to the company president.

What advice should Sandy give to Mercedes?

  1. She can encourage Mercedes and then watch as the company president explodes like a geyser at the thought of losing six months revenue.
  2. She can suggest that Mercedes drink fewer cappuccinos and increase her wine consumption in the hopes she will have fewer brilliant ideas.
  3. She can tell Mercedes that the company president will be more receptive to her ideas if she can come up with a plan to offset the short term costs.

Idealism is a wonderful quality but not necessarily in the workplace. Idealistic employees can be encouraged to volunteer with local non-profits. HR can help by encouraging management to offer paid leave for volunteer work.

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 Magic of the Season

Another update from the Jungle….

unnamed-3After the fiasco of their Thanksgiving dinner, Rudy and Trish decide they will skip a holiday party this year.  Even a warlock and a witch need a break.  Jerry, the werewolf next door, offers to host a holiday party, but they turn him down. Every surface in Jerry’s house is covered in dog hairs and Trish is a finicky witch who doesn’t like the way the dog hairs stick to her clothing.

Besides, there are rumors of an employee party at the big box store where Rudy, Trish and Jerry work.  Trish checks the bulletin board in the employee break room and sees the notice that the company isunnamed-20 hosting a Christmas party for employees.  Trish immediately complains to the HR manager that calling it a Christmas party interferes with her religious beliefs as a pagan. She threatens to take concerted action with the other witches to protect her workplace rights.

The HR manager cleverly deduces undercurrents of discontent and decides to take a survey of employees to ask who will attend the holiday party.  Most employees say they will attend if they are paid for their time and there is no gift exchange.  In a workplace full of witches, warlocks and a mischievous leprechaun, no gifting is a prudent choice so the HR manager agrees.

The HR manager reports the survey results to the ogre who owns the store and he agrees to pay the employees to attend the holiday party. Actually, what the ogre says is much pithier and an exact quote might give rise to an EEOC charge. The HR manager posts a signup sheet for the potluck lunch.

unnamed-19Trish brings sugar cookies shaped like pentagrams. She’s added a magic spell that increases the eater’s happiness. After eating a cookie, the HR manager smiles benevolently at her coworkers.

Ryan, the leprechaun, arrives late because it is normally his day off.  But he never misses an opportunity to get paid for not working.  He steps jauntily into the break room breathing Bushmills Irish Whiskey fumes on everyone and smiling bleaunnamed-17rily.  As he passes the buffet table, he snatches one of Trish’s cookies and gulps it down in two bites.

The magic spell synchronizes beautifully with his whiskey. Ryan begins high-stepping around the room, like an extra in Riverdance, listening to a tune only he could hear.  The HR manager joins him and soon everyone is hoofing it round the breakroom.

Everyone agrees it is the best office holiday party in years.

Happy Holidays!

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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How Do I Hate You? Let Me Count the Ways

Another update from the Jungle….

unnamed-16

Billy and Bobbye opened their business a year after they married.  They hired a couple of employees and everyone was happy.  Billy and Bobbye were proud of their success. Employees enjoyed the perks, like having the company cover 100% of health insurance premiums for employees and the Friday Afternoon Frazzle at a nearby brew pub.

unnamed-15But as the company expanded, new employees lacked the camaraderie of the ones who had helped build the business. Adding employees meant more personality conflicts and scheduling difficulties. Bobbye wanted to add some structure to the company by creating HR policies to ensure everyone understood what was expected of them.

Billy wasn’t ready to give up the entrepreneurial attitude of the early days so he shot down Bobbye’s ideas.  Their disagreement about the business spilled over into their marriage. Before long, they were taking potshots at each other every day.

unnamed-11Bobbye decided to change the brand of coffee for the office.  A day after the change, Billy walked in to the break room, saw the new brand name, and hurled the coffee can across the room into the garbage can.  Now Billy and Bobbye don’t talk to each other in the office. They relay messages through employees. Their employees used to call them B&B or B-squared. Now it’s Bombs Away.

All these spats are tanking the bottom line as deadlines are missed and quality crashes. Clients leave for calmer and more reliable service. To save money, Billy decides arbitrarily to reduce the number of unnamed-13employee perks, starting with the health plan. He tells employees they will have to begin contributing to the premium.  Cutting back on perksannoys the employees and Bobbye.

unnamed-17Even free beer at the Friday Afternoon Frazzle can’t attract most employees because they feel so uncomfortable around Billy and Bobbye. The least bright employees are choosing sides. The smarter employees are trying to stay neutral. The smartest employees have already bailed out for more stable workplaces.  On its present trajectory, the company will implode.

What should Billy and Bobbye do next?

  1. They can continue to fight until there is nothing left but the company’s debts.
  2. They can seek marriage counseling to save their marriage and possibly their company.
  3. They can agree to divorce and split the company’s assets as part of the divorce settlement.

In the actual situation, the feuding owners divorced and the wife bought her former’s husband’s interest in the business. Some employees helped with the transition while most left for other jobs.

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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Masters of the Universe

Another update from the Jungle…

Masters1Jim and Tony run a venture capital fund that specializes in distressed assets. They buy companies, replace the management team, cut most of the employees to generate savings and make the company look profitable (on paper). Then they sell the company.

A business magazine features them in an article and uses the term masters of the universe. After the feature article, Jim and Tony decide to branch out from distressed assets and buy a company that has been successful without being spectacular.

Jim and Tony begin their ownership by holding a company-wide meeting with employees at which they talk about the company’s wonderful financial future. This sales pitch is interrupted by Linda who asks them to reconcile these comments with their established practice of boosting profits by firing most workers. Jim evades her question. So Larry asks pointblank how many jobs will be cut. Jim looks at Tony. Tony shrugs. The meeting ends abruptly.

Masters3After studying the company’s bottom line, Jim and Tony decide that the first employees to go are Linda and Larry. They tell Sandra, the HR rep, to prepare the paperwork. She cautions against firing two of the most respected workers. Jim looks at the org chart again and concludes they are peons.

On Friday, Linda and Larry are ushered out the door. Their first port of call is an employment law attorney where they discuss wrongful termination, retaliation, and age discrimination.  The attorney has a vision of becoming famous by taking down the masters of the universe. He agrees to represent Linda and Larry.

Master2Within weeks, a third of the workforce resigns following Linda and Larry out the door. Jim and Tony are initially relieved; they only had to fire two workers. But the remaining workforce is demoralized. Within six months, the company has lost several key clients and the bottom line is tanking. Jim and Tony call a meeting with Sandra to discuss staffing levels and the status of Linda’s and Larry’s lawsuit.

What should Sandra tell them?

  1. She can say that she warned them that firing Linda and Larry would have dire consequences.
  2. She can tell them that as masters of the universe, she expects them to solve their own problems.
  3. She can hand in her resignation, having already received several job offers.

The above scenario is exaggerated but may seem familiar to anyone who has experienced a change in ownership at an employer. Creating a plan with HR for handling inevitable layoffs can smooth the transition. It is also helpful to see employees as more than just a cost to the bottom line.

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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