employee

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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Great Leaders Hire The Right People

Another update from the Jungle….

application-1915347_1920Finding the “right” employee is one of the most difficult tasks for any company. There will always be job applicants with the skills and expertise required for the job. But will the new hire fit in well with the existing team? A technically skilled person is so much dross if she or he has a toxic personality that destroys team morale.

On the other hand, the person with the perfect technical skills may not fit your company’s culture. What if the company preaches one set of values but practices another? Ambivalent messages from senior management are even more detrimental than one employee’s toxic personality.

Here’s how one leader solved these problems.

pic3In World War II, U-boat captain Peter “Ali” Cremer was concerned about how new crew members would fit in with his existing crew. U-boats were claustrophobically tiny. There was no privacy and no room to separate crewmen if a dispute arose. Meanwhile, U-boats took weeks-long patrols looking for Allied convoys and risking enemy attacks.

Bravery and technical skills were useless if a crewman was not willing or able to be a team player. Cremer knew that he needed men who were used to working as part of a team. So when Cremer looked at applicants for a place on his boat, he looked for men who had played team sports. He knew that men who played team sports were used to functioning as part of a group. That made it easier for them to work in the close quarters of a U-boat.

pic4At the same time, Cremer was consistent in his approach to the job (i.e., his corporate culture). Every crew member was treated with respect and discipline was enforced the same for everyone. No unnecessary risks were taken with the boat or the crew. Across the fleet, every U-boater knew that Cremer always brought his crew back alive. That was important since only 10% of U-boaters survived the war.

Cremer’s criteria worked. He’s the only U-boat captain that operated in the Atlantic Ocean for the entire war. His crew losses were minimal. By the way, Cremer had a fascinating family background. His mother was English, his father was German, and one set of grandparents was from Alsace-Lorraine.

pic5For more information about Peter Cremer, check out his memoirs U-Boat Commander (1984). For an example of the U-boat service, see the movie “Das Boot”, based on Lothar-Gunther Buchheim’s book of the same name. If you would like to tour a U-boot, visit Chicago’s Museum of Science + Industry.

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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New Job; Old Baggage

Another update from the Jungle….
image029Betty started a new job about six months ago but already the old patterns are starting to repeat. Betty’s last job became so unbearable that she quit. Now she seems to be headed down the same path again.

At her last job, a clique of female co-workers proved that Heathers don’t get nicer as they grow up; they just get older. They made Betty miserable. They invited her to lunch during her first week on the job for the apparent purpose of mocking her interests and lifestyle. That was the beginning of a long campaign of passive aggressive behavior aimed at undermining Betty.

When Betty complained about misplaced files or sabotaged resources, her clueless boss labeled her a complainer. Betty didn’t want to be best friends with the clique but in a small office it meant she was isolated and alone. Betty’s confidence eroded and her performance suffered. When her performance review assessed her as “not a team player”, Betty took the hint
image031 and found her current job.

Unfortunately, the old baggage came with her. She knows some of her new co-workers think she’s a snob for declining lunch invitations and not participating in the monthly office birthday parties. But Betty’s cautious of getting to know her new co-workers because she’s afraid of meeting a new group of Heathers.

Today, an HR rep asked Betty to stop by. At their meeting, the HR rep asked Betty how she liked her office, her workload, and how she was getting along with her colleagues. Betty gave a non-committal answer. Then the HR rep asked Betty if she would like to participate in a new mentoring program which was created to help new employees integrate into the company.

What should Betty do next?

  1. She can decide based on her past experiences that she will “fail” at this job so she should quit now and join a commune in Alaska.
  2. She can start looking for another job hoping that things will be different next time.
  3. She can accept the invitation to join the mentoring program, increasing her chances of having a satisfying career with her current employer.

In the actual case, the first employer had no mentoring program because the owners were not convinced that touchy-feely programs contributed to the bottom line. Consequently, they experienced a high level of employee churn and were eventually acquired by 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.

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She’s Not My Employee

Another update from the Jungle….
image008Rob has a small consulting business that does project-based work. That means Rob needs a flexible work force that can easily gear up when there are lots of clients, but can also gear down when projects are few.

Rob relies on a group of individuals that he classifies as independent contractors. For each project, Rob explains what the client wants, the deadlines that must be met, and the scope of work. The worker can accept or reject any project. Rob’s been happy with his flexible work force.

At a recent networking event, Rob heard that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has decided to ditch its old “control” test for deciding if a worker is an independent contractor (1099) or an employee (W-2). Instead the DOL will use an “economic reality” test. Rob does some quick research at www.dol.gov/whd and finds the document outlining this new test. What he reads makes him reach for a bottle of Gentleman Jack.

After a couple of stiff drinks, Rob thinks he understands the main points of this new test. The
image010economic reality test says that a worker who is economically dependent on an employer is an employee and not an independent contractor. Rob doesn’t know if his workers are economically dependent on him. He uses them part-time and always believed that they did work for other consulting businesses.

Rob sees that the new test has several factors. The factor that most worries Rob is the one that says if the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business, then the worker is a W-2 and not a 1099 worker. Rob knows that his consulting business depends on completing projects for his clients which requires the use of skills that his independent contractors have.

After another shot of Gentleman Jack, Rob does some worst case scenario calculations of what will happen if his workers must be converted to W-2’s. He realizes immediately that it wouldn’t be financially possible to convert all of them to employees.

What are Rob’s options?

  1. He can choose a couple of the independent contractors that have the broadest range of skills and offer to convert them to W-2’s who work full-time for him. All the other workers would no longer be eligible to work on his company’s projects.
  2. He can talk to his CPA about cash flow and tax strategies for dealing with the new economic reality test.
  3. He can continue business as usual, including drinking more Gentleman Jack, while he waits to see what DOL will do.

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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Psycho Boss

Another update from the Jungle….
Sue hates her job because she works for a psycho. Sue was transferred into the psycho’s
department during a company-wide reorganization about six months ago and life’s gone steadily
image031downhill since.

Sue’s psycho boss loves to assign multiple projects with the same deadline, which pretty much guarantees that something won’t be done on time. During the first month, Sue asked which project should be given priority and psycho boss always responded that the projects were equally important. So Sue stopped asking about prioritizing the workload. Of course, psycho boss blames Sue when deadlines are missed.

Refusing to establish priorities is just a symptom of psycho boss’ favorite management technique. Psycho boss refuses to make decisions because she’s afraid to take responsibility. But she won’t allow her subordinates to make any decisions without her input.
image035Last month, Sue decided to fight back. She bought a doll that she treats as her boss’ avatar. Each evening, she sticks pins in the doll and wishes psycho boss would vanish. So far the doll looks like a pin cushion but the bad juju hasn’t worked because Sue still works for the psycho.

Sue knows that senior management is aware of psycho boss’ management deficiencies. But she also knows that they won’t take any action as long as the work is done and the grumbling doesn’t flare into an open revolt. After all, senior management doesn’t want to admit they made a mistake by promoting psycho boss in the first place.

Yesterday, psycho boss called Sue into her office to accuse Sue of incompetence. When Sue asked for specific examples based on her work, psycho boss started yelling and cursing, accusing Sue of insubordination. Now Sue is sitting at home, sticking pins in the doll and considering her options.

What are Sue’s options?

  1. She can take an advanced course in black magic and hope it works better than the juju doll.
  2. She can complain to HR about psycho boss’ unprofessional behavior (yelling and cursing) and request that an HR rep attend future meetings between Sue and psycho boss to serve as a witness.
  3. She can look for another job either within the company or with another employer.

In the actual situation, the company reorganized their departments again and psycho boss lost supervisory authority in the changes. So in a weird way the juju doll worked because psycho boss vanished.

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.

Download my FREE eBook today! Click here! 

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3 Keys to Hiring the Right Employee

Another update from the Jungle…
image029
Renee owns a small bakery that is growing rapidly but still needs to plow the profits back into the business to ensure its long term success. She knows the long term success of the bakery depends on the quality of the employees.

She learned through trial and error that she needed to be clear about what she was looking for in a new employee. One early hire, Debra, was great at baking muffins but seemed to hate people. Customers would dash out the door if they saw Debra at the counter waiting to serve them. Renee eased Debra out the door so that she could go be successful with a different employer. Then Renee revised her job descriptions to focus on all the skills, not just baking, that she needs.

Renee also realized that hiring the right employee is not enough. New hire Marta didn’t know how to use a convection heat oven and her first batch of cookies were harder than hockey pucks. After
image027the smoke cleared and the hockey pucks were trashed, Renee decided to assign an experienced employee as a mentor to train Marta on using equipment. Marta now bakes cookies using her grandmother’s recipes that are the hottest sales items in the store.

Of course, assigning a mentor was not enough either. Cherie had a mentor but wasn’t making progress in learning how to use kitchen equipment or the cash register. A quick investigation revealed that Cherie was intimated by her mentor and never asked questions. The mentor admitted that she is a perfectionist and isn’t comfortable trying to teach new hires.

This mismatch taught Renee that she needed to more closely monitor the progress of each employee. So every week she meets with each employee to answer questions and to ask for suggestions on improving the business. It’s a huge time commitment for Renee but in the past year, turnover among all employees has dropped dramatically and would-be bakers now beg her to hire them.

What are Renee’s 3 keys to hiring the right employee?

  1. Know what you want and clearly state it in the job description so that you hire the right person for the job.
  2. Have a good “onboarding” process to integrate the new employee into the workforce that includes training the new person on equipment and business processes.
  3. Monitor progress of all employees to match skills to opportunities to increase job satisfaction and the chance of retaining each employee.

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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Are you ready for 2015?

Another update from the HR jungle…

image015

Sue is the human resources director for her company (because she’s the only HR department employee). She is frantically working her way through her year-end checklist so that she can take a two week, rum-infused holiday cruise in late December. Today she’s working on checklist items related to the group health plan.

First on her checklist is a note to update the on-line information about the company’s group health plan to show the new out-of-pocket limits for 2015. Her company has a high deductible health plan (HDHP) with a health savings account (HSA). In 2015, HSA contributions are limited to $3,350 for individuals and $6,650 for families. The maximum out-of-pocket limits are $6,450 for individuals and $12,900 for families. If she posts the information on-line, some employees may actually read it rather than calling her with their questions.

Second on her checklist is to confirm that the new ACA-compliant software is properly tracking the hours of employees. Sue was impressed by the software vendor’s ability to customize the software to track her company’s high turnover employees. Sue’s company is not subject to the employer penalty in 2015 because they met the transitional relief for employers with 50 – 99 employees. But Sue still worries about last minute glitches when new software programs are implemented.

Does your ACA-compliance checklist look like Sue’s? Can you think of any items on your checklist that Sue has forgotten?

Sue’s already dreaming about the rum and fruit drinks she’ll be enjoying on her cruise, but she’ll continue working on her checklist items in next week’s column.

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