Morale

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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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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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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Can We Speed It Up?

Another update from the Jungle…..

Susie shuffles into the conference room and slumps into a chair. Her boss, Alan, smiles from the other end of the table. He believes that Susie is a dedicated worker because she always arrives early for staff meetings. If he only knew! Susie shows up early to get a seat in the corner away from Alan so he won’t notice her total lack of interest.

Slowly, other employees shuffle in. They know the meeting will drag on with lots of wasted time, so there’s no point to being prompt. Alan continues waiting for the stragglers while Dana tells an inane story about her recent trip to the dog groomer. Alan finally calls the staff meeting to order twenty minutes late. He raises his voice to be heard over shuffling papers and private conversations.

Susie slumps lower in her seat. Next to her, David holds his phone below the table’s edge, playing Candy Crush. Susie glances around the table at her fellow sufferers. Tim and Cary are silently laughing at the same time, proof they are texting each other again.

A couple of months ago, Susie suggested timing speakers in hopes of speeding up the meetings. Alan was cool to the idea, probably because he likes to make rambling speeches himself. The worst offender is Dana, who says “um” and “uh” constantly while shuffling her papers and saying “what else did I do”, as if anyone cares. Susie decides that if Dana is as disorganized at home, she feels sorry for the dog.

Fred’s the lucky one. He’s temporarily banned from staff meetings after suddenly lurching to his feet while Dana was speaking and shouting, “I can’t take it anymore! Shut up, already!” Now, he cruises past the glass door to smirk at his co-workers who are stuck in the business equivalent of hell.

What options does Susie have to maintain her sanity through lengthy pointless staff meetings?

  1. She can suddenly roll off her chair onto the floor, feigning death in hopes that ends the meeting.
  2. She can play Candy Crush on her cell phone.
  3. She can accept that nothing will change and learn meditation techniques that enhance patience.

There are many ways to handle internal meetings, such as staff meetings to avoid wasting time. One method used by a retired Army general while working for a major retailer was to remove the chairs from the meeting room, forcing everyone to stand and deliver. His meetings ran on time and ended promptly after 15 minutes.

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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Oh, What I Have Suffered!

Another update from the Jungle…..

Pete is frustrated. His business has been tanking for the past month, and he’s having trouble coping with the mess. The mess began when Cheryl showed up to work with a fever and coughed and sneezed over everyone. She slumped at her desk complaining of aches and pains, but insisting that she couldn’t possibly have the flu because she’d gotten a flu shot.

During lunch, Amber went shopping for disinfectant. She returned with a giant shopping bag and set to work hosing down every surface in the office. The fumes aggravated Becky’s asthma, and she turned blue while searching for her inhaler.

Pete drove Becky to the doc-in-the-box clinic around the corner from the office. The nurse practitioner suggested that Becky should go to the emergency room. Pete dragged Becky back to his car and drove to the hospital. He called her husband to meet them at the emergency room.

Hours later, he returned to the office to find that all his employees had fled for the day. He left a voice-mail message for Cheryl, ordering her to stay away from the office until a doctor signed a note saying she was not contagious. But the damage was done.

The next day, Becky called in sick from her hospital bed where she was undergoing testing for pneumonia. Bob called to say he had whiplash from the violent sneezing fits that had kept him awake all night. Amber showed up but sat slumped at her desk, guzzling cough syrup like it was soda pop.

Within forty-eight hours, Pete’s entire staff was out sick with the flu. Pete huddled at his desk, sneezing and wheezing, and plotting revenge on Cheryl for making everyone sick. Eventually, his employees began straggling back into work in various stages of recovery.

What can Pete do to avoid a repeat next flu season?

  1. He can offer more paid leave so that his employees don’t show up sick.
  2. He can allow his employees to work from home so they won’t bring their germs to the office.
  3. He can shut down his business during flu season and go deep sea fishing until it’s healthy to come back to the office.

This year’s flu season is severe, affecting the bottom line of many businesses. Flu shots help but don’t guarantee that the inoculated person will avoid getting sick, since there are many different strains of flu. Flexible leave policies and work schedules can alleviate some of the disruptions caused by epidemics like the flu.

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 serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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You Make Me Sick!

Another update from the Jungle…..

Sue likes her job except at this time of year. First, she had to listen to coworkers talk about their snow and ice adventures. Now she’s listening to many of them cough, sneeze and wheeze all day. Flu season seems worse than last year based on the disgusting noises she’s hearing in cubicle world.

In the next cubicle is Patty who has the flu although she claims it’s just a head cold. Sue’s pretty sure that Patty showed up at work while she had a fever because three coworkers quickly succumbed to the crud after getting too close to Patty.

Now coworkers run away when Patty lurches into sight. Sue can’t escape because they share a cubicle wall. She wipes down her cubicle hourly but that’s not enough. Sue’s heard less gross noises from her cat, Pixel, when he’s coughing up a hair ball.

She complained to Meg, the HR rep, who stopped by to suggest that Patty might be better off at home in bed. Patty croaked that she didn’t want to waste all her PTO days because her husband has promised her a really nice vacation this year. If she uses all her PTO, she won’t have any days left for her vacation.

Meanwhile, their supervisor, Wesley, sits in his office up the hall doing whatever bosses do all day. He can close his door, thinks Sue resentfully, and tune out their suffering. Wesley is young, and he is fixated on not screwing up his future promotional chances. So he blindly enforces the rules on attendance arguing that he has no power to change them.

The company policy sets out a limited number of PTO days a year and doesn’t allow any carry-over. The owner discourages working remotely because he’s afraid staff will goof off. Sue and others grumble quietly because they doubt the company will revise its PTO policy.

What can Meg, the HR rep, do to help the grossed-out employees?

  1. She can set up a sterilization chamber at the entrance and require all workers to hose themselves with disinfectant before entering the office.
  2. She can ramp up recruitment efforts to replace employees who leave voluntarily for better benefits or involuntarily with the EMT’s.
  3. She can suggest that the company revise its PTO policy to allow extra days during seasonal events like flu season.

Employers face a dilemma. They need to balance productivity and staffing requirements against the losses caused by sick employees who show up to work. Adapting leave policies or allowing employees to work remotely are two options.

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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Go Back To Your Cave

Another update from the Jungle….

Once upon a time, at a company not so different from its competitors, a new employee was hired. Addison was bright, cheerful and had graduated from college near the top of her class. She believed that hard work was all she needed to advance her career.

As with every fairy-tale, an evil troglodyte lurked in a cubicle down the hall. His name was Larry. He joined the company many years ago and never advanced beyond cubicle world. Beneath a façade of pleasant chitchat lurks a very angry employee.

Addison bumps into Larry in the break room as she tries to figure out how to use the single cup coffee maker. Larry helps her while sarcastically commenting about how good life was when they still had the Mr. Coffee machine. Addison finds his acidic commentary mildly amusing and thinks he might be a friend.

Alas for the fair maid. At the next staff meeting, Larry questions the decision of Wanda, the manager, to designate Addison as the leader on a new project. Larry privately thinks he should be leading the team based on his seniority. Addison seals her fate by saying she’d be happy to have his help. Wanda shrugs and agrees. She’s a manager, not a knight in shining armor trying to rescue a fair maid, especially one too stupid to sniff out danger.

Addison’s first hint that she is not going to live happily ever after happens at her first team meeting. Larry interrupts repeatedly with helpful suggestions, all of which she rejects. During the next week, Larry visits each team member to express his concerns about the imminent failure of the project due to Addison’s inexperience.

Wanda hears via the grapevine that the project is tanking so she calls Addison in for a status report. Larry sees Addison walking down the hallway towards Wanda’s office. Quick as a flash he scampers down the hallway, pushes past her, and turns in the doorway to Wanda’s office to smirk before slamming the door in Addison’s face.

When Addison finally meets with Wanda, Larry’s poisonous comments have taken effect. Wanda says she’s worried about progress and needs to replace Addison with an older, more experienced worker.

What should Addison do next?

  1. She can loudly proclaim that Larry the troglodyte has sabotaged her career and begin crying.
  2. She can plot a suitable revenge against Larry, but he’s had years more experience at this sort of backstabbing.
  3. She can search for a mentor to help her learn how to fight troglodytes in the future.

In the actual situation, the new employee gave up believing in fairy-tales, resigned and joined a competitor, feeling older and slightly wiser. Avoid this fairy-tale by implementing effective HR policies.

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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