HR Laws & Policies

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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I’ve Got My Eye on You

Another update from the Jungle…

Nathan is a good worker when he feels motivated to work. In the beginning, he was excited because it was all so new, and he felt challenged by his job. As he gained experience, he became bored by the repetitive tasks that make up his job.

Boredom was soon replaced by a feeling of being hunted. It hit him like a ton of bricks during a weekly meeting for his work crew. As Nathan listened to his manager, Bill, droning on about the latest productivity initiative, it reminded him of living at home with his mom and dad.

His mom nagged him to eat his broccoli so that he’d stay healthy. His company’s wellness program nags him to eat well so that he doesn’t develop chronic health conditions that are expensive to treat. His dad lectured him about the joys of working hard. Bill tells him that working hard will get him noticed and promoted, right before assigning a dirty, sweaty job to Nathan.

Now, Nathan can’t look at Bill without seeing his mom or dad ranting at him to get off the couch and clean his room or mow the lawn. His voice squeaks occasionally when talking to Bill as he slides back into his teenage years. Why can’t he be left alone to do things at his own pace?

This week Nathan’s disillusionment turned into paranoia when Bill introduced the latest productivity initiative disguised as a safety tool. Warehouse employees must wear a wristband that monitors their movements to ensure they are following safety protocols. Bill says it’s just like the monitors athletes wear when they are participating in designing new video games.

Nathan looks at his shiny new wristband, feeling like he’s got no place to hide. This must be how lab rats feel when hunting cheese in a maze. He can feel the invisible eyes on him, ready to nag him into better habits, just like being at home with his mom and dad.

What are Nathan’s options?

  1. He can pretend he’s a rebel in a science fiction movie and fight the evil empire by trying to outwit the wristband monitor.
  2. He can accept the loss of privacy as a trade-off for having any job that allows him to not live with his parents.
  3. He can look for another employer that does less surveillance of employees.

Having the technology to do something doesn’t mean that implementation is a good idea. Employers who create a good corporate culture have employees who are productive without surveillance technology.

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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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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When Crazy People Collide

Another update from the Jungle…..

Rick is a nut. Everyone knows that he’s a nut. He’s also the founder of the company. Marie is becoming a nut, trying to limit the damage he creates. She’s the HR representative for the company. Being the HR rep for a nut is a very difficult job.

Rick says he likes to “go with his gut,” leading to impulsive decisions, like changing the company’s vision statement and branding every couple of months. But his craziest decision was hiring Jack as the operations manager. Jack has no management skills and spends most of his time preening in front of the mirror in his office or chatting to the most impressionable females in the office.

Soon, Jack begins to think he actually knows how to do his job and pushes his ideas for improving productivity. His ego expands to fill the room which doesn’t leave enough space for Rick’s ego. Staff meetings are now a minefield with Rick sniping at Jack and Jack making snarky comments. As Rick and Jack compete to win every argument, co-workers compete to stay closest to the door to escape ground zero when the egomaniacs go nuclear.

The end of Jack arrives swiftly and brutally. At this morning’s staff meeting, he disagrees with Rick on the new design for the company logo. Rick is outraged because he designed the new logo. He roars that Jack is disloyal. Jack replies that Rick is crazy, causing Rick to froth at the mouth with rage. Rick leaps across the table to throttle Jack.  Jack swings a fist at Rick’s jaw, misses and sprawls on the conference room table.

Co-workers flee for their lives. Behind them in the conference room, Rick screams “you’re fired!” as Jack bellows “I quit!” Marie is the only employee remaining in the room with them. She empties a pitcher of water on them to interrupt their fight before they can break the furniture. Now, Marie is completing the termination paperwork for Jack, who is whining about the unfairness of the world and Rick’s insanity.

What should Marie do next?

  1. She should include directions to the nearest liquor store in her exit interview, so Jack can quickly drown his sorrows on his way to the unemployment line.
  2. She should consider changing careers to something less stressful, like bronco rider or high-school teacher.
  3. She should give Jack some career advice on how to disagree with the nut in charge.

Some workplace problems simply can’t be fixed by HR staff. Employees who work for a nut must decide whether to continue working for the company or to leave for greener pastures.

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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