Eeeww: The Top Employee “Issue” That Makes HR People Queasy

Working in human resources means you get to do all sorts of cool things related to organizational culture, employee experience, performance and development, and change management. Sometimes you just get to crank out some good old-fashioned rah-rah cheerleading which, although many in “strategic” HR are loathe to admit it, can be quite enjoyable.

Working in human resources also means you have an inside, often uncomfortable, view of the seamy underbelly of humanity.  We’re in a special place where we learn about all the unpleasant, disreputable and downright sordid activities with which people fill their time.

The HR Department is no place for the prim and prudish.

During my career in HR I have had to deal with my fair share of shocking incidents, and, being friends with loads and loads of HR folks, have heard tales from many others. There are many perplexing behaviors the average HR professional can pretty much take for granted they will deal with at some stage such as when an employee is discovered:

  • watching porn at work
  • taking naked selfies at work
  • sharing naked selfies with their co-workers
  • sharing homemade porn (starring themself!) at work
  • posting homemade porn on the internet so it can be “discovered” by co-workers

No? Just me and my HR friends?

Well surely, if you work in human resources, you’ve dealt with an employee who:

  • starts a consensual romance with a co-worker
  • thinks it’s perfectly OK to have consensual #sexytime, during work hours, in the bathroom
  • uses the executive conference room for #sexytime, after hours, while ensuring the Auditing Firm’s files are not disturbed

No? Again? Just me and my HR friends?

So…yeah…eeeww (you might be saying). Give me a performance issue or an investigation into timeclock manipulation or even a damn body-odor conversation! DIscussing sex is just distressing to all sorts of HR practitioners; puritanical or not. Yet, again and again, we have to head down that path.

But do you know the Number 1 employee issue that makes HR people squeamish, the granddaddy of them all, the absolute WORST conversation to have with an employee?  It’s the chat about “sexual self pleasuring at work.”

Surely this situation has arisen (no pun intended) in just about every workplace? I think every HR person I’ve ever swapped HR Horror stories with has had this delightful ER experience. I’ve heard stories of gals and guys taking care of business in bathrooms, offices, cubicles, parking lots, janitor’s closets and walk-in-freezers. Brrrrr. A google search on the situation leads us to questions, queries and articles such as  Masturbating at work is a doctor-approved stress reliever.  Well then.

Yesterday I cam across an article on the topic: Several Women Say Airlines Don’t Take Their Complaints About Men Masturbating Next To Them Seriously.”   This led to some HR pondering:

  • If your employee heads on a business trip, sits next to a masturbator, and is traumatized by the experience, how does that impact their employment?
  • What if they have to travel for work?
  • Can the employee hold the employer responsible for subjecting them to the masturbator?
  • If the employee can no longer travel and is fired is that a constructive discharge?
  • Would it be compensable under workers’ compensation?
  • And on the flip side….what if your employee IS the airplane masturbator?

Eeeww indeed.

At least some folks have the sense to take the matter into their own hands (pun intended) in the janitor’s closet back at Headquarters.

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The Not-So Magical Place Where HR Policies are Born

Most everyone, I imagine, is somewhat familiar with the Cabbage Patch Dolls, and perhaps, to a lesser degree, the origin story that accompanied them (as explained on Wikipedia):

Xavier Roberts was a ten-year-old boy who discovered the Cabbage Patch Kids by following a BunnyBee behind a waterfall into a magical Cabbage Patch, where he found the Cabbage Patch babies being born. To help them find good homes he built BabyLand General in Cleveland, Georgia where the Cabbage Patch Kids could live and play until they were adopted.

BunnyBees are bee-like creatures with rabbit ears they use as wings. They pollinate cabbages with their magic crystals to make Cabbage Patch babies.

Colonel Casey is a large stork who oversees Babyland General Hospital. He’s the narrator of the Cabbage Patch Kids’ story.

Otis Lee is the leader of the gang of Cabbage Patch Kids that befriended Xavier.

(This discovery legend would be reproduced on every Cabbage Patch Kids product from 1983 onward.)

Aw; cute! The whole mythology with the stork, the cabbage leaves and the pollinating bees (no birds?) is full of saccharine sweetness and innocent enough to appeal to both the targeted tots and their great grandmas who buy the dolls,

Not everything in this world though has such a pure and virtuous evolution story. Take, for instance, the origins of company policies; HR or otherwise.

Certainly most companies have multitudinous policies; there are Company Policies written and disseminated by the fine folks in Accounting (A/P and A/R), Purchasing, Safety, IT, Security and even Marketing (“don’t talk to the media unless you are an authorized representative!”).

There is, however, a special place of honor (or a special place in hell) reserved for human resources policies. These are the directives everyone is referring to when they say “it’s against company policy.”  Oh sure, your Director of Accounting may have issued a 12 page Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Policy but who, other than the rest of the accounting nerds, really knows what’s in it?

But the HR Dress Code Policy? Policy #G1-325.17? Section C, paragraph (1), subsection (a)? You can be damn sure everyone can quote it section, line and verse.

Why, I sometimes get to wondering, are human resources professionals so in love with writing, revising and adding more and more pages to the already lengthy manuals that grace our corporate offices?  (“This shall be my magnum opus,” Pam whispered breathlessly as she put the finishing touches on the 2018 revision of Acme Corporation’s Handbook for Associates).

Yes of course there are legitimate and necessary reasons to issue policies:

  • Provide guidance
  • Outline expectations
  • Ensure consistent practices
  • Maintain legal compliance (truth is, there are some items you just must issue in written or electronic form and gather acknowledgment signatures verifying dissemination) and/or CYA

There are also really dreadful and unnecessary reasons to issue (or create new) HR policies:

  • One employee did something bad, stupid or inexcusable and so an entire policy is crafted
  • A weird once-in-a-millenium event occurs (the work week ends on Leap Day which also coincides with Mardi Gras Day and time/payroll processing will be adjusted) so a “when this occurs” bullet point/sub paragraph is added to an existing policy
  • There is an overwhelming desire to create a laundry list of every possible unforeseen employee transgression that “might” lead to termination
  • An HR practitioner/leader feels the need to prove how necessary her job is by writing policy after policy after policy so she enters job-preservation mode and cranks them out by the bucketful
  • An HR practitioner/leader secretly enjoys the moniker “HR police” even though he regularly complains to everybody how bad he feels when everyone considers him the “HR Police”

Yes; you need policies. Good HR policies provide a foundation for you to outline behavior and expectations as well as communicate rights and responsibilities for your staff. Well written policies educate and clarify.

Not every policy of yours has originated in a tranquil cabbage patch filled with bees and butterflies.  Those bad policies, whether they be poorly written or just plain superfluous, need to go.

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BattleBots: Attraction, Retention and Employee Benefits

Yesterday, as is often the case, there was a good discussion in the HR Open Source Facebook Group. A group member posed a question stating she was looking for creative ideas as her company wants to offer additional benefits/perks beyond the basics (medical/dental/vision). Members of the community chimed in with all sorts of ideas including:

  • Pet insurance
  • Commuter benefits (i.e. train or bus pass)
  • Time off to volunteer
  • Birthday off
  • Wellness Days off (i.e. go and take care of preventative wellness appointments)
  • A book benefit (company pays for book on a professional development topic; the readers writes a review to share with co-workers)
  • Discount movie tickets, amusement park tickets, etc.
  • Onsite massages, oil changes, car washes, and teeth whitening
  • Student loan repayments
  • Milk Stork (ships milk home for breastfeeding moms who are traveling)

Nice.  Real nice.

Interestingly enough I recently had several conversations with business owners and HR leaders posing the exact opposite question:

“We need to save some money and are wondering which of our existing benefits we can eliminate without too much fuss from employees.”

Items potentially on their chopping blocks included:

  • Paid Time Off (PTO)
  • Holiday Pay
  • Employer provided Short Term and Long Term Disability coverage
  • Sick Days
  • Free coffee

Ah yes; the great divide.

Alpha Companies are taking the approach that we all like to think we can take; crafting a total rewards program that is designed to not only recruit and retain but also to delight, excite and energize. Does cost factor in to the equation? Of course it does; but there’s analysis (and sometimes just sheer gut-feel) that stuff like this is worth it.

Omega Companies, on the other hand, have decided to approach the design of their benefit offerings in the same manner in which they decide to purchase 2-ply vs. 1-ply toilet paper. Supply their staff with generic ball points or fancy liquid roller ball pens. Determine whether their pay will match or lag the market. (No leading the market with this group).

The Omega Companies simply want to push the limit by asking:

  • “How much can we take away before our current employees either stop performing or leave?”
  • “How little can we offer before our applicant pool dries up?”
  • “How much are we willing to risk that we won’t be able to innovate or grow revenue because we can’t even attract the people who will make that happen?”

And that’s …. OK. It’s the real world. Oh sure, in some cases there are business owners being assholes and treating people as disposable widgets in the great scheme of keeping the ginormous corporation humming along. In other instances there are challenges being faced in order to keep a business running in the first place; although, come to think of it, how is it that newly-minted start-ups and/or small businesses with, one would assume, less cash flow, seem to offer the best benefits around? Maybe it IS more about the a-hole factor….?

Alpha vs. Omega.

There’s an attraction/retention battle for you.

 

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Head on over to the HR Open Source site to check out the case studies, Sparks and other great content. And join us in the Facebook group referenced above; you’ll love it.

 

Image: Battlebots

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The Precariousness of a #WorkHuman Journey

It’s just after 2 PM on Day 2 (and a-half) of Globoforce’s WorkHuman event in Austin and I just walked back over to the Convention Center from my hotel.

This hotel, which officially opened within the last several weeks, has a connecting skywalk that takes one from floor 2 of the hotel to floor 2 of the Convention Center. Very convenient.

This skywalk is a twisting, serpentine slab of concrete, perhaps 10 feet wide, that is suspended over a fairly bustling city street. There are no walls on this walkway; not even the illusion of a semi-comforting half-wall. Nope; this walkway is encased in what appears to be chicken wire. (OK; we all know it’s not actual chicken wire – it looks much sturdier and is actually bolted down but I have been much too afraid to actually get close enough to touch it and confirm this).

So every time I walk across this walkway I stay the straight and narrow right in the middle so as not to tempt the fates and end up having a strong gust of wind push me through the chicken wire. Yesterday as my friend Katee Van Horn and I made the journey we walked single file, lock-step behind each other, and didn’t even speak until we got safely to the other side.

And now, just a few short minutes ago, I stepped onto the walkway with a lady who was facing the seemingly benign treachery for the first time. She took one look, said “Oh hell no,” and reversed back into the hotel to find a safer land-based approach to the convention center.

I totally understood.

And then I got to wondering…was this event venue chosen for this one design element alone? Was the master plan to make ALL WorkHuman attendees take numerous uncomfortable, sweat-inducing, heart-palpitating journeys in unfamiliar terrain?

In numerous sessions we’ve been talking about being brave. We’re chatting about having difficult conversations at work with our leaders and team members and co-workers.

I think this march across the spiraling-death-bridge/walkway has been one giant metaphor for the organizational journey to being a more human-centered workplace. And a testing platform for HR leaders to see if they’re up to the challenge.

Well played Globoforce events team.  Well played.

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photo courtesy of Curbed Austin

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March Madness Circa 2018 – #HRCarnival

Brackets? Meh. A few years ago I participated in a March Madness pool with not much interest in basketball and nary a clue about college hoops. It was a travesty of epic proportion and, as I recall, I ended up in last place.

Based upon the enthusiasm of others though, I must be missing something. John Hudson likes this time of year; he wrote about “March Madness in the Workplace” just a few weeks ago. Tim Sackett recently offered up “3 Ways Employers Should Be Encouraging March Madness!”

Bet then, much to the consternation of HR killjoys professionals everywhere, Fortune Magazine let us know that “The Average Worker Will Spend Six Hours Watching March Madness at Work.”

Huh.

So let me offer up a much more productive way to waste spend time at work (while secretly streaming the games) — reading of some HR blogs!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the sweet, elite submissions from the far corners of the HR blogging world for March….

 

Fast Break

Laurie Ruettimann – Online Learning Series: How to Be Better in Human Resources

Mary Faulkner – When tech and HR combine: What I saw at #UltiConnect

Tamara Rasberry – Looking for a Job – The Full-Time Job from Hell

Judith Lindenberger – 5 Workplace Habits of Successful HR Professionals

 

One on One

Sharlyn Lauby – How to Find Budget Dollars for Employee Recognition

Julie Winkle Giulioni – Attenuating Attrition: How Leaders Can Create a Sticky Situation

Prassad Kurian – The OD Quest: Part 6 – In the wonderland of HR Business Partners!

Yvonne LaRose – Because of Their Endurance, We Can

Helo Tamme – Elderly people, your key to happier employees

 

Rebound

Jennifer Juo –  Is Workplace Distraction Hurting Your Bottom Line?

Jesse Lynn Stoner – Manage Polarities . . . or Step off the Seesaw

Cecilia Clark – 2 Questions to Ask to Increase Motivation

Mark Fogel – It’s Nice to Be a Best Place to Work, But Most Recruiters Toil for the Other 90%

Keith Enochs – Context is King

 

Zone Defense

Wally Bock –  Personal Development: Secrets of Getting Better at Almost Anything

Mark Stelzner – 6 Consumer Trends HR Can’t Ignore

Mark Miller – Tell the Story

Sabrina Baker – Dealing with the Reactionary Leader

Anne Tomkinson – When You’re the Disengaged Employee

 

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Want to get in on the monthly Carnival of HR blogging action? Send me an email at carnivalofhr@gmail.com and make sure to like our Facebook page and follow @CarnivalofHR on Twitter. 

 

HR Meme action courtesy of Nexxt 

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