November 2007

Dress Codes

by Evil HR Lady on November 30, 2007

My office has a serious dress code interpretation problem. Business casual is taken to mean 1 step above how you would dress to go to Wal-mart at midnight. The dress code was lax and poorly enforced long before I was hired.

My problem is when there is a seriously issue like a skirt so short it leaves nothing to the imagination or “dress sandals” that are really just new flip-flops, I get no support from management. The supervisors say they have better things to do than look at what their staff is wearing, and the big boss prefers the short skirts.

Most of the time when I ask one of them to raise the issue with their staff they say they hadn’t noticed the clothes. Today my boss was talking to an employee whose skirt made me ill it was so short, and he said nothing to her. He is her supervisor and I asked him to speak with her and I can almost guarantee he told her something like, ” when you wear short skirts don’t walk by Sally’s office.” (Okay, that may not be true but it was the vibe I got when I brought it up, like I was ruining his fun)

Do I call corp. HR and ask for help? I feel incompetent that I can’t even handle something like the dress code but this is the most consistent issue in our office.

Are you local HR? It sounds that way to me, so that’s how I will approach the question. We’ve had some previous discussions on dress code here, so read that–especially the comments. My readers are all brilliant, except for a few who I don’t like to single out because I’m not that evil.

My question for you: Who is telling you to enforce the dress code? It’s obviously not your boss, given his penchant for employees with short skirts. (And ladies, please, once you pass 19, men might still think you look hot in that little mini skirt but all the women are thinking, “oh my word, does she have fat thighs or what?” Just a little encouragement to dress modestly.) Is it corporate HR? Since you asked if you should get corporate involved, I’m guessing no.

I’m also guessing your desire to enforce the dress code comes from within. Now, first and foremost, I agree with you. Inappropriate dress should not be allowed at the office. Nice dress sandals, yes. Flip flops, no. Mini skirts or midriff baring blouses, no thank you. (Again, ladies, you do have a muffin top, so stop it with the low rise pants and the short length shirts. You don’t walk around all day holding in your stomach and you haven’t been to the gym in months and quite frankly, it shows.)

So, how to accomplish your goal of a dress code violation free workplace?

1. You can’t just walk into a place and expect people to respect you. You are new. Things have been working “just fine” for a long time, thank you very much. Now, this last statement could be completely false. Things could be a disaster, but your senior management doesn’t think so or they would have already changed things.

2. You need to earn respect and authority. Your manager needs to trust you. The other managers need to trust you. Figure out what their perceived problems are and start there. They don’t see dress code as a problem, so to them enforcing it is annoyance. They undoubtedly see something else as a problem. As I said, start there. Solve that problem and your influence will grow.

3. If short skirts are “favored” you may have bigger issues than actual dress codes. Why would a self-respecting woman dress like that? She’s getting rewarded some way. The reward may not be something she’s cognizant of, but it is there. She’s obviously getting “attention” from the boss. Is she also being rewarded financially or with better assignments? He may not be noticing he’s doing it. She may not notice it. But, if it’s happening, the appropriately dressed people are noticing it.

4. Number 3 opens you up to some huge potential problems. Sexual harassment, age discrimination, not valuing performance but appearance. Keep your eyes and ears open for this type of thing. Create an open door policy for employees to drop by your office. Review performance appraisals with a magnifying glass. Correct these problems, rather than the dress code itself.

5. Make sure you always dress appropriately. Don’t get lazy and put your flip flops on.

6. Don’t ask male managers to speak to female employees about their revealing clothing. You do it. For one reason, your male managers appear to like it. For another reason, it increases your risk of sexual harassment claims.

7. Send out general reminders about dress code. Wait until you’ve been there a while and established a positive reputation before discussing this with individuals.

8. For the “Wal-mart at midnight” looking folks (I’ve been to Wal-mart at 6:30 p.m., I shudder to think of what people wear at midnight), make sure you deal with the men and women equally. Women tend to be much more critical of women in such areas. Don’t you be guilty of gender discrimination.

There are other things, but these are a few ideas to get you going. Good luck!

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Carnival of HR #21

by Evil HR Lady on November 28, 2007

Is now up over at Race in the Workplace.

Go over and read about orthopedic shoes, quiet employees and Munchausen Syndrom at work.

The next carnival will be over at The Cranky Middle Manager, so start getting crabby and get your submissions into Wayne.

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Letter of Apology

by Evil HR Lady on November 28, 2007

Hello,

I am in the process of trying to get rehired by a company. To be honest I was terminated about 1 1/2 years ago basically due to job abandonment. It’s no excuse, but to explain my circumstances I was getting divorced-becoming a single mother (not by choice) & to sum it up had a meltdown and stopped showing up for work. They tried to contact me & I never responded. The rest is history.

Aside from this I was well liked & did an excellent job. I was recognized by the General Manager of the company as an exemplary employee. Everyday I regret leaving and the way I handled it. This is a top notch organization which I was proud to work at.

Recently a position became available for which I am very well qualified. I left a message for Human Resources that I am interested in the position, expressed my apologies & regrets etc. I asked if that if they would consider me for rehire to please contact me. Well, 4 hours later they contacted me & advised me to send a resume along with a letter of apology to get the process going. I am very encouraged by this, however I have never written a letter of apology for rehire and have no clue. I have searched the internet for a template of such a letter and have had no success.

Thank you in advanced for your help. I am so hopeful to regain a position within this company and would really appreciate any guidance you can provide.

I don’t know of any such template. However, it seems like you have a pretty good chance, given how fast they responded. Since you mentioned your past mistake in your voicemail and they still called you back–so quickly–means that they are willing to over look the past. (Or they are incredibly desperate for candidates.)

They would have pulled your personnel file, and (hopefully) called your previous manager. He would have had to have given a positive review or you wouldn’t be considered.

So, what to write? I don’t know. “I’m terribly sorry for leaving without notice. My personal life was in turmoil. My life is now stable and I look forward to working for blah, blah blah”

That’s probably terrible. I’m hoping that my brilliant readers will weigh in. Please?

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A Smelly Problem

by Evil HR Lady on November 28, 2007

Dear Evil HR Lady:

In the office that I currently work in all the CSR sit out in the open. No this isn’t the problem, the problem is that one of the lady’s in the office seems to have, what I would call a hygiene issue, however you may bag to differ. She passes gas – ALL DAY LONG. Some days are way worse than other. I realize that this is a touchy subject in how you approach this lady however it does interfere with my job.

At least once a week, I have to leave my work area because the smell is so bad that it makes me gag and almost throw-up. Several of us have approached our HR/office manager however nothing seems to get accomplished. We are constantly told that it does not “directly” affect us (even though we can’t stay in our area because of the smell) or that she can not do anything because of the nature of the issue. Do you have any suggestions for us or our HR department in how to handle this?

What solution do you propose? Should this woman be placed away from everyone else? Should she be fired? Should she be subject to public humiliation? Should you and your co-workers be provided gas masks? What about incense?

I ask because there isn’t an easy solution here. You don’t know what conversations have gone on between your unfortunate co-worker and HR or her manager. Nor should you.

It’s true that your HR and management are full-fledged wimps. (Wimps, I tell you, wimps!) If that’s the case, nothing has been mentioned. However, it’s more likely that a conversation like this ensued:

HR: Smelly Woman, I don’t know quite how to say this, but your flatulence is a bit, umm, excessive.

Smelly Woman: (Bursts into tears) I know, I’m so sorry. I have [name of complicated, serious medical condition] and this is one of the side effects. I’ve tried everything I can think of and nothing works. I’m so humiliated by it.

HR: Oh, I’m so sorry. Is there anything we can do to make your situation easier?

Smelly Woman: No, I’m so sorry. I’m working with my doctor on this. Hopefully it will get better.

Now, if that conversation has occurred, what would you want to have happen next? HR say, “Well, we’re probably going to get sued up the wazoo for this, but we’re going to have to fire you”? Would you do that?

I wouldn’t.

If the area is conducive to a separate area, I might move the woman there. If not, well, I’d leave it alone as well.

You said that once a week it’s bad enough to drive you out of your area. Unpleasant though that may be, it’s not the end of the world.

Now, if the woman has no medical condition and she’s doing it on purpose to torment her co-workers, then yes, she should be fired. (Can you even do that on purpose? I guess I should ask an 11 year old boy. He would know.) But, the firing wouldn’t be due to the “medical” aspect, but rather due to the bad attitude.

Your problem is you don’t know which one it is and you have no real means of finding out. Does this woman have any friends at work? My bet is that her “condition” prevents such a thing. We often are able to tolerate a lot more from people we like than from people we don’t know. Get to know her and you may find a great person under there, that will make the smells much more tolerable.

And invest in a bottle of Febreeze. Spray your cubical when necessary. It helps neutralize odors.

If you really can’t stand it, go find a new job. Customer service jobs are available everywhere.

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Will You Please Sign Off on This?

by Evil HR Lady on November 28, 2007

#1 Dinosaur is a primary care doctor who encountered a sneaky plastic surgeon. It appears that said plastic surgeon sent a patient to #1 Dinosaur with a form to fill out. Fine. Except that at the bottom of the form it said this:

Surgery and alternative treatments were discussed with the patient. Complications of surgery and expected outcomes were also discussed.

Umm, no, says our friendly primary care doc. He’s not the surgeon and pre-surgery consults are not his job and should not be his liability. He wisely did the following:

By the way, before I signed the form I crossed out the offending line, initialed it, and wrote in: Informed consent to be obtained by the primary surgeon.

Excellent.

Once upon a time I had the responsibility to maintain the organizational structure of the company with in our HRIS. This meant any documentation to conduct a reorganization landed on my desk. All these documents had to be signed off by the HR person responsible for that branch of the business.

More often than not, I would get documents that made no sense. The phone call to the HR business partner went like this:

Evil HR Lady: Hi HR Business Partner, this is Evil HR Lady. I’m looking at the reorg for marketing.

HR Business Partner: Why isn’t it in the system yet?

EHRL: Ummm, I just got it 30 seconds ago and I have a few questions.

HRBP: Like what? Is it going to be in the system today?

EHRL: Well, for instance, what happens to John Doe? In the old organization he reported directly to Jane Smith, but he and his 30 reports aren’t on the new org chart. The documentation doesn’t mention who he now reports to and there is no mention of them being terminated.

HRBP: (long pause) I don’t know.

EHRL: {pushes mute and then screams, “why do you sign on off on these things without looking at them!!! Then takes the phone off mute.) Well, I need you to find out. And while you are at it, it mentions that Jennifer Jones is being promoted.

HRBP: Yes, yes, yes.

EHRL: Her new salary is 22% above her old salary. That is outside of guidelines. Did you want that to go into effect?

HRBP: What? 22%! No. I hope they haven’t told her. I’ll call you back later.

Variations on this theme were repeated frequently.

Now, the HRBPs knew that there was someone like me to save their little rear ends, but they should have acted as if I wasn’t going to pay attention. They should have read carefully and asked questions before approving anything.

I know why they didn’t. HR is busy. Overwhelmed. Details like this sometimes get pushed to the side. Fine, then, don’t sign off on it. Give it to your lackey to read through before signing off. Make sure you know what you are signing off on.

Our consequences are rarely as dramatic as the ones #1 Dinosaur could end up facing, but there are consequences. Read before you sign. Make sure you truly approve before you “approve” something.

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Carnival Reminder

by Evil HR Lady on November 27, 2007

Get your posts into Carmen at Race in the Workplace pronto if you want to be included in this week’s Carnival!

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Time to Ask for a Raise?

by Evil HR Lady on November 23, 2007

Hello Ms. Evil!
I learned that we are interviewing someone for an engineering position who is asking for a salary of $110K. I don’t know that my manager or our boss are willing to pay this. I just know that the email from HR to my manager, that he forwarded to me, stated that the interviewee wants that much. That is $30K more than I make. Now, I’m peeved because I’m supposed to be the “lead” of the group that this man will be in. Everyone in the group makes more than me. (In my position, I have access to this info.) They have more engineering experience, although not all directly related, but I have what experience is required for the position. Additionally, some of these gentlemen have to have their hands held (by me) when working in Excel or some of our other specialized programs. I am also performing managerial duties that they don’t do.

I want to ask for a raise, but I am usually one to sit back and wait for my annual raise and accept what I get. Is this a situation where I should ask for a raise? I understand that people with 20 yrs more experience (and who are my father’s age) expect to have higher salaries than me. They have more experience. They know more. (Maybe). On the other hand, their job requires 10 years exp, not 30. Many of them don’t have 30 years directly applicable experience anyway. Besdes, I’m the one in the lead role — if any of them were suitable for the role, then the boss would put them there instead of me. I will constantly be bothered by the fact that these people working for me make more money than me, but I’m not sure if I can ask for the raise.

Your company may well be taking advantage of you. Or, your skills may well not be worth more than they are paying you. I don’t know. You should, however. You say you are the “lead” but make less than the other people on the team. They have more engineering experience than you do.

My guess (and it’s just a guess, please correct me if I’m wrong), that you act as a project manager and coordinator. The other people are doing the actual engineering. Therefore, their higher salaries may be justified. Or, they may not.

Are you tired of my wishy-washer answer? Well, without more data and your position, their positions, the industry, the availability of engineers and the alignment of the starts at the time of your birth, I can’t really tell.

You, however, should be able to figure this out on your own, with a little bit of research.

First, how long has this position that you’ve asked specifically about been open? If it’s been open for 6 months and they’ve lost the past 3 qualified candidates to competing offers at higher wages, then the salary the candidate is asking for may be justified. If it’s been open for two weeks, they’ve had 15 people apply–all of whom are qualified–and this is just the first guy they are interviewing, it’s doubtful that he will get what he wants. The salary is most likely not justified.

(Unless you are willing to consider the minimum salary proposed by a candidate, don’t bother interviewing, by the way. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.)

Then, you need to look at your job. How does it differ from your team member’s jobs? Your skills may be different. Are they more or less valuable in the open market? Do a little job hunting yourself–you don’t have to interview, but check around and see what is out there.

See if you can gather information on what other’s in similar roles are being paid. If your salary is lower than theirs you definitely have a case.

You can always ask for a raise. The key is in asking properly. You don’t go in, guns a blazin’ and say, “Bob, Steve and Karen all make more than me. I’m supposed to be the team lead, dang it, and now you are considering this yahoo candidate for $30,000 more than me! This stinks. I need more money!”

This, is what we like to say, is a less effective method of getting a raise.

A better way is to gather information on the market rate of your job. If your company has paybands find out what your relationship is to the midpoint of that band. (For instance, a company will say “Jobs in category J are between $60,000 and $100,000, with $80,000 being the midpoint.” If your salary is $80,000 a year, you are said to have a compa-ratio of 100%. If your salary is $70,000 a year you have an 87.5% compa-ratio.) If your compa-ratio is below 95%, you definitely can make a case based on that and your (presumably) stellar performance.

Yes, you should ask for a raise. You should have asked for a raise earlier. No one, but no one, cares about your career like you do. Managers have limited amounts of money to divide among their employees. If they know you will silently accept whatever you are given, you run a higher risk of getting the short end of the stick.

Keep in mind that different jobs command different salaries. For instance, in a pharmacy, you may have a store manager that makes less than the pharmacists she supervises, hires and fires. Why? If the store manager doesn’t have a pharmacy degree she’s easier to replace than the pharmacist who does. Or in something everyone understands, Katie Couric makes more money than her bosses.

Be positive and not argumentative. If, after you’ve done your research and shown that your job is worth more money and they are not willing to give it to you, you have to decide if you value that job more than money. If so, stay. If not, start job hunting. No one is forcing you to stay where you are underpaid.

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Evil Lawyers, Evil HR People, It’s All the Same

by Evil HR Lady on November 22, 2007

I am a middle aged woman who recently acquired a law degree (and bar admission) and wish to pursue a career in HR. So far, I’m told that my law degree is worthless in HR! I’m a bit surprised by this because my 30+ years of corporate experience (in administrative positions) tells me otherwise. HR as a function includes employee relations, which is a goldmine for plaintiff’s attorneys. Let’s face it – management and employees sometimes do not share an amicable relationship.

I assume that I will need to start in an entry level position and work my way up. Is it a good idea to “minimize” my legal education on my resume?

Any advise would be appreciated.

Surprisingly enough, I dealt with an extremely similar question back in July. Click over and read it and all the comments. There are comments from actual labor and employment lawyers!

Here’s where your law degree is a liability for you. If I’m hiring an employee relations person, I want an employee relations person, not a lawyer. If I wanted a lawyer, I would hire a lawyer.

Richard Bales at Workplace Prof Blog reported a study that indicated that humans are disposed towards optimism–except for lawyers.

I found this highly amusing as my most enthusiastic, optimistic sibling is a lawyer. So I asked him. He said, “I can see why that is. All day long you deal with people who make bad choices and are arguing with other people making bad choices.” Or anyway, he said something similar, as I didn’t actually write it down because I didn’t plan on regurgitating it until this very moment. (He can correct himself in the comments, if he so desires.)

My point with all this? Lawyers are adversarial. They are used to arguing a case. (Note that when you go to court, it’s for “oral arguments” not for “a meeting with some nice donuts and maybe some fresh fruit for those who are watching their weight.”)

Not saying this is bad or good, just saying that it is. Now, you may or may not be adversarial. You may have just gone to law school to learn the law and now you want to apply it to HR. Great. But, I see lawyer on your resume and I think, “adversarial.” I do not want someone with that mindset in an employee relations role.

Yes, you must know the law to be a good HR person. However, the law you must know is limited and we have lawyers who we rely on if things get complicated. But, HR isn’t so much of a “negotiating” with employees kind of a role as it is a “coaching” role.

We try to develop. We try to resolve. We don’t try to argue. (Although, sometimes we do and sometimes we silently bang our heads repeatedly against our desks, but usually with our office doors closed–that is if we haven’t been stuck in a cube. I currently have a head banging causing situation that I can’t write about. All I can say is it’s good that the employee in question is actually located several hundred miles from me because I might become a little more “adversarial” than I should and start banging his head against the wall.)

If you want to be in HR, you need to convince potential employers that, while lawyers are trained to be adversarial, you are not that type of person. You just have a firm understanding of the law. You want to develop people. You want to “resolve” conflicts, not win cases.

As with my other person with a similar predicament, I would recommend labor & employment law. Work for a law firm. Get an in-house position.

Now, that the advice is over, I have some questions for you. I’m curious as to why a “middle aged” woman would spend the time and money to go to law school when the end goal wasn’t to practice law? That’s something I would expect a 22 year old to do–I don’t know how to get a job, so I’ll just go get another degree! But, you’ve been in the work force for a long time and know the ropes. Ask yourself, why did you really get a law degree?

Prestige? It was close to your house? Big salary dreams? If you knew you wanted to do HR, why not get a master’s in Human Resources or Organizational Development? Why did you choose law school?

If you wanted to be a lawyer, but haven’t been able to secure a job and figured that HR was a good second choice where you could at least use some of your knowledge, well that I understand. I have a master’s degree in political science, and we all know how useful that can be. (But it works–politicians are corrupt and self centered, some management is corrupt and self centered. It’s all the same, really, except a distinct lack of bribery goes on in my current work.)

For those of you who have managed to wade through this long answer, (what can I say? It’s Thanksgiving morning and Grandma is fixing the Offspring’s hair, and everyone else is sleeping, so I have time), and who are not done with school, or are thinking about going back, I have some thoughts for you.

Why are you going into this particular program?

What do you think this degree will do for you?

What doors will open with this degree?

What doors will close with this degree?

Have you talked to alumni (notice, I used the plural) about how their degrees have helped them?

Is this the school you really want to be at? Why? Why didn’t you pick a different school? If you could easily move, would you attend a different school? Why?

Will this degree raise my earning potential? Are you sure? What makes you think that?

I hate to see people finish school and go, “now what?” Or, “But I thought I could do X, but no one will hire me now!” Or, “I really wanted to work for company X, but they don’t recruit candidates from this school.”

Think before you jump into graduate school. Think, think, think. Then do it. Or not.

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Happy Thanksgiving

by Evil HR Lady on November 21, 2007

I hope everyone is getting the next two days off work.

If you work retail, I hope your feet hold out for Black Friday.

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Secret Job Hunt

by Evil HR Lady on November 20, 2007

Hi. I’m the daughter of a high level executive banker. Right now I am trying to do a little research for him on the possibility of finding a new position in Western New York. Yup, that’s right, Western New York. Hey, I’ve got his new little grand kids hostage out here *smile*…so there is a draw.

The problem here is that my Dad is used to having headhunters call him. He’s never had to contact someone to find employment & we are trying to do this discreetly. Any suggestions? I’ve been reading your blog & you seem pretty savvy (and funny).

I’ll do anything for someone who thinks I’m savvy and funny, so send me his resume and I’ll personally find him a job! All right, just kidding. As I am not a recruiter, nor a head hunter, I’m not the world’s best source. But here are some thoughts.

Where in Western NY? Buffalo? Rochester? North Tonawanda? If you insist on the latter you may be in for a tough search.

But, really, this is not unlike any other job search, it’s just targeted geographically. He’s used to head hunters contacting him–then he should have a file of head hunters (or at least a stack of business cards). Have him contact them (not you–that gets his resume thrown in the trash) and tell them he’s looking for a job in that area.

It won’t hurt and it might help.

The number one way to find a job is through networking, so you can’t do it too stealthily. If you are already in Western NY, start talking to everyone you know. This includes your neighbors, your friends at church, your dry cleaner. “Oh, we are hoping Dad will move up here soon. He needs to find a job as District Manager in retail sales,” you say, “do you know anybody who does anything like that?”

“Oh yes,” someone will say. “My brother-in-law works for Bunnies R Us, and since they won their lawsuit against Toys “backwards R” Us (the court said the direction the R faced DID matter) they’ve been on a hiring spree.”

“Oh, excellent, can I give you his resume?”

Honestly and truly, I once got a call from someone who said, “Your real estate agent gave me your phone number. He said you worked for [big company]. My contact at [competing big company] is ending in a month. Would you mind passing on my resume?” I said sure, took his resume, looked at it, sent it on to the recruiter (he was looking for a job in a department I didn’t have a personal relationship with) and a few weeks later, he was hired. He went to church with my real estate agent. If he had kept his mouth shut, he wouldn’t have gotten in the door.

My company gets over 1,000 resumes a week, so if you apply to our website, a recruiter may never even see it. While I didn’t have a personal relationship with the department this guy worked with, I do have a personal relationship with my fellow HR people in staffing.

Now, once you’ve called the headhunters and started talking to everyone you know, have your father start researching companies in the area. Pick the two he would most like to work for and network yourself inside the door.

Tell him to subscribe to the newsletter at Ask the Headhunter. I think Nick is brilliant and helpful. He’ll give you ideas on how to target specific companies.

And if your father is successful, I hope he likes garbage plates and white hots. Yum on the latter, but once you’re older than 21 the former become impossible to eat.

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