Effectively Dealing with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – Do the Blocking and Tackling

Since sexual harassment is currently such a big issue these days, I’m going to talk about the tools I’ve effectively developed and used over the years.  I’m writing this in November of 2017 and you can’t watch TV, listen to the radio, or read anything online without learning about some high profile politician, media personality, or famous celebrity being accused of some form of sexual harassment.

What frustrates me is how it has become such a “popular” thing to expose all of a sudden.  If we are being honest with ourselves, we all already knew this kind of behavior has been going on for years but nobody ever did anything about it.  At the highest level possible, we had a two term President in the 90’s who we all knew engaged in it.  And we now have a current President who was recorded bragging about it before winning the election. We also all knew about the infamous “casting couch” in Hollywood which has been around since the 1920s and probably even earlier. 

I’m frustrated that our society tolerated it for so long.

It’s about time that women are finally feeling comfortable about coming forward with their stories of harassment. There is no place for sexual harassment in our workplace and private lives. Never has been and never will be.

While all of the stories, so far, have been from women, and I fully recognize that most of the victims are going to be women,  I’m waiting to hear some men start coming forward telling their stories of how they were harassed – it happens to all genders, in every industry, in every socioeconomic status, etc.

In fact, two of my three biggest sexual harassment investigations were with women as the instigators.  So I know it’s only a matter of time before we hear about a woman politician, media personality, or celebrity harassing a subordinate. Let’s not forget how many female teachers, a female dominated profession, are being caught having sex with their male underage students. So it cuts both ways. Both men and women can be deviant creeps.

So how do we stop sexual harassment?  I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how the old traditional ways of dealing with it – an up-to-date policy, training, and investigate quickly and fairly to all complaints – no longer work.  That we must do something different to put an end to it, things like promoting more women and  implementing predictive analytics!

There is no easy solution and, sadly, no matter what we do, sexual harassment will never end.  It is, unfortunately, part of human nature.  Harassment, sexual and other types, have been around since the beginning of time and will be around until the end of time.

The only way to deal with it from an HR standpoint, in my opinion and experience, is to effectively and consistently do the basic blocking and tackling of having a strong and updated policy, conduct training annually and during onboarding, and conducting quick and fair investigations.  

I’ve had a lot of experience handling sexual harassment complaints and investigations.  And I can say that by effectively executing the basics I listed above is the best way of slowing it down and keeping it under control.  It creates a culture that clearly demonstrates that sexual harassment is not tolerated in the workplace and will be quickly addressed.

I have three steps of a Harassment Policy process that I find work best.

First, during onboarding,while reviewing the employee handbook, I stress that there is no tolerance of sexual or any other type of harassment  in our workplace.

When setting up the employee handbook, I make sure the policy is the first one listed so as to emphasize it’s importance. I also make sure I review it, along with our legal council and/or an employment lawyer, at least once every two years (I would do it right now regardless of when it was done earlier because of the current high profile cases in the media) to ensure it’s up to date. It’s also good to make sure the policy is written in plain english, not in legal handbookese that nobody understands.

Make sure each employee’s signee Acknowledgement of Receipt is in their file so there’s evidence that you reviewed the important policies with them.

Second, later in the onboarding schedule, I have a Harassment Training  session.  I will conduct either a live presentation or show them a video depending on the size of the onboarding class. I have two compliance trainings during onboarding, Harassment Prevention and Drug and Alcohol Prevention, and this again emphasizes the importance of our policy by putting such a primary focus on it during their onboarding.

I also have two mandatory annual all-hands Harassment Prevention training sessions, one for the general employee population and one for the supervisors and managers. I require managers and supervisors to attend the general employee population session so they are seen by all employees to be part of and fully supportive of the process. This also emphasizes to the managers the importance of the policy.

Each of these training sessions has a quiz that I require each employee to take and turn in after we review the answers. This gives you a document for their file that they’ve attended the training session and interacted by taking the quiz. Also make sure the employees sign an attendance sheet and file those sheets with your training materials.

Third and finally, when a complaint is received, I immediately jump into action and start an investigation. I once drove five hours from my office in Denver, CO to a remote location in central Wyoming the same day I received a complaint and immediately started the investigation. I stayed there for two days to interview people, have discussions with management, decide on proper corrective action, communicate our conclusion to affected employees, and conclude the investigation.

I then write up a final report documenting the process of my investigation, who I spoke to and what was said, my conversations with management, and the results of the final decision and corrective action taken.  This document goes into the accused’s file and I like to have a copy in a separate investigation file with other investigations I conducted.  

As you can see, I will always drop what I’m doing and immediately start an investigation when I get a harassment complaint because harassment is the most toxic workplace situation. It creates all sorts of serious legal, morale, productivity, ethical, safety, and many other similar problems. Problems that I can head off if I address the complaint immediately.

While it’s important to keep the investigation as confidential as possible while on site, we all know that the grapevine will communicate why you’re there and what you are doing.  Employees will see the corrective action and understand why.

This final step of a quick and fair investigation followed by the appropriate corrective action, if warranted, sends the strongest message possible to employees that harassment is not tolerated and will be dealt with swiftly. And it only really takes one or two instances to send a clear message and make a positive impact on the culture.

Now, remember, these steps will not completely eliminate harassment but they will go a long way in significantly reducing it to the point there will only be a few cases.  

But you have to do the day in and day out blocking and tackling consistently in order to minimize harassment and keep your company culture one that makes it clear it’s not tolerated.

Steps to Help Your Employees Understand the Details of Their Benefits

Tell them real-life stories

This week I’m going to cover a small but very important tactical element of HR. Although it’s a small thing, it leads to a much larger strategic element of building a high-performing workplace culture

I’m a strong believer in delivering an amazing onboarding experience for employees. I built one at one employer from the ground up and I had the pleasure of  inheriting an outstanding one at another employer.

Today’s post is going to deal with one portion of the onboarding process – the Benefits discussion.  This is often the most confusing and boring part because HR typically comes in and goes through the insurance benefits using HR and insurance industry jargon. As a result, most employees don’t understand most of what is being said and just tune out and start looking at their phones. This is unfortunate because an organization’s benefits are an important and  critical piece of the total rewards program and employees need to fully be comfortable with understanding them.

I think employees really need to understand all of their benefits and there should be the appropriate amount of time put into the onboarding schedule to make sure employees really do fully understand them. We owe our employees the extra effort to help them understand their benefits rather than just handing them a packet of papers or just helping them logon to the onboarding site and leaving them with an hour to review and enroll.  

So here’s how I do it.

In my schedule, the benefits discussion occurs immediately after all the required hiring paperwork is completed. This way, they are still pretty fresh and enthusiastic.  I always go into the HR portion which includes the insurance and benefit portion of onboarding telling the new hires that this portion is going to be the most exciting and interesting part of the entire  process. I’m obviously being silly and I purposely exaggerate this because they and everybody else has experienced the opposite so it grabs their attention.

I then like to tell real-life stories about how the different benefits work. These are my stories based on my experiences and I’m certain you have your own story bank you can go to when communicating benefit details to your employee team.

For instance as I’m talking about the medical benefits, most people understand what the deductible means and how the co-pay plays into that but many don’t really understand what the Annual Max Out of Pocket means.

So I tell a real-life story about an employee (this was at a previous employer and whose identity I keep confidential) who had a heart attack while out camping with his family. He was life flighted to the hospital and had open heart surgery.  Well, when everything was said and done and the employee added up all the bills that came, the total was over $1,000,000. Fortunately for him and his family, the company health insurance plan had a maximum out of pocket of $3500.  What does this mean? Simple. The employee only had to pay $3500 total for the episode.. And this all happened in the summer so he had to continue treatment, cardiac rehab, and many other doctor appointments and because he reached his MOP, he paid nothing for the rest of the year. Every time I tell this story, I see clear understanding in the new hires’ eyes because this story always makes it obvious what the max out of pocket is.

Another story I like to tell is when describing the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This benefit is very often forgotten and rarely used. I believe strongly in it as I’ve used it myself and tell the story of a couple employees I helped through substance abuse problems (again at a previous employer keeping names confidential).  

I had employees come to me asking for help with their substance abuse. They feared they would lose their job but my company believes in helping employees who ask for help. So I gave them all the EAP info and explained to them how the EAP works and strongly encouraged them to call and get the counseling help they need. I also explained that in addition to the free counseling sessions, our medical insurance has programs to help them clean up. They took advantage of these programs, cleaned themselves up, and remained good productive employees.

I love telling this story.

The last story I’m going to share this week is about the Flexible Savings Account (FSA). I tell them I love this benefit because it’s like an interest free, tax free loan to pay for medical related expenses like co-pays and deductibles. I tell them I usually max out the benefit and contribute the full $2600 and at the end of the year, if I have some left over, I treat myself to some very nice eye glasses and/or prescription sunglasses.  I also go back to the story above about the maximum out of pocket and tell them the heart attack employee had about $1600 left in his FSA and applied that to the MOP amount of $3500 he owed. So he only had to come up with $1900 for the entire cost of the episode.

There are, of course, other stories I tell to help our new employees understand the more complicated details of their benefits but I may share those at another time.. I always get positive comments from the new hires who appreciate me taking the time to sit down with them and going through the benefits we offer and explaining, through real-life stories, how they work.

Not only does this help them personally in understanding their benefits package, it sends the strong message that the organization sincerely cares about them and their well-being.  It’s an important element in the strategy of building that all important high-performing culture that we all strive for.  

Dealing with National Politics in the Workplace

You can’t get away from it these days. It’s all the media is talking about, it’s all over our social media feeds, it’s on all the award shows and entertainment programs we’re watching, it’s overheard in the stores and coffee shops we are visiting, and it’s in our workplace. Political discussions are everywhere and we are more politically polarized than I’ve ever seen in my life.

With today’s massive megaphone of social media and the 24 hour news cycle, many people have expressed their passion about the political issues and their candidates. And there’s something to offend just about anybody with the current hot-button issues such as race, class, gender, abortion, LGBT rights, immigration, terrorism, religion, etc.

I would venture to guess that we have all witnessed some very heated exchanges between family, friends, and coworkers regarding today’s political climate. I’ve seen people I respect and care about say or write some pretty horrible things about others based simply on their political beliefs.

People are more polarized in their positions like I’ve never seen before and those positions are making their way into the workplace and affecting morale and productivity.

In addition, many of today’s issues swerve into employment law. Political discussions about issues that affect working conditions such as minimum wage, equal pay, and paid leave might be protected by federal law.  While, on the other hand, political discussions about race, gender, and religion may lead to harassment or discrimination claims. And it only takes one person to pop off during a heated discussion and alienate another employee and/or cause a hostile work environment or a potential harassment claim.

I make it a practice not to discuss politics at work – especially these days. I hear enough of it on my Sirius radio when I commute to and from work and when I’m home trying to catch up on the news. Frankly, I’m exhausted of it all and don’t want to have to deal with it when I’m at work.

But, I’m HR, so I have to deal with it at work.

As such, I’ve come up with a couple of proven recommendations to help keep things under control.

First and foremost, HR must remain neutral. This is my number one recommendation. Whatever your beliefs, HR must be neutral and not take a side in a disputed conversation about politics. HR absolutely should not engage in a conversation with other employees expressing their political opinions and joining in with them bashing a side. I guarantee that you have employees on the other side who will hear or overhear what you said which will erode your credibility with them.

The purpose of your neutrality allows all of your employees to feel safe coming to you with their concerns about potentially uncomfortable or hostile political conversations they overheard or were part of. It’s HR’s job to make sure employees feel safe to surface any concerns they have from conversations they’ve had or overheard that make them feel uncomfortable or offended.

Second, Establish and communicate ground rules. Meet with your senior leaders to determine what political discussions your organization is willing to tolerate/accept at work. Will you ban it entirely or will you allow some as long as their respectful, appropriate, and inclusive of all beliefs?

Once you have that established,  conduct an all hands meeting and follow up with an email reminding your employees to be professional, respectful, and tolerant of other employee’s political beliefs. Remind them of the process for airing their complaints and how they will be dealt with and what the consequences will be for violating these ground rules. You must, as HR, clearly communicate to your employee population where you draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. You can’t be ambiguous.

It’s also important to understand that you can’t ignore the issue at work. Ignoring it will only make the situation worse because these conversations may escalate into profanity and direct threats. Other employees who want to stay out of these discussions may also be unwillingly dragged in.

When you overhear a controversial political discussion happening at your workplace, and you’ve established the accepted ground rules, you simply remind the employees engaged in the conversation that they are not behaving in an acceptable manner (professional, respectful, or tolerant). If they continue after your reminder, you simply begin your organization’s disciplinary process.

Hopefully these suggestions will help you keep your workplace professional, respectful, civil and ultimately productive!

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The Creative Destruction of the Retail Industry

Amazon Has Changed the Retail Landscape

Amazon announced this past week that it will be adding 100,000 new full-time jobs in the US in the next 18 months. Having spent the early part of my career in the retail industry as a store manager for Macy’s, I like to still keep up with the news and goings-on in the retail industry.

What’s so interesting about the news from Amazon is the news from the big traditional retailers that is happening at the same time. Macy’s closed 40 stores in 2016 and announced it will close 100 more in 2017, recently listing 68 of those stores getting the ax. In addition, Sears Holdings announced that it is closing 150 Sears and KMart stores, and JC Penney recently announced it will be closing a bunch of its stores. I’m only touching on the major retailers here and there are dozens of the small retailers closing stores as well that are too numerous to list.

Obviously, Amazon and technology have fundamentally changed the entire retail landscape. The big traditional retailers didn’t see it coming and didn’t, or couldn’t, keep up. They seem to be heading in the direction of some smaller retailers, Blockbuster and Borders who are a shell of what they once were or no longer even exist.

I remember being asked by one of my employees back in the early 2000’s when I was a store manager for Macy’s what I thought about online retail putting traditional retail out of business. My employee was very concerned and I told her that I doubt companies like Amazon would ever be much of a threat to the big retail giants like Macy’s, Sears, JCP, etc.  After all, people like to go out and shop, handle merchandise, try things on, and talk to and interact with other people. I thought online retail would certainly have it’s niche (books, music, etc.) but didn’t think it would ever pose a serious threat to traditional retail.

Boy was I wrong!

Really wrong.

The news that Amazon is planning to hire 100,000 people at the same time the big traditional retailers are announcing huge store closings and layoffs tells you everything you need to know. Amazon has successfully changed the way people like to shop and I  include myself in that change.

Frankly, I love shopping on Amazon and because I’m a Prime member, I get “free” shipping for most of what I buy from them. Yes I know it’s a gimmick but it does make me feel special!

I find it a pain to go to the mall  and much easier to find what I want online where the selection is unlimited I click a few times and then get a package delivered to me in a couple days! I find it very satisfying.

There are some who are criticizing Amazon complaining that the jobs they are creating are low paying jobs. This is true, however, most retail jobs in general, have always been low paying jobs anyway so it looks to me that they are basically just replacing many of the jobs that the big traditional retailers are cutting.

There are also a lot of good paying jobs at Amazon, just as there are/were at the traditional retailers. There is the buying organization, management, HR, recruiting, IT, and other support services.

Amazon also makes an interesting claim that they sustain an additional 300,000 jobs due to their marketplace business:

Amazon has said that its employment figures alone do not capture its full effect on jobs. On Thursday, the company said its marketplace business, through which independent merchants sell goods on the company’s site, sustained 300,000 additional jobs in the United States.

And sure, Amazon has had some growing pains and had some bad press about their workplace culture but in talking with some of my friends who work there, they are making efforts to improve.

Jeff Bezos and his team have done an amazing job building their company from an online bookseller to a full line store and fundamentally changing our shopping behaviors. They’ve been aggressive and innovative and it’s been fascinating to watch.

Amazon is leading another round of creative destruction in the retail industry where one form of the retail industry is being replaced by a new and much more innovative one.  Shopping malls with  big anchor stores are being replaced by online retail just like downtown shopping districts were replaced by shopping malls back in the 1950’s -1990’s.  And I’m sure we will see something replace online retail in the future.

Creative destruction is tough.  It’s tough on many people. But creative destruction is also good and necessary for advancement and growth. If we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t have all the things that make our lives so much more enjoyable. All you have to do is look back 50 years, 100 years, 200 years and see how far we’ve come and it was all because we allowed creative destruction run its natural course.

Don’t forget to take the survey on today’s subject about Amazon and the creative destruction occurring in the retail industry.

Perfection vs. Excellence

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I once had a boss who was a proud perfectionist. He was such a perfectionist that he had a very difficult time making decisions because everything had to be perfect before he could. Of course nothing is ever perfect so it often took a very long time, if ever, for him to decide.

Now, I’m the kind of guy who likes to get things done then move on to the next project. I’m not a perfectionist. If its good enough, I make a decision and move on.
When you work for a perfectionist, unless you are one yourself, it can be very challenging. They will always pick apart and criticize your work no matter how good it is. They look for the one or two flaws, no matter now minor. They will take forever to make a decision. It once took over a year for this boss to finally approve a project I had worked very hard on. By the time he finally gave me the go-ahead, I was very demoralized and frustrated. This became a common occurrence and eventually, I slowed down my production because my work seemed to disappear on his desk or in his inbox. Ironically, I was eventually criticized for slowing down. Lesson learned! Never slow down your work. Keep producing no matter what.

Our performance under this boss was mediocre at best. His team was more worried about making everything perfect rather than focusing on getting the work done and moving on. It was a very risk averse and toxic work environment. It was unsafe to admit you made a mistake, our morale was low and we dreaded coming to work.

In contrast, I had another boss who was clearly focused on excellence. He was happy with projects that were good enough and as a result his team’s performance was excellent. I thrived working for him. This boss trusted us to get the work done to achieve the goals of the company. He didn’t need to sit on things for months before making a decision. He was quick to make a decision and move on to the next. As a result, his team was one of the best in the company. We won more performance awards than any other team during his tenure. It was fun and exciting and we were all very motivated and enthusiastic about our work.

I ran across this list recently, contrasting excellence and perfection.

  • Perfection is being right. Excellence is being willing to be wrong.
  • Perfection is fear. Excellence is taking a risk.
  • Perfection is anger and frustration. Excellence is powerful.
  • Perfection is control. Excellence is spontaneous.
  • Perfection is judgment. Excellence is accepting.
  • Perfection is taking. Excellence is giving.
  • Perfection is doubt. Excellence is confidence.
  • Perfection is pressure. Excellence is natural.
  • Perfection is the destination. Excellence is the journey

What a great message! As an HR pro, a manager, or a supervisor, it is so important to make sure you’re demanding excellence, not perfection. The same goes for what you should expect from yourself in your career and personal life. Trying to be perfect causes way too much stress.

Even the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we will catch excellence” which mirrors the last bullet point in the list. He understood the difference between the two and knew that perfection was the enemy of excellence.

In order to perform at the highest levels, expect excellence from your direct reports, the people you work with, and yourself. Expecting perfection and trying to make your work and life perfect will only slow you down, keep you constantly behind, stressed and frustrated. So relax and focus on producing excellence instead of perfection. It will make your work and personal life far more productive, effective and pleasant.

Out of the Blue, a Manager Wants to Terminate an Employee. What do You Do?

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’ve all been there. A manager calls us to say they’ve had enough and want to fire one of their direct reports. But we go back and look through the employee’s personnel file and see that there are no disciplinary actions and their performance appraisals don’t reflect a problem.

This is the first time we’ve heard of the problem but the manager, however, has finally had enough of their direct report’s poor performance or conduct and is ready to fire them and move on. But they haven’t done their part and properly supervised their problem employee or documented any of the performance or conduct issues. They spent years avoiding or ignoring the problems because dealing with them is, well you know, awkward and uncomfortable.

Now the puck is in your zone (I’m a hockey dad). You are the HR pro and they expect you to take care of the problems they weren’t willing to deal with.

What do you do?

I’m going to assume you have a progressive discipline policy in place. You just simply need to start the process. Of course, it should have been utilized by the manager before it got to the point they called you. But, as is often the case, that doesn’t always happen.

The progressive discipline policy I use is Dick Grote’s Discipline Without Punishment. I will cover the details of how I have incorporated this method in a later post but simply put, it goes like this: Reminder One, Reminder Two, Decision Making Leave, and final separation. Of course, the ultimate goal is for the employee to make the necessary performance or conduct improvements before the need to take the next step. I will use this method to describe how to terminate a problem employee who the manager has finally had enough of but hasn’t yet documented any of the performance or conduct issues.

First, you need to meet with the supervisor and discuss exactly what the performance or conduct issues are. Find out from the supervisor if they have any documented conversations or criteria that the employee failed to accomplish. Review the past several performance appraisals and look for any statements that are pertinent to the present situation. There usually isn’t any of this documentation in the scenario I presented above but it is still important to double check with the supervisor. Its fine if there isn’t any at this stage because we are starting the process from the beginning anyway.

Second, write up and deliver a Reminder One and title it an Overall Performance (or Conduct) Correction Reminder. Describe, in as much detail as possible the performance and conduct issues where the employee is falling short. This Reminder is not for a specific incident but rather an overall performance correction so there needs to be several examples of where the employee is failing to meet expectations. In addition to the areas where the employee needs to improve, there needs to be steps the employee needs to take in order to improve their performance or conduct. Finally, there needs to be a deadline for immediate improvement. Usually 30 days is an appropriate amount of time. During the 30 days the manager needs to constantly monitor the employee’s performance in order to measure improvement.

When delivering the Reminder One it is important to inform the employee that the goal of this process is to have the employee improve their performance or conduct and not have to go further. But you still must discus the next steps(Reminder Two, Decision Making Leave, and separation) in case there is no improvement in their performance or conduct.

The employee needs to be reminded that it is their responsibility to make the necessary improvement within the 30 day period. You need to meet with the employee on the 30th day regardless if they have made the necessary improvements or not. Hopefully, the employee will get the message, make the improvements needed and the meeting will be a congratulatory meeting. Often, however, the meeting will be to deliver a Reminder Two.
Normally, a Reminder One is delivered by just the manager but because this is an Overall Performance Correction, it would be best if HR is included in this meeting.

Third, if after 30 days there hasn’t been the necessary improvement, you will need to write up and deliver a Reminder Two. It is basically the same as the Reminder One, but just the next and more serious step of the process. Again, this should also have deadline of 30 days for performance or conduct improvement. Depending on the seriousness of the performance or conduct issues and how the Reminder One’s 30 days went, you could shorten the deadline to 15 days. Again, the manger and HR should be present in this meeting.

Fourth, if after the 30 (or 15) days of unacceptable performance or conduct improvement, you will need to take the next and very serious step of writing up and delivering a Decision Making Leave. This is where you again document the employee’s performance deficiencies and what they need to do to improve. The critical step here requires the employee take the next day off, a paid leave, to consider whether they want to continue working for the company. They are required to write a statement explaining how they will make the necessary steps in order to improve their performance or conduct.

They can also decide to resign at this point. If they return with the document describing how they want to continue working for the company and the steps they are going to take to improve, you need to establish another deadline of 15 to 30 days. This time, however, termination will occur if there is no acceptable performance or conduct improvement.

Finally, you now have all the documentation you need to terminate the problem employee with minimal risk. You’ve given them two warnings with the Reminders. You’ve given them a paid day off to make a decision on whether they want to make the improvements necessary to remain employed. If they do, they wrote up their plan. And if they fail to live up to their plan, you have all you need to safely terminate the problem employee.

Returning From my Break

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well, this is my first post in nearly two months.  I left off and had to take a break from HHHR back in February because I was completely overwhelmed with work in addition to some difficult personal matters that needed my attention.  I was so busy and mentally drained each day that I was unable to carve out the time I needed to continue writing and recording posts.  It was frustrating because I was doing a good job keeping up a regular schedule, the key to building an audience, but I simply couldn’t do that during the past two months.  I felt I had to write a “Taking a Break” post to take the pressure off until I was ready to return.

I am reminded how difficult it is to get restarted after taking a break.  Things had finally settled down at work and with the personal matters a few weeks ago and I’ve actually had the time to get HHHR restarted.   I simply didn’t have the motivation to start writing and recording again and I seemed to find other “important” things to do like watch TV!

Once you break an established habit and routine for a period of time, it is very difficult to regain that habit and routine.  Not only did I stop posting and recording at HHHR, I stopped my regular morning routine of writing and reading.  I also stopped going to the gym to work out.  Once my days returned to normal at work and in my life, I found it very difficult to immediately get back into the important self development habits and routines I had established.  Maybe I just needed a few weeks to recover.  Maybe I was just rationalizing.

On one hand, I’m disappointed in myself for not having the discipline to keep up my routines during the past two months and that it took a couple weeks before I felt I could get restarted.  On the other hand,  I’m thinking there is only so much a person can do and it that takes some downtime to recover from a particularly crazy stretch of time.   Looking back, I’m a bit disappointed in myself  but I also realize that I’m only human and have a limited capacity to be effective at all times.  I needed the two to three weeks of “downtime” afterwards to recover from the extra workload at work and personal issues.

But this weekend, I felt like I could finally get back into my regular habits and routines of writing and recording to HHHR, to starting up my regular morning routine, and to start working out at the gym again.  It actually feels pretty good getting back into those habits.  My lack of not doing these routines and habits were constantly nagging in the back of my mind.  I knew I needed to get back on track and, frankly, didn’t feel like it until just this weekend.

I’m now working on several posts hoping to get ahead and have some written and recorded a couple weeks in advance.  I feel like I’ve recovered and have the capacity to restart HHHR after its two months of dormancy.  I will return to the once a week routine, with Wednesday as a target day for publishing both the blog post and podcast.

While writing this post, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is  important to allow yourself downtime after a particular gruelling period of time.  Give yourself permission to recover and recharge.  Spend time with you spouse and family.  Work on your hobbies and veg out in front of the TV.  This is what life is all about.  Take care of yourself.

Just Because You Say You Have an “Open Door Policy” Does Not Mean You Have an “Open Door Policy”

A while back I was working with a manager who was frustrated that her direct reports and their direct reports were coming to me with their workplace concerns and problems.  She called for a meeting with me and her boss to discuss and they both questioned why her people were contacting me instead of her.

After all, she said, she told her team she has an “open door policy”.

My response?  Just because you say you have an open door policy does not mean you actually have an open door policy.

It takes consistent effort, hard work and time to have an effective open door policy.  You have to spend time every single day getting to know your people and allow them to get to know you.  You have to build their trust and earn their respect and the best way to do this is to develop a professional relationship with the individuals of your team.

It is something I am very good at and why I won so many store performance awards when I worked at The Bon Marche’/Macys.  I wasn’t going to apologize for my ability to gain the trust of the employees I mentioned above and lower my level of performance.  The manager would need to up her game – something I would help with, of course.

When I was a store manager, I knew every one of my employee’s names and made an effort to acknowledge them every day or two.  At one point, I had 100+ employees working for me but I still made the effort.  I tried to spend the time out on the floor and talk to them about their job and a little about what’s going on personally.

I do the same in my current job as Sr. Dir of HR – I circulate through the office and try to spend time talking to each employee a couple times a week. When I’m at the mine site, I work the office and the plant and  drive around, stop and talk to the crew members who are working at various locations throughout the property.  It’s important to note that I actively listen to them when communicating.  You would be surprised about what you will find out! Employees want to be heard and they will tell you exactly what they are thinking once they understand that you can be trusted.

An open door policy is hard work.

But its hard work that will make so many other elements of your job easier.

Generation Generalizations

I came across a post in Laurie Ruettimann’s Cynical Girl blog that confirmed my long held feelings about the pop culture fad of how to manage/communicate to/work with/etc. the different generations (Matures, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y).  I’ve read countless articles about how uniquely each generation is and I could always tell the author’s generation by how the wrote about the others.  Usually pretty amusing.

I like what Laurie had to say about it:

I know that what has been said about Generation Y (born 1982-2004) has been said about every white-collar worker since 1948, including me.

  • They are coddled.
  • Their diversity should be embraced.
  • They want flexibility.
  • They value benefits over salary.
  • They want to be liked and accepted in a group environment.

The same was said about me and my generation back in the mid 1980s when we were entering the job market.  There isn’t really anything unique or special about each generation. We (the different generations) are basically all the same. The only difference is the culture and technology are different. My generation was the first to have cordless phones, color TV, more than three channels, MTV, Walkmans and the generations before us thought we were spoiled rotten, lazy, and will bring an end to the world as we know it.  Now my generation is complaining about cell phones, YouTube, iPads/iPods, Facebook  twitter and thinking Gen Y will bring an end to the world as we know it.

People grow up, start careers, get married, have kids, get promoted, get fired, and on and on – they live life and take on all the responsibilities that come with it. I find myself becoming more and more like my dad, a Mature, as I get older. I also know my kids, Gen Xers, have the same attitudes, desires, and frustrations as I did when I was their age. So, it’s not generational, it’s simply a maturity stage issue.

To generalize, with a wide brush, entire generations and claiming they are unique from other generations is dumb. I know my kids will be very much like my wife and I are now when they are in their 50s. They will just have cooler and faster phones and computers.

This is re-posted from www.RichBoberg.com

Substance Abuse in the Workplace Part 3 – How to Deal With Substance Abuse

We will now deal with how to deal with substance abuse since we have laid the foundation of the seriousness of the problem and the laws and regulations regarding the issue.

The most important start in dealing with substance abuse is to ensure that the workforce culture encourages sobriety.  Having a written Drug and Alcohol Policy and conducting annual training sessions for all employees is critical to establishing a drug and alcohol free culture.  In addition, conducting in-depth training for supervisors on how to spot abusers and deal with them is vitally important.
When there is a policy with consequences clearly spelled out, it is important to follow through with those who violate the policy.  Mandatory participation in a substance abuse program, suspension, or termination must be appropriately and consistently applied in order to keep the sober culture credible.

Types of Tests

One of the best ways of delivering the message of a sober culture early is to conduct pre-employment drug and alcohol screening for all employees.  There are several other types of tests that should be used in order to keep the problem minimized.

  • Reasonable Suspicion – given when there are indications that the employee is under the influence.
  • Post Accident – given to determine if substance abuse was the cause of an accident.
  • Return to Duty – given to confirm employees who have been suspended for substance abuse can safely return to their jobs.
  • Random – given randomly and without notice to ensure employees are not violating the D&A policy.
Now testing is not perfect and there are ways to game the tests but the testing can help create and maintain the culture of a sober workplace.
What to Look For
Knowing that tests can be gamed, the most effective way of identifying substance abuse is by observing behavior.  Each type of substance produces a distinct type of behavior.
  • Depressants – alcohol, marijuana and tranquilizers slow a person down and make them sluggish.
  • Stimulants – meth, cocaine, and crack speed a person up and cause a person to be active and unusually hyper.
  • Narcotic Analgesics – morphine, heroin, and Oxycontin make a person numb and unable to feel pain.
  • Hallucinogens – LSD and certain mushrooms make a person see and hear things that don’t exist.

Drug and alcohol use usually causes extreme mood swings of being very energetic, angry, or depressed.  If an employee is behaving noticeably strange,  look for other signs of substance abuse such as alcohol hidden in beverages, the smell of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, bloodshot eyes, etc.

What to Do

First of all, don’t immediately jump to conclusions if you witness unusual and abnormal behavior.  It could be a number of other things that are causing the behavior that have nothing to do with substance abuse.  If you suspect substance abuse, document your observations of the employee to try to determine a pattern. Never accuse an employee or try to diagnose their problem. Focus on their work performance and document facts, not opinion.  For example, don’t document they were drunk, instead document that alcohol was smelled on their breath.  If the employee’s behavior is affecting the their safety or the safety of others, immediately
remove them from the workplace based on their violating safety practices.

 

 

It may take several weeks before a pattern of poor performance is established and an employee should be confronted.  When that time comes, bring the employee in and discuss their poor performance and documented observations and what they think is contributing to it.  Tell the employee the company is here to help them and offer them the company EAP.  Make sure the employee understands that the company wants to help them with their problem, not get rid of them.