Small Business

Freedom from Rules

Another update from the Jungle…

unnamed-47Linda opened her business one year ago when she was fed up with all the petty rules and employee bickering at her last job. Her friends Julie and Rhonda joined her. They agreed that their new business would be a happy place where workers were free to be creative and enjoy coming to work. That was the last time they agreed on anything.

Their infectious optimism enticed customers to try their products. But soon, they were overwhelmed with customers but lacked the organizational structure to keep up. The storefront was shambles, and their workshop was littered with half-finished orders.

After the usual 90-hour week, Rhonda skipped a day to catch up on her sleep. Since she neglected to tell the others, their shop was closed when a customer arrived to pick up her order. When Linda returned to the office after making a delivery, the fuming customer taught her a few new words. As soon as the offended customer left, Linda left a scathing voicemail on Rhonda’s phone, using some of the words she had just learned from the customer.

unnamed-45Two hours later, Rhonda galloped into the office. She screamed at Linda that she had been working non-stop for months and couldn’t take it anymore. She continued, saying she wished she had never left her old job just to work with such an ungrateful witch. Julie bounced out of the workshop to say that Linda’s rotten inability to set priorities was the cause of their problems.

Then Julie noticed that one of the customers was recording their fight with her cell phone. Julie chased the customer around the store trying to grab her phone. The customer fled out the door with Julie still chasing her. Rhonda collapsed onto the floor sobbing hysterically.

When Julie returned, the store was empty of customers. Linda announced that she was tired of not knowing where the other two were or what they were doing.

What options are available to Linda?

  • She can close the business and go live in a hut in the Rocky Mountains to get in touch with her feelings.
  • She can ditch her friends and start over with her worst enemy because she’d at least know what she would be getting into.
  • She can adopt some basic HR policies to ensure the business can grow without imploding.

Most new business owners want to avoid written rules because they dislike bureaucratic boondoggles. They quickly learn that there is a huge difference between bogging down in bureaucratic rules and creating a framework of HR rules to allow the business to grow effectively.

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 Not-So-Little Prince

Another update from the Jungle…

unnamed-36Vicky is the HR person for her company because her business partners are guys who would rather face a starving lion bare-handed than deal with employees. Lately, she’s been seesawing between the urge to kill one of the younger workers or to knock his block off.

Gus is a 30-something millennial who thinks he is a prince who can set his own rules. So Gus ignores the rule that says he should show up on time to work everyday. He also ignores the one that says he should tell his supervisor if he leaves the office during the workday.

Vicky learns that Gus has continued to ignore her verbal warnings when she receives a phone call from Frank, the company founder. Frank is a brilliant man, but he refuses to learn how to use an electronic calendar, his email account, or the internet. When Frank started his career, people actually talked to each other. He sees no reason to change his unnamed-34work habits now.

Frank asks if she declared a work holiday without telling him because he’s alone in the office and needs help with the copier. Vicky is flummoxed. She runs through the list of all twenty employees while Frank breathes heavily down the phone line. Gus is missing.

The next day, Vicky calls Gus to her office. Gus arrives twenty minutes late and slouches into a chair. He takes a big gulp of his energy drink, bored and disinterested, and demands an explanation for being dragged away from his work.

unnamed-35Vicky stares at him through a red haze. The last time a young male addressed her in such a surly tone, he got whapped up-side the head and lost his driving privileges for a month. But her son was sixteen at the time, not a 30-something! With superhuman strength, Vicky restrains herself.

She explains to the oblivious Gus that their small staff requires collaboration, and that means notifying others when he leaves the office. Gus drains his energy drink and tosses the container in the trash, splashing Vicky’s foot. He suggests that Frank should be given an iPad with everyone’s calendar loaded on it. Then he would know where all his staff is at any time. Vicky feels the red haze gathering again.

unnamed-37What options are available to Vicky?

  • She can congratulate herself on her self-restraint for letting Gus live.
  • She can look around for a frenemy who can be conned into hiring Gus.
  • She can give Gus a final warning but begin planning to replace him.

In the actual situation, the millennial was given another chance to improve. He is apparently still unaware of how close he is to termination for cause.

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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It’s Not What I Expected

Another update from the jungle…

Blythe grew up in a small rural community where everyone was a farmer or owned a business that supported farmers. Blythe decided early in life that she didn’t want to marry a farmer and that she was too socially liberal to ever be happy, so she left for the closest big city.

She soon discovers that small-town liberal is actually socially conservative in a city. She is surrounded by people who don’t look like her, talk like her or think as she does. After a series of boring jobs, she’s still looking for greener pastures.

She decides to indulge her love of cooking by applying for a job at a nearby bakery. The bakery is within walking distance of her apartment, a bonus, since her car is broken down and she has no money to fix it.

Blythe enjoys working at the bakery except when she works with Monica. Monica is a militant supporter of LGBTQ rights. She has a Marine buzz cut and wears men’s shirts with blue jeans. She also has earrings in some interesting places on her face.

The more Monica tries to persuade Blythe to agree with her, the more determined Blythe is to resist. Blythe didn’t cave into the conservative Christianity she grew up with; she isn’t about to succumb to the polar opposite view. Blythe thinks Monica is obnoxious and rude. Monica thinks Blythe is a hopeless hick.

This morning, the bakery owner, Carla, dances through the door of the bakery. She says that a gay couple just hired her to make their wedding cake. A nearby bakery turned down the job because the owner said the recent Supreme Court decision means he doesn’t have to serve people who offend his religious beliefs.

Carla is ecstatic because she expects to get more clients. She and Monica dance around the bakery crooning to an old Backstreet Boys song, “I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, as long as you pay me.” Blythe watches, appalled.

What options are available to Blythe?

  1. She can study transcendental meditation in hopes it will help her adapt to city ways.
  2. She can complain to the owner that she’s offended by the bakery’s “gay agenda.”
  3. She can find a new employer that more closely matches her own social views.

Diversity is a great goal in any workplace. However, in small companies, it may not be possible to bridge the gap of differing social views. Rather than continuing to be unhappy, an employee may be better off looking for a different 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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Spring Fever

Another update from the Jungle…..

It’s been a long, hard winter at Melanie’s company, with employees stuck in snow drifts or struck down by the flu. Melanie began wondering if her company could survive as deadlines were missed due to under-staffing.

Then, the sun came out, forsythia and daffodils began blooming. Trees showed an aureole of red as they began budding. People shed their heavy winter coats. Alas! A cold snap killed the daffodils, and left everyone twitchy as spring never seemed to arrive.

Dan’s an optimist, and he’s been trying to think at work and practice his golf swing simultaneously, getting ready for spring. Two days ago, as he thought about his brilliant ideas, he swung higher and faster. Suddenly, a horrible thud echoed through the office, followed by a crash and a scream.

Melanie dashed out of her office to find Randy sprawled on the floor, clutching his bleeding face. Dan knelt beside him, trying to stop the bleeding while stuffing his golf club under his desk. Melanie hauled Randy to his feet and marched him out the door to her car to drive him to the emergency room. Hours later, she returned to report that Randy needed stitches but would be okay. She banished Dan’s golf clubs from the office unless they were locked, out of sight, in his personal vehicle.

Today, Randy returned to work and accused Dan of trying to kill him. While Melanie tried to mediate their fight, she heard Karla yelling at Teresa about stinky take-out food. Teresa retorted that her garlicky take-out was less offensive than Karla’s cheap perfume fumigating the place, and then proceeded to point out Karla’s dark roots showing because she was too cheap to pay for a salon dye job.

Melanie sailed in to separate Karla and Teresa, closely followed by Dan and Randy, hoping to see the office equivalent of a mud wrestling match. Eventually, everyone grumpily returned to their desks to sulk.

What can Melanie do to alleviate her employees’ spring fever?

  1. She can sit in her office, occasionally venting a primal scream of frustration, and hope that scares her employees into doing their jobs.
  2. She can buy cheap rum and fruit juice for her staff and tell them to pretend they’re on a beach in an island paradise.
  3. She can plan an impromptu outing to take her employees’ minds off their troubles as they wait for spring to actually arrive.

Everyone gets cabin fever waiting for sunshine and getting outdoors after months of dreariness and cold weather. HR and management can help with morale boosters to lift everyone’s spirits.

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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Next!

Another update from the Jungle….

Pam owns a small company and she’s preparing for her next round of job interviews. She feels like she spends a lot of time hiring new employees because she has a revolving door as employees bail out for bigger companies that offer more fringe benefits or higher pay.

She approaches the interviewing and hiring process with a mixture of dread and anticipation. She gets excited when she thinks she may actually find that perfect match of personality and skill set to fit her company. But more often her anticipation evaporates into dread or even fascinated horror.

One recent job applicant, Stuart, earnestly explained that he would not be able to provide identification if he’s hired because the CIA might find him and then his life would be in danger. Sam listed his probation officer as a character reference since that was the only person who saw him on a regular basis. Tamara said her mother was forcing her to look for a job and how long would the interview take anyway.

Pam went home that night to pour a stiff triple shot of single malt scotch. As she sipped her scotch, she thought that finding a good employee is as difficult as finding Prince Charming. No one ever looks as good in person as they do on paper.

The next day, Pam is back in the office shuffling through a new stack of resumes. She weeds out the ones with typos and scary details. Then she sets up a new batch of interviews. The first interviewee, Kim, has a nose ring but says “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am” when responding to questions. Annie, the next contestant is covered in neck and arm tattoos and wears a metal-studded dog collar. Sam sits bolt upright and barely utters a complete sentence.

Pam is getting desperate. She needs employees to keep her business afloat.

What are Pam’s options?

  1. She can accept the fact that her employees won’t stay long and adapt her business model to reflect the reality of the revolving door.
  2. She can outsource much of the hiring process which will save her time. Of course, a staffing agency may not have any better luck than her at finding appropriate job applicants for her company.
  3. She can close her business and go work for a distillery since her single malt scotch is the only thing bringing her happiness at the moment.

The above examples of job applicants are taken from actual interviews, although names have been changed to protect the innocent, the scary, and the downright weird.

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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Hey, Y’all, I’d Like A Job

Another update from the Jungle….

It’s been a long day and Mary is catching up on her emails. As she deletes all the unsolicited introductions from sales people trying to sell her stuff she either doesn’t want or can’t afford, she wonders again if she was completely nuts to open her own business.

When she’s not avoiding obnoxious sales pitches, she’s dealing with job seekers. She can track the college graduation season simply by the number of unsolicited emails she receives. She rarely reads the attached resumes because of the first impressions created by the emails. The smart graduates use proper grammar and complete sentences in their emails. The smartest graduates actually look at her company website to see what kind of business she runs.

She sighs and clicks on the next email. Its contents strike her so forcibly that she takes a big swig of her single malt scotch. She glances out the window to see if it’s a full moon; it’s not. It’s also too early for the solar eclipse. No natural phenomenon explains the email she’s reading.

The email says, “Hey, y’all, I just graduated from college and I’d love to come work for you if you’ve got an opening. If you don’t have any jobs right now, please keep me in mind when you do. Thx, Candace.”

Mary’s received some strange introductions from job-seekers. She was once chased two city blocks until she realized the crazy man running after her wasn’t a stalker; he was trying to hand deliver his resume.  She’s had friends ask her to hire their college-aged children because some of those young people are otherwise unemployable.

Mary knows that millennials are much more informal than her generation of workers. But Candace’s email introduction surely takes the prize.  This clueless waif graduated from college without ever learning how to present herself to a potential employer.

What should Mary do next?

  1. She can hit delete and ignore Candace because it’s not her responsibility to teach millennials how to apply for a job.
  2. She can drink more scotch and save the email for the bad days when she needs a quick laugh.
  3. She can remember her own job-hunting mistakes and email Candace some kind advice on how the power of first impressions affects gainful employment.

Informality is preferable to the strict workplace hierarchies of the past that stifled innovation and creativity. However, informality should never cross the line into disrespect. HR can help by encouraging college placement offices to teach soon-to-be-graduates how to properly approach prospective employers.

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 Know A Secret?

Another update from the Jungle….

Josh started his company with the help of several friends who are now enemies for life after a couple of business disagreements. After these mistakes, Josh intelligently concluded that his skill set didn’t include managing employees. So he hired Adele to handle employee problems.

Adele was wonderful. She created processes for hiring which allowed the company to hire better qualified people. She created work flows for tracking employee performance which improved the bottom line. Even her nifty termination process came in handy when employees began whizzing in, then back out, the door.

Josh noticed the company’s bottom line was sagging due to the high cost of employee turnover. When he asked Adele, she replied that employees were dissatisfied but couldn’t explain why. So he did what any concerned business owner does in such a situation. He hired a consultant to tell him what he already knew but didn’t want to believe.

Josh’s problem is Adele. She loves gossiping. Any confidential information she hears is liable to be repeated to other employees. She’s been feeding the feud between Chloe and Tammy by sympathetically listening to their grievances and then repeating their nastier comments.

She tells Chloe that Steve hates working with her after he complains that Chloe is always late to meetings. She tells Steve that Josh is planning to promote Sue to the job Steve wants because the company’s demographics will look better with a woman in management.

Josh is aware of Adele’s inability to keep secrets. After all, she’s repeated some of the juicier bits to him, like the rumor that Rob and Pam are having an affair. Actually, they both leave work at the same time because their daughters play on the same soccer team.

All the gossiping is causing widespread paranoia as everyone wonders what unfortunate “truth” will leak out on the office grapevine next. Josh is so shocked he accidentally dumps a cup of coffee in his lap. He feels betrayed by Adele because he was relying on her to take care of the people problems; not make them worse.

What are Josh’s options?

  1. He can give Adele a free trip into orbit without a rocket booster or parachute.
  2. He can accept the status quo because Adele updates him on what employees are saying about him and the company.
  3. He can reprimand Adele for gossiping but give her a second chance.

In the actual situation, the dysfunctional company simply muddled along from one crisis to the next until it was bought out 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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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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The Magic of the Season

Another update from the Jungle….

unnamed-3After the fiasco of their Thanksgiving dinner, Rudy and Trish decide they will skip a holiday party this year.  Even a warlock and a witch need a break.  Jerry, the werewolf next door, offers to host a holiday party, but they turn him down. Every surface in Jerry’s house is covered in dog hairs and Trish is a finicky witch who doesn’t like the way the dog hairs stick to her clothing.

Besides, there are rumors of an employee party at the big box store where Rudy, Trish and Jerry work.  Trish checks the bulletin board in the employee break room and sees the notice that the company isunnamed-20 hosting a Christmas party for employees.  Trish immediately complains to the HR manager that calling it a Christmas party interferes with her religious beliefs as a pagan. She threatens to take concerted action with the other witches to protect her workplace rights.

The HR manager cleverly deduces undercurrents of discontent and decides to take a survey of employees to ask who will attend the holiday party.  Most employees say they will attend if they are paid for their time and there is no gift exchange.  In a workplace full of witches, warlocks and a mischievous leprechaun, no gifting is a prudent choice so the HR manager agrees.

The HR manager reports the survey results to the ogre who owns the store and he agrees to pay the employees to attend the holiday party. Actually, what the ogre says is much pithier and an exact quote might give rise to an EEOC charge. The HR manager posts a signup sheet for the potluck lunch.

unnamed-19Trish brings sugar cookies shaped like pentagrams. She’s added a magic spell that increases the eater’s happiness. After eating a cookie, the HR manager smiles benevolently at her coworkers.

Ryan, the leprechaun, arrives late because it is normally his day off.  But he never misses an opportunity to get paid for not working.  He steps jauntily into the break room breathing Bushmills Irish Whiskey fumes on everyone and smiling bleaunnamed-17rily.  As he passes the buffet table, he snatches one of Trish’s cookies and gulps it down in two bites.

The magic spell synchronizes beautifully with his whiskey. Ryan begins high-stepping around the room, like an extra in Riverdance, listening to a tune only he could hear.  The HR manager joins him and soon everyone is hoofing it round the breakroom.

Everyone agrees it is the best office holiday party in years.

Happy Holidays!

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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