Work Place Relationships

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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This is My Meeting!

Another update from the Jungle….

Cyndi is the newest manager at her company. Today she is going on her first major client meeting since her promotion. But she’s not going alone.

Ron, the CEO, says he is sending Bill along to help answer questions. Bill knows the client, Grand Delusions, Inc., well because it was his account before the hand off to Cyndi. Cyndi gets along well with Bill because he’s always been willing to help her. She’s glad to have him along to handle the introductions.

Bill offers to drive to Grand Delusion’s office because he’s been there many times before while this is Cyndi’s first visit.  During the drive, he tells Cyndi about his recent vacation looking at Mayan ruins in the Yucatan. Cyndi asks a few questions about Grand Delusions but gets conflicting advice from Bill. By the time they arrive, she’s feeling a tad confused.  The CEO of Grand Delusions is either the best guy ever or a total jerk, according to Bill.

Cyndi and Bill are escorted to Grand Delusions’ conference room where they are joined by Tim, CEO, and Sam, CFO. Tim and Sam greet Bill like the old friend he is and launch into an anecdote about their recent golf outing. After an interminable waste of time (in Cyndi’s opinion) the real meeting begins. Bill introduces Cyndi and explains that she is now in charge of the client relationship.

Cyndi smiles graciously and begins to outline her agenda for the meeting.  Bill interrupts her to remind Tim that the billing system has changed. That was the final item on Cyndi’s agenda because she knows it will take time to explain.  Bill launches into a garbled explanation of the new billing system that misstates several vital steps. Tim and Sam stare blankly. It’s obvious they’re confused.

Cyndi tries to correct Bill’s misinformation, but he talks over her. That’s when she gets mad. She scribbles on a piece of paper “I thought this was my meeting” and passes the note to Bill.  He reads the note and stuffs it in his pocket.

What are Cyndi’s options?

  1. She can kick Bill in the shins underneath the table until he stops talking.
  2. She can jump up shouting “liar, liar, pants on fire” at Bill.
  3. She can call Tim and Sam later to schedule a meeting with them but without Bill to talk about the new billing system.

In the actual situation, the male colleague stopped talking (briefly) after receiving the note which allowed his female colleague to lead the discussion.

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….

Cyndi is the newest manager at her company. How she got promoted is still a hotly disputed topic. She worked for the company for ten years, taking on progressively more difficult assignments. She paid for management training classes out of her own pocket and thinks she’s earned her promotion.

Tom, the other candidate, and his supporters are convinced that she got the promotion due to an excess of political correctness by the senior management team. They believe the senior management team was scared after the company was sued by former employee Alicia.

Alicia sued after being passed over for promotion for the third time. She alleged that Ron, the CEO, and other male senior managers judged female employees based on “feminine” appearance rather than competence. Alicia wore little makeup and preferred pants suits to dresses.

Without admitting fault, the company quickly settled with Alicia and proudly announced a new diversity and inclusion initiative. Cyndi is the first person promoted to manager after the D&I program is implemented.

Cyndi shows up for her first managers meeting prepared to contribute after all her years of preparation. She walks into the conference room and sees that the chairs are taken at the table. She drags up a chair and politely asks two colleagues to move to allow her to sit at the table. They stare at her blankly for interrupting their conversation.

After a moment, Cyndi deftly shoves an elbow into the side of one manager and whacks her chair leg into the shins of the other one. As they recoil, she pushes her chair into the cleared space at the table and sits down. She smiles graciously at her colleagues and thanks them for moving.

The meeting is about a new marketing campaign to increase sales to women. Cyndi listens in silence for several minutes, awaiting her chance to contribute. Ron solicits opinions from everyone except Cyndi.

Cyndi looks around the table and considers her options.

  1. She can sit quietly and say nothing since she’s new to the group.
  2. She can go home and cry into a glass of red wine because she was ignored.
  3. She can look Ron in the eye and say, “I’m sure it’s an oversight but I haven’t been asked what I think of the new campaign”, and then give her opinion.

The above scenario may seem familiar to many employees.  Diversity and inclusion programs enhance employee retention and attract new employees; but only when properly implemented and with a clearly stated goal of deepening the talent pool.

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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Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Another update from the Jungle….

Danny is interviewing for a new job, and the question he dreads most has just been asked. Why did he leave his last job?  Danny stares at the in-house recruiter of his prospective employer and thinks back to his former job.

Danny is a young salesman, bright and energetic. He was hired straight out of college into his dream job. He thought his former boss, Sam, was his friend because they talked about sports when they weren’t talking about business.

They often hung out at a sports bar after work watching sports events.  They also called and texted each other about games they were watching during the weekend. Unfortunately, Danny hadn’t made the mental transition from college buddies to business colleagues.

He learned this hard lesson during March Madness.  Danny hosted a party for some of his college frat brothers. Since he was hosting his own party, he couldn’t attend Sam’s party for colleagues and clients.

As the game progressed, Danny called Sam to discuss the latest score and joke about some of the action. But Danny was drinking heavily and jokes that amuse frat brothers don’t necessarily amuse a boss, particularly a boss trying to entertain his own guests.  After the tenth call in as many minutes, Sam ordered Danny to not call him again. Danny laughed drunkenly and agreed. A few minutes later, he called Sam again. Sam hung up and turned off his phone.

The next day, Danny was met at the office by an HR rep who explained that getting drunk and making harassing phone calls to a boss was inappropriate. She informed Danny that he could resign and receive a severance package or he could be fired.  Danny chose the first option and returned home to nurse his hangover.

This sorry sequence of events flits through Danny’s mind as he stares at the in-house recruiter. What are Danny’s options?

  1. He can admit that he got drunk, showed poor judgment, and was invited to be successful elsewhere.
  2. He can trash his former employer as a rotten place to work.
  3. He can say that his former employer wasn’t a good “fit” or that he is looking for a new challenge.

In the actual situation, the young employee was given a few coaching tips during his exit interview, regarding appropriate behavior outside the office.  It’s always a good idea to add a segment in the on-boarding process to remind new hires that what they do on their own time can negatively affect their employment.

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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Ask Me If I Care

Another update from the Jungle….

Mason is a slacker dude who attended college for two years on a beer and pizza plan until his dad had a chat with him. His dad gave Mason three options: make stellar grades for a semester and dad would start paying for college again, join the military, or get a job.

Mason decided to get a job. Since he has no marketable skills and his dad isn’t a politician with connections, he accepts the only job he is offered: working in a call center.  He sits in a low-walled cubicle talking to customers while wearing a headset that he can fantasize is actually a computer game headset.  As long as he’s got his favorite carbonated drink and potato chips, he’s happy.

Mason does so well that his dad daydreams of a day when Mason will be a responsible adult.  Then Mason is transferred to the “retention” department where angry customers are sent by the regular call center staff.   These angry customers explain in great detail how much they hate the company, its product, and its employees.

Mason’s first line of defense to so much hate and fury is to treat it all as a game. He’s actually very good at the job because he never gets angry; he lets the words roll over him.  But gradually, the abuse blasting over his headset wears down even the defenses of a slacker dude.  Drinking an extra coke or eating an extra bag of chips doesn’t alleviate the dreariness of each work day.

Mason sleeps in repeatedly and is written up for tardiness.  He drinks greater quantities of adult beverages on the weekends. On one memorable occasion, he shows up late and still drunk. His supervisor informs him that if it happens again, Mason will be fired. Mason stares blearily, wondering when his supervisor will realize that he doesn’t care.

What are Mason’s options?

  1. He can continue breaking the rules to see how long it takes to actually be fired from the one job he is good at.
  2. He can drink more alcohol and become a zombie at work.
  3. He can look for another job that is less mentally distressing.

Call centers are full of employees who are worn down by the stress of customer service, dull workspaces, and constant monitoring for infractions of company rules. As employees disengage, employers become more rigid about enforcing the rules in an effort to boost productivity which increases turnover.  HR staff can ease the pain for everyone by revamping HR policies to emphasize rewards rather than punishments.

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 Gotta Be Me!

Another update from the Jungle….

Annie is desperate for a job after being kicked to the curb by her last two employers.  One employer cut staff when sales plummeted off a cliff; the other went straight in to bankruptcy.  Working a cash register in a big box store is a high risk job these days.

Annie doesn’t care about her dream job.  She just wants to pay her bills while she decides how old she’ll be before she can afford to retire.  With dimming hopes of a better life, she applies for every job opening she can find.

Finally, she is offered a job at a sporting goods store.  The company’s C-suite wants to sell more sporting equipment and clothes to women.  The company’s HR director hopes that a diverse staff in the local stores will help meet the corporate goal of expanding the customer base.  Annie doesn’t know that she’s an experimental lab rat let loose in the maze to test new management objectives.  She’s just happy to be employed.

In her first week on the job, Annie learns more about sports and sporting goods than she ever wanted to know.  She thinks some of the camping equipment is pretty cool but would never camp out in the woods with all the germs, vermin, and lack of Wi-Fi service.  Her male co-workers consider her an urban blight on their outdoorsy message to become one with nature.  Even the other female employee thinks Annie is a sissy for not understanding that sweating is fun.

Annie wears leggings with flowing caftans and handcrafted jewelry.  Her co-workers wear Dockers and golf shirts with the company’s logo.  She wears shoes made of eco-friendly fibers; her co-workers wear hiking boots.

After a month on the job, Annie gradually realizes that she’s not fitting in with her co-workers.  She’s the fastest cashier in the store, but who cares when she doesn’t know a fly-fishing rod from a regular rod.

What are Annie’s options?

  1. She can continue being the oddball on the job, feeling increasingly uncomfortable and isolated.
  2. She can try fitting in by taking up big game hunting and picking her teeth with a Bowie knife.
  3. She can be herself but begin looking for a job that matches her personal values.

The above scenario illustrates the mismatch that can occur between employees and employers.  With the Great Recession behind us, employees may find it easier to work for companies that match their values.  Meanwhile, employers may want to review the connection between their corporate goals and their corporate values.

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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Totally Sozzled

Another update from the Jungle….

pic-6Addy graduated from college and went to work for the government agency where she had interned as a student.  Of course, there’s a big difference between being an intern and becoming an employee.  As an intern, Addy was excluded from most office social events because she was underage.

pic-7A few months after accepting the job offer, the big bosses decided representatives of each branch office of the agency should receive intensive training away from the usual office distractions. They decided that the perfect spot for learning is New Orleans. Addy prepared for her first business trip.

Nick, the head of Addy’s office, got into the spirit of learning before they left town. He distributed the bosses’ agenda at a staff meeting. Then he told the attendees that he knew a great place in the French Quarter and that he would play tour guide as soon as they checked in at the hotel.

pic-3Two hours after the airplane landed, Addy followed her co-workers down a dark alley in the French Quarter to Nick’s “great place.” The fun began. As a recent college graduate, Addy considered herself a seasoned drinker. She soon realized she was an amateur.

Addy doesn’t remember many details after the first bar, but she knows she had a good time. She later saw how good a time when she was invited to the HR manager’s office to view cell phone video of what she didn’t remember doing in the French Quarter.

pic-1The video shows a gaggle of staggering zombies in a karaoke bar, all dancing to a different beat as they belt out the same song.  In the background, Addy recognizes her supervisor in a passionate embrace with a co-worker.  Front and center in the video is Nick gyrating madly, his hand waving through his unzipped fly.  Nick is totally sozzled, barely able to stand.

The HR manager says she invited Addy in for a chat as part of the usual on-boarding process for new hires.  How should Addy respond to the HR manager?

  1. pic-2She can say that she’s enjoying learning from her more experienced co-workers.
  2. She can ask for copies of the video in case she needs to blackmail her bosses later. (Addy’s a quick learner of office politics.)
  3. She can stare blankly like a little lost waif and wait for the HR manager to give her a clue about how to respond appropriately.

The antics outlined in this scenario have been changed to protect innocent waifs like your author. Surely, no government employees near you would ever misbehave during a training seminar.

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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