The Art of Persuasion

It’s always a little strange to see your thoughts in writing – especially if they’re being written by someone else.

I was recently interviewed by students at the USC Marshall School of Business – they are candidates for Master’s degrees in Leadership and Management.  The focus of the interview was how to persuade employees to see your point of view.

Here’s the paper (and I didn’t edit at all!)

Background:  Eric Swenson has over 20 years of experience in management, sales, training and marketing. He has managed hundreds of employees and interviewed over 2,000 people in his career. RSJ/Swenson LLC is a management and human resources consulting firm with offices in California and Nevada.

Interview Summary: Eric shared his insightful thoughts about the leadership and persuasion. For Eric, persuasion is a natural process and he prefers soft tactics. He is always honest to his superiors and subordinates. Eric believes that effective leaders are very expressive when they come to everybody. They are very candid and direct and these personal traits play a key role for persuasion process. According to Eric, the three most important aspects for managing up and down are communication, openness, and setting a positive tone that focuses on the end result.

Persuasion Strategies:

  • Self Persuasion: “If you were in my position, how would you handle my problem?”
    • You should let team members identify the solutions on their own. You also remind them why they live in the same organization. This especially helps you deal with some conflicts with your members.
  • Logical reasoning: 
    • You use facts, figures, and belief that your idea is correct. You also consider the goals, needs, and interests of your subordinates/superiors you’re trying to persuade. The more they see an idea can help them, the more likely they are to help you.
  • Persuasion Tactics: 
    • Collaboration: You need to work with your subordinates, not at them, in order to get them to enthusiastically support your requests. You collaborate with team members, rather than using authority. You don’t need to overuse that power. The relationship based on the trust is a key for the collaboration.
    • Communication/Honesty: You should facilitate communication and be very honest to your people.
    • Improving Persuasive Skills: Appeal to the subject’s self-interest: You make it sure that what you need align with their best interests.
    • Present strong evidence to support your views/positions: You do intensive research and show the team members an idea that will likely work.
    • Establish credibility: You’re more likely to persuade your subordinates when trust and respect you. You promise to take the blame if it does not go well. This leads you to build up the trust and respect you’re your subordinates.
    • Make your objectives clear: You should get your team understand what you are doing and why are why you are doing that.

Other key factors:
Decision making is a collective effort: As a leader, you have to be honest to your team members. If you found you made a wrong decision, you would change the decision. There is nothing wrong with admitting a mistake.

Advertisements

Retaliation Claims on the Rise

It’s always been easier for lawyers to prove retaliation in the workplace than harassment, discrimination, or even wrongful termination.

With so many people now out of work, it’s natural that retaliation claims against employers is now on the rise – 23% this year over last.

The classic example of retaliation comes from an employee who did the right thing – a whistleblower notification, a complaint against a supervisor or fellow employee – and that was terminated, transferred or had other repercussions from their employer.

A good article on this trend is from the Wall Street Journal.

Credit Reports for Hiring? Still A Bad Idea!

Using a credit report is becoming more popular for businesses hiring employees.  We’ve always felt this was an unnecessary risk to employers because:

  1. What is the business justification?  If a job requires an employee to handle large amounts of cash, or have access to the same, that’s good justification.
  2. If someone has a bad credit report – especially in these economic times – does that make them a poor candidate for a job?  Not necessarily.
  3. There is a risk that women and minorities may be disproportionately affected, and that could cause big problems.

So unless you have a good reason to do it, don’t!

Nevada Wage & Hour Lawsuits

We’ve been warning employers for several months that wage & hour compliance issues will result in numerous lawsuits this year – especially in Nevada.

It’s starting to happen.

Wells Fargo & AutoZone have been sued (class-action status is currently pending) for mis-classifying employees.

With Wells Fargo, business banking specialists were allegedly mis-classified as exempt (from overtime, meal and rest breaks) when they were required to be ‘on-call’ on certain evenings.

In AutoZone’s case, Assistant Managers were not compensated for working overtime (this is a case very reminiscent of the Long’s Drugstore case in 2004).

The federal government is taking Wage & Hour violations seriously: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis recently announced plans to add 250 field investigators, increasing staff by 33%. The DOL believes 7 out of 10 businesses are not in compliance with Wage & Hour laws.

Garry Mathiason of Littler recently wrote:

No employment-law trend is more certain, universal or important than the total wage-and-hour compliance initiative and stopping the epidemic of wage-and-hour class-action (lawsuits)…

More ominous and prescient are these words from Mathiason (and, I believe, completely true):

With thousands of plaintiffs’ attorneys examining every aspect of the payroll process, employers must expect maximum scrutiny…”Every employee who is terminated or demoted, or who experiences an unpleasant workplace event, is encouraged by Internet and television advertising to seek the advice of counsel. In almost every intake interview, the attorney’s questioning turns to wage-and-hour issues in an attempt to find additional claims. Inspired by the prospect of turning a small individual claim into a multimillion-dollar class-action, the organization’s wage-and-hour compliance goes under the microscope.”

Thanks to Las Vegas Sun.

Why Health Care Reform Is Necessary

It’s a deliberately provocative title. And this is not an article about which reform is best for our country.

But…

The Department of Labor just came out with their statistics regarding benefits paid by employers.

The cost of medical benefits to private employers has doubled in the past 10 years.

In March 1999, employers paid an average of $1.03 per employee per hour for medical benefits (about 5.4% of total compensation)

In March 2009, employers paid an average of $2.00 per employee per hour for medical (about 7.3% of total comp).

And based on my work with small and medium-sized businesses, the quality of those benefits has declined dramatically in the past 10 years (along with huge increases in deductibles, co-pays, etc.).

Twice the cost with half the benefits. All underwritten by private businesses.

Something must be done.

To Severance Or Not?

When laying off, or even terminating employees, the inevitable thought and process of offering a severance package comes up. Most businesses – especially small businesses, don’t have an existing written policy on severance packages. Therefore, a severance offer is not completely thought through.

I’ve had two clients in the last few weeks who needed to layoff employees and they had no existing policy. Suddenly, an issue which requires a great deal of thought had to be made immediately. There was even an article in the Wall Street Journal which addressed this.

Some thoughts on offering severance:

  1. Get a policy in writing now. This helps greatly with consistency and avoids any claim of favoritism or discrimination. Even if you don’t contemplate layoffs, it’s still an important item to have in place.
  2. When you offer a severance package for laid off employees, be consistent. An example would be two weeks of pay for each completed year of service. You can’t show better programs for more favorite employees.
  3. Every employment attorney I’ve worked with says the same thing – never offer money without getting a ‘hold harmless’ agreement signed by that employee. Consult your labor attorney – it’s worth the cost.
  4. Consider paying medical insurance for several months. COBRA now requires employers to pay 65% of existing benefits; but offering to pay all of the premiums for longer is a small cost but shows you – the employer – are trying to do the right thing.
  5. If you’re terminating an ‘older worker’ (someone over the age of 40), make sure the agreement contains provision required by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act.

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.