5 Reasons You Should Hire Someone Who Has Been Fired

by Evil HR Lady on April 24, 2015

Hiring the right person is hard. It’s truly difficult to judge someone’s value based on atwo-page summary of her career and a few interviews. Therefore, hiring managers use something called proxies to help determine someone’s potential. One of these proxies is a college degree, another is current employment. Many managers reject anyone who is not currently employed because — the logic goes — if they were truly good employees they would not be unemployed.

While it’s true that bad employees are more likely to be unemployed than good employees, it’s absolutely not true that all unemployed people are lousy. In fact, some of them are fabulous. Strike that — many of them are fabulous.

Now, there is big difference between someone who is unemployed because they were laid off, took time off to raise children or take care of ailing relatives, or is a recent grad, and someone who was fired. A layoff is a business decision where someone loses a job because the position is going away. A firing is a where someone loses a jobbecause that person isn’t the right fit. You should considered laid off people equal to their currently employed counterparts. You should be more cautious about fired people, but here’s why you should strongly consider hiring someone who has been fired.

To keep reading, click here: 5 Reasons You Should Hire Someone Who Has Been Fired


Please put down your phone

by Evil HR Lady on April 23, 2015

I’m a member of the management team (3 of us who directly report to the CEO), in a start-up company with 12 people. Our office is very casual, but we work really hard. We’re not strict about start times or dress codes or lunch breaks. I would truly describe everyone at the company as an A performer.

Our founder/owner/CEO is especially casual. He isn’t always in the office from 9-5, he’ll text or take personal calls. However, he works nights/weekends/vacations when most of us are not working.

The management team, including me, make and enforce the rules. We record PTO, keep projects on schedule, etc. We work hard to protect our startup culture while balancing the need for guidelines and rules. We try to not legislate problems, but to deal with them on a one-by-one basis.

One of our A performers (my direct report) is constantly on his phone. Every time one of us walks by he’s on his phone. I’m not sure what he’s doing, but it rubs me (a millennial!) the wrong way. He absolutely gets his work done (he’s a top performer!), but it feels wrong.

Is it worth saying something? Am I just being old fashioned? The precedent has been set at the top, and we strongly value our casual “just get it done” culture. How can I say something without sounding like a hypocrite (based on the precedent)?

It’s absolutely true that if you have an A performer you don’t want to nit pick. After all–if someone is doing his job and doing it well, you don’t really care how he’s doing it. (Presuming he’s not doing anything illegal, which doesn’t apply here, but just thought I’d throw that out.) But, the reality is, if someone is doing something really annoying, it is affecting the office. But is this? What do your fellow managers think about it? Do the other employees notice?

Your job as a manager is decide if it’s something that can be ignored or if it’s something that should be dealt with or if it’s something you can ignore but will affect the employee’s future. I strongly believe that a manager’s job is not just to get the job done, but to prepare the employees for the next job–internally or externally.

In this case, I’d probably approach it casually at first. “Woah, Jim. That phone seems to be welded to your ear.” He may not realize that anyone else is noticing that he’s on the phone a lot. And, it may be that he’s not truly on his phone as much as you think he is–we call this “the van is always at the corner” phenomenon. That is, when the van isn’t there you don’t notice it, but you do notice it when it is there. He’s undoubtedly on the phone more than most people, but he may not be on it all the time, like you think he is. It might be informative for you to make note of whether he is on or off the phone just to confirm that he is always on the phone.

The next question is, who is he talking to? Maybe he’s just a phone person versus an email person. So, when you and I have a question for someone, we send an email and wait for a response. Jim might just call everyone. Some people like the phone. A lot. I’m not one of them, but there’s no harm in being someone who does. As you said, he’s an A performer, so maybe this is part of the secret of his success–he can get instant responses because he calls instead of emailing.

But, if the calls are personal or he’s loud or it’s just downright weird, it’s affecting his potential and you, as a manager should mention it to him. “Jim, I’ve noticed that you’re on personal calls a lot. You’re a high performer and I value your work, but the constant phone calls are holding you back. Can you limit your personal calls during the work day?”  Notice how this is not a super strict “YOU MUST GET OFF THE DARN PHONE!!!” because he’s doing his work and his behavior is merely annoying.

There’s another way you can approach this, which is to bring it to his attention and see what he thinks. He honestly may not realize that his behavior is inappropriate–if this is his first real job, he may not know. “Jim, I’ve noticed you’re on personal calls a lot. Generally, when we’re at work, we should be working and leave the personal stuff for after hours. Of course, we’re not super strict about that and we understand that from time to time personal calls at work are necessary, but you’re reaching excessive levels. Do you think that this affecting your productivity?” And let him answer. You can explain that perception is reality and when he’s on the phone all the time, the perception is that he’s not working and that could affect his potential internally and externally.

Since it’s not a huge problem, you don’t need to address it as a huge problem. If it becomes a huge problem, you need to address it as a huge problem. If, for instance, his performance starts to suffer, you will need to be more direct. “Jim, you missed the deadline on this project. Your constant phone calls are interfering with your ability to get your work done. Limit personal calls to lunch.”

Edited to add: Duh. He’s probably not talking on the phone. He’s probably doing everything else. The advice is the same, except for the personal calls things. Maybe it’s personal texts. Maybe it’s internet surfing. If it’s a company phone, he should be reminded that they company has the ability to monitor whatever he’s doing and read his texts, so maybe he shouldn’t be texting his girlfriend all the time.




The Consequences of Unfair Pay

by Evil HR Lady on April 22, 2015

I am the only female software engineer in a department of thirty.

When I started, two years ago, my salary was $70k, which I accepted because I was coming off a medical leave. I went to my boss and explained that I had worked there loyally for two years without raises understanding that my medical issues might make them loath to pay me more. Then I pointed out everything I accomplished, how well I was working, and most importantly that for someone with my experience salary.com says 74k was in the bottom 10% of the salary for my job. I explained I needed to make something closer to the middle pay grade at the very least.

My boss went to the CEO and negotiations continued. I asked if I was getting paid the same as my peers and my boss said he didn’t know but HR made sure everything was taken care of. I went to HR and asked if they were watching for gender pay inequality. I was told they would follow up with me which they never did. What did happen was I was offered a little over 79k salary.

I thought that 79k likely brought me close to the salary of people doing the same job as me. Others with the same experience as me were made team leads and as my friends I knew they made much more than me but didn’t care as I saw the difference in responsibility. It also brought me onto the bell curve as seen on salary.com so I was happy with what I made.

Then one of the guys said he posted his salary on glassdoor.com because there were no postings for people with our title. I went and saw he made 100k a year.

To compare: he has 7 years experience and I have 11, he has been at the company for 1 year and I have been there 3, he has a bachelor of arts in liberal arts and I have a bachelor of science in computer science. he is 5 years young than I am, the work we do is equivalent, we both work on committees together that work to improve the company, our responsibilities are the same and we are both labelled sr software engineer.

There are a lot of things that can be said about the past and how it affects how I’m viewed now but at this point in this moment I am a respected contributor with a good track record who is getting paid significantly less than at least one peer. I talked to one of the team leads who is a good friend and he said my pay was in the middle range prior to the raise season but most everyone was bumped up significantly above that. He suggested that next raise season I tell them what he told them “just pay me what you think I’m worth.” I had no reaction for him. No words.

It keeps me up at night. My first response was to start job hunting and to do most of my job hunting in union shops. Yet the injustice of it still hurts. I feel like I’m running away instead of working to solve a problem, not just a problem that women face but also the problem of how women software engineers are treated. And, if I don’t figure out what went wrong I fear that I will forever be undervalued.

The whole thing exhausts me and yet I can’t sleep. It’s past 2am and I can’t sleep. I like my job. I feel like I contribute a lot and would like to continue doing so. I find I’m bitter over how undervalued I am.

Is there a way to fix this? Any way to mend ways with my current job? Ways to avoid the issue in future jobs? Articles all tell me to be a tough negotiator but I am. They say women get paid less when they have kids but I didn’t. They say women get paid less because they take less technical jobs but I haven’t.

I want to ask all the other guys what they are making. I want to cluster us into graphs of education type/level, years experience, and pay range. I want to find out that this one guy was an anomaly and everything is fine. I worry that even if I find out everything is fine that I will be poking a bees nest.

First, I want to point this out as a cautionary tale to managers who think they can save money by underpaying people–male or female. When the employee finds out, the trust and loyalty you’ve “earned” will be gone. If it turns out that this woman is making $20k less than her male peers, even giving her a raise to match will not undo the damage. That damage is DONE.

Okay, second, let’s deal with the problem at hand. I suspect that with 30 people in the department, the salaries are spread out. I’m willing to make a bet that it’s not 30 men making $100k and the lone female making $79k. I bet that there are lots of variations and there may even be people making less. Different salaries alone do not indicate illegal pay discrimination.

And that’s something to consider. When you asked HR about your salary, even though they didn’t get back to you directly, they hopefully took the time to look into it. You don’t say what size of company you work for, but when I did HR data work, we’d run analysis on pay all the time, looking for problems–and I wasn’t even in compensation. I’m sure compensation did things at a much more detailed level than we did. I would flag things that looked off and hand it over to the HR business partner to fix. So, if you are in a large company, there is probably a team that is doing that, which means that it’s unlikely that they said, “Oh, Jane is a woman so it’s okay to pay her $20k less than everyone else.”

But, if there isn’t a competent HR team, your salary may truly stink. Women do ask for less. Even I have made the mistake of asking for less–recently. Here’s a story for my own embarrassment. I got contacted by a little startup in the HR space and they asked me to write something for them. “How much?” I said. “3 Articles a month at $X,” they said. I said yes without hesitating. I had just lost my contract with CBS and I wanted money so I said yes, even though $X was less than what I normally charge for a job like that. It wasn’t a lot less, but it was less.

Then she emailed me the contract. I opened the file and discovered that the contract had been made out for $Y which was exactly what I normally charge for work like that, and the wrong name was there–it was a male HR blogger, who I happen to know.” I emailed her back and said, “I’m just as good as [male HR blogger] so I’ll take $Y.” She suddenly said they had funding problems and disappeared. I emailed [male HR blogger] and asked how he came to that total. He said, “I asked for two and a half times $Y and she negotiated me down to here.” I was like, “I’m an idiot. I was so desperate for work that I shot myself in the foot.” She never, ever got back to me, but I’ve gotten numerous contracts since then for $Y and I no longer take less than I want for a project.

Was she discriminating against me because I was female? I don’t think so. Would she have gone up to $Y if I’d asked in the beginning? Probably. Was the relationship permanently damaged anyway? Absolutely. I made a mistake and she made a mistake and she ran like the wind. (Seriously, “oops! Uhh, no funding! Uhhh, I’ll let you know!” then silence.)

I made a huge mistake and I suspect you did too. I was colored by my recent contract loss and you were reacting based on your medical leave. We both were like, “I need a job!” Now, if you had made the case at the beginning that the salary they were offering was super low and you deserved the $79k to begin with, with regular raises you’d be making in the mid to high $80s which would mean your salary differences weren’t all that great.

(I know $10k seems like a lot, but there are plenty of reasons to have that big of a difference when you’re in the $100k range.)

So, don’t go in with the idea that you’re being discriminated against because of gender. But, do go in. You can even have the Glass door printout in your hand, and say, “Someone with the identical title to me is making $20k more than I am. Can we talk about  my salary?”

And there is nothing wrong with talking with your co-workers about their salaries, but most won’t want to tell you because we don’t talk about salaries in America. It’s not culturally appropriate. I think it should be. I’d love it if there weren’t secrets and lies involved in salaries. But it’s culturally how we do it and management doesn’t want to change those secrets because they benefit. But, this is absolutely something I’d bring up. And let’s face it–if this guy is an anomaly, the other 29 people in the department are going to be ticked as well.



One of the best things ever as a manager is when you hire someone new who is awesome. Your new hire jumps right in and solves problems, builds relationships, thinks up new ideas. In short, you couldn’t hope for a better employee.

On the other hand, one of the worst things is when you hire someone new who is terrible. Your new hire can’t handle the workload, complains about everything and drags the whole department down. This a  hiring fail.

Since most of us aren’t experts at hiring, when we hit the jackpot with the perfect hire, we want to keep that person firmly in our department. When we get a bad egg we want to force the em ployee out at the soonest opportunity.

To keep reading, click here: Need 6 Strategies to Promote the Growth of Your Employees?


Why Hillary Clinton’s Tipping Matters to a Startup

by Evil HR Lady on April 21, 2015

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton did not–I repeat not–leave a tip in the tip jar at Chipotle on a recent visit. The horror of it all, right? It’s not a sit-down restaurant. The employees aren’t receiving a paycheck based on the idea that they are eligible for tips. If you were to put money into a tip jar, presumably it would be shared with the whole staff, and not the person who did an extra good job with the guacamole. A tip is nice, but it’s not required or even expected at such a restaurant.

For the record, I have never, ever, not once left a tip at a Chipotle. I generally pay with a credit card and it’s not a tipping sort of a restaurant anyway. But, some people are in a tizzy. It shows that she’s not sympathetic to the “common man.”

Hogwash. It shows that she’s aware of social conventions. When a waiter brings food to your table, you tip 15-20 percent. When you order it from a counter, no tip is necessary.

To keep reading, click here: Why Hillary Clinton’s Tipping Matters to a Startup 


Donkey Hiking Part II

by Evil HR Lady on April 21, 2015


Some of you may have remembered that last year we went hiking with Donkeys in southern France. We had such a good time we decided to do it again, but on a more difficult trail. That was dumb.

So, for that week where I totally disappeared, that’s what I was doing. I had planned to post some things while on the trail, but we only had WiFi one night and cell service was so bad that I couldn’t even use my phone. Occasionally my email would download, but I certainly couldn’t write any articles while we were gone.

Anyway, if you’re interested, I wrote up this year’s donkey hiking adventures here: So You Want to Hike With Donkeys


How to Build a Better Marijuana Policy

by Evil HR Lady on April 20, 2015

A little more than 6 years ago, my American husband received a job offer in Switzerland. Being that I was working as a labor and employment law consultant in the United States, I asked him, “How are they doing the drug test? Do they contract with someone local? Does the US office of their company take care of it?”

He looked through the paperwork and contract (Swiss jobs come with contracts), and said, “There’s no drug test information.”

I knew this had to be a mistake. His job was for a pharmaceutical company. I worked in HR for a pharmaceutical company and knew full well that every one of our competitors did drug testing. I urged him to call the hiring company and get it straightened out right away–after all, we didn’t want to move the whole family across the ocean only to be told, “Oops, we forgot to do the drug test. You can’t start until we get the results back.” He held firm. “This is Switzerland,” he said, “the Swiss don’t make mistakes.”

It turns out that they don’t test for drugs regularly either. And while marijuana usage or possession is illegal, the consequence is a 100 frank ($104 USD) fine and nobody cares all that much.

To keep reading, click here: How to Build a Better Marijuana Policy

And as a side note, my editor at Inc asked me to do an article on this topic for today. I had to google to see why the date was important. Apparently I’m not hip enough to know about this 4/20 or 420 or whatever in the heck you whippersnappers use to keep it quiet from us old fuddie duddies. But, we’re on to you. Oh, yes, we are.


5 Ways Smart People Are Solving Income Inequality

by Evil HR Lady on April 20, 2015

Yesterday was “equal pay day day” which is supposed to represent how far a woman needs to work into 2015 to make as much income as a man did in 2014. While lots of people disagree with the premise that the difference in pay is based on discrimination (the Washington Post, for instance, gives the claims “2 Pinocchios” meaning that the claim contains “significant omissions and/or exaggerations. Some factual error may be involved but not necessarily.”) people want to make sure that things are fair.

Many women feel they face wage discrimination and some do face wage discrimination. Many women aren’t facing gender discrimination but rather the result of their choices–but if they had better options, they’d make better choices. So, true or false, we need solutions. Here are what 5 smart people and companies are trying to do to rectify the situation.

To read the 5 ways, click here: 5 Ways Smart People Are Solving Income Inequality


We have a relatively new (4 months) office manager who supervises others. She is our highest paid employee in a 15-person office. Company policies state a 40-hour work week.

We understand the exempt laws and having to pay full salary even if they do not work a full day, and so forth. Since her hire, she has not worked one bi-weekly pay period where she wasn’t short up to 10+ hours a pay period.

To date, her performance for what she completes is good. However, there is a lot of work to be completed that is her responsibility. Most of the time, she is working short days, so it appears we can’t dock her PTO unless it is four hours or more? The CEO feels like he is being ripped off and other exempt employees who are putting in more hours are noticing.

The CEO is concerned about how to handle this issue with her as an exempt employee. He feels that she is the right person for the job with the exception of taking advantage of work hours. (It is clear that she understands the exempt law/pay status.) Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.

To read the answer to this question, click here: What Can an Employer Do if an Exempt Employeee Fails to Work 40 Hours? 


How to Hire When Your Company Stinks

by Evil HR Lady on April 14, 2015

You’ve got two days to file your taxes, so right now you’re probably not feeling all that warm and fuzzy about the IRS. I know I’m not. And this is part of the problem. When you ask a teenager what they want to be when they grow up, they might say, “an accountant!” but the chances of saying, “I want to work for the IRS!” is pretty slim.

This is becoming a real problem for the IRS, who wants to recruit Millennials to work for it, and is finding out that Millennials don’t want to work for them. Why? Because the IRS not only does work that makes you extremely unpopular at dinner parties (“What do you do?” “I work for the IRS, seizing people’s homes for unpaid taxes”),their systems are outdated, according to an article at Bloomberg.

So, basically, they aren’t on the top of most people’s lists of dream jobs. Your business shouldn’t have as bad of a reputation as the IRS, and (we hope) that your new start up isn’t using 1980s technology, but what if you’re not hip and happening? What if there are huge problems? What if your funding is shaky and you don’t know how to manage and your co-founder is no better? Then, how do you hire? Here are some tips.

To read the 5 tips, click here: How to Hire When Your Company Stinks