Communications

It Can’t Happen Here….Sexual Harassment

From Ailes to Weinstein, across the military, and in far too many organizations, sexual harassment is a significant problem. And no, your small business is not exempt!

Such harassment is sadly, maddeningly common. You have seen the recent news, the social media storm over #MeToo. So first some basic facts:

Sexual harassment is not about sex, it is about power.
Whether it is verbal or physical, it is abuse and a form of violence.
Women are the most common targets, but men are also sexually harassed.

Such harassment represents a real threat to your organization now and in the future. It directly impacts productivity and morale. It erodes trust. It increases turnover. And it can result in both legal and reputation risks.

What Do You Do?

The first step is to create a workplace culture that encourages trust and respect.

This will support many good things beyond dealing with harassment issues. And it does make identifying and dealing with harassment easier. You need policies, practices, and leadership to create trust and respect within the work place. A good basic policy of how you expect everyone to respect and work with each other, your clients or customers, vendors, and others you work with is a good start. Be clear about your intent. State how the policy works in everyday activities.

The harder step is to live up to what you expect others to do. Plus you must communicate your policy and intent regularly. And you must take action when anyone, in any role, does not fulfill the policy and your expectations.

Second, you must be very clear that you will not tolerate any harassment or discriminatory behavior.

When you reach 15 employees, you have legal requirements related to equal opportunity which […]

By |October 29th, 2017|Communications, culture, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on It Can’t Happen Here….Sexual Harassment

SPRING PREPARATION #1

Have you updated the I-9 form you need to use to ensure all employees are eligible to work in the USA? If not, the new form became effective in January:    I-9 form

It is also smart to take a look at your federally required posters. While updated versions are available from several sources, you do not need to spend that money as you can just download these directly.

Not sure which posters you may need? Start with the ‘e-laws’ help section which asks about the number of employees you have and what sort of business you are in to help show the posters you may need. http://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/posters.htm

Here are the most commonly required posters for small organizations, check for others if you have more than 49 employees.

Equal Opportunity
https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/posters/pdf/eeopost.pdf

Fair Labor Standards Act
https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwageP.pdf

Occupational Health and Safety
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3165.pdf

Military Service Rights (USERRA)
https://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/USERRA_Federal.pdf

Polygraph (yes, really even if you do not have anything to do with such tests)
https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/eppac.pdf

 

State Posters

VA
http://www.vec.virginia.gov/employers/Required-Posters-for-Virginia-Employers

MD
https://www.dllr.state.md.us/oeope/poster.shtml

DC
https://does.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/does/page_content/attachments/EMPLOYEE%20INFORMATION%20AND%20EMPLOYER%20POSTING%20REQUIREMENTS.pdf

 

You can put a copy of these posters onto a bulletin board or hang them on a clipboard.  Hang them where employees can see them,  use your kitchen or break room or other space open to all employees.   Keep it simple.

By |March 3rd, 2017|Communications, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on SPRING PREPARATION #1

Communication Tips – Listening Skills 2

An effective listener must direct and guide many discussions including performance management, dealing with customers, interviewing job applicants, among others. One aspect of better listening is learning how to gather information via smarter questions. This is the second on major aspects of listening skills. See also http://shrinsight.com/communication-tips-listening-skills/

Requests for Information

A major type of questions are requests for information. The six common types are:

the invitation to talk
open-ended questions
fact-seeking questions
comprehensive questions
probing for specifics
encouragers

An invitation to talk is a statement rather than a direct question but it invites the person to talk about a given subject. For example: ” I’d like to hear about the goals you have for this year”. Invitations to talk feature:

It focuses attention on a specific topic but gives a wide range of options to the person responding.
Its use keeps your views from influencing the response you will receive or tipping your hand about what you want to hear.

Interspersed with direct questions, it can keep a discussion or interview more comfortable and less like an interrogation.

Open-ended questions are good ways to start a flow of information because they call for an extended answer and cannot be answered “yes” or “no”. They give people room to respond and communicate that you are interested in the response.

For example: “Do you like your job?” can be answered yes or no and is closed-ended. Rephrased as “What do you like most and least about your job?”, it communicates that you really want to know details and their ideas.

Fact-seeking questions are designed to elicit very specific or factual information. They are questions with a narrow, more precise focus. Here are some examples:

What did you do to resolve the customer’s complaint?
How do you want our current policy changed?
What training have […]

By |February 8th, 2016|Communications|Comments Off on Communication Tips – Listening Skills 2

Communication Tips – Listening Skills

Listening, really hearing what someone else is saying, is a skill. Why are listening skills so important? Listening skills are critical to many aspects of managerial work including interviewing for open positions, coaching and counseling, gathering data, customer service, working effectively with others, performance management, and so forth.

Many, if not most, people tend to have an inner monologue going on when they are ‘listening’. This may be a disagreement with what is being said, preparing the answer, or worrying about something else entirely. Not effective, but common.

Exercise

Think for a moment about a person you worked for who was not a good listener. Try to clearly see in your mind’s eye what happened in a discussion. What made the person a poor listener? What did s/he do or say that communicated the message “I’m not really listening” or “I don’t really care about your ideas”.

Now think about how you felt. What effects did the poor listening skills of the person have on you?

 

What are the benefits you can derive from good listening skills? Here are some:

You show the person that you are interested in and concerned about their needs and interests, not just your own. This is especially useful in interviewing job candidates, counseling, and customer interviews.
You find out why an individual did what they did, how they made their choices or decisions, and attained or missed goals. This is useful in resolving problems, coaching, and job interviews.
You give the person an opportunity to be heard and feel understood so that they will reveal much more information.

These tips are designed to help you learn more about listening effectively. Good listening skills can be acquired with practice. They provide real benefits in your professional and personal life. […]

By |January 27th, 2016|Communications|Comments Off on Communication Tips – Listening Skills

Performance Management 8: To SAVE or to FIRE?

Early action to identify and resolve problems is the easiest way to solve them. Quick action reduces demands on your time and improves productivity throughout the work unit. You have the most options and the best chance of success at this time. And saving an employee who knows your organization and has been productive in the past is both time-saving and cost effective. Address and resolve problems early rather than let them continue!

First, clearly identify the problem. If you have not fulfilled any of your own responsibilities, correct this situation now. Once you have provided the needed guidance and tools, assess probable causes and possible courses of action. Document the problem with specific examples.

Second, talk to the person. Describe your concerns factually with specific examples of the problem performance or attitude and the impact on the work unit or others. Seek the person’s input and assess it honestly. Ask for their plan to address and correct the problem. Develop an action plan together and follow-up on it. For a first occurrence or a minor problem, this can be done informally and without written notice to the person. Make this a constructive discussion with a positive tone. But it is smart to keep some notes on what you discussed.

If resolution is not achieved, the problem re-occurs, or the initial problem is in a critical aspect of the work, your options are more formal. There are three potential options, other than ‘termination at will’, although the first two are useful only in rare cases. You can restructure the job, transfer the person, or take performance improvement action.

Restructuring the job is worth considering only if the person has very good skills in critical areas and the person […]

By |October 5th, 2015|Communications, Performance Management|Comments Off on Performance Management 8: To SAVE or to FIRE?

Managing Performance 6: Coaching and Counseling Employees

Smart Coaching

Coaching is the best way to develop talent and productivity. If you think back on your own life, you can probably identify teachers, relatives, sports coaches, or previous bosses who coached you for success.

What did they do to help you grow and develop?
What common methods can you identify?
How could you apply these techniques to developing your staff?

Research indicates that common characteristics of good coaches include:

a. creating an atmosphere of support and trust
b. recognizing and building on the strengths of an individual
c. expecting excellence
d. providing continuing information on the company, its goals and the role of the work unit in the organization
e. providing clear guidance on expectations and priorities
f. letting the individual have freedom to do the job

You can become a good coach. Coaching requires generally consistent behavior on your part. This starts with being a good role model for those behaviors you expect from others. When you recognize that your own and the company’s success are built on the success of each member of your staff, recognition of their partnership and needs becomes easier. Basic actions you can take to become a good coach include:

solicit and be receptive to others’ ideas
provide guidance, information, and advance planning details routinely
explain your actions and decisions or reasons for procedures
provide training and support needed
establish and communicate performance standards and hold individuals accountable
provide periodic feedback on job performance routinely
give visibility, recognition and credit to individuals

Coaching is a pro-active behavior in which you help others to grow and develop.

 

Effective Counseling

Counseling is the key to changing problem behaviors into productive performance. Counseling differs from coaching in that it is in response to problems in work performance or behaviors. Since counseling is often seen as criticism or punishment, many managers do […]

By |August 24th, 2015|Communications, Performance Management|Comments Off on Managing Performance 6: Coaching and Counseling Employees

Managing Performance 5: Communication Tips

Communications are a critical aspect of every manager’s role. Successful growth and many performance management processes involve feedback situations. The need is for timely, objective and specific feedback to reinforce good performance and to correct problems before they become bad habits. These discussions require specific skills including good communications, active listening, coaching and counseling.

The Supervisor as Communicator

Communicating is a basic function underlying most of your management activities. You have four primary audiences: higher management – if you are not the founder, your peers, your staff, and those outside the organization.

Higher management should be informed of:

problems or difficulties in achieving your goals
suggestions for improving operations in your unit
praiseworthy performance of your staff

Your peers need to know things which help coordination or impact their work:

problems or difficulties which hinder their effectiveness
progress or data which assists their planning
suggestions for resolving common problems

Your staff must know your expectations and objectives:

role of the work unit and how it fits into larger picture
goals and objectives of the unit
work unit performance – achievements and issues
feedback on personal performance

Persons outside the company may also need to be communicated with to:

explain the contribution of your work unit to their needs
describe company actions, policies, or plans
respond to questions or criticisms

As a manager, a prime function is to get things done through people. Your ideas become effective only as they are communicated to others and thus achieve the desired actions. Employees’ ideas and suggestions are also vital to your success as an organization. Thus your communications need to be designed to encourage understanding and willingness to contribute. You communicate with words, attitudes, and actions. How well you manage depends on how well you communicate in that broad sense.

“Top Ten” Communications Tips

10. Clarify your ideas before […]

By |August 12th, 2015|Communications|Comments Off on Managing Performance 5: Communication Tips

LABOR DAY

So what do you really think about when you hear “Labor Day”? Big sales? School starting? Last beach holiday? Last summer BBQ?

Labor Day is designed to recognize the contribution of labor to our society and economy. It has been around since President Cleveland recommended it in 1887!

All of us who work – at whatever job – are ‘labor.’ Yet recent research indicates over 55% of workers say they did not receive any recognition from their bosses in the past year. And nearly 3/4th say they did not receive any feedback. Which may be why 65% feel underpaid and nearly 70% are interested in changing jobs.

Labor Day may just be another three-day weekend to you.

But what if you harnessed the concept of recognizing the contributions it represents within your own organization? Which ways can you think of to do so which will reinforce the culture you want to have? What might actually matter to your employees?

Enjoy the Labor Day holiday. Take a bit of time off from all your electronics to do so.

Then, starting next week, put an hour aside weekly for two-three weeks and look at what you can do effectively to recognize the value of ‘labor’ to your success and future. Consider asking a few informal leaders for ideas – but only if you plan to actually do something. Or chose a small team – say a leader, a good employee, a rebel – to define some options.

One client CEO keeps a running record of employee achievements – things he notices, those managers report, client comments, and employee thanks to other employees. He includes one in each week’s memo to all staff. A continuous record exists too. They are highlighted in client communications, […]

Problems: Are You a Victim or Moving Forward?

My own work history is replete with examples of times that being a woman was a negative and made my life more difficult, but I moved on. Small business owners often complain that the business world and government rules are stacked against them, yet many succeed. Military in transition regularly fear that employers discriminate against them, yet most become quite successful in the private sector.

Each of us chooses whether to use these perceived and real problems as stopping us, hindering us, or just life. In 2007 Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET, gave a commencement address I have kept as a reminder – or a kick in the tuckus, as needed.

Need a bit of inspiration? Read on.

“My message to you is that you have to work harder for yourself. Unfortunately, and this sometimes affects us as African Americans, we say: ‘The deck is stacked against us. There’s racism. There’s Jim Crowism. There’s sexism. There are glass ceilings. There are all these things that cause us to say we can’t achieve because the deck is stacked against us, and we can’t break through.’ That to me is a basic surrender to some other force controlling your destiny. (…)

I’m telling you: Welcome to life. Welcome to the business world. Welcome to where you are not going to get breaks. (…)

In my opinion, racism is like rain. It’ll always be out there. You know what you do? You put on your raincoat, grab an umbrella and go out there.”

If you own a business, your success and that of your business is directly tied to your ability to solve problems and to create a culture that does also.

Most days I love my work. I have great clients. I […]

REALITY BITES: POLICIES, PRACTICES, AND YOU

My friend’s Mother died 17 days ago after a long illness. And without warning, her Dad died two weeks later. I cared for several aunts in their last years, including handling their final hospitalizations, hospice, funerals, and estates. This is pretty common for many employees who are care-givers.

Yet here I am again talking with an organization which wants to define quite carefully the three days for bereavement leave and who it applies to. Can you even get to the funeral and back in three days, much less help your family cope?

Sure, I have known of an employee who had four grandmothers die within 18 months and was gaming the 3 day bereavement system at his company. But one of those in four decades leaves me wondering why we feel such a need for a tight policy. And when a manager’s son was killed in a skiing accident, do you think the company actually enforced its ‘3 day’ rule? Of course not.

One of the bigger risks you can take is to have a policy – on any topic – and ignore it. Too often that may be done for reasons you think are valid. But a good lawyer can find that you did it in a discriminatory manner against their client.

Did you really get anything positive out of your policy in the first place? For every potential issue it may have been meant to protect you against, did it?  Or did it also send a message that you did not trust your employees or did not think they were adults.

This be the right time to look at your policies and see whether you really need them all. Think of it as spring cleaning. Which ones […]