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How HR Could Have Helped 3 Complicated On-screen Office Relationships

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With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is in the air and sometimes that romantic air makes its way into the office. Workplace romances may seem like something only seen in film or on TV, but according to Career Builder, 38% of American workers said they have dated a co-worker at least once in their career. That’s over a third of employees, which makes workplace romance an item every organization should have on its radar.

To better understand how HR can prepare and handle potentially tricky conversations, let’s take a look at three complicated workplace romances from film or television – and how HR could have helped.

Subscribe to HR Break Room to hear more about managing office romance.

Mulder and Scully – The X-files

For almost 25 years, special agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) from The X-Files have been solving supernatural and extraterrestrial cases on television. This pair of government agents work for one of the most well-known organizations in the country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Throughout the series, they slowly become more than just friends or coworkers and have even become romantically involved in the most recent seasons. Each episode features a case that often involves aliens, weird occurrences … and yet another development in Mulder and Scully’s evolving relationship.

How HR can help: The on-again, off-again relationship between Mulder and Scully has left audiences wondering about their status for years. That ambiguity is what makes their relationship unhealthy for the workplace. It’s important for an organization’s policy to hold employees accountable for reporting a romantic relationship with a co-worker. This transparency allows HR to hold a consistent policy that can protect both employees if they break up.

Tom and Summer – 500 Days of Summer

The greeting card industry can be tough, but a brutal breakup in the office can make it even harder! Just ask Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) from the 2009 hit romance film, 500 Days of Summer. The romance that sparked between this on-screen couple turned out to be a bad fit that eventually led to Tom’s depression and complete disengagement from his work. It’s a classic example of how even the most beautiful romances can sometimes go sour.

 How HR can help: It’s important for HR to treat their employees like adults who are allowed to make their own mistakes. It is equally important for managers and supervisors to know about office romances so they can be prepared to handle potential drama.

In this film, Summer is the personal secretary of Tom’s manager, Vance. As the long and painful breakup unfolds, Vance is not clued in on the reason behind Tom’s disengagement, which leads to awkward workplace encounters and poor productivity. By incorporating some form of documentation confirming a workplace relationship into your organization’s policy for managers and team leads, you can foster a culture that equips leaders to better address the impact of those painful breakups.

Lois and Clark – Superman

The iconic comic book couple Lois and Clark have appeared on the screen together many times over the last several decades, but let’s take a look at the 1975 film Superman starring Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Lois Lane works closely with Clark Kent, who (unbeknownst to her) lives a life of fighting criminals. In the workplace, they are coworkers with great chemistry, but Lois’ professional-turned-romantic relationship with Clark’s alter ego, Superman, eventually makes her and the entire Daily Planet a target of his rivals. Clark’s dual identities complicate the root of the problem within the workplace, so that his interest in Lois puts the entire organization at risk.

How HR can help: Krypton’s last son may be great at hiding his identity, but ultimately living a life of two identities endangers people in both. That includes his coworkers Jimmy Olson, Perry White and most importantly, his romantic interest, Lois Lane.

It’s up to The Daily Planet’s HR department to screen their candidates through an applicant tracking system with thorough background checks before making a hiring decision. This can help identify potential red flags or conflicts of interest before a new employee joins the team.

 This Valentine’s Day, take the opportunity to look closer at your existing workplace romantic relationship policies. These stories make for great entertainment – but an effective policy on workplace romance can help you make sure the drama stays on the screen and out of your office.


by Caleb Masters

Author Bio: Caleb is the host of The HR Break Room and a Webinar and Podcast Producer at Paycom. With more than 5 years of experience as a published online writer and content producer, Caleb has produced dozens of podcasts and videos for multiple industries both local and online. Caleb continues to assist organizations creatively communicate their ideas and messages through researched talks, blog posts and new media. Outside of work, Caleb enjoys running, discussing movies and trying new local restaurants.

Unconscious Bias

3 Steps to Prevent Unconscious Bias in the Interview Process

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You do it. I do it. We all do it.

No, I’m not talking about converting oxygen into carbon dioxide – although you may need to take a deep breath before reading further. I’m talking about that unquestionably human habit of prejudging someone or something, whether in a positive or negative light.

That little prejudge is known as unconscious bias. Most people harbor some bias, although they may not realize it. For employers, unconscious bias can cause big trouble if interviewers unfairly favor or dismiss a candidate during the hiring process.

According to Harvard Business Review, when interviewers without standardized questions are left to decide which candidate to hire, their decisions tend to be subjective and unconsciously influenced by fixed thoughts on race, gender and ethnicity. Considering the strict regulations set forth by the U.S.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), interviewers can get into hot water quickly, without even realizing they’re doing something wrong.

To help avoid risk, empower your hiring managers to follow these three steps.

Introduce performance-based questions

As the great equalizers, performance-based questions center on what employees must do to be successful in their roles. This includes questions to assess how they have addressed challenges in other roles, and hypothetical questions to judge how candidates would approach the challenges your company faces. The trick is to ask each candidate the same questions so you have a fair assessment.

If you’re wondering what a performance-based question sounds like, here’s an example: “Thinking about a time in which a project didn’t go as planned, what actions did you take to correct it as quickly as possible?”

Measure applicants’ answers

Performance-based questions are worth nothing unless you have a system to compare applicants’ answers. Next, you’ll want to compare their responses with something called a standardized rubric. Using a rubric means everyone involved in the hiring process agrees on what the important questions are and what an excellent answer would be. Without it, comparisons simply are not apples-to-apples. You easily can create a rubric by asking those who already perform the role what success looks like.

Train your staff

Finally, train your staff to recognize and counter biases during the hiring process. This is especially important when multiple interviewers screen for an open position. Make sure everyone knows to take good notes so they can compare candidates’ answers with the rubric. It’s important that everyone involved is on the same page, especially with which elements indicate future success.

Eliminating unconscious bias in the interview process is hard, especially when multiple parties are involved. That’s why it’s critical to factor performance-based questions into the equation, making it much easier to focus on candidates who possess the right skill set for the position at hand.

Learn more by downloading our free e-book, Discover What Your Front-Line Managers Need to Know About Hiring, Diversity Inclusion and EEOC Compliance.

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Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

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Posted in Blog, Compliance, Employment Law, Featured

Monica Johnson

by Monica Johnson

Author Bio: As Paycom’s client marketing specialist, Monica Johnson utilizes a mixture of marketing and human capital management knowledge gained from years of industry experience. A graduate from the University of Central Oklahoma, Johnson has been with Paycom since 2013 and has served in numerous roles during her career with the company. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, exploring Oklahoma City and sipping coffee, while reading a good book, at one of her favorite local shops.

June 1: National Doughnut Day

5 Offbeat Holidays to Celebrate at Work … and Boost Employee Engagement

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Halloween, Thanksgiving and the “holiday season” all fall in the fourth quarter, meaning the last three months of the year are jam-packed with celebrations and events, not only in your employees’ personal lives, but likely in your workplace as well.

But that festive atmosphere doesn’t have to fall only when the leaves do. Thanks to little-known holidays or theme days, you can easily discover things to celebrate throughout the year with your team. In fact, businesses may see benefits by doing so.

Impact on morale

Gallup found that 51% of employees who have a close work friendship consider themselves engaged, while 75% who have a best friend at work said they plan to be employed at their current company one year from now. Furthermore, those reporting having best friends at work were found to have higher levels of health stress management, even though they experienced the same stress as those who did not have good friends at work.

Building time for your team members to get to know each other and strengthen relationships is clearly good for morale, which is good for business. So how can your employees really get to know each other? With your help. Celebrating holidays or theme days year-round gives your employees opportunities to build connections with each other without the extra stress the traditional holiday season often brings.

Bonus tip: Get leadership involved! If employees see their managers skipping the events to stay at their desks, they’ll feel like they shouldn’t participate, either. Make sure to get buy-in from everyone and clearly state the beneficial impact of engagement.

Start with these

You can give your employees something to look forward to every year if they know your business makes a regular workday a day to celebrate something small. Start a tradition that’s unique to your company. Here are a few holidays that might be right for your organization to celebrate.

Jan. 26: Fun at Work Day

Make this day one your employees won’t want to miss! Maybe you bring in food trucks for lunch or schedule a team-building activity at a local place that holds corporate events and specializes in team-building (like cooking or painting classes). For extra fun, keep the day’s activities a surprise and try to do something different every year.

March 14: National Pi Day

What better way to commemorate 3/14 by holding a bake-off with a trophy for the office’s best pie? The winner can keep the prize on his or her desk and have bragging rights for the year.

April 26: Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day

Every organization may not be able to have an event like this during the workday. If not, you could organize an event after work as an open house to encourage employees to share with their children what they do. It also will give your employees an opportunity to introduce their families to each other without having to wait for your holiday part. Plus, it’s never too early to start recruiting.

May 4: May the Fourth Be With You

Named for sounding similar to a catchphrase from a super-popular movie franchise, May 4 is a fun “holiday” to recognize at the office, particularly if you know you have fans of the galactic saga. You might organize a costume contest or perhaps play one of the films in the company cafeteria or a conference room.

June 1: National Doughnut Day

This one’s pretty easy: Buy doughnuts for your staff. Take a midmorning break and enjoy them together. Maybe spring for some coffee or bagels, too.

You can keep track of holidays like these, as well as critical HR and compliance deadlines, by downloading our free digital 2018 HR & Payroll Calendar.

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Posted in Blog, Employee Experience, HR Management

Callie Johnson

by Callie Johnson

Author Bio: As a writer for Paycom, Callie Johnson creates content for the company’s various marketing and communications initiatives. Having earned her bachelor’s degrees in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and web design/development from Full Sail University, she has written for companies of all sizes. Outside of the office, she enjoys hand-lettering, going to the movies and spending time with her family and dogs.

2018 Form W-4 Changes Employees Should Consider

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Ever since President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) into law last December, payroll professionals have been anticipating an updated IRS Form W-4. After issuing new federal income tax withholding guidance in January as a result of the TCJA, the IRS released the 2018 version of Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, on Feb. 28.

The 2018 Form W-4 has been implemented in the Paycom system.

Interim guidance

The IRS previously released Notice 2018-14, which provided guidance on the usage of the existing 2017 version of Form W-4. Among other things, this notice:

  • extended the effective period of the 2017 version for purposes of claiming exemption from withholding temporarily until Feb. 28, 2018
  • described the procedures employees may claim exemption from withholding for 2018 using the 2017 Form W-4
  • temporarily suspended the requirement that employees must furnish a new Form W-4 within 10 days of changes in status that reduce withholding allowances they are entitled to claim
  • allowed employees (including newly hired employees) to use the 2017 Form W-4 to update their withholding allowances until 30 days after the 2018 Form W-4’s release (March 30)
  • stated that employees who furnish new Form W-4s using the 2017 version do not need to furnish a 2018 Form W-4 after it is released


Changes to consider

Solely due to the changes passed in the TCJA, the IRS is not requiring employees to submit a 2018 Form W-4 to their employer, although they may if they choose. However, substantial changes have been made to the worksheets associated with the 2018 Form W-4, so employees should consider how the new rules will affect their specific tax and withholding situation when making the decision.

Despite the TCJA’s removal of personal exemptions from year-end income tax calculations, Form W-4 still includes a Personal Allowances Worksheet. Its credits section has been revised to allow for:

  • the increased child tax credits as adjusted for income
  • adjustments for credits claimed for other dependents
  • a new line for “Other credits” that will be calculated by the employee using a worksheet found in the 2018 version of Publication 505 (yet to be released)

Additionally, the form’s Deductions and Adjustments Worksheet has been revised to adjust for the new values for standard deductions, as defined by the TCJA, while the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs Worksheet contains updated wage brackets in the tables used to calculate allowances depending on multiple job households.

‘Paycheck checkup’

To help employees see the differences that completing a 2018 Form W-4 will affect their take-home pay, the IRS released an updated Withholding Calculator online.

The IRS encourages all employees use it to conduct “a quick ‘paycheck checkup’” and use the information it returns to determine if they would like to adjust their withholding. These values can be entered by the employee directly into Paycom’s Employee Self-Service tool to complete a new Form W-4.

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

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Posted in Blog, Compliance

Author Bio: Robert Barclay has been the Tax Research Team Lead at Paycom since 2012, and has been instrumental in such company projects as the development of its Affordable Care Act compliance product, implementation of geolocation services and redesign of Form W-2. He joined Paycom in 2011, bringing more than 20 years of experience with the capital markets consulting practices of Ernst & Young in Memphis, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala.; and Causey Demgen & Moore in Denver, Colo. A native Oklahoman, Barclay is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, where he played football as linebacker.


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