10 habits of highly effective HR professionals (April Fool's edition)

DEAR READERS: Before you accuse me of legal malpractice, take a look at tomorrow's date.  

Habit 1: Discriminate, retaliate, harass -- have a ball! There's a new sheriff in town, with a more employer-friendly, compliance-assistance-oriented U.S. Department of Labor (we think) and the nullification of burdensome regulations like the gone-and-not-lamented Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Rule. That means you can go wild. What are your employees going to do about it? Well, it's true that they might be able to sue you under state law, and they might beApril Fool's Day.flickrCC.OneWayStock able to sue you under the federal laws that we've had in place since forever, and even an employer-friendly agency may not look kindly upon you if you're deliberately flouting the law, but apart from that -- what?

Habit 2: "Opaque" is not just for black tights. It's good to keep your employees in the dark about things like their how their pay is determined, your company's business, your criteria for evaluating performance or for bidding on vacant jobs, and other important company information. If they know what's going on, they'll just complain and use it against you. On the other hand, what they don't know may hurt them, but at least they won't know why they're hurting.

Habit 3: Play favorites. By all means favor employees based on their race, ethnic group, religion, or age. But don't stop there. Choose your "pets" based on anything -- who they're related to, who is the best looking, and who sucks up to you the most effectively -- and give them all the breaks.

Habit 4: You're in a right to work state*, so fire at will! The law says you can fire an employee for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all. Don't listen to these prissy employment law bloggers Dan Schwartz and Jon Hyman (or me, for that matter). If somebody looks at you wrong, boom. They're gone.

*NOTE FROM "SERIOUS ROBIN": I have to step out of my "April Fool's" persona for a minute. "Right to work" and "employment at will" are not the same thing. "Right to work" laws prohibit requiring union membership or payment of union dues or fees as a condition of employment. "Employment at will" is the concept that an employer can terminate an employee for any reason that is not unlawful. But take a look at Dan's, Jon's, and my links to see why "employment at will" doesn't give employers nearly as much freedom to fire as you might think.

Habit 5: Downsize safety. Personal protective equipment, safety rules -- heck, do you know how much a Safety Manager costs, after you take salary and benefits into account? Even ear plugs and safety goggles -- the cost doesn't sound too bad on a per-item basis, but when you multiply it by the number of employees you have, it really adds up. Then you have those oppressive rules about lock-out/tag-out that require employees to actually wait until a machine is turned off and the power disconnected before they can reach inside to tighten a screw or pull out a piece of debris. All of that "waiting" is time, and time is money. De-emphasize safety, and you'll save a bundle.

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Habit 6: Be arbitrary and capricious. Follow your whims! Let your gut be your guide! Hire the first person who walks in the door because he told a good joke in his interview. When you're making compensation decisions or doing performance evaluations, go with the mood you are in at that particular instant. The employees you assess when the sun is shining, your spouse surprised you that morning with bacon and eggs for breakfast, and your daughter was named valedictorian of her class, will love you. Too bad for the ones you assess on the day you had a fender-bender on the way to work (it was your fault), and your other daughter was arrested for smoking pot in the parking lot at Walmart. As President John F. Kennedy said, "Life is unfair."

Habit 7: Replace troublemakers with people who appreciate you. Do you have an employee who complains that his pay is too low? Or that the company doesn't treat people equitably? Maybe the employee is pro-union, or has filed an EEOC charge. Who needs this aggravation? Replace 'em all with people who would jump at the chance to work below minimum wage, if they had to, for a great company like yours.

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Habit 8: Life is too short for wage and hour. Henry David Thoreau said it best: "Our life is frittered away by detail . . . simplify, simplify." Don’t fritter away your life with details about “exempt” and “non-exempt” classifications, or nitpicky timekeeping requirements for employees who answer emails, take work-related calls, or perform other work outside their regular work hours. Life is so much easier if you "simply" assume everybody gets paid for 40 hours a week . . . unless, of course, they take some time off, in which case, you can dock them.

Habit 9: Be well, or be gone. Enough with these employees who were hurt on the job, or need "reasonable accommodation" for disabilities or pregnancy, or need time off to go to the doctor. People who aren't "100 percent" should stay home and collect disability benefits. From the government, natch, and not from your company because that would make your premiums too high.

Habit 10: Pay no attention to the date on tomorrow’s calendar! Whatever you do, do NOT notice that tomorrow is April Fool's Day!

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Image Credits: From flickr, Creative Commons license. April Fool's Day note by One Way Stock; fool musician by Hans Splinter; Mr. T by Spacedust Design; "Have a great weekend" fool by torbakhopper.

Robin Shea has more than 20 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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