Month: July 2014

How to Avoid Negativity in the Workplace

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How to Curb Negativity in the Workplace

Avoiding Negativity in the WorkplaceWorkplace negativity can have more than a few bad consequences. From reduced productivity to problems with retention, any environment where pessimism, complaining, derision or worse are regularly given reign can wreak a weedy and hard-to-counter havoc. Whether you’re the boss or just another employee trying to keep your head above the muck, curbing negativity will greatly increase the quality of your work life.

Negativity — What it Looks Like

Negativity is the habitual practice of attitudes, behaviors and speech that weaken morale, and according to Gary Topchik at ASAE, it’s primarily communicated in three ways:

  • Verbal negativity. Words are powerful, and using them in a way that disparages others or their ideas contributes to negativity. Any use of language that is dismissive, defensive and belittling will also increase the amount of negative air in the office.
  • Vocal negativity. Not to be confused with verbal negativity, vocal negativity is found in how someone delivers his words. Whining, yelling, sarcasm and mumbling are all examples of vocal negativity.
  • Visual negativity. Posture, gestures and facial expressions are as effective in communicating as words are. Frowning, refusing to look others in the eye, offensive gestures, eye rolling — these practices and those like them will create a negative atmosphere.

If you find yourself engaging in any of the above negative practices, notice it, and commit to changing your behavior. If you aren’t part of the negativity problem where you work, good job! Don’t succumb to it, and follow these tips for countering, curbing and curing the negativity that’s threatening your work environment.

Get Involved Early

Especially if you’re a boss or manager, it’s important to keep your ear to the ground so you can catch wind of any grumbling before it becomes a deafening roar. Stamping out trouble before it gets too large is easily the best cure for negativity. To that end, regularly engage in conversation with your employees and co-workers to get a good feel for the pulse of the organization. Then, when policies, workload, employee conflicts and other potential problems are brought to your attention, work proactively and fairly to resolve them. While it’s true that some employees do have a more negative streak than others, it’s often the case that changing aspects of the job are driving employees’ downward shifting attitudes, and if these are addressed, the negative feelings and behaviors will dissipate.

Set an Example

People have reasons to feel negative feelings. You, your co-workers and your employees all have legitimate complaints, bad days, seemingly insurmountable problems and other troubles that can affect your work and attitude. Regardless of what is going on in the workplace and in your personal life, set an example by how you handle yourself around the workplace. Without denying that trouble exists, do the following:

  • Be kind and cordial.
  • Don’t give gossips and rumormongers any of your time.
  • Stay positive, and when you can’t be positive, stay silent.
  • Treat everyone else like you would like to be treated.
  • Address concerns and complaints head-on, without being confrontational or defensive.

Transform Negative Words Into Positive Words

Reduce Negativity in the WorkplaceLanguage is basic to the person we each become, affecting how we think, feel and view the world.
In fact, humans are so powerfully and integrally affected by the language we hear around us that the melodic tones in newborns’ cries are different depending on the mothers’ accents. Even while in the womb, we are picking up on vocal and verbal cues. It follows, then, that negative (or positive) words and tones continue to carry weight our whole lives. If you have a negativity problem on your hands, one of the fastest routes to curbing it is to trade negative words for positive ones. Instead of saying, “I hope the project doesn’t fail,” say instead, “I hope the project succeeds.” Change “This won’t work” to “This is going to be difficult.” In every instance, transform your language into one of potential, faith in your employees and co-workers and opportunity for growth. Negativity can’t flourish in that kind of environment.

Disagree Without Being Disagreeable

It’s impossible to be in any kind of relationship without disagreeing from time to time, and the workplace is no exception. That being said, there is never any reason for disagreements to turn hostile. Remaining calm and open to the other person’s concerns and ideas will go a long way in ensuring that differing opinions don’t lead to a fight. Even if the person with whom you’re disagreeing is wandering into a negative space, there’s no reason to follow. Take a few deep breaths, repeat his ideas and concerns back to him and continue on in a measured tone of voice until you understand one another. If you need to take a break from the discussion because one of you is getting too heated, suggest another time to continue the conversation. Be sure to affirm your belief in being able to reach a compromise, and follow through on continuing the discussion. Disagreeing doesn’t have to be disagreeable, but you will have to exercise self-control.

Curbing negativity in the workplace doesn’t always have an easy solution, but it’s well worth the effort. By being pro-active, positive and committed to keeping yourself above the fray, negativity can be improved, and over time, banished.

Why Your Best Employees Want to Leave

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Why Your Best Employees Are Eyeing Greener Pastures

Why Employees LeaveHiring an excellent employee who is well-suited to her job is every boss’s dream. Learning curves are softer and handled more expediently. Work is more efficient and more pleasant. Everyone on the team becomes more productive, and you’re free to focus on more pressing matters like running your business. In short, your best employees make your life and job easier. But what if your most valuable employee has a wandering eye?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker stays at any given job for just over four years. That means the clock is likely ticking on your best employees whether you like it or not. However, nothing about the future is set in stone. If you’re concerned about retaining the people who keep your business in business, here is a list of reasons why greener pastures might be calling out to them and what to do about it.

The Big Picture Is Too Small

People aren’t just motivated by money and benefits packages. While a fatter paycheck can certainly lure away a good employee, a lack of vision is more likely to be the reason he went searching for something else. Your employees need to believe in the work they are doing. Regardless of the industry you work in, you need to help define the big picture for your employees, and it needs to be compelling. If you’re in insurance, make sure your employees believe in the ways you help and support your customers. If you run a small restaurant, educate your employees about why the local food you buy and serve is better for the environment, your customers and the local economy. If you operate a landscaping business, encourage your employees to notice the ways in which your work orders and beautifies the neighborhoods in your city. Craft a narrative about the work you do that will help your employees believe in your cause and desire to make it their own.

A Lack of Empathy

Employers and employees quit each other at an astonishing rate these days, and while some turnover is to be expected, it would be nice if you could keep it among the ranks of those workers who don’t benefit your company all that much. But how do you ensure that? One way to keep your best employees around is to make sure they feel valued, and the best way to engender that feeling is to listen to them regularly and with sincerity and implement the changes they think are necessary. Ignoring an employee’s needs, complaints or concerns will send the most sincere among your workforce packing, and listening without taking action will breed frustration. Practice empathy — the ability to both understand and experience another’s feelings — in all employee interaction. Empathy is an essential quality in good leadership that will keep your employees working hard for you. When it’s missing, your best employees will look to find it elsewhere.

The Future Looks Bleak

If your company isn’t the kind of place where employees can effectively “move up” in ways that will gain them more and different skills, more money and more responsibility, then it’s just a matter of time before your most disciplined and ambitious workers hit the road. Career paths must exist in order to keep your team happy, and they need to be well-communicated and properly understood, too. Performance reviews and occasional raises aren’t enough. Make sure you’re communicating with your best employees so that they know the options available to them to move up or across within your company. If a good employee feels like she’s in a job that won’t grow with her, she’ll find one that will.

Too Much Conflict

People usually spend at least 40 hours a week at their job, with their co-workers and beneath the watchful eyes of a manager or boss. Often times, they spend more awake time in that environment than they do anywhere else. If there are people or situations in the workspace that create regular or chronic conflict — even if it’s implicit — a good employee may well leave to find a less stressfulInter-office Conflict place to work. More than 40 percent of American workers say their job is too stressful, and while some stress is normal and healthy, if it’s people-related instead of project-related, it can be too deleterious for employees with marketable skills to endure for long. If you notice interpersonal struggles in the workplace, or if you hear about them, address the trouble head on. Interpersonal skills training can help alleviate some of the stress that might lead your better employees to seek out another job in an attempt to find a more peaceful work environment.

You can’t always retain your best workers. Shorter commutes, career changes, a desire to spend more time with family and a multitude of other reasons may all win out over the otherwise perfect circumstances you provide within your company. That being said, if you aren’t working to cut down on interpersonal conflict, communicating a bigger vision, practicing empathy and providing for a real path to growth, change and financial incentives for your best people, don’t be surprised if they’re on the lookout for greener pastures.


Is Your Corporate Culture Toxic?

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Is Your Corporate Culture Toxic?

Signs of a Toxic Corporate CultureEveryone wants to work for a company with a fun, positive corporate culture. But a toxic corporate culture can drive your best employees away and crush the spirits of those who remain.

It’s not always easy to tell when your corporate culture has soured, but it’s always important to identify and take steps to correct a toxic corporate culture as soon as possible. When companies fail, it’s often the result of an unhealthy corporate culture. Even when a toxic culture doesn’t lead to the outright failure of your organization, it’s going to cost you in the form of high turnover and decreased productivity from an unmotivated staff that just wants to get through the day without incident.

An organization struggling beneath the burden of a poor workplace culture will experience problems with gossip, poor leadership, poor company values, competition between employees and an overall lack of morale. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your corporate culture and make your employees happier and more productive.

Signs of a Toxic Company Culture

An organization that’s having issues maintaining a healthy company culture will struggle to treat employees with the respect they deserve or give them the tools they need to perform their jobs. If employees’ job responsibilities are changing without notice, when they don’t have the resources to succeed and when they don’t have access to guidance and supervision from a manager or mentor, that can breed an unhealthy company culture.

Gossip and troubling talk in general is often a sign of toxicity in the workplace. Even if gossip isn’t malicious, it can still erode trust and prevent effective teamwork. Pay attention to the things your employees say to one another. If they’re saying things like, “We’re supposed to follow this procedure, but no one ever does,” or “Don’t ask questions, just do as you’re told,” or “Just meet your quota,” that’s a sign that something is amiss in your workplace culture.

Employees who are laboring in a toxic workplace aren’t putting the best interests of the company first; they’re putting their own needs first. Everyone’s been through the economic wringer lately and it can be hard for employees these days to trust in a company, but trust in it they must. If your company is holding back information or trying to sugarcoat bad news, that could be a sign of a poor company culture. Transparency is paramount in a company with a strong workplace culture.

Signs of a Toxic Corporate CultureYou’ll also see employees holding back their own thoughts and opinions in a toxic workplace environment. In a positive workplace culture, communication comes from all directions and from every level of the organization. If communication in your company is one-sided or only seems to be coming from leadership, that could mean that your employees are afraid to express themselves, and that’s a bad sign.

Leadership issues are the final sign of a toxic corporate culture. More often than not, employees follow their managers. When employees are loyal, they’re loyal to their supervisors, not to the company itself. When leadership is weak, the corporate culture suffers and you’ll find your employees quickly fleeing the company for opportunities elsewhere. If times are hard and you’re trying to get by with less, asking more from fewer employees can also poison your organizational atmosphere.

Repairing Your Corporate Culture

A toxic corporate culture can rob your employees of their motivation and send them in search of their next opportunity. The cost of high turnover alone can be enough to sink your company. On average, you’ll pay at least one-fifth of an employee’s annual salary to find and train his replacement.

When things start to feel wrong around the office, take action right away. Engage with your employees, listen to their complaints and find out what aspects of your company culture are bothering them. When they’re fearful for their jobs, ease those fears — or at least soften the blow of bad news — with transparency, honesty and real information. Even when you can’t exactly reassure your employees, straight talk will foster an atmosphere of trust that will hopefully help your company weather the storm.

Do not underestimate the role of good leadership in supporting a positive company culture. Go out of your way to hire and retain good managers who inspire your employees to do their best work. Managers shouldn’t micromanage, but should allow employees the freedom, within reason, to do their jobs as they see fit. When employees feel a sense of ownership over their work, they’re more likely to put the company’s interests before their own, and that helps foster a healthy workplace atmosphere.

A toxic corporate culture is a sign that things are going very wrong with your company. If you sense that your corporate culture is no longer as positive as it once was, you need to take steps to improve it immediately. If nothing else, repairing your workplace culture will help you attract and retain top talent — and it could very well save your company from outright failure.

How to Incentivize Employees

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How to Incentivize Employees — Without Blowing Your Budget

How to incentivize employeesEmployees love to be recognized for their hard work and effort on behalf of your company. Incentives help your employees feel appreciated, and give them something to work for. But when money’s tight, it can be hard to bestow traditional rewards like pay raises and bonuses.

Fortunately, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to give your employees a reason to keep working hard every day. If you can’t afford to chip in for performance-based raises, you can still offer incentives like flextime options, on the job perks, corporate memberships and family-oriented programs. Often, the best rewards and incentives are non-monetary, like opportunities, praise and experience.

Reward Good Performance with Schedule Flexibility

Today’s employees value work-life balance more than ever. You probably don’t have a single employee who doesn’t have some trouble finding time to meet his or her personal needs without compromising his or her job performance. Whether it’s caring for children or relatives, attending school, making time for friends, working a second job, avoiding a rush-hour traffic jam or simply carving out time for a meaningful hobby, all of your employees are looking for ways to better balance the demands of their personal lives with the demands of their professional lives.

You can reward your best employees — and give the rest a reason to improve — by offering flexible scheduling to those who meet a certain set of requirements. Good attendance, good performance, commitment and professionalism can be rewarded with the ability to adjust one’s daily schedule to meet the demands of life. You may find that implementing a flex working incentive improves productivity and morale — employees who are allowed to work flexibly are happier in their jobs and work harder overall.

Offer Your Best Employees More Opportunities

Opportunities are tangible proof that your organization values an employee’s input. When an employee consistently performs well, consider offering him or her the opportunity for more formal training or education. Give your top performers the chance to act as mentors to younger employees who are just starting out in their careers. Allow your best employees to represent your company at industry conferences, where they might give talks or sit on panels.

Experience is another valuable opportunity that expresses your confidence in your best employees’ abilities. Employees are flattered when they’re given a new challenge or trusted with a new responsibility. Assigning new tasks not only expresses the trust and respect you have for an employee, it also helps him or her to enhance his or her skill set and become a more valuable member of the work force.

Incentivizing EmployeesProvide On-the-Job Perks

All employees who perform consistently need and deserve rewards and incentives, not just your top performers. Perks and rewards for project completion are a great way to provide across-the-board incentives to consistent performers. Offering perks for the completion of a project is great for team building and helps keep your employees focused on furthering your business objectives. On-site massages, catered lunches, retail gift cards and “employee of the month” awards are a great way to accomplish this.

Wellness programs are another way to incentivize all of your employees — and these programs often bring discounts for employee health plans. A workplace wellness initiative can offer prizes and bonuses to employees who lose a certain amount of weight, participate in a certain number of lunchtime workout sessions or successfully quit smoking.

Get the Families Involved

Your employees probably care about their families more than they care about your business, so it’s important to include employee families in your plan to incentivize your workers. Make sure you plan company events and functions that welcome employees and their families. Plan events where they can bring their kids (or pets) to work days, company picnics and movie nights are all great ways to show your employees that you care about their families.

Offer Corporate Memberships

Free or discounted corporate membership programs can help your employees schmooze with clients as well as making them feel good. Take a survey of your employees to find out what kinds of memberships — like gym or recreational memberships — most appeal to them, then shop around to find the best package deal. If your employees are using this membership to entertain clients, you can claim a business tax deduction.

Don’t Forget the Praise

Sometimes the best reward is a kind word from the boss. Don’t underestimate the value employees can place on something as simple as a handwritten note or card. A “thank you” note from the boss could mean the world to a hardworking employee.

Rewarding and incentivizing your employees doesn’t have to be expensive. While employees will always welcome raises and bonuses in return for their hard work, there are plenty of other ways you can show your appreciation and give your employees something to strive for. Use your imagination, and don’t be stingy with the praise.

Minimizing Absenteeism

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How to Get a Handle on Excessive Absenteeism

Dealing with AbsenteeismIf you’ve ever had an employee call in sick, there’s a pretty good chance that employee wasn’t actually sick. According to one survey from Harris Interactive, 52 percent of American employees admit to having called in sick when they weren’t actually sick. What do employees do when they pretend to be ill in order to take the day off from work? In the U.S., the two most popular activities among employees who aren’t really sick are watching TV and going back to bed. But there are plenty of other reasons employees might pretend illness in order to take the day off from work.

Why Do Employees Fake Illness?

Many employees use sick time to take personal days both because they’ve run out of paid vacation days, and also because they feel entitled to use their paid sick time each year. As a result, employees may see this time as simply another form of paid vacation time, and may rely on it to take time off to attend special events or make time for hobbies they’re passionate about. But sometimes employees feel that they have no choice but to use sick days even though they’re not sick.

Employees who have children or who are taking care of aging relatives may feel forced to take sick days when those in their care are sick, or when they have personal obligations such as taking their child or relative to the doctor. Ultimately, however, an employee’s misuse of sick days can have ramifications for the whole company, no matter what the individual employee’s reasons are.

Employees who misuse sick days leave their teammates in the lurch, scrambling to absorb the extra work. They also tend to find themselves out of sick days when they’re actually sick, and are therefore forced to come to work anyway and infect everyone else — before you know it, half the office is out sick, for real this time. Excessive absenteeism must be dealt with — but discipline is only one option.

Confronting an Absentee EmployeeConfronting the Absentee Employee

Of course, employees who use sick days may very well be sick. To distinguish between the employee who is genuinely ill and the one who just wants a day off, keep accurate records of employee sick days and look for patterns. If an employee seems to take a lot of sick days at a certain time of year — for example, during hunting season or ski season — it’s possible that person is taking advantage of sick time to pursue a hobby. A young employee who regularly calls in sick on Monday may be partying too hard on the weekends. Someone who regularly calls in sick on the Friday before or the Monday after a long weekend is clearly trying to extend the holiday.

But there may not necessarily be a pattern to an employee’s excessive absenteeism. If an employee is using sick days to care for a child or relative, they may do so at random. If your employee takes more than three sick days in a row to care for a relative, it may fall under FMLA guidelines.

If you think someone is misusing sick days, or if they’re trying to take more sick days than company policy allows, you need to address the situation. A conversation with the employee is usually enough to correct the behavior; if the employee is facing special circumstances or needs a schedule adjustment, a talk will give you the chance to gain insights. If there are no extenuating circumstances and your employee continues to miss work, you will need to move forward with the discipline process according to company policy.

Accommodating Employees’ Personal Needs

According to a 2007 survey by CCH, 22 percent of unscheduled absences are due to family problems, while 18 percent can be chalked up to personal needs and a further 13 percent to stress. Many employees have personal obligations or pursuits they’re passionate about, but have trouble finding time for them in a traditional nine-to-five work schedule. Implementing a flexible scheduling policy can give employees the breathing room they need to manage their lives outside of work, and cut down on unscheduled absences drastically.

After all, an employee who needs to take his or her elderly mother to a routine doctor’s appointment doesn’t need to take the whole day off work, and neither does an employee who wants to attend a morning performance of his or her child’s school play. But both of these employees may be forced to use a whole sick day in an inflexible work environment. Decide how many hours a week your employees must put in, and what times of day they absolutely need to be in the office, and then allow them the chance to schedule their work days around those parameters. That way, an employee who needs to take his or her relative to the doctor can do so, then come in later and maybe stay later in order to make up for the lost time. Alternatively, employees with family obligations, or those who want to take a long weekend, can work four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days.

Excessive absenteeism among employees takes a toll. By disciplining recalcitrant offenders and offering flexibility to good employees who need it, you can reduce unscheduled absenteeism and improve morale for everyone involved.


Millennials and Management

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5 Things Millennials Can Teach You About Management

Millennials and ManagementThe generation born between 1980 and the year 2000 may have a reputation for being lazy, entitled and hard to manage, but by 2025, millennials will make up at least 75 percent of the world’s workforce. Many companies already employ more millennials than they do gen-Xers or Baby Boomers. Chances are you’ve already faced some of the unique challenges that managing millennials can bring — and benefited from some of the unique skills the younger generation brings to the workplace.

Millennials are the first generation in history to grow up with loving, doting parents who awarded them a central place in their lives. They’re also the first generation to live in the interconnected, global society that the Internet has created. It shows. Millennials have a strong sense of self-worth; they’re comfortable with technology and they prefer to work in teams. Make the most of the millennials on your workforce, and open yourself up to their perspectives about collaboration, work-life balance, leadership, networking and purpose.

1) We Can Do It — Together

Millennials have grown up working in teams, and as adults, that’s how they function best in the workplace. Since childhood, they’ve been exposed to diverse groups of people and have become accustomed to considering others’ points of view. More so than past generations, millennials believe that a team of like-minded individuals working together can accomplish much more than a single person working alone.

Put this team spirit to work for your organization by giving the millennials on your workforce plenty of opportunities to collaborate. Whether it’s an important account or project, planning a company event or just organizing a company softball team, your millennial employees will be happy to oblige — and they might be able to teach your older employees a thing or two about teamwork themselves.

2) There’s More to Life Than Work

It’s not that the younger generation is lazy — it’s just that they have other things going on in their lives that are just as important to them, or even more important, than work. Technology has blurred the lines between work and play, to be sure, but millennials want work-life balance. Where previous generations may have put work first, the younger generation puts home, family and friends first. They also want to make time for a wide array of hobbies, interests and volunteer activities.

Younger workers want a great deal more scheduling flexibility than their predecessors. They may want to work nontraditional hours or work from home more often. They have a point — employees who enjoy scheduling flexibility are more productive, less likely to quit and more satisfied with their jobs and lives in general.

3) Leadership Is a Two-Way Street

The doting parents of millennials have left them with a strong sense of self-worth and a belief in the worth of their own ideas and opinions. Millennials are willing to follow your example, but they also want your Management tips from Millennialsrespect. Make the younger members of your team feel heard and their ideas and opinions valued. Keep them in the loop; millennials want to know what’s going on, and they want to see how their contribution is benefiting the company.

Millennials can teach you how to establish a give-and-take relationship with your employees, one in which both supervisor and subordinate have valuable skills and insights to impart. Take a few minutes each day to provide feedback and mentoring to your millennial employees, and give them the chance to share their own skills and expertise about technology, networking or the latest innovations in the field.

4) Connect With Everyone

Millennials are using technology and the Internet to build networks around the globe. Your organization can take advantage of this interconnectedness to stay in close touch with traveling associates or connect with potential clients and customers in other cities, states or countries. Your younger employees’ networking expertise extends to social media; let them teach you the basics of Twitter, Facebook and other social networking platforms your business can benefit from.

5) Everyone Needs a Sense of Purpose

Younger employees are less likely than members of previous generations to want to commit to a company or even to a boss — you have to reach them by giving them a sense of purpose. Millennials want to feel like they’re working for some greater good or common goal. With 81 percent of people aged 18 to 34 having donated goods, services or money in the past year, and 68 percent having participated in volunteer service, milliennials have a strong desire to get behind a cause. They want to grow and evolve as valued members of a team, and they want to be emotionally invested in what they’re doing at work.  Your younger employees can help you create a company culture that will foster a sense of purpose for the whole team.

The millennial generation is quickly becoming the biggest portion of the global work force. Your younger employees have grown up in a very different world from that of their parents, and they have some unique perspectives and skills to bring to the table. When you encourage Millennial employees to share their ideas and skills, your entire organization can benefit.