IS HR YOUR FRIEND? NO!

April 4th, 2018 Posted by No Comment yet

Yet, time and time again employees place too much trust in Human Resource (“HR”) personnel only to learn at a later time that it was a mistake to do so.

When you have to deal with HR you must always keep in mind that its primary functions are to (a) acquire, utilize and dispose of employees (i.e., human resources) as cheaply and efficiently as possibly; and (b) to protect senior management from becoming involved in employee related disputes.  HR personnel accomplish their primary functions by creating the perception that they are there to protect the average employee.  By way of company handbooks and training sessions, HR personnel create the impression that they are there to help, that they are your friend and that you should come to them, and only them, when you have a problem.

What HR personnel really seek is information that can be used to both protect the company as well as to undermine you when it comes time to justify a corporate decision about the terms and conditions of your employment.

HOW TO RESPOND TO A WRITTEN PERFORMANCE WARNING

July 5th, 2017 Posted by No Comment yet

Performance warnings are a commonly used tool by employers to achieve one of several objectives: (i) to motivate an employee to improve; (ii) to justify a termination; (iii) to set up a termination to mask illegal actions; (iv) to retaliate against an employee who has alleged wrongdoing by the company or a manager; and/or (v) to force a resignation.

Regardless of the reason or motivation for the Performance Improvement Plan (also called a PIP), when responding to the warning there are a couple of basic rules to follow:

  • Respond in writing and send it to your manager and Human Resources by e-mail.
  • Respond timely and keep it short and to the point.
  • Open your response on a positive note listing some (but not all) of your accomplishments over the past six to 12 months.
  • Do not respond to every point in the warning.  Pick the ones that objectively, if true, would be problematic.
  • Put aside emotion. Do not make it personal. Your response is not the place to air grievances or illegal acts of your manager.
  • Take some level of responsibility if any of the criticism has merit.  All employees have room for improvement and by acknowledging one or two of your less problematic shortcomings you will gain credibility.
  • End your response on a positive note by saying that although you disagree with a number of the points, you will follow the action plan and work hard to improve.

Always respond in a timely fashion.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR MANAGER VIOLATES COMPANY POLICY

July 2nd, 2017 Posted by No Comment yet

What to do if you witness wrongdoing by your manager or other senior employee is always a problem for employees.  Assurances in the company handbook or from Human Resource representatives that you will not be retaliated against for reporting improper conduct are not often honored.  There is also the chance that you are in error about your manager’s conduct. The decision is really one to be made on a case-by-case basis taking into consideration the following factors:

  1. What evidence do you have of the misconduct.
  2. If there are witnesses beside yourself, will they come forward with you to report the misconduct.
  3. Does the conduct directly impact the health and safety of you or your co-workers.
  4. Is the conduct criminal in nature.
  5. If it comes out that you were aware of the conduct but failed to report it, will you lose your job or be reprimanded in some other meaningful way.
  6. Are you obligated by any statute or regulation to report the conduct.
  7. Will reporting the conduct protect your job such as for reporting discrimination.

While these seven (7) factors do not comprise the entire list of considerations, they should help you in formulating your plan of attack. If you are unsure or the problem is significant, you may also want to consider consulting an employment attorney for guidance on your rights and remedies.

WORK EMAIL PRIVACY

May 2nd, 2017 Posted by No Comment yet

An employee has no “right of privacy” in communications made using their company email address.  This also would apply to employees’ communications with their attorney.  Such communications, if made utilizing your work email or work computer system, are not protected by the attorney-client privilege.

This highlights the dangers involved when employees use their office email address for personal matters unrelated to work.  Personal usage is never a good idea.  (For further information on email in the workplace see EMAIL: DOs and EMAIL: DONT’S in Tracey’s Tips.)

 

OFFICE EMAIL: DON’Ts

April 4th, 2017 Posted by No Comment yet

Sending emails at work is a time saving tool.  However, email has become so commonplace as a mode of communication in our society that people are losing there jobs because they forget it is a written record of your thoughts, feelings and actions.   First, and most obvious, don’t ever use your work email address for personal communications with the outside world.  More and more employers have strict policies against using email for personal reasons and the larger companies may even be monitoring your email, and likely your website usage, too.  There is no “right to privacy” with regard to your work email address or your work computer. Anything you use them for is open to inspection by the company.  Second, no matter how close a friend, how cool or hip you may think your boss, colleagues or work environments are, don’t ever use your email to send pornography, dirty jokes or other tactless or offensive emails. Third, email is highly susceptible to misunderstandings and miscommunication regardless of how man LOLs, ALL CAPS and smiley faces you use to express emotion.

 

OFFICE EMAIL: DOs

April 4th, 2017 Posted by No Comment yet

For the very reason that email can be very dangerous to an employee who uses it frivolously, it can be equally beneficial to an employee who uses it wisely.  Use an email as confirmation of agreements you reach about compensation or promotion.  Use an email to confirm positive feedback about your performance.  Use an email to confirm complaints you have raised about issues that arise at work to protect you from retaliation.

Remember, a verbal conversation is easily denied or reconstructed.  An email, electronically dated and time stamped, stands on its own merit.  Finally, do take as much care in writing one as you would in sending a letter to your friends or family members.  You never know who may be reading your emails, and for what purpose they may be used, in the future.

HOW TO REPORT MANAGERIAL MISCONDUCT

January 11th, 2017 Posted by No Comment yet

With very few exceptions, employees should report managerial misconduct in writing.  The complaint should be sent to Human Resources (depending on the relationship of your manager’s boss you may consider copying that person as well).  The complaint should be sent by email so there is proof of when and to whom it was sent.  The email should have a professional tone and set forth the allegations and the factual basis to support them.  Otherwise, without a paper trail employees leave themselves exposed to claims that they never reported the matter or that they did not provide all of the information.

HOW TO DEAL WITH HR

October 23rd, 2016 Posted by No Comment yet

As an employee there will be occasions where you will have to interact with the company’s Human Resource (“HR”) personnel.  It is unavoidable.  But if you have to deal with HR on matters that go beyond simple questions about your benefit plans or company policy regarding vacations and sick leave you should keep in mind the following few points:

  1. Provide only as much information as is necessary, particularly when you believe you may be the subject of an investigation or a claim of poor performance.
  2. Make sure you make a written record of the conversation. Email is best.
  3. If you are seeking information about how a particular plan works ask them to direct you to the specific provisions in the plan documents that support the company’s position.
  4. Do not expect HR personnel to keep what you are saying confidential even if you ask them to.

I make these points not to scare you away from dealing with HR but to make you aware of the potential pitfalls associated with such interaction.

DATING IN THE WORKPLACE

October 23rd, 2016 Posted by No Comment yet

The workplace still remains one of the primary ways in which people develop romantic relationships.  Given the number of hours spent at work and the close working quarters with possible partners, it would be hard not to develop such relationships.  However, it is really not a good idea.

Even in the best of times, the workplace is a difficult place to manage and cultivate a relationship without the added risk and stress of losing your job or being accused of improper influence, favoritism or even sexual harassment.  Most companies today have “no fraternization” policies that make it a terminable offense to date a co-worker, particularly if one of the parties in the relationship has supervisory authority over the other.

Without throwing cold water on passion, if you are interested in developing a work place relationship you and your partner need to consider and discuss a few concerns before moving forward.   What is the company policy on fraternization (i.e., does it require disclosure, are such relationships completely taboo, etc.)?  How will your colleagues react if they find out (i.e., will such a relationship engender jealousy among your colleagues)?  How closely do you work with your prospective partner? How will you really handle the situation if the relationship ends?

While work places romances will never be tamed, it would be a shame to lose one’s position and/or career over it.

WHEN TO TELL YOUR EMPLOYER YOU’RE PREGNANT

September 12th, 2016 Posted by No Comment yet

For the majority of women, finding out they are pregnant will be one of them most exhilarating and fulfilling moments of their lives.  If you are employed, however, your excitement may be tempered by your concern about how your pregnancy will impact your job security.   This begs the question: When is the best time to tell your employer?

The best time to inform your employer of the good news is as soon as possible.  If you truly have concerns about your employer’s reaction to the news then the only sure way to protect your position is to put your employer on notice of your pregnancy so that all decisions about your future will be made with that knowledge in mind.  This will make your employer think twice before taking action.  While there is nothing wrong with giving your employer a verbal notification, it should be followed up with an email or other writing to Human Resources and your manager so that there can be no question you put them on notice.