Misconduct and Bad Behavior Archives

“#MeToo is Now #YouToo, Too” – Dignity for one requires dignity for all

Published on March 19th, 2019 by Alan L. Sklover

Sklover Working Wisdom MeToo Movement

“Gender equality is a human fight, not a female fight.”

– Freida Pinto

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Gerald, a sales team supervisor, regularly made jokes about sex in team meetings, was known to often touch female team members “by accident,” and held private meetings with female sales team members in his office, with the door closed.

Two female team members were rumored to have complained to HR of Gerald’s habits, their discomfort with it, and then simply seemed to “disappear,” that is, they did not return to work on Monday morning, without any of the sales team members hearing from them that either had a new job elsewhere.

Tom, a male sales team member, was called into HR, where he was met by an outside attorney working for the company, who insisted on interviewing him. The interview, which lasted almost two hours, seemed to focus on what Tom observed, and – quite surprisingly to Tom – why he did not report his observations to HR, as is now required by new company policies, about which he was not aware.

Barbara, Gerald’s supervisor, was also interviewed by an outside attorney for the company, and the questions asked to her focused – to her surprise – on what she had done to train her teams on anti-harassment policies and practices, and to regularly assess the quality of the work environment of her reports, as is now required by new company policies about which she was not aware.

Cary, who headed up Human Resources for the Sales Division, was also interviewed by the investigator, whose many questions focused – to Cary’s surprise – on what training and ongoing assessment he had initiated of the employee morale of Sales Division employees, as is now required by new company policies of which he was not aware.

New thinking, new limits, new policies, new expectations, new accountabilities, new risks, new consequences. There are a lot of new things to learn and keep in mind.

LESSONS TO LEARN: The #MeToo Movement has been something of an earthquake in the workplace, and it continues to have a wide variety of “aftershocks.” These “aftershocks” are not only what you see, hear or read about. It’s something less visible, more visceral. It’s about what is no longer acceptable, no longer tolerated, no longer joked about, no longer without substantial consequence. It’s not about a law; it’s more about what is simply not tolerated. It seems to be one of those epic steps forward in societal norms that, hopefully, will never be reversed.

The #MeToo Movement has clarified that freedom from abuse at work is something human right, a right to be free from a kind of deep humiliation, physical intimidation, outright fear and human exploitation. This web post covers just one of its many facets: how it has grown from a laugh-laden phenomenon to one that can not only ruin your career, but even put you in jail. It is serious, and needs to be taken seriously.

As a general matter, employers have not before been held accountable for harassment at the workplace of which they were not aware. So, if you did not complain, you had no effective right, and your abuser had no effective responsibility. That seems to be changing, and employers are increasingly concerned about the cost of being caught unaware. . . Yes, it’s a dollar and cents issue, too. Employers are no longer ignoring #MeToo issues, but are now seeking to prevent them, with their own interests in mind.

Employers, managers and colleagues are all increasingly being held responsible for not doing something to stand up, and face down, those who harass at work. According to a recent Bloomberg Law report, law firms are being hired to engage in a record number of investigations into employee harassment complaints. There has also been a sharp increase in the number of employers who are conducting preventive training to prevent workplace harassment in the first instance, and to come up with better ways of handling it if and when it does rear its head.

The lesson is clear: things are changing, and they require thoughtful consideration of how you need to adapt with those changes, or be confronted with potentially career-ending “news.” There is no simple, universal “rulebook” but an evolving one that gives every employee good reason to keep her or his mind wide open for what and how the new workplace requires of employees.

If you are not convinced, just look at what has happened to so many CEO’s, so many famous and wealthy men like Mr. Weinstein, Mr. Cosby, Mr. Lauer, Mr. O’Reilly, and so many others who were blind, oblivious or overconfident about their ability to avoid the new accountability that is @MeToo.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Having worked on workplace harassment issues for many years, the following 10 points are among those that would be best kept in mind. They are steps that are among those I would suggest all employees consider doing to be, and to be perceived as, part of the solution, and not be, or be wrongly perceived to be, part of the problem:
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Request a “Mental Health Day”? Do Not Use that Phrase

Published on January 15th, 2019 by Alan L. Sklover

“The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: It is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

– C. S. Lewis

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Last month an article entitled “How to Ask for a Mental Health Day” appeared in the Wall Street Journal, written by “Work & Life” columnist Sue Shellenbarger. Sue is a well known and well regarded writer on matters of “Work & Life.” I respect and admire her very much. On this subject, in my opinion, she was entirely wrong in her approach and conclusion on this subject.

When I saw the title of the column, I gulped; I said to myself, “She can’t be recommending people request ‘mental health’ days, could she?” When I read the column, I gasped; she seemed to be headed that way. When I finished reading her piece, I groaned; sure enough, she seemed to be recommending that people be “honest” and ask their managers for “mental health” days off when they were needed.

LESSON TO LEARN: While I fully recognize that there is a stigma attached to having a mental health illness, I also view the phrase “mental health day” to be both an inappropriate use of that phrase, and laden with several, substantial and entirely unnecessary risks.

Also, while I dedicate much of my life to improving the world we live in, I also recognize that it is almost always unwise to create or accept unnecessary risks in doing so. My view is that it is 100% unnecessary, unwise and potentially hazardous to your job, your career and your reputation to request a “mental health day” at work, as well as, in itself, a touch dishonest. So, “Just Don’t Do It.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Instead, let’s just deal with the issue before us: feeling angry, spent, cranky, even on the verge of tears? Not sure you will be able to hold onto your temper if you go to work? Ready to explode at a work colleague? I get it; I’ve been there. But in such events, I strongly urge you to never, ever ask for a “mental health day” at work. Here are my thoughts:
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Giving and Receiving Gifts at Work -Ten Practical Precautions

Published on November 27th, 2018 by Alan L. Sklover

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

– Proverb

ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: Each year, without fail, I get five to ten emails from employees who have either (a) given a gift at work and gotten into trouble for doing so, or (b) received a gift at work that is either causing discomfort or a problem. As you might imagine, most of these calls come shortly before or shortly after the year-end holiday season.

LESSON TO LEARN: Today more than ever, you need to devote a measure of thought to (a) why you are giving a gift, (b) how it may be perceived or misperceived by the recipient (or others), (c) for what reason or purpose another person may be giving you a gift, and (d) whether that gift to you might be a sincere gesture, a thinly disguised bribe, or a “payoff” for past favors. In fact, when giving or accepting a gift at work, it is the potential perceptions of others that can be far more dangerous than your own intentions.

To prevent even the perception of impropriety, and to discourage even the slightest offense, many company policies, laws, rules and regulations have been put into place that address – and in certain circumstances prohibit – giving and receiving gifts at work, and in business affairs.

As examples: How might your gift-giving look to compliance officers who work for your employer? Might a rather expensive gift be viewed by Human Resources as a subtle form of sexual harassment? Might your gift be viewed with suspicion, or even anger, by the husband or wife of its recipient? Is a gift a sign of generosity, or perhaps a disguised bribe? If you give some, but not all, of your office mates gifts, might some of those “left out” perceive themselves as outcasts, or victims of favoritism or even discrimination?

I often say “These days you have two jobs: one is to do your job, and the other is to keep it. This is one context in which that surely applies. Since your gift-giving might result in a perception or accusation of misconduct. Before giving or accepting a gift at work, take just a few moments to review and consider the many possible interpretations of your gift-giving or gift-accepting behavior.

Do I intend to make you paranoid? Yes, I do, but just a little.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consider these 10 Practical Pointers on gifts at work:
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Expense Reports Are Ending Careers Like Never Before

Published on September 25th, 2018 by Alan L. Sklover


Danger Ahead:
Expense Reports Are Ending Careers Like Never Before —

According to published reports, Wells Fargo has recently suspended or terminated scores of its employees for errors and mistakes in expense reimbursement reports – believe it or not – in some cases for ordering in meals an hour before they were permitted to do so.

In the case of one terminated employee who contacted us, her intent was merely to have her meal waiting when her conference call ended, yet the outcome was her firing, her forfeiture of $2.5 million in unvested stock, and the end of her career.

Is it a coincidence that Wells Fargo also just announced that it was planning to reduce its workforce by tens of thousands of employees in the coming year?

According to published reports, Fidelity has recently terminated hundreds of employees for allegedly submitting false or misleading receipts related to employee benefit programs that permitted employees to be reimbursed for computers they purchased for work.

In finance, most of such firings or forced resignations must be reported publicly, ending not just jobs but careers and reputations, as well.

Is it a coincidence that Fidelity also just announced that it was planning on reducing its workforce by thousands in the coming year?

I am not one to believe very much in coincidences. And, I am acutely aware that fired employees must forfeit unvested equity, are not entitled to COBRA insurance benefits, and do not get offered severance. It just makes sense to me this might well make many employees especially attractive targets for such “cost savings.”

The same goes for those forced or “permitted” to resign under the dark cloud of such allegations.

And, too, clients in HR Planning suggest that, despite press reports of a shortage of workers, we may be on the verge of a large wave of layoffs – some honest, some disguised – enabled by the introduction of artificial intelligence software.

So, tread ever-so-carefully when incurring any reimbursable expense, and requesting any type of expense reimbursement. Don’t cut corners, bend the rules, or twist the truth. And don’t expect flexibility or reasonability in enforcing “the rules.” The potential consequences are so much greater than the potential benefits.

Forewarned is forearmed. Careful navigation is required.

Caution: There may be Danger Ahead.

For a review of our articles on allegations of misconduct, just [click here.]

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© 2018 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Strictly Prohibited

Did You Know That . . . Recording Calls or Meetings Can Get You Fired

Published on May 30th, 2018 by Alan L. Sklover

. . . recording calls or meetings, even if legal in your state, is probably cause for getting fired at work?

It is common for employees to tell me “I know that it is legal to record a telephone conversation in this state, so I have been recording phone calls and meetings at work, and there is nothing they can do about it.”

That belief is simply and profoundly wrong. These examples should illustrate why:

• It is entirely legal to be drunk in your own home, or in the home of a friend. However, being drunk at work is surely good cause to be fired.

• It is entirely legal to walk around naked at home. However, walking around naked at work is surely good cause to be fired.

• Finally, it is entirely legal to use curse words at home. However, using curse words at work is surely good reason to be fired.

And, so it is with surreptitiously recording of telephone calls or meetings at work. If it is to be done at all, it must be done very quietly, very carefully, and totally discreetly, and not to be mentioned to others.

The seeming increase in employees recording conversations of all kinds at work is, I believe, a reflection of the decrease in trust felt for employers, managers, Human Resources staff, and even colleagues. And, this sense of distrust is being fueled, as well, by what we see between and among our political and other leaders.

Feel distrust at work? I can’t argue with your feelings, but recording conversations or meetings at work is, to my view, more self-defeating than helpful under almost any circumstance you may find yourself in at work.

To read a blog post I have written that provides a more in-depth explanation of tape recording at work, go to “Recording Conversations with Your Boss or HR” What You Need to Know.

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© 2018 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved and Strictly Enforced.

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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