Monthly Archives: March 2019

Entitlement v. Integrity

I, along with many other Americans, am fascinated by this whole college admission scandal that has occurred.  Of course, everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  As a Human Resources professional, I find it interesting that Lori Laughlin has already been fired by Hallmark.  She has not been proven guilty.  Apparently, her contract must have a clause that if there is any scandal caused by her, they could terminate her contract.

In my career, I did have one occurrence of an employee who was arrested for a felony.  There was an employee who didn’t show up to work for three days.  Before we fired him for “no call/no show,” I said we should investigate why he wasn’t at work.  Maybe he had been in an accident, and was in a hospital unconscious and could not call in.  I wanted to be fair as possible, that maybe extenuating circumstances beyond his control contributed to his absence.  The administrative assistant of his department, who called me about his absence, proceeded to call his emergency contact.  This employee’s family member also said they had not heard from him or his family in a few days, and would check on them.  Later that evening, this administrative assistant called me at home and asked if I was watching the news.  Our employee had just been arrested for killing his wife and children.  When the family member arrived at the employee’s home, one car was in the driveway, and the cat was outside (they apparently never let the cat out).  The family member called the police to break into the home, and that is when they discovered the family had been murdered.  The employee was put on an unpaid leave of absence status until he was convicted of the murder.  Then he was terminated.

Had this employee be out on bail, hard decisions would have to be made.  If innocent until proven guilty, do we allow the employee to return to work?  What if the employee is innocent?  Do we violate his/her rights by putting them on an unpaid leave?  Do we want an employee who has possibly committed a crime to continue working as he/she awaits their court date?  Have organizations even thought how they may handle this scenario?  It is good to have the employment attorney’s number on speed dial.

My first human resources management position was for a small credit union.  What do we do with an employee who we are investigating for theft or fraud?  If this employee is actually stealing from the company, do we keep them there while we are investigating?  In my the case of where I worked, if we felt we had enough evidence, we would put the employee on an unpaid leave of absence for a specified period of time.  As we dug into the records, security camera data, and any other source for the answer, we did not have the employee working as we were doing this.  If we did not find proof of the theft, we would allow the employee to return to work and they would be made whole in their pay.  That never happened.  We usually found the answer swiftly.  

I walked out an employee who had stolen over $3,000 in a very short period of time.  I will not explain their method of fraud to get this money, but looking at employee transactions, actual signed documents, and of course, photos taken at teller lines and ATM’s, we had enough proof to even prosecute.  It was the first time I had personally walked out an employee for this kind of theft, and as his manager and I walked him to his car, Albert (name changed to protect the guilty and for confidentiality purposes) turned to me and asked, “When will I receive my bonus check for accounts that I opened?”  Really?  Did he really have the guts to ask me that?  I distinctly remembered my answer to this person.  I very calmly and cooly stated to him, “According to your union contract, all bonuses are at the discretion of management, and I am management.  You will not receive a bonus check.  Now get in your car and leave our premises.”  

This employee didn’t get off scot-free.  I always filed a police report after we had evidence of a felony theft.  Now there would also be prosecution.  The day this employee was apprehended, my boss (the president) and I met with the police chief.  The chief said that the employee has volunteered to pay the money back.  The chief stated that if we took back the money, the charges would be dropped.  I saw my boss’s eyes light up.  I asked the chief if I could talk to my boss alone.  We stepped out into the hallway, and I emphatically said, “No way will we do that.  If we take this money from him at this point, the message that will go out to all employees (and believe me, the word would get out) is that if you steal, you basically get an interest free loan, if you can pay it back with no consequences other than losing your job.”  I thought that was a message I did not want to give employees.  I wanted them to realize it is a dangerous thing to try any type of theft.  George (name changed) reluctantly agreed, and we continued as we were before.  I proceeded to report the theft to our bonding company, to make sure that Albert, could never be bonded working at any credit union in the country.

A few months later George called me into his office.  He stated that Albert’s family called, and asked again if they could pay the money back, so that George would not be prosecuted because he was working on his graduate degree, and they didn’t want this to affect his future employment.  (Don’t you think that Albert should have thought about this before he pilfered the money)?  Anyway, George told me that he accepted the money, and the charges would be dropped.  I was shocked.  I couldn’t believe he did that.  I looked at him directly in the eyes, and stated, “If this ever gets out, and employees find out we did not prosecute, I will immediately resign.  I cannot work where employees will feel free to steal.”

I don’t know if the employees ever found out, but I did know that I needed to leave.  If my boss, the president of the credit union, would allow this what else would he allow?  I did not want to be a manager at a company that did not have the highest standards, especially in a regulated industry.  My gut feeling was correct.  About six months after I left my employment for a great new opportunity, George was fired due to an audit, and he was walked out, and he lost his ability to be bonded at a credit union.  Wow!  Don’t get me wrong.  George was a really nice guy, who was way over his head as the president.  How he even made it to that level makes me shake my head.  He had no leadership skills, didn’t know banking, and as I sat in some of the board meetings, he would give glowing reports rather than really telling what was going on.  What comes around, goes around.

One would not think they should have to deal with such large theft in organizations.  What does it say about those who do so?  When I was an ethics officer at my last place of employment, I heard a speaker who talked about the slippery slope of unethical behavior.  It usually started with a feeling of entitlement.  That is the “I deserve (fill in the blank).”  In the college admission scandal, it is the “I or my children deserve to go to the best colleges because I can afford it.”  Those who steal money from their companies usually are thinking, “I deserve a better paying job—this company doesn’t compensate me the way I believe I deserve—therefore, I will take from them what I think I deserve.”

Entitlement is a slippery slope no matter the subject.  When someone feels entitled, they will use any means to get what they think they “deserve.”  Be very careful.  In 12-step groups, there is a lot of talk about gratitude.  When we are grateful for what we have, even if it is not a lot, we become good citizens.  We work for what we want.  We do not expect to get a free ride.

We are shocked when we see the headlines like the college admissions scandal.  Or, we are shocked when we hear a coworker has been fired for theft.  Entitlement is dangerous.  Be aware when you start to feel entitled—that you “deserve” something that you currently don’t have.  It can lead to faulty thinking, and on to unethical behavior if not checked.  Be grateful for what you do have—work hard for what you want—be grateful for where it gets you.

Hiking With A New Hip

When we arrived in Arizona at the end of December, the weather (for Arizona) was cold with freeze warnings.  The locals said this was the worst winter they have seen.  The weather has been approximately 20 degrees below their normal, and there has been a lot of rain.  That is good news for this state because it has been in a drought state for years.

The mountain next to our home (San Tan Mountains) loomed over our home calling us out to explore.  Having just had a hip replacement two months prior, I was a little worried about hitting the trails.  At my last doctor’s appointment in December before leaving Missouri, I was told I could do anything I wanted as long as it didn’t hurt, and then that statement ended, very emphatically with, “Whatever you do, don’t fall.”  On January 5, Dennis and I decided to give it a try.  We looked at the map of the trails and selected a rather easy one.  It was a three mile distance. I have walked that distance before, but not for a long time since my hip was becoming a major problem.  This would be my first walk of any distance since months before surgery. 

Celebrating the completion of my 3 mile hike.

Walking this trail was not hard as long because it was fairly level, but there were several places of washes where we had to walk down and back up.  I didn’t feel steady on my feet yet, so I would hold on to Dennis’ hand to manage these minor ups and downs.  As we chatted with some other hikers, it was suggested I purchase hiking stick to help me.  I did complete the three mile trek, and was very proud that I could do so shortly after my surgery.

I was not terribly comfortable on the trails, and didn’t feel strong enough, so while Dennis is out hiking hours on end, I hiked 2/3 of a mile down the street to our local community center and worked out in their fitness center.  I used the treadmill, some of the machines for strengthening my legs and arms, and ended on the bike, and then took the long walk around the neighborhood to home which added another 1 1/2 miles to the walk.  

Finally last week, we decided that I might be strong enough to tackle the mountain.  Dennis had been hiking several paths so he had a good idea of what I could handle.  We chose a scenic path that went up the back side of the mountain.  The total hike was 3.99 miles with an elevation gain of 515 feet.  I was proud of myself for be able to manage these trails.  Hiking sticks in hand helped on the decline as that seems to be the hardest to get a footing around the loose rocks.  The trail we were on is called the Dynamite Trail, and the views were spectacular.

This week I asked Dennis to take me on a trail that would challenge me, but would still be workable.  I would love to do the Goldmine Trail, but Dennis said it is too steep.  He was concerned I may not be strong enough to handle the inclines and especially the downhill parts at this time.  We actually did take part of the Goldmine trail, but then veered off to Dynamite before we hit the big inclines.  Our hike was on a steady incline up the mountain.  This circle we took from the front side of the mountain was a total of 7.72 miles with an elevation gain of 768 feet.  It took us 3 hours and 47 minutes to complete the hike.  Granted we stopped a time or two at the benches located (usually at the top of the large incline) and ate our lunch of hard boiled eggs and apple, but we did not take long breaks because we needed to get off the mountain before it got dark and the big critters come out and eat us.  Okay, that wasn’t the case.  We just wanted to continue our hike to the end.  Hydrating is also necessary.  Dennis has a camel pack which is a small backpack filled with water and has a hose to suck to get the water.  We also attached several bottles of water for me.  I plan to purchase a camel pack for myself.

The last half hour was spent with my complaining that I could not see the flag—the first thing in the distance that tells me we are back at the park entrance.  I was feeling every muscle in my legs, not hurting but tight.  “Where is the flag?”  I kept saying, and finally it was in the distance, the size of a postage stamp, but I could tell we were getting there.  

It was a longer walk back from the Dynamite trail, but Dennis said it was a more level walk back.  Every time, I saw an incline, no matter how low, I groaned as my muscles were groaning!  I looked forward to finding a bench although they are spaced quite a distance apart.  These benches apparently were donated in the memory of someone who loved the park, and their name with birth and death date were posted.  My joke was that the benches scattered throughout the park was located on the spot that person actually died hiking this mountain.  I would say if I fall down and die here, be sure to get a bench with my name on it!

The beauty of the desert is different than the beauty of the ocean, or the Rocky Mountains.  I have never been in a place on earth that I didn’t think was beautiful in some way.  Just like people, everyone looks different, but are all beautiful.  Many folks back in Missouri are surprised to see that Phoenix is surrounded by mountains.  They are not as high as the Rockies, and they are mostly desert, but oh, how amazing they are.  The flowers are just beginning to bloom.  When we first arrived, everything seemed to be brown. When the ran came, the mountain woke up.  All of a sudden the mountain went from brown to green.  It is not green like a Missouri field, nor does it have any trees like the trees in Missouri. 

Back to the trail . . . We have only hiked on the trails at the San Tan Regional Park.  There are trails on all the other mountains surrounding the Phoenix area, and I am sure sometime we will hike some of them.  The San Tan Mountains are at our back door.  We have a view on one from our patio.  The other night we sat outside with the view of the dark mountain and looked at the stars.  Yes, we can see stars from our back yard.  There are street lights around our neighborhood, but I noticed they are all dim lights, and they do not block out the view of the stars.  

I will miss these mountains when we go back to Missouri.  Of course, we are going back when Arizona starts heating up to oven temperatures!  We will be back in Missouri where everything will be green and only nearly oven temps!  If our house isn’t sold by then, we will have the pool and lake to enjoy.  

I feel blessed that for now I have the best of both worlds geographically.  Who knew?  How did this girl, who struggled so hard just to keep her head above water, be blessed to have two places to live, have a husband who treats her so kindly, and can actually be retired and enjoy life.  Life is good!  God is good!  I am blessed!

Living the Life

Arizona house

I have been in Arizona for exactly two months.  The time has flown.  I am just starting to get into the groove of living some place new.  I have learned many of the back street ways to get places rather than travel on the busy roads—I like taking the road less traveled.  I no longer wake up in the morning wondering what I should do for the day.  I know where the grocery stores are.  I know where my favorite spots on the couch and chairs are.  I know which cabinets the dishes belong.  My pantry and refrigerator both have food.  It is home.

I am thoroughly comfortable here.  The house is about one half the size of the house in Missouri, and I love the fact it is quick and easy to clean.  I love that I can walk a half mile and be at the community center with a terrific work out room.  I love that I can walk all over the neighborhood without a coat, and not have to take the same route each day, and get a good walk in.  I love that there is no grass ever to cut!  I love that flowers are blooming in February.  I love the fact we have a mountain to look at and hike on whenever we feel like it, and it’s right out our back door.  There is so much to like here.   

Missouri house

I currently own homes in both Missouri and Arizona.  I would love to sell the Missouri house.  I have loved that home, and we made it a great place for family and friends, but I love the leisurely life we have in Arizona without home upkeep (the advantage of a new build).  I would like my husband to not to have to cut grass on 3 acres and not have to worry about the pool.  I would like him to live as leisurely in Missouri as in Arizona.

I would like to make new memories in a new location when we see our home.  I have no idea where it will be.  We will not look for something until our house is sold.  It’s kind of like living in limbo.  I could be moving out of that house in a month or in 6 months.  I am prepared to move at a moment’s notice.  We have worked hard to have the house ready, so that if it sold while we are in Arizona, it would be a fairly easy pack up and move out project.  We are ready.  I wonder where is my buyer.  Who is the next family to come love our home, and make wonderful memories there?  I just wish whoever they were, they would speak up soon.  I want to make my next set of plans.

I prefer the weather of Arizona, but in two months I will be returning to Missouri.  I fear I will be the same when I arrive there as I was when I first arrived here in late December.  I won’t have a routine, and it will take me two months to figure it out again.  Then I will be in full swing in a routine, and it will be time to pack up and return to Arizona.  How do snowbirds do this?

Which back yard do I like best?  I love them both.  I have been blessed to enjoy such beautiful spaces with my husband.  Yes, this has been a great winter.  If our house doesn’t sell, it will be a great summer at the pool.  If it does, it will be a great new adventure.  I’m ready!  

Arizona back yard
Missouri back yard