Wednesday, June 28, 2017

NorCo's New Cell Block

In their latest attempt to destroy morale, Northampton County Executive John Brown and his Human Resources Lieutenant, Amy Trapp, are poised to adopt a new county policy that bans personal cell phone use, except when employees are on breaks and away from their work area. This is a solution to a nonexistent problem. Much like the punch card fiasco, which Brown is obviously waiting until the election to force on workers, all this does is ruin morale.

SHRM advocates a reasonable approach. "Employees may carry and use personal cell phones while at work on a sporadic basis. If employee use of a personal cell phone causes disruptions or loss in productivity, the employee may become subject to disciplinary action per company policy."

Brown and Trapp at first appear to adopt this common sense approach:

"While at work, employees are expected to exercise discretion when using personal electronic devices. Excessive personal calls, emails, or text messages during the workday, regardless of the type of device used, interfere with employee productivity, are distracting to others, may be unsanitary and, in some cases, could present safety concerns in the working environment."

But right after telling you to exercise discretion, you're told that cell phone use is banned.

"Employees are prohibited from using personal electronic devices during work time, and may only use these devices during scheduled breaks and lunch periods. Additionally, the use must occur only in non-working areas. At no time are mifi devices [like WiFi] not issued by the County of Northampton permitted to be used to boost signals for personal devices while in County owned buildings."

In addition, it is apparently now a capital offense to be caught carrying one.

"Employees’ personal electronic communication devices are to be kept secured in parked vehicles, kept in locked desk drawers, or in lockers where available."

This is overkill. Some businesses like Fed Ex ban cell phones completely, but most public and private employers take a more common sense approach. If it is distracting, it must stop. If it hinders performance, it must stop. Department heads will talk to employees who spend their entire day on the phone. There is no need for a four-page policy that in essence treats the county's most valuable asset, the workforce, as though they are little children.

What is the cell phone policy like where you work?

Updated 9:40 am: Hokie Joe, one of my readers, warns that the last place to keep a cellphone is in a parked car: "Here is my recent experience..... To leave your cellphone in a locked vehicle is ASKING FOR TROUBLE. Cell phones are heat sensitive and the batteries can ignite and cause severe damage to your auto as well as destroying your phone and possibly injuring an innocent by-stander. Look at your instructions on your new phones. I recently left my cell phone exposed to the sun while wading in a local creek and when I picked up my phone, it wouldn't work. I went to Verizon with the problem and they explained the heat sensitive issue. When the phone heats up to a higher temperature than your body temperature it will not respond to your touch since your body temperature is lower than the battery temperature. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CELLPHONE IN YOUR AUTO WITH ALL THIS SUMMER HEAT."

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

Insane, despotic policy. Brown treats his cronies like spoiled children and the rest of the workforce like dirt. Another slap in their faces. Brown the Evil Clown has got to go.

Old Yeller said...

People are addicted to FB, instagram, twatter, snapshat, and tinder time to get back to work spoiled brat tech addled trough sloppers.

Anonymous said...

No one is being forced to work for the county. Either work by the rules or get a job in the private sector.

Most county workers have nightmares thinking about that......

Anonymous said...

Brown better start in his own office, at the front desk. That is all you see when you go to that office.

Anonymous said...

What about ALL the policies that are broken by HR --- flip flops, jeans any day, sneakers worn, cursing, inappropriate attire, etc. She enacts these against certain employees and let her own staff and herself break them. She needs to go. Brown is not going to be re-elected with all her antics!

Anonymous said...

I retired from Northampton County @ 6 years ago. One of my pet peeves was when a co-worker would focus on phone and would text while I was doing county business. Many pampered, spoiled brats work there and are demoralizing to responsible workers. As for a supervisor addressing this issue, forget it. They are the worse. And would not risk offending a worker. Don't worry spoiled brats. When have the supervisors ever held you accountable? Bernie, the hard working county employees are a legend in your mind. Yes, the current administration has its own issues, but the workers have been spoiled for many years. So sad, because so many citizens need and deserve help.

Anonymous said...

Aren't these county workers all in the union? They can use their cell phones all they want, along with FB and other social media.

Who in hell is this guy who is trying to say they can't ?

Anonymous said...

7:41, your office was an exception. If the use of personal devices was so flagrant as you allege, then you supervisor had every right to curtail it. This was never a problem in the office I worked in. We worked hard and never had the time to fool around with our cell phones or tablets.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Since what 7:41 is saying is completely contrary to anything I've seen, I believe she is a liar.

Anonymous said...

County workers spoiled? Nightmares about working in the private sector? Seems people are out of touch with the salaries of current County government employees. Gone are the days of cushy salaries, reasonable cost of benefits and hefty vacation leave--those workers are retiring with full lifetime benefits and are being replaced with workers earning far less with more responsibility. Or those retirees' jobs are being incorporated into positions already in the department to avoid a new hire.
Most friends I know that work in the private sector experience a more modern management approach rather than the County's intimidation, policing style. This may be due to appropriate management training opportunities and experience.
Cell phone use policy is the one of least of the County's issues.

Anonymous said...

It reads as if it was written with emotion, not process.

It's also 100% unenforceable because it permits and prohibits from one paragraph to the next.

Plus it sets up some potentially ugly scenarios where employees, afraid of violating a policy, won't use a cellphone in an emergency or in a situation where it should be used.

I think administrators have to remember that employees are people. They are mothers, fathers, often taking care of kids and more often than not, their own parents, and sometimes, people need to take or make phone calls.

Most companies realize this when forming a policy. That's why outright prohibition doesn't really work because it puts employee and administrator in tough territory.

Anonymous said...


Hokie Joe says;
Here is my recent experience.....
To leave your cellphone in a locked vehicle is ASKING FOR TROUBLE. Cell phones are heat sensitive and the batteries can ignite and cause severe damage to your auto as well as destroying your phone and possibly injuring an innocent by-stander. Look at your instructions on your new phones. I recently left my cell phone exposed to the sun while wading in a local creek and when I picked up my phone, it wouldn't work. I went to Verizon with the problem and they explained the heat sensitive issue. When the phone heats up to a higher temperature than your body temperature it will not respond to your touch since your body temperature is lower than the battery temperature. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CELLPHONE IN YOUR AUTO WITH ALL THIS SUMMER HEAT.

Anonymous said...

I thought Republicans were all about removing governmental micromanaging from people's lives? As usual, it only applies when it suits their agenda.

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous. He needs something better to do and so does his power hungry employee. Wait til someone tries to snag my phone.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Excellent advice, Hokie Joe!

Anonymous said...

Dumb and unrealistic. Causes more problems than it solves.

I work and manage people in the private sector. I treat my employees with respect and as the adults they are. If/when someone is abusing or ignoring a policy, I make sure to make them aware of it - strike 1. If it continues, I let them know what I am seeing and how its impacting their work and ask what is going on - strike 2. Still happening? Strike 3 - and now we have a written plan and signed agreement with the employee explicitly spelling out the do's and don't s for them and the consequences if not followed.

It rarely goes beyond strike 2. In most cases other peers/team members will also make them aware that they're pushing the limits.

Scott

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe that Von Trapp is the highly qualified HR professional she was touted to be, developing such a lame ass, contradictory policy. She is an overpaid despot whose childish behavior and poor judgement should result in her termination.

Anonymous said...

Overheated phones are designed to shut down to avoid fire. They usually operate properly when the temperature lowers. A larger problem with phones in cars is theft. They're the first thing stolen after wallets and purses. Ask any cop.

Anonymous said...

I get the sanitary part. One time I was in a county restroom and there wasn't any toilet paper so I used my phone to wipe my ass!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lol. I don't really understand how using a cellphone is unsanitary.

Anonymous said...

One or both of the principals in this story must be a former 4th grade teacher. A major employer treating adults like children encourages childish behavior and discourages productivity.

Anonymous said...

A woman that walks into work with white pants and clear view of her g-string will never earn the respect of any employee she is trying to enforce any policy on. What is more all of her micromanaging of grown, experienced adults working for the county is only decreasing employee morale which everyone in an HR function knows can become costly when the retention of loyal, hard working employees now end up having to be replaced and retrained. HR is not supposed to act as a daycare for grown adults employed with the County for years. On the contrary it should be improving on employee incentives and rewarding employees for their years of loyalty and strong work ethics they contribute to the County. Once you earn the respect of your employees, you don't have to worry about petty policies being enforced...

Anonymous said...

Your employer is not your mother
Your employer is not your father

Employees trade their labor for compensation from their employer

If employees don't like the rules the employer lays out for your conduct, work somewhere else.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I agree that your employer is neither your mother nor your father. That is why your employer should never treat you like a child.

Anonymous said...

In my experience you're only treated like a child if you act like a child. I would like to thank you Bernie for writing this, it shed light on the arrogance of some employees. Not going to follow rules because of the under wear of the boss? Are you kidding me? They're more worried about having their face in a phone while they're supposed to be working than actually WORKING! Like 248 said no one is forcing you to work at the county, quit! And by all means tell your future employer at the interview that you left your job because you weren't allowed to text, FB or shop online while you were supposed to be working.

Anonymous said...

People who are using their phones are in a way stealing time from the job and the taxpayers get to pay for it. Phones are for emergencies only when at work and a call to the office worked for years so why not now? Time is money and adults should know this. I had employees I felt I had to raise and I let them go. When you act like an adult you should be treated like one. And adults know what the phone is for and why or they should. Don't want the job because the policies don't meet your standards then don't take the job. It only takes one of two to create problems and why does the super have to deal with this?'

Anonymous said...

I can see where people think this policy is a bit much. But also as a manager who has dealt with an employee who said there isn't enough time to get their work done and they are overworked, yet caught them on multiple occasions on Facebook, playing games, and taking personal calls all day, I can see the points of this policy. There sadly are people who abuse situations and it isn't fair to their coworkers who are doing their jobs and are witnessing those who abuse it. And yes I did discipline this employee after many attempts to unofficially say put it away. There is only so much you can let people get away with before they abuse it. And as for sanitary reasons, I've been in the bathroom where people have full on phone conversations and are touching their phones only to come out and keep using it. They aren't cleaning them like they wash their hands after going so it is gross. And one last thing, it's disturbing that people feel the need to comment on people's underware. Someone's undergarments have nothing to do with this policy.

Anonymous said...

There should not be a need for policy. Let the supervisor's do their work and monitor their employees. By putting out this it makes it look like Trapp doesn't have any faith in the supervisors to do their jobs. Sad !

Bernie O'Hare said...

I do not allow vulgar or sexist comments. I permitted tge undergarments remark bc an HR Director should dress professionally.

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Bernie O'Hare said...

I have deleted three comments that focus on the undergarments or me. Stick to the subject.

Anonymous said...

What's the matter O'Hare? Can't handle the truth? People see you for what you are.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, your hatred of me is irrelevant to this issue. You can start a hate O'Hare blog any time you want, but you will not be hijacking this blog with your OT rants.

Anonymous said...

If you are at work, all emergency calls to you should come over the hard phone line, not your cell phone. Personal phones should be off while at work

Anonymous said...

what part of Hokie Joe's comments are wrong. I don't care who Hokie Joe is and it's no skin off my nose, but I experienced the same thing just a few days ago. I let my phone on the front seat of my car in a shopping center (in the sunlight) and when I returned I couldn't use my phone. When the temperature finally cooled down, a warning appeared on my phone that stated my battery was "dangerously" overheated and could cause severe damage to my phone. Did anyone else ever have this problem or am I all alone?

Anonymous said...

When you get to work, cell phone should be turned off, turn it on during breaks and lunch, this is just common sense.

Anonymous said...

the real purpose of the cellphone policy is another avenue to attack employee's they decide they want to target.
the policy will be ignored under most instances,however when the bulls-eye is on an employee then the cellphone policy will be one way to attack them.
It would be interesting to see the cellphone logs of the HR employees I am sure they have made or received non-work related calls.
And within reason they should be able to do that.
"little people" on the other hand just get to be abused.
inane policies like the cellphone ban will just gather contempt for the people who will push it.

Anonymous said...

First trying to get through on a land line to a company these days is insane with 30 step automated systems they all have so my family being able to reach me in a second in paramount. Second my only iusse with anything this women doses is the her complete lack of profesanlism I mean she writes the policy of clean driving record then has 2 wrecks and nothing happens then she rides a Hoover board around the halls and writes a policy on cell phone abuse on county time. Let's be honest if there's any spoiled brat county government employees left their all on the 3rd floor or a member of the management team.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
A cell phone is a important tool and a emergency call from family takes presidency over any and all work related issues!
That said these handhelds have become something they are not!

Anonymous said...

Forget the cell phone policy crap. Let's focus on both employees and management who waste time taking 2 hour lunches and lying when they write in and write out their actual times, or going to Garden Centers for supplies for their home when they are suppose to be in the field visiting a client's home, or leaving work 4 hours early and writing "flex" or "off" and no one knows where they are at, and how can we forget the the ridiculous working "offsite" or "from home" that many managers do on a weekly basis where it must be nice to sit at your kitchen table every Friday or Monday and do work "from home" and enjoy 3 or 4 day weekend days off paid and the tax payers are paying for this! The entire County from top to bottom, no matter what department you look at, is so mis-managed, and so corrupt, it's indescribable! No wonder the employee morale of the few excellent workers the County has is so low!!

Anonymous said...

So Bernie, You called me a liar when I discussed my frustration with the behavior of coworkers at Northampton County. So I guess if I support the statements of 3 PM I am again a liar. As a shop steward I was faced with sitting in when the boss was trying to address some of the nonsense behaviors of my fellow employees. It was an easy task because supervisors never wanted to anger their workers. Again, it was so sad when clients were last in priorities. Yes, not every caseworker was like this but that's why many of us saw the environment demoralizing. Give me a break. Don't try to tell me that all these calls are emergencies. if I had wanted to I could have done all my personal errands and shopping on the County's dime. "Love signing out for field visits." One time I inherited a case load of another worker. I went to see that client and she asked me home visits were new as previous worker only called. I looked at client's signature on plan and saw not only did it not match other signatures but the dumb worker had spelled the client's name wrong when the caseworker forged the signature and the bogus home visit.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yeah,I do have trouble believing you bc it is totally inconsistent with everything I've seen. I do not work around Human Services, which seems to have been your area. The bad attitude you express makes me hopeful that if you speak the truth, you were not a supervisor for long.

Anonymous said...

If we can't get real policies enacted, lets implement inane, aka stupid policies that have no teeth so it looks like we are actually doing 'something' rather than addressing real issues that need attention, but have no authority over. After all, we have to earn our keep. Makes you look soooo effective rather than being the spineless B you really are. Great job ABT. You're the best.

Anonymous said...

We need Ron Angle to clean this place up and make Northampton County great again!

Anonymous said...

To : "June 29, 2017 at 3:00 PM ".... Sounds like you need anger management classes.

Anonymous said...

No I do not need anger management classes but YOU as a taxpayer should be angry of all the wastefulness that goes on in this County. I wrote my concerns on behalf of the tax payer and that includes YOU! So when the next tax increase happens, and you open up your bill, just remember some of the things I pointed out. I didn't even scratch the surface on this ongoing problem!

Anonymous said...

Sorry Bernie, but 3:59 is correct with many of his or her points. As a 20+ year employee in DHS, we have had our share of lazy, worth nothing, employees. And unfortunately it is tough to get rid of them after the probation period. Supervisors are overwhelmed by trying to do a tough job, often time with no backing from higher ups. There are many, many good, caring, hard workers, and they know who the worth nothing ones are. But as is the county way, instead of dealing with the problem employees, they make tough policies that will hurt the ones who don't abuse the use of cell phones. Or for that matter sick leave or any other policy that has been put into effect in recent months.