Let's Talk Work

because there are two sides to every story


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CUOMO CONTROVERSY – teachable moments not to be shoved under rugs.

Over the past several months we have often announced to each other at noon “It’s Cuomo Time” and now it is starting to look more like “Cuomo’s Time May Be Up.” Personally, I hope not but time will tell.

I will share that I am rather familiar with Sexual Harassment. As a victim, as a trainee, as a trainer of prevention and awareness, as a workplace investigator, and as a policy writer. Once, while trying to coach an executive on the subject, he responded: “I’m really good at this so no one needs to teach me how!” Well, times have changed my friends. Starting in 1991 when so many of us witnessed the explicit trial of Anita Hill vs. Clarence Thomas, and I clearly remember where I was while watching, amidst several male coworkers. A bit uncomfortable to say the least.

Today, we are hearing multiple allegations of incidents that occurred in the past against the outspoken and amiable Governor of New York. Why don’t these accusers come forward at the time? What about the Me, too? For some, silence is golden. And in some cases, sure, biting our tongues may be the right thing to do.

But for others, silence, or internalizing these experiences will not help anyone. Not you, nor any other prospective victims. Speaking out in a timely manner is more than freeing; it is the right thing to do.

We live in a ‘see something say something’ world. We are all on watch at airports. We are more aware at shopping malls than ever before. We look over our shoulders all the time. If we do witness something in the workplace – we are required to acknowledge and report, even if the victim is unwilling.

So, these recent allegations came through Tweets! Really? Damn that bird, setting precedence once again. Why would these accusers not follow formal or official channels? And why now? Could there be political motivations or retaliation? These questions are not intended to accuse the accused. They are simply questions.

The former president of the United States has had at least 18 claims against him for sexual harassment and misconduct, and worse. We have all witnessed his inappropriate and unprofessional behavior during his campaign, his rallies, and since. Yet he was not asked to step down by his party. But calls for Cuomo’s resignation are loud and clear.

Many behaviors can be considered harassing, bullying, inappropriate, immoral, or just simply ignorant. Does the accused realize what they are doing or saying is felt as a threat? One would hope so, particularly with high profile, highly educated, and even elected officials.

Types of ‘sexual’ harassment are physical, verbal, and visual. Not all harassing behaviors are sexual in nature. However, they can be intentional behaviors that are found or felt to be disturbing or threatening.

The EEOC defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”. Even if no sexual affronts or intrusions occurred, it is also illegal in the U.S. to harass a person at work simply because of the person’s sex or gender.

We live in a ‘see something say something’ world. We are all on watch at airports. We are more aware at shopping malls than ever before. We look over our shoulders all the time. Anyone accusing someone should first tell that person that their conversation, their behavior is unwelcome, and it needs to stop. Then, if it continues, it is time to report it.

In most workplaces today, people are reluctant to speak truth to power with often disastrous consequences. Leaders must do more to encourage speaking up. There are employee assistance call centers for employees to anonymously report concerns. In the most ironic situation where one cannot comfortably go to their Human Resources office – because maybe someone there is the person doing the harassing, then it needs to go higher. Today, not next year. The time may never seem right, but the behaviors will always be wrong.


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On Bringing People Back to Work

republished from mid-2020

It will happen, sooner than later. And we all hope that there are no further interruptions to our workplaces and businesses. That will largely depend on the behavior of others: rules followed or broken; being proactive vs. re-active; and leaders hopefully leading – by example.

I am speaking from own experience in various industries, most in 365/24/7 operations, and a few from the more routine office hours.  Some of these open to and serving the public; others with little incoming traffic from outsiders.

How one business opens all the way will be different from another. Whether essential or not – there will be quite a few challenges – unique to each organization.

Putting my strong-scheduling experience hat on for a bit, I came up with just a couple of ideas. Maybe they will appeal to management in one type of workplace for another. Here are four(4) scenarios to consider: office settings, restaurants, salons, and schools.


SCENARIO #1 Offices                                                                                                                           

Picture a traditional, professional office environment housing a few hundred employees or more; one company, over a dozen floors or so. The majority of people work on the same floor — one that requires an elevator ride. While most commute to work by car, there is a significant group that takes scheduled public transportation. Most of these staffers come into work and punch in around 9am, a bit leisurely being the norm. Since the quarantine rules were honored, a high number of people are currently working from home with proper equipment and support, etc. But the time will come to start bringing people back to work. How can they maintain social distancing when they all arrive and leave around the same time, and while they work physically close together in comfortable but segmented departments? And of course, pack into elevators on their way in and out, and yet again – back ‘n forth for lunch breaks. We will keep smoking breaks out of this.

  • Consider first, how many people could fit in that one elevator while keeping distanced. Let’s presume there is ample space to stay apart while waiting for the elevator.
  • Approximate how long that elevator takes to get from the 1st floor entrance to the main floor.
  • So, how many people could punch in and get to their workstations if they all start at the same time?
  • A fix for going forward: Stagger start times. Maybe a 7am, 8am and 9am start time. Of course, the times to punch out will be staggered as well. There will be gradual traffic in/out over a two-hour period. The more employees, the more start times you might consider; possibly on the ½ hour over that two-hour time frame. (7a, 730a, 8a, 830a, 9a, and 930a)
  • Your challenges as managers: Choosing which people or operation/departments could have staggered start times. Will this be a random selection over the entire staff, or left up to departmental and operational management?
  • Another challenge will be to gain willing participation and not have to enforce it. This could be a temporary scheduling adjustment before we all return to whatever a new normal may be.
  • And yet another challenge for managers – managing the socialization that often occurs when people start their workday, especially when returning to the workplace after a significant time away. But this is one of the many things we manage – people. Leadership should help communicate these guidelines in support.
  • If department areas still feel crowded, management may consider encouraging alternate days of work – especially if there are reasons to streamline operations or to reduce staff.
  • A potential benefit – more coverage in certain departments for customers coast-to-coast with varying time zones. Customers may appreciate the fact that they can reach your business earlier or later than normal, rather than within a very restricted time frame within your own time zone.

SCENARIO #2 Dining Out

Think about New Year’s Eve when making reservations for a celebratory dinner for two, or more – and being home before midnight. Most fine-dining restaurants schedule seating times. They provide 90-minute or longer intervals to turn tables to seat their guest capacity. This is also dependent on staffing.

  • Restaurants in general, family style or fast casual, etc., just have an ongoing flow of traffic with open door policies. Sometimes they offer “call-ahead seating.” Every scenario offers pros and cons – from generating revenue or lost revenue due to no-shows.
  • When there are no procedures in place, people are waiting in congested cashier areas, especially when the servers are not the ones to collect payment. Congestion coming in, and congestion trying to leave and pay your check. And of course, do not forget to generously tip your server. Difficult to distance ourselves from others.
  • Reservations for everyone. All dining venues that have servers can require reservations. This helps management with staffing and so many operational concerns.
  • All tables are organized or sectioned off to be at least 8ft. apart. Those seated together won’t likely be following social distancing at this point. This provides the servers a bit of space as well.
  • If there are stationary booths, block every other one.
  • While servers should wear masks and gloves – diners can arrive with masks, but of course – are there to dine. Essentially, enforcing safe practices on their way to and from their assigned tables.
  • Hostesses that escort diners to their table will need to be firm with diners to not wearing masks, etc. This may require some supportive training or additional staff.
  • For restaurants that collect money at a check-out area, be sure that there is some area marked off for people to remain 6ft apart, if not more.
  • Keep your customers informed, and don’t make it so difficult to dine in. Have phone numbers posted clearly outside – in case a call-ahead seating is available.
  • For fast casual places, where one stands in line and waits to order, collects the order and then finds a seat…similar practices can be maintained. Blocking off every other booth or table. Clearly mark off areas for distancing. Have signage on a door that reads “restaurant capacity is limited at this time” or something along those lines. People want to be heard and communicated to – and avoid confusion.
  • There are several fast food restaurants that currently do not offer drive-thru service. Maybe it’s time to relocate or reconstruct your current place to provide that service.

SCENARIO #3 Salons

Salons are so varied these days – from at home yet very professional salons, to studio suites that stylists rent, to larger salons and those that I label as fast-casual (the chains and those catering to men only). Let’s pretend we’re in Japan and first, remove shoes at the door. Or offer shoe coverings.    Then take a temperature.

  • All services to require appointments, no more drop-ins welcome.
  • For smaller or at-home salons, stagger appointments so that clients don’t cross paths. Allow for a 15- minute window for cleaning/sanitizing in-between clients. While most salons are a great place to socialize, meet other people, etc., socialization will need to be kept between stylist and client – for now.
  • The stylists will assure their own protection and PPE as should their clients. Temperatures can be taken at the door.

And finally, last but not least.

SCENARIO #3 Schools

I graduated high school decades ago with a class of 997 students. In that era, it was unheard of and I don’t recall hearing of such a large class since, but I know they are in force somewhere.

  • The school district was divided into two locations for Freshman/Sophomore year and then one location for Junior/Senior year. During those 4 years – we were seriously overcrowded. The solution – splitting shifts. It worked. Not always convenient and a bit non-traditional, but we’re in non-traditional times. If it worked then, it could work now. Whether at the elementary level or just high school.
  • The hours spent at school could be adjusted while still meeting educational requirements.
  • An early schedule may start at 730am and the next start at 1230pm. Lunch breaks will be shortened but class times will as well, even by 10-minutes. Lunch at the desks of the most current class.
  • There are highly educated administrators and educators out there who could come up with a great plan – if they are open to it.
  • Splitting school schedules will provide for smaller class sizes and thereby social distancing.
  • Announcements that require a larger audience can be held with proper spacing in an auditorium, between the morning and afternoon shifts.


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WORDS MATTER

WORDS MATTER

We know all too well that words matter. They matter to the masses, literally and figuratively. They are contagious. Their impact may be short or long term. They can soothe your soul or cut like a knife. Words can be comforting or hateful, empathetic, or intimidating. They can be taken in stride or taken to heart. For better or worse, our words are an indication of our values and beliefs. The intention may be clear but still can send a mixed message.

My thoughts this week turn to workplace communications, in particular — recruitment.

I often share relevant job postings that come across my desk with others. In recent weeks I have noticed an influx of job offers. Offers of employment! To most, these statements will be taken in stride. Statements like “It is our pleasure to extend the following offer of employment…” or “We look forward to a long-lasting and beneficial relationship and are confident your abilities will play a key role in our company.”

These statements in print, online or within unsolicited email messages, are implying that an offer is being made, by a specific company and even a specific position.  The intent was likely to grab the active or passive job seeker’s attention and encourage them to apply.

The language used in recruiting messages throughout interview processes can be binding. The misinterpretation by some may be due to mixed signals from the various parties involved in screening and selection of potential hires.

Nearly all states in the U.S. are employment-at-will. Organizations must be careful to avoid communicating an implied contract of employment. Interviewers must be careful with their words and language used during this process.

  • Avoid promises or assurances of employment.
  • Confirmation of annual reviews or pay raises need to be avoided (these things change).
  • Comments such as “you’ll be great here, when can you start, you’ll be working with…, we have an excellent opening and would be pleased to have you our dynamic team” should be avoided.

Consider the maybe naïve candidate, inexperienced at interviews or maybe feeling desperate for work. The unintentional message of “you’re hired” may be heard and taken seriously. The candidate may indeed (if currently employed) quit a job they already have even though there was no official decision made or job offer. Then what?  Though it may be difficult to prove, if a job offer is inadvertently implied by the employer’s actions, the offer is binding.

Do not put your organization at risk. Be sure to have policies in place and provide regular coaching for managers on best practices for interviewing and how to avoid accidental or implied job offers. Many of us have been there, certain that we got the job! And yet we did not. While there are many rules and laws that could be broken during these encounters, having those participating in the hiring decisions should be appropriately prepared. At the same time, it is certainly okay to express satisfaction with a candidate; just tread lightly.

Verbal vs. Written Offers of Employment – I’ll be saving that topic for another week.


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Comfort or support, in private or in public.

I feel a need to comment on this most recent allegation of being ‘violated’ in some way by the beloved Joe Biden. First, this presumed incident took place 5 years ago. Why now?

This Nevada politician was getting support from Biden, not affection. Does it take 5 years to suddenly feel inappropriately touched or kissed? Really? What’s changed.

We cannot put Biden in the same category or even sentence of those who have set the fires of the me#2 movement. A lesson learned long ago and sadly too often personally, and of course, in my work in HR and forever training in, and training of, and writing policies on sexual harassment – there are some very practical points.

First — if something makes you feel violated, harassed or simply uncomfortable – say something. SAY SOMETHING – at that moment to the person(s) who made you feel that way; even if you need to take them to aside to avoid humiliation or embarrassing yourself or them. Most times, that person may not realize that their own long-lived tendency towards affectionate behavior may be offensive to anyone, particularly if no one has voiced their discomfort to them.

Second — I am aware of many people who don’t like to be hugged, or touched by anyone. That goes beyond a personal space issue. It’s their own nature that should be respected. Of course, casual acquaintances may not be aware of these boundaries. But if we are at all conscientious of others, have any sense of emotional intelligence – we may be able to sense that hesitation by others, through their own cues. Do they hug back or hold back? Do they consent or do they cringe? We’re not all family or BFFs and in professional scenarios – but many of us (me included) may extend our own congeniality to others because it’s in our nature. We need to be more self-aware in order to recognize the nature of others’.

Lastly – why now? This woman who is now being interviewed because of her accusations is getting a lot of publicity. Is that what she is seeking? If she asked for or was offered support by Joe Biden in her political endeavors back in 2014 – would she not have already been familiar with his personality, his essence, his integrity? But seriously folks – what is behind this accusation? Are there some behind the scenes efforts to derail his prospective 2020 run for president? No matter, this conversation can be continued – and should have no political boundaries as it doesn’t matter within what context these alleged incidents occur. In the workplace, outside the workplace but in business events, in family gatherings, in our academic institutions (grade school and beyond).

If it bothers you, it may likely bother someone else. Say something. If it continues, say it again. If it happens yet again – then speak up a bit louder. Don’t wait five years to say something. Maybe it didn’t feel so inappropriate at the time. What’s changed?


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Professional Presence

Telling It Like I See It – Observations at a meeting.

As soon as I walked into the room, I immediately recognized who the presenters/speakers were. Not because I knew already knew them. Not because I saw photos in advance. And not just because their attire was the most professional in the room, but because of the way they were poised; they remained standing and smiling and quite approachable. Making eye contact or simply saying good morning as each person checked in. They had shown up, and they shined. Yes, I am referencing a book by my friend, Catherine Johns. (Show Up & Shine)

For the record, I am not a banking-attire kind of girl. I prefer nice clothes that are a step or two above business casual and at times – another step or two beyond that. But I do notice others. I notice because I’m one of those people who may change clothes 2-3 times before leaving for work or to attend a professional event – meetings, seminars, general business gatherings. Granted, if I were going on a job interview or a client presentation, I would certainly up my game. But at the same time, I will choose something to be comfortable enough but still confident. It’s like why I choose more subtle glasses (that I must wear in order to see) so that when I walk into a room – I walk in, not my glasses — though I admire those who can flaunt their funkier frames and wear them well. I just can’t.

Back to this meeting – though not an isolated observation. This was a professional meeting of professionals who work in a profession-specific field among various industries. This is a monthly gathering that provides a platform for speakers from relevant experts or vendors to discuss topics that may be of a general interest to this audience. And at the same time, these speakers may gain a new client in the process, or simply, a new respect for whom they represent.

Anyone who belongs to this organization already knows – a lot of effort goes into their program planning, and they do a really nice job of organizing and communicating for its members. These types of meetings are also opportunities for networking, for collaborating and gaining new knowledge and perspective. If I was a stranger to this group, might not ever guess some worked in their said profession. I wondered about the industry or company they represent. How casual is casual for them? And, would they be scrolling on their cell phones continuously and commenting with notification beeps for all of us to hear, if they were part of a meeting at their own organization? Where have our manners gone?

I work in a profession that is often disrespected or dissed, if not feared, inside an organization. A profession and job that should have a seat at the so-called table, but for some on this day, I wondered if it was a picnic table. Activewear? Sure, if one works in a health club or gym or a physical environment; especially if the clothing had a logo from their company — then totally appropriate. Sloppy or unclean clothes, or flipflops, regardless of weather is simply inappropriate. And while these meetings do take place in the morning, when we show up, we should not look like we just woke up. These are occasions to represent one’s organization or industry, and oneself. These are good opportunities to express one’s own knowledge or expertise or interest during the Q&A portion of any meeting. That’s when all eyes are on YOU. Even for a moment. That moment could be the lasting impression of what may have been a first impression, good or not so good. We never know when we may need to rely on this same network or association to find a new job.

My observation is not only about professional appearances, or the lack of. It includes the fact that sometimes our behaviors are poorly timed, or poorly stated. Becoming argumentative with a speaker is simply ill-mannered, particularly among our peers. Questions that may be too explicit or telling of a scenario in one’s workplace may be best left for after a meeting. Speakers often stay after a scheduled session just for this purpose. We certainly don’t want to disclose a confidential matter during such a meeting. The best questions to pose in an open Q&A are those that you could be more general in nature, or that most of us might have on our minds as well.

People often display behaviors or personality in corporate training sessions or meetings of this sort, that are surprising, and not in a good way. How we behave, treat others, present ourselves in any professional scenario is important, to our careers and our reputation. When one doesn’t care what other people think of them, it often speaks louder than words. We all need to take stock before we leave the house; take a good look in the mirror, be prepared, stay off cell phones, be on time and be civil. Civility. Another subject for another time.  thUM5LGPTF

 


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Caring for Customers

What does it take to make a customer simply feel acknowledged? It shouldn’t take much. Occasional customer service training, reinforced through recognition or rewards would certainly help.

keep-calm-and-just-do-your-job-5

Shopping recently in a widely known discount retailer – I left there just as aggravated as I was last time I shopped there; the time I said I would never return. Ha.

Here are a couple of observations while shopping and attempting to check-out. I wonder how many could relate, from one side of the cashier lane or the other.

  1. Employees apparently assigned to do stocking — instead socializing and taking their sweet time to do the job. Revisiting a couple of aisles for my missed selections – I noticed this with 2 different groups  — both working in pairs; both socializing with each other; and both still having unpacked or shelved the products.
  2.  Cashier light is on, which would make you think the lane is open. But – when the cashier is seemingly hiding out, leaning back while scrolling on her cellphone where she can’t be seen unless you try hard to, just didn’t seem like she was ready to check anyone out.
  3.  When a colleague is called to help with a price check and I watch as they slowly stroll towards our lane to ask ”what’s the problem” and then disappears for the longest time. I decide to close my purchase and not wait any longer. Just as I am checking out, the cashier notices the floor person far in the distance, who is chatting with two other people (coworkers) with my product just hanging over her shoulder. Absolutely no urgency to return to the cashier lane; completely ignorant of the line accumulating behind me and that an already prolonged wait was long enough.
  4. Never any eye contact, never any thank you. Just a low-battery robotic stance.

Needless to say, I left without the product and walked by this floor-person still in her chat circle with my product still over her shoulder.

I will not disclose the retailer here. You might guess. I will share my complaint directly with a store manager. But my point is – why is there no expediency in anything? Obviously, there doesn’t appear to be any true customer service/care training, and why isn’t good service a mandated expectation of employees? Is everyone watching everyone else’s back? Are all such staffers of the same “I don’t give a damn” attitude so no one even watches out for one another? What is their mindset? Seems to be only for a paycheck, in my view. I wonder, so I vent. Please chime in if you’re willing.

 

 

 


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Workplace Violence

Shooting in Aurora, Illinois

Photo Credit: time.com

The tragedy that plagued an organization and the families it employs has been front-page news since Friday. These workplace shootings are far too common, as are those in schools and other places.

What steps has your organization put in place (or are they at least planning to) in order to prepare for such an unexpected event
At the very least, it should start with comprehensive pre-employment screening that should include background checks that reach beyond your current county or state.
A zero-tolerance policy should be developed that accompanies appropriate disciplinary and grievance procedures.
What about violence prevention training, for all employees?
We have fire drills, of course. However, such a traumatic event such as active shooting in or around a workplace, will cause confusion and chaos and potentially lead to more tragic consequences when no one is prepared.

Workplace violence is not just about a shooting. From vandalism to product contamination, from stalking to domestic violence, from arson to attempted homicide, or worse – homicide – as we are all witnessing too close to home. An incident could be a personal attack on an entire organization or just on one person, and not always from inside the organization, but also from outside the organization. Consider what happened at Mercy Hospital only months ago; still traumatizing staff to this day.

So, we are addressing employers today. How are you preparing your organization? If such an event were to occur — do your employees know where they should go? Is there a safe place to hide? How does one take personal protection from your position in the building? How should someone respond if coming face to face with the aggressor? Is your organization prepared appropriately when conducting a termination, from security staff to a secured area?

There are many measures that employers can take, and of course – they will depend upon the type of industry involved; whether accessed by the public or only vendors. There are so many factors. We are interested in your thoughts on this matter, one staring us all in the face.


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Heads Up – on Your Job Search

First things first. Attitude speaks volumes. It can be present in the way you write, of course the way you speak by phone, your social media interactions, and especially how you present yourself to an employer. This starts with your resume, your cover letter, and even how you apply to a job. Keep these points in mind from experienced corporate recruiters – perspectives from their side of the desk.

14207-Jim-Rohn-Quote-Work-harder-on-yourself-than-you-do-on-your-job

  1. Pay serious attention to any direction within the job posting. This could be hidden within the body of the description – sometimes to gauge who is paying attention to the direction, and who is not. When an employer anticipates a high level of interest, this could be one way they elect to weed out candidates at the onset. Why? If the candidate isn’t following a simple direction of ‘how to apply’ then how will they be paying attention to the details of the job? This is where ‘attention to detail’ comes into play right away.
  2. Proofread and re-proofread your cover letter and resume. We all can spend a lot of time working on it, get buried in it, and blinded by our own light! A fresh set of eyes can be helpful. Sending a resume with spelling errors, grammar inconsistencies can rule you out before you’ve had the chance to interview.
  3. If there are gaps in your resume that are 6 months or longer, be sure to explain them at least in your cover letter. If you happen to get laid off after a decade or two at a company and are fortunate enough to get a severance package, maybe you decide to use a couple of months to regroup. No one should hold that against you. Not everyone has such an opportunity to do so, along with the financial security blanket that may allow for such. For the most part, any prospective employer wants to know what are you doing with your time – productive, educational, caregiving, whatever.
  4. List and discuss your accomplishments in a job, not just a bullet list of duties. You may have been ‘responsible’ for some things, but aren’t we all? What makes you stand out in the roles you’ve had that could make you shine in an interview? How might you contributed to improvements, efficiencies or more?
  5. And a final note – be sure that you carefully review any cover letter, document or email. Do not send such an introduction by simply editing a letter from another. Too often, a different job is mentioned or even worse, a different employer. Dear  ABC Company, when you thought you were sending it to XYZ, and you didn’t save and re-read or re-proof that letter. When this is the case, your resume getting even a once-over is unlikely.