Ass in Chair, Inc.

Right now, as you’re reading this, people around the world are sitting in their offices. They have a desk, chair, phone and a computer with a monitor. Maybe two monitors if they either work in IT or are sufficiently high enough on the corporate food chain to get the requisition approved that uses valuable budget dollars to appropriate a second monitor.

The lucky ones have a cup of coffee, a can of Diet Coke or a packet of M&Ms within arm’s reach. Not everyone is afforded that luxury however; there are plenty of workplaces that don’t allow the worker bees to have any beverage or food at their desks. I’ve heard tales from one company in the UK that maintains such a policy although they do permit each employee to have a 500ml bottle of water. With an eye towards an aesthetically pleasing uniformity, all the bottles match.

Closer to home I’ve had conversations with numerous folks who are confined to a desk or cubicle with no ability to keep sustenance close at hand. The general corporate blather, usually passed on from HR, is (a) “we want you to relax and take a well-deserved break at lunch!” (wellness blah blah blah) or (b) “we want the facility to look nice when clients come to visit.” (even though no clients ever actually do come to visit).

I also continue to talk with an alarming number of people who, while perfectly content to head to the break room to grab an energy bar during the mid-afternoon slump, are rarely even afforded that opportunity. There are employees (start time 8 AM!) whose log-in at their workstation is immediately viewable by the department manager; they best be logged-in and ready to roll by 7:59 AM or discipline shall ensue!

  • Have to void your bladder? Sorry; you need to wait until break time at 10:15 AM.
  • Need to get to your doctor’s office by 4:30 PM because they close at 5 PM? Sorry; you’re expected to be at your desk until 4:30 PM. Unless you request and are approved for a full day of PTO you’re not going to be able to make that happen.
  • You want to take call from your kids when they get home safely from school in the afternoon? Sorry; no cell phone use is allowed at your desk. We require you to drop your phone off in the morning and you can retrieve it during breaks or at lunch time. (note: I wrote about a company doing this in 2013; 5 years later and I recently heard of a manager who is contemplating instituting this practice)
  • Christmas Eve and all of the customers, partners and 3rd party vendors you work with are off the grid? Sorry; this is not an official Holiday so you’re expected to be at your desk until the office closes at 5 PM. No; we will not be closing early.
  • What’s that you say? You can get your work done at home? You have a phone and an internet connection? Sorry; we don’t allow anyone to work from home and all employees must report to the office by 8 AM.

Welcome to Ass in Chair, Inc.

 

#culture101

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