Employers Behaving Badly Edition

Although this is supposed to be a weekly review of workplace news, life got in the way last week and I didn’t get it done. But I am making amends by bringing you several stories about employers behaving very badly.

Lawyers behaving badly:  Unfortunately, some of the worst employer behavior seems to come out of law firms.  This first story is a good example of that.  A senior employment lawyer (!!!) at an Ohio law firm sent a female associate a text message accusing her of “sitting on her ass and collecting a paycheck” while on maternity leave (you know, doing the hard work of keeping a new human alive).  The reason the partner was so mad was because he learned that the associate had interviewed for new jobs while on leave (gee, I wonder why….).  This became news once someone anonymously shared his message with Above the Law.

I have a lot of problems with this.  First, it highlights the ongoing hostility mothers continue to face in the workplace.  Second, it’s illegal and as an employment lawyer this guy knew that. Third, large law firms in particular can be tough places for new mothers and our industry needs to do better.

Tech Behaving Badly:  These past two weeks we’ve seen a lot of layoffs-mostly in tech, although not all. And boy are these companies botching it up.  For instance, Microsoft recently held a private Sting concert for about 50 top executives the night before firing ten thousand employees.  While Sting was probably awesome, Microsoft on the other hand was totally tone deaf with this timing.  Google employees say they learned of layoffs via email and/or when their key cards and logins no longer worked. Salesforce employees are equally frustrated and say the CEO refused to answer their questions during a town hall meeting that was supposed to be for just that. While no one likes to be laid off, there are so many ways that companies can do it gently and with humanity and kindness.  Employees decide to file lawsuits when they feel they have been treated badly.  As this CNN article from last week notes, simple transparency and a level of humanity could have prevented a lot of these messes.

Workplace Hunger Games:  Bloomberg reported this week that the company Activision Blizzard “stack ranks” its employees against each other.  Apparently, Activision requires managers to rate their employees on a Bell Curve.  For those not familiar with a bell curve process, by definition a certain percentage of employees must be ranked poorly to fall below the curve. This becomes a problem, though, if a manager is lucky enough to have a team where everyone performs well. While the company touted its ranking system as encouraging excellence, it sounds more like Hunger Games in which employees must battle it out for the top spots on the Bell.  Countless studies have shown that employees perform better and are happier when working in a collaborative environment.  It boggles my mind that a company this size could think this is the right way to assess its workers.

That’s it for the last two weeks!   This week I’ll be looking for stories of employers doing the right thing!