Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bank of America man fired for 1998 arrest for oversight on unpaid bill: the perils of background investigations

Check this story on AOL-Huffington about a finance manager at Bank of America, hired in 2006, who was later fired when a background investigation revealed an arrest for an unpaid restaurant bill in Houston in 1998.  He thought another person had paid the bill, and the case was dropped after the bill was paid with a civil fine.

However a background investigation led to his dismissal. The bank has a way of getting him a waiver, but he remains on unpaid leave for months.  He may lose benefits and retirement even if he gets his job back.

The story on Huffington is here (as a video), link

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How much does a Windows 8 Surface do "on the road"?

Katherine A. Boehret  has a “digital solution” article in “Personal Journal” in the Oct. 17 Wall Street Journal in which she discusses the opportunities possible with Microsoft’s new Windows 8, available Oct. 26.
She describes several ways in which the traditional laptop or notebook is bybridized with the “Surface”, to create a machine that can operate by touch for quick operation, and by keyboard (on larger models) for more conventional business use. The online link is here

She also says that some versions of the Surface come only with WiFi possible, without the possibility of cellular wireless (possible on some iPads and most laptops) or conventional direct cable (which a few motels still have – like the Holiday Inn in Chelsea in NYC, from my recollection of 2011).

It’s also unclear if some versions of Surface can work in all applications.  For example, on the iPad, Blogger does not work fully.  It would be a good question whether it works on “Surface”.

In general, it has been difficult for tech support in various manufactures and operating system providers and various specialized applications (like music composing) to guarantee that all apps work in all environments, as it is difficult to determine in advance how a particular environment is to be supported.  Upgrades of operating systems sometimes cause problems, and the whole industry needs a better handle on upward compatibility of everything.

I recall that when going from Windows Vista to Windows 7, some Dell  ink-jet printers no longer worked and had to be replaced. 

It would be great if a small Windows 8 computer is set up so that absolutely everything works when traveling and dealing with the TSA.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A note about "progressive discipline" in the salaried workplace

I used to hear this term a lot in the 1980s, when things got tough for some people around a big implementation that we did around Oct. 1, 1987 (25 years ago). It’s “progressive discipline”, which usually comprises some steps:  counseling, verbal warning, written warning, and then termination.

One employee, who had been a project leader at one time, couldn’t code and get reliable test results (after turnover to QA) when he had to code himself (just COBOL and DATACOMM).  I remember his being told that if he resigned he could get severance.  He refused.  Three weeks later, on a Monday morning in March, 1987, he was called in to the boss’s office.  He was never seen again.  His cubicle was left “as is” for others to find for a while.  “A_” is no longer with the company”.

A site called “Human Resources” on "About.com"  talks about “progressive discipline” here

At another employer, in the late 90s, the process was called “performance improvement program”, which could take on “a very abbreviated form”.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Companies should give rejected job applicants some constructive feedback

A publication named “Business Management” offers companies some advice on what to tell applicants whom they did not hire. 

The canned “your qualifications don’t match our needs at this time” (note the last three words, everybody has used them ever since I started out in the job market in 1969) may not stand up as reliably to discrimination complaints as it sounds, and may not stop possible harassment.

The article says to give some unbiased constructive “criticism”, in the link here

I can recall having an interview in Bloomington MN, arranged by a headhunter, on Sept. 11, 2002 (I didn’t want to do it that day, but “they” insisted), for a mainframe job at Express Scripts.  A woman interviewed me in the lobby of a gorgeous suburban office part building, palatial surroundings near the Mall of America.  I had some Murach textbooks on DB2 and CICS programming with me to make the point that I knew my technical stuff.  There was one other candidate, probably aiming for a lower rate.

I got the feedback through the headhunter – I remember the call on a old, very unsmart USWest cell phone, that I had “tried too hard”.  Apparently the other candidate also got the same feedback.  The headhunter had told her, really, people are trying hard because the post 9/11 economy was tough and people needed jobs and the post Y2K old style in-house mainframe market was imploding. 

Later, it turned out, according to an email that was forwarded to me by the headhunter, that she never had complete authorization to hire anyone, and was going to meet her needs “in house”.  I have no way to judge what really happened except based on what I was told.

Carrie Krueger on "Job Fully" talks about rejections:

I have been told only once, in a rejection letter, that a company (United Airlines, back in 1969) had "other candidates" who were better.  In another case (ARCO, Dallas, 1983), I was told that the decision among three interviewers was "not unanimous".  And from JC Penny Life Insurance, in 1981 in Dallas (the interview was on a Saturday morning), I was told that I was almost "too logical" and could create conflict among the manager's other subordinates by acting critical of them.  That's interesting!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Pre-employment personality tests coming into question in court, but they seem to be legal by the EEOC

CNN has reported (on television, Saturday October 7) on litigation by a woman against an employer after she “failed” a true-false personality test.  The CNN story isn’t online yet, but both “legal guys” (Avery Freeman and Richard Herman) indicated that job relevancy of the tests would be critical.

In 2010, the southern California Metrolink service created controversy over a personality test seeking to find “focused introverts” who could operate trains without distraction, after a serious commuter rail wreck, link here.

Business Management Daily has a story about guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Dec. 20, 2007.  It’s likely that a court will rule within these guidelines, even if they are five years old.  The link is here.  

In 2002, AT&T required personality tests of job applicants. I took one at home (after my layoff) and was told by computer “based on your responses, you cannot apply for six months”.

The TSA gives a 380-question TF test for screener applicants.

There is litigation where the University of Minnesota is suing someone for posting part of its MMPI online, a “copyright” issue that we’ll discuss later.  It’s clear that companies want to keep the contents of these tests secret.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Job market makes ordinary older workers "justify" themselves

The Wall Street Journal has an editorial Saturday, “Happy Days Are Not Here Again”, and questions the significance of the slightly lower unemployment rate (7.8%) reported this past week right after the presidential debates.  Check the link here

When I got laid off at the end of 2001 and took my severance and retirement package from ING at age 58 (and it was pretty generous, compared to what most people even then got), I still faced a world where, at least until retirement age as Social Security sees it, I was likely to face a lot of interim jobs, and face the idea of “paying my dues” again.

Part of the problem was that retirement packages then assumed you would start taking Social Security at 62 (the Social Security Offset). 

The mainframe market, after Y2K and then 9/11, had deteriorated mostly into rotations of gigs for people with lots of accumulated experience in very specific areas (MMIS, Vantage, HIPAA, etc). 

The jobs around for older middleagers tended to emphasize salesmanship and manipulating other people, in a world where people were becoming more independent and didn’t like to be approached the way people in previous generations had taken as normal.  I did wind up working for 14 months in “telemarketing” for the Minnesota Orchestra Guaranty Fund – and that job actually provided some stability.  Since that time, telemarketing rules have tightened, and even I resist getting marketing calls or donations, and tend not to answer the landline phone.

I also worked as a debt collector, and later as a census taker (the 2010 diennial and then with the Current Population Survey).  These involved approaching people and getting them to “cooperate”.

I also would vet the idea of becoming a TSA screener, and the initial processing (in a hotel) in 2002, is quite an experience.  Could I accept the regimentation of a job like this in uniform, which constant focus and concentration, and handling people, perhaps intimately?

In 2004 I took the tests to be a letter carrier (including the "memory for addresses" section and an inductive reasoning section on sequences) and was almost offered jobs twice -- once as a rural carrier (too hard on car) and then on foot, which would have been a very "physical" job, I was told.  (And you have to be accurate, starting with "casing" the mail.)  The inability to get my medical records from Minnesota (HIPAA makes it very hard) was all that nixed this. TIP: When you move to another city, make sure you check on how you will get any health care records later;  some are not kept for more than four years, and some employers might need to see records of past surgeries.

And in Minneapolis, in 2003, I actually looked at becoming a cabbie.  You rent the cab for $400 a week and are "self-employed".  Sounds like you have to learn to drive aggressively. You need a physical.

I did work for about three years as a substitute teacher, which I have written about elsewhere a lot.  That was probably, in the end, the most interesting of the interim jobs. 

I think I have discussed the approaches made to me about becoming a life insurance agent or tax advisor. Sure, I would "love" to peddle financial and tax schemes to "families".  Oh, yes, new agents need to generate leads and get a "fast start".  Actually, my resistance to these "opportunities" does deserve further explanation.

The attitude of the workplace is that you have to justify your “right” to a normal income, and now even manipulate your online and social media experience for the benefit of the employer (since Facebook says you have only “one identity”).  

Thursday, October 04, 2012

In the workplace, "Bald is powerful"

Wharton Business School  prof Albert Mannes reports in the Wall Street Journal on an experiment that shows how people perceive men in the workplace. The article Wednesday , in Marketplace, was “Bald is powerful”, by Anton Troianovski, link here

There were suggestions that younger men with thinning hair go ahead and shave their heads.

The idea may be less applicable in information technology, where “youth” is in.

Baldness suggests virility, and the ability to survive long enough to reproduce and raise a generation, which is why some cultures see it as attractive.

I can remember studies like this being reported in the Washington Post back in the 1950s.

“Dress for Success” guru John Molloy used to recommend that younger men artificially streak their hair with gray (the Anderson Cooper effect) to show more age and authority.

Others have suggested that less attractive men compensate with unconventional hairstyles or even body art, which would not always go well in business.

And remember what Troy McClain allowed to be done to him “for the team” in an early episode of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.” 

Monday, October 01, 2012

Notes on iPad, MacBook operating system upgrade prompts

Last week, my “new iPad” invited me to load the newest operating system, IOS6.  I did so – it took about twenty minutes. 

The iPad behaved differently afterward.  After I powered up, the “slide to unlock” icon would not work until I let it go to sleep at least once.  The Verizon hotspot also worked different.  When before it had to go to sleep once to activate, this time it does not.  The “Wi-Fi” option can say “not connected”, but it “personal hostpot” is on, then other wireless-enabled computers find it (can take up to a minute).  The “iPad” connection on a Windows 7 machine does not continue to assign new numbers and ask you each time to classify your connection (“public” is generally recommended, for security; otherwise it will try to copy all of your previous settings.)

When I try the iPad on an older laptop that does not have a recent iPad connection, it first says "cannot connect", and then Windows 7 troubleshooting finds no problem.  On a second try, it does come up with the screen requesting connection type and assigns a number.  But, apparently, with hotspot iPad running IOS6, it will not ask again on subsequent connects to the iPad.  

My MacBook, which is on Mac OS X 10.6.8, early 2011, is too old to support Cloud processing.  I get prompted to update Sibelius, also.  But that would take quite a commitment of time (I am told by Apple that it takes about two hours to install OS X 10.8, "Mountain Lion") and run the risk of making work I have done unreachable if anything goes wrong.

I think back to my days in the workplace, where companies had whole departments, called “systems programming”, to keep up with releases of everything.  Internal employees had to be trained thoroughly (usually with out of town travel) by vendors on how to manage releases. 

An individual working alone does not have that luxury, and has to keep his operating environment up and stable anyway.  So I am very careful about putting in new releases of anything.