The HR Specialist Forum
We are considering offering a health insurance buyout to employees who have coverage available elsewhere—through a spouse, for example. We would require proof of other coverage to participate. What are other companies offering as incentives for employees to get their health insurance coverage elsewhere?—Carol, Michigan
I’m the HR director of a small manufacturer, supervising an HR specialist and an administrative assistant. We have recently reduced our workforce from about 300 employees down to 200. Now the CEO is arguing that since our staff has shrunk, we don’t need the HR specialist anymore. I think it’s unreasonable to expect me and my admin to take care of all the HR needs of a 200-person organization. I need ammunition to make my case. How many HR professionals should there be for every 100 employees?—Jackie, MD
There’s a guy in our shop who whistles almost nonstop at an ear-piercing level. His co-workers have asked him to stop, and then they asked me to ask him to stop. When I did, he said he had a right to whistle. Now whenever he sees me coming, he starts to whistle really loudly. This is causing a lot of tension in our shop, and a lot of his co-workers are getting very aggravated. I don’t believe this calls for any kind of formal discipline—that would be like disciplining someone just for being a jerk. Any ideas on what to do to get this guy to cut out his annoying behavior?—DS, Fla.
I was promoted about four months ago. I recently got into a disagreement with one of the owners. It's water under the bridge now, but I have noticed she takes a very aggressive, demeaning and not-so-happy tone with me now. Since the disagreement, I get anxiety attacks when she’s around. I've found myself avoiding her because of this, but contact between us is inevitable. What should I do?—Erika, Florida
Here’s a situation that never occurred to me. One of our employees was on vacation for a week, but was sick for two days. When she got back, she put down three days of vacation and two days of sick leave. I said, “No way! Regardless of what you’re doing while you’re on vacation, it’s still vacation.” The employee can’t understand the problem, and I’m having a hard time articulating it any clearer than that. Has anyone dealt with this scenario? What should I tell her?—BM, Florida
I need help putting a muzzle on one of our workers who is an awful gossip. Recently, one of our best salespeople got help with paperwork duties so she could concentrate on meeting sales goals. An employee overheard two managers discussing the change and immediately ran to co-workers and said the salesperson was being relieved of assignments because she wasn’t making her numbers. That’s not the case at all. Now everyone thinks this good salesperson is being punished. Needless to say, this is embarrassing and has caused a lot of tension. I need to set the record straight—and I would really like to discipline the gossiping employee, who has done this kind of thing before. What should I do?—Stacy, NY
Sure, we’re all going to quit our bad habits, eat less, exercise more and become all-around better people this year. But what are we going to do professionally that will make our organizations more successful and our careers more satisfying? What are your HR resolutions for 2010?—John Wilcox, HR Specialist
We’re trying to get a handle on our staffing for next year. I thought it would be a good idea to ask employees to note their planned vacation days on a calendar in our common work area. Is there a better way to do this? Is there any downside to posting this information?—Kathryn, Colorado
We’re updating our employee handbook and we would like to include a policy limiting employees’ use of the phones for personal business. We want to allow occasional calls—for kid-related emergencies and so forth—but I don’t know how to word that in a policy. Can anyone share a phone use policy that might work?—Tara, N.Y.
We're 90% sure we're going to make the last-minute decision to shut down the office between Christmas and New Year's. (I know, great timing!) This would be paid time off to thank employees for their hard work this tough year. It occurs to me that there are several issues we'll have to address right away. I'm thinking mainly of hard feelings on the part of the skeleton crew that won't get that time off: accounting staff and inventory people who must work that week because it's the end of the month and year. Does anyone have experience with this kind of closing? What should I watch out for?— Deb, Westminster
I just took over the HR job. On paycheck Fridays, my predecessor used to hand paychecks directly to employees. If employees weren't at their desks, she needed to keep going back. Can I just put paychecks on employees' desks, or in their inboxes or desk drawers? This would save time. (The checks are in sealed envelopes.)—Diane, Ore.
In my view, the term "other duties as assigned" means duties not in the position description, but within the usual framework of the position, such as type of job, one's regular department and so forth. My boss insists that the term defines all duties, either within the individual's department or outside, basically anything anywhere in the company. Who is correct?—Randi, California
We're considering starting a "leave donation" program in which employees could contribute accrued sick, vacation and personal leave to co-workers whose ongoing health problems drain their own leave banks. It sounds like a great idea, but I want to make sure we do it right. For those of you who have such programs, what issues should I consider as I draft the policy? Have you experienced any unintended consequences?—Bill, Colorado
We're looking to create an incentive plan for all rank-and-file employees who bring in leads that help us land new business. (That's already part of our sales force's job, so they would be excluded.) What kind of incentives work best? I'm assuming cash is popular—so how much? How should we track our incentive program?—Bill M., Las Vegas
As our company’s only HR staff person, I’m in an awkward situation. My immediate supervisor reprimanded me for the way I handled a recent change in our working hours. Employees were confused, so I sent e-mails to various managers seeking the correct information. That exposed some serious disagreements between the managers and executives about the new hours. My boss said I should not have been so public about it, and then wrote me up for this alleged “infraction.” I think I handled it correctly and want the reprimand removed from my file. What should I do? I’m afraid the company president will take my supervisor’s side.—No name, no location (because I need this job)
I have two part-time security guards working at the same location. One of them works four nights a week; the other works three nights a week. We need security coverage at this site seven nights a week, 365 nights a year. How do I handle giving them the "holiday" time off they're entitled to if someone has to be there all the time?—Lisa D.
Two of our employees—a married couple—for years have requested extra unpaid time off for vacations. The husband works for me, the wife works for the company owner. We recently notified all employees that we would no longer grant any additional time off. I’ve made it clear to the husband that he won’t get any additional time off. The owner, on the other hand, sees no problem with giving both of them unpaid leave this year, even while other employees have to live with the new rule. How should I handle this?—J.L., Wisc.
What can I do about an employee who doesn’t sit upright in his chair in an ergonomically correct position? I don’t mean ordinary slouching; this guy practically lies down in his chair! When I catch him doing it, he straightens up, but then he goes right back to his original position. I have offered to provide any type of equipment that might help, but he doesn’t want anything. His main responsibilities involve talking on the phone and entering data. As the person in charge of workplace safety, I’m trying to prevent any injury claims. Can he be reprimanded or forced to comply? Any suggestions?—Tammy, CA
What would be the nicest and easiest way of telling an employee that we do not want to hire her daughter. We have used her daughter for several temp jobs in the past. She was OK, but we never would have hired her for a full-time job. This employee acts like it's our responsibility to keep her daughter employed every time a position becomes available in our admin department.—Tina, Tennessee