The Annoyance of E-Mail

One of my closest friends has an e-mail account, but refuses to give out the address to his friends. “I get enough e-mails at work,” he explains, “and the junk I get from my friends is the biggest time waster I can think of.”

The overuse of e-mail, and related etiquette violations, are a big annoyance in the workplace.

ABC News has developed a list of “No-No’s” when it comes to business e-mails (and they’re all great examples of what not to do). They are:

  1. Don’t ‘cc’ someone’s boss on a criticism unless you really mean it;
  2. Hitting the ‘reply all’ button;
  3. USING ALL CAPS

It is suggested that you develop an e-mail etiquette policy for your handbook – but, like all policies, you need to consistently enforce it.

And remember – when you put something in writing – it’s there forever.

5 Alternatives to a Pay Raise

The economy is down, and business owners are feeling the pinch. Employees may deserve a pay raise, but you can’t afford to provide one.

Here are five alternatives to a pay raise:

  1. Increase the number of paid days off.
  2. Go to a four day work week twice monthly.
  3. Telecommute one day a week (this saves the employee travel time and gas expense).
  4. Establish a bonus for high performance during the year; if an employee exceeds billable hours, or productivity standards – your business will improve.
  5. Initiate a 401(k) or other savings incentive plan (the incremental costs are very small compared to the perceived benefit)

Remember, it costs far more to replace an employee than keeping one. Reducing your employee turnover is a key component to business success.

Courtesy USA Today.

Same-Sex Marriage & The Affect On Employers

When California’s Supreme Court overturned a state law that banned same-sex marriages in May, the impact on employers was not immediately clear. As lawyers and experts have begun to evaluate this decision, their opinions are starting to come out.

Writing in Harrison Ford’s Management Update, Jeffrey Ashendorf says that “Employers should review the terms of their benefit plans and employee communications and adopt a clear definition of the term “spouse” to avoid any confusion. Additionally, if benefits are or will be offered to same-sex spouses or non-dependent domestic partners, employers should ensure that their payroll or accounting departments can comply with differing tax treatments under federal law.”

Obviously the issue is controversial – and litigious – for employers. Take steps now to ensure you’re in compliance.

Retaliation: The New Emerging Issue for Employers

Employment attorneys tell me that the reason retaliation claims are on the rise is that retaliation is much easier to prove than harassment. Some plaintiffs lawyers are even ‘giving up’ on a harassment complaint and just focus on retaliation as a result.

When I conduct workplace investigations, one of the things I look for is whether retaliation has taken place. It may be that there was no actual harassment – but there was retaliation.

The simplest example is when an employee is terminated shortly after making a harassment or discrimination claim. The burden is on the employer to prove he or she did not terminate because the accusations were made.

And retaliation can be much more subtle – co-workers avoiding the accuser; management moving the accuser to another office or work location.

Make sure you add a non-retaliation policy to your employee handbook. But you need to be vigilant in making sure the policy is truly in practice.

This excellent article from Shaw/Valenza illustrates some recent retaliation decisions made by the courts.

Alternatives to Employee Layoffs

Yesterday, we discussed the downside to laying off employees. It often is a short-term fix at a substantial long-term cost to your business.

But when business turns south (62,000 jobs were lost last month), what alternatives are there?

Michigan-based Pro-Temp Inc. co-owner Cal Van Hemert started snipping away at expenses at the heating, cooling and refrigeration service company.

He replaced the company’s formal holiday dinner with a pizza lunch, restructured to get more people into the profitable sales department and is debating whether to trim benefits for his 14 employees.

Cross-training employees in multiple roles can add efficiency with no additional cost.

Employees might agree to sabbaticals, unpaid vacations, lowered salaries, even work furloughs.

415 Productions offered either an overall 5 percent pay cut, or a four-day work week reflecting the appropriate decrease in pay.

Charles Schwab Corp. guaranteed a $7,500 bonus for any affected employee who gets rehired within 18 months. In addition, company founder Charles Schwab and his wife created a $10 million educational fund for these workers. The fund will cover as much as $20,000 worth of tuition over two years at accredited academic institutions.

Your most important investment is in human capital. The cost of turnover is significant.

Thanks to salary.com and themorningcall.com.

The Downside of Employee Layoffs

In a “down” economy, the first thing many businesses decide is to layoff employees.

It’s not a great idea, since it is a short-term fix at a long-term cost.

William McKinley, in an article titled Organizational downsizing: constraining, cloning, learning,
wrote that “While downsizing has been viewed primarily as a cost reduction strategy..there is considerable evidence that downsizing does not reduce expenses as much as desired, and that sometimes expenses may actually increase.”

Employees should not be viewed as an expense, but as a capital investment.

F. John Reh argues that businesses need to consider the reduced morale and the reduced performance and innovation it will bring, and to consider the reduced quality of the company’s overall workforce that will result.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss alternatives to laying off employees.

Courtesy about.com (management).

Getting Coffee For The Boss

So an employee got fired for complaining about having to get her bosses coffee. And then sued for a hostile and discriminatory work environment.

She lost (here’s the article in www.philly.com), but certainly created a problem for her former employer.

The best way to deal with this problem – like most problems – is to get in front of it before anything gets out of hand.

For example, the written job description should always include a section that says, “…and all other duties as required by management.” And it wouldn’t hurt in the job interview to mention that bringing coffee to the boss is considered part of the job.

As for me – I’m fully capable of getting my own coffee every day, and would rather have by associates working that making me a latte.

The fired employee plans to appeal – but one of her quotes was really significant: “…they had no idea that I needed that job as much as I did…”