September 2007

One Title, Coming Up!

by Evil HR Lady on September 29, 2007

Hi, love your site.
I am working for a consulting company, we consult with all kinds of businesses, the two primary are a bowling center and a hotel (currently under construction), but I am getting business cards printed, and now need a title.

So I am SPHR, certified, and worked for a quasi government “one stop” job and career center. I will be working mostly in the areas of handbooks and policies, and HR audits. I am also the “girl Friday” for my current employer, so I do a lot of crazy things; the marketing for the bowling center, running errands, along with the HR duties.

So I am asking for some help. The owner said I can make it up, VP of HR was one of his suggestions, he was joking. He is the “Operating Partner” and the General Manager/Owner, and Managing Member, for the companies he owns and consults for.
HELP! Thank you so very much. Right now I am thinking HR Consultant.

I’m still pondering being a bowling alley consultant. For some reason this cracks me up. (At the university I attended, we were required to take two P.E. classes–one “Fitness for Life” class and one elective. My elective? Bowling. I figured, P.E. credit and the only sweat was from the rented shoes!)

I think HR Consultant is fine. HR Manager comes to mind, but that seems more like you are managing your company’s HR rather than consulting for others. (I believe you are consulting for others–correct me if I’m wrong.) You could also make yourself Lead HR Consultant or Senior HR Consultant.

Anyone else have any suggestions?

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You Can Either Meet or Work

by Evil HR Lady on September 26, 2007

I haven’t had much time to blog (I know, I know, where are my priorities?!?!?) because I’ve been spending way too much time working.

Well, not “working” but rather being “in meetings.”

Now, we all know that I have a small problem with negativity, but here is Evil HR Lady’s helpful meeting tip:

15 HR people in any room is about 12 too many.

The meeting I have been in have involved the following people: 2 people from staffing, 3 from employee relations, 6 HR business partners, 2 labor and employment lawyers, 1 labor and employment consultant and 1 relocation specialist.

How much do you think gets accomplished at these “meetings”?

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An Interview with Me!

by Evil HR Lady on September 26, 2007

Michael Moore at PA Employment Law Blog has just published an interview with me!

Thanks Michael!

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Carnival Reminder!

by Evil HR Lady on September 26, 2007

The 17th Carnival of HR is only 1 week away! Make sure you get your submissions in to Natalie CooperPersonnel Today. Send your submissions to Natalie!

As a reminder, keep it down to one post per blogger. And if you could–something that you’ve written in the past couple of weeks is preferable.

The October 3rd Carnival will be hosted by Natalie Cooper at Personnel Today.

The October 17th Carnival will be hosted by Kris Dunn at HR Capitalist

The Spooky October 31st Carnival will be hosted by HRO Manager at HRO Manager

The November 14th Carnival will be hosted by Patrick Williams at Guerilla HR

The November 28th Carnival will be hosted by Carmen Van Kerckhove at Race in the Workplace

The December 12th Carnival will be hosted by Wayne Turmel at The Cranky Middle Manager

The December 26th Carnival will be hosted by Ann Bares at Compensation Force.

The January 9th Carnival will be hosted by Ask a Manager at Ask a Manager.

The January 23rd Carnival will be hosted by Deb at 8 Hours & a Lunch.

The February 6th Carnival will be hosted by Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership.

The February 20th Carnival will be hosted by Lisa Rosendahl at HR Thoughts

The March 5th Carnival will be hosted by Gautam Ghosh at Gautam Ghosh – Management Consultant

The March 19th Carnival will be hosted by Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership.

The April 2nd Carnival will be hosted by Rowan Manahan at Fortify Your Oasis.

The March 16th Carnival will by hosted by Ann Bares at Compensation Force

The April 30th Carnival will be hosted by The Rainmaker Group.

The May 14th Carnival will be hosted by The Career Encourager at Career Encouragement

The May 28th Carnival will be hosted by Michael Moore at PA Employment Law Blog

The June 11th Carnival will be hosted by Jon Ingham at Stategic Human Capital.

The June 25th Carnival will be hosted by Evil HR Lady at Evil HR Lady.

We’re always looking for new hosts, so send me an e-mail at evilhrlady at hotmail dot com if you want to host. And get your submissions into me!

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Headaches Caused by Someone Else

by Evil HR Lady on September 24, 2007

We recently had to fire the head of one of our satellite offices. Very shortly after his termination, it came to our attention that one of her new hires was not working out. We have a requirement that all employees at that office at that site are on call on a rotating schedule. The head of that office hired an individual who could not come in on that schedule. To further complicate things, this manager forbade anyone to contact HR on the pain of instant termination. Therefore, I did not find out about any of this until after her departure.

The problem is that we need to terminate this employee because he can not fulfil the on call rotation requirement due to a family issue. For other reasons, this employee is not completely working out, but this is the main issue.

The complicating factor (there is always at least two, aren’t there?) is that this person is in a protected class and already feels that they are being discriminated against. This person was hired based on that protected class status because the site manager’s former brother-in-law was a member of that same protected class and the manager thought it would be great to work with another member of that protected class. This person should never have been hired, because they can not complete the basic requirements of the job. A new job was created for him because the site head really wanted to work with this person to practice her Mandarin. The job he was originally hired for? The position is still open because we can’t afford to hire someone else for it with him on the payroll.

Unfortunately, the former site manager is the only one who speaks Mandarin and no one else can communicate with this gentleman. As a result of this, this individual feels discriminated against and has made multiple complaints that people don’t socialize with him as much as they should. This person has great conversational English skills, but he does have trouble with the technical side of things.

He was insulted when it was gently suggested that the company would cover ESL classes through an adult education program. There is relatively decent comprehension, but when there are safety issues involved (the job involves multiple areas where one could be seriously injured or killed), it is important to be able to understand instructions and warnings. When another employee yelled for him to stop what he was doing, he called the HR office to file a complaint that he was being discriminated against and treated like a child. The employee was doing something that, had he continued for another five seconds, would have broken a very expensive air filtration system for the hospital. He was also standing on a ladder in a loud room and one would have to yell to be heard in the first place. Perhaps it’s a hostile work environment for him, but there is a good possibility that it may not be. We have sent the company vice president and the president out there on separate occasions to observe how people get along and investigate any allegations of a hostile work environment and found nothing amiss.

In any case, we need to let him go because he can not be on call. There is no way around this on call thing without other employees having a case for preferential treatment. Or if we let him go, are we going to be sued through hell and half of Georgia?

Well, well, well. If you appeared on my doorstep with this problem I’d say, “Ummm, I’m really busy right now, but my job share partner gets back from maternity leave next Tuesday. Can it wait until then?” Then I’d quickly shut my door and put my fingers in my ears and sing loudly, “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!”

Okay, it’s not that bad. You do have some difficulties, and they all begin with your fired manager. Things like this, I suppose, are among the reasons you chose to terminate him in the first place.

One good rule of thumb when you have to fire someone in a protected class is to have the person who hired him fire him. That way the person has less of a claim of discrimination–after all, if Bob was willing to hire you in the first place, the termination must not be related to your race, gender or age. But, you can’t do that.

You have a clear case of the person not being able to perform the job. Simple termination? Right? Of course not. This is because the person can perform the job he was truly hired for–helping the former manager learn Mandarin.

My solution? Since he can’t do the “job” you need filled and you certainly won’t replace him for what he is doing, you label it a position elimination and offer him a huge chunk of severance in exchange for signing a general release.

Yes, it’s more expensive than saying, “sorry, but you are failing in your job.” It, however, is less expensive than getting sued. So, offer the guy 3 months salary (or whatever your severance policy is) and extend his medical benefits (if applicable) for 6 months. In exchange, he signs a release saying he won’t sue you. Make sure you consult with your labor and employment lawyer when you draft the release. There are a lot of things that should and should not be included in such a document.

Let this be a warning to all of you who are letting bad managers slide by. Bad managers do bad things, such as hiring people who can’t do the job. Then the company has to take responsibility for such employees. Keep on top of your managers and provide training and development for them. And get rid of the bad apples as soon as possible.

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Peace & Quiet–or Not So Much

by Evil HR Lady on September 23, 2007

Hello Evil HR Lady,

I enjoy reading your blog! I’m not sure if this question is within your “realm” but if you have the time and inclination, any input would be helpful. A bit of background: I’m the (relatively new) chairperson of a 14-person dept. at a small, 4-yr college. Chairs are members of the faculty and since we are a unionized faculty, I am technically NOT the immediate supervisor of the other faculty in my dept.

That said, the chair is usually the first person a faculty member comes to (and certainly students do this) when they have a complaint about one of their colleagues. My department recently moved into a newly renovated building and all the faculty offices are lined up along a long, hallway, each next to the other.

My office is 2 floors below, so I am not “with” my colleagues. The new faculty offices, unfortunately, do not seem to offer much soundproofing. Even with the office door closed, noise from conversations in the hallway, “loud-talkers” having phone conversations and of, course radios tend to filter in. In addition, there is a diversity of needs that people seem to have for working (ie.writing lectures, grading, writing grants, etc.) such as:”I work best with music in the background””I don’t want to have to close my door all the time when I am working in my office””I need a very quiet environment to work””I like my door open so students feel welcome”etc.

Currently, there is one person has a very low tolerance noise, especially for music playing in her work environment and her office is directly across the hall from an individual who not only has a loud voice and entertains students in loud conversations involving much laughter (wish I had profs that were like this) also likes to play his radio “so low that I can barely here it myself”. They both like to keep their doors open. The quiet person requested the other turn their radio down or off the other day as it was distracting her from her work. The radio person became upset saying the request was unreasonable as the volume was already very low. Furthermore, the quiet person has others around her with loud phone voices (not much to do about that).

Tensions are mounting. The easy solution is to have a “no radio” policy or a headphones only policy. I have been told that this is not fair to those who require some sort of background music to work and why would we then not require the ones requiring quiet to wear noise-blocking headphones. It does seem sort of strict to have a “policy” about this. Can’t we be adults and use common sense and good manners? Sigh. So I’m wondering – in office environments similar to this, cubicles etc. is this an ongoing issue? Is there more to this than to me, what would seem to be a simple solution – the default is as quiet as possible or is the background/music requirement for working as valid as the need for quiet? Thanks for reading through all this.

Ahh, behaving like adults. You know, my experiences lately tell me that children are expected to behave more like “adults” than adults are. Two kids can’t get along? We say, “Billy and Sally, you have to be in the same class all year long. You will have to learn to be nice to each other or you will both be in the corner much of the time.” (Well, we say that until Billy and Sally have their screaming irrational mothers show up and lecture us for daring to discipline their little darlings, but once again, I digress.)

First of all, I’m going to direct you to one of my favorite blogs, Confessions of a Community College Dean. He has more direct experience in this subject, and he’s very interesting. But, all HR people have experienced the “my co-worker is bothering me!” whine.

Yes, rational people would say, “hmm, my colleague is bothered by my music. I’ll wear headphones.” Or, “I’m bothered by noise, I will shut my door.” But that is no fun. So, it comes down to policies.

It’s unfortunate that you are having these problems with people in offices. Most of corporate America seems to be living in cube land, where the problems are much more pronounced. (Thankfully, I have an office. I didn’t about a year ago, even though what I deal with is confidential even in HR standards. We were finally able to prevail on the powers that be when my job share partner, after having a long discussion with an attorney regarding an employee’s termination, turned around to find that same person standing in the neighboring cube. Fortunately, she hadn’t heard anything, but we were finally able to knock some sense into the space planning people. Boy, I am full of digressions today.)

I wish I had a magic solution for all of this. You can ask people to keep the noise down. You can re-arrange people so that the loud talkers are together and the quiet people are together. You can require that professors shut their doors when they are having conversations–but from a liability standpoint, I would prefer to keep the door open in such situations.

What I would do with the chronic complainers? Bring the entire group in together and say, “You know, the walls are really thin. Some people need music to concentrate. Some need silence. We all have students in and out of our offices. What do you all suggest?”

Chances are, no one will have any good solution. The tensions are probably running high not because of a radio, but because of competition amongst your faculty. But, they will be forced to stop coming to you with complaints because you’ll be able to smile sweetly and say, “Karen, we discussed this in faculty meeting. I’m not sure what you want me to do about it.”

Now, of course, if anyone is being egregiously loud or super sensitive to noise, you can help that person come to their senses. (Easier said than done!) Since you aren’t a direct supervisor,though, I don’t know how much influence you really have.

Good luck!

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Exceedingly Poor Judgment

by Evil HR Lady on September 21, 2007

I’ve seen enough in my life to believe that this is true. Sometimes people can exercise such poor judgment you almost feel sorry for them–after all, being that stupid must hurt at least a little. Plus, the lawsuit payout…

She said that the medical director called her into a meeting and informed her, in front of witnesses, that she is too old and ugly to work at their hospital. He explained it’s about marketing, and that the hospital is updating its image. He said that only young, beautiful nurses would be allowed to work at the hospital. He also said that patients want beautiful nurses taking care of them, so she had to go. She was shown the door after thirty years of faithful service to the hospital.

I know that when I was in the hospital, I wasn’t thinking about what the nurses looked like.

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Fruity Drinks and Communication

by Evil HR Lady on September 21, 2007

Do you remember that old song? The Pina Colada Song? I always thought the people in that story were phenomenally stupid and wouldn’t be able to repair their marriage after both were willing to cheat.

Turns out, I was (as always–well, as occasionally) right.

A Bosnian couple are getting divorced after finding out they had been secretly chatting each other up online under fake names…

“It was amazing, we seemed to be stuck in the same kind of miserable marriages – and how right that turned out to be.

“We arranged to meet outside a shop and both of us would be carrying a single rose so we would know the other.

“When I saw my husband there with the rose and it dawned on me what had happened I was shattered. I felt so betrayed. I was so angry.”

Yeah, well, duh.

So, why am I writing about this? Turnover. Bad turnover. Your employees leave you for new, exciting careers. It’s quite possible that you could have offered them what they left to find–they just didn’t know it was available. Likewise, you scour the universe looking for a perfect candidate to do X only to find out that a current employee is currently scouring the universe for a job to do X–only the two of you haven’t communicated.

I once had a VP of HR tell me, “My job is to develop my people. If you are in the same job for more than two years, I start to worry. I don’t want to lose good people, I want to develop and move and promote good people.”

You can only do that if you are communicating. Don’t be a manager that punishes people for looking for internal positions. Don’t be an employee who keeps your career goals secret.

And most of all, stay out of the personal ads and chat rooms and talk with your spouse from time to time. Sheesh.

(Hat tip: Frank :)

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Firing Someone with a Medical Condition

by Evil HR Lady on September 19, 2007

Hello Evil HR Lady!

I would like to say I love your website – I just stumbled upon today and I think it’s great.

My question is – how do you fire someone with a medical condition? We have an employee who isn’t very competent and her skills lack significantly yet she has worked for the company for 6+ years. (We’re in the graphic design business – so it only creates more work for the people with skills.) And no one from HR will fire her because she has medical documentation saying she suffers from migraines.

She will miss days – sometimes a whole work week at a time due to her migraines. For example – in 33 working days she missed 16.5 – due to food poisoning and migraines. Isn’t there a way to fire someone because they suck at their job and don’t do much when they are “working.” Any advise would be helpful.

Before I begin I am going to give my standard disclaimers–I am not a lawyer, I am assuming you live in the US in a state that has “at-will” employment.

Now my answer.

You can fire anyone, healthy, sick, black, white, pregnant and suffering from emotional distress. I’ll repeat, you can fire anyone as long as you don’t have some sort of employment contract.

FMLA, if it applies in this situation, has limitations. (Food poisoning, by the way, probably does not qualify.) Yes, the employer has to give you time off if you have a certified FMLA illness. But, that doesn’t mean you can be a poor performer when you are at work.

There is increased risk when you fire someone who is in a protected class or who is subject to FMLA. The person may sue and sometimes the best thing to do is offer severance in return for signing a general release. For the record, you can’t waive your right to FMLA. If the company is required to grant the leave, they must do so.

You have to make clear that the reason for the termination is not sickness, but performance. HR and her managers may not be interested in firing because they are wimps or because it is easier to keep this person on board than it is to deal with the paperwork involved in terminating. There is a maximum of 12 weeks of FMLA per year and if she’s taking 16 days off in 33, she’s going to max out that 12 weeks (60 working days) pretty darn quickly.

You can’t do squat about it, by the way. It’s not your decision to hire or fire. It’s not your decision to assign out work. What you can do, is do your work. And by “your” work, I mean “your” work. Not her work. Document your assignments that involve her. For instance, send an e-mail to everyone on the team that says.

I just wanted to be clear about the Jones account and my responsibilities.

John: XYZ
Sheryl: QRS
Steve: ABC
Heidi: LMN

XYZ must be completed before Steve can begin ABC. I’ve attached a complete project plan.

I realize it’s dull, it’s boring and it squashes your creativity. Do it anyway. You’re going to have to pick up her slack anyway, you just want to be clear that it wasn’t your assignment in the first place.

But, the key thing is just letting go. You cannot solve this problem. You cannot make her headaches go away. You cannot get her to be productive when she is in the office. Your managers already know she is a slacker. She grates on your nerves. You just have to take a deep breath and ignore it.

Easier said than done, I realize. But that is what you, as a co-worker, can do. She can be fired. They don’t want to do so. Sorry about that.

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Top 100 HR Bloggers

by Evil HR Lady on September 19, 2007

Bootstrapper has published their choices for the Top 100 HR Bloggers.

I’m pleased to join several of our Carnival Colleagues on the list. And pleased to find some new sites I haven’t been to before.

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