Blogging and Networking on Company Time

Facebook signed up its 100 millionth member in August 2008. Just 7 months later, they’re about to hit the 200 million member mark.

The time Facebook members spend on the site must be staggering. And much of that time is likely spent during working hours.

Do you know what your employees are doing when they’re at work? And if its not myspace or facebook or linkedin, what about their own blog?

These issues illustrate the importance of having a handbook policy regarding blogging—either as a separate policy or as part of your electronic communications policy. The policy provide the following:

  • Do not blog on company time.
  • Do not disclose confidential information.
  • Do not include defamatory or racially or sexually offensive material.
  • Do not disparage the employer or its products, or a competitor.
  • Do not use the company logo.
  • Be truthful and respectful.

Given the increasing use of blogs and social networking sites, its time to update your handbook now.

EFCA: What Employers Can Do

The Employee Free Choice Act has been introduced in Congress, with plenty of vocal proponents and opponents.

The bill has two main elements:

  1. It would give workers the option of forming unions by getting a majority of workers to sign cards to join without having to hold a secret ballot election. (Current law leaves it up to employers to decide whether workers must hold an election or can organize via “card check.”)
  2. If employers and workers cannot reach a contract within 120 days, a government arbitrator intervenes and sets terms.

The possibility of many non-union businesses becoming unionized is real. So what can employer do? The best advice I’ve seen yet comes from Mark Mathison and Abigail Crouse of Gray Plant Moody in this article here. I’ve summarized their excellent suggestions:

  1. Adopt an Internal Position Statement on Unions and Labor Relations
  2. Conduct An Employee Issue and Satisfaction Audit
  3. Ensure that Communication Lines are Open and that Managers are Responsive to Employee Issues
  4. Review Employment Policies and Practices

Further, say Mathison & Crouse, it is important to audit for actual employment practice and policy enforcement within the organization because disparate enforcement adversely affecting unions or employees’ labor law rights can also be unfair labor practices with substantial negative impact in critical situations.

When You Lay Off The Wrong People

So your business needs to cut expenses, and downsizing your workforce is a necessary component in reduction.

But who do you lay off?

It’s a complicated task, and you need both an organizational development expert and likely an experienced employment attorney to guide you, because it’s not as simple as it seems.

For example, an older and more expensive employee may be your first choice for termination – but there are unforeseen problems. You can’t just lay off an employee for those reasons (which is why you need that OD consultant and attorney). Or, if you do, you could spend a lot more in legal fees and lawsuits than you could possibly save with the cutback.

The EEOC reports that age discrimination filings leaped 29% in the year ending September 2008. Over 25% of all EEOC claims are now age-related.

Five Most Read Articles

The five most read articles on our blog since October 1, 2008:

  1. Leading In Difficult Times
  2. Violence in the Workplace
  3. Nine Great Questions To Ask Your Boss
  4. Stopping Gossip in the Workplace
  5. Pay Raises in a Bad Economy

You’ve Laid Off Staff. Now What?

Perhaps the easiest part of reducing expenses is cutting back on staff. Because the next step – “What Do We Do Now?” is extremely difficult.

What Do We Do Now? You have fewer employees but need to have the same or better performance.

Hopefully, when reducing staff, you took the first important step which is to identify those employees who are capable of doing more and retaining them.

In identifying employees who can do more – look at attitude (desire) and aptitude (ability). Communication (as always) is key – those employees are going to be doing different things and more of them.

The employees who stay need to understand why they’re there and what their role is.

Employees who stay after a layoff are even more valuable now. There is some guilt (why did I stay and my friends have to depart?), a lot of trepidation, and no small amount of concern and fear.

It’s up to the employer to alleviate those concerns and allow the business to move forward.

Communicating in a Recession

The most important thing an employer can do in this economic downtown/recession/potential depression is communicate with employees. It’s one of the cornerstones of my trends for business leaders in 2009.

Because your employees have a vested (albeit self) interest in your success, they deserve to know what’s happening and what you’re doing about it.

In fact, one of the best things you can do is survey your employees and find out what they’d do to cut costs and improve performance in the short- and long-term.

Note – I said communicate ‘with’ employees, and not just ‘to’ employees.

This article in offers more advice.

You Know You’re A Bad Boss When…

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy created a cottage industry when he started saying, “You know you’re a redneck when…”

This post talks about a similar awareness: “You Know You’re A Bad Boss When…”

And awareness is the key component. Employees will always tell you what they think you want to hear. If you aren’t completely aware of what’s going on in your workplace, then you’re failing as a manager.

The other key component in awareness is to be completely honest with yourself when assessing your strengths and weaknesses. It takes a courageous manager to ask employees what is good and bad about his or her management style. (A 180-degree survey is also helpful, and most managers are rightfully scared to death of them).

Steve Wyrostek, the Chicago Small Business Strategies Examiner (, wrote a recent article that inspired my post. Among his excellent thoughts:

You just might be a poor boss if ….

  • You claim an open door policy and wonder why no one comes through that door.
  • Your employee has to ask you why her check increased instead of you telling her prior to payday that you gave her a raise.
  • You feel sorry for the Dabney Coleman character in the movie “9 to 5”
  • The turnover percentage in your area is the same as the winning percentage of the White Sox.
  • Your leadership role models are Machiavelli, General Patton and Atilla the Hun.
  • You find a copy of A Survival Guide for Working With Bad Bosses: Dealing With Bullies, Idiots, Back-stabbers, And Other Managers from Hell by Gini Graham Scotton an employee’s desk.
  • You have a budget of 30k to spend on employee bonuses and never use it.
  • You think it’s good management to come in under the paltry 3.5% budget available for salary increases.
  • You think that losing your temper is an indication of management strength.

Remember, being honest with yourself is the first, most important step in improving both your skills and performance – and those who work for you.

The Dangers of E-mails in the Workplace

There is no such thing as an innocent e-mail in the workplace. While people believe it’s electronic and potentially harmless, e-mails live in storage forever, and often are resurrected by lawyers when it comes to employee litigation.

In a recent newsletter, Fisher & Phillips attorney Tillman Coffey
top lines the reasons why e-mails are so dangerous. We’ve also written about it here and here.

There are several reasons why both managers and employees should re-thinking sending an e-mail hitting the “Send” button:

  1. E-mails about employees are discoverable. Comments on an employees performance (including comments whether they are too old, or sick, or ineffective) are actionable. Lawyers love to see these e-mails.
  2. Among the most common problems in e-mail: Messages that create a sexist, racist or hostile work environment, note experts. One e-mail message that made the rounds at Chevron in 1999 was titled “25 reasons why beer is better than women,” Flynn said. Four female executives used it as evidence of a hostile work environment and were awarded $2.2 million.
  3. The tone of an e-mail is easily misconstrued (using all CAPS, for example).

Before sending an e-mail, take a breath. Ask yourself if you’d like to answer questions about it in front of a jury.

Make sure to get an e-mail policy included in your handbook.

And remember, hitting the send button memorializes your comments forever.

Tardiness on the Rise

So 20% of American workers are late to work at least once a week.

In an era where jobs are becoming more and more precious (and conversely, layoffs are becoming more common) – it’s disturbing to think that 1 in 5 workers think so little of their jobs that they’re willing to gamble on being late once a week.

The usual culprits are excuses: traffic, dealing with children or pets, etc.

I am beginning to advise employers of the benefits of a high employment rate – that is, you can get a much more qualified worker now than ever before. And if that worker has been out of a job, they will be more loyal, work harder, and improve your productivity.

Jobs are scarce. Workers had better value their job (and show up on time), because there are many people out there who would take that job more seriously.

New I-9 Form Due April 3

It’s once again time for a new I-9 form to be used by all employers.

All employees hired must complete the form within 3 days of hire. The revisions are minor, but the new forms must be used as of April 3, 2009.

Employers need not have existing employees complete the new form; the old form will suffice for them.