complaining

The Root Of All Evil

Another update from the Jungle….

It all began so innocently with a run-of-the-mill claim of discrimination. Helen, the HR manager, sighed heavily when the claim hit her desk. Sally, the employee making the complaint, is far from being a satisfactory employee. On the other hand, Ben is her least favorite manager due to his inability to follow even simple rules on how to treat employees.

Grumbling to herself, Helen drives across the state to their work location to begin investigating. She settles and calls Sally in to make a statement. Sally shows up clutching a fistful of photocopied pages from the employee handbook with passages highlighted in neon green.

Sally spends the next two hours explaining how Ben has violated each highlighted policy. It’s a litany of slights, put-downs and hurt feelings that culminated in not being invited to Ben’s beer and barbeque party. Helen privately fantasizes about how much fun it would be to drop kick Sally and Ben out of her HR life. But when she hears of the beer and barbeque outing, she gets a cold chill familiar to any experienced HR person. What has Ben been up to?

Helen get rid of Sally and calls in other employees to ask for more details about Ben and his parties. What she learns almost straightens her perm. Davy gives her details of the barbeque and beer party that leaves Helen wondering if Ben was aiming to set a Guinness world record on beer consumption.

Assistant manager Jim tells her that Ben initiated him into the management ranks by taking him out for a celebration. The celebration included weekly trips through the honkytonks, road houses and nightclubs in a tri-county area. Jim says he only mentions it because he’d like to know if there is an HR policy to cover his treatment for alcohol addiction.

Helen calls in Ben for a chat. Ben says he’s had it with Sally’s whining and demands that she be fired because she’s a lousy worker. He becomes evasive when Helen asks him about the drinking parties.

What should Helen do next?

  1. She can make her fantasy come true by drop kicking Ben off the earth, or at least, out of the company.
  2. She can ask Ben to include Sally and other female employees in his beer and barbeque events as proof he’s not discriminating against them.
  3. She can give Ben a written warning about the myriad HR policies he’s violated and require him to take additional training in HR policies.

In the actual situation, senior management decided to give the manager a second chance at his job. However, his actions were closely monitored by the HR Director and senior management.

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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Up There! It’s Helicopter Mom!

Another update from the Jungle….

Winston is a new employee, and he’s got a big problem with his boss, Roger, but doesn’t realize it. Roger is sick of hearing from Winston’s mom.  Back in the day, Roger would have called Winston a “momma’s boy.” Now, Roger reflects bitterly, Winston’s just a typical millennial.

It all started when Roger called Winston to set up a job interview. First, Winston asked if he could call back after checking his calendar. A week later, Winston called Roger to set up the interview. Winston admitted he needed time to call his mom, and now he has a special request. Can he bring his mom along to the job interview?

Why, asks Roger, pardonably puzzled, she’s not applying for the job is she? No, replies Winston; she just wants to check out the company to make sure it’s the “right fit” for him. Roger is so stunned, he agrees. Besides, he wants to meet the woman who has convinced her college-educated, adult son that he needs her approval for a job.

It’s the strangest job interview Roger has ever conducted in his long managerial career. He asks Winston a question, and mom prompts Winston on his responses and invariably explains his answers to Roger. Winston seems happy to let his mom control the interview.

Roger decides to test the limits of the interviewing process. He poses increasingly bizarre hypothetical workplace scenarios, asks Winston how he would respond, and listens to mom’s explanations. Roger reflects privately that it’s a good thing the HR rep is home sick so that she can’t “coach” Roger later on how to conduct a proper interview.

In spite of mom, Roger sees something in Winston that encourages him to ask for a follow up interview without mom.  Based on the second interview, Roger hires Winston, a decision he regrets almost immediately. Mom calls every week to complain when she hears that Roger has criticized some aspect of Winston’s performance. Roger loses patience after a month of phone calls.

What are Roger’s options?

  1. He can refuse to ever again allow a parent to attend a job interview.
  2. He can fire Winston because he’s tired of dealing with Winston’s helicopter mom. After all, it’s an at-will employment state.
  3. He can heroically suppress the urge to call Winston a “momma’s boy” and hope Winston learns to stand on his own two feet.

If your company faces a helicopter parent, most experts suggest setting up a separate meeting with the parent.  At that meeting, the employer can set expectations and limits on the parent’s ability to intervene in the employment relationship.

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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My Boss Hates Me!

Another update from the Jungle….

Teresa works at a major corporation, and she’s grown steadily more pessimistic about her job and career. She’s convinced that her boss, Barbara, has discriminated against her, and she complains to HR. Her discrimination complaint is investigated by Audrey, the HR rep.

Audrey invites Teresa to a confidential meeting to get her side of the story. Teresa shows up at the meeting, toting a giant 3-ring binder stuffed full of copies of emails between Teresa and Barbara and copies of performance appraisals.  Teresa says the binder contains proof that Barbara is out to get her.

Audrey has an awful sinking feeling, familiar to any experienced HR person, as she stares at the 3-ring binder. She will eventually have to read it as part of her investigation. She sighs heavily and delays the inevitable by continuing her interview of Teresa.

Teresa spins a tale of slights, oversights, and harsh words that she says add up to discrimination. She claims that Barbara cuts her off in mid-sentence every time she tries to talk during staff meetings. Barbara is rude to her and makes negative comments in front of co-workers. Barbara gives pay raises to younger, less experienced co-workers while telling Teresa that she’s not eligible for any pay increases.  Barbara ignores her and dislikes her while being nice to everyone else in the department.

The next day, Audrey begins reading the 3-ring binder.  After an hour, she has a raging headache but has reached a few conclusions. The emails indicate that Teresa has become increasingly defensive, responding to sometimes non-existent criticism. The performance appraisals completed by Barbara move from neutral (“works well with others”) assessments to mildly negative (“attitude needs improvement”) in the most recent appraisal.

Audrey knows that Barbara has a history of managerial issues. Audrey had opposed Barbara’s promotion to manager because of her lack of “people” skills.  Now Audrey’s sitting at her desk trying to decide what to do next.

What should she do?

  1. She can recommend that nothing be done due to a lack of clear proof of discrimination.
  2. She can arrange Teresa’s transfer to a different manager and hope for the best.
  3. She can tell Teresa and Barbara to stop acting like whiny children and then go have a glass (or a bottle) of wine to wash away the effects of their feud.

In the actual situation, a department reorganization lead to the reassignment of the disgruntled employee. That resolved the immediate conflict but not the long term issue of poor training for new managers.

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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Chaos Cathy

Another update from the Jungle….

picture-2Chaos Cathy is a good worker when she pays attention to her job. Too bad she spends most of her time picking fights with her co-workers. One week she complains about a co-worker’s perfume. Another week she complains about loud voices talking on the phone.

picture-1Chaos Cathy’s whining is a symptom of her perpetual competitiveness. She complains that her cubicle is smaller than the cubicles of her peers. After weeks of drama, her manager finally agrees to find another cubicle. But the new cubicle has no window. True, the window in her current cubicle offers only a view of the trash bins behind the building.

Chaos Cathy’s boss flatly refuses to move Rob, a more senior worker, from his cubicle so that Cathy can have it. Chaos Cathy flounces down the stairs to Weary Wanda, the HR manager, to complain that offering a windowless cubicle is retaliation for complaining about the terrible working conditions. picture-3Wanda is weary because she’s got to listen to Chaos Cathy’s constant whining while also getting an earful from Cathy’s annoyed co-workers.

Weary Wanda is an experienced HR manager and mom. She lets Chaos Cathy rant while her mind drifts to what she’d like to eat for dinner that night. Eventually Chaos Cathy stops talking. Weary Wanda says she’ll look into the matter and encourages Chaos Cathy to go back to work.

picture-4A week later, Chaos Cathy is back. Now she’s complaining that her manager has encouraged his other subordinates to abuse her for exposing his incompetence. Chaos Cathy launches into a convoluted description of abusive co-workers, travel to Mars, and stinky perfume from the next cubicle to prove her boss is incompetent and prejudiced.

Weary Wanda asks how Chaos Cathy would like to have her complaints resolved. Cathy replies that she wants her manager to get off the planet. Weary Wanda explains that HR can’t force a supervisor to get off the planet so Chaos Cathy needs to think of another solution to the problem. Chaos Cathy says no other outcome is acceptable to her.

What are Weary Wanda’s options?

  1. She can recommend that Chaos Cathy drink more boxed red wine in the evenings to calm her nerves.
  2. She can transfer Chaos Cathy to another department run by a supervisor that Wanda doesn’t like.
  3. She can explain, as politely as possible, that chronic complainers like Chaos Cathy rarely help their long-term career aspirations.

picture-5In the actual situation, the complaining employee’s insubordinate behavior towards her manager escalated until her employment was terminated. She unsuccessfully sued for wrongful termination.

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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