Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gone Fishing ...

From now through July 7, 2013, I'll be on hiatus!

(noun, plural hi·a·tus·es, hi·a·tus. A break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.)

During this time, I'll be finishing my book, working on various home projects, and focusing on growth strategies for my consulting and freelance writing business.

While I'm doing all that, I hope you'll check out the blog archives and take some time to catch up.

Until then, have a great summer!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Keep Your Eyes Wide Open and Your Mouth Shut and You Might Learn a Few Things

I’ve been working since I was sixteen, and in those years I’ve learned all kinds of things about the world of work—including a few lessons that I’m pretty sure no one intended to teach me. Such as …

“Even If The Boss Is a Drunk, He’s Still the Boss.”
Such was the response my seventeen-year-old self received after reporting into work one gorgeous summer day and innocently asking the never-before-seen receptionist, “Hey, what happened to ______?”

The new receptionist, Bea, an older women who would later take me under her wing, gave it to me straight. “_____ thought she owned the place and that she knew better than the boss how things should be. Eventually he got tired and fired her.”

Lessons Learned—(1) I really do have a keen sense of smell and (2) membership has its privileges. Respect the boss or be prepared for your butt to hit the curb.

“It’s Time For You to Get a Job Young Lady!”
Do you know why I started working at sixteen? Because after learning that our local church had received a grant to hire teens to assist elderly and home-bound people with activities of daily living (ADLs) my parents told me I was getting a job. Did I want that job (or any job)? Heck no. But that didn’t matter to my parents. So, I got to working.

The job was supposed to be limited to ten hours a week for ten or twelve weeks, but a funny thing happened—as the weeks passed, most of the other kids dropped out of the program! And that meant that I (insert diabolical laugh) was able to work as many hours as the law allowed for several weeks beyond the expected program ending date. And that was actually a blessing, because it turned out that I liked earning my own money more than I’d thought I would.

Lesson Learned—When you’re willing to do what others aren’t, you’ll get the rewards that others won’t.

“I Don’t Want to Fire Him, But I Sure Wish He’d Quit.”
My husband and I were saving to buy a house, and I’d picked up some part-time bookkeeping work in addition to my full-time editorial job. My part-time employer, a small-business owner, and I got along really well, and we used to chat about all kinds of stuff, including her business. One day she told me about one of her employees, enough of a problem to regularly get on her last nerve but not enough of a problem that she cared to go through the trouble of firing him. When he finally did quit, she breathed a sigh of relief.

Lessons Learned—(1) Sometimes managers are passive and will let you think you're doing a great job when really they want you to go. So, it's not good to take things for granted. Once in a while it might work to your advantage, like it did for Mr. _____, but you're just as likely to find yourself unexpectedly out of a job. (2) Don't be a passive manager! If a situation is so bad that you’re praying your employee will quit, say something—to him—not your bookkeeper! Life is too darn short, and there’s work to be done, people.

“The Thing Is, She Doesn’t Have Much of a Life.”
It was my first “real” job after college graduation, and it sucked. My boss was crazy, and she was making me crazy, too. Finally, in desperation, I approached her boss, the woman who’d hired me, looking for some help …. any help.

And this is what I got.

“Lisa and I have been friends for a long time. What you have to understand is that she doesn’t really have a life outside of this office. She doesn’t have a husband or any children … so what happens here is really important to her. I’m sure if you  made her feel needed, you’d get along better.”

I was twenty-one years old, and even I knew that this here was some bull. Right then and there I resolved to get the heck out that madhouse. And a month later, I’d started a new job at another (slightly less crazy) company.

Lesson Learned—Friendship and management don’t necessarily mix, especially when the manager is an immature incompetent.

What about you? What workplace-related lessons have you learned over the years?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Victim of Domestic Abuse Fired from Teaching Job

According to administrators at Holy Trinity School in San Diego, they were between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand was second-grade teacher Carie Charlesworth, a divorced mother of four and a victim of domestic abuse. On the other hand were all the other parents of Holy Trinity, expressing concern about Charlesworth’s ex-husband and his history of violence and lawlessness.

One Monday morning this past January, Charlesworth’s husband had shown up in the school’s parking lot, prompting administrators to authorize a lockdown.

Immediately after, the school notified Holy Trinity parents that Charlesworth and her children (also students at the school) were on “indefinite leave.” And then in April Charlesworth received a letter from the school stating that “In the interest of the safety of the students, faculty and parents at Holy Trinity School, we simply cannot allow you to return there, or unfortunately, at any other school in the Diocese.” Before getting to that part of the letter, Charlesworth had to read two full paragraphs about her ex-husband’s deviant behavior, which I’m sure was a real treat.

Charlesworth will continue to be paid her wages through August but says "They’ve taken away my ability to care for my kids. It’s not like I can go out and find a teaching job anywhere.” Charlesworth also stated that she feels like the criminal, although her husband is the one doing time in jail on two felony charges. Holy Trinity cited uncertainty surrounding his release date as a factor in their decision.

Charlesworth has retained an attorney and intends to sue her former employer, as California law does provide some workplace protections for victims of domestic abuse. However, Kenneth Hoyt, Charlesworth’s attorney, said that Holy Trinity hasministerial exceptionon its side, because Charlesworth taught religion as part of her job duties. Although this responsibility was a minor one, apparently there’s legal precedence showing that Charlesworth can be fired without cause just like a priest or pastor.

Advocates for victims of domestic abuse have criticized Holy Trinity for its action, and while this termination stinks, one can’t dismiss the school’s concerns out of hand. According to The New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly half of women who obtain restraining orders will have those orders violated by their abusers, and it’s understandable if school administrators are wary of the potential risks to their staff and students. Domestic abuse is a huge issue in this country, and the laws designed to protect victims aren't always very effective.

Having said that, it’s more than a shame that Charlesworth, who’s already been repeatedly victimized by her ex-husband, is now suffering additional losses as a result of his behavior. Heather Finlay, Chief Executive of YWCA San Diego told NBC 7, "We have one in three women in the United States who are victims of domestic violence. Firing all of them is not the answer."

You have admit she’s making sense.

Nevertheless, this must have been a sticky ethical dilemma for Holy Trinity. Whether it will prove to be as sticky a legal dilemma remains to be seen.