September 2006


by Evil HR Lady on September 29, 2006

A while back, a Pie Eater asked a question on when to speak to a manager. I advised our pie eating friend that a manager would want to know about goofy employees who didn’t behave properly with whipped cream.

I’m so pleased that Miss Manners agrees with me. Granted, her question wasn’t about pie, but about a rude cashier. Her Advice: (may require registration–sorry!)

This is not to match or outdo the offender with a counterattack, but to report the incident to the manager. It would have relieved your indignation, and a conscientious manager would want to know why the business is losing a customer. And you should leave your speculations about mental health out of it.

So there, gentle readers, let management know.

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Wash Your Hands

by Evil HR Lady on September 27, 2006

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center had a problem with doctors not washing their hands as often as they should. Apparently, this is a problem in many hospitals. But they fixed the problem. Not with implementing punishments and dinging people’s performance ratings. (Wouldn’t have mattered anyway–the doctors don’t work for the hospital.) The did it with Starbucks Gift Cards and a gross screen saver. The New York Times reports:

For the next six weeks, Silka and roughly a dozen other senior personnel manned the parking-lot entrance, handing out bottles of Purell to the arriving doctors. They started a Hand Hygiene Safety Posse that roamed the wards and let it be known that this posse preferred using carrots to sticks: rather than searching for doctors who weren’t compliant, they’d try to “catch” a doctor who was washing up, giving him a $10 Starbucks card as reward. You might think that the highest earners in a hospital wouldn’t much care about a $10 incentive — “but none of them turned down the card,” Silka says.

It brought compliance up, but not to the 90% level they wanted. (This is still not comforting to me–I would prefer 100% compliance, thank you!) So they took cultures from doctors hands, and made a screen saver that showed the resulting bacteria colonies. Then they placed it on every computer in the hospital.


And it worked. Carrots, not sticks. Educating not berating.

My only complaint is that I don’t drink coffee, so I would not appreciate a Starbucks gift card. Of course, seeing how I didn’t go to medical school, I don’t think I’m at risk of being handed one for washing my hands either.


As Long As We’re Talking About College

by Evil HR Lady on September 27, 2006

Newsweek has a civics quiz posted. The context is that people don’t learn civics in college. So, go take it and see if you are a genius.

I missed one question. Oopsie! And I went to a University that required Western Civilization and American History courses. Oh yeah, and I majored in Political Science.

So, go see if you can beat the Evil HR Lady and then let me know.


Do You Want to Make More Money?

by Evil HR Lady on September 23, 2006

Sure, we all do. Bonus points for you if you just thought of Sally Struthers.

But, seriously, we do all want to make more money. And since most of us would like to do so legally, I’m grateful for this Yahoo Finance article, Ten Ways to Get the Most Pay Out of Your Job. Those ten ways are:


    Good advice all around. I just have one small objection–on point 2.

    [W]hen negotiating with a new employer, you might be able to swap a higher salary for a larger target award amount, Ms. Sejen says. Suppose the employer offers you a $100,000 salary and a target bonus of 10% of salary. You could counteroffer that you’d take a $95,000 salary if your bonus-award target was 20% of it. Your annual target pay then would be $114,000 instead of $110,000. “An employer might be willing to change the pay mix,” Ms. Sejen says.

    I’m not telling you not to try it, but unless you are an executive or work for a small company, the answer is going to be no. Why? Because someone has to administer those bonuses. (And that person used to be Evil HR Lady, but thankfully, not any more.) Your bonus will be based on your performance and your grade/salary. Any other mix would be an administrative nightmare.

    And remember, it’s all about my needs, so you HR people who make policy but don’t have to carry it out (and you know who you are), stop thinking that this is a good idea. But, you non-HR people, feel free to ask. Just understand that you will no longer be on my list of friends.


Breaking the Rules

by Evil HR Lady on September 23, 2006

Businesses make rules for a reason. Sometimes those reasons are irrational ones, but mostly (I’m an optimist at heart) there are good reasons for the rules–although many of them are long forgotten.

But even good rules need to be broken now and then. As the mother of a potty-trained 3 year old, I appreciated this post about the need to break a few workplace rules. Julie Coulter Bellon writes about a trip to the post office when her 3 year old decided he needed to go potty now.

I leaned over the counter and said, “Do you have a restroom we can use?”
The teller barely looked up at me and said, “No. It is against the rules to let any public person use our facilities. If the inspector came while an unauthorized person was in the back, we could be fined. It is definitely not something we can do. We do not break the rules.”

Go read how Julie gets the obedient post office worker to bend a little workplace rule. If you’ve ever been caught with a recently potty trained child in a place without a public restroom, you’ll appreciate her tactics.



by Evil HR Lady on September 22, 2006

I’ve been avoiding blogging about the HP scandal. Why? Because I’m guilty of pretexting myself.

Now get off your high horse because I bet you are as well. Or your spouse is. Here’s my most recent pretexting sin: Ordering a free credit report for my husband. It was easy. I know his social security number. I know his mother’s maiden name. I know how much each of our financial obligations are and I download all credit card activity into Quicken regularly (he would say, obsessively), so any question Experian can come up with, I can answer it.

Of course, after ordering the report, I printed it out and showed it to him at dinner. Nothing sinister going on here. Honest. (Although we do joke that since I pay all the bills I could easily have 37 maxed out credit cards and he would never know.)(I don’t, by the way.)

But, I’m done confessing my sins, let’s talk about HPs.

Private phone records were obtained through deception, among other things. Why? Because chairwoman Patricia Dunn wanted to know who was guilty of leaking information.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on such things. But here is Evil HR Lady’s advice for HP. If you will be embarrassed when what you are doing is made public, do not do it.

There. Isn’t that easy? I don’t care how much you want to know something. Use above board methods to find out.

The difference in my pretexting adventures and HPs? I don’t care if mine get splashed on the front page of the New York Times.


Survival of the Richest

by Evil HR Lady on September 20, 2006

I’ve been of the opinion that people should give me large sums of money simply for sitting in a leather chair and answering questions. (And if the chair had one of those built in back massage units, all the better–but I could function without it. I’m not picky.) Unfortunately, I have yet to find people willing to do this. And now I know why.

Robert Kiyosaki writes for Yahoo Finance

Traders like Steven were buying and selling commodity futures — as well as put and call options — as fast as they could.

For Steven, it didn’t matter if the market was going up or down. He was busily buying and selling as he ran between the gold and crude oil pits. In less than an hour, he’d made over $70,000 in profits. Not bad for a guy in his 20s.

During that hour, I was standing next to a NYMEX employee. I asked him if he understood what was going on. He replied, “No. I’ve worked here for nineteen years and I’ve never bothered to learn. I like my job, and I don’t like the pressure these guys go through every day.” Although I didn’t ask, I suspect he’s lucky to make $70,000 a year.

The NYMEX employee and Steven both made choices. One choice involved stressful, high risk, time consuming work that had potential for a great reward. (And, undoubtedly, potential for great risk.) The other came to work each day and did his job, but made no effort to learn about other’s jobs or expand his skills.

The resulting rewards differ vastly.

It’s not just like this in the stock exchange world. I see it in my own work life. I’m a hard worker and I’m good at what I do. In fact, between my first day in an HR department(1999) and when I turned in my letter of resignation after giving birth to Offspring (2003) I was able to more than triple my salary. I started out as an HR admin in the spring of 1999 and by spring of 2001 I had my own admin.

However, since I resigned from full time work my rise to the top has been severely stunted. Not because of discrimination against working mothers, but because I made a choice. I work 20-25 hours per week now. I get regular raises and good performance reviews, but I don’t put in the hours I once did.

It’s a choice. My choice was made very carefully. Is your current career location the result of a careful choice or do you blame the circumstances around you for your success or lack thereof?

Kiyosaki concludes:

One way to approach the coming changes is to ask yourself whether you’ll be like my friend Steven Spivak — trading rapidly, earning over $70,000 an hour — or like that 19-year NYMEX employee, who’s content to work for $70,000 a year at best. While both men are working for a dollar that’s declining in value, one is earning more than enough of them to stay ahead of its erosion.

Both options are available to each of us. Which reality you choose — deciding on how much you can earn and how fast you can earn it — will determine your station in life five years from now, when things start to get really sticky.

More than once I’ve had people in my office complaining that their co-worker got a promtion, why weren’t they getting promoted? Or, why is my raise only 3%? I’ve had the fun task of asking what they’ve done to deserve a promotion or raise. Usually the blustering response is that they’ve been here for X years and they deserve it.

Nevermind that co-worker works harder, makes an effort to learn as much as possible about the business, making co-worker a more valuable employee. They’ve been here X years and deserve it.

That, my evil friends, is what we HR experts call delusional behavior.

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by Evil HR Lady on September 19, 2006

I received an update from our Over-managed friend. She writes:

Evil HR lady, my micromanaging boss has flipped his lid, apparently. We are incredibly short-handed right now and in desperate need of at least 5 new employees for various positions, from an engineer to a project manager to an inspector. Well, our corporate office put an ad in the paper for new people, and my crazy boss became convinced that we had gone behind his back and put the ad in the paper without consulting him. So as we have been transferring calls to him from people looking for jobs, he has been telling them that the ad was a mistake and that we aren’t hiring and don’t need anyone right now. This is while he is working 20 hours a day covering all these jobs because we don’t have enough people, and then complaining the whole time that “we don’t know how bad it is”. Have I mentioned that I work for the dumbest company ever? I am going to be so glad to leave this job.

I don’t have any HR wisdom to impart, but I did laugh about this.


Investigative Reporting

by Evil HR Lady on September 19, 2006

When you are bored, you probably do something interesting like playing sports or perhaps watch television. Evil HR Lady surfs the web for new employment law information. (I’m this fun at parties too!)

I found this presentation on retaliation. This isn’t some adventure movie information. It’s all about how to avoid retaliation against a whistle-blowing employee.

Good information from Morgan Lewis, a law firm that handles employment law (among other specialities).

Now, in case any of you are still awake after reading the thrilling paragraphs above, after reading that I read Why Parents Who Batter Win Custody. What do the two things have in common?

Well, if Sarah Childress, the author of the above custody article, worked for me investigating retaliation claims I would fire her in retaliation for being so incredibly biased in her report. (And I believe–not being a lawer after all–I would have great legal grounds for doing so.)

Our friendly lawyers at Morgan Lewis give instructions on how to conduct an investigation (see page 18)

How to do it right
• Be aware of and follow established investigation
• Act promptly
• Be objective and neutral and keep an open mind
• Consistency and respect are key

Ms. Childress is not conducting an investigation, but she is writing about results of investigations. She writes

It may seem hard to fathom how a judge could award custody to a parent accused of abuse.

What about also writing, “It may seem hard to fathom how a judge could not investigate each claim of abuse before granting custody. Custody situations are often heated and there are many established cases of parental alienation syndrome.”

A quick Google search would have turned up information from the other side of the custody debate. For instance, in the The Florida Bar Journal J. Michael Bone and Michael R. Walsh write:

Although parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a familiar term, there is still a great deal of confusion and unclarity about its nature, dimensions, and, therefore, its detection.(1) Its presence, however, is unmistakable. In a longitudinal study of 700 “high conflict” divorce cases followed over 12 years, it was concluded that elements of PAS are present in the vast majority of the samples.

Now, why on earth am I writing about parental custody issues? It goes back to employee retaliation and investigation. If Jane comes to Employee Relations and says, “John is sexually harrassing me” we don’t immediately fire John. We investigate. We ask Jane questions. We ask John questions. We ask their co-workers.

Now, if, in the course of my investigation, I discover that John has repeatedly been accused of inappropriate behavior, more weight is given to Jane’s statement. If, on the other hand, I discover that Jane has accused 14 people of the same behavior, John’s statement will be given more weight.

Now, you don’t need to be an expert investigator to realize that if John and Jane have an extensive history of trying to sabotage each other’s careers that additional investigation will be required in order to come to the truth.

Again, from Morgan Lewis (scroll to page 19):

• For each act of alleged harassment/discrimination, determine when it
occurred, what happened, where it occurred and who saw the incident
• Be thorough—every incident should be explored
• For each incident, determine witnesses and relevant documents
• Ask employee to provide a written statement (or sign interview notes)
• Ask about employee’s expectations for investigation
• Explain investigation process
• Follow-up with an outline of each incident and solicit
• Clearly state that the employee will not experience retaliation

Great advice. Perhaps we can get our journalists to someday investigate correctly.


Jelly Fish

by Evil HR Lady on September 18, 2006

Yesterday was Evil Marketing Man’s birthday. To celebrate, we flew a little plane to an island that will remain anonymous so that I can remain anonymous. The coolest thing there was this Jelly Fish

I’ve never actually seen a jelly fish in the wild before.

And you thought I was going to blog about the spinless wonders that sometimes get promoted to be your superior. Well, maybe some other time.