March 2010

Exit Interviews

by Evil HR Lady on March 31, 2010

I had someone send me an e-mail asking for recommendations for vendors to do exit interviews. I’ve never worked with a vendor for that, so I have no idea. (I’m sure he’d appreciate your input, though, so comment away!)

But, he also asked: 2) What is the best method (direct contact with term’d employee, websurvey or paper survey)?

Excellent question. First, let me tell you about my love/hate relationship with exit interviews. I’m a data girl, through and through. (Kind of sounds super-heroish, doesn’t it? It’s Data Girl! She’s brought her SPSS and Excel spreadsheets to save they day!) I like data.

But, as they say, the plural of anecdote is not data and unfortunately exit interviews tend to be little more than collected anecdotes.

We know that the number one reason people leave their jobs is because of their direct supervisors. But, I’ve never seen that as a number one reason on any report of aggregated exit interview information. The number one reason I always see popping up? “Opportunity.”

Personally, I think opportunity is about the last reason people start looking for that new job in the first place. After all, if that opportunity doesn’t come with a bigger pay check and a less insane boss you’re not going to take it. If you are satisfied with your current job you are not going to start looking.

Because the biggest reason to leave is management and that information isn’t accurately recorded in an exit interview, we have to glean what we can from the other data. But, since even the worst of managers rarely have more than a handful of people working for them, it’s difficult to tell whether that one person who left for “opportunity” had really just outgrown the job or if the manager was a raging lunatic. We can put information together and aggregate it at high levels, but this doesn’t always give you real information that you can act on.

Always, always ask for primary, secondary and tertiary reasons for terminating. This helps you identify things like salary, benefits, work hour and company culture issues.

Keep in mind that most people know they can’t burn any bridges and they will assume that anything they say in an exit interview can end up back at the desk of the offending boss. “But we promise confidentiality!” you say. Hogwash. You can promise all you want, but they won’t believe you.

The reason they wont’ believe you is that they are smart. They know they are the only person from that boss to quit in 2009, so if you give any “feedback” to said supervisor he’s going to know it comes from you.

So, paper, face to face or online?

No, yes, yes.

Aren’t I helpful? I like the face to face because people will spill things in casual conversation and you can read their facial expressions.

Paper? Only if your employees don’t have individual computer access. Give them an online survey to fill out prior to their last day. Then you don’t have data entry costs to pull the info together.

Online, see above. But, I’d like, ideally, to take it one step further. Ask for an e-mail address for the employee in our original survey. Then, after they’ve been gone for 6 months, send them a new survey to fill out.

Why? Because they are removed from the situation and have a new perspective. The “perfect” new job now has the real boss and the real co-workers and the real projects to go with the idealism. Asking them what they thought of the last job at this point is going to give you a different view.

And what do you do with all this information? Well, there is no point in gathering it if you are not going to act. Trends need to be dealt with. Groups with high turnover need to be looked at more closely. Numerous salary complaints (and ask about new salary–they may or may not tell you, but ask) or indications that people are leaving for a LOT more money needs to be dealt with.

But, you cannot go to the one manager who was identified as the reason for termination and tell them. Even though no one believes you will keep the information confidential, it’s critical that you do. But, it’s also critical that you find other ways to deal with your bad managers. Otherwise, why ask?


My Online Alter Ego is Ruining My Reputation

by Evil HR Lady on March 31, 2010

How can you help salvage your reputation when someone who shares your name is an idiot on line? I’ll give you some hints on how to handle online stupidity over at BNET.

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Should I Rat Out a Toxic Co-Worker?

by Evil HR Lady on March 31, 2010

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I have a toxic coworker in my research lab. She is controlling, neurotic, and passive aggressive. I have to interact with her since she manages all the data for the studies I work on. My boss recognized her poor treatment of her direct reports and assigned those people to report to me instead.

In addition to her bad behavior, she also is inefficient, resistant to change, incapable of handling tasks like scheduling , and takes weeks to do what should take hours. I cannot bring concerns directly to her because she gets extremely defensive and rejects any suggestions I make in a knee-jerk fashion, which requires me to get director approval on everything in order to make any changes.

I am leaving the job to go to grad school this coming fall but am hoping to come back to the lab after I have my degree (at the suggestion of the director). Should I keep my mouth shut, leave gracefully, and hope things are better when I am looking for a job there later? Or do I say something to my director, who is always very responsive to my concerns? Honestly if she is still in the lab when I am looking to come back, it might sway me to look elsewhere, and I know the director would be upset if that were to happen since he really likes me

Go to BNET (sorry for the click through) and read what to say about a Toxic co-worker.


How to Work for a Younger Manager

by Evil HR Lady on March 25, 2010

What do you do when your co-workers and boss are all younger than you? If you’re not fitting in, it might be culture, not strictly age, that’s getting in they way.

I give you some suggestions over at BNET. Go read, comment and recommend it. Plus, isn’t the picture cute? I wonder whose darling little boy that is.


My Employers are Racists!

by Evil HR Lady on March 23, 2010

Okay, not my employers. Rather, my question writer’s employers. (And for the record, I’m not anybody’s employee. I’m an independent contractor. Feel free to offer me projects for large sums of money.)

I work for a small family business where HR functions are handled by accounting and the department manager. I manage a very small workforce that contributes a great deal to the bottom line. I have recently conducted interviews for a position that is soon to be available. The problem is that the best candidate is a minority, and the owners of the business are racist.

They are not overtly racist, they just put the microscope on every minority I hire, especially minority women. My direct supervisor is not a member of the family, but everyone else above me is. I feel that I would not be helping this candidate to hire her since I can guarantee that I will be asked to terminate her before her probationary period ends for “unsatisfactory performance.”

If I do not hire because my higher ups are racist, then am I guilty of discrimination? I have decided to hire the most qualified person, who is a minority, but I can count the calender days until I am instructed to terminate. What do I do?

Go over to BNET and find out the smart way to battle racist employers.


A Quality Candidate

by Evil HR Lady on March 19, 2010

I love medical blogs. Dr. Grumpy got a patient who was also looking for a job.

Watch out, this same lady is probably applying to jobs in your office.


How to Help Your Boss Give You a Promotion

by Evil HR Lady on March 19, 2010

During my last review I asked my manager, who is a senior vice president, about a promotion. He indicated that he would begin to think about what a promotion for me would look like and discuss it with HR. At the end of our conversation he stated that due to a possible acquisition, I might expect a promotion in the next 6-9 months. Well the acquisition has not taken place, yet but I still want something to happen. It has been over six months; should I bring the promotion conversation up again? If so, what should I say?

If you want a promotion, head over to BNET. I’ll give you some ideas to get going.


Public Perception of HR

by Evil HR Lady on March 17, 2010

I got the following in a comment from Twitchh:

And a good HR manager recognizes that employees are assets, not liabilities, but we all know that the general perception of HR is not one of sunshine, sweetness, and light.

Perhaps that’s because most people’s experience (as you’re seeing here), either direct or vicarious, is that if/once HR gets involved with *any* situation concerning you, things are *not* going to be resolved in your favor.

Do you have any suggestions for educating HR professionals to avoid the behaviors which reinforce this perception, perhaps even going so far as to spur HR into thinking of “mere” employees as people instead of replaceable cogs?

The problem with educating HR professionals is that we’re used to doing the educating,so we think already know everything. This, of course, is true. We do already know everything, so stop bothering me and go fill out some forms. Thank you.

What behaviors reinforce this perception? I’m sure all of you could list a thousand of them. Unprofessional behavior, mysterious terminations, sneaky reductions in force, training courses with no benefit to the employee, and lectures on “hiring the best person, but you are low on minorities in your department, I’m just saying.”

Now, I can give you reasons (and good ones at that!) for all of the above. Well, except the unprofessional behavior. I bet the rest of my HR friends could as well. Who can’t give good explanations for all of this? The rest of the business world. Why? Because, we the masters of employee communication, stink at communicating.

Sometimes we don’t communicate on purpose. We don’t tell you the date of the upcoming reduction in force because it wreaks havoc on the business if everyone knows it is coming on Tuesday, March 16. The unknown is bad, yes, but the known can sometimes be worse.

The problem is, in my way of thinking, is that after we announce the RIF on Tuesday, March 16, we are still secretive. We don’t share whether this was phase 1 of 2, or of 10, or if that was it, or what the plans are under the restructured company.

We give you lectures about meeting your Affirmative Action Plan goals, but we don’t truly explain why we have to do this (government regulation), how the company benefits from this, what the consequences would be if we don’t, how diversity is more than just a rainbow of races, and how we are working to build unity across the organization.

As for treating people as interchangeable and replaceable, well there’s some logic to that too. For many, many, many positions there are thousands of people out there who could do the job and do it well. There are hundreds that could do that job better than for the person who gets hired. So, yeah, we may treat you as replaceable because you are.

But, this also means we’re replaceable. (Well, I’m not. I’m one of a kind, unique and special, just like everybody else.) But, we forget that replaceable doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for replacing.

It takes time and money to bring a new hire up to speed. It takes time and money to search, recruit, interview, offer, negotiate, and hire a new person. It takes time and money to terminate someone. When someone leaves they take their institutional knowledge with them. This is often invaluable information that isn’t written down anywhere. Some of these things just can’t be effectively written down.

SHRM says managing people, managing organizations. Well, if people are our specialty, why do people hate us? And it’s not just because we deliver the bad news. I love my dentist and he frequently delivers bad news to me in the form of a large bill and novocaine shots. (I suspect he owns a boat, but he claims the cost is due to his own children’s orthodontic needs. I call foul.)

We joke about how we came into this line of work because we “like working with people” and how that was quickly beaten out of us. I have this theory that some of us (especially employee relations types) see employees as negatives because we only see the bad side. Sure, we’re supposed to be available for all that good employee development stuff. But, instead, we’re usually just called upon to tell Sally she has a hygiene problem and Bill that he’s going to be terminated for going poor performance, and blah, blah, blah.

We need to be better communicators. We need to understand the financial consequences of our decisions. We need to refuse the responsibility for the company party (hand that off to Public Affairs), and instead plan the company succession protocols.

I love HR. Honest. With all of my cold evil heart, I love HR. Because I think it has potential. I’ve seen great HR. I’ve worked for great HR people. But, we need to get more of us up to speed and communicating and working with and not against. If people are our most valuable resource, let’s cherish them. And for heaven sakes, let’s get a good HRIS in place so that we don’t have to bother you with paperwork.


How to Get That Elusive Promotion

by Evil HR Lady on March 17, 2010

Surely you deserve a promotion? Right. Of course right. Because if you read Evil HR Lady you are clearly superior to all of your co-workers.

Clearly, I need a little bit lower self esteem. At I answer a question about how to get a promotion.


Is HR Dying to Ambush you?

by Evil HR Lady on March 15, 2010

Of course we are. What else does HR exist for?

Just kidding. This is another post about the inner thought process of HR.