August 2007

Employee Relations Part I

by Evil HR Lady on August 31, 2007

Scenario 1:

A high performing department manager walks into your office. She has been highly successful at turning a low performing group into a high performing group. In the past 3 years, she has won two awards for her work. Senior management is highly impressed with her and holds her up as an example to other managers on how to get results. Turnover has been high, but each of the employees told you they were leaving for better positions–obviously this manager had trained them well.

The manager says: “I want to put a formal warning in Karen’s file. Two times in the past month she has called out with absolutely no notice. Yesterday was the last straw. She let clients hang, didn’t check her voice mail or e-mail and didn’t even answer her phone the second and third time I called her. She said her child was sick, but then why didn’t she answer her phone? And she has a laptop and I checked her office and the laptop was gone, so she obviously had it at home. There was no reason she couldn’t check her e-mail. I deducted both days from her vacation, but that doesn’t make this behavior acceptable!”

Your company’s official policy is that sick days are only to be used when the employee is ill, not for sick children.

Karen has been with the company 6 months. She came highly recommended and has performed well. She rapidly gained understanding of the company and her responsibilities. To the best of your knowledge, she was a good hire with potential.

How do you respond to the manager? Right now?

(read the comments and then read Part II and Part III.)


Carnival Reminder

by Evil HR Lady on August 31, 2007

The Next Carnival of HR will be held September 5th over at Fortify Your Oasis.

Click on the above link because it is truly worth it. What would we do without Rowan?

Entries to rowan dot manahan at gee mail dot com by 6.00pm GMT on Monday folks. Please include a short paragraph in your mail outlining the thinking behind your post.


Fair is Fair

by Evil HR Lady on August 30, 2007

Miss South Carolina was on the Today Show and re-answered the question given her at Friday’s pageant.

Since I posted the video of her first answer, I think it’s only fair to post the video of the second one.

She seemed quite well spoken and did a great job.


Teacher Shortage, or How to Write a Job Description

by Evil HR Lady on August 29, 2007

I live in a really good (read: high taxes) school district. We’ve lived here for 7 years, and specifically bought the house we are in now to be in this school district. It came at a premium, but we were willing to pay it to be in a good school district.

I have several friends who are teachers. They live in this good school district, but teach in other school districts. Why? Because getting a job in this district is extremely difficult. So, they commute and pray for openings here.

Which brings me to this article from the New York Times:

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The retirement of thousands of baby boomer teachers coupled with the departure of younger teachers frustrated by the stress of working in low-performing schools is fueling a crisis in teacher turnover that is costing school districts substantial amounts of money as they scramble to fill their ranks for the fall term.

Hmmm, what’s the problem? My friends are desperate for jobs close to home. Other school districts are desperate for teachers. How can we solve this problem?

Well, first, let’s identify the problem. Is it a shortage of people who can teach? I could teach. Granted, I’m not a certified public school teacher, but I’ve taught at a university. It always boggles my mind that while I’m not qualified to teach government to a bunch of 10th graders, I’m qualified to teach the same subject on a much more advanced level to college seniors.

So, perhaps lack of certified teachers is the problem. But, with programs like Teach for America and emergency certification programs, I think finding people who meet the criteria isn’t the problem either.

Upon reading further in the story (2nd paragraph–I do do complete research before pushing post), we find this:

Superintendents and recruiters across the nation say the challenge of putting a qualified teacher in every classroom is heightened in subjects like math and science and is a particular struggle in high-poverty schools, where the turnover is highest. Thousands of classes in such schools have opened with substitute teachers in recent years.

Ah-ha. We need more math and science teachers.

At the university I attended, in order to get a degree in math education you had to take a bunch of education classes and a whole lot of high level math classes. Lots and lots of advanced calculus and other things that I don’t know about because I majored in something much more squishy (political science).

Why? Why is that in the job description for a math teacher? Most schools (that I am aware of) offer calculus, but don’t require it. In fact, here are the math requirements from North Carolina (the state with bad teacher shortage mentioned above). For people on a “university prep” path, Algebra II and one “higher level” math class or “integrated math” levels 1-3 are required. For other paths, the math requirements are even lower.

But, here is the University of North Carolina’s requirement to get a degree in Mathematics Education to teach high school.

  • Math 231 Calculus
  • Math 232 Calculus II
  • Math 233 Calculus III
  • Math 381 Discrete Mathematics
  • Math 383 Linear Algebra with Differential Equations
  • Math 551 Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometries
  • Math 416 Matrix Algebra
  • Math 515 History of Math
  • Math 533 Number Theory
  • Why? If the vast majority of your students aren’t going to be taking calculus (let alone, calculus II and calculus III and Matrix Algebra) why require that for your certification?

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to require things that the teacher will actually use on the job? Why not, if you have 4 math teachers in the high school, require only one to have all the fancy higher level math skills. The rest of your teachers need to be qualified to teach “integrated math” and alegbra I.

    Kind of opens up your field of available teachers, doesn’t it? Someone that might be a great algebra teacher just may switch her major if she doesn’t have to take so many years of higher level mathemetics that she will most likely never use.

    And now for our general HR application–job descriptions. Are we writing job descriptions to make them sound more impressive then they really are? (10 years of experience, MBA, required.) Is it really?


    Maybe not.

    You really need to think about what is necessary to do THIS job. Not, boy, I really like people from Harvard! It’s fine if you want to hire people from Harvard, but is it a requirement?

    Making high level requirements that don’t truly fit the job can result in getting applicants who are barely qualified on paper and tremendously overqualified in practice. They are then bored and that increases your turnover.

    Make sure your list of requirements are truly requirements. Then you can add your nice to haves (7 years experience, bachelor’s degree in business, social sciences or similar. MBA preferred).


    A Thousand Pardons

    by Evil HR Lady on August 29, 2007

    I’ve had to turn on the word verification. I hate the word verification.

    But, I’m spending more and more time deleting spam comments. Hopefully this will help.

    And now a word for my spammers. You aren’t very bright with your spam. Your grammar is terrible. And, furthermore, every time a comment gets posted to my blog, I get an e-mail, so then I go in and delete the comment.

    It’s annoying, and unless you happen to be lucky enough to post one of your spam comments while I’m at the grocery story, they don’t stay up long enough for anyone to read them.

    I hate spam. Although I like this Weird Al Song


    The Coming Talent Shortage

    by Evil HR Lady on August 25, 2007

    In response to the YouTube video about demographic changes, Michael Moore (the lawyer, not the other Michael Moore) posted a link to this video about the upcoming labor shortage.

    I thought it was very good and should be seen, but I wasn’t planning to blog about it, until my brother sent me this video

    Is this who we’re going to be hiring in a few years? Yikes. Please, those of you who are in your sixties, don’t retire. Looks like we’re really, really, really going to need you.


    The High Cost of Geeks

    by Evil HR Lady on August 24, 2007

    Dear Evil HR Lady:

    I just discovered your site, and it really is great! And as fate would have it I now have an evil HR question. My employer recently implemented an ERP system and took the occasion of scrapping all the existing HR data as an opportunity to reclassify every single position in the organization, not a bad thing in and of itself. Here’s the problem: back in the day (e.g. pre-ERP) we knew how to write job descriptions so as to maximize the paygrade that would be assigned to the position — a critical skill when trying to attract technical staff to positions in a tight, tight market for this talent. Now the whole compensation analysis criteria scheme is a mystery…nay it is a secret! The grades that our compensation analysts are assigning to positions that we know are high-five figure jobs in our market are just not competitive, and we’re facing having to hire and train bozos right out of college rather than being able to attract the high-level techies we NEED to run our crap. (And by crap I mean a complex server environment that houses several billion dollars worth of financial data.)

    My question: Is it standard evil HR practice to keep the criteria by which a position description will be analyzed and assigned a pay level a secret? Do you have any advice for gaming on the system so that we can hire for newly created positions and replace high-level staff members at appropriate salary levels?

    Geeks Cost, and Right Here Is Where You Start Paying

    Methinks someone is on a cost saving power trip. To quickly answer your question, paygrades should be based on market data. Your compensation department should be looking at salary surveys to determine what other companies are paying for similar jobs. This should not be secret at all. They should be able to show you what the market rate for the job is and it should correlate pretty closely with the assigned pay grade.

    Make an appointment with your compensation analyst, don’t be accusatory, just ask her to explain how she comes to a decision about the grade for any given job. She should be able to do so. If she hemms and haws, produce a job descriptions and say, let’s level this together! This will make her very annoyed, because chances are she’s operating under stupid rules put into place by the power hungry cost saver above her.

    However, some companies think they can get by with a “cheap” labor force. This always cracks me up because a cheap labor force will cost you more money in the long run–for several reasons. I’ll start with my two favorite.

    1. You get what you pay for. (Generally, we all know there are exceptions to this rule. We all wish we could be exceptions to this rule–being overvalued, that is.) If the market rate for one of your techie positions is $95,000 (not unrealistic in my neck of the woods either), and you can only pay $75,000 you aren’t going to have as many candidates to choose from. Sure, you’ll be able to hire someone (because IT jobs are frequent targets of outsourcing), but that person will lack the skills and experience of the person you could hire at $95,000. You will have to train. This costs money. You will have more mistakes. This will also cost money.

    2. Once you get this person up to speed she’ll say, “why am I working here for $75,000? I can go across the street to the competitor and make $95,000. Plus they’ll give me a sign on bonus!” And so she leaves. Now you’ve got recruitment costs, overtime costs (sometimes) when others have to fill in and do her job until you find someone. And you are stuck with the same low pay grade, so you have to start with the under-qualified person (not a bad person, mind you, just an inexperienced one) and the cycle continues.

    One of the big overarching HR problems is our lack of understanding of not only the financial side of the business, but everything else. Once upon a time I led a task force to determine how our business wanted to look at turnover. The consensus among the senior HR people was that we only really wanted to look at the professional population. The factory workers–an hourly, unionized group–didn’t matter. Heck, they’re cheap labor.

    I was flabbergasted. The hourly factory workers made up a really high percentage of our workforce, and their turnover was quite high. I suggested we include them in our turnover. No, no, no. We only want to see the professional people.

    Finally, a plant HR manager spoke up, “we have a really hard time filling positions” she said softly.

    Everyone was shocked. You do? Really?

    Here was a bunch of senior HR people who literally had no clue what was really going on. Factory labor is cheap, so they didn’t care about it. Except it’s not cheap and it’s necessary to keeping the business running.

    If your business is in the business of storing financial data, your IT people are beyond critical to your business. But, HR may be focused on the sales force or the stock brokers or whatever is the glamor group for your company.

    You may have to do some hard work to help them understand the critical nature of getting the right geek on board.


    Are You Ready for the Changing Workforce?

    by Evil HR Lady on August 24, 2007

    This video is long, but very interesting.

    I wonder if any of us HR types are truly prepared for a changing workforce.


    Carnival of HR #14

    by Evil HR Lady on August 22, 2007

    Is now up over at Three Star Leadership. Hope on over and read.

    The September 5th Carnival will be hosted by Rowan Manahan at Fortify Your Oasis.

    The September 19th Carnival will be hosted by Evil HR Lady at, well, Evil HR Lady.

    The October 3rd Carnival will be hosted by Natalie Cooper at Personnel Today.

    The October 17th Carnival will be hosted by Kris Dunn at HR Capitalist

    The Spooky October 31st Carnival will be hosted by HRO Manager at HRO Manager

    The November 14th Carnival will be hosted by Patrick Williams at Guerilla HR

    The November 28th Carnival will be hosted by Carmen Van Kerckhove at Race in the Workplace

    The December 12th Carnival will be hosted by Wayne Turmel at The Cranky Middle Manager

    The December 26th Carnival will be hosted by Ann Bares at Compensation Force.

    The January 9th Carnival will be hosted by Ask a Manager at Ask a Manager.

    The January 23rd Carnival will be hosted by Deb at 8 Hours & a Lunch.

    The February 6th Carnival will be hosted by Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership.

    The February 20th Carnival will be hosted by Lisa Rosendahl at HR Thoughts

    The March 5th Carnival will be hosted by Gautam Ghosh at Gautam Ghosh – Management Consultant

    We’re always looking for new participants and new hosts. Send me an e-mail if you’d like to host and make sure to submit your posts to Rowan Manahan for the next carnival.


    Toxic Boss

    by Evil HR Lady on August 21, 2007

    My daughter has been working for a bully. He plays associates against each other and always wants to be the good guy. She has told me that he talked to one of her colleagues(peer) about her, and the colleague came to her and let her know about it. She signs in and out on a time sheet, and if she does not take lunch, the company automatically assumes she did and deducts an hour from her day. She recently went to a trade show and was verbally told before going on site that she would only be paid for 8 hours a day.

    She ended up working as a non- union laborer in a union environment, was asked to lift and perform physical duties beyond “normal” activities and was reamed out by someone, who is sleeping with the boss, but is not my daughter’s direct report.

    She also worked 12 hour days with no lunch breaks, and was told that it was just the way it is at trade shows. It is clear that expectations were not explained, since she is a new associate who has only been working with this firm since mid June. She is not an exempt employee. She does not supervise anyone. She was put in harm’s way. These are just the highlights of her toxic employment, do you have any words of wisdom for her???

    Thanks for your help!

    Start looking for a new job. I know, I know, there should be some way to solve the problems of a really bad work environment. And there is, it’s just that it’s going to take a long time and if Senior Management isn’t on board, well then it ain’t happening.

    In the mean time, if she is a non-exempt employee (as you stated) then what they are doing is highly illegal. The fines for not paying overtime are

    • Fine of up to $1000 per violation
    • 6 months jail time
    • initial $10,000 fine for willful violations
    • The people to contact are the Department of Labor.

      Now, some words of caution. She needs to make sure she really is a non-exempt employee. Supervising people isn’t necessarily the trigger that makes people exempt. I don’t know what she does, but if it’s more “professional” in nature, she could be exempt, even if she has to punch a time card.

      But, assuming she is eligible for overtime, there are just huge violations all over the place. Making people work off the clock will get you in a whole host of troubles.

      Because she was told, “that’s just how it is,” she can probably expect little sympathy from her boss if she complains. But, go ahead and do it. Ask for the overtime pay owed.

      If she is unionized (sounds like she is, since you mentioned non-union activities)tell her to meet with her union rep and file a grievance.

      I wish I had a warm and fuzzy response, or some magic words which would “fix” the problem, but I don’t. The reality is, these people violating all sorts of laws and (probably) union contracts. She’s going to have to be direct and file complaints.

      Most importantly though, she needs to either decide that this job is worth keeping despite all the problems or start looking for a new job. Even with the union and the DOL involved, it may take years to resolve and get owed back pay. And she may never get the back pay. The other reality is that bosses don’t appreciate being ratted out and her life may get worse before it gets better.

      I feel bad leaving on such a depressing note. Did you hear the one about two chickens and a pancake that walked into a bar?

    { 1 comment }