Dear Evil HR Lady,
Among three other job titles, I’m an HR Coordinator for an international Christian non-profit organization. HR is not my area of expertise but due what I would consider a history of “lean” hiring practices, I’ve taken on the role (another issue altogether! 😉 Needless to say, your blog has been immensely helpful.
I received the following e-mail (forwarded from our CEO) regarding the working hours of salaried vs. hourly employees:
“Please do some research to the difference between what we should expect between salaried and hourly employees. We need to have realistic expectations and those that are salaried need to know that they don’t just work from 9-5 on weekdays. I have noticed for instance that some do not respond to emails on weekends or after hours which makes me think that they do not understand their salaried expectations”
I have some initial thoughts on this… but would truly appreciate your insight. Consider that a majority of our salaried positions are also fundraising positions (a select few are not).
It’s probably wrong that I’m amused by your CEOs letter–but only because you received it and I didn’t. (Well, I did, but it’s not my responsibility, so I maintain my amusement.) The person who doesn’t understand is your CEO.
Now, for the rest of the discussion, I want to be very clear that what I’m going to be talking about here is salaried exempt employees. Not merely salaried employees, who can be exempt or non-exempt. These employees are those who are not eligible for overtime and receive the same paycheck regardless of hours worked. Clear? We are also assuming that all employees in question meet the federal guidelines for exempt status. (In other words, if you were going to leave a comment saying, “first thing you need to do is check to make sure they really are exempt! They are probably mislabeled!” you don’t have to waste your time doing that. Instead, post your favorite clean joke. Bonus points if it’s in German and will impress my German teacher.)
Okay, your CEO is right in the sense that exempt employees shouldn’t be clock punchers, but it needs to go both ways. If he expects that they’ll check their email on weekends, he also needs to not freak out if they cut out at 2:30 to go to a parent teacher conference. It’s about give and take. But mostly, it’s about expectations.
Some bosses have the idea that they own their exempt employees. They better be working or at least available at all times. While you can certainly require it, it’s a bad management technique and likely to lead to high turnover. What you really want are employees that are good employee and capable of making good decisions.
So, should you require employees to be in constant contact via email? Well, I don’t know. You’re not trauma surgeons who need to be at the hospital within a moment’s notice. But, fundraisers probably do need to be available should someone wish to donate large sums of money. (“I called and called, but no one would take my call, so I’m just going to have to buy cupcakes instead of making that donation!”) But, it’s also probably pretty reasonable to assume that there aren’t a lot of $30,000 donations that get lost because someone didn’t check her email on Saturday afternoon.
This is all about expectations. So, set some. What is expected? And what is reasonable? If all the work is getting done and things aren’t left hanging, there’s no reason to require weekend check ins. If things are falling through the cracks, there is reason to require it. If the only thing falling through the cracks are those that the CEO is sending out on Saturdays because he’s a w0rk-a-h0lic, it’s time for him to calm down.
What you need to do is figure out what is necessary for the health of the non-profit, and then have a Come to Jesus* meeting with either the employees or the CEO. If the employees aren’t performing at the right level, then they need to be instructed that more is expected of them. (This is not uncommon in the exempt employee world, by the way.) If the employees are performing at a high level, it’s the CEO that needs to be told to back off, and wait for Monday to roll around.
You want your employees to be engaged and happy to work for. Demanding that they are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is not the way to do that.
*Sorry, I frequently want to use that phrase, and don’t because I don’t want anyone to be offended, but I thought it was appropriate here.