Employee Relations: Don't Bring Me Down!

Original post ubabenefits.com

Every workplace has its fair share of slackers and goof-offs, but it’s what an employer does with those employees that solidifies its corporate culture as one of high or low performance.

Employers that ignore low-performing employees risk more than just productivity. In an article titled, “Study: Beware ‘Toxic’ Influence of Low-Performers” on the Society For Human Resource Management’s website, research found that low-performing employees hurt overall morale and increased their co-workers' workload. Furthermore, innovation and motivation are stifled and mediocrity is deemed acceptable.

What may be of most concern is that a mere 60% of survey respondents looked at their co-workers and would rehire them. Their motto should have been: we may hire the best, but we keep the rest.

Successful companies know how to weed out their weakest links, while rewarding and retaining high-performing employees. They know that employees who perform poorly can cause high-performing employees to seek jobs elsewhere. Successful companies are able to identify their best employees, then they establish incentives, opportunities, or other ways of ensuring they stay.


So, how do you identify the best, or even the best of the best? It’s not as easy as it may seem. These are the top 10% to 15% of the organization. A company must first determine a set of guidelines that mark an employee as a high performer. Once the guidelines are in place, observation of these employee traits should be done in order to ensure uniformity and that the guidelines were set correctly.


Now that a company knows what it expects in its employees, it’s time to announce that to everyone so that they either know they’re doing the right things, or can make a plan for improvement. At the same time, employers should conduct surveys on employee satisfaction. Their focus should be on their top performers and what makes them happy.


Plenty of data should be collected regarding the criteria that not only make an employee a top performer at the company, but also what he or she prefers in terms of job satisfaction. Going forward, this data should be matched to potential recruiting candidates for new positions. In addition, surveys that measure the quality of a new hire (i.e., whether the recruiter hired the right candidate) should be completed at predetermined intervals of three, six, nine, or 12 months.


In jobs where there is high demand and lots of attrition, correctly recruiting and retaining the best performers could be the key difference in a company’s success.

4 Ways to Talk to Employees So They Listen

Original post entrepreneur.com

No one likes to be lectured in the workplace.

As a leader, you need to communicate with your employees to deliver strategic direction, reinforce corporate culture and rally the troops to achieve company goals and objectives. To be effective, you need to deliver these messages in a way that creates energy and enthusiasm, rather than deflating your team.

Here are four tips for talking to employees in a way that energizes them rather than depleting them:

1. Use humor. No matter how big or small your operation may be, there is often tension and emotional distance between the boss and employees. To diffuse that, I regularly use humor, a tactic that makes me more approachable. In my experience, the best kind is self-deprecating humor. When I showed up to meet new employees for the first time at a Midwest location, I started the conversations by poking fun at my pronounced "New Yawk" accent. It got a laugh and made me seem more accessible.

2. Ask open-ended questions. And then be quiet. My favorite question to ask is “Tell me about [insert topic here].” When you ask a new employee about his ideas or a technologist about a new device, you are asking them to do more than give you a pat sentence or two in response. You have the opportunity to access that person’s deep knowledge and passion. Ask a question that opens the conversation wide and then hold still and listen.

3. Bring others into the conversation. A boss-employee conversation may seem casual to the boss but can feel like an interrogation to the employee. To diffuse this situation, I like to bring others into the conversation to even out the experience. I may turn a one-on-one discussion into a larger conversation by inviting people to join us and share their thoughts and experiences. It benefits me, because I get to hear more voices, and it helps put everyone else at ease.

4. Let the little stuff slide. If you are the kind of hands-on person who helped build the business from the ground up, you probably have insight or advice on everything from the capital budget to color of the carpet. But you don’t have to communicate every thought to the staff. If it’s not an important critique, let it go. I visited a flower shop in my company once and noticed the manager was not lining the trashcans with plastic bags. I know from experience that liners make the job easier, but I also know that I don’t need to communicate every idea that comes into my head. It just creates a climate of nitpicking.

Conversations that take place up and down the food chain – between supervisor and staff, people of different departments and the boss and the new employee – are often the source of great new ideas.

As the boss, it’s your job to get those conversations started and keep them going. You have a chance to make that happen (or achieve the opposite) every time you open your mouth.

7 Tips to Get Your Team to Actually Listen to You

Original post entrepreneur.com

Right from the outset, entrepreneurs must pay attention to every communication and opportunity for sharing their passion and vision.  They must communicate effectively, so they can inspire others to come aboard.  They must speak honestly and in ways that reveal their personal character and genuine connection. Yet, this sort of communication style can be difficult and time consuming – especially when demands are huge and time is scarce.

There is far more to being an effective and authentic communicator than most entrepreneurs believe -- at least when they are starting out. Even if you think you’re good at speaking to your team and motivating them, there’s always more to learn.

Leadership communication is a discipline and a practice: The more time, effort and heart you put in, the more effective you become.  There really are no shortcuts.

That said, here are seven ideas that can help you focus your attention and improve your leadership communication.

1. Be authentic.

When you speak with your employees you must come across to them as real. This means sharing your beliefs and your struggles. Talking about moments of doubt but also explaining how you overcame them with more conviction and confidence than ever. Or perhaps share a story or two about a failure and disappointment in life.

The most convincing talks are when stories are shared about personal weaknesses and what one was doing to overcome them or disappointments and failures and how they were turned around.

2. Know yourself.

Dig deep.  Know your values and what motivates you.  If you don’t know yourself you cannot share or connect with others. People want to know what makes you tick as a human being not just as a leader. Share this and make yourself real.

3. Rely on a good coach or a trusted advisor.

Developing good communication skills takes time -- and in the rush of business, that’s scarce.  Having someone who can push you to examine and reveal your interests and passions is enormously helpful and the value is immeasurable.

4. Read up on leadership communication.

If you can’t hire a coach, read all that you can. This is an inexhaustible resource, and you should never quit learning anyway. Books, articles, the internet; the possibilities are endless.

5. Make values visible.

Effective, empathetic communication and a commitment to culture can provide a solid foundation for your ideas and contribute to making it a reality. Many of today’s most successful companies have gone through dramatic crises.  Their improvements often hinged upon genuine communication from the leaders.

For instance, think of Starbucks and Howard Schultz’s clear and genuine communications about the importance of managers and baristas being personally accountable for future success. Your employees want to know what you and the company stands for. What is the litmus test for everything you do? These are your values. Talk about them but you must always be sure to “walk the talk” and live by them.

6. Engage with stories.

You can't rely on facts and figures alone. It’s stories that people remember. The personal experiences and stories you share with others create emotional engagement, decrease resistance and give meaning. It is meaning that gets employees' hearts and fuels discretionary effort, thinking and desire to actively support the business.

Once someone was implementing a massive pricing cut. He could have presented reams of data about this change and why it needed to be made. Instead he invited in four clients of the firm who had written letters about why after more than 10 years they had decided to leave due to our pricing being noncompetitive. Everyone was engaged and quite horrified to hear this feedback. Getting the team’s support for the change was much easier after that.

7. Be fully present. 

There is no autopilot for leadership communication. You must be fully present to move people to listen and pay attention, rather than simply be in attendance. Any time you are communicating, you need to be prepared -- and to speak from your heart.  Leadership communication is, after all, about how you make others feel. What do you want people to feel, believe and do as a result of your communication?  This absolutely can't happen if you read a speech. No matter how beautifully it is written, it doesn’t come across as authentic or from your heart if you are reading it. Embrace what you want to say and use notes if you must, but never read a speech if you want to be believable and move people to action. (And yes this requires a ton of preparation).

Your speeches are visible and important components of your role as a leader. Successful entrepreneurs are conscious of that role in every communication, interaction and venue within the organization and beyond. They also know that while today’s world provides a wide range of ways to communicate to your organization -- mass email, text, Twitter, instant message and more --connecting is not that simple. Electronic communication is a tool for communicating information -- not for inspiring passion.

Want to be productive? Don’t skip lunch

It seems that every office has its share of employees who appear so dedicated to their jobs that they are always available, never or seldom take a lunch break, and when they do take a break, they remain working at their desk. This fosters the belief among other employees that if they also want to be, or at least appear to be, productive, then they must follow the same practice of skipping lunch. This is a bad idea.

While the traditional lunch hour may be on its way out for most business and technology professionals, if employees don’t stop and take a break to eat, it will actually reduce productivity. This is according to an article on The Washington Post’s website titled, “You may look more productive skipping lunch, or eating at your desk. But you aren't.”

The reason is simple. Your brain needs energy to work properly and if you deprive it of a steady flow of energy, then it won’t function as well as it should. Foods rich in a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats have been proven to improve people’s memory test results. In fact, according to the article, slow-release carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables provide the best results.

Another equally important reason is that your brain needs to take a break from cognitively-demanding work such as problem solving, managing, or being creative. Plus, taking a break from stress-related work, such as the constant flow of emails, can help recharge your brain.

To help fine-tune productivity even more, research in the article recommends changing your surroundings during your break, especially if you can go somewhere like a park, patio, or near a window. Natural environments tend to be restoring and an ideal lunch break would be to eat outside.

However, while it’s clearly beneficial to take a break, this still may not eliminate the perception that an employee is somehow less dedicated and productive. An argument can be made that the quality of a person’s work has nothing to do with the quantity of work and an employee doesn’t have to take an entire hour away from his or her desk in order to receive the cognitive benefits. So go ahead, take a lunch break. Your brain will thank you.

Can you hear me now?!

Original post by ubabenefits.com

If your boss has never yelled at you, then either you own your own business, are self-employed, or have a boss who is mute. At some point in your working career, it’s safe to say that you’ve been yelled at by a supervisor. Whether that anger toward you was justified or not is probably up for debate, but what can almost be guaranteed is that you weren’t quite sure how to handle it and respond.

An article on Business Insider’s website titled, “6 ways to respond to your boss yelling at you,” discusses the multiple ways employees can react to their boss yelling at them. Let’s get two important things out of the way first. If your boss isn’t just yelling at you, but is actually bullying you, then you should go to your human resources department immediately. However, if you’re just being yelled at, then never, EVER, for any reason should you yell back. Don’t give your boss a reason to be madder at you. It’s just not worth it.

Do you think you’re right and the boss is wrong? Don’t yell back. Are you the scapegoat for someone else’s mistake? Don’t yell back. Is your boss just venting and you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Don’t yell back. Yelling never accomplishes anything and if you yell at your boss, you risk the obvious of being fired, or at least being watched like a hawk or having a grudge held against you.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with standing up for yourself and, fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish this without further upsetting the boss. Once things have calmed down, analyze exactly WHY the boss is yelling at you because, you know, you could actually be seriously at fault.

Regardless of fault, the primary reason that your boss is yelling is most likely because he or she has simply reached the breaking point. After you sit there (or stand) and “ride out the storm,” ask to speak with your boss privately at a later day and time. Make it a formal meeting either in the boss’s office or a conference room. Before the meeting, make sure you have a plan for mending the relationship and resolving the issue that made your boss so angry in the first place.

The reason your boss was so angry could have been a misunderstanding. If that’s the case, then say so, but remain composed and keep things as factual as possible without straying off-message. Your boss may then ask questions so as to better understand the situation. Be honest, but remember to stay focused and stick to the point.

If, in fact, the reason your boss was yelling at you was because you screwed up, then take responsibility for your mistake. Don’t place blame with others, make excuses, or be argumentative. Accept blame and tell the boss that you understand why you made the mistake, say that you’re sorry, and that you will work diligently to correct the mistake as quickly as possible. After all, everyone makes mistakes.

Let’s assume that whatever the boss was yelling at you about wasn’t your fault. When you have the follow-up meeting with your boss, try and have a solution developed. By demonstrating initiative and thinking on your feet, you just might be able to turn this around in your favor and show the boss that you’re a team player that can shake off being berated.

Finally, make sure that you’re proactive and stay on top of the resolution. Give your boss regular updates and ask for feedback to ensure that you’re on track and won’t get yelled at again. If all goes well, you should be back on your boss’s good side in no time!

Bullies taking a toll on their workplace targets

Source: Benefits Pro

Less than 10 percent of workers experience bullying on the job. But for those who do, the consequences can be severe.

Ball State University researchers reviewed 2010 data from more than 17,000 workers who were asked, among other things about bullying on the job.

The study found that 8 percent overall reported they had experienced bullying, with women being far more likely to be the targets of bullying than men.

Of those who were bullied, researchers reported, they were far more likely to report physical and psychological responses to the bullying, including stress, loss of sleep, depression and anxiety.

The report, “Workplace Harassment and Morbidity Among U.S. Adults,” says these targets tend to report higher levels of low self-esteem, concentration difficulties, anger, lower life satisfaction, reduced productivity and increased absenteeism than those who said they were not bullied.

“Harassment or bullying suffered by American employees is severe and extremely costly for employers across the country,” Jagdish Khubchandani, a community health education professor at Ball State and the study’s lead author, told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 18. “The first thing that we have to do, and employers have to do, is admit that there is a problem,” he said.

Among other findings:

  • Females were 47 percent more likely to be bullied or harassed than males;
  • Victims of harassment were more likely to be obese and smoke;
  • Female victims reported higher rates of distress,smoking, and pain disorders like migraines and neck pain; and
  • Male victims were more likely to miss more than two weeks of work and suffer from asthma, ulcers, hypertension and worsening of general health.
  • Bullying was more prevalent among hourly workers, state and local government employees, multiple jobholders, night shift employees and those working irregular schedules.

Khubchandani said that employees are generally reluctant to report harassment because the result is often “just handle it.” Companies need to have anti-bullying policies with teeth in them, and they can also conduct an annual survey of employees that includes gathering information about bullying.

An awareness campaign that educates managers on the signs of bullying such as employees chronically using personal or sick leave — will help to identify those who possibly are being targeted, he said.


Just Say 'No' to Co-Workers' Halloween Candy

Originally posted on  October 14, 2014 by Josh Cable on ehstoday.com.

Workplace leftovers might seem like one of the perks of the job. But when co-workers try to pawn off their Halloween candy on the rest of the department, it's more of a trick than a treat.

Those seemingly generous and thoughtful co-workers often are just trying to keep temptation out of their homes.

"Not only does candy play tricks on your waistline, but it also turns productive workers into zombies," says Emily Tuerk, M.D., adult internal medicine physician at the Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

"A sugar high leads to a few minutes of initial alertness and provides a short burst of energy. But beware of the scary sugar crash. When the sugar high wears off, you'll feel tired, fatigued and hungry."

Tuerk offers a few tips to help you and others on your team avoid being haunted by leftover candy:

  • Make a pact with your co-workers to not bring in leftover candy.
  • Eat breakfast, so you don't come to work hungry.
  • Bring in alternative healthy snacks, such as low-fat yogurt, small low-fat cheese sticks, carrot sticks or cucumber slices. Vegetables are a great healthy snack. You can't overdose on vegetables.
  • Be festive without being unhealthy. Blackberries and cantaloupe are a fun way to celebrate with traditional orange and black fare without packing on the holiday pounds. Bring this to the office instead of candy as a creative and candy-free way to participate in the holiday fun.
  • If you must bring in candy, put it in an out-of-the-way location. Don't put it in people's faces so they mindlessly eat it. An Eastern Illinois University study found that office workers ate an average of nine Hershey's Kisses per week when the candy was conveniently placed on top of the desk, but only six Kisses when placed in a desk drawer and three Kisses when placed 2 feet from the desk.

And if you decide to surrender to temptation and have a treat, limit yourself to a small, bite-size piece, Tuerk adds. Moderation is key.

5 root causes of disengagement

Originally posted on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

The one-size-fits-all communications approach is ending, but employee engagement is still an issue for many employers. Alison Davis, of employee communication firm Davis & Company, identified five root causes of deteriorating engagement, which she shared with attendees at this year’s Benefits Forum & Expo.

The shredded employment contract

Since the recession, employees are losing confidence in the security of their jobs. Workers feel there has been a shift and that employers are holding more of the cards. According to Gallup, the number of actively disengaged workers increased to 24% in organizations that have recently laid off employees. Additionally, Towers Watson notes that 72% of companies have reduced their workforce in response to the recession.

Lack of trust in leaders

According to Towers Watson, fewer than two in five employees have confidence in senior leaders. People are skeptical and often have a wait-and-see attitude to what leaders have to say. Employees are saying “let’s wait and see what really happens,” Davis says.

Demographic attitudes

Another, and probably the biggest, challenge revolves around the different attitudes of the three primary generations in today’s workforce, says Davis. Baby boomers are burnt out and display a negative attitude in their exchanges with co-workers; Gen Xers are balancing work and home life responsibilities; Millennials have an “all about me” attitude and are somewhat impatient about moving up (or across) the corporate ladder. The average length of tenure out one job for a millennial is 2.6 years, and by the age of 27 they will have already worked four different jobs.

Mad men management

Employers are trapped in a 1950s mindset. This can be seen in the organizational charts that show a top-down hierarchy. The decision-making is done at the top, and general access to information is scarce, even as corporate leaders talk about transparency.

The way work gets done

We’re in a 24/7/365 mindset where an employee is always on the job. Employees never feel quite done or that they can ever shut it down, which affects their work-life balance and causes them to feel disengaged.

New-age challenges for employee privacy

Originally posted September 23, 2014 by Michael Giardina on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

An individual’s online behavior and presence may seem like their own business, but when it comes to on-the-job use of social networks, the rules have changed. And as benefit managers and their HR teams do their due diligence to try to find the ideal candidate for a position, are they overstepping the law by requiring new hires to allow an employer access to the candidate’s online life?

How can employers ensure that current employees or potential hires are the right fit for their workplace without crossing the line — and taking steps enforcement agencies and new state laws deem too intrusive? As they look for answers, many companies will find that guidance has been a bit fuzzy.

Employers, including private companies and educational institutions, are being forcibly excluded from their employees’ social media accounts as privacy advocates push for more action from legislators. This year, New Hampshire became the 18th state to enact laws that promote employee and student privacy when it comes to employer access to personal online account information.

Five other states in 2014 and nearly a dozen others in 2013 have pushed forward with similar provisions to protect employee privacy, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“I don’t think it’s surprising that more states are enacting legislation,” says Jaklyn Wrigley, an associate at law firm Fisher & Phillips, who represents employers in Mississippi and on the federal level. “It’s a personal realm; that’s where you engage in communication with people that don’t have anything to do with work or school. So it makes sense — unless there is a reason for the employer or university to really stick its nose into that aspect of your personal business — that it is protected without fear of some sort of retaliation.”

The issue of employer social media access was first addressed in 2012 with the introduction of the Password Protection Act, which aimed to prevent employers from demanding access to their potential or current workers’ personal social media accounts. At the time, a Workplace Options and Public Policy Polling survey discovered that 89% of American workers felt their employers had no right to demand their social media login information, and 68% predicted that forcing workers to hand over this information would cripple the already shaky employer-employee relationship.

Alan King, president and chief operating officer of Workplace Options, explains that employer access to personal online information remains “a tricky issue.”

“There are several levels of concern for both parties, but when you look at the big picture, it really boils down to trust, engagement and security,” King says. “It’s dangerous to say that prohibiting employer access to search or monitor employee activity online or through social media sites will improve employee well-being across the board. That may be the case in some instances; it may not be in others.”

According to King, there is a fine line for both employers and employees to walk when policing this new-age issue.

“Employees need to know that what they do or say online or outside of work can impact their professional lives, even if they are off the clock,” he says. “But employers also need to hear and understand that too much interest in what an employee does in their personal life can be bad for

From a legal perspective, employers may be taking the wrong approach when considering an employee’s (or potential employee’s) personal life in their review process. But even before bans on employer access to social media and online account passwords were considered by state and federal lawmakers, employees did have protective safeguards in place.

“A lot of employers just assume that if it’s on the Internet, it’s fair game — and that’s not the case,” says Louis L. Chodoff, partner at national law firm Ballard Spahr.

“Social media in hiring comes up where employers like to do their own Google searches on people, and sometimes applicants will not privatize any parts of their Facebook page,” explains Chodoff. “The trouble that employers will get into sometimes is that they will access information that they shouldn’t be considering in the hiring process.”

He adds that employers should “insulate the decision makers from any information that may be considered in a protected class,” anyone who could suffer discrimination because of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, formal guidance on the issue has been less concrete. The enforcement agency has yet to issue formal guidelines for employers to follow when implementing social media policies, but has commented on its encroachment in employment issues.

At a meeting addressing social media in the workplace, Carol R. Miaskoff, acting associate legal counsel at the EEOC, referenced the Internet-age medium’s impact on equal employment opportunity law.

“When an employer or other entity is covered by the EEO laws, their recruitment, selection, and employment decisions and activities are subject to the EEO laws, regardless of the media they happen to use,” she said.

While noting that regulations do not prohibit specific technologies, she highlighted that “the key question under the EEO laws is how the selection tools are used.”

Miaskoff says the National Labor Relations Board has been keeping an eye on employer social media policies as they pertain to violations of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which mandates that employees have  the right to organize. Organing activities, whether in-person or online, fall under the veil of “protected concerted activity,” according to NLRB.

Employees also need to be very clear about a company’s internal social media policy, to help prevent an ill-timed or unflattering Facebook or Twitter post from turning into a major public liability. Claire Bissot, HR consulting manager at CBIZ, a business services company, says a proactive stance on the rules can help avoid accidental (or genuinely injurious) messages from going viral.

“You should have a social media policy and certain expectations about what you expect about them; [including] not to give confidential information, not to post negative things about the company and other people, or say this is a view of the company,” says Bissot. “But I believe if you truly encourage your employees to feel like they have ownership in their company, and where they work, they are not going to do malicious things on social media.”

Meanwhile, social media monitoring proposals remained a hot button issue among state legislatures in 2014, and are likely to continue in 2015. As Wrigley notes, social media awareness and privacy concerns in the workplace are not going away anytime soon.

“[The legislation landscape] is really interesting in this age where everyone and their mother is on social media. So it makes sense that lawmakers have an eye to protect their constituents, and employers are also mindful of the privacy rights of [their] employees and applicants,”
Wrigley says.

She explains that it is also logical for employers to prepare themselves by developing a company social media policy, if they haven’t already.

But employers “need not go with [their] gut” when crafting and deciding specific policies, Bissot advises.

“They need to make sure they are taking the right steps,” she notes. “You don’t want to be the one that defines the case. With social media, it’s new ground, it’s new territory, and you want to make sure you are doing it correctly and appropriately for the culture.”

At the same time, Chodoff, an expert on labor and employment law, agrees that social media policies should leave nothing up to chance or assumption.

“I think social media policies have to be very specific about what employees can and can’t do,” Chodoff says. He warns that a savings clause in policies may also miss the ball when it comes to Section 7 because it may be deemed too broad by the NLRB.

“The NLRB will say that infringes on their Section 7 rights,” Chodoff notes. “So say, ‘you can’t make defamatory comments about people.’ You have to make sure that policy is being very specifically written in regards to what it is prohibiting.”