Top 10 Annoying Water Cooler Topics

by Evil HR Lady on August 29, 2016

Do you have annoying co-workers who spill way too many beans around the water cooler? (Or coffee pot, depending on your office culture.)

I asked my readers for their top annoyances and comprised  list of the top 10 over at Inc. Right after I published, I got another one where one of my readers confessed to being the annoying one as she complained about her husband’s parrot.

To read the other 10, click here: The 10 Most Annoying Water Cooler Conversations



It’s Swiss Sunday! Permission Slips

by Evil HR Lady on August 28, 2016

I haven’t done a Swiss cultural post for a while, so I thought I’d do one for fun. Today, my 3rd grader is at the local swimming pool with his class. (I’m writing this on Friday, even though I’m publishing it on Sunday.) A normal thing to do, but it will probably make your American head spin. Here’s why:

  • No permission slip. The teacher just sent home a note saying “this is what we’re doing. Send swimming suits and 5 franks so your kid can buy ice cream.” Except she said it in German.
  • No advance planning. The teacher looked at the forecast and said decided it seemed like fun. So they are going.
  • There are no lifeguards at the pool. It’s a public, outdoor pool. Any by pool and I mean a baby pool, a diving pool, a lap pool, and a fun splashing pool that varies in depth from about 3 feet at one end to 6 feet at the other. There’s also a twisty water slide. Swiss pools don’t do lifeguards unless it’s a super scary slide or something. I would not want to be a teacher taking kids to the pool without lifeguard help.
  • No parental help. She might have grabbed a parent, but I doubt it. 16 kids, no parents needed on field trips.
  • They walked to the pool. Google Maps says it’s 2.2 kilometers, but I suspect they took the 2.5-kilometer trip as it’s off the main streets. They will walk back to school as well, but the teacher will let the kids go if they pass their house, so they don’t have to backtrack.

I still find this amazing. I still have to sign permission slips for my 13-year old that attends the international school. The parents there are a more litigious bunch.

I also still get caught on weird cultural things. This is his 5th year in Swiss schools (2 years of kindergarten), and in the past,they’ve run around barefoot in gym class. This year they have to have gym shoes. Except no one told me. All the other parents just *know* these things. It’s so strange to me.

The other weird thing is that in 5 years of schooling, he has yet to have a teacher that works full time. He’s always had a teacher in a job share. I don’t know if that’s just his luck or if that is super common in the Swiss schools. His head teacher from the past two years just had a baby in August. She told me that in January she’s going back to school, teaching two or so hours a day. I bet there are a lot of American Moms who wish they could work that kind of part time with a new baby!


Exempt Employees with Same Titles and Different Rules

by Evil HR Lady on August 26, 2016

Hello, I am a salaried employee at a hospital. Despite the fact that there is no official start time for us (3 total), 2 full-time, 1 part-time, the full-time employees work 4 days and the part-time works 3.

I am being told that I am late at least once a week. Respectfully, office operating hours are 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, I generally start around 9a and truthfully I do arrive around 930ish somedays. there are occasions when I arrive around 10:00. My day usually ends about 6:30-7:00. My biggest concern is that my coworker arrives about the same time (9:30ish) and nothing is said to her. (Yes I asked).

Today my manager informed me that the clinic hours need to be covered every day and my “latenesses” are unacceptable. Months ago I asked her to provide in writing, what is considered late for exempt employees and was informed that the company follows the FLSA standards for exempt employees latenesses.

With no written policy or standard on start times of my position, how can there be disciplinary threats surrounding my arrival times? My question to you is since the manager will not provide in writing the start time for my current position, is it justifiable for me to file a formal complaint against her? My two counterparts come and go as they please and are not questioned or accused of arriving late. I am also considering consulting the DOL because I have tried to address these issues with HR and get directed back to my manager because of the lack of policy and no standards culture of the company. Please advise.

This is kind of a bizarre problem. Most bosses have no problem setting starting and stopping times, and there are no FLSA standards for lateness for exempt employees, other than you can’t dock their pay. Managers are free to require exempt employees to work specific hours and punish people for coming in late or leaving early–as long as their pay isn’t affected. (They can, however, dock your PTO for late arrivals/early departures.) Now, do I think you should micro-manage an exempt employee’s time? No. Do I think you should care when an exempt employee comes and leaves? Maybe.

Why the maybe? Well, you work in a clinic that has opening and closing hours. I presume you don’t do patient care, because if you do, you need to be there when the patients are there, which  means waltzing in at whatever hour is utterly ridiculous. But, even if you don’t do patient care, you do, undoubtedly, support the staff that does. Which means that they are in the office during these office hours. It makes sense that they should be able to handle whatever they need when they are in the office.

Now, it’s true that that doesn’t mean you need to be there as soon as the clinic opens, but it generally does mean you need to be available when they expect you to be. So, your boss should just say “we need you here by 9:00 at the latest.”

The other weird thing is that your co-worker isn’t being held to the same standard. You get in trouble for  coming in “late” which is a mythical time and your co-worker doesn’t. There are some logical reasons for this. For example, if your co-worker is a long term employee and you’re new, she may have an established reputation and you don’t. If this wasn’t a medical clinic, I’d say she might have clients on a different coast and so it makes sense for her to come in later, but I can’t imagine that is the case.

It’s also possible that, even though you have the same title and same job description, you’re actually doing very different tasks. You’re supporting group A and she’s supporting group B and so you need to be there earlier because group A comes in earlier. I don’t know.

Is this enough to file a complaint? Well, there’s nothing illegal about what she’s doing UNLESS the reason your co-worker gets privileges you don’t get is that you are a different race/gender/religion/etc and the reason your boss has different rules is because of those differences. That would be illegal discrimination. If, however, the reason she’s doing it is that she’s a weenie who plays favorites, that’s legal. If you think the reason is an illegal one, go to your HR department first by writing up an email detailing the problems and using the subject line of “Official complaint of [racial/gender/religious/whatever] discrimination.”

But, if it’s not an illegal problem, there’s nothing to complain to the Department of Labor about. Can you complain to internal HR or your manager’s boss? Yes. What would you say? Well, If you came to me and said, “My manager says I’m late when I come in at 9:30, but when I ask her what time I need to be in she won’t say,” I’d probably respond with, “She’s just told you that 9:30 is too late. Try being in by 9:00.”

It’s not that I think your manager isn’t being a weenie, it’s just that that’s the obvious solution. If that doesn’t solve the problem, then the time you come in is not the problem. And that is a hard thing to find out. Your manager has already established that she’s going to be unreasonable when it comes to setting rules and guidelines. And, because I’m totally non-confrontational (unless it involves obnoxious teens in waiting rooms with music blaring out of their ear buds), I’d try this solution first and see if it works.

If it doesn’t, you need to sit down with your boss. Not stand in the hall way talking. Not sending her an email. Not anything else. A formal meeting where you say, “Jane, I get the feeling you aren’t pleased with my work. You told me to come in earlier, and I have, but you’re still dissatisfied. What do I need to change?” The sitting down here keeps her from wandering off.

Don’t worry if she won’t write it down. After you have this meeting send her an email which states, “Thanks so much for the meeting today. I understand that I need to be in by 8:45, not wear open toed shoes, and make department A my top priority. If I have misunderstood, please reply to this email and let me know.”

If she comes and tells you in person, then simply reply to your original email saying, “Thanks for clarifying that Department B, not A, should be my top priority.”

It’s tedious, but effective.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes.


So, I used to watch reality tv. (Don’t anymore, in fact, I don’t even own a television anymore.) I watched several seasons of the Apprentice and was equally horrified and fascinated. But, while a competition makes for great television, it’s not the right way to hire.

A reader asked me a question about a job her college-aged daughter interviewed for. You see, they hire two people and make them compete and then one gets fired after 90 days and the other “wins” the position.

Yeah, not really interested in that. I’ll tell you why it’s a bad idea: Donald Trump May Be Running For President, But You Still Can’t Hire Apprentice Style.


Posting Absences

by Evil HR Lady on August 24, 2016

I’m hoping you can help me with something. I’ve been in HR for a long time but have never come across a situation like our owners are currently doing.

They have two calendars out in the open (one for office staff and one for our laborers). Anyone from vendors, customers, etc. can see it. They are using those calendars to mark down any time a person is late, sick, family emergency, vacation, funeral, doesn’t show up for shift, etc. I’ve had several complaints from employees that it’s a violation of their privacy, and they don’t want it displayed. I’ve never come across this before because any other company I have worked for would never do something like this. I can’t find anything that would prove it is a true violation of the employee’s privacy and illegal, other than in my eyes it’s immoral on the part of the owners of our company. I do agree with our staff that it is an invasion of privacy.

What are your thoughts?

Well, I’m probably the wrong person to come to, because while I believe in privacy, I don’t think there is much privacy involved in a calendar that shows who is in or out of the office. It’s not a big secret, and it’s helpful. “Where’s Bob? I can’t find him. Oh, let me check the calendar. Yep, he’s out on vacation today!”

Now, everyplace I’ve worked had something like this, except electronic. If you were going to be out for the day, you’d put it on the shared departmental calendar and put an out of office notice on your email. Since you mentioned you have laborers, it’s likely that not everyone has a company email account, so it makes sense to have it on paper. That way, anyone who wants to reach you knows that you’re not in the office. And there’s a record if a question comes up later: “Who screwed up this project? Well, it wasn’t Jane, because she was at a funeral on June 18.”

I guess I can’t get worked up about people knowing who is in and out of the office. Likewise, I can’t get worked out up about noting late arrival times–for the same reason.

I do find it weird that this is in a location where clients/guests can see it. It would make more sense to have it in a break room or something.

Now, if the calendar says “Bill, out due to toenail fungus,” that’s a bit much because all anyone needs to know is that Bill is out of the office. But, it does make sense to put, “Mandy, maternity leave” because you know that Mandy won’t be in tomorrow, but Bill most likely will be.

So, if people are upset about this, I suggest you start with removing the reason for the absence. Then the practical reason is fulfilled, and nobody’s privacy is violated. After all, it’s obvious that you’re not in the office if you’re, you know, not there. Then stop and think about why it bothers you so much. Ask others why, directly, they find it bothersome. There might be a reason I’m not seeing. (Heaven knows, that’s happened before and will happen again!)

As for violating a law, I can’t think of why it would. The only thing that would come close is a HIPAA violation if your company is subject to HIPAA (it’s probably not) and the reason for health-related absences are included.




How to Manage Those Women Folks

by Evil HR Lady on August 23, 2016

So, Jason Shen, a BigWig at Etsy, wrote this article about managing women. Now, to be fair, “he means well, but he don’t know.”* In his attempt to point out that we shouldn’t discriminate against women, he pretty much invokes every negative stereotype out there.

In response, I’ve penned some advice on how to manage humans, which includes women here: The Real Way to Manage Female Employees (Start With Talking to Them)

*The first person to identify this quote WITHOUT GOOGLING (Or using another search engine) wins a free resume review for himself/herself or a friend! Answer in the comments and it’s totally the honor system, because how can I tell if you’ve googled? And I’m only accepting the “right” answer, although it appears in many places. So, you have to recognize the quote and recognize it from where I know it. Heh. I’m like a bad 11th grade teacher.


Have you ever wondered what giants like Intel and Google do about telecommuting? Yahoo killed telecommuting and now look at them–sad and sold. Not even the facts will convince me that the banning of telecommuting was 100 percent responsible for this. (Just joking, people! I’m sure it contributed to the problem, but it wasn’t the only problem).

I searched around high and low and learned how companies successfully handle telecommuting. To read all about it click here: How 5 Top Businesses Help Employees Work from Home

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Happy 10th Birthday!

by Evil HR Lady on August 19, 2016

Today, Evil HR Lady is 10 Years Old! Can you believe it? I can’t.

A 10 year birthday deserves a present, and since I lack all manners, I’m asking for a present. Pick from the following list:

As I reminisce over ten  years of evilness, here are some interesting blasts from the past.

My most popular posts (not a perfect list, because I don’t have access to stats from all the sites I write at):

It’s been a really fun ride and I intend to keep going for a long time.


If you are getting ready to go off to college, or you are sending a child off to college, you might be concerned about a major. Majors are important, of course. I mean, I majored in political science and look where it got me.

I asked some small business owners what they majored in and how that influenced their lives. And you’ll never guess what the Art History Major does now. <—Clickbait sentence!

To read all about it, click here: Can’t Decide on a Major? Here’s What Major Set These Leaders Up for Success.


Okay, this is not my normal topic, but I’m a heavy internet user and there are some things that drive me absolutely  nuts. Like popups that are too big for my phone screen so I can’t dismiss them and can never get to the website. Seriously, web designers? Who thinks this is a good idea?

So, pop over and read 10 Simple Things to Make Your Website User-Friendly and then give your suggestions in the comments!