mental health

It’s Got To Be Perfect

Another update from the Jungle…..

It’s a week before Thanksgiving, and Abigail feels overwhelmed and deeply stressed. Between her job and her home life, the demands on her time make her want to run away to a Caribbean island and forget it all with lots of rum.

It all started when her brothers informed her that she would be happy to host the family gathering. As part of the festive occasion, their mother will be in residence for a week. Abigail loves her mom, but the thought of a week living in the same house makes her blood run cold. Mom will be offering “advice” on everything from how to arrange the Pilgrim centerpiece to the best way to carve the turkey.

To prepare for the arrival of Mom and the family, Abigail engages in a frenzy of cleaning each evening after work. She ropes in her husband to help her clean. He grumbles about the last time they hosted the family when his TV remote was broken and his man cave was invaded by munchkins who spilled Kool-Aid on the carpet.

Abigail reminds him that it was his side of the family last time and opens another bottle of red wine. She figures that at the rate of one room and a bottle or three of wine per night, everything will be ready by Thanksgiving.

At work, it’s hard to concentrate. The red wine is catching up with her. Today, she’s sitting in a staff meeting ignoring the reports of co-workers and waiting for it to end so she can get back to her to-do lists. Rick, her supervisor, finally wraps up the meeting by asking if there are any questions. People push their chairs back, ready to run.

Everyone is rising from their chairs when Myra says she has a quick question. Everyone settles back in their seats glaring at Myra. Myra wants to clarify her role in a project due in late January. Abigail is infuriated. That’s two whole months away, after the holidays. Abigail thinks about all the things she needs to get done before next Thursday. It’s all too much.

What are Abigail’s options?

  1. She can beat Myra senseless with the remaining cheese Danish.
  2. She can fall on the floor and roll around pretending to have a seizure in hopes that will end the meeting.
  3. She can take a deep breath and remember that perfection is unattainable and so stressing about the holidays is a waste of time.

We’ve all been there. Take a break from trying to achieve perfection and have a fun holiday.

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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3 HR Practices to Consider on Veteran’s Day

Another update from the Jungle…..

This Saturday, November 11th, we will celebrate Veteran’s Day. This national holiday originated after World War I to commemorate the war which officially ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Since then, the holiday has expanded to commemorate all military service personnel in our country’s history.

In recent years, the solemnity of the occasion has been obscured by a tendency to label every military person as a “hero.” But a “hero” is an idealization. So labeling all military personnel as “heroes” can make it more difficult for these individuals to admit they need help with mental health issues arising from their days in the service.

For almost two decades, our all-volunteer military has cycled repeatedly through war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as many other parts of the world. The length of the wars means that they have repeatedly switched between combat and peace time deployments. This cycle has greatly increased mental health strains on active duty individuals, veterans and their families. Those issues don’t go away when an individual leaves the military for civilian life.

Employers who hire veterans can ease the transition with these 3 HR practices.

  1. Support mental health programs for employees. Veterans (and other employees) often avoid treatment out of fear that they will be unfairly stigmatized as “crazy.” More employees will seek help if senior management actively supports use of an employee assistance program (EAP) and the mental health benefits covered in most health insurance policies.
  2. Ensure that anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-bullying policies are enforced with the goal of limiting the potential for workplace violence. Employees dealing with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may be more likely to react inappropriately when facing a perceived threat. (Not all veterans develop PTSD and not all PTSD sufferers are veterans. Domestic violence survivors and residents of high-crime neighborhoods often have PTSD.)
  3. Review how your company handles Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requests for accommodations.  Some employees may function better in a quiet, secluded corner rather than in crowded, noisy cubicles. Other employees may flourish if they can sometimes work remotely. A flexible approach is more likely to ensure your company keeps good employees, including veterans.

This Veteran’s Day, let’s honor our veterans by treating them like the veterans of former wars were treated: men and women who did their duty and then returned to peace-time employment. Help them transition to civilian employment with enlightened practices for handling mental health issues. It will be good for all 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 Thought We Were Friends

Another update from the Jungle….

Rebecca is a real pain. She seems nice when people first meet her. But her former boss once compared her to a cancerous cell or a virus, spreading evil in the company. Abby agrees.

Rebecca was the first person to befriend her when Abby began working for the company. Abby was so grateful that it was several months before she realized that every encounter with Rebecca left her deeply depressed, often on the verge of tears. Abby is self-conscious about her weight and a speech impediment that causes her to slur words like Sylvester the cat. Rebecca has a way of drawing attention to Abby’s most sensitive characteristics.

Rebecca once begged Abby to walk with her to the coffee shop because Rebecca said she didn’t want to go alone. While waiting on her latte, Rebecca picked up a muffin for her breakfast. Suddenly, she turned to Abby and said “Here, this is too fattening. You eat it. I’ll get myself a banana.” Abby was so shocked she couldn’t explain that she had already eaten breakfast at home. She felt humiliated because the barista overheard Rebecca’s comment.

Rebecca often imitates Abby’s speech impediment, especially if there’s an audience. Abby’s told Rebecca to stop it because it is not nice to mock people. Rebecca says she’s just “picking at” Abby and doesn’t mean any harm. Rebecca also accuses Abby of being too sensitive. It all leaves Abby feeling like every misunderstanding is her fault.

After one humiliating episode, Abby is discovered crying in the bathroom by Michelle, the HR rep. Michelle is exasperated with Abby’s lachrymose acceptance of Rebecca’s special brand of “friendship.” But now that she’s seen Abby crying, Michelle knows she needs to take action. She meets with Rebecca to remind her of the company’s anti-bullying policy. Now Rebecca runs around telling everyone that Abby can’t take a joke.

What should Michelle do next?

  1. She could tell Abby to stand up for herself and stop being a victim.
  2. She could ignore the situation and hope it fixes itself, probably when Abby quits.
  3. She could confer with Rebecca’s supervisor about the next step in progressive discipline.

Bullying is becoming more subtle in the form of micro-aggressions.  Deciding when behavior crosses the invisible line between teasing and aggression is difficult because it all depends on reasonableness. What would a reasonable person think or feel in a similar situation? There are no easy answers but HR can help set workplace expectations of what is acceptable.

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….

George rolls over and groans. It’s the morning after July 4th and he needs to go to work. George would love to call in sick, but he’s used all his accrued PTO.  As he shakily goes through his morning routine, he reflects on the long weekend that was.

George used his last PTO hours to take off Monday, knowing that he planned to have a good time over the weekend with his buddies. His memories of Friday night are fuzzy, involving a sports bar, overpriced drinks, and a contortionist from a circus or a zoo or something.  On Saturday his wife dragged him to a picnic with their church group. After gobbling down a couple of hot dogs and a bowl of potato salad, he joined his buddies for another evening of overpriced drinks.

Sunday he recuperated, sort of, staying in bed most of the day.  His wife was unhappy because he hadn’t managed to do any of the chores that he said he would. She walked around the house humming Highway 101’s hit “Whiskey, If You Were a Woman”.   George may be hung over, but he’s not stupid. It’s almost a relief to go to work today.

George staggers out the door and slides into his car. He makes it to the office safely, parks the car, and gathers his dignity for the stroll into the building. His co-workers smile at him and surreptitiously start a betting pool to guess when he’ll collapse face down on his cubicle’s desk.

Sally, his manager, notices his shaky hands clutching a mug of coffee in a death grip and frowns. She’s been worried for a long time about George.  He’s a likeable guy, hardworking and knowledgeable when he’s sober, but it’s obvious that he has a problem. Sally consults Connie, the HR manager, and they decide to call George in for a meeting.

What should they say to George?

  1. They could berate him for showing up too hung over to do his job and threaten to fire him.
  2. They could sanctimoniously point out the obvious, that he’s an alcoholic, and needs to change if he wants to keep his job.
  3. They could show concern by offering to help him get into a treatment plan to deal with his alcoholism before it costs him his job.

Holidays can be difficult for employees with addictions. Employers can help their employees, and the company’s bottom line, by offering an employee assistance program (EAP) and having an HR policy that encourages treatment first as an alternative to disciplinary proceedings.

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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Ask Me If I Care

Another update from the Jungle….

Mason is a slacker dude who attended college for two years on a beer and pizza plan until his dad had a chat with him. His dad gave Mason three options: make stellar grades for a semester and dad would start paying for college again, join the military, or get a job.

Mason decided to get a job. Since he has no marketable skills and his dad isn’t a politician with connections, he accepts the only job he is offered: working in a call center.  He sits in a low-walled cubicle talking to customers while wearing a headset that he can fantasize is actually a computer game headset.  As long as he’s got his favorite carbonated drink and potato chips, he’s happy.

Mason does so well that his dad daydreams of a day when Mason will be a responsible adult.  Then Mason is transferred to the “retention” department where angry customers are sent by the regular call center staff.   These angry customers explain in great detail how much they hate the company, its product, and its employees.

Mason’s first line of defense to so much hate and fury is to treat it all as a game. He’s actually very good at the job because he never gets angry; he lets the words roll over him.  But gradually, the abuse blasting over his headset wears down even the defenses of a slacker dude.  Drinking an extra coke or eating an extra bag of chips doesn’t alleviate the dreariness of each work day.

Mason sleeps in repeatedly and is written up for tardiness.  He drinks greater quantities of adult beverages on the weekends. On one memorable occasion, he shows up late and still drunk. His supervisor informs him that if it happens again, Mason will be fired. Mason stares blearily, wondering when his supervisor will realize that he doesn’t care.

What are Mason’s options?

  1. He can continue breaking the rules to see how long it takes to actually be fired from the one job he is good at.
  2. He can drink more alcohol and become a zombie at work.
  3. He can look for another job that is less mentally distressing.

Call centers are full of employees who are worn down by the stress of customer service, dull workspaces, and constant monitoring for infractions of company rules. As employees disengage, employers become more rigid about enforcing the rules in an effort to boost productivity which increases turnover.  HR staff can ease the pain for everyone by revamping HR policies to emphasize rewards rather than punishments.

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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Chaos Cathy

Another update from the Jungle….

picture-2Chaos Cathy is a good worker when she pays attention to her job. Too bad she spends most of her time picking fights with her co-workers. One week she complains about a co-worker’s perfume. Another week she complains about loud voices talking on the phone.

picture-1Chaos Cathy’s whining is a symptom of her perpetual competitiveness. She complains that her cubicle is smaller than the cubicles of her peers. After weeks of drama, her manager finally agrees to find another cubicle. But the new cubicle has no window. True, the window in her current cubicle offers only a view of the trash bins behind the building.

Chaos Cathy’s boss flatly refuses to move Rob, a more senior worker, from his cubicle so that Cathy can have it. Chaos Cathy flounces down the stairs to Weary Wanda, the HR manager, to complain that offering a windowless cubicle is retaliation for complaining about the terrible working conditions. picture-3Wanda is weary because she’s got to listen to Chaos Cathy’s constant whining while also getting an earful from Cathy’s annoyed co-workers.

Weary Wanda is an experienced HR manager and mom. She lets Chaos Cathy rant while her mind drifts to what she’d like to eat for dinner that night. Eventually Chaos Cathy stops talking. Weary Wanda says she’ll look into the matter and encourages Chaos Cathy to go back to work.

picture-4A week later, Chaos Cathy is back. Now she’s complaining that her manager has encouraged his other subordinates to abuse her for exposing his incompetence. Chaos Cathy launches into a convoluted description of abusive co-workers, travel to Mars, and stinky perfume from the next cubicle to prove her boss is incompetent and prejudiced.

Weary Wanda asks how Chaos Cathy would like to have her complaints resolved. Cathy replies that she wants her manager to get off the planet. Weary Wanda explains that HR can’t force a supervisor to get off the planet so Chaos Cathy needs to think of another solution to the problem. Chaos Cathy says no other outcome is acceptable to her.

What are Weary Wanda’s options?

  1. She can recommend that Chaos Cathy drink more boxed red wine in the evenings to calm her nerves.
  2. She can transfer Chaos Cathy to another department run by a supervisor that Wanda doesn’t like.
  3. She can explain, as politely as possible, that chronic complainers like Chaos Cathy rarely help their long-term career aspirations.

picture-5In the actual situation, the complaining employee’s insubordinate behavior towards her manager escalated until her employment was terminated. She unsuccessfully sued for wrongful termination.

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 Knife in the Back

Another update from the Jungle…

pic-5Bryan is a serial entrepreneur. Every time he gets a new idea, he starts a new company to exploit the idea. He’s successful at starting businesses, but he’s lousy at running them.

Bryan doesn’t like getting bogged down in the details. So he relies on lieutenants to keep him informed of how things are going at each company. Unfortunately, Bryan doesn’t seem to have noticed that one of his trusted lieutenants is deadlier than a rattlesnake.

pic-1Susan learns this the hard way when she begins working at one of his companies. Her first day on the job, she’s introduced to Elaine who is so friendly and helpful that Susan is duped into thinking she’s nice. But Elaine is a snake in the grass.

pic-2Elaine is an intolerable busybody. She stands near the elevator to track the time each employee shows up for work. She wanders the hallways, keeping tabs on what others are doing and saying. Then she passes every tidbit of information along to Bryan with a special Elaine twist.

Susan learns the truth when Bryan stops by for a quarterly meeting with the company’s management team, of which Susan is a junior member. Bryan marches into the conference room and sits opposite Elaine who is taking notes on pic-4the decisions he makes.

Bryan begins the meeting by chewing out Laura for falling sales in the past quarter. Laura replies that it is impossible to boost sales when her team is starved for resources. She produces a stack of receipts showing that her team has to pic-3buy their own office supplies since Elaine locked up the supply closet and hid the key.

Bryan impatiently tells Laura to stop blaming others for her own failings as a manager. Then he turns on Bob, the CFO, who didn’t have the financial reports ready for Bryan. Bob scowls but says nothing.

pic-6Susan knows that Bob was late with the financial reports because Elaine delayed helping him while she worked on other lower priority assignments. Susan looks at Elaine expecting her to defend Bob. Elaine smirks and remains silent.

What are Susan’s options?

  1. She can point out that Elaine sabotaged Bob but doubts that Bryan will believe her.
  2. She can thank her lucky stars that Elaine isn’t gunning for her.
  3. She can use her accrued vacation to begin hunting for a new job, preferably one without another Elaine.

pic-7In the actual situation, the junior manager soon found herself on the backstabber’s hit list and left the company as soon as possible.

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 Can’t Take It Anymore!

Another update from the Jungle….

Kathy was a solid performer for her company until about a year ago.  She rarely missed work and she was always prepared for meetings.  Then she fell off a cliff.

Her clif2f had many causes. About a year ago, her mother began showing signs of dementia. Kathy’s siblings long since moved away, so Kathy’s been taking her mother to doctor’s appointments and filling out Medicare claims forms.  She’s reached the stage where she loathes the “plain English” of Medicare forms.

Her husband, Bob, is helping more after being laid off his job a few months ago. But Kathy’s mother no longer recognizes Bob and won’t leave the house with him.  That means his
biggest contribution is cooking most of their meals. Since this involved reorganizing all the kitchen cabinets, Kathy’s not convinced he’s helping her.

3Meanwhile, Kathy’s daughter moved home from college after her wine and pizza plan didn’t lead to a
viable college degree. She leaves dirty dishes in the sink and is surprised that this upsets Kathy.

1

About six months ago, Kathy began taking medication for depression and anxiety. The medication leaves her feeling like she’s underwater.  It affects her ability to concentrate. She now has the attention span of a three-year-old on a chocolate high.

Her boss is running out of patience with her sloppy work and blown deadlines. Of
course, he doesn’t know all the gory details because Kathy’s too embarrassed by her screwed up life to tell him. She always prided herself on her professional competence.

Today, her boss calls her in for another performance review. He’s angry about a blown deadline and considers firing Kathy. But that would mean finding and training a replacement. It would also mean losing Kathy’s years of knowledge of the company and its culture.

What options are available to Kathy’s boss?

  1. He can proceed to the next phase of the progressive discipline policy which is firing Kathy for poor performance.
  2. He can keep limping along and hope that Kathy’s personal life improves.
  3. He can ask the HR representative if there other options for resolving Kathy’s situation without firing her.     

The above scenario is a composite of several actual incidents.  As the population ages, more baby boomers are finding themselves caring for incapacitated parents and assisting unemployed adult children.  Businesses are not charitable organizations and they can’t fix their employees’ problems. But they can support employees by adopting flexible work schedules and creating referral lists to local organizations that provide eldercare and other social support programs.    

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 Bored by My Job

Another update from the Jungle….

 

1Corrie is bored with her job. It hasn’t challenged her skills in years or put her in line for a promotion.  She’s tried to find other jobs but the truth is that she’s unlikely to get a big enough salary increase to offset the loss of her current benefits package.

 

 

5To pass the time and alleviate her boredom, she creates imaginary scenarios for her job.  When her boss gives her a new assignment, she pretends its part of a great military plan, like Operation Overlord.  She imagines herself working in a small office in London, helping plan the D-Day invasion.

 

2When she takes a business trip, she pretends she’s an agent dropped into occupied France to support the French Resistance. As she drives, she thinks of the highway patrol as roving bands of collaborators looking for Resistance workers they can arrest and interrogate. When she checks in to a hotel, she scouts the lobby for exits in case she needs to beat a quick retreat from a Gestapo raid.

It’s all rather harmless fun and it helps to pass the time in a job that has long since ceased to challenge her intellectually. Before she unleashed her imagination, Corrie struggled to find meaning in her job. She volunteered for extra assignments to broaden her skills and make new contacts.

4But Corrie stopped caring after the management team downsized the workforce. She’s survived several staff reductions since the first big cull of the herd by keeping her head down and her opinions to herself. She no longer volunteers for special projects but her past volunteerism means her boss considers her a “team player” and Corrie thinks that’s helped her keep her job.

Corrie’s low morale and disengagement is matched by most of her co-workers.  Management tries to raise morale with team building exercises, like the time they insisted everyone had to go play laser tag. (All the senior managers were “killed” within half an hour, boosting morale among all other workers.)

What could this company do differently to rebuild employee engagement?

  1. The company could do a one-off pay increase which would engage workers who are motivated by money.
  2. The company could allow 4 hours a pay period for each employee to work on a project that motivates the employee, such as volunteering for a non-profit.
  3. The company could create a cross-training program in which employees transfer temporarily to a different job or department to learn new skills.

The above scenario is based on actual job experiences. However, all identifying information has been removed to protect everyone involved. 

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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A Dim Bulb Burns Out

Another update from the Jungle…

Meet Tom. worker

Tom has worked tirelessly on a local factory manufacturing line for almost 30 years. He has rarely missed work and his work ethic is unbelievable.

There’s just one catch…

Tom is challenged when it comes to making sense out of everyday tasks. Although his IQ has never been measured, those who know him can tell that he struggles to understand new information. He often sits staring vacantly during his work breaks, unable to participate in any witty conversational banter, so he aimlessly watches the clock count down until his next shift. Tom has worked at the factory since he turned 18 and, through the years, has earned the right become a part of the company family. His supervisor and several co-workers look out for him on a daily basis. They try to protect him by intervening when younger workers try to make fun of him or call him names like “stupid.”

Now that Tom is almost 50, his learning disability has become visibly worse. He is often easily distracted and becomes completely inattentive while working on the line. This ends up compromising his ability to work on dangerous machines. (Especially after the day that he almost lost his finger!) His supervisor now assigns him to the dreary, boring, repetitive jobs on the safer equipment.

Eventually Tom’s supervisor decides to retire. He’d known Tom for the duration of 30 years at the factory and knew that under his watch, Tom would always have a job at the factory. On his last day, the supervisor warns his replacement that Tom needs to be handled with compassion and patience because of his slower disposition. The new supervisor, David, is a rising star at the company and laser-focused on increasing productivity and efficiency. He becomes instantly offended that his managerial skills are being questioned by the retiring “old geezer.” He dismisses the unsolicited suggestion with a disingenuous “Ok. Sure.”

factoryIn the days following, David is overwhelmed and irate with Tom’s slow pace and inability to concentrate on the line, so he begins to routinely shout at and berate Tom during his shift. David pushes Tom to move faster and to stay focused, which creates confusion and high levels of emotional distress for Tom. This erratic behavior becomes so frequent that David decides to notify Gloria, the company’s HR representative. David informs her that Tom needs to be terminated for poor work performance ASAP.

Early the next morning, before Gloria could call Tom into her office, he wandered away from the line and walked over to the field next to the factory’s parking lot. He stood in the rain, gazing up at the sky and proceeded to take off his clothes and lay down on the ground. David sees this and sends an employee to tell Gloria to call 911.

What should Gloria do next?

She should call the paramedics so that Tom can be taken to the hospital for evaluation?
She should tell David to stop bullying his subordinates?
She should review the company’s procedures for dealing with distraught workers?

stigmaIn the actual situation, the paramedics were notified, and they transported the employee to the hospital where he underwent a psychological evaluation. That diagnosis led to the employee being placed on permanent disability. As the stigma attached to mental health recedes, employees should be encouraged to seek assistance rather than suffering in denial.

Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor will expertly create and customize all necessary HR policies that are appropriate for the size and culture of your company. CCRA will then facilitate as a valuable resource to your staff during the policy’s implementation phase.

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