The Beatings will continue until Morale Improves! (Part Two)

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves (Part Two)

In part two of my article series we tackle the following:

–50+ hour workweeks.

–Mandatory overtime.

–24/7 on-call employees via cell phone access.

–Irrational investor and stockholder indebtedness.

–Ludicrous employee engagement initiatives that treat staff like children instead of motivating towards increased performance and the understanding of how their work benefits the client.

Corporate America, you have given yourself a “gimme” on the crass decision to no longer view employees as humans – you have taken the human out of Human Resources.  Human Resources, was in its very essence, created to be a resource to the human not the other way around.  Resource, capital, investment, or whatever you call your employees, lets you feel better about treating them poorly and supposedly absolves you of the responsibility of being a good citizen.

If they aren’t “humans” you can:

–Work staff well over 40 hours week or give them the work of two and three people (or both) and say, we are doing all we can as a company and we need you to give more, and you have to do more with less.   You can also declare Mandatory Overtime.

There have been numerous studies stating working anyone over 50 hours a week makes employees ineffective and is unhealthy – see CNBC’s Long Hours Make You Less Productive  Inc’s Why Working More Than 40 Hours a Week is Useless and Forbes Working More Than 8 Hours a Day Can Kill You and yet, you still make employees feel guilty if they don’t give more.  Quite frankly, unless there is an emergency, why are your employees working more than 40 hours a week.  And if you don’t find this a problem then why did the federal government recently raise the base salary requirements for those receiving overtime?  I certainly understand there will be occasions when big projects are due, you have a new client onboarding and it requires extra time, or a seasonal issue like tax season means a few more hours, but truly you have lost sight of YOUR responsibility as an employer.
The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves (Part Two)The mandatory overtime you frequently require is an abuse of your workforce.  Just because you are too cheap to hire a few more people to help doesn’t excuse your taking employees away from their families and other obligations or overworking them.  If your company is habitually requiring mandatory overtime, then the problem is your management as an executive team!

I hear from my clients nearly daily that they are told “we need you to give more,” “do more with less,” and the “company has given as much as they can.”  Have you really given all you can, or are you as a corporate officer loving that bonus and/or those company stocks you get a little too much.  Remember, to whom much is given, must is expected – and yet, I don’t see most corporate officers giving.  Clients, articles and blogs in mass, complain of the following:

–Executives sitting in their offices all day long, only coming out for an occasional meeting, to eat food lower paid staff have brought (of course the executive didn’t bring anything and never does), to berate the staff, or to chat up their favorites for a few minutes ignoring everyone else and going back in their office.

–Hinting that if the employee(s) don’t start voluntarily working additional hours, they will be forced to – and isn’t voluntary better?

–Boards of Directors having lavish parties or meetings, but won’t buy Jimmy John’s or even McDonald’s for their employees staying until 8:00 PM or 9:00 PM every night.

–Rarely if ever give positive feedback but are the first to complain to their employees.

–Take credit for their employees work.

–Will throw their employees under the bus for any problem that arises so they don’t take the hit.

–Telling employees they can use luxury boxes at local sports stadiums, or a special room at a local restaurant or bar, or tickets for events, UNLESS an executive or board member decides at the last minute they want to go.  Oh, and the employees can’t bring spouses or significant others, but the executives and board members can.

–Awarding raises that are lower than the annual cost of living increase while telling the employees they should feel good about that “great raise.”  Of course the stockholders receive lovely returns.

Oh, and this information doesn’t just come from mid-level management or traditional hourly employees.  I also work with C-level executives, many of them from Fortune 500, Fortune 100 and a couple of Fortune 10 over the years!  They regale me with tales of Boards of Directors and fellow execs relishing layoffs, calling employees whiners because they are being ask to do the jobs of two to three (or more) people, not giving raises for years or such a pittance of a raise because the employees need to “sacrifice” for the company and meanwhile the corporate stock is hitting a new high.  These very smart, very talented clients/executives are leaving your corporate arena and going into smaller organizations that aren’t publicly traded, are in the non-profit arena, or starting their own companies because of what they are seeing.  You know this is happening and you do nothing but collect your check, and revel in the potential of how much your bonus and stock might be worth if you get rid of more employees or let positions sit unfilled!  Operate lean you say.  While I agree that organizations should be lean (we certainly don’t need employees just sitting around) many organizations are operating at skeletal levels.

Companies often demand 24/7 availability from employees via their phones, and get upset if employees don’t answer calls or texts right away.  I have had clients with bosses who commanded them to take their phones and be constantly available on bathroom breaks, on vacation, while their spouse was having a baby at the hospital, during family emergencies, and even funerals.

First, your employees don’t need to be available 24/7 – you are getting paid the big bucks.  You do!  Secondly, hire enough staff to do the job, including a couple of people who are there overnight to attend to problems while also performing other tasks.  There, problem solved.

Recently I see a perceived need to move staff around like cattle throughout office space to justify corporate officer’s positions in the company, and that includes constantly changing people’s job responsibilities.  When did moving employees, which by the way is a huge expense per employee each time it is done (relocate desk, computer and peripherals, office cubes, file cabinets, hook computer and peripherals back up, make sure their working, etc.), become a corporate game?  It’s like you have some sort of weird chess board and sit all day plotting where you will move people next.

Employee Chess Board

How about those organizations or senior management promising a promotion or day time hours or a new assignment/position within a given amount of time, if you will just “do this” for us, and then never delivering?  They make their employees take on extra work, an assignment they don’t want or a promotion without the pay, promising they will “make it up” to the employee, but never do.

Can employees complain to HR about any of the above?  Maybe, maybe not?  I have a list of no less than 10 large companies who have gone to a new Human Resources structure where employees have no dedicated HR advocate.  Managers and staff above them have HR advocates, but the employees have to call a supposed “anonymous” 1-800 number to complain and someone will hopefully get back with them.  Who is listening to these calls?  Where is the Human Resources advocacy for the employee?  I have news for these companies – your employees are too afraid to call the 1-800 number for fear of retribution, because you provided management HR protection, but left the employee without any assurances of privacy or real help.  I had a client who called one of these 1-800 HR numbers recently and she has never gotten a call back (she called over a month ago).  She is too fearful to call again to report a boss who is constantly taking credit for her work and hinting she needs to work extra time voluntarily because of a substandard performance, even though he has never met with her to discuss any performance issues and her performance appraisals are stellar.  What is she supposed to do?  Where is her advocate?

Next, we visit the issue of why employee engagement initiatives aren’t working?   Well, it isn’t just the shameful way you treat your staff, it’s the goofy engagement programs you do implement.  From having your employees play silly games to giving everyone two ounces of ice cream in a little cup and telling them “Happy Employee Day” we “celebrate and value” you, the examples are plentiful.  One of my executive clients created an entire set of engagement initiatives for their company that would truly involve the employees, help them see the value of their job to the customer, upgrade everyone’s office area (at a very low expense to the company), and provide additional development opportunities to the employees over time.  The company did go forward with implementation and became one of the top companies to work for in several annual polls.  They have since quit doing these engagement initiatives, and the response from executives as to why, was… but that will cost money and lower our bonuses!  These same executives also don’t understand why they are no longer highly ranked in those top company polls.  Now, why aren’t those engagement initiatives working again?

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves (Part Two)

Lastly, I want to bring up excessive public company groveling to investors.  I am not saying that a company shouldn’t take care of its P&L, but the constant, unnecessary cutting of staff, leaving essential positions unfilled for months or even eliminating them, giving no raises or raises well below the cost of living, and constantly requiring more from employees to produce a better return for investors is beyond outrageous!  You cannot cut your way to profit.  I repeat; you cannot cut your way to profit.  Something always suffers, and that will always be your customer, and then your products and services, and of course, your employees.  If you take care of the employees and customers, the profits will take care of themselves.  You don’t need to hire employees just to put a body in a chair, but you need enough employees to do the job in a normal amount of hours (40 hours weekly) and for goodness sake, stop giving employees the jobs of two and three people and then asking why they are having trouble keeping up.

Is all dark and gloomy?  No it isn’t.  I do have clients who work for organizations that truly care.  They treat their employees like an asset to the organization – better yet, like a customer.  Pay is good, raises come annually, everyone can get a bonus or profit sharing based on total company performance, employees feel appreciated and love their work, employee and client retention is high, executives sit out on the floor with the employees, no one has their own office and that includes the CEO, they follow employment laws, and there is a true open door policy without retribution.  These clients come to me because they want to get a new job in their current organization.  Sometimes my clients have left a past organization that treated them well only to find the craziness described throughout this article, and want to get back into the company they left.  It’s all about the organization’s leadership!

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves (Part Two)

Yes, I am doing it again, making friends and influencing people in big corporate America, but I feel very strongly somebody has to call out executives and various layers of management for treating employees like sub humans.  In part three we will tackle the following:

–Paying lip service to employee engagement or having staff participate in hangman and tic-tac-toe contests to show how much you “love” them, versus serious engagement programs, which embrace a culture of employee satisfaction and listen to what the employees are telling you in those annual surveys.

–Performance reviews, goals and annual raises done for the benefit of the company and management/executive bonuses, not the employee.

–The new and increasing crisis of anxiety and job-related stress as FMLA and potentially ADA issues.

–Taking away employee vacation or sick time benefits, going to a “combined personal time off” model, or creating a new schedule that actually means more hours and less time off to save a little money.

–Stating you have an open-door policy for employees to express opinions when that really isn’t true.  Then, when an employee comes to your office and says something is wrong with product or service quality, a project, or employee morale, they are soon to be out on the street looking for a new job, or at the very least persona non grata with management.

Until The Beatings will continue until Moral Improves III, adieu.

Karen Silins is a multi-certified, award winning resume writer, career, business and personal branding coach working with individuals and small businesses.  After graduating with degrees in education and vocal performance, she made her own career transition into the Human Resources realm.  Karen left Human Resources to become an entrepreneur and help jobseekers and fellow entrepreneurs achieve their goals.  She keeps current regarding trends in the resume writing, coaching, HR, small business and marketing industries by working daily with individual clients on resume development and career coaching, consulting for small businesses in business plan development, marketing, blogging, hiring and overall HR processes, and providing 50-70+ seminars and workshops annually to a variety of organizations in the greater Kansas City area.  She can be reached via her website at