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Forbidden love. Horrible bosses. Liars. Gossips. Toxic
personalities. Miserable employees.
Those were among 2014’s best-read SHRM Online employee relations stories. Here’s a look at some of
the articles that most piqued readers’ interest:
the Bad Guy’s the Boss
It can be untenable for any HR manager: The company’s
owner says or does something for which you’d fire most employees, but not only
do you lack the authority to show the owner the door, you’re not even sure how
to approach him or her about the behavior.
Lawsuits and government sanctions going back eight years indicate that Los
Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling engaged in housing and racial
discrimination. Yet not until his racist remarks were caught on tape and
splashed across TV screens worldwide did the National Basketball Association
(NBA) on April 28, 2014, take decisive action—imposing on Sterling a lifetime
ban from the NBA and a $2.5 million fine, and pledging to force Sterling to
sell his team.
What will ultimately ensue, most experts agree, will likely be a tangle of
lawsuits and counter lawsuits that will cost Sterling, the Clippers
organization and the NBA dearly in attorney fees and time, and perhaps worst of
all, result in a badly blemished reputation.
Love: Workplace-Romance Policies Now Stricter
The number of romances blooming at work may not have
increased much in the past eight years, but company policies addressing them
sure have, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management
(SHRM). Moreover, those policies are a lot stricter today than they were in
2005, the last time SHRM conducted its Workplace Romance survey of HR professionals.
“People tend to look at workplace romance as a kind of
fluffy topic, but for organizations, they’re taking them more seriously,” said
Evren Esen, manager of SHRM’s Survey Research Center. “There only has to be one
situation of a workplace romance gone bad to convince an HR department to adopt
Gossip: What Crosses the Line?
Is it gossip to spread the news that Ted and Rachel are
getting married before Ted and Rachel have announced so publicly?
Is it gossip to speculate whether Carol in accounting is
expecting her second child?
A December 2013 National Labor Relations Board ruling
addressing workplace no-gossip policies raises this question: When does gossip
cross the line from innocuous, garden-variety conversation to something that is
potentially hurtful, harmful or liable enough that companies are within their
rights to forbid it?
Shifty eyes? Crossed arms? Gaps in the resume?
To some, these cues might signal that an employee or job applicant isn’t being
entirely forthcoming. But detecting deception requires more than familiarity
with body language or red flags on applications, HR experts say.
“There’s no behavior unique to lying. You can only draw inferences, and you
have to look at all factors involved,” said Joseph P. Buckley, president of
John E. Reid and Associates, which trains people how to conduct investigative
Many Miserable Workers: Where Is HR Going Wrong?
From an HR standpoint, the numbers are practically
apocalyptic: More than 2 in 3 U.S. workers are unhappy in their jobs, according
to an October 2013 Gallup poll. That’s about 173 million people who drag
themselves out of bed each morning with little to zero enthusiasm for the work
that puts food on their tables.
It doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement for the
employee engagement efforts that most HR departments insist are a top priority.
But what if, as happiness guru
Eric Karpinski suggests, it’s simply human nature to focus on the
negative—and it’s up to HR managers to help employees “rewire” their brains so
they dwell on the positive?
New Dress Code Angers Employees, Customers
Starbucks’ decision to forbid employees from wearing
engagement rings or other rings with stones—while relaxing its policy on
tattoos—was not only a blow to worker morale, but may cost the company
business, based on the backlash inspired by the coffee giant’s declaration.
After Starbucks announced its new dress code in October
2014, customers, employees and employees’ spouses took to posting angry
comments on social media and reacting to online news stories.
Responding to a news story on Syracuse.com, a poster calling himself “Justin”
wrote: “So now my wife can’t wear her wedding ring during her shift? So who’s
[sic] name do I put on the lawsuit when she’s harassed?”
Credit Thieves and Drama Queens
You won’t find it on a resume, but it’s one of the most
important factors a worker brings to the job: personality.
Some personality types are so toxic they can poison
everyone around them.
“We’re really good at dealing with skills stuff,” in
hiring and performance reviews, said Mark Murphy, founder of Washington, D.C.-based
Leadership IQ, a leadership training and research firm. “Eighty-nine percent of
hiring failures come from attitude rather than skills issues.”
and Spaghetti Straps: Can Summer ‘Casual’ Cross the Line?
You may not have to take it as far as one judge did when
he banned sleeveless shirts in his courtroom, but it’s a good idea to revisit
your summer dress code before you’re forced to address hot-weather attire that
may be unsuitable at work.
During summer, many companies allow workers to dress more
casually, which means women’s hemlines can creep up, men may show up in shorts
and both may shed fancier footwear for flip-flops.
“The line that an employer draws should involve a
balancing of several factors, such as risk management, culture of the workplace,
and any image the employer wants to convey to clients, customers and other
outsiders,” said David B. Monks, a partner with San Diego-based Fisher &
Phillips LLP. “Sandals, capris and sleeveless shirts may be no big deal to some
employers but simply not appropriate in the minds of other employers.”
Reviews Without Pain
The new year can present an uncomfortable task for HR
managers, who may find themselves having to give the following message to
underperforming employees: “Happy holidays; you’re doing a terrible job.”
While no credible HR manager would be so blunt with a worker, near the end of
the year, when many companies typically do performance reviews, managers must
know how to present both good and bad news. Experts offer the following advice:
Provide enough warning during the year so a critical review doesn’t come
as a shock to an employee. “A negative review should never come as a surprise,”
said Mike Maughan, project market manager at Qualtrics 360, which sells data
programs to help companies track and assess worker performance. “If it does
come completely out of the blue, the manager is probably doing a poor job of
handling his or her people.”
Protect Convicted Applicants, Social Media Accounts and Marijuana Users
New protections for job applicants convicted of crimes,
for employees who use medical marijuana and for workers’ private social media
accounts are among the new state laws that took effect in 2014.
In 2013, five state legislatures passed laws legalizing same-sex marriage:
Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota and Rhode Island. Nine states enacted
social media privacy laws, while 14 raised their minimum wage.
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