Yours (or Allegedly Yours) Archives

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.]

For a complete list of our Model Letters, Model Memos, Checklists and Form Agreements, just [click here.]

To arrange a telephone consultation on strategies to deal with such workplace issues, just [click here.]

© 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.

Need to send a model memo or letter to make a request or complaint? A good checklist or form agreement? For a complete list of our Model Letters, Memos, Checklists and Sample Agreements, Just [click here.]

Interested in Membership? It’s free, and has advantages, including discounts on our products. Just [click here.]

Need a private telephone consultation? Just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can usually be accommodated.

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

Blackout Period – Key Words & Phrases

Published on October 4th, 2017 by Alan L. Sklover

Key Words

What is the meaning of:

Blackout Period ?

In its most general sense, a “blackout period” is a period of time during which certain people are either prohibited, or limited, from engaging in a certain activity.

In the employment context, the term “blackout period” is most commonly used in two ways:

First, employers who maintain investment or retirement plans for their employees sometimes impose “blackout periods” during which employees are prohibited from making certain changes to their investments. This is generally intended to prevent employees who know about the planned changes from taking advantage of their knowledge of the proposed changes, to the possible detriment of other employees, who are unaware.

Second, corporate executives and certain employees who may be privy to “inside information” are prohibited by the imposition of a “blackout period” from buying or selling the company’s stock. This is intended to deter what is called “insider trading,” which is unfair to all other shareholders who do not possess the “inside information.”

What “inside information” would justify the imposition of a “blackout period?” Examples include (i) knowing that an announcement is going to be made that the company is being purchased, or is merging, which might make the stock price go up, and (ii) knowing that the company will soon announce that its computers have been hacked, and its secrets have in this way been divulged to hackers, which might make the stock price decline.

Some companies impose regular “blackout periods,” such as fifteen days before each fiscal quarter or fiscal year earnings reports are publicly announced.

“Blackout periods” are imposed by companies to deter improper activities, but may be enforced by governmental agencies, including the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission.

If your employer imposes a “black out” period on any of your activities, chances are very high that you will be notified. Engaging in prohibited activities during a company-announced “blackout period” is almost always considered grave misconduct and therefore “cause” for firing.

Get the picture? Keep it in mind. You read about it here. Knowledge is power. Forewarned is forearmed. That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about.

For a complete list of our Model Letters, Model Memos, Checklists and Form Agreements, just [click here.]

For a telephone consultation on strategies to deal with “constructive discharge” or other workplace issues, just [click here.]

© 2017 Alan L. Sklover. All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Strictly Prohibited

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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