Employee Relations

The Knife in the Back

Another update from the Jungle…

pic-5Bryan is a serial entrepreneur. Every time he gets a new idea, he starts a new company to exploit the idea. He’s successful at starting businesses, but he’s lousy at running them.

Bryan doesn’t like getting bogged down in the details. So he relies on lieutenants to keep him informed of how things are going at each company. Unfortunately, Bryan doesn’t seem to have noticed that one of his trusted lieutenants is deadlier than a rattlesnake.

pic-1Susan learns this the hard way when she begins working at one of his companies. Her first day on the job, she’s introduced to Elaine who is so friendly and helpful that Susan is duped into thinking she’s nice. But Elaine is a snake in the grass.

pic-2Elaine is an intolerable busybody. She stands near the elevator to track the time each employee shows up for work. She wanders the hallways, keeping tabs on what others are doing and saying. Then she passes every tidbit of information along to Bryan with a special Elaine twist.

Susan learns the truth when Bryan stops by for a quarterly meeting with the company’s management team, of which Susan is a junior member. Bryan marches into the conference room and sits opposite Elaine who is taking notes on pic-4the decisions he makes.

Bryan begins the meeting by chewing out Laura for falling sales in the past quarter. Laura replies that it is impossible to boost sales when her team is starved for resources. She produces a stack of receipts showing that her team has to pic-3buy their own office supplies since Elaine locked up the supply closet and hid the key.

Bryan impatiently tells Laura to stop blaming others for her own failings as a manager. Then he turns on Bob, the CFO, who didn’t have the financial reports ready for Bryan. Bob scowls but says nothing.

pic-6Susan knows that Bob was late with the financial reports because Elaine delayed helping him while she worked on other lower priority assignments. Susan looks at Elaine expecting her to defend Bob. Elaine smirks and remains silent.

What are Susan’s options?

  1. She can point out that Elaine sabotaged Bob but doubts that Bryan will believe her.
  2. She can thank her lucky stars that Elaine isn’t gunning for her.
  3. She can use her accrued vacation to begin hunting for a new job, preferably one without another Elaine.

pic-7In the actual situation, the junior manager soon found herself on the backstabber’s hit list and left the company as soon as possible.

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

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Masters of the Universe

Another update from the Jungle…

Masters1Jim and Tony run a venture capital fund that specializes in distressed assets. They buy companies, replace the management team, cut most of the employees to generate savings and make the company look profitable (on paper). Then they sell the company.

A business magazine features them in an article and uses the term masters of the universe. After the feature article, Jim and Tony decide to branch out from distressed assets and buy a company that has been successful without being spectacular.

Jim and Tony begin their ownership by holding a company-wide meeting with employees at which they talk about the company’s wonderful financial future. This sales pitch is interrupted by Linda who asks them to reconcile these comments with their established practice of boosting profits by firing most workers. Jim evades her question. So Larry asks pointblank how many jobs will be cut. Jim looks at Tony. Tony shrugs. The meeting ends abruptly.

Masters3After studying the company’s bottom line, Jim and Tony decide that the first employees to go are Linda and Larry. They tell Sandra, the HR rep, to prepare the paperwork. She cautions against firing two of the most respected workers. Jim looks at the org chart again and concludes they are peons.

On Friday, Linda and Larry are ushered out the door. Their first port of call is an employment law attorney where they discuss wrongful termination, retaliation, and age discrimination.  The attorney has a vision of becoming famous by taking down the masters of the universe. He agrees to represent Linda and Larry.

Master2Within weeks, a third of the workforce resigns following Linda and Larry out the door. Jim and Tony are initially relieved; they only had to fire two workers. But the remaining workforce is demoralized. Within six months, the company has lost several key clients and the bottom line is tanking. Jim and Tony call a meeting with Sandra to discuss staffing levels and the status of Linda’s and Larry’s lawsuit.

What should Sandra tell them?

  1. She can say that she warned them that firing Linda and Larry would have dire consequences.
  2. She can tell them that as masters of the universe, she expects them to solve their own problems.
  3. She can hand in her resignation, having already received several job offers.

The above scenario is exaggerated but may seem familiar to anyone who has experienced a change in ownership at an employer. Creating a plan with HR for handling inevitable layoffs can smooth the transition. It is also helpful to see employees as more than just a cost to the bottom line.

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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Dis-Integration

Mentor

Another Update from the Jungle…

Several years ago Cindy suggested that her company should create a mentoring program to reduce employee churn.  As the HR manager, she was spending most of her time interviewing applicants or completing termination paperwork.  At first, selling the idea to the owners of the company wasn’t easy.

The owners thought a mentoring program was a waste of time. The company founder told her that employees should be happy to have a job and didn’t need “touchy-feely crap”.  Cindy countered with diagrams showing years of trashed productivity and reduced profits caused by the revolving door of new hires. So the founder grudgingly consented to a mentoring program.

Cindy’s next hurdle was finding mentors. No one volunteered when she posted a notice on the bulletin board in the break room.  Her blast email calling for volunteers was ignored, except for the idiot who hit “reply all” when he commented to a co-worker about snowballs and hell. The idiot doesn’t know it yet, but Cindy has decided he needs to volunteer for quality control visits to suppliers in McAllen, Texas in August and Buffalo, New York in January.

Mentor 2Cindy eventually found enough mentors to run a pilot program.  Now six months later she is meeting with the mentees to ask for their feedback on how the program can be made better. What she learns is illuminating but a bit unexpected.

Brian says his mentor took him to dinner at an establishment with pole dancers and cheap booze. Brian admits he doesn’t know much about the company but he now carries lots of dollar bills just in case. Susan’s mentor complained incessantly about the company leading Susan to discreetly search for a new job.

Daniel, on the other hand, is enthusiastic about his mentor. She introduced him to key employees in each department, meets with him regularly to answer his questions, and urges him to volunteer for new duties in order to broaden his experience.

What should Cindy do next?

  1. She can recognize that the corporate culture’s defeatist attitude needs to be fixed first.
  2. She can ask Daniel’s mentor to create a list of her successful mentoring techniques so that others can copy it and hope a successful mentoring program will fix other problems.
  3. She can give up trying to make the workplace better and streamline the firing and termination processes.

In the actual situation, the senior management team never saw the value in a mentoring program and failed to support the initiative. The company continued to experience over 40% turnover in personnel and low productivity and employee morale.

 

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.

Ebook Link

https://njshirk12.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/skh-employee-theft.pdf

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A Valentine for a Special Lady

Val day 1Nicole, the HR Manager, spent last year’s holiday season trying to boost the morale of her co-workers.  Unfortunately, the office parties flopped and morale is still lower than a snake’s belly. The festive season faded into the cold drudgery of first quarter and everyone is mad.

Employees are mad because they haven’t gotten pay raises. The president is mad about the misbehavior at the holiday parties. He’s also worried that a key customer is about to take its business to a competitor putting a dent in the bottom line. As a result, the president has vetoed all budget increases, including pay raises.

Nicole knows about the budget problem because the president told her when he cut the HR Department’s budget.  Then he ordered Nicole not to divulge this information to anyone because he’s afraid that if word leaks out, other customers will lose confidence in the company and take their business elsewhere. Not knowing why they didn’t get pay raises, the employees leaped to the conclusion that the president is a greedy jerk who doesn’t care about them.

Even Nicole is depressed. Her boyfriend dumped her on New Year’s Day, during a TV commercial break from the college football matches he was watching.  Her cat hates the new brand of cat food she bought and snubs Nicole when she comes home each day. If her life was set to music, it would be an award winning country music song.

Nicole wonders if she’d be happier with a new employer.  As she sits pondering this question, a delegation of employees appears in the door of her office. Keith, the leader of the delegation, says they’ve come to talk to her on behalf of all the employees. Nicole braces herself for the worst.

Val day 3Keith tells Nicole that her co-workers are aware of how hard she’s worked for them. They want to thank her for her efforts on their behalf. Later that day a dozen yellow roses are delivered to her office, a gift from her co-workers.

The president sees the roses on Nicole’s desk and worries that he could lose her. He offers her a few perks, including a designated parking spot, to convince her to stay. Okay, that part is fantasy. The president is so wrapped up in the financial strains he doesn’t notice the roses.

Nicole knows that HR is often a thankless job and it’s not the first time she’s questioned her choice of career. But once in a blue moon, she has a day like the day she received roses.

Val day 2

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.

 

Ebook Link

https://njshirk12.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/skh-employee-theft.pdf

 

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Good cover, lousy book

Another update from the Jungle….
NS12016-2Gene is the managing partner of a professional services firm and he’s extremely proud of the team that works with him.  He insists that they follow a reasonable work schedule leaving time for family.  He rewards every employee with a bonus when the firm hits revenue targets.

The result is high productivity and soaring morale. People want to work at his firm and Gene has the luxury of picking job candidates that best fit his philosophy. It was all smooth sailing until six months ago when he hired Avery.

Avery looked great on paper. His three page resume looked impressive, full of academic achievements, extensive industry experience, and a history of community involvement.  Avery showed up for the interview in an expensive suit, looking thoroughly professional. He was relaxed, articulate, and generated a good vibe when he met the whole team.  He seemed like a great fit for the firm and Gene hired him.

Within a week, Avery was a problem.  He told several senior partners that his old firm had a much better system for tracking client services.  Then he told the secretaries they were being unfairly exploited and should go on strike for higher wages.  After that he asked junior staff members why they worked so hard when there was no obvious path to promotions since all the senior partners were years from retirement.

Gene learned about the underbelly of discontent when a delegation of junior staff members cornered him to complain about Avery.  The youngest secretary said she didn’t appreciate being told that she ought to feel exploited. That was one of the milder comments.

Gene’s always been told not to judge a book by its cover.  But it’s obvious that underneath Avery’s polished façade lies a wealth of baggage picked up from the conditions he experienced with previous employers.

How should Gene handle this situation?

  1. He can fire Avery immediately since the state has “at will” employment. But with Avery’s baggage, a wrongful termination lawsuit seems inevitable.
  2. He could try to counsel Avery on his attitude but worries this will simply delay the inevitable outcome.
  3. He can tell Avery that the firm isn’t the right fit and offer Avery a generous severance package in exchange for leaving immediately.

In the actual situation, the firm chose the third option because the management team decided that a toxic personality was too big a risk to keep on the payroll and the severance package limited any possible wrongful termination claims.  Everyone lived happily ever after (except “Avery” who carried his baggage to the next employer’s office).

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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Sharing Sharon

Another update from the Jungle….

Difficult co-workers and employee relations

Do you have employees “holding court”?

Sharon is a middling performer, not great but not so bad that her job’s on the chopping block. She’s willing to work with any team to which she is assigned and she can be depended on to slog through some of the more tedious work.

Unfortunately for her co-workers, Sharon believes in sharing the details of her life. Her co-workers call her “Sharing Sharon”, as well as a few other names not fit for print here. Sharon’s co-workers know all about her marital problems, her son’s attention deficit disorder, and her teenaged daughter’s complicated love life. They also know about her cat’s litterbox problems and suffered for a week while Sharon agonized over her decision to put down her aging, sick dog.

Sharon cares about more than just her family, of course. One week she insists people should do more to save furry baby animals before all non-human species become extinct. Another week she explains that she’s reducing her carbon imprint by avoiding plastic water bottles.

Sharing Sharon’s oversharing is beginning to affect operations. One worker twisted her ankle when several employees imitated the running of the bulls to clear the break room to avoid Sharon. Several co-workers told the HR manager, Pam that they would rather quit the company, losing their 401(k) match than be stuck on another team with Sharon.

Pam has tried several times to give Sharon a hint that her personal life is better shared on Facebook with personal friends than with co-workers.  Sharon just doesn’t get it. The breaking point feared by Pam has now happened. Sharon was busy oversharing in a team meeting and the team leader was finally goaded beyond endurance. He yelled at Sharon to “shut up, already!”

Now Sharon is sitting in Pam’s office, sobbing and begging for Pam’s help.

How should Pam handle this situation?

  1. She can privately thank the team leader with a bottle of Gentleman Jack for saying what all of Sharon’s co-workers wanted to say but were afraid to.
  2. She can sympathize with Sharon’s distress but remind her (again) that personal lives shouldn’t be brought into the workplace.
  3. She can counsel the team leader regarding the company’s anti-bullying policy which prohibits derogatory comments to co-workers, sympathize with his exhausted patience, and encourage him to find less brutal ways to make his point in future.

In the actual situation, the co-workers continued to cringe and hide until their “Sharing Sharon” accepted a job at a competitor.

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

 

To download my free ebook, click here.

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Happy Veteran’s Day!

Another update from the Jungle….

veteransNicole, the HR manager, is planning another morale boosting event. Her first effort was the Halloween party a couple weeks ago which ended on a sour note when some of the costumes exceeded her expectations and the president’s tolerance.

Nicole is now working on her Veteran’s Day celebration. Ever the optimist, Nicole decides on a pot luck lunch with a patriotic theme. She announces that during the luncheon, they will honor employees who served in the military.

As usual, the whine of the day comes from Steve who says he’ll boycott the party if there’s no beer. Nicole says no alcohol will be served since everyone has to work after lunch. She’s beginning to wonder if Steve would be happier working for a different sort of employer.

On the morning of the party, Ruth stops by the break room to look at the decorations and fixates on the red paper poppies
that adorn the middle of each table. Ruth says that displaying red poppies encourages the use of
image048illegal drugs because everyone knows that heroin comes from poppies. Nicole retorts that everyone knows red poppies symbolize the military dead in World War I. Shaken but undeterred, Nicole finishes the decorations as people wander in for lunch.

Almost immediately, there’s a problem in the buffet line. The employees split into two (almost equal) camps arguing about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and whether the president should send troops to fight in Syria. Then someone says the U.S. needs stronger border controls to keep out illegals and terrorists. This provokes the Hispanic workers who angrily deny being “illegals”; the Muslims who say that they aren’t terrorists; and the Indians with H1B visas who work in the IT department and complain that they haven’t stolen jobs from Americans.

What should Nicole do next?

  1. She can forge ahead with the plan to honor the military veterans, although this now seems risky since half the employees appear to be in an anti-war camp.
  2. She can sneak out of the break room and hide in her office until after lunch.
  3. She can hold an impromptu educational discussion on the company’s anti-discrimination policies and appreciating diversity in the workforce.

Nicole’s first two attempts to boost morale on a limited budget haven’t gone as well as she would have liked but there’s still time before the holiday season ends. Stay tuned for more adventures with Nicole.

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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School Zones Made Me Late

Another update from the Jungle….
image001Jane is the HR manager for a company with about 200 employees. The company runs a lean operation which means that Jane is the sole HR person and handles pretty much every situation that arises. Jane likes the variety of issues that she faces because it keeps everything fresh and interesting.

A major problem for the company is time and attendance. The owner of the company is obsessive and compulsive about details and it drives him nuts to see a few employees chronically showing up late. He told Jane to fix the problem.

Jane reviewed the time and attendance policy which clearly states that chronic tardiness may subject an employee to progressive disciplinary action. The policy is included in the employee handbook. Jane checks the personnel files for each laggard employee and finds that each of them has signed the acknowledgement form. That means that each employee received a copy of the employee handbook and promptly tossed it aside without actually reading it.
image004This week, Jane began meeting individually with each employee who is chronically late. Jane tries not to yawn as she hears the usual excuses. One employee says she was stuck in traffic due to an accident. Another says his dog got out of the fenced-in backyard and he had to find the mutt and lock him in the garage before leaving for work.

Jane’s favorite excuse of the week is the employee who says she was late due to the school zones. The employee recently moved so that her children could attend a more highly rated school. This means the employee must now travel through three more school zones on her route to work. That caused her to be late.

What should Jane do next?

  1. She can explain to each employee that the excuse du jour doesn’t make up for chronic lateness. She can then move to the next step in progressive discipline.
  2. She can encourage each employee to make a greater effort to arrive on time and let them off with a verbal warning.
  3. She can ask herself why she never thought up so many creative reasons for being late to work.

Time and attendance issues are a perennial problem. Perhaps it’s time to think about the underlying reasons for tardiness. Employees who enjoy their work tend to show up on time.

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 Was Going to Pay It Back….Honest!

Another update from the HR jungle….

image021Sam leads the IT department for his company and is the head of their internal security team.  As part of his duties, Sam has administrative rights to all electronic and computer-based systems at the company.  He ensures that new employees are issued security clearances to use the company computers. He sets the dollar limits on company-provided credit cards as authorized by the owners of the company.

But Sam has a problem. He likes to gamble. It started years ago quite innocently when he participated in a sports betting pool with co-workers at a former employer’s office. Then he started spending his weekends at casinos. Sam began using his company credit card to get cash advances at the ATM in the casino.

At first, he paid off the credit card balance each month and no one discovered what he was doing. When he couldn’t pay the credit card balance, he raised the credit limit on the card using his administrative rights as the head of internal security.

Sam’s basically a decent guy and the stress of his situation has finally gotten to him. This morning he walked into the owner’s office and confessed all. As he sat sobbing and promising to reimburse the company, the owner stared at him, stupefied with shock.

What could the owner have done to avoid this employee theft?

  1. The owner could have regularly reviewed all company expenses, including credit card charges, to ensure they were used only for valid company business.
  2. The owner could have required regular reports from Sam’s department showing the authorized limits on all company credit cards.
  3. The owner could have hired an outside auditor to do an annual audit of the company’s financial records in the hopes that the fraud would have been uncovered.

Employee theft arises from five basic motivations, including a gambling habit. Another closely related motivation is a drug or alcohol habit. Employees experiencing any of these addictions may decide to steal an employer’s property in order to feed their habit.

Need help 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 when the policies are implemented.

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