Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Female Employees Don't Mind Sexual Harassment

A supervisor recently told me that his female employees love the attention that many other women in the workplace would consider sexual harassment. The women in the workplace are young, and they also dish it out themselves. So is it a problem? He thought the media was make too much out of the whole sexual harassment thing.

This supervisor is missing the point, I think. It's true that many workplace behaviors that constitute sexual harassment either by definition or perception by female employees goes unannounced and without formal complaint, but this doesn't mean a charge against the employer won't come tomorrow. There's the rub.

The attention given to this problem legitimatizes the lodging of complaints by employees who have not come forward. And there lies one of the most important reasons to have policy and a complaint procedure in place. There are reasons many employees don't complain. Here are just a few. Which one's do you think are being impacted by recent media and court actions?

The employee doesn't feel he or she will be believed.
They fear some subtle or overt punishment by the employer or supervisor.
They don't trust that management will take action or will listen with an eye toward objectivity.
They don't want to "cause problems."
They may be accused of "wanting it" or "bringing it on."
They cannot provide a accurate accounting of the incident(s).

Often a charge against the employer will not emerge until an employee is terminated for some reason, regardless of the legitimacy of the discharge action. In other words, once a job is lost, many of these reasons in the eye of the victim disappear as roadblocks to lodging complaints.

Okay so the employees aren't complaining. Let's go so far as to say they love it. Are you offended personally? What about the behavior and its affect on the corporate mission? It's values? Any problems there. Of course there is.

You don't need a female worker's complaint to take action. Sexual harassment is not based upon the victim's motivation to file a complaint.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What If My Supervisor Is the "Troubled Employee"

If your company is of any appreciable size, you may have an employee assistance program. Regardless of what the insurance company's brochure says, the primary purpose of an EAP is a management tool to help the organization deal with at-risk troubled employees whose personal problems may affect job performance.

They get help by way of self-referral for their own reasons, or the supervisor makes a referral to the EAP based upon job performance. Your EAP is not an employee benefit like a free gym membership. It is much more profound than to call it a benefit. It is a programmatic approach for dealing with behavioral risk with an established "core technology" of elements that make an EAP an EAP. So, all of that said, what do you do in the situation where your boss is the troubled employee?

As a supervisor, you can't make a supervisor referral. So, now what?!

This question, often raised by supervisors during training, is not as difficult to answer as it may at first appear.

Assuming your supervisor is a troubled employee, it is likely that his or her performance, conduct, or attitude on the job is affecting you personally.

This means that contacting the EAP to help you resolve your problem with the supervisor's behavior is appropriate. The stress of a dysfunctional supervisor may be problem-solved many ways, depending on the circumstances.

This could include modifying the way you handle the stress to actually seeking organizational support in order to deal with a real problem. You may be able to discover creative solutions with the EAP counselor. Regardless, just as it would be appropriate to seek EAP assistance for ongoing conflicts with a co-worker, it is appropriate to seek assistance from the EAP if you are negatively affected by the behavior of a supervisor. This is always the best alternative to trying to "refer" your supervisor. So the surprise answer is that there is no one answer that fits all situation. However, the shortest route to discovering the most workable answer is to consult with the EAP expertyourself.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

DOT Compliance Training: Functional Alcoholic

Alcoholics in late stage addiction can still draw a paycheck, drive fork lifts, keep the books, and lead Boy Scout Troops. Until they have an accident or disturb your life in some way, you may be prone to using the term "functional alcoholic" to describe their drinking patterns. Stop using this enabling phrase. Have you heard anyone use the term "functional cancer". Of course not. That's because cancer is an "accepted" disease. We are still fooling around with alcoholism, but there are very understandable reasons for it. Centuries of misinformation dominate this problem, but in business and industry and in DOT drug and alcohol training we see supervisors and employees keeping these ill employees at risk for some of the worst calamities. From train wrecks to fender benders, enabling keeps alcoholics sick. The term functional alcoholic does have more precise meaning. It means "the drinking problem doesn't bother me." Actually, it really means the drinking doesn't bother you, "yet". If you do training with supervisors, this is a critical topic to include in DOT or Employee Assistance Compliance Training for Alcohol and Drug Education.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reasonable Suspicion Training Didn't Help this Supervisor

I understand from one of my readers that she has, what she describes as a dedicated employee who is seeing a psychiatrist for depression, she also says this employee has an alcohol problem. Not suprising, she also says he has unpredictable patterns of absenteeism. The company has an EAP and their is a reasonable suspicion training program for alcohol and drug education of supervisors, but the question is, why use it or make a referral if he is obviously is seeing psychiatrist?

I know many of you will not believe this, but for some supervisors I have met, this makes perfect sense -- not to make a referral to the EAP. They have not referred such employees, despite their DOT supervisor training for reasonable suspicion because they believed, even with alcohol on the breath that the employee was in good hands with Dr. Freddy Freud.

Straight up, please refer these employees to your EAP. Persistent job problems are the proper basis for a supervisory referral not the workplace alcohol problem!

In this case it is absenteeism and refer for reasonable suspicion, too in accordance with your organizations drug free workplace policy. Often, employees seek help for personal problems they have themselves improperly diagnosed, like depression. Did you know that alcohol is a depressant? So, wallah!

Do you know that many depressed employees hope to heaven that a psychiatrist will call their alcoholism "a symptom" of depression? And guess why this is such a wonderful thing to the alcoholic? It holds out the possibility that he or she can one day drink normally again.

Believe me, there are many psychiatrists who want the patient to believe exactly this. And can you can guess why? Precisely. Can you say "ongoing" paying patient? So employees will seek help from the wrong source, or one which inadequately treats their problem.

A psychiatrist, without recommending alcoholism treatment, will be unable to successfully treat the illness because much more is needed than what the physician can offer. It is likely that this employee believes you are a sympathetic supervisor willing to wait. Wow, I can smell the risk from here. This is why the employees is willing an trusting, and desireous of sharing the nature of his problems with you without correcting the absenteeism. If you have not tried the EAP yet, and the threat of termination, as a motivator, you are overdue and over-ripe like a banana for a supervisory referral.

I hope you consider more reasonable suspicion training and more effecive dot supervisor training in the near future.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Workplace Violence Prevention Training

If you are suddenly focused on workplace violence prevention training for your supervisors or employees, let me give you a few tips that will maximize your loss prevention goals and increase the likelihood that your training will actually stop a worker from shooting up the place. Sorry to be so blunt, but this may be the most important and helpful blog note that I have ever made. I want more employers to stop missing the boat on this subject.

Most workplace violence prevention training provides adequate information to employees about signs and symptoms of workplace violence - what to look for, what to do, what not to do, how to escape, and more. Great stuff. Gotta have it. No arguments. However, here is where the "model" break down: A lack of education, training, and awareness about prevention, stopping, or intervening with behaviors on the job that provoke violence.

There are many things to discuss in this regard, but let me name only a few. In future posts, I will dive into workplace violence prevention training specifics so you can more clearly see my points.

The following workplace violence prevention and education training topics can reduce risk, increase morale, and help employees avoid conflict.

1. Training and Education in Maintaining a Respectful Workplace
2. Training and Education in Avoiding Workplace Harassment
3. Training and Education in Valuing Diversity in the Workplace
4. Training and Education in Resolving Coworker Conflicts
5. Training and Education in Improving Assertiveness Skills

I bet after reading the above, you see where I am heading. These topics relate to preventing workplace violence at many levels and they should be included in your workplace violence prevention training objectives. Remember, I will be back soon to discuss each one.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Good Faith and Fair Dealing

Supervisors are vulnerable to becoming "wrapped up" in their contentious relationships with employees. Are you so prone? If so, someday you may take actions against your employee nemisis in a moment or two of lost awareness only to find yourself and your employer sued in part because your failure to participate in good faith and fair dealing with your employee. What is this doctrine of relationship management?

The "good faith and fair dealing obligation" of employers is an important concept to understand in preventing actions by employees that can lead to expensive lawsuits.

It is an obscure principle, but this obligation on the part of employers has a very wide range of interpretations. And it has become a more common foundation or element upon which employee lawsuits have been based.

Its underlying principles should be understood by supervisors, because they can be easy to violate, even unintentionally. Management activity that can elicit action from employees based on the good faith and fair dealing exception include:

Distorting, falsifying, altering, or destroying performance appraisal records.

Malicious supervision including harassment, abusive behavior, and inadequate training.

Arbitrary and capricious demotion or creation of excessive assignments in an attempt to provoke resignation.

Retalitory termination.

Any other malicious conduct on the part of the employer that tends to unnecessarily create an adverse effect upon the worker's right to reasonable employment conditions.

Now you have a clear rationale for staying on the "rational" side of the contest you have with your employee. Have a supervisor, HR, or management confidant to keep you unemotional and on the straight and narrow when managing a troubled employee or chronically unproductive worker.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Good documentation. Bad Documentation

Okay, test your skills. Yes or no? The following is an example of useful and correctly written documentation: "Tom S. arrived twenty minutes late to work today and was witnessed, by several employees, damaging another vehicle while trying to park his car. He was heard yelling obscenities from within car. When I met with him immediately after the incident, I could smell alcohol on his breath." .... Yes. This is an example of documentation that is specific and clear. There are no subjective or opinionated comments or conclusions about the employee's condition. It is written in a factual, unemotional way, with attention to that which can be sensed--in this case what can be seen, heard, and smelled.

Okay, try this one: "Tom Smith arrived at work late with reports by others of being drunk. He scraped a car in the parking lot and when confronted by me, after the incident, became defensive and acted immature showing that he had something to hide and to get others to "back off". He denied he was drunk, but admitted he had been drinking before midnight, which is when he stated his last drink occurred."

This documentation lacks specific details and instead appears to be conjecture; it would be difficult to defend. It would not support a disciplinary action or a reasonable-suspicion drug test.

To really get a grip on performance documentation, have your supervisors able to quickly access instructions on this document by using your companies internal web site or a special section for supervisors where supervisory skills can be found and learned quickly. This is very easy to do with a product such as the 14 Vital Skll for Supervisors Training Online Flash course. The author lets you view it completely free.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Be Gingerly with Returning Troops from Overseas? - NO WAY!

I had a supervisor ask me recently about the mental state of his employees who had returned from overseas and who had also been in action. He pondered about how lenient he should be with these employees. Oh, my! he asked, don’t they deserve a break because of their stress and more leniency from us supervisors when performance problems arise?

Folks, ask any returning troops this question, and they will freak out. Do think the doh boys of WWII got treated with kit gloves. Hell no. They came home and raised five kids and ran boy scout troops. Let's stop treating Vets like every one of them is about to shoot up the Post Office. Sure, absolutely, some have PTSD, but let them tell you that they need accommondations first. Listen, it's natural to weigh the circumstances of your employees and want to be lenient as a way of accommodating them. However, unless a specific request is made for a reasonable accommodation, it is generally better to treat employees equally and all as fully capable. Do not assume these employees require different standards for how their performance should be judged. Many employees experience performance problems attributable to traumas and personal issues. Although the stress of war and its toll on the psyche is extraordinary, your employees will benefit most by being held to the same performance evaluation standards and work rules as other employees. Most soldiers returning from overs as will tell you they want to be treated no differently than their peers. Remember not to make assumptions or diagnostic conclusions about your employees.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Program Evaluation--Not Rocket Science, but Rocket Fuel

Doing program evaluation to spot a specific positive outcome that results from your EAP activities can be a impressive way to keep managment focused on the value of your program. Doing simple program evalution so you can lay claim to the positive financial impact is not so complicated that you can't do it yourself. It's not rocket science, but it is rocket fuel if you can get yourself focused on it.

The simplest type of research that you might want to try is the "Before and After" Study. This is a legitimate area of program evaluation and it is a good type for EAPs to consider because of the intervention factor. One can measure the values of specific concerns before an intervention and then after the intervention, continue with the same measurement in an attempt to demonstrate, validate, and measure impact.

Here are some of the workplace areas where before and after studies can be applied. You may want to keep a list of these things, tally them with the help of your organization, and then consider which ones you might be able to positively influence with the EAP.

  • Absent Days Without Leave
  • Sick Days Recorded
  • Number of Employee Grievances
  • Turnover Rate
  • Number of Accidents on Job
  • Injuries Resulting in Lost Work Time
  • Amount of Workers' Compensation Claims Paid
  • Total Number of Disciplinary Actions Executed
  • Complaints From Female (Male) Staff About Sexual Harassment
  • Number of Terminations for Cause (Fired Employees)
  • Total Number of Employees Testing Positive for Drug Use
  • Attorney Bills for Consultations AboutTroubled Employees
    Total Number of Wage Garnishments
  • Earlier Return to Work for Employees with Work Injurie

When You're Friends with Your Employee

Let me ask if you are personal friends with your employee? Do you socialize on weekends and in off hours? If so, you are participating in what is commonly called a "dual relationship." This is hazardous territory, despite what you think is your unique ability to "handle it." If you are a new supervisor, you might want to consider now how to minimize the intimacy of the relationships you have with with those you must now supervise.

A personal relationship will always subordinate itself to the employment relationship when the "stuff" hits the fan. You'll give up that friendship before you let management snuff you for not taking action against a problematic employee. But there are many more problems associated with dual relationship. Employees know if you have a different type of relationship with one of their coworkers that looks more favorable. They'll smell it a mile away. This knowledge interferes with their belief that you are completely objective, and this will interfere with your ability to influence their productivity. What should you do about this conflict of interest? Wise supervisors who have answered this question the hard way say, "Avoid dual relationships!" Get your friendship needs met somewhere else. Getting your social needs met outside the work organization will reduce severe stress associated with the difficult decisions you must make with your employee when their performance goes south.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Supervisors, Employees, and Privacy Rights, Oh My!

Avoid legal problems associated with privacy rights involving employee files and other paperwork. If you did not get new supervisor training on this subject, this post will help. Paperwork management related to employee files is an important area of concern that should not be ignored. You may wonder from time to time if you are in trouble with the way you are handling employee records. Right? Not right? Well, you should keep this issue in mind but don't panic. A few precautions, in addition to listening to your legal advisers, will keep you on the straight and narrow path avoiding 99% of litigation threats associated with the mishandling of privacy information. So, here are few tips for you. One time bomb for many companies is the potential for employment claims related to "negligent maintenance," or "failure to use due care" when it comes to handling file records. When employees file lawsuits for these employment practices problems, they generally fall into several categories. These include providing employment reference information which was untrue or damaging; improperly disclosing personal information about the employee; placing false information in a file; providing false information to others from a file; failing to keep accurate records or keeping inconsistent records among employees; and improperly disclosing information to those who do not have a right to know. So, these supervisor skills are critical. Good luck in your paper management, and if new supervisor training is in your future, be sure to get clarification on managing paperwork.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Supervisor Training: Death in the Workplace and Grief on the Job

If you are a new supervisor, here's a small piece of advice: Learn now how to respond to a death of an employee on the job, at home, or suddenly without warning (automobile accident, etc.) Your employees will react with fright and confusion and they glance your direction as a leader to take cues on what they should do and how they should react.

This is the natural response to death of a coworker in the workplace. You will notice that some employees handle such an incident amazingly well, and others will struggle much more, particularly if they have other personal problems in their lives, and most especially if the death or event coincides with loss in their personal lives in some other respect, no matter how unrelated. The issue of loss and grief is at the heart of response.

Don't think that you can shove everyone back on to the tread mill as if they must be on a productivity routine that is more important that processing, talking out, and helping the family members of the deceased employees. In large measure, you will have to let things play out.

Your employees have experienced a dramatizing event and now must address the crisis of sudden loss and all the ramifications that go along with it. All employees want to return to their normal routines, family, and work-life as quickly as possible, but providing assistance to help them do this may be necessary, prudent, and wise. Denial of the emotional impacts of such an event can be compounded by an employer's unwillingness (often because of their own denial) to provide an opportunity to "process" or "talk out" the event.

Some employees may be reluctant to discuss the event and others are more willing. Much depends on an individual's past coping skills. Although you shouldn't force the issue, allowing time for employees to consider the event, their role in it, and feelings will speed their emotional recovery quicker. Set an example as a supervisor by being a role model for openness and willingness to talk about what happened. And pay attention to protracted responses that might indicate one of your employees could use additional counseling or assistance. To not respond invites stress claims, time off work, absenteeism, depression, and even increased likelihood of an accident due to problems concentration.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Empoyee Performance and Employee Documentation

Are you a supervisor who keeps struggling with employee documentation of employee performance? When an employee is slow, appears tired, and acts sad, do you call this “depressed”? It seems more to the point and descriptive doesn't it. It just feels right, right?

Well, unfortunately you are wrong. It's not right. It's trouble! Your documentation, at best, will be criticized, and at worst will jeopardize your employer if you make these kinds of notations. Not using labels is difficult, I know, but let's discuss it and then send you on your way.

You don't learn documentation overnight. There is a little bit of an art to it. Documentation can be tricky because you must convey what you see and hear but omit what you feel and conclude. This takes practice because it is tempting to focus on other factors that are subjective and emotional. The key is to avoid drawing conclusions about personal problems, stating how you feel about the employee’s behavior, conveying diagnostic impressions, or filling your documentation with drama. These things sabotage the usefulness of your documentation for administrative purposes. To improve your documentation, consider whether it describes what is measurable or observable. Depression (a medical term to avoid using in documentation) can’t be “seen” but slow talking, days missed, lack of work progress, crying, and sad looks are observable.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reducing Tension During Verbal Warning Interviews

As a new supervisor, when you meet with employees to do verbal warnings corrective interview, you are going to be tense, lose track of your points sometimes, or simply become overwhelmed with the fear associated with confrontation depending on its nature. It happens. You are not alone. Very few people in supervisory positions would say they look forward to such meetings. And what supervisory training for new supervisors ever includes such skill development? Indeed, these meetings go with the territory when it comes to the supervisor's role. Try these steps to make approaching such a task easier:

1. Plan your meeting with the employee ahead of time, if possible.

2. Write out a list of the concerns that you will address and review them in advance with your supervisor. Get your supervisor's support and input prior to your meeting.

3. Meet with the employee in your office (on your turf). Discuss the listed concerns and allow the employee to respond.

4. Do not argue with your employee. Try to remain emotionally detached by seeing the goal of your meeting as helping the employee understand the relationship between unacceptable behavior and its possible consequences.

5. If the employee remains argumentative or will not listen, end your meeting with plans to meet again soon.

6. Contract with the employee for desired changes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ten Excuses in Reasonable Suspicion Confrontation

There are ten commonly heard excuses employees give when confronted with a request to take a drug test based upon reasonable suspicion of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Let's go through these "David Letterman" style.

#10: “I haven’t had a drink since last night!”

In the heat of the moment, this excuse can seem quite reasonable, especially for those of us who have had a few late nights ourselves. Here’s something you probably won’t consider in the heat of the moment—just how long ago was “last night”?

Depending on when your employee stopped drinking, it can be as few as 3-4 of hours. Knocking off at 4am and catching a couple hours of sleep before work may fool your employee into thinking it’s a new day, but he can’t fool his body. Sleeping doesn’t metabolize alcohol and sober you up any faster than if you were awake.

But isn’t even 4 hours long enough to sober up? Not necessarily. Don’t make the mistake of projecting your own consumption habits onto your employee. He may have consumed an amount that far exceeds your own capacity. If your employee has a substance abuse problem, it’s far more likely that he’s been engaging in binge drinking. Having 10 or more drinks in one sitting is not unheard of.

Employees who have a high tolerance to alcohol could have their last drink late at night and still be under the influence well after sunrise. They don’t have to drink just before coming to work or first thing in the morning to be under the influence. Don’t let this statement convince you that a test is unnecessary.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Manager Skills: Giving Feedback to Employees Is Hard for Me

Is it difficult for you to give feedback to employees about their work performance? Perhaps you think that they will take it personally? Maybe you are afraid of their defensiveness or perhaps ignore you and leave you in the difficult position of confronting them again or deciding to forget the whole matter.

Well, you're not alone in your concern about giving feedback. To make manager skills easier, try what is known as the "sandwiching technique." You won't find too manager supervisor training course modules that teach it.

This technique of providing constructive feedback or correction of an employee's performance allows the message your sending to be received more easily by "sandwiching" the unfavorable comments between favorable comments. For example, say: "Nancy, I've been pleased with the way you've stepped up the speed of assembling the monthly reports. You've made real improvement there. I am concerned, however, about the quality. There are frequently mistakes in the charts that need to be corrected. I hope you'll work to improve the quality as well as speed. I feel good about your attitude toward the schedule we are trying to keep, so I know you'll do fine." Notice how the message you wanted to communicate was placed between two true but positive statements. This technique reduces defensiveness and makes your feedback more acceptable, particularly with employees who are more sensitive toward constructive criticism. This manager skill will serve you well and reduce your stress

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Granting or Zapping the "I-Want-A-Raise" Question

You know how it is. Your employee comes to you and wants a raise. You say no, and the employee goes away mad. Your relationship is tarnished and both of you lose. You know there is no way for the employee to get a raise, but the employee is not seeing it your way.

Let's help the employee be a bit more effective and mature in their request, even if there is no chance of getting a raise. Then you can address the request in writing and call it a day.

No employee should be verbally requesting a raise. This is simply inappropriate. A raise is money. Nowhere do we ask for more money on this planet without putting it in writing and giving to the person who then decides whether to give it to us. Somehow along the way, many employees decided that this is a function of an oral request. So, ask the employee to do the following.

I guarantee that if the raise is not warranted, the employee will figure it out as they write up the request. A certain number of employees will never do it. And others will be much more likely to accept your rejection of the request. The bottom line is that you are going to reduce your stress and unwarranted requests by 85% with this approach.

In the end, you will get a better relationship.

Tell the employees, "There is no promise that I can get you a raise, but it is appropriate for such a request to be in writing. Here is the proper outline. Please submit it to me and I will review it:

1) Provide a statement of original duties and responsibilities for the position;

2) And than a statement of your present duties and responsibilities for the position;


3) identify each new duty and how it demonstrates increased responsibility, not workload. Responsibility means in this instance "liable for accountability to the work organization". Give this example to your employee orally,

"Imagine if your boss is director of the Sharpened Pencils Unit of the company and assigns you the task of sharpening 500 pencils. He or she is directing your work but is responsible for delivering the 500 pencils. The accountability for the work goal is the supervisor to the organization. You are the sharpener.

If your boss asks you to sharpen 600 pencils this is more work, but it does not increase your responsibility in the corporate sense anymore than being asked stay a half hour longer after work increases your responsibility for the work you accomplish during that half hour. Understand?"

Please provide me with this document whenever you like.

Note how your employee producing this document and giving it to you will permit a more logical discussion and make your life easier, teach the employee a valuable lesson, and more likely help you preserve an effective relationship. The employee may still be mad, but he or she will know down inside that you are teaching a lesson and managing his or her request fairly. Find a supervisor training course that gives you helpful and practical tips like this at