Like most of your legions of fans, I was hoping for some advice. Review season is upon us at my anonymous law firm. I work for a section head and an associate. I have been with them for over a year and have implemented the following systems for them: customized daily news reports, notes from hearings they cannot cover, briefing memos on hot topics. I’ve learned the regulatory systems that apply to our area of practice, even though I am not directly responsible for the processes they involve for our office. No other assistant in my section is taking on these kinds of responsibilities for their people. Of course there is also the traditional assistant jazz- calendars, maintaining contact lists, expense reports, copies, saving them from their blackberries, etc. I love my job, the 2 attorneys I work with, and life is generally awesome, with my section head telling the higher ups in the firm that it is important I get a significant increase in pay.
Enter the new hr manager for our office. Apparently she has identified me as a “problem” employee because I’ve billed a significant amount of overtime to hone these skills over the past year (at the direction of the section head and previous hr manager). she’s only been present for the last 3 months or so, but she and her deputy have essentially intimated that I need to stop billing overtime. When I came to the firm, I was told that there were serious penalties for failing to do so as a non-exempt employee. I absolutely do not abuse this system. I document everything I do and have no problem standing behind my overtime. I think she may be trying to avoid talking to the section head because she’s heard he will tell her to go fly a kite. Now she’s coming by my desk at random times to check up on me, looking at my computer screen and noting the time if I am in the office late. It’s creating a pretty hostile environment and it’s causing me to be distracted from what’s important- aka my job and our clients. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that’s exactly what she is trying to do. Help! How do I build a bridge here? And do I have cause for complaint?
I’d really appreciate any consideration you can give on this one. It’s making me miserable.
Thank you, evil HR lady. You rule.
Faithful Worker Bee
Ahh, an annoying HR manager. Who knew they even existed? First of all, here is what she should have done.
HR Manager (to your boss): We’ve noticed that Faithful Worker Bee (Were your parents hippies? Just asking.)has been billing a lot of overtime. Is this authorized by you?
Your boss: Yes
HR Manager: Okay. Just keep in mind that you need to keep to your budget.
But, that’s not what has happened. First of all, you make sure you bill for every second you work. It is ILLEGAL to work off the clock if you are non-exempt, which you are. Do you understand that? Illegal. Your HR manager knows this.
She’s convinced you’re not working all the hours you’re billing. You know you are. Your boss knows you are. The HR manager isn’t in a position of authority over your boss or she would be taking this up with him, instead of annoying you.
The next time the HR Manager or her deputy peers over your shoulder. Stop what you are doing, turn around and ask brightly, “Can I help you?” She will sputter, “uh, no. Just wanted to see how you are doing.”
Then you can say, “I’ve noticed that you are concerned about the number of hours I put in. As you know, my boss, the section head, approves all my time cards. He and the associate I work for, set my responsibilities. If you are concerned about my work life balance, please know that I’m very happy with how things are right now. Otherwise, could you take this up with my boss? I’m afraid I don’t have the authority to change my workload. So, you’re taking your overtime concerns up with the wrong person.” Then turn around and go back to work.
Now, by making her very aware that you know what is going on, and making her aware that your boss is behind you, she can’t pretend she’s just casually checking up on all the employees.
When she appears again, turn around and say, “Can I help you?” Whatever her response is, just say, “If you are still concerned about my work-life balance, please talk to my supervisor. I am very happy with how things are.”
Please let your supervisor know that she is hovering and it’s affecting your effectiveness. She has some sort of agenda–not sure what it is–but she has one. It’s not your job to deal with her agenda. You just need to move her annoying behavior from you to your boss.
A couple things could happen. One, your boss could decide that her hassle is not worth it and you could get your overtime taken away. (That is, you wouldn’t be authorized to work any overtime. You MUST BILL FOR ALL TIME WORKED.) Or, he could make it quite clear that he will manage his own employees and his own budget, thank you very much, and she will slink away.
Just remain pleasant and cheerful with her. You could even throw in a few, “I appreciate you are concerned about mes” because if you keep it as a “work-life balance” thing, that’s good HR speak and HR people like good work-life balances. (OR we say we do. Boy, do I have some stories!) If you start getting into the cost of overtime that becomes a different discussion and much harder to win.