Performance Reviews

Employee of The Month

Another update from the jungle…

Ella returned to work after the Labor Day holiday smugly satisfied that her diabolical plan to help her co-workers was on track. As the HR manager, she had always supported management decisions no matter how cuckoo. But her loyalty to the company shriveled with the return of Frank.

unnamed-87Frank was brought out of retirement to fix the most troubled division of the company. He told Ella and his subordinates that he had six months to improve the bottom line. His grim expression inspired fear and loathing among his subordinates. Sure enough, within a week, Ella was processing termination paperwork so fast her laptop crashed from overuse.

Pam was fired for insubordination which was easy to believe because she argued constantly. Her last manager claimed Pam would argue about whether the sun rose in the east. Ted was fired for chronically showing up late.

unnamed-89Then Frank went gunning for Anna for incompetence even though her last performance review said she practically walked on water. He accused April of winking sarcastically during a staff meeting. When Ella pointed out the lack of documentation or witnesses to back up these reasons, Frank replied that HR managers can be fired for insubordination just like any other employee.

unnamed-86That’s when Ella conceived her fiendishly clever plan. She began meeting surreptitiously with selected employees in Frank’s division to confirm their suspicions that Frank was out to get them. She promised to help them by editing their resumes and coaching them on their interviewing skills. (She keeps up with the latest HR industry trends by attending lots of SHRM seminars.)

Before long, she was processing resignations as Frank’s subordinates bailed out for greener pastures. She asked tech for a new laptop.

unnamed-90
Now she’s sitting in her office editing another resume when Frank and his boss barge in to accuse her of disloyalty to the company. Ella realizes that some fink must have spilled the beans about her activities.

How should Ella respond?

1. She can reply that as the HR manager and a female over 40, she’d welcome the opportunity to talk to the EEOC about any threats to her job.

2. She can thank them for stopping by as she wants to give them her resignation so that she can open a job placement consulting business.

3. She can point out that Frank’s division will soon be the most profitable in the company as employees leave voluntarily.

In the actual situation, Ella was a supervisor who achieved 100% turnover as her subordinates moved on to other jobs where they felt more valued as employees.

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Too Busy to Work

Another update from the Jungle…

Fran is a passionate woman who supports many worthy causes. Every day she arrives at work, gets a cup of herbal tea and begins looking for an audience to unburden herself.

Today she is convinced that milk cows are emitting so much methane that they are destroying the world’s oxygen. She methodically dunks her tea bag while trying to persuade Brenda to give up yogurt for breakfast in order to save the environment. Brenda scrapes the last bit of yogurt from the container, curls her lip and maliciously informs Fran that her tea bag is leaking its contents.

Sarcasm is wasted on Fran who is too wrapped up in her causes to notice. She ignores Brenda’s snotty comment and goes in search of a new audience. She corners Will and Mike to explain how she thinks stray dogs should be saved from the dangers of the street.

Mike points out that pet shelters are full and often have no choice but to euthanize animals. She tears up at the thought of dead puppies. Will is a “manly man” who enjoys fishing and hunting. He also believes in conservation but detests Fran’s moralizing. So he retaliates with a story of deer hunting which ends with him killing Bambi’s mother.

Fran is so distraught that she has to talk to someone who understands. Fortunately, she can always count on Linda for a sympathetic hearing. Linda assures her that she feels Fran’s pain.

Unfortunately, none of these causes contribute to actually doing work, which is, after all, why Fran shows up every day. Passion is exhausting. Fran can only work about twenty minutes before she needs a rest break.

Fran’s supervisor, Mindy, is also exhausted from frustration. She’s taking heat for low productivity caused by Fran’s lousy work habits and the interruptions to other employees’ work. She’s tried performance improvement plans without success. She’s thinking of skipping the initial steps in the progressive discipline policy and going straight to justifiable homicide in a bid to save her own career.

What options are available to Mindy?

  • She can watch murder mysteries seeking pointers on how to get away with murder.
  • She can move Fran’s workstation to a windowless closet and chain her to the chair in an effort to increase productivity.
  • She can search the company’s HR policies for a valid reason to fire Fran for poor performance.

In the actual situation, the passionate employee continued annoying her co-workers with her causes until she realized her career had stalled. She left the company to find success with a new employer.

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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Want To Know What I Think?

Another update from the Jungle…

Sam always gets excited in January. Well, maybe not excited, but he briefly becomes animated and shakes off the fog in which he usually works. Sam gets excited about completing the annual employee satisfaction survey.

His company does their annual employee satisfaction survey in January. They used to do the survey in November but eventually concluded that the timing was awful. By November, employees had completed annual open enrollment in the group health plan and had received their annual performance reviews.

The survey became a forum for complaining bitterly about the rising cost of the health plan’s payroll deductions. Employees who didn’t receive pay raises complained bitterly of biased bosses, lousy working conditions and a lack of parking spaces. So the CEO made an executive decision to move the survey to January.

Sam doesn’t care when the employee satisfaction survey is administered because it’s all a game to him. Outwardly conforming, inside he’s a subversive weasel. He does an informal survey of his co-workers to find out what they are most disgruntled about and then advocates for what they hate in the survey.

Last year, Sam said that the CEO’s latest management fad initiative was the most brilliant change the company had ever tried. Sam’s co-workers hated the initiative which eventually flopped due to foot-dragging. The year before, Sam voted in favor of a company picnic knowing his co-workers weren’t enthusiastic and then was “sick” the day of the picnic.

Sam wasn’t always a devious weasel. Once upon a time, he was happy to give his honest opinion to anyone crazy enough to ask him. Then a former boss oh-so-coincidentally repeated verbatim all the unflattering survey comments during a staff meeting. Sam stopped believing that the survey is anonymous.

How should HR respond to employee distrust of the survey?

  1. HR can suggest that the company stop administering employee satisfaction surveys since the survey could make employees feel like lab rats in an experiment.
  2. HR can continue the status quo and set up a department-wide betting pool about the survey results.
  3. HR can suggest outsourcing the survey to a third party vendor so that no one at the company sees raw data and anonymity is preserved.

Employers are increasing the number of surveys administered each year in the hopes of improving employee engagement. While surveys can be helpful, it’s critical that employers promote trust between management and employees by (1) guaranteeing anonymity in the survey response and (2) making objective, positive changes based on the survey results.

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 Had It with You!

Another update from the Jungle….

Once there was an executive assistant (what we used to call a secretary) who worked for a toxic boss. Rachel was good at her job, but you’d never know it working for David.  Rachel and David joined the company a few months apart more than ten years ago. They only began working together about two years ago.

Before that, Rachel worked for several managers who gave her neutral or mildly positive marks on her annual performance review.  The unexciting performance reviews kept Rachel on the move, transferring to new managers in hopes of finding a better work relationship.  Now Rachel is desperate to move again because she’s had with David.

David is mean and nasty. He criticizes her work product mercilessly, often when other people are present. He makes snarky comments about her constant noshing, even though Rachel’s explained that she has a medical condition requiring her to eat healthy snacks frequently throughout the day.

David’s nastiness stems, at least in part, from Rachel’s mediocre performance. He’s had it with her, too.  He’ll never admit that his constant disapproval has affected her performance.  After all, he also answers to a difficult boss and doesn’t want to hear any whining from others. He’d love to offload Rachel on another manager but there haven’t been any openings.

Last week, David’s and Rachel’s luck changed. An internal job posting announced an opening for an executive assistant in another department. Rachel immediately submits her resume. The HR manager tells Rachel that she’s not eligible for consideration because David still needs to submit her performance review.

Rachel dashes out of the HR manager’s office and makes it to David’s office in Olympic Gold medal time. She glares at David and demands that he turn in her performance review immediately. David scowls at her. Then he says that he will give her the best damned review she’s ever had if it means he can get rid of her.

What can Rachel do next?

  1. She can complain to HR about David’s abusive attitude but that could make her sound whiny and hurt her chances of a transfer away from him.
  2. She can dump her trash of rotting apple cores on his desk when he’s in a meeting.
  3. She can say nothing and use his “great” review to get away from him.

In the actual situation, the executive assistant moved from one toxic manager to an even more toxic manager. Toxicity should be addressed with HR assistance rather than festering to the detriment of the entire organization.

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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You Want to Do What?

Another update from the Jungle….

Marcia is the HR manager for her company. She often feels that she’s in a never-ending battle to balance management and employee expectations. Managers think employees lack loyalty to the company. Employees think the company doesn’t care about them; their most recent proof is the giant increase in employee contributions for health insurance.

Marcia endures almost daily requests from managers begging her to find ways to build employee morale and loyalty. Occasionally managers come up with their own morale building ideas. Some of the kookiest ideas come from Roger, her least favorite manager.

June 16.1

Roger likes to search the internet for management techniques that he can implement with his subordinates. His bosses like his initiative because they aren’t directly affected by his actions. Roger’s bosses also don’t see him every day and so are unaware of his general obnoxiousness.

Roger’s subordinates, meanwhile, suffer through meetings where he drones on about the latest management theories while incessantly snapping his pen or drumming his fingers on the table, his coffee mug, or his chair arm. Roger also thinks he’s invisible when making bodily adjustments, something his female subordinates find particularly gross and disgusting.

June 16.2Roger’s latest internet research leads him to 360 performance reviews. He reads the reviews about building team spirit and ignores the commentary cautioning that corporate culture can affect the outcome. The next day he marches into Marcia’s office to demand 360 performance reviews for his people.

Marcia stares at Roger in blank amazement. He isn’t obviously insane so she decides to give to him exactly what he’s asked for. She can’t resist chortling privately as she hands out the forms to each employee.

June 16.3A couple of weeks later Marcia reads what Roger’s employees have to say about him. As expected, they’ve vented their frustrations about his annoying personal habits and being treated as lab rats for his management theories. The reviews are so brutal she feels sorry for him. She invites Roger to her office for a private chat.

What should Marcia say to him?

1. She can soften the blow to Roger’s ego by giving him an edited summary of what his employees think of him.

2. She can give him the unedited results and watch his ego deflate.

3. She can tell him that his brilliance is wasted at a branch location and encourage him to apply for a job at headquarters.

June 16The old adage to “be careful what you wish for” applies to business as well as individuals. HR policies are most successful when they are carefully considered before being implemented.

 

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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I’m Not Crazy!

Mental Health1Andrea is a lawyer in the corporate legal department of a major company.  She’s never quite fit in with the rest of the department and tends to work alone rather than as part of a team.  She gets the assignments the other lawyers don’t want.

Over time, feeling isolated and unwanted, Andrea’s confidence drops and the quality of her work slides.  She thinks about calling the employee assistance program (EAP) but she’s paranoid that her boss will find out and it will be a mark against her.  So she slogs along feeling unwanted and unappreciated.

Her lowest point comes when an executive chews her out in front of the whole department accusing her of misreading a paragraph in a contract that he wants to cancel.  When Andrea protests that she wasn’t asked about how to cancel the contract, the executive says she’s incompetent and ought to be fired.

On the way home that day, Andrea buys supplies at a local craft store to build a piñata. That evening she creates the piñata and writes the executive’s name on it. Then she beats the piñata to a pulp with her tennis racket.  After that, she has a glass of wine and some dark chocolate.

Mental Health3But wine and chocolate can’t solve every problem. Andrea’s morale continues to disintegrate and she becomes deeply depressed. She begins seeing a psychologist for mental health counseling. The counseling sessions help her with personal problems even as her work situation deteriorates.

Eventually, she is fired from her job and she sues the company. The company argues that she was fired for incompetence due to emotional and mental instability. To prove it, they demand details of her sessions with the psychologist. The company argues that it has a right to this information because it paid the insurance premiums for the health plan that covered the psychologist’s sessions.

What should Andrea do next?

  1. She should make a bigger piñata of the executive and buy more wine and chocolate.
  2. She should accept that she’s not crazy; the company was the wrong employer.
  3. She should write an advice book about dealing with egotistical managers and start a new career as a business consultant.

Mental Health4The above scenario is loosely based on a California lawsuit about ten years ago where the company argued unsuccessfully that paying health insurance premiums meant it had a right to know the details of an employee’s mental health treatment. Unfortunately, arguments like the one raised by the California case make it difficult to convince employees to seek mental health treatment from an EAP or their health insurance plan.

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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Improving Morale with Beatings

MoraleAnother update from the Jungle….

Don started his tech company in the depths of the financial meltdown a few years ago. After years of struggling, he expanded his client base to the point that he now has employees instead of subbing out the work to independent contractors.

Don ought to feel happy, but he’s not.  His employees make him unhappy. He hired millennials expecting them to be energetic and creative and to keep his company on the cutting edge of technology.  Instead, they infuriate him with their attitude.

Greg and Sam blew a deadline because they went bar-hopping with college friends.  They had not wanted to work on the project but they were next up on the rotation for assignments. So Don ignored their lack of enthusiasm and told them to get busy.  Their final work product was so crappy that Don agreed not to charge the client.

Don was so angry he decided to take away a few perks. He folded up the ping pong table and shoved it inStartup, Business, People, Students the storeroom. Then he ordered Greg and Sam to report to the office every day so that he could keep a closer eye on them. Now they sulk at their desks, doing as little as possible, while surfing the web for other job opportunities.

Don is also annoyed with Beth. Beth wants to work on a fundraising campaign for her favorite non-profit (humane housing for pot-bellied pigs that have outgrown their cuteness) rather than working on client projects. Don likes bacon and ham and doesn’t see any point in coddling a former pet piggy. Besides, he hired Beth to work for his clients; not her favorite charity. He said no.

Morale is so low that even the free-beer-on-Friday promise hasn’t improved the general malaise afflicting the office.  It’s Friday evening. Don’s sitting at home drinking the single malt scotch he reserves for special occasions and wondering what he should do on Monday morning.

What options are available to Don?

  1. He can take away all the perks, including free beer, and enforce more discipline until employees crank out quality work and morale improves.
  2. He can fire his current employees and start over with a new batch of employees who accept his way of doing things.
  3. He can allow his employees more freedom to choose their assignments and set their own schedules as long as they meet project deadlines and submit quality work.

This story is a composite of several actual situations in which the small business owners still believed in face time and didn’t recognize that the newer generation of employees desire autonomy. No one likes to be micro managed, however, a worker still needs to serve the person who has employed them. They still need to earn their paycheck. The difficulty is always in finding a good balance.

 

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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New Job; Old Baggage

Another update from the Jungle….
image029Betty started a new job about six months ago but already the old patterns are starting to repeat. Betty’s last job became so unbearable that she quit. Now she seems to be headed down the same path again.

At her last job, a clique of female co-workers proved that Heathers don’t get nicer as they grow up; they just get older. They made Betty miserable. They invited her to lunch during her first week on the job for the apparent purpose of mocking her interests and lifestyle. That was the beginning of a long campaign of passive aggressive behavior aimed at undermining Betty.

When Betty complained about misplaced files or sabotaged resources, her clueless boss labeled her a complainer. Betty didn’t want to be best friends with the clique but in a small office it meant she was isolated and alone. Betty’s confidence eroded and her performance suffered. When her performance review assessed her as “not a team player”, Betty took the hint
image031 and found her current job.

Unfortunately, the old baggage came with her. She knows some of her new co-workers think she’s a snob for declining lunch invitations and not participating in the monthly office birthday parties. But Betty’s cautious of getting to know her new co-workers because she’s afraid of meeting a new group of Heathers.

Today, an HR rep asked Betty to stop by. At their meeting, the HR rep asked Betty how she liked her office, her workload, and how she was getting along with her colleagues. Betty gave a non-committal answer. Then the HR rep asked Betty if she would like to participate in a new mentoring program which was created to help new employees integrate into the company.

What should Betty do next?

  1. She can decide based on her past experiences that she will “fail” at this job so she should quit now and join a commune in Alaska.
  2. She can start looking for another job hoping that things will be different next time.
  3. She can accept the invitation to join the mentoring program, increasing her chances of having a satisfying career with her current employer.

In the actual case, the first employer had no mentoring program because the owners were not convinced that touchy-feely programs contributed to the bottom line. Consequently, they experienced a high level of employee churn and were eventually acquired by a competitor.

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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