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The HR Specialist Forum

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We're a fairly buttoned-down company. Now that the weather is finally warming up, several employees have been agitating for a less formal summer dress code. I think our biggest obstacle will be some of the senior executives. Can anyone suggest dress code policy language that will reassure them staff won't look like they just wandered in from doing yard work?—James, PA
How do you handle two owners who still do business as if they are stuck in the 1950s? I am the HR director at a not-so-small, not-so-big company that has been a family business for over 100 years. The owners have no respect for HR. They play favorites, are extremely sexist and face EEOC discrimination complaints at least twice a year.

The employee handbook is the current flashpoint. The owners neither follow nor enforce the policies in it, and it needs a complete overhaul. I tell them constantly that if I am to protect them, we need a well-written and enforced handbook. They pay no attention at all. They look at me as if I am the bad guy.

I have been here only eight months. I spend lots of time putting out fires they personally start. I really feel I’m compromising my ethics by staying! What should I do?  In this economy I cannot look for another job. Do I just stick it out until it starts to turn around—and then leave?—RS, Midwest
We have an employee who lies all the time about work he has or has not completed. His boss and co-workers have had enough, and they came to me in HR for a solution. How should I approach this problem? I’m afraid if I confront him on it, he’ll just lie to me.—Denise
One of our employees has called in sick every other Tuesday for the past three months. She gets her work done and has plenty of sick leave, so I’m not worried she’s abusing our leave policy. But I am worried something is going on that HR should know about. Would I be out of line to ask her about her absences?—C.S., California
Our company is struggling to survive. One of our employees has demanded an increase in the bonus that we have traditionally paid in the past. We don’t know we will be able to afford bonuses this year, and we have spoken to him about the situation. Now he insists on bringing in a third person to negotiate on his behalf. He asked to see the company's financials, which the president agreed to show him this week. He says his negotiator—who, it turns out, is his girlfriend—“has coached many executives and companies in our exact situation.” He refuses to understand that the money is not there. He has a two-year contract that will expire in November 2009. How should we handle this situation?—MA
Like everyone else I suppose, we're kind of stressed about our business. We've had to cut hours, and of course, everyone worries that we'll have to lay off some people. Naturally, the rumor mill is operating overtime and there's lots of grumbling. What can we do to get back to the generally positive and cheerful workplace we used to be?—Ann, NorCal
An employee asked for bereavement leave when his cousin died. I turned it down and made him take vacation time instead. I felt bad about doing so, but I believe our policy, which vaguely refers to "family members," means immediate family—spouses, children, brothers, sisters and parents. The employee is pretty ticked off about this. What do your policies say? Should we amend our policy?—Denise in SC
I’m looking to streamline our HR office, and it strikes me that getting rid of old résumés applicants have sent in over the years would help. What guidelines should I follow when deciding which applications and résumés I should keep and which to toss? Specifically, I need to know what to do with applications that didn’t meet the minimum requirements we advertised, arrived too late to be considered or that were unsolicited.—Markie, Oregon
The recession is taking its toll on worker morale. But some organizations seem to weather tough times just fine, with purpose, good humor and great results. Does that sound like your company? If so, please tell us what you do to keep employees motivated and engaged in their work. Do you use formal programs? Special recognition events? Or just good, old-fashioned management?—John, HR Specialist
Several people in my office—line employees and managers alike—have expressed interest in establishing a 360-degree feedback system for evaluating individual job performance. That sounds great, but it also sounds like a lot more work for HR and everyone else. How can I structure such a system to make it easy to administer? Is there software that does this? What kinds of training will we need to conduct?—Virginia, N.H.
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