The New Rules Don’t Seem Right?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about deductions and time clocking for exempt employees:

I’ve worked for a company here in Austin, TX for about 1 1/2yrs now and have found there are things that happen in the company that just don’t seem right. I stay because I do need the job and I have bills to pay. I am uncomfortable with the recent rules that have been put on us all though and am really beginning to question things since this past Friday.

We received a company wide email stating that ALL employees are to use the time clock starting Monday. Is it illegal to have salary-based workers clock in and out on a time clock? Why would an employer after 20years have all employees clock in and out on a time clock–salary based employees included? Also, after a recent base salary law was passed in Texas, we are now being deducted -$500 from our commission checks and they have kept our base pay at $18k. Is it legal for them to deduct $500 from our commission checks monthly?

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Boss Put-Downs Make Me Drop It!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about superior twists criticism of her/his treatment to demean the worker who brought it:

What to do when this situation occurs: A worker brings up an issue to Supervisors about the way she/he is treated, spoken to, etc, and the Supervisors handles this by bringing up negative things about the worker, twisting things around to make the worker look bad and brings down her/his self esteem to the point where the worker would rather drop the issue than pursue it. What is this called and how does one deal with it?

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Survived Reorganization But Quit In Disgust!

Question:

I left a large consumer goods company in late 2004 following a re-organization. I expressed my disagreement with several aspects of the reorganization that included relocation of all shared services to a southwest location. The accounts payable procedure was so inept that vendors and 3rd party manufactures were not being paid and no one was addressing this issue. My job was to deal with these companies. In my personal case, I tried unsuccessfully to define my reorganized job responsibilities with my new VP and a co-worker with the same job title as mine. These employees were both from another business unit that was consolidated with my BU.

I survived the reorganization, but the reorganized company was so onerous to work for that I forced my ex company to pay me severance. I’ve been looking for work for over a year. I’ve been very close- down to one or two other candidates and me, but no job offers. “Something” always falls through. I’m now considering that I may be “blackballed.”

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How Do I Stop This Guy Putting His Hands On Me?

Question:

I am a subordinate that is overqualified for the position that I currently hold.

As a white, female employee, I just try to avoid a black male who continually tries to put his %owssssssssssss hands on me! I am NOT interested in this; ah, male!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Signed,

Not Interested

Answer:

Dear Not Interested:

I am responding within hours to your brief query because it implies a pattern of sexual imposition and behavior that you have not insisted must stop. You say you are working in a job that doesn’t use nearly all of your skills, probably because like most people you need the pay; however much you need the job, you do not want the attention of a male employee. I cannot tell from what you wrote if this male who can’t keep his hands to himself is a coworker. Since you say you are a “subordinate”, I wonder if he might be your superior. You say the way you cope is to avoid him.

Apparently, the culture of this place you work allows males to hit on females and has not made it clear that is not permitted. Some work cultures, even though sexual harassment is not a new thing and is against the law, have superiors trading perks for sexual favors, co-workers gossiping about sex, and many employees commonly using f_ _ _king language. Why is this still possible? Because those who know it is wrong, do not speak up. They go along with it probably fearing if they object they will be considered trouble makers or prudes.

How can you make it clear that you do not want to be talked to or about, touched, or propositioned in a sexual way? And how can you make sure that rejecting this man’s unwanted attention and behavior will not cause retaliation–such as overloading you with work, assigning you the dirty jobs or spreading false rumors? There are steps you can take:

1. Look up sexual harassment in your company’s policy book? Surely, it states that is out of bounds and tells employees where to report it. Fortunately, the law is on your side. Employers are responsible for preventing and correcting sexual advances, demeaning treatment, discrimination or hostile environment based sex.

2. Put in writing a brief description of every act that is sexual in nature–words said to you about your looks, names such as honey, talk about sex, and where on your body you were touched (hair, arms, face, butt, breast, back, etc.)–when (time, dates and place) they occurred, who was the aggressor, where they occurred, and if anyone else witnessed them. Also be explicitly about how you reacted–the words or actions you used to say stop if you did. Also record if you told anyone else that this male touched you.

Logging what happened can serve as a time for reflection–one in which you think through your own behavior on the job. Are you all business? Are you friendly or playful? Since you see yourself as overqualified, do you convey an attitude other than serious about what is your job–one that could be interpreted as flirting? I do not mean to imply you caused this male to put his hands on you, because what ever you did, that is off limits. Because others, where you work, may perceive your behavior as seductive, you should be prepared for such opinions. I also mention this because you appear to stress that you are white and that the male who “can’t keep his hands off you” is black. That fact can be seen as prejudice on your part and touching you in sexual way on the job by someone, whatever his/her color, is harassment. My advice is not to cloud the issue by mentioning color.

3. You as an employee are responsible for stating that you do not accept such behavior. If you have not done so before, you can be kind and polite, but you are responsible for saying, “Don’t.” In your own words, you must firmly and seriously tell this male who has touched you, “Don’t do that! I am employed here to do my job and you are employed to do yours. Never, never, touch me or say anything about my appearance or to me that is not about doing my job. I am not playing hard to get. Keep away from me. Don’t ever come close enough that you could touch me. You should know better than to come on to a female employed here. That is against the law and anyone who behaves as you have toward me can be fired.” You do not have to make a speech with all these words, but you must do your part to say, “Back off!”

4. If you have done so before and this male has continued to come on to you, you need to inform your superiors, whomever is above this male and you and Human Resources, of what has happened and that you will not tolerate this. Management is responsible for investigating your complaints so be prepared to provide a copy of the log you have made of inappropriate behavior. Here is where you should highlight what the policy book states about harassment. Request to be informed of action taken. Possibly, you can be assigned to a work area away from this male.

5. If management does not protect you from any more harassment, you can seek legal help.

6. This is a time in your life to focus on your career, not to become obsessed with sexual harassment. It is a time for learning what is necessary to find work where you now are employed or elsewhere that uses your talents. Until you find that place in which you feel needed doing work that is meaningful, would it not be smart seek activities outside of work that are enriching for you and others?

I am copying my remarks to Tina Lewis Rowe, my Workplace Doctors associate, who has had extensive experience in law enforcement (as you can see from her bio on our site). This week she has been busy with other questions, so I have taken on this question that she could answer more effectively. However, if I know her, she will add to my advice with other suggestions. Please do not hesitate to keep us posted on what you do. I am responding within hours to your brief query because it implies a pattern of sexual imposition and behavior that you have not insisted must stop. You say you are working in a job that doesn’t use nearly all of your skills, probably because like most people you need the pay; however much you need the job, you do not want the attention of a male employee. I cannot tell from what you wrote if this male who can’t keep his hands to himself is a coworker. Since you say you are a “subordinate”, I wonder if he might be your superior. You say the way you cope is to avoid him.

Apparently, the culture of this place you work allows males to hit on females and has not made it clear that is not permitted. Some work cultures, even though sexual harassment is not a new thing and is against the law, have superiors trading perks for sexual favors, co-workers gossiping about sex, and many employees commonly using f_ _ _king language. Why is this still possible? Because those who know it is wrong, do not speak up. They go along with it probably fearing if they object they will be considered trouble makers or prudes.

How can you make it clear that you do not want to be talked to or about, touched, or propositioned in a sexual way? And how can you make sure that rejecting this man’s unwanted attention and behavior will not cause retaliation–such as overloading you with work, assigning you the dirty jobs or spreading false rumors? There are steps you can take:

1. Look up sexual harassment in your company’s policy book? Surely, it states that is out of bounds and tells employees where to report it. Fortunately, the law is on your side. Employers are responsible for preventing and correcting sexual advances, demeaning treatment, discrimination or hostile environment based sex.

2. Put in writing a brief description of every act that is sexual in nature–words said to you about your looks, names such as honey, talk about sex, and where on your body you were touched (hair, arms, face, butt, breast, back, etc.)–when (time, dates and place) they occurred, who was the aggressor, where they occurred, and if anyone else witnessed them. Also be explicitly about how you reacted–the words or actions you used to say stop if you did. Also record if you told anyone else that this male touched you.

Logging what happened can serve as a time for reflection–one in which you think through your own behavior on the job. Are you all business? Are you friendly or playful? Since you see yourself as overqualified, do you convey an attitude other than serious about what is your job–one that could be interpreted as flirting? I do not mean to imply you caused this male to put his hands on you, because what ever you did, that is off limits. Because others, where you work, may perceive your behavior as seductive, you should be prepared for such opinions. I also mention this because you appear to stress that you are white and that the male who “can’t keep his hands off you” is black. That fact can be seen as prejudice on your part and touching you in sexual way on the job by someone, whatever his/her color, is harassment. My advice is not to cloud the issue by mentioning color.

3. You as an employee are responsible for stating that you do not accept such behavior. If you have not done so before, you can be kind and polite, but you are responsible for saying, “Don’t.” In your own words, you must firmly and seriously tell this male who has touched you, “Don’t do that! I am employed here to do my job and you are employed to do yours. Never, never, touch me or say anything about my appearance or to me that is not about doing my job. I am not playing hard to get. Keep away from me. Don’t ever come close enough that you could touch me. You should know better than to come on to a female employed here. That is against the law and anyone who behaves as you have toward me can be fired.” You do not have to make a speech with all these words, but you must do your part to say, “Back off!”

4. If you have done so before and this male has continued to come on to you, you need to inform your superiors, whomever is above this male and you and Human Resources, of what has happened and that you will not tolerate this. Management is responsible for investigating your complaints so be prepared to provide a copy of the log you have made of inappropriate behavior. Here is where you should highlight what the policy book states about harassment. Request to be informed of action taken. Possibly, you can be assigned to a work area away from this male.

5. If management does not protect you from any more harassment, you can seek legal help.

6. This is a time in your life to focus on your career, not to become obsessed with sexual harassment. It is a time for learning what is necessary to find work where you now are employed or elsewhere that uses your talents. Until you find that place in which you feel needed doing work that is meaningful, would it not be smart seek activities outside of work that are enriching for you and others?

I am copying my remarks to Tina Lewis Rowe, my Workplace Doctors associate, who has had extensive experience in law enforcement (as you can see from her bio on our site). This week she has been busy with other questions, so I have taken on this question that she could answer more effectively. However, if I know her, she will add to my advice with other suggestions. Please do not hesitate to keep us posted on what you do. Work is hard enough without distractions. So find or help create a workplace that employs your talents–one that is a good place to work for and in–one I think of as WEGO-minded.

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Bossy Co-worker!

Question:

I’ve been working for my current employer for seventeen months. For the first ten months I’ve been working part-time. Seven months ago, I received a promotion for a full-time job.

When my boss promoted me, she said she needed me to do a variety of tasks, a jack-of-all-trades if you will. I was thrilled to be moving up in the ranks and thought diversity was a good thing. As the months progressed I found myself getting more and more frustrated. My coworkers have specific duties but I do not. It is very annoying to work with no real sense of purpose. Having no specific job description leaves you open to being everyone’s assistant. There is one specific task I do (which from what I understand no one else wants to be involved with) but it does not take up all of my time.

About six weeks ago, I expressed to my boss my need to have my job reexamined. She expressed her appreciation for my hard work. I expressed my appreciation for working at the company and said I would prefer to continue working on my one specific task and that I want other specific responsibilities assigned to me going forward. My boss agreed and that was it.

This week, my coworker pretty much demanded I work with her on a project. As my boss and I were in agreement on what I was doing, I told my coworker to run it by the boss. My coworker asked my boss (while I was nearby) if I could help her with the project. Of course when my boss said I should help my coworker, I agreed.

My coworker has a bossy nature and that became apparent when we were working together. I confronted her and said I did not appreciate her treating me like a subordinate. She got very defense and basically said I had to help her and that I’ve been isolating myself from her. When I’ve worked with her in the past, I’ve sat in on meetings with her and my boss. This time around, I told my coworker that we should have a meeting with the boss, so I know what’s going on and what I need to do, but my coworker said that was not necessary. So I felt like I was being dumped on and being kept out of the loop. I told her I was working on other projects and she did not seem to care. All she wanted to hear was I would help her. To diffuse the situation, I called a truce and agreed to help her. That evening, I came home from work and felt miserable. My husband advised me to talk to my boss. Today, I went to work and helped out my coworker some more. When we finished one of the projects, I told my coworker I needed about two hours alone to catch up on my own work. She gave me a dirty look and did not seem understanding. At first, I thought I would wait before talking to my boss but based on my coworker’s attitude, I thought the talk could not wait.

Today, I spoke to my boss in confidence and explained the situation. As usual, my boss was supportive and said she thought our last talk reinforced things. Now that my coworker is in the mix, I told my boss it was making things frustrating for me. Fortunately, my boss said she did not want me to be my coworker’s assistant and said if we work together, we should by all means be on level playing fields. When my boss and I finished talking, she asked me to take care of something for her, which I agreed to. So I started working on the project my boss asked me to do. My coworker walked over to me and asked me what I was doing. I told her I was doing something for the boss. Then, my coworker questioned me, as to why I was doing something for the boss and wanted to know what it was. It really was none of my coworker’s business so I just told her the boss assigned me the task. The bossy coworker of mine turned into the nosey coworker and began asking me to justify my actions, saying she needed to know what was going on. Things got very awkward between us. My coworker started acting like a jerk and the entire office (albeit a very small one) heard her.

In the end, I was glad I had the talk with my boss. She definitely heard what my coworker said to me and probably understood why I came to her in the first place. The management style at my workplace is laxed and needs a major overhaul, but that won’t change, as it’s a family run business. Am I to blame for this dilemma or is this just the wrong job for me?

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Co-workers Are Trying To Get Rid Of Me!

Question:

I am doing accounting job. There are three other girls in the accounting office except me. I work so hard. And I do anything I can. I always say” no problem” and always finish anything earlier than others. So my manager gave me “excellence award” in last December. Other girls are jealous of me. And they thought I have been treated better. So many times they tried to get rid of me. Half year ago, one of them told my manager that I complained about my salary. But I never did. Last month two girls told my boss that I read her personal Email when she went to lunch. I didn’t even know what Email she was talking about. Today that girl told my boss that others have deleted one of her spreadsheet and only accounting staff can access that file. I tried to get away from trouble. But they can’t leave me alone. They told everyone in the company I was so rude to them. But only thing I did is doing my work and talk nothing to them. I really want to sue them to ruin my reputation. Can I do that? Who can help me? Thanks!

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Do They Have To Tell Me When They Warn Me?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about rules of discipline:

I work in a chemical plant. I was recently leaving my workstation to go home for the day. I violated a plant policy by not having my safety glasses on in a warehouse area I was passing through as I was leaving. My immediate supervisor and her boss saw me, stopped me, and said, “You must wear your safety glasses”. I disputed their claim, since I was leaving for the day, but later found out that they were correct; I am required to wear them whether I am leaving for the day, coming in, or in the middle of my shift.

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My Work Area Is Too Cold!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about temperature:

I’ve been at a new office job for approximately 9 months. I work in a government office next to the room that houses our company’s computer server. The air conditioner feeds both my office and the server room so they want to keep it at 62-68 degrees everyday. That’s just too cold for me! I have a space heater at my feet, but my upper body and hands are freezing, and my feet & legs are burning up.There is room across the hall, in another office, to move the three people in our office but the head boss doesn’t think the cold is that big a deal. This environment is becoming unbearable – what can I do? The extreme cold is also affecting my osteoarthritis. I hurt!

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Owner/Manager Made A Terrible Hire–His Girlfrined

Question:

I work at a small company with ten employees. The owner/manager of the company hired his girlfriend about two years ago. She is very nice, but a terrible employee. She is paid a salary while the rest of us are paid on commission. The owner has a few rules that are very important to him, but they do not seem to apply to her. The morale of the company is at an all time low because of the situation. I have spoken with him in the past about the problem, but he seems to be afraid to do anything about it. As a result, he is on the verge of losing several good employees. Please help!

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How Do You Stop Gossip?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about the problem of gossip:

I have had a bad weekend thinking about the gossip problem in the place I am working for as a HR Manager. The Director and several high executive level “enjoy” the gossip chain. All of them have an “employee” who is the person who brings the rumors to them. Some of these rumors are bringing more Labor Relations cases to my desk. I have to include my HR assistant in this group who is one of those employees who has the privilege to sit down with one of the Director with all the rumors from different departments. I would like to use an example, or a good article and handout it to all of them. I create a HR Weekly Newsletter only for Directors, Managers and Supervisors in order to update them with the new HR laws and issues. I do not have the information about the Gossip, but I believe in this place exists a Gossip Chain. What I can do to stop it? Thank you very much for your advise in this matter.

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