Category Archives: Employee Behavior

woman blocking her ears

Momma Always Said…

Polite people do not talk about pay, religion or politics! Well, the National Labor Relations Act begs to differ with Mom and says that employees MAY talk about pay – it’s a protected, concerted activity (wages, terms and conditions of employment.) So, sorry Mom, you lose this argument!

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This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.
filing folders cabinet

The Benefits of Reviews and Evaluations

Often, busy organizations get so focused on their day-to-day tasks that it can be difficult to maintain a consistent evaluation process for existing managers and their employees. This is not something to be overlooked! One of the biggest benefits of a review and evaluation process is a sense of clarity. These meetings provide an opportunity for managers and employees to discuss strengths, weaknesses, and expectations often allowing potential problems to be nipped in the bud.

Equally important is developing a relationship with your employee that is more of an adult-adult relationship, rather than an adult-child relationship. Reviews are not an opportunity to scold or correct, but to encourage open discussion on both sides. This approach reinforces the idea that this is a business, and it’s not personal attack when issues are addressed. And when people don’t feel infantilized, but rather like a valued adult, they will behave like valued adults.

You’re also showing your employees that they have a safety net. They’re learning that they may not have met your expectations this month, but through a simple discussion, everyone can move on with a clear path of what to do next and where to go from here.

You’ll find that, as you develop a closer, more comfortable relationship with your employees, they’ll be more likely to tell you the truth or to bring things up, especially when they know it’s safe to do so. Everyone makes mistakes – teach your employees that it’s OK.

Documenting Throughout the Year

If you don’t have a regular system where you’re sitting and talking with your employees, make notes throughout the year, both positive and negative. Record them somewhere safe and accessible so that, when it comes time to sit down and do the annual review, you’re not combing your calendar trying to remember what happened the past 12 months or how well the employee performed a certain task six months ago.

Human nature is to evaluate the most recent history. That’s not the purpose of this review. You should not be relying on your emotions or your memory, so write notes, keep track of things (both good and bad), and you’ll have everything right at your fingertips when you go to prepare their review.

Your employees are what drive your business, but you are steering the car! For a free consultation, contact us today

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.
two men arguing

Stay Calm & Carry On: Tips for Dealing with Workplace Disputes

You say this, they say that. You think something is obvious, but your employees seem to think otherwise. One of the great challenges in dealing with workplace disputes is that, as the business owner or manager, 99% of issues that arise appear to be cut-and-dried as far as you’re concerned. You tell employees to be on time. You ask them to be courteous to customers. You require them to report certain things accurately and consistently. This should be straightforward, right?

And yet, these assumptions – now matter how justified you may feel (or be) in having them – set the wrong foot forward, because they immediately make any situation that arises into an oppositional dispute that can rapidly escalate out of control.

Remember, the goal in dealing with any workplace problem is to do what is best for the business — not what feels best for the business owner. Here are five tips you can keep in mind the next time you confront an unexpected situation with your employees:

1. Don’t get upset. No, really. Don’t get upset.

It’s so easy to take affront (especially when you’re caught off-guard) that you often don’t realize you’ve already acted in error until it’s too late. Your routinely late and on-the-verge-of-being-fired employee comes in one day and files for a disability claim. Ten seconds later, your pulse is racing, your blood pressure is 1,000 over 500, and you’re about to explode.

Don’t. In fact, if you must, just leave and take a walk (not a drive – we don’t want you driving angry!). Take a breather and take a step back. The only correct response when these situations arise and you’re about to lose your cool is to tell the employee that they need to document their concern or issue in writing, and hand it in formally for review. Conversation over. That’s it.

2. Less is more. So say less. Much less.

While we’re on the topic, this is NOT the time to unload. “Well, Frank, it’s pretty convenient that you’re filing for disability now that you’ve been late twenty days in a row, isn’t it?” would be the wrong response. The right response is none at all. Again, don’t say anything.

Remember, you don’t have to say anything! You’re being notified of a situation, so take the notification and put it somewhere (like on your desk). Then let it sit until you’re ready to review it — with your HR director, in the conference room, with all related documents and procedures in front of you.

3. Follow the law. Don’t assume that you are the law.

One thing we discuss regularly on this blog is that, while you have many rights as an employer, your rights can be quickly curbed when you least expect it. Employees may be able to use office email to organize, they might be able to put up posters in your break room about their grievances, and they might even be able to claim that the blue sky is currently red instead. To you, it’s all nonsense — the sky is blue, the business is yours, they are just lucky to have a job, etc. etc. etc.

That’s exactly the situation when employers assume they “have the law on their side” without knowing if they really do. Remember, the law can be on your side one moment and then, as soon as you do something out of anger, that same law can run away, hand a victory to a disgruntled employee, and leave you in the dust (or worse).

The best way to know if the law is on your side is to speak with the professionals who will know – your HR director or consultant, and your attorney. Don’t do anything they don’t advise you to do. Your job is to follow the law, not try to take it into your own hands.

4. Don’t discuss an issue publicly, in person or online.

Don’t. Discuss. It. Trust us, you’ll start doing so without even realizing it, because when we’re angry our frustrations tend to squeeze out of every corner in our minds and mouths. That’s why you need to be aware of this up-front and place yourself under a self-imposed gag order.

Don’t discuss it means don’t discuss it directly with employees (including other managers, if doing so doesn’t apply to following your written procedures). It also means not inferring it or implying it, no matter how indirectly. It means zero, and we mean zero, disparaging remarks or innuendos. It means no social media postings – and no blog articles! It also means no discussion or venting with your CEO peer group (like Vistage), either.

5. Let the documents drive the process.

A well-managed HR operation is properly prepared for any situation that may arise because it has two kinds of documents in-hand and updated at all times. One kind is your policies and procedures, which will dictate how the process of responding to the situation which has arisen should go. And the other kind is the employee-specific documents such as a personnel file, time cards, hiring forms, etc. which provide a clear and unambiguous record upon which to build your response.

Bottom Line: The goal in dealing with any employee dispute is to protect the business, not burst a blood vessel. Let your well-formulated processes and procedures, backed by complete and accurate documentation, guide the response to any situation that arises. Then, take yourself personally out of the middle so that the frustrations can subside and you see the situation objectively, rather than personally and emotionally. Finally, before doing anything, consult with your HR professional and business attorney for proper counsel.

Selected Sources:

10 Tips for Dealing with Workplace Problems

Grievance Procedures and Internal Dispute Resolution

Resolving Employment Disputes

Image Credit: kurtb (Flickr @ Creative Commons)

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions LLC.

Up in Smoke: What New Drug Statutes Mean for Your Business

marijuana up in smoke

If there’s one thing we can all count on, it’s that everyone recognizes the essential importance of maintaining a drug-free workplace, right? Well…sort of.

Federally regulated companies such as those in the trucking and transportation industries are compelled by very strict requirements to aggressively develop and maintain a drug-free workplace as defined by federal law. Many other companies (and presumably most) apply similar standards as they seek to protect patients, passengers, customers and, of course, their business.

Nonetheless, change in some communities is now ‘in the air’. The District of Columbia has passed a law legalizing a certain level of possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults (those who are age 21 or above). The state of Maryland has a proposed bill moving through the legislature intended to legalize, tax and regulate the marijuana business.

Anyone who thinks that this trend is unlikely to continue into Pennsylvania and other states would do well to remember the recent history of gambling in the United States. For decades, gambling was limited to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, some convenience stores in South Carolina and a hodge-podge of horse racing and dog racing tracks. Now, it’s everywhere, even in Central Pennsylvania. It’s a solid bet to consider that legalization of marijuana use will probably follow a similar path across the nation over the coming decade.

With that in mind, and the existing and soon-to-be-passed laws in neighboring jurisdictions in mind, employers should consider the implications of operating in this mixed-legislation environment.

One thing remains unchanged: Employers are still authorized to perform employee drug testing nationwide (and are, as we noted, often required to by federal law). This is even true in places like the District of Columbia. What is less clear is how things could develop if an employer finds out that an employee participates in the use of marijuana outside the work place, and resides or spends time in a jurisdiction where local law may permit this as legal activity.

Federal contractors as well as federally-regulated companies should of course continue with the strict policies they have in place. In fact, security clearances for federal work can be denied to individuals on the basis of using drugs or even associating with those who do regardless of their personal use or lack thereof.

Bottom Line: The best way to maintain a drug-free workplace is to maintain a rigorous, consistent and legally compliant workplace drug testing program that is backed by a complete and well-documented drug-free workplace policy. Screening may be limited in the future in certain jurisdictions, but in most cases today it remains untouched by recent legal changes.

Staying focused on policy, procedure and consistent testing also helps your company avoid the risks associated with hearsay about whether or not an employee may be using marijuana, or why they might be doing so (i.e. whether such use is medically related or recreational only). In the meantime, stay fully informed on developments in state and local laws across the jurisdictions in which you presently do business.

Selected Sources:

7 States with Pending Legislation to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Bill to limit marijuana screening by D.C. employers advances in council

Do New Drug Laws Impact Drug Testing, Security Clearances?

Image Credit: cagrimmett (Flickr @ Creative Commons)

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions LLC.
company holiday party

Holiday Fun or HR Under the Gun: Seven Keys to a Successful Season

December is always an interesting time of year for human resource professionals. While senior management is focusing on achieving year-end revenue goals and many employees are running ragged from Black Friday to Cyber Monday and beyond, those in charge of managing HR and payroll responsibilities are busy with year-end planning and making sure everything is in order before December 31st.

This is all the more reason why the last thing you want to confront is an unexpected crisis related to poor planning, bad behavior or something more serious during the holiday season. Here are some key steps you and your CEO can take to help ensure that you have smooth sailing between now and the New Year:

1. Alcohol – If you aren’t comfortable eliminating it entirely at company holiday parties, consider some other strategies such as having a cash bar; imposing a ticket-based limit on drinks per person; or changing the time of your event(s) to an earlier point in the day (lunchtime or afternoon, for example, rather than evening). In addition, always make sure you cut off the alcohol well in advance of the end of the party – and provide desserts and coffee too!

2. Behavior – Obviously, in almost every workplace the potential for business relationships to become personal always exists. But mixing alcohol, seasonal parties and a bit of the ‘holiday spirit’ can be a recipe for unwanted advances, inappropriate contact or worse. Make sure that your event(s) do not include activities that might encourage or provide a forum for this to unfold (a good example to ban is “mistletoe spots”).

3. Executives – Consider providing a briefing for the entire executive team reminding them that their behavior is the model by which others follow, reiterating what kinds of behavior are acceptable and unacceptable as well.

4. Conduct – Either send out an employee conduct reminder to everyone, or have department heads brief their teams. This may seem like ‘buzz-kill’ but then again, that’s precisely the point. Better to kill the buzz a bit rather than risk a raging inferno of miscommunication, allegations and potential misconduct.

5. Drama – Many company holiday parties have historically included skits or shows highlighting (and often mocking) the best and worst moments of the year. Just remember that those can quickly turn into disrespectful or discriminatory episodes about religion, race, marital status, pregnancy and more that can lead to direct legal consequences.

6. Faith – Companies can celebrate holiday events but it is ill-advised to allow anyone, even your CEO, to turn them into religious observances. Employees’ personal lives — including if and where they go to church, what belief(s) they may practice and so forth — are not things you should make assumptions about or preach to them on.

7. Attendance – Don’t forget that if you require employees to attend the holiday party (whether you directly state so or make it ‘functionally’ mandatory by, for example, only handing out bonuses at the event), then they must be compensated because it is an official company function that you are making a necessary part of their job. To avoid confusion in this area, make attendance optional and invite, don’t demand, their presence.

Remember, the one thing more important than a memorable party is a morning after with no regrets – for you, your executives or your employees. Make sure everyone has a good time within reasonable boundaries by setting the example and following through on it every step of the way. In doing so, you will help make sure that the entire company has a safe and successful holiday season.

Selected Sources:

Six Last-Minute Tips To Help HR Leaders To Avoid Holiday Party Lawsuits

Five Holiday Party Tips to Keep off HR’s Naughty List

5 Tips for HR to Help Employers Avoid Holiday Party-Related Legal Liability

Pro Tips: Five tips for avoiding holiday party-related lawsuits

Tips To Keep Your Workplace Holiday Parties Merry

Image Credit: lachiquita (Flickr @ Creative Commons)

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.