Swiss Saturday: Parent Teacher Conferences

by Evil HR Lady on January 21, 2017

Just because I’ve done two Swiss Saturdays in a row don’t take that as a promise that I’ll continue. This week I met with my son (grade 3) and his teachers for a parent-teacher-student conference. As a side note, I hate bringing my kids to these meetings (the international school does it this way as well) because I want to be able to hear about any real struggles he might be having rather than trying to remain positive about everything. Also, I want the chance to tell the teacher off if need be, but I won’t do that in front of my kid. This isn’t a unique Swiss thing, but I’m just throwing that out.

Anyway, a Swiss school parent-teacher conference is pretty much identical to an American parent-teacher conference except for the sheer amount of time spent focused on how he puts his folders in the desk.

Lots of demonstrations on how they should be stacked “this” way and not “that” way and certainly not some “this” way and some “that” way. Also lots of discussion about his handwriting, which he, unfortunately, inherited from me. (Sorry, kid.) And how his presentation on Ants was excellent, except that the corners of his papers weren’t completely flat on his poster board.

If you’ve ever wondered why Switzerland is so sparkly clean it’s because their teachers really push it. It’s part of the curriculum, and they consider it absolutely critical to their schooling. They don’t wear outside shoes inside. They clean up every day. Their folders need to all be put away properly. And, heaven forbid, your paper edges should curl on your poster.

I’m not opposed to any of this, by the way. I probably could benefit from a 3rd-grade teacher following me around all day saying, “aren’t you going to put that back?” Maybe I can hire one.

In reference to last week’s Swiss Saturday about handshakes, I will note that as we were going in another family was going out. The kid (who shall remain nameless so that this revelation doesn’t prevent him/her from getting a job in the future) tried to take off without shaking hands. His parents steered him right back to shake hands. No way, no how do you walk out without shaking the teachers’ hands.

On another educational front, I started another German class on Friday. I have a B2 certificate which means I’m an “independent communicator.” I shared with our teacher that I was a bit disheartened because a young Swiss woman asked me to edit her English paper on a James Joyce short story and her English was very good. She had, of course, some weird vocabulary choices (which comes from looking things up in a dictionary), and a few grammar errors, but overall, an excellent job. My teacher tried to console me by explaining that she used to teach high school English and French and that she had the same students in both classes and they all picked up English quickly and struggled with French. This was to show me that English is an easy language and she conceded that she’s glad she doesn’t have to learn German because it’s a very hard language.

I’m glad that I don’t have to write papers on James Joyce stories in my non-native language. Heck, I’m glad I don’t have to do that in my native language.


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Open door policies are pretty ubiquitous, but simply having the policy doesn’t mean people will actually speak their minds. Your employees aren’t telling you everything they should and it’s costing you—$7,500 per conversation failure and seven work days—according to a new study led by best-selling authors Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield.

That’s what the lack of open communication costs you, and here’s why:

  • One in three employees say their culture does not promote or support holding crucial conversations.
  • Only 1 percent report feeling extremely confident voicing their concerns in crucial moments.
  • 40 percent estimate they waste 2 weeks or more ruminating about the problem

Stop and think about these numbers. If only 1 percent feel “confident in voicing their concerns in crucial moments” that means 99 percent of your employees do not feel confident.

To keep reading, click here: Your Employees Inability to Speak up Is Costing Your Business Big Money


The Secret to Helping Your Average Child Succeed

by Evil HR Lady on January 19, 2017

Let’s face it: Your children are not likely to be above average. Unlike the people of Lake Wobegon, our kids follow a standard bell curve and that means most children will fall into the “average” category. Not brilliant. Not stupid. Just normal kids.

While we like to think that our offspring will, of course, be geniuses, some might be but most won’t. Not being a genius, however, doesn’t mean your child can’t succeed. After all, take a look around you–most likely you and your coworkers fall somewhere in the middle 60 percent of the bell curve as well. (Yes, intelligence has a huge hereditary component, so if you are above average you child has a higher chance of being that way too, but don’t bet your life on it.) So, how best to help your child succeed?

To keep reading, click here: The Secret to Helping Your Average Child Succeed


We have an employee that has been an above-average employee. Yesterday, I learned that her husband was arrested by the FBI as a member of a large drug trafficking ring and money laundering. Our employee (“Jane”) works in a position that allows her access to medical patient’s financial records (credit cards, bank accounts, etc.). I am struggling with my obligation as it relates to Jane and her privacy and my responsibility to our clients.

Jane has not been charged with any wrongdoing. However, the info to which she accesses every day is highly sensitive. If I tell the executive leadership team about what has recently transpired in Jane’s life, experience has shown me that they will suspend/terminate her employment as a ‘knee jerk reaction’ to her personal situation.

I am torn.

Do I tell the executive team and risk Jane’s employment? Do I monitor the situation until something occurs that causes me to be suspicious of Jane’s activities? Is it too late then?


To read the answer, click here: My Employee’s Husband Was Arrested. Should I Tell The Executive Team?


Nick Corcodilos, who writes at Ask the Headhunter, tackled a question from a reader who wanted to know if he was unreasonable for expecting to only work during business hours. Corcodilos comes down firmly on the side of the employee who wants to have some semblance of work-life balance by turning off his email in the evening. He writes:

In my opinion, people who walk around with “I work evenings, too” tattooed to their foreheads are dopes begging to be abused. Good for you for saying no. There’s nothing impressive about projecting “I’m proud because I work for my boss all day long!”

If you want to leave that interviewer with the right impression about your dedication to your work, try this:

How to Say It

“I’ll do all the work necessary to help my company be successful while I’m at work. I’m proud of that.”

It’s up to your boss to give you the right work to do, and it’s up to your boss to define, organize, and manage your workload during work hours to ensure the company’s success.

Corcodilos has good advice and good ideas, but what if you’re the manager? What if you, yourself, are spending hours each night handling things, and having an employee who refuses to play along will increase your workload? Then what? Evaluate your employee’s request along these lines:

To keep reading, click here: What If an Employee Refuses to Answer Emails in the Evening?


Swiss culture has hit the news in a couple of ways this week, so I thought I’d share my experiences. Keep in mind, I can’t possibly explain all Swiss culture because I don’t get all of it, but maybe a few of the things I say will make some sense.

First, there’s the lady described in this article: Left-wing Dutch vegan who moved to Switzerland is denied a Swiss passport because she is too annoying

Now, all of you might be saying, “Hey, that’s a great idea! Let’s deny citizenship to anyone who is annoying!” while fully understanding that “annoying” is a little hard to put into statutory law: Who decides who is annoying and how annoying does it need to be before you get denied due to getting on everyone’s nerves?

The process for obtaining Swiss citizenship isn’t consistent across the country. It varies from canton to canton (a canton is like a state, except because Switzerland is so small, they are quite tiny compared to US standards). The Swiss really believe in Federalism, and so each Canton gets to vary the rules to fit their local culture and needs.

Some things are standard–like the number of years you need to live here to apply. (For US citizens with no Swiss relatives, like us, we have to be here 12 years to apply.) The language requirement is also fixed: You have to have a B1 level in an official language (German, French, Italian, or Romansch.)

But, the wild card is the vote. Some cantons require your town to give you a thumbs up or a thumbs down. To be honest, I don’t know if my town gets to vote on us when that time comes.

As you might expect, in a larger town, this can be used to weed people out by their “undesireable” last names. (I’ve been told we’ll have no problem, because people will think we’re Germans with the last name of Lucas.) However, this woman appears to have lost her town’s support–twice–because she’s annoying.

This does not mean she sings loudly while walking the aisles of the grocery store, or that she paints her house purple (which would also be bad, by the way), but because she is actively trying to destroy Swiss Culture.

I used a capital C for Culture because it is a Very Important Thing in Switzerland. She specifically wants to get rid of cow bells. This is not funny for Swiss people. It eats at the heart of Swiss culture and people don’t want it.

Switzerland is a small country and the cantons are tiny, and the people want to maintain their way of life. I don’t see this as a bad thing at all. Why shouldn’t a country be able to maintain their identity? Cow bells are part of their identity. They just are, and if you don’t like it, you shouldn’t be a Swiss citizen. Notably, they aren’t kicking her out of the country–they are just saying you can’t be Swiss because you reject Swiss traditions.

The other story sounds like a case of religious discrimination, but it’s really another culture thing.  Here’s the NYT article: Muslim Girls in Switzerland Must Attend Swim Classes With Boys, Court Says.

From an American viewpoint, this freaks me out. The girls say it’s against their religion, so dang it, it’s against their religion, and they shouldn’t be required to take the swim classes with boys. The Swiss (and the European Court of Human Rights) see it as a culture issue.

Treating boys and girls the same is part of Swiss Culture–you can be denied a residency permit if you don’t subscribe to that philosophy. This all went down in Basel–I live in suburban Basel–in 2008, but the court just issued the final ruling.

Now, one note of interest: the parents are Swiss and Turkish Citizens, so they weren’t denied citizenship like the cow bell lady, but the community pushed back when they attempted to circumvent a school tradition. (Incidentally, my son’s school does not have swimming lessons, which makes me sad because dragging kids to swimming lessons is one of the worst parts of parenting.)

The court ruled that “The public interest in following the full school curriculum should prevail over the applicants’ private interest in obtaining an exemption from mixed swimming lessons for their daughters.”

But wait, isn’t this a religious thing? To the Swiss, no it’s not. Why? Because the parents admit that Muslim rules would only require that separation after puberty, but they wanted to get their girls used to the separation before that. Since the girls (7 and 9 when this started), had not yet gone through puberty, the Swiss saw it as a Culture issue. Essentially, the policy is you can practice your religion, no problem, but you better make sure it’s actually your religion and not your culture. Since their religion doesn’t officially require separation at this age, they aren’t allowed.

When I wrap my brain around that, it makes more sense than my immediate reaction of “what in the heck?” And it reminded me of growing up in Mormon-heavy Utah and having Mormons saying they want a religious exemption for vaccination when the LDS church has a worldwide immunization program through its charitable arm. It kind of made me want to slap those people. (Also, for the love of Pete, vaccinate yourself and your kids!)

But, I also have a lot of empathy for the parents of these girls. They want to choose the way to raise their children and it’s frustrating to have the government push back and say “you’re doing it wrong.” They could, of course, move back to Turkey, and Turkey is a lovely place that is politically unstable at the moment. I’d pick Switzerland too.

There’s another Swiss rule that’s mentioned in the article–shaking teacher’s hands. The case involving that also involved a Basel suburb. (Basel and her suburbs have an incredibly high immigrant/expat population, which is why these things pop up here.) Hand shaking is so, so, so, important to the Swiss. I still don’t live up the expectation, which is to shake everyone’s hand when you enter a room and shake it again when you leave. I’m known to sneak in and out. Also, they like hugging and kissing on the cheek (3 times!).

When I was working with the children at church (I’m now doing the adult music), every Sunday all the kids would line up to shake my hand. They wouldn’t leave until they had done so. I was a teacher, so they must shake my hand. If I was trying to do something else, they’d wait until I was done, so they could shake my hand. Culture.

Hopefully, this was interesting and helps you understand where they are coming from. Also, more cow bell!




Dilemma of the Month: My Boss Gossips

by Evil HR Lady on January 13, 2017

My boss is a gossiper. She gossips to me about a team member of mine. I’ve worked at this company for two years. The first year it wasn’t bad, but she gradually started to say negative things to me about my colleague. The sad part is I believed all this stuff at first. As I started to hear more, I couldn’t handle it. I told HR the truth and was advised to speak with my boss’s immediate boss. He said it was inappropriate and he would address it with her without mentioning any names. Our team includes only four people, and I feel my boss will know who complained. Do you think this was the right move on my part or should I have not done anything at all?

To read the answer, click here: Dilemma of the Month: My Boss Gossips


Can’t Remember Anything? Blame Your Shared Office Space

by Evil HR Lady on January 12, 2017

We are all about collaboration and teamwork (and let’s be honest) saving money, so open office plans are extremely popular. Your coworkers are always available to share ideas, and in the case of a hotdesking environment, you can easily move to sit next to someone who can help you with your current project.

And yet, lots of us hate it. And it turns out that we’re not just whiners. There are serious downsides to the open office. Bryan Borzykowski, at BBC Capital, talks about many of the downsides of the open office, but this one caught my eye the most: Memory.

[Ce]rtain open spaces can negatively impact our memory. This is especially true for hotdesking, an extreme version of open plan working where people sit wherever they want in the work place, moving their equipment around with them.

We retain more information when we sit in one spot, says Sally Augustin, an environmental and design psychologist in La Grange Park, Illinois. It’s not so obvious to us each day, but we offload memories — often little details — into our surroundings, she says.

These details — which could be anything from a quick idea we wanted to share to a colour change on a brochure we’re working on — can only be recalled in that setting.

To keep reading, click here: Can’t Remember Anything? Blame Your Shared Office Space


The Worst Possible Job Descriptions

by Evil HR Lady on January 10, 2017

The language used to describe something can make a huge difference in our perceptions. Writer and fitness expert James Fell posted a request to “badly explain your profession” on his Facebook Page. He described his own profession as: “I make ‘eat less, move more’ really complicated.”

His followers didn’t disappoint. Fell gave me permission to share some of the best bad descriptions.

Kevin: I convert perfectly good jet fuel into noise and chemtrails

Sunita: I withhold antibiotics from children with colds

Jennifer: I give away tax dollars to compost dead chickens and keep cow [bleep] out of creeks.

Emanuel: I get paid for letting people yell at me from a great distance via telephone-lines.

To read some more, click here: The Worst Possible Job Descriptions


.Melinda Byerley, the founder of TimeShare CMO wrote an offensive tweet calling people in “middle america” [sic] stupid and that’s why there are not as many jobs there. Please read it for yourself:

Clearly, this woman is a woman of diversity and love for people of all backgrounds, except for other, you know, Americans. Oh, and, it turns out, people who are not native English Speakers.

To keep reading, click here: San Francisco CEO Calls Rural Americans Racist; Institutes Xenophobic Hiring Rule