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Falling to Pieces

Another update from the Jungle…

paulette-wooten-223050-unsplash1.jpg

Patsy, named for Patsy Cline, has a pretty good singing voice. She moved to Nashville with visions of international fame dancing through the lyrics in her head. Once there, she took the first job she could find while seeking out a record deal.

She never landed that record deal, and her last three employment gigs were as abbreviated as her open mic gigs. But her luck is about to change. She just got a job with a regional company that is distantly connected to the music business. Sure, it involves doing boring stuff that she did at several of her previous jobs, but she enters the new employer’s offices with a smile on her face and a spring in her step!

After a day with HR, filling out paperwork and learning about all the things that can get her fired, Patsy’s enthusiasm wavers. But she arrives early the next day determined to do well. The HR rep shows her where the bathroom is located and guides to her a rabbit-hutch sized cubicle. Then the HR rep abandons her to go deal with a crisis.

rawpixel-718387-unsplashPatsy leans around the cubicle corner to ask Doris for a little assistance. Doris is on the phone. Rebecca, on her other side, clues Patsy in to a few basic procedures, such as which database takes which customer information. Patsy realizes from prior experiences that she’s just gone through “orientation” and gets to work.

In the first week, almost all her work is rejected for a variety of reasons. Patsy tries to explain to co-workers this was the way things were done at her last job. Her supervisor says in front of co-workers that she doesn’t care how the company’s main competitor does business.

Before her first paycheck, Patsy is demoralized. As her probationary period ends, the HR rep tells Patsy that she’s being dropped because she “just doesn’t get it” and her co-workers think she’s whiny.

What should Patsy do next?

  1. drew-beamer-457833-unsplashShe can reach across the desk and slap the HR rep for not ensuring she received proper training.
  2. She can leave quietly and bad-mouth the company on her Facebook page.
  3. She can find a friend like Merle Haggard’s “Leonard” to help her until her singing career takes off.

The above scenario is a composite of many employers who expect to find ideal employees without investing in training. It’s a doomed process, one similar to hoping you’ll meet your life’s soulmate in a 2nd Avenue bar on Saturday night.

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 Flawed Hero

Welcome to the first installment of my new history blog. This blog, which will range over centuries and continents, looks at people and events that fascinate me. I’m beginning with a 20th-century soldier who was also a lawyer.

Blair Mayne photo

© IWM

Robert Blair “Paddy” Mayne was born in 1915 in Northern Ireland. In the late 1930’s, he was a professional rugby player, legendary for his ferocity on and off the playing field. He would often sneak out of the team’s hotel to go drinking. The night usually ended in a brawl with other patrons of the pub.

Mayne might be remembered only as the bad boy of Irish rugby if not for World War II. He immediately enlisted in the Royal Ulster Rifles, a conventional military unit. Not surprisingly, he didn’t fit in well. Fortunately for Mayne, the Special Air Service (SAS) was created in 1941 and he immediately transferred to it.

The SAS was the brainchild of David Stirling, another misfit serving in a conventional British unit. His idea was to take a small mobile force behind enemy lines in the North African desert to attack enemy supply lines and Luftwaffe airfields. His idea was accepted because in 1941 the British were losing more often than winning.

51HMfH-930L._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_SAS recruits were trained as paratroopers. They did most of their training on the ground due to a lack of aircraft for training missions. How do you train a paratrooper without jumping out of an airplane? Paddy Mayne is credited with the solution: recruits jumped out of a jeep or truck moving at 30 mph while wearing full-kit (120 pounds).

After training, SAS personnel disappeared into the desert to begin attacking German airfields. A typical attack began with a few men infiltrating the enemy airfield and planting explosives on the planes. In the next phase of the attack, a larger unit would drive on to the airfield in jeeps to strafe the enemy troops responding to the bombs.

2484339_orig_Paddy Mayne's medals

© IWM

When not in combat, Mayne continued his drinking and brawling habits. His insubordinate, hard-living behavior is believed to be the reason he was never awarded the Victoria Cross (the British equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor). After the war, he returned to his career as a solicitor.

Paddy Mayne is a fascinating man because of his contradictions. He was almost superhumanly brave in combat. But he never overcame the demons that triggered his drinking and brawling. He died in a road accident at the age of 40.

His exploits with the SAS are covered in Rogue Heroes (seen above) by Ben Macintyre (2016).

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.

Interested in reading more highlights from history like this one? I’m building a whole new blog for them! It’s coming soon, but in the meantime, be sure to sign up to receive emails with each new blog. Sign up here!

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Who Will Be the Lucky Winner?

Another update from the Jungle…

The anticipation is killing everyone in the office—except Kate. Two months ago, her boss Steve announced he was finally retiring (and about time, according to some co-workers). Now, several co-workers are desperately campaigning for his job.

unnamed-59Kate doesn’t want the job. She has years of supervisory experience, but she’s no longer interested in riding herd on a bunch of people who are used to doing whatever they want. She still intends to enjoy the show as others compete to replace Steve; corporate succession fights are as ferocious as mixed martial arts fights, only with fewer rules.

Matt shows up every day in neatly pressed slacks and a shirt, instead of his usual t-shirt and jeans. He’s even traded in his dirty sneakers for a less battered pair of loafers. He is sucking up to the Board of Directors with gift cards, lunch dates and leather-bound notebooks extolling his brilliance.

Matt doesn’t know that Walter anonymously forwarded to every board member a video from an old Christmas party of Matt gyrating around the dance floor modeling various women’s garments. Walter had saved a copy for an emergency just like this. Walter doesn’t want the job; he just doesn’t want Matt to get the job.

unnamed-61Meanwhile, Kim bustles around clutching her iPad with a thoughtful frown. She’s trying to look authoritative, which isn’t easy to pull off when you’re barely five feet tall and weigh less than a fully-grown German shepherd. She proclaims to everyone that it’s time a woman was given the job.

Her pitch spooks the board chair into believing she’s a militant feminist out to destroy older white men such as himself.

unnamed-64Every morning, Kate braces for the stream of excited co-workers who stop by to tell her their theories on who should replace Steve. Their gossip updates Kate on the shifting alliances among her co-workers.

How should Kate respond to all the gossiping?

  • She can pack a sandwich and a six-pack to enjoy while she watches her co-workers destroy each other.
  • She can take notes so that she has more material for the bodice-ripper novel she hopes will make her rich and famous.
  • She can remain the confidante of her co-workers, functioning as a safety valve for the emotional rollercoaster that happens during succession battles.

unnamed-62In the actual situation, an outsider was hired to replace “Steve” leading to an exodus of disappointed internal applicants, and a new round of alliances to win favor with the new guy.  Office politics will remain a standard workplace feature as long as human nature remains the same.

HR can mitigate the damage caused by office politicking by encouraging senior management to set clear criteria on the qualifications and process for hiring.

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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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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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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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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You Never Talk To Me.

Another update from the Jungle….

Mary’s adventures in small business ownership continue. [See 8/2/17 post for original adventure.]  Her staff is small and spans decades. The only thing the employees have in common is a desire to work in an entrepreneurial environment.

Such a diverse workforce means lots of different styles of working. Alex and Stan, her two youngest workers, communicate almost exclusively by text messaging. They look a bit like shepherd’s crooks, bent at the top after years of looking down at their iPads and smart phones. Jon, her most senior worker, despises text messaging but loves email.  

Mary worries that the lack of actual conversations will make her team less effective.  So she tries to get everyone talking by holding a team building exercise. But Jon only likes exercise that involves hunting big game in the Rockies.  He doesn’t even pretend to enjoy the team building exercise. Alex and Stan think a team building exercise means competing in on-line video games rather than playing alone.  They tune out after ten minutes to play games on their smart phones.

Mary abandons team building. Her next brilliant idea is to offer free beer at staff meetings. She sets a two-free-beers limit because she doesn’t have the budget for unlimited thirst. The team gathers at a table in a local sports bar but no one talks to each other. Jon swivels constantly in his seat to look at all the TV screens showing various sports. Alex and Stan slump in their chairs looking at their social media feeds, beers forgotten.

Mary decides her team has sufficient team spirit, although her spirits need a stiff brandy to recover.  After a weekend of agonizing over what to do, Mary is still trying to figure out how to build a functioning team that actually talks to each other.

What should Mary do next?

1. She can ignore previous experience and try another team building exercise.
2. She can order her staff to meet, ply them with more alcohol and hope they eventually learn to talk to each other.
3. She can accept that her workforce is meeting deadlines and keeping clients happy and allow them to communicate in their preferred methods.

Most businesses today have a diverse workforce spanning decades. Ensuring the different age groups and work styles gel into a cohesive team can be a challenge. HR representatives can help management to adapt the workplace routine to fit all age groups and their communications styles.  

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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What’d You Say?

Another update from the Jungle….

Bob has been a manager for a long time but his department has a lot of turnover because more experienced employees refuse to work for him. Ann is a new hire who thinks he’s a lot nicer than the jerk she used to work for. But after a week of working for Bob, she begins to understand why no one wants to work for him.

On her first day, Bob tells her to feed the field porcupine. Ann stares blankly at him and asks him to repeat his instructions. Bob frowns and tells her again to feed the field porcupine. Ann slips out of his office and flags down a co-worker. Eventually they figure out that he wants Ann to find the paper file for a client named Field.

On another occasion, he tells Ann to call Dodd Maxson. She searches the customer records but can’t find Dodd Maxson. Luckily a co-worker recalls a large client account that Bob’s working on and suggests looking for a guy named Rod Waxman. Ann wonders what he’ll say next.

Soon after the Waxman mix up, he tells her to talk to the three bears about an appointment he needs with the CEO. Ann figures out with assistance that Bob wants her to talk to Patrice Burns, the CEO’s executive assistant. By now Ann thinks she’s catching on.

When Bob tells her to talk to the care box about the cost of dipping snuff, she uses her old charades skills to think of rhyming words that might match what Bob said. Bob is going to a sales convention out of town and he mentioned something about shipping his marketing materials. She cleverly concludes that Bob wants her to ask the warehouse what it would cost to ship his stuff to the trade show.

Now Ann is sitting in the office of Sarah, the HR rep, who asks how she’s settling in to her new job. Ann saying guardedly that there are challenges but overall it’s going well. Then Sarah asks how it’s going with Bob.

What should Ann say?

  1. She can say that Bob is an anthropology project who is creating his own language and testing it on unsuspecting subordinates.
  2. She can lie and say everything is wonderful and hope that her increased consumption of red wine each evening will help her to eventually understand Bob.
  3. She can remember that she’s the new kid on the block and maintain a neutral attitude.

In the actual situation, the employees good-naturedly poked fun at their manager’s garbled instructions. Eventually the manager learned to speak more clearly and his subordinates learned to repeat his instructions to ensure they heard correctly.

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 Election’s Over. Can’t We Be Friends?

Another update from the Jungle….

image2Every morning since the holidays, Alyssa drags herself into work wishing she didn’t have to show up. She’s the HR manager for her company and she knows that her co-workers have a host of problems. She has a few of her own.  Alyssa is expecting trouble on Friday, at the inauguration of the new president.

Her company’s workforce includes supporters of both candidates in the recent election. Her co-workers usually get this worked up and divided over the Super Bowl; not politics. Now supporters of each side are snarling at each other in the hallways and the break room.

Last week, Doreen whined again about missing out on a promotion.  She’s convinced that senior management only promotes men, which is why Sam got the promotion she wanted.  Doreen says the election results prove the country is taking a step backward on women’s equality.

Yesterday, Leigh Ann and Jake stormed into Alyssa’s office to file harassment complaints against several cimage4o-workers.  Leigh Ann says her nerves are shattered by the sexist comments of several co-workers.  Jake claims the same co-workers mocked his lifestyle choices, including his multi-colored hair and thick glasses. They demand that Alyssa transfer the offending co-workers to a more suitable section of cubicle-world, such as next to bathrooms.

This morning, Javier and Ryan continued their endless argument about the election results while they were eating cookies in the breakroom.  By the third cookie, the discussion was a loud argument and Ryan dumped a cup of coffee on Javier. Javier retaliated by shoving a cookie up Ryan’s nose.

image3Co-workers were placing bets on who would win the fight when Rosemary, a manager, ran into the breakroom and spoiled the fun. She threw a tray of ice cubes at Javier and Ryan to cool them off and then ordered them to follow her to Alyssa’s office.  Alyssa is now trapped in her office with Rosemary, Javier and Ryan.

What are Alyssa’s options?

  1. She can drink an extra bottle of wine each evening to soothe her nerves.
  2. She can use all her vacation time to visit a South Seas island for a few weeks.
  3. She can ride out the temporary storm of emotional excesses and hope that everyone returns to their usimage5ual griping very soon.

Many work places face disruptions arising from the divisions in our communities. Outside the office, people increasingly live and socialize primarily with people with the same political and social attitudes. That means our workplaces have become the place where people are most likely to interact with differing social and political views. That puts HR staff in the middle of social divisions.

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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