An HR Manager on a Power Trip

by Evil HR Lady on March 13, 2015

We are in the midst of a reorganization. My current (soon to be former) title is simple and straightforward – Squid Manager. I had a staff of 3 reps, whom I managed along with the department.

Our company has decided to follow the model of our partner, and dissolve my department, sending my employees into other departments.

Fortunately for me, I am trained in the squid field, and will be implementing a company-wide squid experience program, which will cut across all departments, dealing with processes and procedures that the squid experience.  This will include all marketing, employee engagement programs, social media, website, yada yada.

This is (I am quoting my current boss and the President of our company today) a high-level position, that cuts across all departments.  It is considered an upward move for me and will come with a promotion.

My problem is that our HR person has come up with a title of Squid Expert.  She has removed Manager from my title.   I think it should be simply Squid Experience Manager.   She says (and is quite intractable about it) that a Manager has direct reports.  As I do not have direct reports, she is removing Manager from my title.

My current boss and the President feel like I do.  I will be implementing and managing a cross-departmental program, and that I should retain the title (at least!) of Manager.

Our HR manager falls back onto vague “legalese” when pushed.  I think this is her position, not a legal position.   

Can you help me find a leg to stand on?  It is important to me that my title show upward movement. and reflect my position correctly.   My boss and President are with me, they are convinced there will be an argument.  Help me help them.

Your HR manager is on a power trip. There is no legal requirement that someone with “manager” in their title manages other humans. Has she never heard of project managers? Heck, is she not aware that lots of HR managers don’t manage (directly) people?

So, yes, she’s off her rocker–unless (and this is a big unless) as part of your reorganization you are syncing titles with your corporate parent. Some companies have strict naming conventions and require that if, for instance, you’re a grade 12 employee and you manage people then your title begins with “manager” and if you don’t manage people then your title begins with “analyst.” If that’s the case, then she’s right to push back because the company policy is consistency across grades.

I don’t think that’s the case here, though.  I think she’s got it into her head that managers manage people and if they don’t manage people they aren’t managers. Your resume is just not important to her. After all, why does she care what job you’re able to get next? I’d like to say that recruiters would just take the time to read your accomplishments under each title, but alas, some of them won’t, so having a bad title really can affect you in your career.

But, now, some good news! The HR manager is not the boss. Who is the boss? The president, who you said agrees with you. She needs to put on her big girl panties and tell the HR manager, “I appreciate your input, but we’re going to have Jane’s title be Squid Experience Manager. Please update the system.” Because the president has that power.

Look, I’d love a world where everyone did exactly what I said. But, since not all HR people are as evil as I am, sometimes they need to be overridden. This is one of those cases. Go to the president and ask her to override.


How to Give Women in Male-Dominated Roles a Fair Shake

by Evil HR Lady on March 12, 2015

Ellen Pao claims that Venture Capitalist Firm, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers,discriminated against her because she is female. They claim that she wasn’t a team player and lacked leadership skills. It’s highly possible that both Pao and the Kleiner Perkin leadership team are telling the truth.

How could that possibly be true? Because being a “team player” and having “leadership skills” can be somewhat subjective and you can honestly believe the that you are making a judgment purely on skill, when what you are doing is actually making a judgment based on your own prejudices.

I make no claim of special knowledge of the Pao case–we’ll let the courts shake that out. But, if you want to make sure you aren’t unfairly judging the women in your office, here are 6 things to do.

To keep reading, click here: How to Give Women in Male-Dominated Roles a Fair Shake


7 Critical Skills Successful People Have

by Evil HR Lady on March 11, 2015

What skills do you really need to succeed? In school, they taught us history and algebra and if we got good SAT scores they said we’d succeed. But, are those the skills we really need? Developmental psychologist Susan Engel researched the skills that actually predicted success. I’ll give you a hint–differential calculus isn’t on the list. Here are the 7 skills that are critical for success.

1. Reading

Of course, you can read. If you couldn’t you wouldn’t be reading this. Engel defines reading as follows: “It means having the ability to read an essay or book and understand it well enough to use the information in some practical way or to talk about it with another person.”

I’d like to ask a different question: Do you read? Do you apply what you’ve learned? Share it with others? People who read fiction, for instance, are more empathetic. That empathy can certainly help you be a better boss.

To keep reading, click here: 7 Critical Skills Successful People Have


The Costs (and Benefits) of Employee Turnover

by Evil HR Lady on March 10, 2015

Smart businesses are concerned about turnover, because turnover is expensive. When you need to replace an employee, you’re out the following costs.

High Cost of Employee Turnover

Recruiting costs. These can be high or low, depending on your organization and the level of the position. A grocery store that is constantly recruiting and hiring cashiers doesn’t have a huge incremental cost to recruiting one more person.

But if you’re looking for a Chief Information Officer – a highly specialized job – you may have to hire a headhunter, and that can cost you around one-third of the final annual salary. That’s a big chunk of change.

To keep reading, click here: The Costs (and Benefits) of Employee Turnover

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Flexing Hours for Salaried Exempt Employees

by Evil HR Lady on March 9, 2015

I have some newly installed supervisors who don’t seem to understand what salaried exempt means. I am an HR Manager new to the organization and apparently they have never had a “real” HR Manager. At any rate, we have board meetings, after hours meetings, before hours meetings and even some meetings on the weekend (it’s a medical practice and the doctors are pretty busy during day hours). Well, my new managers feel that every time they come in by choice on a Saturday to get work done or if we have a board meeting on Sunday they should flex their hours. Which ultimately means when I need my managers (who coincidently work across the hall from one another ) are taking at least one full day off a week or leave early every day.

My understanding is as a salaried employee you are paid for the work that’s done. You come in early, leave late whatever it takes to do the job. Needless to say things are not getting done.

Any advice on this? what can I do legally?

Let’s start with the legally part–although a quick reminder that I am not a lawyer and there aren’t any good legal shows on television any more for me to watch so I can pretend to be a lawyer. (Wouldn’t a series about Employment Lawyers be so fascinating? Think of all the drama as they argue for 3 hours about wording in a Summary Plan Description or had heated battles over whether a poorly worded offer letter created a contract. Why has no one thought of this before? Quick, get me an agent!).

So, anyway, I digress. Legally, you can have your salaried exempt employees (assuming they do meet the criteria for exemption) be required to be available around the clock. You can require that they work every Saturday! That they never get comp time! That they field 2:00 a.m. calls! Work them until they drop!

So, there’s that. But, that’s not your real question. Your real question isn’t even about the comp time (we’ll talk about that later). Your real question is, “What do I do when my managers aren’t getting all their work done?” Right? Because that is a real problem. The work isn’t getting done and they are still going home or limiting their work to 40 hours a week. I may have a small insight into why they aren’t getting their work done. I’ll quote part of your email: “we have board meetings, after-hours meetings, before hours meetings and even some meetings on the weekend.” Do you see what I see? A whole bunch of meetings.

Why are you having so many? How often are these meetings? You say they are using comp time every week, which means that these after hours meetings are held every week. Why?

Now, I have no idea what is involved in running a medical practice, so perhaps there are government regulations that require this, that, or the other and that’s why you’re meeting all the time. I don’t know. I do know that if you made me go to board meetings, after-hours meetings, before hours meetings and meetings on the weekends I’d feel downright entitled to take a Tuesday afternoon off. (And, for the record, I’m writing this on Saturday, but my boss is a totally evil HR lady, and well, you know.)

So, your first step is figuring out if these meetings are really necessary. There may be meeting that can be eliminated, meetings that can be combined, or work that can be accomplished via email rather than meetings. Additionally, you have two managers–do both have to be at every meeting? If you only require one to be present, you’ve instantly cut their meeting load in half. While you’re determining the need for so many meetings, speak to your managers about what they think is needed. Find out who is requiring all these meetings and see if that person can be reigned in.

Once you’ve figured out what meetings you can cut, you can start with the other problem. The performance issues. Sit down with each person, individually, and say, “I’ve noticed that you do a great job at A, B, and C, but D and E are not getting done. What can we do to make that happen?”

And then listen. They may say, “now that we’ve reduced the staff meetings to every other week, I should have time for D and E.” They may say, “I have way too much work. I just can’t get to it.”

At that point you can bring up the fact that they are exempt employees and, as such, are expected to get the job done, regardless of the number of hours they work. You can point out that taking comp time during the week is preventing them from getting the work done. You can state what a reasonable number of hours is. (This, in fact, should vary, and I’m going to say it’s going to vary by paycheck, although that’s not the only factor. An exempt employee making $40,000 a year should not be expected to put in as many hours as the exempt employee making $150,000 a year. If your managers are on the lower end of the pay scale, you’re ridiculous to expect 60 hours out of them.) You can discuss that 45 hours a week is not unreasonable.

You can also say, “I need one of you to be here all the time. So if Jan takes Tuesday afternoon off, then Steve needs to stay. Clear?” But, what I wouldn’t do is get rid of their flexibility. I would focus on the performance issues rather than the hours issues. I would focus on coverage rather than demanding face time. If the work that isn’t getting done can be done in the evening from home, suggest that as an option.

Under no circumstances do you want to go in there and say, “You need to work more hours! You’re exempt so you don’t get comp time!” That is just a loud message that you don’t care about them. Eliminate some meetings, and focus on the performance issues, and your problem should resolve. Evaluate if your expectations are too high as well. 60 hours a week for $40k with no flexibility is not realistic. 60 hours a week with no flexibility at $200k is. I suspect your managers aren’t making $200k. (And if they are, I’ve always wanted to manage a medical practice. Call me.)


A co-worker’s seedy past

by Evil HR Lady on March 6, 2015

It was recently discovered that a “Team Lead” at my business has an extensive past in the adult porn video business, starring in videos and producing. Many of the female staff are uncomfortable taking direction from her now. I spoke with a female Vice President and advised that the whole floor knows of this woman’s past and the VP was more concerned about how this information got out. There has been no investigation that I am aware of, and it appears that management is condoning her not so distant past. Is there a possibility of filing a sexual harassment lawsuit?

What is her job? If it’s as the Youth Counselor at a church, yeah, probably not the best past career. Otherwise, can we just let this go, please? Why would there be a sexual harassment lawsuit? Because she had a former career in porn?

I’m absolutely opposed to the pornography industry.  It’s damaging in so many ways, but that is irrelevant in this discussion. This woman did something in her past. She’s not doing it now. It was legal (presumably) behavior. Does it affect her ability to do her job? No. The only problem she has is because her co-workers are clutching their pearls.

And here’s my question: While you’re all running around condemning her, are you condemning the person who “discovered” this? Because I’m betting that the person who discovered her didn’t just stumble across her name on IMDB but found her while watching porn. If you’re going to condemn the actor, you better condemn the consumer at the same time. Not practical? Much easier to blame the woman who made a living doing this than to blame the men who consumed the end product? If you want her gone for making the videos, do you want to fire all the people at your office who watch the videos?

If anyone is concerned about sexual harassment, it would be this particular employee–as the victim. Isn’t your staff treating her differently because of her gender and not because of her skills? Are they uncomfortable taking direction from the man who watched the videos? I just don’t see a big difference in morality between producers and consumers. If your staff is not willing to take direction from her because of her past, then you need new staff. If she’s bragging about it, sending people clips, or going on television saying, “I’m a porn star and I work at Anvils R Us!” then it’s problematic, and the business would be within their rights to deal with it. If she’s simply doing her job, knock it off.

Here’s what you do. Ignore it. Tell your co-workers that her past is her past and their pasts are their pasts. The female vice president is right to be concerned about gossip. Gossip should not be tolerated in the workplace. If I were her, I’d be telling people to knock off the discussion. I’d also pull aside the former actress and ask her to let me know if anyone is harassing her and I’d take care of it.

I love the internet. I love Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. I use these things all the time to look people up to gather background information. But, we need to be careful to allow people their pasts. Were you perfect? Should everyone who has ever done something less than wholesome be condemned to live under a bridge for the rest of their lives? No? Then let it go. She did.

We should hire people to do jobs. We should let people overcome their pasts. We should stop mean girl gossip. Period.


Relocation: Locking it Down

by Evil HR Lady on March 5, 2015

Last year, I paid someone to relocate for a position with our company. I had the person sign a contract requiring repayment if she left before one year. At one year and two weeks, she quit. Now I need to find someone else, and it’s looking like I need to recruit from out of the area again. Are there any tips you can give me for making sure that the person doesn’t run out the door? I need someone stable in this position.

To read the answer, click here: Relocation–Locking it Down


A friend of mine has asked my help on a few HR issues, but this one I’m not certain on so I thought I’d ask you

He works for an airline and was told to go on break 4 minutes after his shift began and he refused, now they are asking him to resign in lieu of being terminated, is this legal?

I’m still not a lawyer, but the there are two legal questions here. I’ll separate them out.

Question 1: Can a company force you to take a break 4 minutes into your shift?

Generally, companies can set whatever hours they want. Federal law is pretty quiet on breaks, but lots of states have laws surrounding this. My first instinct was to say, “I bet this would be illegal in California.” California has some pretty crazy laws, and I still bet a California judge wouldn’t go for this, but I couldn’t find anything about taking a meal break too early. California has pretty clear laws about not taking a meal break too late, but no mention of too early. California also requires a 10 minute paid break that should be as close as possible to the middle of a shift. So, in theory, if this was a 10 minute CA break, it would violate the law.

I’m not going to repeat the process of looking up all other states (Google [state] employee break law and you’ll get your info). So, we’ll go into this assuming that this is legal (even though it may not be). So can they? Yes. Should they? No.

This is what we call dumb. Obviously, they didn’t need the guy to start work at his scheduled time. Rather than calling him a few hours before the shift began, they simply waited until he showed up and then told him to take a seat. This is very bad management. In a case like this, if there really is no work to be done for a half an hour, the company should eat the cost. And frankly, I fly quite a bit and have never been in a situation where I’ve said, “My goodness! There are so many people working right now! Those check in lines are just moving too fast and I got my luggage without having to wait! I’m going to complain!” (Okay, lots of times we have no one in front of us when we check in, but that’s because when I fly, I fly out of a smaller airport, but I digress. When I fly out of big airports, they are almost always disasters.) So, there was something this guy could have done.

But, should your friend have sucked it up and taken the break? Well, that depends. I’m not a fan of turning into a doormat. but I’m also not a fan of unnecessarily antagonizing your boss. The problem here is, a rational boss wouldn’t ask you to take a break 4 minutes into a shift without profuse apologizing and explaining that blah, blah, blah, nothing he can do, but could you please do him this one favor? Pushing back against that makes no sense because it’s a one-time thing, your boss is really sorry, and it’s not a big deal. But an irrational boss, who asks you to do things like this all the time, deserves to get some push back for pulling something like this. The problem is irrational bosses are irrational and respond like your friend’s boss with threats to fire.

So, the very person you need to push back against is the very one that will punish you for doing so. Fun times, eh?

But, unless your friend is a Sr VP (which I doubt), your friend’s boss is not the president of the company so he can bump this up. I’d start with HR. Explain that he has an 8-hour shift and receives only 1 30-minute lunch break, and it makes no sense to take that at 4 minutes into a shift. Apologize for angering the boss, but ask if this is company policy and if they can do something for you. Now, a smart HR department will raise a fit over this ridiculous supervisor and your friend can go on his merry way. A not so smart HR department will label this insubordination and threaten with firing. You can then bump this up to your boss’s boss, and so on. However, I suspect that they all have specific targets that have to be met and for whatever reason this break needed to be taken then.

So, it’s really critical that your friend document the heck out of this. If he has any emails on this topic, he should forward them to his home account. He’ll need it when he fights unemployment, which brings us to the next question.

Question 2: Can your company ask you to resign instead of firing you?

They can always ask. Heck, I can ask you to resign. But, I won’t. Some companies love to do the whole “forced resignation” thing. You are rarely, rarely, rarely better off resigning rather than being fired. I know, I know, if you resign, you don’t have to to answer “yes” to the “have you ever been fired?” question. But, that’s the only benefit. When you’re job hunting, the recruiter is still going to ask you why you left your last job without a new one lined up. And you’ll have to explain it the same way you would if you were fired. No benefit. You’re not receiving severance or a stellar recommendation or anything of value for resigning. They undoubtedly will fight (and most likely win) an unemployment claim, since they’ll have a copy of your “resignation letter.”

Always ask the following questions/say the following statements before agreeing to resign under pressure:

• How much severance will you give me in exchange for my resignation?
• If I resign, will you oppose unemployment?
• Why do you want me to resign?
• What will you say when you are called for a reference?
• I will take this and have it reviewed by my attorney before signing.
• I need this in writing.
What will be my official “reason for termination” be in your HR system as well as my paper file?

Employment attorney Donna Ballman says, “You need to weigh your options carefully before agreeing to resign. Now is the time to negotiate. If they want you gone, let them pay you to go away. Otherwise, make them fire you. You need to consider the upsides and downsides to resigning versus being fired. Here are some things to consider.” Donna is a very wise woman. Think about that.

So, my advice: Escalate the threat of termination, document the heck out of everything, and don’t resign without a big severance check.




10 Interview Tips

by Evil HR Lady on February 28, 2015

If it’s time to find a new job, that means it’s time to go on interviews. You know, those painful awkward conversations where the person sitting across from you is focused on judging every aspect of you. Fun times! Whether you’re intent on finding solicitor jobs or finding fast food jobs, there are some basic things that will help you get through the interview. Here are 10 tips.

1. Look happy to be there. If you go in, looking and acting like you’d rather stick pins in your eyes than do this interview, the interviewer won’t see you in a positive light. Granted, you may not be happy to be there, but attempt to do an attitude change in the car. Remember, if you get this job you won’t have to interview any more and that should make you happy.

2. Don’t worry about crazy recruiter rules. Some recruiters are nuts. They’ll reject you because you have scuff marks on your shoes, because you ask a question like, “how long will the interview take?” or judge you by your handshake. You can’t predict these and you can’t win. So, don’t worry about them. Just focus on being generally polite and well groomed.

3. Do worry about your wardrobe. Yes, you can wear pants. But, unless you’re interviewing for manual labor you probably shouldn’t wear jeans. If possible, scope out the company beforehand and take a look at how the current employees are dressed. Then, unless they are all wearing suits, you dress one step higher. If they are wearing suits, you wear one too. If they are wearing business casual, you wear a suit. If they are wearing jeans, you wear business casual.

4. Make sure you answer the question the interviewer is asking. This may seem silly, but lots of people have a set of things they want to say and somehow try to push it into the conversation. Now, granted, sometimes interviewers stink and ask really dumb questions. Once you’ve answered it, you can then add on the part that they should have asked. For instance, when you’re asked, “What’s your biggest weakness?” what they should have asked is, “Tell me how you’ve overcome a challenge?” So, answer the biggest weakness question, but add in how you’ve overcome it.

5. Have your research done. Don’t go into an interview not knowing what the company does. You have the internet, use it. No excuse for not using it.

6. If you’re meeting in a restaurant, don’t go all picky. Yes, you can get your favorite drink at Starbucks as long as it’s not fussy and you accept whatever the barista hands you at the end. Don’t argue with a waitress and don’t ask for massive substitutions. If you have allergies, you can, of course, make sure your waitress understands that, but if you allergic to pine nuts, then for heaven’s sake, don’t order the pesto. If you ask the waitress to have the chef prepare you pine nut free pesto you look picky and demanding. Don’t do that.

7. Speak positively about your previous jobs. Everyone knows that your last job wasn’t perfect. The thing is, though, when you whine and complain about your last job, your interviewer only sees you as a potential problem, rather than a potential solution to their problems. Yes, you can mention the problems as a reason for why you’re looking for a new job, but it’s preferable to focus on why this new opportunity is a positive direction for you.

8. Practice, practice, practice. There are  a million lists of sample interview questions. Chances are your interviewer will use one of these lists, or ask similar questions anyway. But, don’t panic about which list to practice with, just pick one and have a friend hold a practice interview. If possible, this should be a friend who has hired before. The point, though, is to practice answering and thinking on your feet.

9. Know your stuff. A lot of interviews, especially with recruiters, focus on the fluffy stuff. But, the hiring manager should get technical on you. If you’ve been unemployed for a while, or if you’re looking for a job that isn’t precisely what you have been doing recently, you should brush up on your skills. Get up on industry literature. Be prepared to answer the hard questions.

10. Ask the right questions. Often, people focus on questions about benefits or pay in an interview. But, those are questions best left for the negotiation phase. Instead, ask questions about what problems they are facing, how this role fits in with others, what challenges lie ahead and about the company culture. These things not only give you important information, they also give you the opportunity to explain how you can help solve the problems they face, and what you can bring to the role.

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How to Make the Best of Shrinking Office Space

by Evil HR Lady on February 26, 2015

Mad Men‘s Don Draper has a desk, chairs, and a couch in his office. Plus, enough room to practice his golf putting skills, hold a meeting, and engage in inappropriate office behavior. If you’re a bigwig at your company, you may be lucky enough to have an office with a door, but the chances of a couch and place to practice your putting is pretty slim. If you’re not on the senior team? You’re lucky if you have your own three-walled cubicle. And, in many places, even the CEO is sitting at a shared table.

As office space premiums increase, employees’ personal space decreases, and it’s not all fun and collaborative. Oh sure, the one big open space in The Office allows Jim to torment Dwight more effectively, but not everyone is so creative. Instead, we get to hear things we shouldn’t.

To keep reading, click here: How to Make the Best of Shrinking Office Space

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