January 2007

Motherhood and HR

by Evil HR Lady on January 31, 2007

While cleaning the greasy gunk out of the crevices of my stove, I had an epiphany: The reason HR is so female heavy is that HR fills that motherly role in the business. Some examples.

Mom: Has to clean up messes made by other people.
HR: Has to clean up messes made by other people. Got a terrible manager who is driving employees away? HR swoops in and tries to make the employees happy and the manager better. What about a case of sexual harrassment? HR to the rescue! Who has to testify when people are denied unemployment? HR! Get out your 409 and broom and come to HR!

Mom: Has to deliver nasty tasting medicine.
HR: Has to deliver bad news. “The company has decided that your position will be eliminated effective today.” Or, “I understand you’ve been working very diligently towards this promotion, but we’ve decided to hire from the outside.” Or, “The merit increase budget for this year is 2.5%.”

Mom: Has to arrange play dates.
HR: Has to arrange job interviews. Do you know how frustrating this is? Manager: “I’m in desperate need of a new Sr. Lackey. I want to interview at least 5 candidates.” So the Recruiter runs off and finds 5 quality candidates (not easy!) and then tries to schedule interviews. The manager then schedules vacation and business trips and wants the candidate to interview with 6 different team members who are also scheduling vacation and business trips. Plus most candidates are already employed and they have their own scheduling conflicts. And they wonder why it takes so long to fill positions.

Mom: Hands out allowance–on a small budget.
HR: Hands out increases–on an even smaller budget.

Mom: Runs the family bugdget–along with Dad.
HR: Responsible for runing salary increase programs, bonus programs, performance management programs, all under the watchful eye of finance.

Mom: While not being adequetly compensated, still responsible for seeing that all her children grow and progress and eventually become leaders in society.
HR: While not being adequetly compensated, still responsible for developing employees, filling leadership pipelines, and keeping people from “running away.”

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Liability II

by Evil HR Lady on January 30, 2007

Another thought on liability from Fortune:

In today’s Sarbanes-Oxley world, the chief financial officer post – once a finishing school for future CEOs – has become the crummiest gig in the corporate suite. Combine the workload necessary to comply with the controversial 2002 legislation and the knowledge that you’re almost certainly the sacrificial lamb if the SEC comes calling, and it’s a recipe for skyrocketing turnover.

Maybe you want to stop climbing over people to reach the top. The view seems to be unpleasant.

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Liability

by Evil HR Lady on January 30, 2007

Did you know you can be held legally responsible for things in your professional life? Ahh, ’tis true. Granted, doctors are aware of this–they carry malpractice insurance. So, do other professions. Do you?

I don’t. (So don’t bother suing me–you may win a judgment but all I’ll be able to give you is whatever is in the checking accoung–currently $3.98) But, I could still be open to lawsuits, even though my advice is flawless. (Legal disclaimer: My advice is not flawless. And I am not a lawyer and I don’t give legal advise. This is pure entertainment! Don’t sue, please?)

Dr. Wes writes about why he’s “dragging his heels” when it comes to new technology that would allow patients to be monitored from home–and that information sent to a doctor’s office for analysis. He writes:

It’s not about just getting the data to the doctor. That, sir, is NOT healthcare. Instead, it’s about differentiating signal from noise. With a data dump to doctor’s offices, who will sift through the mountains of data (pun intended) to determine which data represent a problem in a particular patient versus a significant change? Data can change in expected ways when certain drugs are administered: like the elevation of a white blood count after steroids are administered. Will your little data processor be capable of making higher-order decisions? Unlikely.

More importantly, if a data point exceeds a pre-defined parameter and a doctor like me is notified by an e-mail using your handy-dandy device, who will follow-up to make sure I received and acted upon the notification? E-mailing data this way, without personal contact, is like planting a sinister bomb on my desk that is waiting to explode in my face. If I don’t happen to check my e-mail that week because I am inundated by the scores of aged entering their twilight years, will you take the liability heat, or will I?

Dr. Helen picks up on his post and adds this thought:

The funny thing is, many times, the client, whoever that may be, balks at the idea that they cannot use their insurance for this type of forensic exam, or that if they have to pay out of pocket, the fee is not just a few bucks. Apparently, my time and exposure to liability means little–people think health service providers are a public commodity, to be used as cheap labor or thrown to the wolves if a patient is harmed in any way–either psychologically or medically because the doctor is overwhelmed with paperwork, patients and out-of-office monitoring. If out-of-office health technology is going to succeed, the liability issues and payment compensation for doctors needs to be worked out in a reasonable way.

Now, both of these people are involved in medical professions, which we all know has liability issues. But, check out the comments at Dr. Helen:

If you’re in an equipment intensive business you can mitigate by isolating the gear into a separate corp that leases the stuff back to you so your business doesn’t actually own anything but a desk and a phone.

As an IT guy, I’ve had people expect free time, expertise, etc. from me in gov, business and private. How is this different? Get sued? Sure. I wrote a bank wire application that handles 17B — yes billion — per day. I can get sued too.

EVERYONE is breaking MANY laws ALL the time, without even knowing it. I can think of five or six I am violating right now, so I am probably violating 20 or 30. The last violation began about 10 minutes ago – I installed a dimmer switch for the chandelier over our dining room table without getting a permit from the city building department; creating ongoing, intentional, and possibly negligent violations of a variety of ordinances.

Yikes! Are you liable for the advice you gave your neighbor? What about the report you presented to your CEO that got presented to Wall Street?

Most people won’t sue, but those that have been caught in a law suit prefer not to do it again. Be careful out there.

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Managers as Walking Lawsuits

by Evil HR Lady on January 28, 2007

One of my employee relations colleagues informed me that she can’t help it–she just sees all managers as walking lawsuits. I laughed along with her, but it’s really not funny. Managers do stupid things all the time–ask wrong questions in job interviews (Do you have children? You do? What are your childcare plans?) or promote people for the wrong reasons (hey, she’s hot!) or play favorites or tell racist jokes or any number of other things.

We, in HR, can’t even control ourselves, let alone our managers. We do try to train them in what can and cannot be said. Apparently, Virginia State University’s HR department fell behind on training their managers that you shouldn’t fire people for expressing opposing viewpoints and then replace them with your live-in-lover.

Cobbs and her supporters have said that she was dismissed for her political views (she is an outspoken black Republican at a historically black college where her views place her in a distinct minority) and for backing other professors (of a range of political views) in disputes with the Virginia State administration. In announcing the settlement of her case, the Virginia Association of Scholars — one of the groups backing Cobbs — said that information obtained by Cobbs’s lawyer showed that the university’s provost, W. Eric Thomas, replaced Cobbs with a woman with whom he is living.

Cost the university $600,000.

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Recording Your Employees

by Evil HR Lady on January 25, 2007

Dear Evil HR Lady

I have a question about firing people. Let’s say that someone is being fired for siphoning off company client lists and selling them to a major competitor. We obviously are going to fire the person, but we want to get as much information from him as possible, so we are having an exit interview, where he will be presented with all the information we have about the bad things he has done. The hope, he will expound or at least confirm. The question is, IS IT OK TO RECORD THIS TERMINATION INTERVIEW?

Sincerely,

And We’re Suing Him Too!

Dear Suing Boss,

Get a lawyer.

Sincerely,

Evil HR Lady

Okay, Okay, I called a lawyer for you. I happen to have a lawyer brother. (Note, he’s not Evil Lawyer Brother because that would be redundant, don’t you think?) He said that in the state he practices in, it would be perfectly legal as long as the person conducting the interview was aware that the interview was being recorded. However, he cautioned that not all states would have the same rule, so get your own lawyer first.

Employees have no expectation of privacy at work. (Remember, this means your employer can and probably does monitor your e-mail and internet usage–but it’s still okay to read Evil HR Lady at work. Really. Please?) But, you do want to be careful with how far you go with monitoring.

If you commonly made it a habit to record employees (even during benign exit interviews) you could end up with every good employee quitting and only those who couldn’t possibly find another job staying. At best, you would end up with people saying the following in their exit interviews: “Oh, I love it here so much. These people are all like family to me. I don’t know why I’m leaving. Did I mention I love it here and love my boss–and you Miss HR Person, I just want you to know this is the best HR department I’ve ever encountered.” Gah! You actually want truth in these things, which is why we keep exit interview information confidential.

This, of course, is an extenuating circumstance. Your errant employee is in a whole heap of trouble. My true recommendation is regardless of what your attorney says about recording the interview, you have your lawyer present during the termination. And make sure you are calm about the confrontation. No screaming about how the employee is ruining your company. Present the facts and ask him what went on.

I do not envy you, however. Unpleasant all around. But, I am very glad you are firing this person and letting him know why.

Good luck,

Sincerely

Evil HR Lady (signing off for real this time)

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Hear the Evil HR Lady!

by Evil HR Lady on January 24, 2007

I had the great honor of being interviewed by Wayne Turmel of the Cranky Middle Manager. The interview is now posted here.

So, pop on over and listen and then tell me what you think. Unless you didn’t like it. Then pretend you are my mother and practice saying, “that was very nice, dear.”

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Metrics

by Evil HR Lady on January 24, 2007

I have, shall we say, “eclectic” interests. But fortunately, all roads lead to HR, so it works out for you all.

I found this article from the The New Yorker titled, “How childbirth went industrial.” How could I not read that? The most fascinating part was the creation and insitution of the APGAR score–used to evaluate new babies.

The score was published in 1953, and it transformed child delivery. It turned an intangible and impressionistic clinical concept—the condition of a newly born baby—into a number that people could collect and compare. Using it required observation and documentation of the true condition of every baby. Moreover, even if only because doctors are competitive, it drove them to want to produce better scores—and therefore better outcomes—for the newborns they delivered.

Around the world, virtually every child born in a hospital had an Apgar score recorded at one minute after birth and at five minutes after birth. It quickly became clear that a baby with a terrible Apgar score at one minute could often be resuscitated—with measures like oxygen and warming—to an excellent score at five minutes. Spinal and then epidural anesthesia were found to produce babies with better scores than general anesthesia. Neonatal intensive-care units sprang into existence. Prenatal ultrasound came into use to detect problems for deliveries in advance. Fetal heart monitors became standard. Over the years, hundreds of adjustments in care were made, resulting in what’s sometimes called “the obstetrics package.” And that package has produced dramatic results. In the United States today, a full-term baby dies in just one out of five hundred childbirths, and a mother dies in one in ten thousand. If the statistics of 1940 had persisted, fifteen thousand mothers would have died last year (instead of fewer than five hundred)—and a hundred and twenty thousand newborns (instead of one-sixth that number).

Isn’t that amazing? The institution of a way to monitor and quantify information ended up leading to the saving of millions (over the years) of lives. Develop a metric that truly measures what you need and then follow its advice.

I read about another interesting metric involving Master’s Degrees for Teachers. Turns out that there isn’t much evidence that a teacher with an advanced degree is a better teacher than one without. Yet, most teachers receive a premium for obtaining one.

Hmmm, we had a metric (number of teachers with master’s degree) to compare with another metric (student success rate) and we thought the first should cause the second, (more educated teacher=better teacher), but current evidence suggests that’s not true.

I doubt anyone in the United States would deny that there are some problems in education. Granted, many children receive fine educations–I believe I was one of the lucky ones–but many do not. The APGAR score saves lives. Can’t we develop a metric that will help us save children?

I realize with the “save the children” language, I’m starting to sound like (horrors!) a liberal, but what I’m really saying is let’s gather evidence and act on it.

And whose job is it to figure such things out? Drum Roll Please…Human Resources! That’s right. Teachers are employees. Employee success and failure should be monitored and evaluated by HR professionals with an understanding of measurement. Are the things we are focusing our money on really bringing about success? If yes, great. If no, change needs to be made.

Metrics in HR is a relatively new field. Prior to its implementation, many HR departments were very warm and fuzzy but very unhelpful to the business. We’re still warm and fuzzy (at least when non HR people are around–when we’re alone, we’re rather cranky), but now we understand the need for numbers to back up what we do.

If your HR department hasn’t developed good ways to measure success, they should. If they need help, they should contact Evil HR Lady, who would be happy to help them out. For a small fee. (Hey, I’m a free market capitalist–remember?)

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It’s Not Just in Politics

by Evil HR Lady on January 23, 2007

When running for office Tennessee Democrat Stephen I. Cohen pledged that he would join the Congressional Black Caucus if elected. Not an overly dramatic pledge–most politicians pledge something like single handedly bringing about world peace–but a pledge that should be fairly easy to keep. Except for one small problem–Representative Cohen is white.

He represents a district that is largely African American and thought his constituents concerns would be similar to his collegeagues’ concerns in the Black Caucus. They did not want him to join.

Cohen said he became convinced that joining the caucus would be “a social faux pas” after seeing news reports that former Rep. William Lacy Clay Sr., D-Mo., a co-founder of the caucus, had circulated a memo telling members it was “critical” that the group remain “exclusively African-American.”

Other members, including the new chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich., and Clay’s son, Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., agreed.

“Mr. Cohen asked for admission, and he got his answer. … It’s time to move on,” the younger Clay said. “It’s an unwritten rule. It’s understood. It’s clear.”

Well, that’s politics right? You and I aren’t running for office. (Oh, wait, I am running for office.)

The same type of exclusionary policies are likely happening at your office. Are you a male that wants to join the “Women’s Leadership Seminar”? Good luck. Several companies I have worked for have programs just for minorities and females. White males need not apply.

This is something I don’t understand. Do white males by virtue of the combination of skin color and Y chromosomes automatically know how to navigate the corporate world? Do people without that blessed combination not know how to do it and need guidance?

My experience has been that very few people have an innate knowledge of how to advance in corporate America. Most people learn by trial and error and seeking out a mentor. Groups that help people succeed are great. But the end goal should be sucessful people, not specialized help for a specific group.

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I Totally Agree With This

by Evil HR Lady on January 23, 2007

Casa del Herrero Se Usan Cucharas de Madera

At the silverware makers house, they eat with wooden spoons.

Rabble told me this one today, in reponse to my comment that everywhere I’ve worked, the HR department was the worst of all groups at actually firing incompetent people.

From Caterina.net

I don’t want to say too much, but it’s seriously a problem. I think it’s partly because it’s very easy to sit in a meeting with a manager discussing an employee that you don’t know personally and recommend termination. It’s a different story when you know the person, may like the person, know they have 3 kids and a mortgage. And we have no one to go to for advice and support.

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Things That Shouldn’t Matter that Do

by Evil HR Lady on January 23, 2007

Your Looks:

Attractive people earn about 5 percent more in hourly pay than their average-looking colleagues, who in turn earn 9 percent more per hour than the plainest-looking workers.

This means if an average-looking person earned $40,000, their prettiest co-workers would make $42,000 while their least attractive colleagues brought home just $36,400.

Plain-looking workers may also receive fewer promotions than those awarded to their more striking contemporaries.

Where You Work:

Telecommuters are less likely to get promoted than peers who head into the office every day, according to a global survey of 1,300 executives released Tuesday by Los Angeles-based executive search firm Korn/Ferry International.

That’s even though most of the executives consider telecommuters to be at least as productive as their desk-bound colleagues, according to the survey. And three-quarters of those bosses also said they’d like a job in which they could regularly telecommute.

Your Personality:

Here at Fast Company, our top managers and editors were all recently asked to take the MBTI evaluation and submit their results to HR, resulting in more than a little anxiety. What would the results be used for? Who would get to see them? What if my type didn’t match what the boss thought he wanted in a management-level person? Turns out that these are all questions every applicant should feel confident asking their managers or prospective managers administering a personality test. Try to understand why your manager is interested in personality theory. Remember that this process gives you as much insight into the corporate management philosophy as the test will give the company into your personal philosophy. “They can be useful learning tools,” says Lara Kammrath, who teaches management at Columbia’s Graduate School of Business, “but are worrying in other uses because of their very low ability to predict actual workplace behaviors.”

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