Work Place Relationships

Bacon, Bags and Bayou

Another update from the Jungle…..

Gwen became the temporary manager of Wade’s department when he failed to return from a business conference in New Orleans.  While reviewing the expense reports submitted by several of Wade’s subordinates who also attended the seminar she noticed some odd charges on their company credit cards.

David bought industrial sized plastic trash bags with his company card.  He told Gwen that he hosted a party in his hotel room that got out of hand and he didn’t want to burden the housekeeping staff with the cleanup.  Tiffany said she bought a dozen bottles of household cleaners so that she could help David clean his room.

Jillian claimed that she needed to buy twenty rolls of duct tape to mail her seminar materials home, but Gwen didn’t see any postage charges. Ethan said he bought ten pounds of bacon because he often feels hungry in the middle of the night.  He declined to explain how he cooked bacon in his hotel room.

David, Jillian, Tiffany, and Ethan also racked up substantial charges for a boat ride into the bayou. They told Gwen they chartered a boat tour as a reward for putting up with Wacko Wade at the conference.  Then they regaled Gwen with the saga of Wade’s behavior at the conference.

During the opening segment of the conference, Wade raised his hand just before a scheduled break to ask a series of questions based on a garbled hypothetical.  By the time the presenter had responded, the entire break time was gone. That meant the next presentation started late, which also meant delaying lunch.

At the end of the day, Wade was at it again, asking another series of convoluted questions. Shouts of rage echoed around the room and people twisted in their seats trying to locate the idiot holding up their chance to get sloshed in the French Quarter.  The presenter was also annoyed because he wanted to ditch his suit and tie. He cut off Wade in mid-question.

By the second day of the conference, audible death threats floated in the air near Wade.  His subordinates skipped lunch to huddle in Ethan’s room, evolving a diabolically clever plan.  They began communicating via Instagram messages at Tiffany’s suggestion since these messages aren’t saved in a database.    

Of course, they didn’t tell Gwen about their diabolically clever plot; only about Wade’s obnoxious behavior.  As she stared at their innocent expressions, Gwen sensed that she might be missing something.  She wondered, “Is it worth it to ask HR to begin an internal investigation”?

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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Lunch with Leeann

Another update from the Jungle…..

Brenda made a hideous mistake today.  She agreed to have lunch with Laura, forgetting that Laura would invite Leeann.   

Leeann is a controller.  She isn’t bossy or pushy, but somehow everything moves at her pace. She shows up late for work most days, usually with a long explanation. The cat got sick. The dog got loose and she had to search the neighborhood for him.  The kids were sick.   Instead of telling her to get her lazy butt out of bed an hour earlier each workday, their idiot boss just shrugs.

Today, as usual, Leeann wandered around the office chatting about how much work she had to do.  Five minutes before they were to leave for lunch, Leeann remembered that she needed to return an important phone call.  It will only take a minute, Leeann assured them. Fifteen minutes later, Leeann was finally ready to go after a stop at the restroom. 

As they finally headed out the door, Leeann offered to drive because she needed to run an errand on the way back from lunch.  She dug into her giant, squishy purse for several minutes trying to find her car keys.  Brenda slid into the back seat feeling light-headed from rage, despair and hunger.

Leeann stared out the windshield and sighed. Then she dug through the console for her sunglasses. After another sigh and a seat adjustment, she finally backed out of the parking space.  Leeann paused at the exit to debate with Laura about where to go for lunch. 

Brenda lost patience and said loudly from the back seat, “Just pick one. I’m starving”.  Brenda’s stomach was growling so loud that the noise was audible to a passing pedestrian. 

After lunch, the trip back to the office detoured to a drugstore so that Leeann could drop off a medication for a refill.  As they waited in the drive-through lane that snaked around two sides of the drugstore, Brenda considered her options.

What options are available to Brenda?

  1. She can lean out the car window and scream, “Help! I’m being kidnapped!”     
  2. She can leap out of the car and call Uber or Lyft to take her back to the office.       
  3. She can make a mental note to never, ever have lunch with Leeann again. 

Every office has a Leeann.  To limit the productivity and morale hits caused by your office’s Leeann, set clear performance metrics.  Then apply a combination of coaching and progressive discipline until she either hits the required metrics or doesn’t.

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 can also follow me at HerSavvy.com. My column appears the 3rd Tuesday of each month.

Little Miss Helpful

 Another update from the Jungle…..

Charlotte marched into the office determined to be cheerful. She turned on her computer and then trudged to the break room for a cup of coffee.  Fortified with caffeine, she sat down to read her emails. The opening sentence of the first email left her snarling.  That vicious little twerp!   

The email was from her co-worker, Hannah, asking Charlotte to send a packet of information to a customer. Her email implied that Hannah was once again saving a customer relationship. Naturally the email was copied to their supervisor, Cassie. 

Charlotte was furious. She had been working with that customer for months and had hand delivered the same packet of material several weeks earlier. She was scheduled for a follow up meeting with the customer tomorrow.   She would have explained all that if Hannah had talked to her.  But Hannah rarely coordinated her activities with Charlotte even though their projects often overlapped. 

The dupes in the office thought Hannah was sweet and helpful; they would never believe she intentionally screwed a co-worker.  Hannah didn’t fool Charlotte who recognized Hannah’s symptoms from an earlier point in her own career.  Hannah was young, insecure and she craved approval so that she could feel indispensable. 

After re-reading the email several times, Charlotte decided to wait to knock Hannah into orbit.   Charlotte’s years of experience in office politics made her realize that she’d only sound petty and bitchy if she complained.  She could be patient like a lion lurking in the tall grass waiting for lunch to trot by.

Later that morning at a staff meeting, Hannah droned on as usual reporting all her activities in excruciating detail. Charlotte day dreamed about non-lethal ways to settle the score with the nincompoop. Homemade fudge laced with laxative might hurt others. Boiling oil would ruin the carpet.  Maybe she could accidentally trip Hannah as they left the conference room.

Then she heard her name and blinked away such pleasantries.  Hannah was sanctimoniously reminding everyone in the room that she had asked Charlotte to follow up with the customer.  Cassie smiled fondly at Hannah and turned to raise an eyebrow to Charlotte.

What options are available to Charlotte?

  1. She could sarcastically explain that if Hannah ever bothered talking to her, the idiot would know Charlotte was already taking care of the customer.     
  2. She could start a catfight with Hannah to entertain their co-workers who had grown bored with the celebrity feuds on the internet.       
  3. She could recognize that Hannah’s misbehavior arose from fear and insecurity and let it go. 

Every workplace has insecure people who build themselves up by tearing down others. Rather than testing the limits of the workplace violence policy, use emotional intelligence to recognize the root cause of their obnoxious behavior so that you can calibrate your response appropriately. 

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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Join the HR Compliance Jungle today. Click here!

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Visit us: http://www.complianceriskadvisor.com/

You can also follow me at HerSavvy.com. My column appears the 3rd Tuesday of each month.

Now What?

Another update from the Jungle…

Michelle is sitting at her desk, diligently working on a tedious data entry project. Just because it’s a regular part of her duties doesn’t mean that she enjoys doing it. Suddenly, her manager looms into view.

Sam is a pretty good manager, as managers go. Michelle’s had lots worse than him. But he gets fixated on the stupidest things. Last week he decided to change the information that he wants to track in the database she’s working on. As a result of this change, Michelle spent most of the week revising her database to add the new information.

Michelle wasn’t mad about that. She’s worked on projects before where Sam changed his mind about the metrics halfway through the process. She had already set up her database to track the new information Sam wants. What made her mad is that two months ago, when she suggested including this information, Sam dismissed her suggestion without thinking about it.

Michelle really wants to limit her work-related stress because she has plenty of personal drama at home. Her parents are resisting her efforts to move them into an assisted living facility because they think it’s a plot to have them declared mentally incompetent. Her teenage daughter mopes that her life is blighted forever because Michelle refused to let her attend a party hosted by a classmate while the classmate’s parents were out of town.

But it’s a new week. Michelle is sitting at her desk, drinking a double espresso, waiting for the caffeine to kick in. Suddenly, Sam pops up at her elbow. He says that an email she sent yesterday contained erroneous information.

Michelle asks if Sam wants her to send another email correcting her earlier one. No, he says, that’s not necessary because it doesn’t really matter. He just wants to be sure she knows that she made a mistake. Michelle stares blankly at Sam, calculating the consequences to her career if she tries to brain him with a laptop computer.

What should Michelle do next?

  1. She can give in to her impulse to brain her manager with a laptop computer and damn the consequences.
  2. She can plan a vacation on a deserted island to get away from work and family annoyances.
  3. She can ignore her manager’s nitpicking criticisms as her co-workers do.

Workplace relationships are often our longest lasting human interactions aside from our families. As with families, annoying habits disrupt our working relationships. HR can help by ensuring that new hires and existing employees are a good “fit” for the team.

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

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The Morning After

Another update from the Jungle…..

Karen expected her long-time boyfriend to pop the question at a special Valentine’s Day dinner. Instead, he dumped her with the dessert. Karen drove home in shock and drank a whole bottle of red wine while she tried to figure out where it all went wrong. She dug out her secret stash of dark chocolates, but some things can’t be fixed even by chocolate.

Karen awoke to a hangover and a feeling of being watched. She rolled over to find her cat observing her with lofty disdain. She briefly contemplated calling in sick, but bosses should lead by example, or so she’s been told. So she dragged herself out of bed, swallowed several aspirin, and trudged out the door to work.

At the office, Karen ran into Sherry (literally) when they rounded the same corner from opposite directions. Sherry’s hot herbal tea splashed generously over both of them. Karen snarled and pushed past Sherry, who tottered back to her cubicle to have hysterics.

Jim glanced at Sherry across the cubicle wall, thinking that he ought to do something. But he wasn’t any good helping his wife when she cried so what could he do for a co-worker? He dropped to the floor and crawled on hands and knees toward the exit.

Meanwhile, Sue vaulted a low cubicle wall to evade Karen and ran down the hall to the HR rep’s office. Teresa, the HR rep, was sitting quietly at her desk, feeling good about life, when Sue caromed off the door jamb, bounced against the bookcase, and dropped into a chair gasping for air. Teresa studies her in gathering alarm. Sue’s shin is bleeding and one shoe is missing.

Sue says Karen has finally had the big mental break with reality that her subordinates have been betting on for months. Teresa listens helplessly. Her HR training didn’t really prepare her for these sorts of emergencies.

What should Teresa, the HR rep, do next?

  1. She can hide in her office and hope the situation resolves itself.
  2. She can join Karen’s subordinates in texting alerts to each other warning when Karen leaves her office to search for victims to criticize.
  3. She can go down the hall to investigate and to assess whether Karen needs some personal leave to recover her composure.

Unfortunately, the personal dramas of employees and employers spill over to the workplace. When the soap opera involves a supervisor, the damage can spread rapidly as subordinates are sucked into the emotional morass. HR can help by taking swift action to intervene and mitigate workplace disruptions.

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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Will He or Won’t He?

Another update from the Jungle…..

For weeks, Karen has been skipping merrily around the office. Her subordinates agree they’ve never seen her so approachable, so agreeable, so nice. When Sherry knocked over her coffee mug spilling herbal tea all over a report, Karen only smiled benignly. On an average day, Karen would have screeched like a banshee about clumsiness and smashed the coffee mug.

“What has mellowed out their normally high-strung boss?” they wonder. Little do they know that Karen is expecting a big announcement from her boyfriend, Dean. They’ve been dating for years, and lately Karen has noticed some changes in Dean’s behavior. She thinks it means that he’s finally going to pop the question.

It’s Valentine’s Day, and Karen has nudged Dean into remembering to invite her to dinner at her favorite restaurant. All day Karen mentally rehearses who she wants to invite to the wedding and who she wants as bridesmaids. Karen meets Dean at the restaurant because he says he won’t have time to swing by and pick her up. At the restaurant, Dean sits deep in thought for much of the meal. Karen waits impatiently for the big moment. She drops a couple of broad hints about an autumn wedding.

Finally, as dessert and coffee arrives, Dean begins talking. He tells Karen that he’s met someone else. Actually, it’s a long-time co-worker of his that he’s finally noticed after years of working side by side. He tells Karen that this is their last evening together. He hands over his key to the condo as he tells her that he’s already collected his personal stuff from her condo while she was at work.

Karen listens in disbelief. Suddenly it all becomes clear to her. She had to drive alone to the restaurant. He agreed to her favorite restaurant because he knew she wouldn’t make a public scene in her favorite restaurant.

What will happen to Karen’s subordinates now that their boss has been crushed by the light of the moon? Find out in the next installment of “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not”.

Much as employers would like to believe that employees’ personal lives have nothing to do with them, the workplace is regularly disrupted by personal dramas.

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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He Stopped Loving Her [Yesterday]

Another update from the Jungle….

Chloe is an intelligent, educated woman who worked hard to become a manager. She worked such long hours that she had no time to search for true love. So she did what many other intelligent but desperate adults do. She searched her office for Prince Charming.

He wasn’t really Prince Charming. He was Tom from the IT department. Chloe learned a great deal about him when she was assigned to co-lead a cross departmental task force with him. It began innocently with daily meetings as they organized their team.

One evening as they wrapped up another long day, Tom announced that he was starving and asked Chloe if she’d like to join him for a late dinner. Soon they were meeting for lunch and dinner. In the blink of a star-struck eye, they progressed to meeting across the kitchen table at breakfast.

When Tom went out of town on business, he had a dozen roses delivered to Chloe’s office. The office grapevine buzzed louder than a bee on a hot summer afternoon. The buzz was so intense that Patricia, the HR manager, decided to have a chat with Chloe. She reminded Chloe that the company has a non-fraternization policy, and if Chloe and Tom violated it, they could both be subject to disciplinary action. Chloe airily informed Patricia that she and Tom were just friends.

Poor Chloe forgot that in fairy tales, not everyone gets to live happily ever after. As the task force wound down, so did the romance. Tom volunteered for out-of-town business trips because he was trying to accumulate enough airline miles to vacation in Hawaii. Chloe ate leftovers alone in her kitchen.

When a workplace romance fizzles people behave badly. Chloe sniped at Tom during the weekly managers’ meeting.  Tom confidentially told his closest friends that Chloe was a nut, thus ensuring the story spread through the office until it reached the ear of the CEO.

The CEO hates dealing with people problems. He tells Patricia to make it all go away.

What options are available to Patricia?

  1. She can recommend that Chloe and Tom be fired for violating the non-fraternization policy.
  2. She can recommend that Chloe and Tom be sent for couples counseling.
  3. She can include the slightly disguised details in her next popular bodice-ripper novel, which she writes under a pen name.

The above office romance scenario is so common that everyone has seen it at least once. Having a non-fraternization policy is essential to managing the risks of a costly settlement when it all goes bad.

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

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I Thought We Were Friends

Another update from the Jungle….

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

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

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

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

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

What should Michelle do next?

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

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

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

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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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Have I Got a Deal for You!

Another update from the Jungle….

Cyndi has settled in well to her new role as a manager at her company. Her friendly attitude is helping her build solid client relationships. But Tom, the candidate who lost out when Cyndi was promoted, is nursing his sense of injustice.

Tom believes he was the victim of reverse discrimination. He thinks the company promoted Cyndi because they were scared by a former employee’s gender discrimination lawsuit. Initially, he sulked and nursed his wounded ego. But he’s not stupid; he knows that sulking won’t help him. So he does what any reasonably intelligent schemer does. He dreams up a diabolically clever plan to get even.

First, he taps his network within the company to find out where there might soon be an opening for a manager. He learns that Stuart is retiring from his managerial slot as head of internal procurement. It’s an important job within the company but a graveyard for career aspirations. No procurement manager has ever received a promotion to the C-suite.

Tom begins maneuvering to have Cyndi promoted to Stuart’s soon-to-be-vacated job. Tom persuades a friend to encourage Cyndi to apply for Stuart’s job.  He also anonymously encourages the HR manager to believe that Cyndi wants Stuart’s job.  As a result, Cyndi is subjected to nudges, winks, and “discreet” inquiries about her interest in replacing Stuart.

Cyndi is flattered by all the attention. It’s nice to be wanted. She knows that if she takes the job, she will be the head of an entire department and get a slight bump in pay.  But Cyndi isn’t stupid either.

She knows she’s got a management job on the production (i.e., revenue producing) side of the business. Procurement is a cost center and not a revenue producer for the company.  She knows that production-side managers are more likely to get promoted.

What should Cyndi do next?

  1. She can apply for Stuart’s job so that she becomes the head of a department and gets the bump in pay; but accept that she’ll probably never get another promotion.
  2. She can recognize the Machiavellian plot to derail her career and start a counter campaign to get Tom promoted to the procurement job.
  3. She can hang on to her current managerial post and work toward a C-suite promotion.

Office politics are a feature of every company. For some, it’s a game that alleviates the boredom of their jobs while others see politicking as war with winners and losers. To limit the politicking, it helps to have clear HR policies that are fairly applied to all employees.

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

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