I’m a PITA

You should be one too!

I admit it. I’m a “PITA”. It’s true! I am often a Pain in the Ass. In fact, I get paid to be a Pain in the Ass. I fully embrace my PITA standing and consider it to be a big part of my job description. I mean, it doesn’t say that in black and white of course, but I consider profit protection to be the primary purpose of what I do for a living. Heck, #protectingprofits and #profitprotection are even my hashtags! I’m good at my job; I was even gifted a name tag by one dealer principal that proved it. It said PITA instead of Sandy, which I thought was hilarious. You see, he trusted me to be a pain. He trusted that I would do everything I could to keep his profits safe.

It’s not easy to be a PITA

It is not easy being the bearer of information that managers and owners do not really want to hear. It’s not easy to say, “I know you want to (fill in the blank), but I’d like to give you a run-down of the possible risks.” I am always pointing out some risk or another and offering solutions for how to protect profits. I am always worried about compliance and all those pesky and boring process details that can cause needless penalties and fines. It is my job to protect dealership profits.

In the car business it’s almost as if Human Resources is a curse word. In fact, in the three years I have been out on my own as a consultant, I have stopped telling people that I’m an HR professional. When people ask me what I do my response is: “I help car dealers protect their profits through compliant people processes, coaching and training.” I wonder if I should just say, “I’m a PITA.” Nah.

Call to action!

I know other HR professionals feel the same way. At NADA this year, I related so much to Sherry Schultz, the chief human resources officer at Walser Automotive Group, when she was on a panel at the Leading Women’s Brunch. She said that she found being an HR professional more of a hindrance than being a woman in the car business. I almost stood up and clapped because, well….me too.

So, this article is really a call to action for all HR professionals—but especially for those of us in the car business. Embrace you inner PITA. Please. It’s imperative right now. It’s also a call to department managers, dealer principals and COOs to please listen to your resident PITA.

Over the more than 20 years I have been HR in the car business, I’ve learned to listen to my risk alert intuition. In early March my risk red flags started waving at me. Everywhere I look as we battle COVID-19 I see areas of risk. With the passing of FFCRA, Cares Act, law off/furlough strategies, essential business orders, and owners struggling to navigate it all and maintain some kind of continuity of business, there is so much profit risk out there.

I’ve been saying that there are so many cogs in the wheel and one thing affects the other. It is one of the reasons my mantra has been for auto dealers to utilize all experts in your strategy planning. Do not forget your external experts: safety, HR, benefit brokers, financial advisors, labor attorneys, compliance and contract attorneys. In the more than 20 years I have been doing what I do, I have learned to listen to my intuition – to that little voice inside that has saved actual money. Embracing my inner PITA—getting over the fear of being viewed as a PITA—being brave enough to speak up has saved the people that I work for money through mitigating profit loss.

The risks are real

Personally, I think that OSHA risk is huge right now and largely forgotten—the DOL recently issued a reminder to employers to not retaliate when an employee makes a complaint. See it here. It’s fair warning. Why? Well, read this April 3 article from Business Insurance. The OSHA office is being overrun with complaints and inquiries. These complaints will likely trigger a visit from OSHA. Be ready.

Other risks are just as real

FLSA issues with pay plan changes that are not documented with as dealers are beginning to receive PPP funds and strategizing how to utilize them within the constraints of the law. By the way, I have been recommending that dealers call their labor attorney to inquire if it would be a good idea to do a temporary COVID-19 pay plan. Other FLSA/wage and hour issues with telework being implemented and time keeping not being addressed properly. The possibility of coming out of contract with health care plan documents due to lay-offs and furloughs—I mean who wants to get re-rated right now? EEOC risk with poorly planned layoffs—it might seem like the perfect time to let go of that poor performer you should have terminated six months ago, but it really isn’t.

There are also workers compensation issues to think about. Just yesterday Illinois declared that essential employees are guaranteed workers compensation during the pandemic. Basically, if an essential employee says they contracted COVID-19 at work it is automatically presumed they are telling the truth—that is going to ping pong straight back to OSHA because it would then be a recordable illness. See? Cogs in the wheel affecting the other. I could go on. But I won’t. I also know how to restrain my inner PITA. You’re welcome.

So, in closing, I want to implore you HR pros to dig in and find your brave inner PITA. And I implore the executive management out there—the dealer prinicpals, COOs, CEOs, GMs, etc.—please trust that your resident PITA is looking out for your current and future profits and listen to what they have to say. Then it’s up to you to decide your risk appetite and take action accordingly.

Thanks for letting me share and wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and happy day!


Sandy Zannino
With over 20 years in the automotive industry, Sandy is passionate about protecting profits through compliance, programs, and training.  She opened IAHR in 2017 and in 2019 received Tampa HR’s award for HR Consultant of the year.  Sandy is a processed based problem solver who believes deeply in offering exemplary customer service to her clients, earning their loyalty and trust.