How to Make the Best of Shrinking Office Space

by Evil HR Lady on February 26, 2015

Mad Men‘s Don Draper has a desk, chairs, and a couch in his office. Plus, enough room to practice his golf putting skills, hold a meeting, and engage in inappropriate office behavior. If you’re a bigwig at your company, you may be lucky enough to have an office with a door, but the chances of a couch and place to practice your putting is pretty slim. If you’re not on the senior team? You’re lucky if you have your own three-walled cubicle. And, in many places, even the CEO is sitting at a shared table.

As office space premiums increase, employees’ personal space decreases, and it’s not all fun and collaborative. Oh sure, the one big open space in The Office allows Jim to torment Dwight more effectively, but not everyone is so creative. Instead, we get to hear things we shouldn’t.

To keep reading, click here: How to Make the Best of Shrinking Office Space


5 Signs That You Are A Jerk and How to Fix It

by Evil HR Lady on February 25, 2015

People aren’t very good at judging themselves. We like to think we are, but it turns out we’re not very good at it all. If you doubt this, think about the times you’ve sat down with an employee and discussed their performance, only to be met with blank stares and utter denial.

Columbia Business School Professor Daniel R. Ames and doctoral candidate Abbie W. Wazlawek conducted research where, at the end of a negotiation session they asked the participants to rate both themselves and their partners on how assertive they had been–under assertive, appropriately assertive and over assertive. Funny thing is, self perception didn’t match up with their partner’s perception–no better than flipping a coin.

All this boils down to the very real possibility that you are a jerk and you don’t realize it. Seem impossible? Read this and then ask if that is still impossible.

To keep reading, click here: 5 Signs That You Are a Jerk and How to Fix It

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Can the Employer Legally Cut an Employee’s Pay?

by Evil HR Lady on February 23, 2015

I was working as a dental hygienist in a dental office. I was getting paid $28 an hour. I found another job that is full time and giving me all my hours so I let my boss know that I found another job.

So when I went to pick up my last pay stub she had changed my hourly rate to minimum wage $8 an hour. I worked 47 hours, so basically I worked for free. I never signed anything and my last two pay stubs have my hourly rate on them.

To read the answer, click here: Can the Employer Legally Cut an Employee’s Pay?


I was fired unexpectedly under the explanation of “I didn’t like your production last month, or attendance”. This was 4 days after my then coworker became appointed manager of our department (of two people). The month before her promotion, the approval for her position didn’t exist but she had permission from HR to announce to me she was now my manager. We hadn’t had any oversight or a boss of any sort for 8months. This meant no feedback, and being project based as long as objectives were met on time we didn’t have a production count or way to track it. My coworker had always given me nothing but positive feedback.

I had schedule adjustments since the day I started working with this coworker, as I did at my last company of 10 years, for an ADA protected disability where I would work alternative or telecommute hours for appointments. When my coworker announced she was in charge she took away my accommodations explaining that because she couldn’t do that I couldn’t. I ended up having to apply through HR again for an ADA accommodation including invasive documentation from my Drs but it wasn’t addressed in the weeks before my term. On the day I was terminated I had called out sick after a month of inability to make my regularly scheduled medical appointments – my health had deteriorated.

It gets better… this coworker happens to be a very outspoken homophobic. She regularly dispensed those or racist or controversial political topics, it was just something we shrugged off in our department. I’m gay. Since the second week of my employment I knew there was no way I could be open and after claims about gays being pedophiles, work became emotionally difficult. At one point I did let the manager we did have for a few months know but begged her not to go to HR because I was terrified of my coworker finding out. She did go to HR, asked if she needed to do anything and they said no.

When my coworker told me she was my boss I went home and had a thorough mental breakdown and the next day went to her directly with my concerns about being gay and how we could work together within that. The conversation was productive. We didn’t discuss our beliefs but merely philosophy on keeping personal and professional stuff separate. However, two weeks after that I was gone. Anyway, this has all come down to an EEOC charge. I feel like not only am I gay and disabled, I’m now litigious and have a blemish on my employment from being fired. How can I possibly address this in an interview? My term is being researched, I’m already uncomfortable enough being one of “those employees” and it feels like I’ll never get a job. I’ve never had this sort of experience my life I’ve never felt discriminated against and I shrug a lot of things off. Any thoughts?

First of all, I’m super surprised that HR signed off on your termination. Yes, I constantly preach that HR is never the boss and you can always override them, but in cases like this, a competent HR person would say, “You pulled back her previously approved accommodations under ADA, she got sick, and now you want to fire her? That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.” And, I know you’re working with the EEOC, but I think it would be worth your time to meet with an attorney on your own. NELA can refer you to an employment lawyer, and read this about what to expect when you meet with an attorney.

Okay, now what? Let’s address all your issues individually.

Gay. Most people couldn’t give a flying fig. This shouldn’t come up in a job interview either. There shouldn’t be any references to your sexual orientation on your resume or cover letter. Unless you walk into an interview and say, “Hi! I’m Jane and I’m gay!” it shouldn’t be an issue in a job hunt.

And I say it shouldn’t, but it can be. In some states, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal, but in some states it’s still legal. Most large companies have non-discrimination policies in place and most really believe it. But, are there individuals who won’t hire you because you’re gay? Of course there are. Will they tell you that’s why they aren’t hiring you? No.

If you want to lessen the chances of being discriminated against on the basis of your sexual orientation, the best you can do is make sure your public information doesn’t mention it. Do I think you should do this? No. While your LGBT club membership doesn’t belong on your resume (and neither does 99 percent of other clubs), you don’t want to be hired by someone who would have rejected you if she found out you were a member of such a group–because you’ll end up in the same situation you’re in now. But, honestly, this is the least of your worries!

Disabled. I don’t know if your disability is visible, but if it’s not, then this shouldn’t be an issue in the hiring process either. I mean, if you’re in a wheelchair, that’s going to be pretty obvious, but if you have a heart condition that requires regular doctor appointments and a close parking spot, it shouldn’t really matter. But, it is critical (since you need some accommodations) that you bring up that you need these. But not during the interview.

The right time to bring up accommodations that you need is during the negotiation phase. So, after they offer you a job, you say, “Thank you so much for the offer. I’m really excited about it and anxious to get to work! But, I need to discuss a few things. I have a disability that qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act and I need a couple of pretty easy accommodations. First, blah, blah, blah. Second, blah, blah, blah. Will that be problematic?”

Now, the reason you bring this up in the negotiation phase and not before is so that they can’t reject you on the basis of your disability. If they pull the offer at this point, you’ll have a case against them and they know it. Now, of course, it is possible that the accommodations you need are not reasonable for this job. So, if you need to work from home it’s not reasonable to work as a cashier in a grocery store. That’s just not going to work. If you’re an accountant, it’s much more likely to be reasonable.

Now, if you’re disability is visible, it’s going to be more difficult, as you already know. Prejudices exist, absolutely. Don’t come in being confrontational, though. Just assume that people are good people until you learn otherwise.

Litigious. You’re right to be concerned about this. Companies don’t like to hire people who have sued previous employers–because if you’ve sued i the past, they assume you’ll sue in the future. There are some people out there who are easily offended and sue for everything, which is an expensive pain in the patootie. So, their position isn’t irrational. That said, your lawsuit is pretty run-of-the-mill and (assuming your name on your email address is your real name) I googled you and found nothing other than the picture that accompanied your email and a cat video. I don’t know if that’s your cat video or not, but it was cute.

My point is, even when I added EEOC or lawsuit, nothing came up. No company (unless security clearance is required) is going to go scour court records. Chances are they won’t know. This is especially true for right now–lawsuits are slow, slow, slow. In 3 years it might be more of an issue than it is now.

Recently Fired. This is your biggest concern. Employers assume that if you’ve been fired, it’s your fault. We all know that this is not true, but if I have two candidates in front of me–one who was fired and one who wasn’t–why take the risk? Most managers are terrible at hiring, and so they use the fired/not fired as a proxy for actually figuring out who the best candidate is.

It stinks. I say this as someone who has fired a lot of really great people. Well, laid them off, but some hiring managers don’t see a difference between the two. Regardless, you’ve been fired and you’ve got to explain. “Why were you fired?” is a question you need to answer. The problem is, the answer to that is, “My homophobic co-worker who resented the fact that I got flexibility because of my disability got promoted to be my boss and almost immediately terminated me. I’m suing.” Kind of negates all the previous advice, right?

So, you need to come up with an answer that is 1. true and 2. not inflammatory. How about something like this, “My co-worker and I never got along, so when she was promoted to be my boss, one of the first things she did was fire me. However, I’ve always received accolades for my work. In fact, here’s a copy of my last performance appraisal….” Or, “My previous boss is happy to give me a reference and you’ll be able to see that I can do A, B, C, and D.”

If you’ve applied for and been granted unemployment, that may be something else to mention, although in most cases you pretty much have to steal the office refrigerator to be denied unemployment.

As always, your best bet is to network your way into a job. Somebody who has worked with you before and recommends you will be your best bet. That person can say, “Jane? She’s awesome. Here’s why.” Hopefully that will negate firing and others stuff.

No matter what, it’s not going to be super easy to be fired. It never is, but I wish you the best of luck on your job search.


People Data and the False Sense of Security

by Evil HR Lady on February 18, 2015

It used to be that the only way a manager could manage was by getting to know his people. Management by Walking Around is even an official thing. You had to physically observe the interactions your employees had with each other to understand who they knew and what they were doing with their time. Now? You can get a report emailed to you daily that tells you if your employees are happy, who they are communicating with, and even if they are likely to quit.

Awesome or too much Big Brother? How about a little of both.

To keep reading, click here: People Data and the False Sense of Security

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Take 5 Key Steps to Enrich Your Job

by Evil HR Lady on February 17, 2015

Job Enrichment occurs when a job is redesigned in order to make it more challenging and/or less repetitive. Instead of moving an employee to a different job, the job itself changes.

A recent survey found that 53 percent of employees say the number one reason they love their company is interesting and challenging work. If you want your employees to love you, making their work more interesting can be the first step along that path. If you want to love your job, you can make changes yourself (with management support).

To keep reading, click here: Take 5 Key Steps to Enrich Your Job

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Miscommunication at the Office

by Evil HR Lady on February 16, 2015

I am educated at private University and need a job to pay off school loans and save for the future. I recently started working for healthcare and the supervisor and team leader are friend and the supervisor appears to dislike me.
After 2 weeks of working, the supervisor stayed late to ask me if I liked the employees and that I should not ask about personal life if they are not sharing. I mentioned that I get along with everyone, and that I help them with advice if they need it, and they are forthcoming in their conversation.
The supervisor tried to see if I didn’t get along with employees and tried to have me talk bad about them.
She has been there a long time and knows her job well.
I wanted to be there a few years only but I fear that she will make it pretty uncomfortable for me there.
The supervisor has hinted at harassment and HR about co-workers that might call and she is trying to help me but she was more intimidating then anything.
She spent 2 hrs writing valentine cards on the clock, and thus another coworker decided to spend 30 minutes negotiating a auto car loan on the clock. The project manager seems to like me and knows my intentions are that I need a job, my loans, and need a job that I could possibly have so I can start a family and is not demanding.
The project manager asked about if I could see everyone as equal and I mentioned I could when I was being interviewed. Because of my experience and being educated and the other have just finished high school and have worked their way up.
What should I do?

Take your supervisor’s advice and stop giving advice to your co-workers. When your supervisor came to you and said you shouldn’t be involved in your co-workers’ private lives, she was attempting to be very clear. You interpreted this as “if they talk to me, they want advice.”

Let me give a little lesson whining and complaining. When Jane says to you, “My boyfriend is driving me up the wall. He’s always playing Minecraft and leaves his socks on the couch!” what she wants to hear is “That drives me nuts too! My roommate used to do it and I started just throwing her socks away.” What she doesn’t want to hear is “Here is what you should do. First, tell him that you’re not picking up his socks any more. Second, take the dirty socks from the couch and throw them away. Third, blah, blah, blah.”

What’s the difference between the two? In the first, you’re commiserating. In the second, you’re being bossy and pretentious. No one likes bossy and pretentious. And let’s talk about this. You started out your email by telling me you graduated from a private college. Congratulations. I graduated from a private college too. Why on earth is that relevant to the problem with your supervisor?

You told me for a very specific reason: You wanted me to know that you’re better than your uneducated co-workers. You wanted me to understand that you were in the right here, because you were just giving advice because they needed to hear and if they would just do what you tell them they would be so much better off. Take for example you. You went to a fancy private college and now you have student loans and you have the exact same job as everyone else. Why on earth would they listen to you?

Don’t worry about what other people are doing on the clock. Worry about what you’re doing. What you may not know is that people who have worked in a place for a long time sometimes get privileges that the newly hired do not. Like being able to negotiate your auto  loan or writing your Valentine’s day cards. Even if they are horrible, lazy pants people, you’ve been there two weeks. You can’t really make a judgment on that, and even if you could, you’re still not the boss.

So, get off your private college high horse. Be polite. Don’t give advice even if people are talking about problems they need to fix. Just do your job and be nice.


Happy Valentine’s Day: Show Your Love

by Evil HR Lady on February 14, 2015

When we think of Valentine’s day we think of love and candy and Evil HR Lady. What? You don’t associate me with this holiday? You should. Show your love by doing one of the following:

Follow me on Twitter: RealEvilHRLady

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Is the Human Resources Department a Joke?

by Evil HR Lady on February 13, 2015

I got this lovely comment on an article about how to treat your employees better:

The human resources department is an absolute joke. Do you realize, that if it weren’t for all the people that you trash talk about, you wouldn’t have a job??? If this were a perfect society, there would be no need for useless women like you. I wish businesses didn’t have to waste money on the HR position, which by the way, the only reason it’s always women, is because The only thing they are good at is being bossy, back stabbing, shady morons.

Thanks, Jim! I love a great comment. My favorite part is why you bothered to click on a blog titled “Evil HR Lady” if you hate HR so much. Maybe the evil part drew you in–and you were hoping this would be a place for stories about horrible HR people.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. There are certainly horrible, awful, HR people. There are HR people who gossip. There are HR people who are bossy and backstabbing and shady morons. Absolutely. But, let’s be honest (shall we, Jim?). There are Finance people who are awful, backstabbing, shady, gossiping morons. There are Marketing people who are awful, backstabbing, shady, gossiping morons. There are food service workers who are awful, backstabbing, shady, gossiping morons. You might get the picture.

Some of the things HR gets blamed for, HR has no real power over. Let’s talk raises. “That horrible HR person won’t let me have a raise!” Well, who sets the budget for raises? Finance. Who determines how that budget is spent? Your boss and your boss’s boss. Who gets blamed? HR. Yeah! Blame.

For the record, I point out bad HR when I see it. But, because there are some bad HR  people doesn’t mean all HR people are bad. I mean, we’re not politicians.

You want to know why there are so many HR people? First of all, there’s all sorts of government regulations that someone has to keep track of and make sure that the company is compliance.  You’ve got affirmative action, FMLA, ADA, health insurance and a zillion other things that your HR department handles behind the scenes.

Second, you need someone to handle the recruiting. It’s not feasible to have every manager handle all recruiting by themselves. You need someone to handle that. It’s not just the act of getting new people in the office, it’s knowing how to find and persuade the right people to join the company. It’s knowing how to seek out specific skills in inch thick stacks of resumes. It’s knowing about people.

But, the real reason you need HR people? Because of people like you who have refused to leave Jr. High. You need HR because people don’t always do their jobs. You need HR to handle disciplinary procedures because John can’t be bothered to show up to his meetings and Sarah can’t bother to do her work. You need HR to tell Kate that she needs to shower regularly and Jose that he needs to wash his hands after he goes to the bathroom. You need HR to tell Harold to keep his hands to himself and Carol that someone’s compliment on her outfit wasn’t sexual harassment.

You need Human Resources because companies employ humans. And humans are deeply flawed. You need help with that. And that’s not just a general you. It’s a specific you. Jim, you need someone to help you learn how to be a good employee, because right now, you don’t know.


TBT: Past Transgressions

by Evil HR Lady on February 12, 2015

This post originally appeared in May, 2009. You can read that and the awesome comments here.

I have come across some information at work and I don’t know what I should do about it. Please help!

I work in a sales environment. I have been there for over one year now and I love all of the people for the exception of the one person I work for most directly — I will refer to her as Andrea from here on. She is loud, obnoxious, dresses far too casually, and lies about every single thing that she does, yet still seems to be the apple of upper management’s eye no matter how badly she errors or how much money she costs the company.

I was searching online last week to make sure a popular search engine would direct visitors searching our names to our company website. While searching, I came across some information about my co-worker’s past. It was not something I was looking for or something that I ever would have imagined that I would find. The websites that I found were public websites containing detailed information about her prior arrests and convictions of drug trafficking, drug possession (crack cocaine), and carrying illegal tools (i.e. a crack pipe). I have verified this information to be absolutely accurate and is definitely related to Andrea without any doubt whatsoever.

I have not told a single person at work about this information because I assumed that she disclosed this information on her application for employment. However, I was able to view her application (which I was allowed to do for reasons not relating to this incident) and it was not disclosed.

Here is my dilemma: I am worried as to whether or not I should bring this information to the management’s attention. I do not want her to get in trouble or lose her job even though I do not like her. Everyone makes mistakes in their past (and this was ten years ago) and I truly don’t think that she deserves to have all this brought up again after she’s started a new career (she lost her last job and ended up in the news about it because of the nature of her previous career path), but I am worried from a liability standpoint. What if she is still consuming illegal substances and ends up injuring someone at work because she cannot control herself (or her driving, which is a huge part of what she does every day) in a particular situation? One other person at work found out about this information within one day of when I found out about it because we were both checking to see if our names were directing people to our website through a popular search engine. This person brought it to my attention but we did not discuss any of the details because I did not feel that this was appropriate, but now it is known that I, too, have this information.

If I bring this to the attention of management I do not want them to think that I am bringing this up to damage her reputation or get her fired. It is well known that we do not like each other and that we work together only for the better of the company. I simply want to do the right thing but I’m not sure what that is. I could be making this into a huge deal over nothing and perhaps the best thing to do would be to keep the information to myself. Our company policy is that we do not hire people who have prior criminal backgrounds due to the nature of the business. She signed waiver forms to have a complete background check, police report check, credit check, fingerprint scan through a national database, and a drug pre-screening (four years ago), but obviously something was overlooked somewhere. Please share your thoughts on this situation. Your guidance is appreciated.

You know, I’d really like to believe that you are altruistic and only have the company’s best interest at heart.

But, I don’t. Not for a second. You don’t like Andrea, and dollars to donuts, neither does your co-worker who also found out about Andrea’s past.. (What on earth does googling your company name have to do with googling all your co-workers? Not saying you can’t do that, but puh-lease. Don’t try to pass off your “what’s our Google ranking” with “I wonder what I can find out about Andrea.”)

You found out some nasty stuff and have “authenticated it.” (How? Asking her? DNA samples? Just wondering.) And further more, I’m trying to figure out how on earth you got access to her application file? I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve needed to reference someone’s application and I’m HR. I can’t figure out what information a salesperson would need from her co-worker’s application. I can’t come up with a legitimate reason. (I’m sure someone has one, I just can’t think of one.)

If Googling your co-worker’s names was a legitimate assignment, then you would have written up a report summarizing your findings. Then it would be allowable to say, “When you Google Andrea + Company name you get police records for someone with the same name. When you google John + Company name you get a link to “who we are” page on the company website. When you Google Katie + Company name you get a link to a weight loss forum.” If the offense is ten years out (and I know there wasn’t anything more recent because I know you tried to find more dirt), then they probably couldn’t have even considered it when they hired her. Sure, the lying on the application part is reason not to hire someone, but they did and I don’t care how you authenticated the information, unless your brother was her actual crack dealer you didn’t authenticate it.

You will be the person who looks bad. Andrea will look like the victim.

Leave it alone. Do not discuss this with your fellow dirt digger. Get back to work and stop surfing the web. If this information comes to light and someone comes to you and says, “how come you didn’t tell us about Andrea!?!?!?!?” you can simply reply, “Our company policy is to run a background check on everyone before they are hired. I assumed that management was aware of this information. Additionally, Andrea’s past is not relevant to her current performance.”