HR too nice.

This post is a bit of a vent and a desperate cry for reinforcement.

We have a two person HR office. Myself, I do a bit of everything, and my employee, the HR Assistant/Payroll Coordinator. (Who basically does benefits and payroll and helps out in other areas when I need her to)

She has become pregnant after a lengthy in-vitro program and is experiencing a rough pregnancy.

Before I go any further - I am a single woman of childbearing age and have a son. (Lest you think I can't identify with her)

Until the end of her first trimester - she is on a 10# lifting restriction. She has been bedridden for two different periods due to bleeding. She has restricted herself from climbing stairs (unfortunately, at our main building the elevator is out) and thus hasn't taken/picked up the mail, filed, (We have fireproof cabinets FULL of files and the drawers are hard to pull out) or lifted our payroll registers. (which are over 10#) She does do the payroll, answers the phone and leaves early.

Being the nice person I am, I have let her go home early when it is obvious that she isn't feeling well, provided her work is up to date. I have filed, carried mail, basically done everything, but lift the handset to her head when the phone rings.

My problem is that it has gone from her appreciating the help to an entitlement of privilege. She leaves early when I'm on the phone, leaving me a phone message that she's tired and needs to go home. She points out the filing pile on her desk for me to file. We have a small organization, she predates me, everyone loves her and are thrilled about her pregnancy.

So, my frustration is that I feel I can't talk to her about resuming some of her duties and that I don't think the filing drawers will be a real problem. She's very emotional (always has been) and last year when I wanted her to do some things different, she told my boss that I didn't understand her and that I needed to learn her job so I wouldn't have unrealistic expectations of her. That cost me a portion of my raise. Since that time, I have made sure my boss understands what I do, that I can do her job, and I let him see the slack I have cut her at times.

So.....great wise learned HR peers. Don't be too hard on me painting myself into a corner. Just give me gentle advice on getting through this. Or perhaps even your war stories on how you improved these kind of situations.



  • 23 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Heart to heart time..You are a great employee, we are thrilled about your pregnancy, I am doing all I can to support you BUT I still need the common courtesty of communication..hence forth, please see me directly before you leave. .etc, etc. (list whatever you want) I know we can work together on this and am confident you will assist. .

    Also, had she told you about her brainstorm to learn her job before she went over your head? If not, I would have called her on that too.

    Sacred cows are not always worthy of their status. .and by the way, I see none of this as having anything to do with her pregnancy. Sounds a bit spoiled to me.

  • I can't think of a thing to add.

    Most importantly I concur with the heart-to-heart. Since you've been so gracious in the past toward her, I have confidence you're able to skillfully broach these concerns in a supportive, non-threatening manner. But, on the realistic side, since you're getting incresingly distraight with the situation, the sooner the better, before you're lid blows and tact and courtesy elude you.
  • Yes, we had discussed the brainstorm to learn the job and I had actually done payroll twice. (To the extent that she would let me) I did call her on that and she got teary and said that she had been having a bad day when my boss called and she just 'blurted it out.'

    I have since kept a log of what I have done in black and white so it's easier for my boss to see what has REALLY happened.

    You are correct. She is spoiled. I came from a company where I did HR for 3000 employees and our life here is much easier, slower, and better. I wish I could send her to that company for a week!
  • Zanne, any hope that you can stick it out until she delivers? Given the circumstances, I would keep telling myself that it's only temporary, it's only temporary... but I think the biggest challenge is going to be getting her back on track with her former duties after the restrictions are lifted. I have had employees like that in the past and it can be absolutely infuriatingly frustrating. Have you mentioned anything to her about resuming her former duties after her return? How does she respond?
  • Parabeagle:

    Yes, I repeat the temporary mantra a lot.

    We have discussed resuming duties when her restriction is lifted (which should be in August) and she agrees with everything we discuss. Then she adds, "My doctor may not lift restrictions until I deliver." So... then we discuss how we can do things differently.

    It is interesting to note that today, she got her "work basket" out of the file drawer all by herself. I had suggested that she pull all the filing out so that it would weigh less than 10 pounds and she did it.

    I personally think that she's offloading the unfun duties on me (filing, going to the mail room) and keeping what she likes.

  • Speaking as someone that is an HR Manager and someone that has been through the IVF experience twice (one miscarriage), try to have some patience with her. Has she been a good ee in the past? If not, there are bigger issues here. If so, she is protecting that pregnancy. I felt as if my world had come to end when I suffered through the miscarriage. I would have done anything the doctor has told me do to have prevented losing that baby. It has been 3 years since my loss and it is still very difficult for me. I don't think you are TOO nice at all, I think you are a caring Manager interested in the well being of an employee and her future.
  • What a tough situation to be in. It sounds as if your boss was supportive of her in the past, maybe you could go to your boss and tell him/her the same things you stated here.

    You have been accommodating to this ee but problems created by this include.... Let the boss know that legally you could require... of this employee, but your really want to try and work with her. Also let your boss know what problems could be faced by continuing or increasing the accommodation. List some things that apply to your company, such as others requesting the same accommodations etc.. Ask your boss to make some suggestion for how to solve the list of problems.

    It seems to me that the most important point to make, whether to the ee or to your boss, is a very specific list of the problems that are caused by the accommodations.

    It's great when a company is able to bend over backwards in accommodating an ee's personal needs. We all appreciate it when it is our own need, but we also know that there is a line that defines what is reasonable, and as HR it is often our job to draw that line.

    Good Luck!
  • This is really a tough situation, especially since pregnancy varies so much by individuals and is legally recognized (Pregnancy Discrimination Act, etc.).

    When you say 'my employee', does she report to you or are you co-workers?

    I had an employee in a similar situation, the process to get pregnant was very long and involved, when the event happened, everyone was joyful, however, she did not carry to term. It was not pleasant in the department. She tried again a few more times, but was unsuccessful.

    Try to remember - this is only a temporary situation. However, communication is important, especially since she may be out more days in the future if she is already experiencing a difficult pregnancy.

    Suggestion: if doing parts of her job, is taking time away from yours, acknowledge that to her. Also, ask if she can't put the filing in the order it should be in, in the drawers, so if you did her filing, it could be done rather quickly. If the filing goes in folders, can the folders be brought to her desk, she file, and then they're put away again?

    You have a great opportunity to prove to your direct report, what a great team player you are and how valuable you are to the organization. Keep you boss well informed, and if the work load gets overwhelming, express your concern that you may need to hire a temp to cover some of the work load.

    It may be frustrating, but, the rewards are there.
  • This is my employee - however, she had a good working relationship with my boss, the president, prior to me coming here, so I think she always feels that he's her boss also.

    That's a good suggestion on the putting things in order. I will ask her that. I do it as routine whenever I have to file my stuff, but she doesn't, "Because she knows where all the folders are, already." ????

    I have mentioned that perhaps she could pick up a few of my jobs - such as making interview appointments, reference checking etc., but we haven't had a lot of job openings, so that isn't helping.

    I think my boss is having his eyes opened as to what it takes to run an HR department smoothly and since we are starting a new project this month (re-engineering of the company) he's counting on me to have the time to devote to that.

  • Zanne,
    Any chance there is someone else in the company that could pick up some of the slack? (I know that is hard with HR duties) Or a temp as mentioned in another post. But if someone else was eager, she also might get a little possessive of her job and step back up to the plate. If not, you have a partially trained person ready to cover her LOA.

    I understand how you got in the corner. I am too understanding with my staff at times also. I am sooooo flexible with them and their schedules. When I had to ask my previous wonderful assistant to resign or I would have to term her for tardiness, I swore I would get tougher. I'm working at it!

    Good Luck.
  • Sounds like one of the biggest problems is and will be boss support for the actions you will probably have to take. Get the boss on board!!
  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 07-07-03 AT 12:06PM (CST)[/font][p]blw:

    You'll love this.

    The person who helps out periodically is our internal auditor - who is my assistant's sister-in-law. So, no possessiveness there.

    I'm sure glad I'm not the only one who has been in a situation of being too nice.

  • I feel for you! My new assistant has been out several days, but at least they've been scheduled. There was end of year activities with her children and then new house issues - the walk through, the re-walk through, the closing, the closing after the first one was delayed, moving days, etc. It's hard to say no, when you've been there yourself though! Good luck!
  • E Wart
    I have gone through two employees who were pregnant working for me. One worked wonderfully and I used it as an example to other managers on how to manage this. One was a mess, so I sympathize.
    I agree with sitting down with her and letting her know your excitement about her pregnancy. However, you need to understand what her DOCTOR said she could and couldn't do and "let's review" your job to determine what you might not be able to do. If you can't do it, what can we do to reconstruct the duty so that you might be able to (ie. having her get filing in order and bringing the files to her, if doctor said she can't stand. If not, why can't she do the fiing?) You can be nice, but be objective when looking at it as to what the doctor has approved. Again this is a perfect situation to sit down and say we want to set an example for the office and show them how we can work through limitations/restrictions so if they have someone with them, they know it might work. As to her leaving early, I would again address this fromt he doctor's point of view, not hers. I would love to leave early some days (as I am sure you would) because I am tired or sleepy.
    She needs to remember that pregnancy in itself is not a disabling factor. She would need to have complications that make it where she couldn't work.
    Good luck. It will be over before you know it and then you will be dealing with her calling in because the baby is sick.

  • I feel your frustration. I handle benefits for our organization. We are a HR office with 3 managers and each manager has a support staff. My support person expressed an interest to grow within the HR profession and I have encouraged her to learn new things. I try to show her more about benefits and even have given her more responsibility. She has picked up well and is a good employee. However, the filing and other stuff (in the job duties of the supprt staff) have suffered for it. She always wants to learn more and take on more, and when I mention to her that she may not have the time, she insist that she does. But then I end up doing the filing and putting the benefit packets together for new employees.

    It's frustrating, becuase some days I feel that our roles have reversed. And it all started becuase she wanted to advance and learn more and I wanted to help her, becuase I've worked my way up to this position within the organziation myself.

  • Playing devil's advocate here (pardon the expression)

    Although I agree that it would seem to be that she is taking would you feel if the 'something harmless' that she is doing, causes her to lose the pregnancy? If she has gone through, using your own words, "a lengthy in-vitro program and is experiencing a rough pregnancy"; I'd cut her some slack (I said SOME). Maybe she needs to look at an STD if there is any chance that she could lose it...that's her doctor's call. Unless you have been close to someone who has been through what she's experiencing, or have experienced it yourself, you don't know what she's thinking or feeling. You can't just sweep it under the rug and turn it into something it isn't. This is hitting quite close to home because I just had an employee use my shoulder to cry on because they just found out that they lost theirs.

    Hopefully you have an EAP that will help her through this difficult time, for that is what it is to her. In these cases, it is taken very much day by day...
  • HS:

    You have indeed hit the nail on the head of my biggest fear. That I encourage/talk her into doing something and then she loses the baby. Perhaps the filing wouldn't cause her to miscarry, but she would always feel that way. (And I would always question myself over it.)

    My current plan of action is to wait for the three month visit and receive - in writing - the doctor's restrictions. (or lack thereof) I plan to send a job description so that she and the doctor can have a good coversation over the duties.

    We have EAP and I have suggested a few times - but have not made her go.

    Things seem to be looking up - as she spent the July 4th holiday at the lake having a good time.

    Thanks to all for your input and reminders that I'm not the only HR person facing something like this.


  • >My current plan of action is to wait for the three month visit and
    >receive - in writing - the doctor's restrictions. (or lack thereof) I
    >plan to send a job description so that she and the doctor can have a
    >good coversation over the duties.
    Good plan of attack! This way there is no confusion over what the duties are and what she can or cannot handle.

    >We have EAP and I have suggested a few times - but have not made her
    I would encourage her to talk with them if she feels she needs to, there is also an organization for people who are going thru difficulties like's called Resolve. ( It's [url][/url] ) They also offer support groups for those who need it.

    Hope things look up for you!

  • Hooooorrrraaaayyyyyy!

    She's been released to do "normal" duties. I jokingly asked her if that meant "normal before pregnancy" or "normal during pregnancy". She thought that meant "whatever she considers to be normal."

    Oh well, you can't win them all....

  • Hang in there Zanne and just tell yourself there are rewards to being so nice. We just don't always see them!
  • .....Hooooorrrraaaayyyyyy!

    .....She's been released to do "normal" duties. I jokingly asked her if
    .....that meant "normal before pregnancy" or "normal during pregnancy".
    .....She thought that meant "whatever she considers to be normal."

    .....Oh well, you can't win them all....

    Wouldn't "normal duties" be the functions of her position that are listed in her job description?

  • >Being the nice person I am, I have let her go home early when it is
    >obvious that she isn't feeling well, provided her work is up to date.

    This may have already been addressed, but please tell me this time is being counted towards her 12 week FML time?
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