December 2006

Why I Hate Recruiters, Part 2

by Evil HR Lady on December 29, 2006

I received the following e-mail at my Evil HR Lady e-mail.

Dear Hiring Authority,

My name is [SPAMMER] and I am a Recruiter in Boston. I have several strong candidates who would be a great fit for your posted Administrative position and I would love to share their resumes with you.

Each has been pre-screened for communication, presentation and Computer Software skills and all are wonderful!

Because I represent a full service agency, please let me know of any other roles where my services would be of value.

I look forward to the possibility of partnering with your company in helping you with all of your hiring needs. Thank you!

[Spammer]
Career Consultant
[Headhunting Firm].

So, I responded:

[SPAMMER],

If you even bothered to read my blog, you would know I don’t recruit, so therefore I have no admin positions available. I will, however, be blogging about this.

Happy New Year

Evil HR Lady

Well, I guess I put the evil in my name because I received a prompt response:

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I did just check out your blog and you are quite funny and creative…but I must ask…Why are you so evil? My apologies for including you in my mailing to HR professionals. It will never happen again-I promise. Please don’t be too evil to this little recruiter…I’m feeling a little scared knowing that I crossed you. Have a wonderful New Year…may it be filled with many more funny and interesting stories to blog about.

Warmest Regards,

[REDEEMED SPAMMER]
Not Evil Yet Career Consultant :)
[Headhunting Firm]

Ahh, she redeemed herself. A very prompt apology–plus she said the magic words (that I am funny and creative, of course). Now, she just needs to read my blog every day and share it with all her co-workers and friends. And then, get SHRM to advertise on my site. Or better yet, find me a job that requires me to do nothing more than blog about HR that pays fabulously well. (I don’t, by the way, need benefits, so that opens up a whole range of jobs for me!)

Finding the right person for a job is very, very hard work. And if she truly has qualified administrative people, that would make her valuable–if I were a recruiter, which I’m not. (Or, if by chance I were looking for a new admin for me, which I’m not, although I wish I were, which should probably be its own post.)

Our Spamming recruiter friend almost found something out the hard way–you need to know who you are contacting before contacting them. I absolutely wouldn’t have minded if she’d sent an e-mail to me saying, “Dear Evil HR Lady, I’ve read your blog (and you’re really funny), and wanted to introduce myself. I’m a recruiter who specializes in administrative support blah, blah, blah. If you know anyone who is looking for quality blah blah blah,” I wouldn’t have felt a strong desire to blog about it. The most important aspect of that letter would have been that she would have addressed it to ME. As it was I could tell I was blind copied which generally means she’s sent it to every e-mail address she could possibly find.

And now, since I am only evil because I am in HR, I won’t mention her name or her company. But other bloggers are not so nice. So, if you are going to send out mass e-mails, realize that once something hits cyberspace, you’ve lost control of it.

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Mess, Mess, I love to Make a Mess

by Evil HR Lady on December 28, 2006

The title of this post is a quote. I will think warm thoughts of you if you can identify the source. Anyway, messes.

I’m in a job share situation, which means I also share a desk. I’m a walking disaster area partnered up with a neatnik. However, in my efforts to make our working relationship functional, I agreed to her totally irrational need to keep a clean desk, and she doesn’t say anything when I eat all her candy. (Note to job share partner, bring in some chocolate covered pretzels.) It’s a good deal.

So, imagine my delight when I saw an article in the New York Times headlined Say Yes to Mess. Ahhh, victory is sweet.

Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat “office landscapes”) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts.

See, I’m a better parent and more creative then she is. (Our salaries, however, are identical–hmmm.) Of course, when you think HR, you don’t generally think creative, nice or cool. You generally think (judging by the Google searches that land people here) that the only creative thoughts coming out of HR are ingenius ways to pay people less and fire them more quickly. (Incidentally, I can whip up termination papers in a matter of minutes. Yes, even with a clean desk!)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to search for the Offspring. I know she’s around here somewhere. Perhaps under that pile of paper.

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Diabetes in the Workplace

by Evil HR Lady on December 26, 2006

Fascinating article about diabetes in the workplace.

Evil HR Lady’s advice for companies trying to set policy–run it by the New York Times test–you know, would you want what you did to be on the front page of the New York Times? I bet UPS would have preferred that this didn’t end up there.

I don’t know how I feel about the accommodations for diabetics. No one I am close to suffers from the disease, so I am very unaware. I do think, however, eating at your desk should be a no-brainer type accommodation.

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Beauty Pageants

by Evil HR Lady on December 26, 2006

As a child, my sisters and I used to live for the Miss America, Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. We watched them live, recorded them for later viewing, and even made our own beauty pageants by using the family video camera (this was the ’80s so the camera was huge and attached to an actual VCR that we dragged around).

I have since lost the pageant love. I haven’t seen one in years, but I’ve been interested in the latest pageant news. First, it turns out that Donald Trump owns Miss USA. Who knew? (Kind of creepy, actually.) Second, apparently good little girls aren’t winning. (I have noted that Vanessa Williams, who was dethroned in the 1980s–I’m too lazy to look up the exact year–is the only Miss America who really succeeded in show business. Intereseting, isn’t it?)

Miss USA, Tara Conner, was allowed to retain her title after she had a little too much inapproriate fun at a NY nightclub. Now, Miss Nevada has had her crown revoked for risque photographs posted online. (And no, the link isn’t to the photos, it’s to the Washington Post. I’m not that kind of blogger.)

Time for our little HR application. First, I hope Mr. Trump has specific rules about how such pictures are not permissable. Second, I would have liked to see Miss Conner kicked out as well. Kind of makes you wonder how someone as ruthless as the Donald (or as he portrays himself to be) would let someone like that stay “on staff.”

But, since most of us aren’t in the position to choose the fate of beauty queens, a better application would be this. Nothing is quite as permanent as an embarrassing situation. As I like to tell my Sunday School Class, God may forgive you and forget your sins, but your neighbors never will. Your spring break your sophomore year in college could have been 10 years ago, but it may cause you problems in your current job.

So, you must always be good. You never know who is watching–and who is taking pictures. Don’t yell at the cashier at the grocery store–the person in line behind you may be someone you are supposed to interview with (or interview) tomorrow. Most companies don’t appreciate obscene pictures of their employees surfacing anywhere.

So, be good.

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Hungry? Good.

by Evil HR Lady on December 21, 2006

Once a month I conduct a 5 hour training. That’s 5 hours on my feet explaining our complicated HRIS (that would be the computers that store all your HR data).

The class starts at 12:00, but a free lunch is included. I’m all for free and I’m always in favor of lunch. However, I rarely eat more than a half a sandwich, or a cup of fruit. I always felt like I could train better when my stomach was empty. So I felt rather vindicated when I read this:

According to a fascinating article in the March, 2006 issue of Nature Neuroscience, the stimulation of hunger causes mice to process information more quickly and to retain it better – in general, making them smarter. According to the researchers, humans almost certainly experience the same connection between hunger and peak brain function.

This makes intuitive sense–at least part of it. You don’t sit around after Thanksgiving dinner and solve differential equations. Being slightly hungry can increase performance. So, no more huge meals at meetings.

In order to read the original article you need to pay for the Journal Nature Neuroscience. In case you think you might want to, here is the link. Just a warning, though. Here’s the text of the abstract:

The gut hormone and neuropeptide ghrelin affects energy balance and growth hormone release through hypothalamic action that involves synaptic plasticity in the melanocortin system. Ghrelin binding is also present in other brain areas, including the telencephalon, where its function remains elusive. Here we report that circulating ghrelin enters the hippocampus and binds to neurons of the hippocampal formation, where it promotes dendritic spine synapse formation and generation of long-term potentiation. These ghrelin-induced synaptic changes are paralleled by enhanced spatial learning and memory. Targeted disruption of the gene that encodes ghrelin resulted in decreased numbers of spine synapses in the CA1 region and impaired performance of mice in behavioral memory testing, both of which were rapidly reversed by ghrelin administration. Our observations reveal an endogenous function of ghrelin that links metabolic control with higher brain functions and suggest novel therapeutic strategies to enhance learning and memory processes.

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A Marriage, a Job, It’s All the Same

by Evil HR Lady on December 20, 2006

How long did you date your spouse before you decided to get married? Three months? Six months? 14 years? An hour?

An hour? Some of you are shocked, yet we make decisions to offer job and accept jobs based on an hour or two of interviews. On a day to day basis, we spend more awake time at our jobs than we do with our spouses. Despite the difference in courtship time, manager/employee relationships are very similar to marital ones. Especially the problems that erupt.

The New York Times ran an article about the problems in marriage. Almost all of them can relate to the workplace. For example:

For instance, when the couples were asked whether they would start a family within a year of their marriage, nearly three-quarters said they hadn’t discussed the timing and were in disagreement on that point

Oops, did you discuss everything you really should have before you accepted a job? For instance, is your department’s policy to work late into the night any time someone in senior management says “boo!” or do you push back? I’m a push back person (and, by the way, it’s never hurt me), but right now I report to a “jump” person. It’s a conflict, but I never would have thought to bring it up in a job interview.

Another example from marriage:

“A young man, a newlywed, thought his role was to be responsible for all the decision-making for the couple,” Mr. Eisenberg said. “However, the couple had never discussed those issues, and his assumptions came as a surprise to her.”

Did you discuss how decisionw were made when you were interviewing? Do you discuss it with the people you interview. In lots of departments all the decisions are made from the top, but all the responsibility is on the lower levels. If you are in those lower levels, would you have taken the job if you had known?

New questions to think about next time you are job hunting–or hiring. You only have a couple of hours, let’s make it quality interviewing time. After all, you’ll spend more time with this person than you will with your spouse.

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Try Composing the Help Wanted Ad for This

by Evil HR Lady on December 18, 2006

Larry Penny, 71, director of East Hampton’s natural resources department, said… “we don’t keep a certified whale-vomit expert on staff.”

Just where would he find one if he wanted one?

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

by Evil HR Lady on December 18, 2006

Performance Appraisal time. What else could you possibly be thinking?

I know, everyone hates them. I hate them too. So, to be helpful, here are some hints for managers and employees.

Tips for Managers

  • Just sit down and write the darn things. Starting them is the hard part. Just get started and it will take less time then you thought.
  • Copy and paste from the self-appraisals your employees submitted. If they didn’t submit them this year, make sure they do next year. And have them submit them electronically. I mean, if worker Bob has already written a paragraph about how he truly embodies the company value of “teamwork” and he truly does, just take his paragraph. Then edit it to fit.
  • Copy and paste from last year’s appraisal. If your employee is still doing the same job, you can use some of the language from the previous year’s appraisal. These are not meant to be literary works of art, they are meant to transmit a message.
  • Be honest. If Bob is consistently late to work, put it in the appraisal. If Sharon offends clients because she makes snide comments about their clothing, let Sharon know.
  • On the honesty front, don’t write a glowing appraisal (“Sharon truly embraces quality”) and then give a low overall rating. Be consistent. Point out the good and the bad.
  • Tell your employees how they can improve. (“Sharon’s thoughtless remarks about other’s attire is holding her back.” “Bob needs to be in the office no later than 8:30.” “Susan needs to consistently format her Excel spreadsheets before submitting.”) Frequently, this is the only guide employees get.
  • Write actual goals for each employee and then make your own goal to regularly follow up.
  • E-mail a copy of the finished appraisal to the employee at least a few hours before you meet with her. Why? This will give the employee more time to internalize your comments and your discussion will be meaningful. If you are like most managers, your employees have little idea of what you actually think about their performance. Don’t blindside them.
  • Tips for Employees

  • Write your self appraisal. I know, I know, it’s probably too late. Make a note to do so next year. This is your chance to gush on about how wonderful you are. This is also the chance to bring up all the stuff your boss doesn’t know about. (Which, in most cases is a lot. I’m not trying to insult managers, I’m just saying that especially for high performers, you do a lot that your boss doesn’t know about. Let him know.)
  • If you get a bad appraisal, no weeping. Just as there is no crying in baseball, there should be no crying in a performance appraisal. If your boss blindsides you (he shouldn’t) say, “I wasn’t aware of these issues. I’d like to take time to think about them. Can we meet next week?” And then make sure you do.
  • Use the performance appraisal as a chance to suck up to your boss. Why not? It can’t hurt and it might help for next year.
  • If there are no goals, or the goals are unrealistic (Sharon needs to double her client base by February is an unrealistic goal), discuss them now. Theoretically, this is what you will be graded on next year, so get it clear now.
  • Remember your manager hates these more than you do, so be kind.
  • If you disagree with your manager’s assessment, take the time to write a response to be included. Don’t whine and say it is not fair. Just document the inconsistences. What good does this do? Well, if you apply for an internal position to work for me, one of the first things I’m going to do is call employee records and get a copy of your previous appraisals. I’d like to hear your side.
  • Have fun with your appraisals. Fun writing them, fun getting them. And remember, once they are done you can go have some holiday fudge.

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    Where I Do Want to Work

    by Evil HR Lady on December 13, 2006

    Best Buy. Not in their stores, mind you. My knowledge of electronics consists of plugging things in and hoping they work. But, for their corporate offices (in HR, of course). Why? They have a Results Oriented Work Environment.

    What this means, in practical terms, is that no one cares when you work or how much you work, only that your work gets done. Doesn’t that sound heavenly? Some examples:

    In employee relations, Steve Hance had suddenly started going hunting on workdays, a Remington 12-gauge in one hand, a Verizon LG (VZ ) in the other. In the retail training department, e-learning specialist Mark Wells was spending his days bombing around the country following rocker Dave Matthews. Single mother Kelly McDevitt, an online promotions manager, started leaving at 2:30 p.m. to pick up her 11-year-old son Calvin from school. Scott Jauman, a Six Sigma black belt, began spending a third of his time at his Northwoods cabin.

    Of course, one of the comments on the article is from an actual employee, he explains:

    I work at Best Buy headquarters and I live ROWE everyday. This article makes it sounds like the meeting rooms are empty and the lunch room is echoing at noon. That is not the case at all. From my experience, the vast majority of people still work a fairly regular schedule, but they may come or go during off peak rush hour times, or may spend an extra day at the cabin, etc. In general, people are still around the office, but with the freedom to choose when to leave. I love ROWE, but it really does blur the lines between work time and free time, which is both good and bad. I find it difficult to not check my emails throughout the evening, even after a full day at the office. I know other poeple are working and I could get a response to my email anytime. At the end of the day though, I will never work for another company that does not offer ROWE.

    Just give some people the flexibility they want and they’ll pretty much work normal hours anyway. This, of course, makes sense. You want to be in the office when your kids are at school and your friends are at work. But, if you want to take piano lessons, you can because you can leave early on Tuesdays.

    This would be an ideal work environment for me. Now, I just need to get a job there. And, they’ll need to provide full relocation, since I don’t live in Minnesota. Plus, I’ll probably need a new winter coat. Hmmm, do I really want to do this?

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    Should You Stay Home When You Are Sick?

    by Evil HR Lady on December 12, 2006

    I admit it. I thought when Ann Landers died that they should have hired me to replace her, rather than that Amy woman. Granted, I not only had no relevant experience, I didn’t even apply. They should have just known to hire me.

    But they didn’t. So I’m resigned to reading and critiquing their advice. (Such a difficult life I lead.) Ironically, the column I am commenting on today is an old Ann Lander’s column. Creators Syndicate still publishes one of her columns every week. Go figure. Here’s the first letter:

    Dear Ann Landers: I would like to respond to that “sick worker” who simply could not afford to stay home because she needed all of her paycheck.

    My cousin, “Joy,” worked in a large office. One of her co-workers came in with a terrible cold and flu. The co-worker said she felt lousy but she simply could NOT stay home because her pay would have been docked. Joy caught the cold, which resulted in flu and then pneumonia. One lung collapsed, and she never really recovered. In fact, she nearly died.

    Many years ago, when my son was in nursery school, one mother sent her toddler to school even though she knew the child was ill. She said she couldn’t miss work and wasn’t able to find anyone to stay with the boy. It turned out to be polio.

    Thousands of people die from the flu every year. Please urge your readers to stay home if they are ill. No paycheck is worth threatening the lives of fellow workers. I spent most of my work years in management. If employees knowingly came to work sick, I would fire them. They have no right to endanger the lives of others. — La Mesa, Calif.

    Now, in one sense, I agree with the writer. (Ann agrees with her and then tells everyone to get a flu shot, which I haven’t done.) But what is sick? I’ve had a cough for week and a half. For 3 or 4 days last week I lost most of my voice. Should I have stayed home from work?

    I didn’t, by the way. I also went to a choir practice (that was especially fun with no voice!), grocery shopping, made meals for my family (okay, so on Wednesday I ordered pizza–mmm, pizza) and generally went about my life. Could you imagine how much the world would slow down if every time someone got the sniffles, we all locked ourselves in our bedrooms with pots of herb tea and lightly buttered toast? (Now I’m hungry.) I can and your boss would fire you.

    First of all, I think companies should offer a reasonable amount of paid sick leave, separate from vacation pay. Second, I think if you are really sick you should stay home. Third, I wouldn’t go around blaming specific people for the illnesses you catch. You could have picked it up from the hacking co-worker. You could have picked it up from the UPS guy or the lady who used the cart before you at the grocery store. Heck, in googling this topic, this cheery sentence came up:

    Someone with mumps is contagious from about a week before symptoms appear until about nine days after they start.

    Isn’t that nice? It’s true for the common cold and the flu as well, although neither asymptomatic contagious period is as long as the one for the mumps.

    So, should you stay home from work if you are sick? Yes, if you are too sick to work then you should stay home. But no whining about co-workers who come in sick. Especially if your company has no paid sick leave. In that case, go whine to HR.

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