Bobbleheads and Knock-Off Reproductions

There’s an actress named Phoebe Jonas who, if you watch television shows geared to a certain demographic, you may recognize. From June 2016 through March of this year, Phoebe was the “Phillips Lady,” when she served as the spokesperson for Bayer’s digestive health products; laxatives, fiber gummies, stool softener, and good old Milk of Magnesia.

Phoebe’s contract ended in the spring of this year and then, as she put forth in a suit filed last week seeking damages of $500,000, Bayer didn’t do her right.

According to Jonas, Bayer continued to use her image on their website; something for which they later compensated her. They also, per her allegations, began using a bobblehead figurine, created in her likeness and without her permission, in order to avoid paying her any sort of remuneration. “At no point did plaintiff ever give Bayer consent, permission and/or authority to create and/or air the Bobble Head video portraying her likeness on the internet, television commercials or any other form of media,” the complaint says.

Replaced by an effigy. A shimmy-headed replica.

It’s the world of ordering kiosks at fast food restaurants. Driverless cars and delivery drones. Chatbots. Farmbots running open source software. All of them more cost effective and less prone to workplace drama than the human beings that have historically done these jobs.

So what about that Phillips Lady bobblehead? Bayer, of course, is challenging the assertion that it’s a likeness of the actress and fighting the suit. I don’t know that I’m convinced the figurine is supposed to be Phoebe Jonas specifically but, undoubtedly, providing direction to a bobblehead is more efficient from a production standpoint.  

Forget the concerns about automation and machines taking over our jobs; now we have to worry about the dolls.

Even the humans won’t need to be human anymore.

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Image: Phillips Colon Health

Looking for the BEST in Your New Hires

The hiring process can be tortuous.

Lengthy and cumbersome, the journey from completing an application to day-one-of-employment is often fraught with peril for both the applicant and the recruiting/HR team.  There are hundreds of steps with various decision points along the way; there’s an overabundance of judgment from the first time a recruiter’s eyeballs (or a robot’s algorithm) glance at the applicant’s resume all the way up until the final reference has been received and pre-placement drug results delivered.

Most HR professionals are pretty mindful of this; there’s lots of work being done to streamline the application and hiring process and an incredible amount of improvement being done in organizations large and small as they clean up onboarding. We’re doing a much better job, collectively, of ensuring there’s consistency and cohesion between the branding work being done by our TA teams and the onboarding conducted by the folks in human resources.

Yet we still have a bit of work to do once those happy-faced company newbies land in their cubicles, offices, and/or at their work stations.  Why? Because, with startling regularity, new hires are placed in a precarious situation akin to being stranded at the top of a ferris wheel; dangling with uncertainty before the basket starts to move again.

Oh sure; there are lots of nifty and innovative ways organizations are welcoming new hires and working to ensure their employment experience journey kicks off in high gear. They’re tracking and measuring and focused on ensuring alignment, meaning, value and purpose. This can be good stuff; I love when companies invest their time and resources into enabling and supporting a culture that values performance and satisfaction.

On the flip side however, over many years, I’ve observed the opposite phenomenon – a practice that is still very much alive.  It’s a combination of set-up-to-fail syndrome and confirmation bias; putting both of these together leads to managers (and organizations) unintentionally undermining the success of newly hired employees.

I like to call it “I’ll wait Until You Prove me Wrong” syndrome.

  • “The last 3 hires I made into this position couldn’t perform the job up to our standards; I’m sure Joe will be the same way.” (confirmation bias)
  • “Remember Sally who worked in Accounting? We gave her a bonus after 6 months and then she quit; we better not do that again.” (confirmation bias)
  • “I didn’t really get the greatest recommendation from Bob’s last manager; I better keep my eye on him.” (set-up-to-fail syndrome)

This syndrome manifests itself in numerous ways including one of the most time-honored traditions of most any onboarding process; the overview of company policies. Jan from HR, with great fanfare, hands over the Employee Policy Manual to Susie New Hire and goes through a highlight reel of “what not do do.” Right? Am I right?

And then, realizing that things are sounding just a bit too dire and legal, Jan launches into a review of the employee benefits available; after 90 days. After 6 months. After one year. This Is not just about Jan or the hiring manager; it’s the entire organization saying “We’ll wait until You Prove us Wrong.”

Let me count on just one hand a few of the ‘typical’ HR policies that may, possibly, signal you’re expecting the worst (not the best) from your employees/new hires:

  • “Probationary” (omg…don’t call it that!) periods
  • Progressive Discipline for every single/small infraction (reams and reams of paper)
  • Making employees “wait” to access PTO or Sick Leave (What? No one gets sick in their first 6 months of employment?)
  • Discipline for Attendance (with heightened penalties during the “probationary period” – omg…don’t call it that!)
  • “Proof” for Bereavement Leave (we do NOT trust you in your time of mourning!)

“But…but…but” (I hear you saying) “those types of policies ensure consistency and some may be for financial reasons. We need to be good stewards of the company’s assets!”

I’m not saying some aspects of those policies might not be appropriate for your industry, company or location; they may very well have been implemented for some well-thought out reasons.

Then again….perhaps it’s time to ask yourself if they are serving a purpose. Was that Bereavement Policy developed 15 years ago after one employee suddenly had 6 grandmothers pass away within a 2 month period? Why not give employees access to paid sick leave in their first 180 days of employment? Would you rather Betty come to work with the flu or give her a few days off to recover at home even if she’s only worked for you for 4 months?

Are your practices and your policies designed to assume the WORST from people…or the BEST?

Those Phantom Workplace Activities

You would think, in this day and age of transparency in the workplace and access to rapid-fire tech and communication tools that organizations would no longer be ready, willing and able to operate under a cloak of invisibility.

If you think that you would be wrong.

Over the last several months I have heard stories from both HR peers and folks who work in non-HR roles that brought to light some disastrous and bumbling maneuvers:

  • an executive leadership team decided there should be new service standards (retail environment) to which all staff must adhere. These new service standards were not only never properly defined (i.e. behaviors), the new expectations were never trickled down to employees. Awareness throughout the company only came about when employees began to be ‘disciplined’ for not performing to standards. Oh…did I mention there were scorecards being kept on employees to “rate” them on these behaviors which had neither been defined nor communicated?
  • ACME Corporation utilizes a focal point performance review cycle; still somewhat traditional (as many companies are by-the-way despite what the pundits tell us), employees receive an annual formal review. They are reviewed on the last 12 month’s performance, achievement of prior year goals is evaluated, and new goals are set for the upcoming year. Points are calculated (old school!) with heavy emphasis being given to goal accomplishment. One year, not that long ago, a new CEO joined the organization mid-year and, when performance review season rolled around, opted to “toss out” the existing goals that had been set during the last review cycle. Rather, when the process opened up at the end of the year (no doubt with heavy sighs of discontent all around since everyone despises these broken processes), the CEO instructed managers to evaluate employees on items other than the agreed upon goals set  during the previous cycle. News to all concerned. “We didn’t tell Bob he was going to be held accountable for an xx% increase in important-metric XYZ? Too bad; he should have made that improvement. No points for Bob!”

I was told about:

  • Company acquisition details that employees learned about via the internet or TV news stations rather than any one piece of communication coming from their own employer
  • Corporate shenanigans exposed publicly (i.e. SOX compliance stuff) yet never explained to employees
  • Head honchos (C-Suite) leaving the organization with nary a communique to the staff (unwashed masses?) within their span-of-control

Why does this sort of stuff go on?

Sometimes, as Executives and Leaders are sitting around a fancy mahogany table crafting the next great-step-in-the-company-history, they fail to take a look around the room and ask themselves “who else should be here?” …. “what could they add to the conversation?” ….“If they’re not here, what will they need to know …. and when?” ….”what could be the consequences if they aren’t here?” 

Sometimes, they just don’t care if they’re inviting ghosts and phantoms into the workplace.

Now that’s spooky.

 

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image via WikiMedia Commons