April 2007

Are You Working?

by Evil HR Lady on April 29, 2007

Dear Evil HR Lady:

I have a question. I am currently looking for work and have been on a handful of interviews. I have been asked a couple of times if I am currently working which I am not. What is the purpose of this question? I can speculate, but I am just wondering from an hr perspective what is behind it.

Love the site btw.


Dear Chris,

I can only speculate and tell you why I ask the question and what I am looking for. If the answer to, “Are you currently employed?” is no, I’ll follow up with, “Why did you leave your last job?” If the answer is yes, I’ll follow up with, “Why are you looking to leave your current job?”

Essentially, I’m looking to see what your issues are and what your motivation is to be looking for a job. I personally am very cautious about hiring someone who voluntarily left a job without another one lined up–unless there is a good reason. Was it to increase your education? Great. Was it to stay home with your young children? Great. Was it to travel Europe for a summer? I am so jealous, but I wonder how long you are going to stay with me before taking off again. I recommend the “once in a life time” response in conjunction with that trip.

But, if it’s “my manager was a jerk” I’m very nervous. This may be true, but I will not be inclined to offer you employment. And keep in mind this is a very small world and your jerk manager could be my college roommate. (Not likely, by the way, as my college roomates don’t live anywhere near me, but you understand the principle involved here.)

For the record, I’ve had so much experience laying people off that someone who was laid off from their last job doesn’t even make me bat an eyelash.

People who have quit multiple jobs without new ones make me very nervous. People who currently have jobs but have been in them for less than 2 years make me nervous. People who were fired for cause make me very nervous.

It’s not a secret code question. It tells me a lot about you. So, out of curiousity, why aren’t you currently working?


Evil HR Lady



by Evil HR Lady on April 29, 2007


The real cast is now on and it’s purple. And waterproof! This means we can still go swimming and not worry about it getting wet at Disney World.

The Offspring is quite happy with all the attention she is getting for this broken arm. I’m afraid she’ll want to do it again.

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Carnival of HR Reminder

by Evil HR Lady on April 28, 2007

Next Wednesday is Carnival time. Get your submissions to humanresources.guide at about dot com!

The May 2nd Carnival will be hosted by Susan Heathfield at About: Human Resources.

The May 16th Carnival will be hosted by Carmen Van Kerckhove at Race in the Workplace.

The May 30th Carnival will be hosted by Deb Owens at 8 Hours & a Lunch.

The June 13th Carnvial will be hosted by Gautam Ghosh at A Management Consultant’s Blog.

The June 27th Carnival will be hosted by Kris Dunn at The HR Capitalist.

The July 11th Carnival will be hosted by Lisa Rosendahl at HR Thoughts.

The August 22nd Carnival will be hosted by Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership.

Let me know if any of the rest of you wish to host. Think of the fame and glory that will come your way! You can even put it on your resume: Hosted Carnival of Human Resources. Think of the number of job offers you can get with that!

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Pleas Chek Yur Spellin

by Evil HR Lady on April 27, 2007

Dear Evil HR Lady,

Annually my company’s HR lady requests us to review and acknowledge reviewing all documents pertaining to corporate policies. She does this without informing us which documents have actually changed forcing us to re-read the same documents every year. It takes days to re-read the documents. My question follows; Do all HR professionals use this ploy to force others to proof read the error ridden gibberish they produce? And how could I apply this proof-read concept onto others for my peer code reviews.

Bitter? Party of one?

I agree that your HR lady is unprofessional. Sending out things that are error ridden is inexcusable. (Although I won’t mention that just yesterday someone called me about a general release I had written that said they needed to “executive” the release rather than “execute.” Darn non-omniscient spell checker!)

Is she the one who made this policy or does she carry it out? Even though we HR types seem to love paper more than life itself, it’s rarely HR that decides such things need to happen. It’s usually finance or legal that comes up with the idea that everyone needs to sign off on the Code of Conduct every year. HR has to carry it out and we get blamed for wasting time.

Even so, she should be professional.

Refrain from the urge to fill the documents with red pencil marks. That will just make her angry. Although I do give you permission to tell your staff that they are never to send out something without proper proof-reading.

Now, I’m really scared I’ve made a spelling or grammatical error in this post. I spell checked on Microsoft Word, and I hope that is enough.


Evil HR Lady


Boom! Again

by Evil HR Lady on April 26, 2007

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Diagnosis: Buckle Fracture. 1.5 weeks before leaving for Disney World. Poor Offspring. It happened while she was (theoretically) watching television. I was cleaning the bathroom.

Lesson from this? I should not do housework.


How Old Are You?

by Evil HR Lady on April 26, 2007

Dear Evil HR Lady,
First, may I just say that I really enjoy reading your blog. It’s always funny and informative. Back in college I was an Evil HR Lady Intern for a Fortune 500 company and I actually really enjoyed it but have gone on to a different profession which leads me to my question about my current position (hmm…now I’m wishing that someone had clarified this for me during my internship of evil but, so it goes, I was too busy filing resumes to ask all the astute questions)…

So I’ve just begun a new job and I’m quite young to have my position. Since the first day that I’ve started my position I’ve been asked with some regularity “how old are you?” While I can tell that some of the question askers are just being friendly and curious and are often hoping to then begin telling stories about “back when they started” at our current employer, I sense that others are seeking to gather information about me in not wholly neutral and/or friendly ways.

First question: I’ve been trying to parry all questions about my age since I recognize that disclosing my age may undermine my authority in some respects. I do this nicely by not directly answering questions and responding to age querries with comments like “well, I’ve had six years of experience doing the particular job I’ve been hired to do” or, slightly more irreverently, “oh, I’m ancient but I’m a disciple of vitamins, veggies, and botox”. Am I doing the right thing to not directly mention my age? Do these sound like appropriate answers to you if I didn’t want to disclose my age or do I sound like I’m being sneaky and unhelpful? What about those who I sense have ulterior motives (e.g. trying to use my age as evidence of a lack of experience)? Any ideas how I should respond to them? Or do you think I should let everyone know my age so that these questions don’t get asked any more?

Second, (okay, this is more of a comment) I’m just really weirded out by the number of people who have asked me how old I am. I’m just trying to keep my nose down and do my job but I feel like once I have more seniority it may be a good idea to perhaps raise the issue that questions regarding age, marital status, etc. are somewhat complicated and troublesome. I don’t really want my company to get sued for violating any HR confidentiality practices. Should my employer be reminding employees that there are certain questions that they should not ask during the interview process and, more broadly, once new employees are hired? Does the confidentiality of the interview situation apply to all current employees of an organization?

Thanks for your help.

Not sooo young

Dear Youthful One,

Ahh, to have youth instead of just beauty. Or, umm, yeah. First, from a legal standpoint, your age only counts as a protected class if you are over 40, which you are not. From an annoyance standpoint, you’ve got a case.

I like your responses. I, being more obnoxious than you are, would start answering, “I’ll be 62 next week. Can’t wait until the grandkids come to visit!” or “I’m 15 and a half. Dad’s going to start giving me driving lessons next month!” But, that’s why I’m an evil HR Lady and you were only an evil HR Intern.

As I said, your age does not put you in a protected class, but if you find you are being discriminatd against you may wish to take it up to HR. My bet is that the reason your co-workers repeatedly ask you how old you are is because you are doing a fabulous job. If you were acting like they expected a dorky 22 year old to act they wouldn’t keep asking. But, because you are performing at a level that seems out of character for your perceived age, they keep asking.

It’s bothersome, but I would try to ignore it as best as possible.

While technically, you probably shouldn’t go around asking your co-workers and underlings questions that you wouldn’t ask in an interview, that’s what real life is all about. “Hey, I need Friday off for Good Friday” or, “we’re going to my mother-in-law’s for Passover” is part of daily conversation, although it reveals your religion. Someone may have a picture of their spouse or partner in their cube. You may have to leave a meeting early to go take some insulin or get something to eat if you are diabetic. You wouldn’t bring any of these things up in an interview, but it would be hard to hide them day to day.

And I’m not saying that you should. Your co-workers should all be adults and we should all be able to handle anything about you, as long as you are working hard.

The longer you are there and the more you prove yourself, the less frequent the questions should be. But, remember that co-workers are frequently like mothers. “Why aren’t you married?” will change, once you get married, to “When are you and Bill going to have a baby?” and (trust me on this one) once you have a baby the question will be, “So, Offspring is almost 4. Aren’t you about ready to have another baby?”

It’s life. It’s annoying, but there it is!

And all too soon no one will as you your age because you’ll look old like me.

Evil HR Lady


Procastination Pays Off

by Evil HR Lady on April 25, 2007

I got the e-mail below on March 29. Somehow, it didn’t register in my brain so I didn’t respond. Here’s the e-mail:

Hi there – love the blog!

The situation is as follows:

Smart, single, long-time employee at management level evades meetings with, but texts senseless messages at odd hours to, his nominal boss. I say nominal because he loves to deal with the boss’s boss – and go drinking and partying with that guy. The senior manager agrees the guy doesn’t seem to be working much, but wants them all to get along, and give the junior manager more chances. There are lots of strange messages left at the office or at home, when middle is usually available on his cell. This has been going on for a year or so. Middle manager accidentally discovered that junior has quite a debt load, but he is well paid and unencumbered by wife/child/mortgage etc. His erratic behaviour (missed meetings, late arrivals, argumentative and hostile conversations, lack of follow up on business objectives etc.) coupled with the odd finances leads to suspicions about drug use, or maybe gambling. Just where is this money going?

Question: does middle manager wait for junior to implode? Or does he say something to HR? Senior manager will not listen as this is now his favourite drinking buddy and he has never fired anyone, ever (ok, the company has lots of issues, but middle/junior are my focus.) Implosion would get junior out of the company, especially if he started stealing to meet his habit. Middle manager could hire/promote a new person, and start anew.

Any ideas?


Frustrated by-stander

Great question and oops on my part for not noticing. I e-mailed the author back and asked if she still wanted an answer, since it had been so long. Here is the response:

Dear Evil,

Timing is everything! Whilst middle waited for junior to implode (and he was working on it) some of junior’s reports staged a coup. They met with HR (in this case, HR is represented by tres cool smart jock type who does not play politics.) They all threatened to quit as they could not deal with the erratic behaviour, and one of them reported a cash stream that mysteriously ballooned after junior handed over the control – to the tune of serious money. In short, middle did not have to go toe-to-toe with the big boss to get this guy fired. They are likely to support him through rehab and hold some sort of job for him, but the stealing is not going to make that easy.

Any comments would be welcomed, as there will be a big post-mortem on this: why it took the line staff to call his bluff etc. when higher-ups could see it, or at least parts of it.

So, that particular problem was solved, but it was solved in entirely the wrong way. Not that Junior’s reports did anything wrong. Good for them–somebody needed to deal with it–but they shouldn’t have to.

Why do higher-ups ignore problems? The same reason I sometimes pretend I don’t notice the offspring eating in the family room. It’s against the rules and she shouldn’t do it, but sometimes I am just too lazy. Of course, managers are also scared. What if they guy freaks out? He’s already proven himself unstable–plus he’s buddy buddy with the head honcho. They are taking a huge risk in doing something.

Of course, it’s exactly situations like this that we pay managers to handle. If you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t be in management.

As for the big boss–he needs to cultivate a company culture where people can come to him with problems without getting in trouble. The fact that the problem employee was good friends with the big boss shouldn’t insulate him. And, ultimately it didn’t.

The fact that problems got solved by the underlings taking matters into their own hands means that there was a misperception among middle management on how senior management would react.

The first thing I would look at is communication in your company/department. And then a good hard look at culture–is merit what matters, or is it knowing the right person? Are your managers trained to deal with such things or are they promoted because they were good at “doing” and just thrown into managing? (That’s how most companies do it, by the way.

I’m glad junior got help. And I apologize for procastinating. But, hey, why do today what I can put off until tomorrow?

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Why Are We Doing That?

by Evil HR Lady on April 24, 2007

I drive past a school on my way to work. The school zone lights flash and the speed limit is 15. This is good. I prefer not to have any small children run over. However, during spring break, the school was not open. Still, the lights flashed and we drivers dutifully tooled along at 15 mph.

I started to think about why we were doing that. But, that was the wrong question. We drivers were going 15 mph because it was the law. We had to. The real question was why the sign was still flashing?

Well, because it’s programmed for Monday-Friday during the school year. That’s why. No one changed it, just because school wasn’t in session.

The next week at work we (meaning my department) spent 2 full days (9 people at a time) stuffing envelopes that contained individualized information for each manager. Back in the dark ages, this was the only way the managers could get this particular tidbit of information. But now, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, this exact same information is available to each manager who bothers to log on and enter their password.

Why were we stuffing envelopes? Because we do every year at this time. Like the flashing school lights, they should have been turned off when the situation changed. But they weren’t. We’ve always done it, so dang it, we’re going to keep doing it!

And we tool along at 15 mph rather than saying, “Hey, circumstances have changed. No one is going to get run over! My car is capable of going 45 mph, let’s do it!”

What is your company still doing that they really should give up?


Sick and Tired

by Evil HR Lady on April 23, 2007

Dear Evil HR Lady,

We have a problem with staff taking their sick time as soon as they earn it. This leaves us with reduced staff coverage in several departments and problems. What suggestions do you have to reward a team or staff for not taking their sick time as soon as they earn it.

Thank you

Sick of Sick Time

Dear Sick,

Well, this is a problem. What happens when they really do get sick? Do they come in to work and spread germs or do they get “extra” sick time to compensate?

I think the answer to this question is highly dependent on the type of work your employees do. I, technically, have unlimited sick time. (3 days requires a doctor’s note and on day 4 you have to be on short term disability.) However, I still have to get the work done. This means, that even if I feel terrible, I’m working on my laptop at home. Everyone with a laptop does the same thing. Sick, healthy, it doesn’t matter. Work has to get done. Therefore, while we may have some abuse of sick time, there isn’t much.

However, if your workers are factory workers, the line won’t wait for them to get back. Therefore, taking a sick day has no “work” consequences for your employees. It may hurt overall productivity, but you’re going to be hard pressed to convince people that their one “extra” day is going to affect things overall. And that person’s extra day won’t–it’s everybody doing it that is the problem.

You need to change worker’s motivation. You can do this in positive or negative ways. A positive way: Reward workers for unused sick time. Can you pay out unused sick days at the end of the year? Government employees frequently have this perk.

Another positive way: Instead of a straight payout for unused sick days, give a bonus to the whole workforce that is based on productivity. As part of your calculation, sick time would be used. If the bonus is good enough and sick time is a big enough chunk, you’ll get peer pressure to only stay home when you are really sick. (I have yet to see anyone want their co-worker around when said co-worker is puking.)

A negative way: Reduce vacation time and lump sick and vacation time together into one “Paid Time Off” lump. Then, it won’t matter to you whether they are taking time off to go skiing or because they are puking.

Another negative way: Require a doctor’s note for any sick time. This adds an undue burden on your employees, though. Even with health insurance, doctor visits cost the employee (and the company) money. Plus, most illnesses (even the ones where you feel terrible) don’t require a doctor visit.

As much as I hate to say it, you may be offering too many sick days. If people feel they can take them as extra vacation, then they either like gambling with the flu or know they will be given time off anyway when they are really sick.

Is morale at the office so low people can’t stand to be there? That’s another cause of absenteeism. Work on making your employees happier and they won’t be looking for as many excuses to stay away.

Good luck and I hope you feel better soon.

Evil HR Lady


Carnival of the Insanities

by Evil HR Lady on April 23, 2007

Carnival of the Insanities is up over at Dr. Sanity’s blog. Go read it and see that there are insane things outside of HR as well.