Difficult Co-Worker

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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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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They Think He’s Great

Another update from the Jungle…..

Jason is the greatest asset to his company since it was founded decades ago. At least, that’s what he believes. He’s always the first to volunteer to help the team, and he smiles at even the lamest jokes told by the boss. He absolutely oozes sympathy for co-workers going through a rough patch.

The bosses also think that Jason is wonderful. At almost every staff meeting, the head honcho thanks Jason for helping out on something or other. No one ever asks his peers how they feel about Jason.

His peers agree that Jason is always the first to volunteer, especially if the boss is within sight and sound. Yet somehow, Jason never works up a sweat. At the last volunteer day, filling food baskets at the local food bank, Jason was seen chatting with the food bank’s executive director. Meanwhile, his colleagues were slinging cases of canned goods around the warehouse.

As for sympathy, Katie curls her lip at the very idea of Jason caring about others. Katie notices that Jason’s kind words feel empty and insincere, not even skin-deep. When Katie’s goldfish died, Jason stopped by her desk, looked at the dead fish, and said “Sorry, Charlie, you’re not the king of the sea anymore”.

Jason’s always making snarky comments like that. He said he liked Angela’s suggestion to implement a flex-work schedule because he could use an extra day off to improve his golf game. He bragged appreciatively about getting a gift card to Sonic drive-in after winning a trivia contest during the annual employee appreciation day.

Katie thinks Jason is a selfish pig who says whatever he needs to say to win brownie points with the boss. At today’s staff meeting, the boss enthusiastically announced a friendly contest to guess who will win the World Series. Katie couldn’t care less about baseball and declines to participate. Of course, Jason is front and center, bantering with the boss about which team to support.

What are Katie’s options?

  1. She can slap the smarmy smile off Jason’s face.
  2. She can ignore Jason and the boss as they engage in a mutual admiration society.
  3. She can focus her energies on improving her skills to move to a different department or a new employer.

Every work place has a Jason who plays the game to get promoted or avoid having to work too hard. HR can reduce the effects of these types of morale killers by creating performance metrics that rely on data rather than the subjective opinions of a manager.

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 Morning After

Another update from the Jungle…..

Karen expected her long-time boyfriend to pop the question at a special Valentine’s Day dinner. Instead, he dumped her with the dessert. Karen drove home in shock and drank a whole bottle of red wine while she tried to figure out where it all went wrong. She dug out her secret stash of dark chocolates, but some things can’t be fixed even by chocolate.

Karen awoke to a hangover and a feeling of being watched. She rolled over to find her cat observing her with lofty disdain. She briefly contemplated calling in sick, but bosses should lead by example, or so she’s been told. So she dragged herself out of bed, swallowed several aspirin, and trudged out the door to work.

At the office, Karen ran into Sherry (literally) when they rounded the same corner from opposite directions. Sherry’s hot herbal tea splashed generously over both of them. Karen snarled and pushed past Sherry, who tottered back to her cubicle to have hysterics.

Jim glanced at Sherry across the cubicle wall, thinking that he ought to do something. But he wasn’t any good helping his wife when she cried so what could he do for a co-worker? He dropped to the floor and crawled on hands and knees toward the exit.

Meanwhile, Sue vaulted a low cubicle wall to evade Karen and ran down the hall to the HR rep’s office. Teresa, the HR rep, was sitting quietly at her desk, feeling good about life, when Sue caromed off the door jamb, bounced against the bookcase, and dropped into a chair gasping for air. Teresa studies her in gathering alarm. Sue’s shin is bleeding and one shoe is missing.

Sue says Karen has finally had the big mental break with reality that her subordinates have been betting on for months. Teresa listens helplessly. Her HR training didn’t really prepare her for these sorts of emergencies.

What should Teresa, the HR rep, do next?

  1. She can hide in her office and hope the situation resolves itself.
  2. She can join Karen’s subordinates in texting alerts to each other warning when Karen leaves her office to search for victims to criticize.
  3. She can go down the hall to investigate and to assess whether Karen needs some personal leave to recover her composure.

Unfortunately, the personal dramas of employees and employers spill over to the workplace. When the soap opera involves a supervisor, the damage can spread rapidly as subordinates are sucked into the emotional morass. HR can help by taking swift action to intervene and mitigate workplace disruptions.

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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Nobody Understands Me

Another update from the Jungle…..

Susie returns from her holiday break feeling wonderful. Her sister hosted Christmas dinner so Susie avoided days of frantic cleaning at home. Then she got extra sleep because last week her kids were staying with her ex and wrecking his new girlfriend’s place. Life is good.

She pulls into the parking lot at work mentally reviewing all she has to accomplish today. She parks in her usual slot and reaches for her bag on the rider’s seat. As she grabs the door handle, she freezes. She spots danger ahead!

It’s Miranda, a morose co-worker whose life resembles the most depressing country music song ever. Miranda rehashed her D-I-V-O-R-C-E so many times unkind co-workers suggested that her husband bailed in self-defense.  Another time, Miranda’s dog ate some chocolate and made an emergency visit to the vet’s office. Miranda wandered around the office hysterically predicting that her dog would die and then complained about the vet bills.

Susie works in a different section of the company and made the mistake of being polite to Miranda several months ago when they met in the break room. Susie is an optimist who is friendly to everyone, at least the first time she meets them.

Unfortunately, Miranda was starved for an audience and latched on to Susie. Before Susie had poured a cup of coffee, Miranda had launched into a dramatic account of the elder abuse inflicted on her mother at the nursing home. Susie’s suggestion that speaking politely to the nursing home staff might be better than screaming was summarily rejected by Miranda.

That’s how it’s gone ever since. Miranda’s sister is a self-centered person who refuses to help with their mother. Miranda’s daughter has a nose ring, orange hair, and a worthless boyfriend. Miranda tragically soldiers on, despite the world being against her.

What options does Susie have to avoid talking to Miranda this morning?

  1. She can stay in her car and leave a voicemail message for her boss saying she is too sick to come to work.
  2. She can sneak into the office and hide from Miranda like all the other employees.
  3. She can boldly but politely excuse herself if Miranda tries to talk to her.

Some employees are morose because they are temporarily overwhelmed by the problems in their lives.  These employees may be directed to the company’s employee assistance program (EAP) by their manager or HR. However, some employees appear to enjoy chaotic lives and don’t want to change. In these cases, damage control is necessary to avoid tanking the morale of their co-workers.

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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Don’t Anyone Touch Anyone!

Another update from the Jungle…..

ABC Corp always seems to catch the latest trends late, thinks Karen. She’s the HR manager for her company and she’s watched for years as the news headlines play out at the office. Now she’s seeing an uptick in sexual harassment claims.

This morning before Karen could finish her first Diet Coke, Vanessa stopped by to complain that Hank had touched her inappropriately. Inappropriately how, asks Karen. Vanessa says that last week Hank patted her on the butt and since then he’s been looking at her in a suggestive way.

Karen sighs inwardly. Before the company switched to electronic records, Karen devoted a large, four-drawer file cabinet to Vanessa and Hank. Vanessa is always complaining about something. Hank has a reputation for saying things that others would leave unsaid often being a little too “friendly” with his hands.

Karen fortifies herself with a second Diet Coke and begins calling in Vanessa’s co-workers to find witnesses. Dorothy says she didn’t see any inappropriate touching but admits that she dislikes Vanessa and Hank and avoids them as if they have the plague. Amanda says that she dances a highland jig to stay out of range of Hank but generally considers him harmless.

Sue shrugs and says that Hank has patted her on the rear many times. When a project is successful, Hank often pats people on the back or the butt. She dismisses it because she thinks he’s just acting like the jock he was. When Sue tires of it, she kicks Hank in the shins, as she did with her older brothers when they were obnoxious. Dan and Joanne confirm Sue’s interpretation of Hank’s hands-on approach to thanking co-workers for a job well done.

Karen sighs deeply and reaches for another Diet Coke before she calls in Vanessa. She tells Vanessa that she believes Hank used poor judgment but it is unlikely that a claim of sexual harassment can be proved. She encourages Vanessa to tell Hank immediately to not touch her if he again pats her on the rear.

What other options does Karen have?

  1. She can institute a new HR policy that says no employee may touch another employee during business hours.
  2. She can encourage Vanessa to join a nudist colony to overcome her sensitivity about the human body.
  3. She can advise Hank to be less “friendly” since not everyone finds his behavior innocuous.

Context is so important. What one person may find offensive another may not. It’s important to take sexual harassment complaints seriously but to not over-react.

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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Stop Him Before He Talks!

Another update from the Jungle….

Jack was an honors student in graduate school and he’s possibly the smartest person ever hired by his company. On paper he looks fantastic. That’s why his boss, Mitch, was so anxious to hire him. Acting in haste means that Mitch is now regretting at his leisure.

Jack is actually a pretty decent person, but he is a socially inept basket case. He misses every nuance of human behavior. By the time he understands a joke, everyone else has stopped laughing.

At his first staff meeting, Jack sits staring at his co-workers. At the second staff meeting, when Mitch calls on him, Jack describes a magazine article he is reading about a new management theory. Mitch’s jaw drops. His question was about the draft budget for the following year. Worse is to come.

Mitch’s staff is invited to join the semi-annual client appreciation event. Jack shows up early before the caterer has finished setting out the food and drinks. He explains that he wanted to be on time. He gobbles up food as if it’s his last meal for a week.

After banishing his hunger, Jack stands in a corner near the refreshments table and stares at everyone as they arrive, much as a zoo keeper might study an exotic animal. Anne, senior vice president of procurement for a key client, smiles at Jack while waiting for her drink and makes the mistake of engaging him in conversation.

Fifteen minutes later, Mitch spots Anne sidling away from Jack, her face frozen in a smile. He gallops across the room. Jack is describing the mating habits of sperm whales, based on a National Geographic show he’d watched last night on TV. Mitch is aghast. He kicks Jack in the shin and shoulders him aside, preparatory to ushering Anne away from the scene of the crime.

The next morning, Mitch invites Jack in for a quiet conversation on appropriate small talk during a client shindig.  Jack is hurt; he thought he was being friendly.  Mitch stares at him, helplessly.

What are Mitch’s options?

  1. He can join Jack’s co-workers in teasing Jack for his social awkwardness.
  2. He can build a reality show around Jack and sell the concept to a cable TV channel.
  3. He can try to teach basic social skills to Jack while limiting his contact with real people, like clients.

In the actual situation, the inept employee was a good employee in all other respects, so co-workers took turns looking after him at client events. Clients eventually grew used to the 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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