Sunday, November 30, 2008

Managing A Moody Employee

I like to surround myself with people who are positive. There's nothing more disheartening than having to spend time with people who are negative. Energy - whether positive or negative - absolutely can affect your attitude and those around you.

It's one of the reasons I counsel my clients on interviewing to focus solely on attitude and aptitude. Those are the two things you cannot manage or train.

But eventually we all come into contact with a moody employee - someone who's attitude swings up-and-down all too frequently.

How do you manage a moody employee?

The first step is to focus on why they're moody. Is it a personal issue, or an issue with you, or your company?

Annette Fazio of Seacoast Online has some good tips. All deal with communicating with that employee and asking him or her:

What do you like best about working here?

What do you like least?

What specifically do you like about the way the office/business is handled?

How do you think the phone should be answered? How many rings? Why?

Ask for the employee's solutions to the problem. If he or she doesn't see a problem, that's another red flag. Unless you are skilled at open-ended questions, write them out first. We tend to ask closed-ended questions that require a yes or no answer, and they don't lead you to any solutions. Your aim is to get your employee to talk.

Asking open-ended questions puts the burden on the other person to be responsible for their own attitude and behavior.

Ask permission to take notes. It makes a statement about the serious commitment you have to the employee and your team, and the notes will be handy if you need to have future conversations regarding the situation.

Notice the questions are open-ended; they require more than just a 'yes' or 'no' answer.

This takes care of the business issues that can cause moodiness. If it's personal, don't get into the issues - but remind that employee you expect that everyone's personal life should be left at the door when work starts.

If an employee can't do that, then it's time to start counseling that person out. Negativity is a killer in any workplace.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How To Inspire Like Obama

The bad economy brings out fear among workers across America. These workers are looking to their leaders to take measures to improve the situation both in government and in their own workplace.

Instilling confidence is a key trait of all leaders, and inspiring passion is one of the most difficult traits for a new managers to learn.

How do you inspire your team when there's gloom and doom all around?

Effective communication is the key.

Carmine Gallo, a communications coach, points to Barack Obama, who is without question an inspirational figure. But Obama is both inspirational within himself (just look at his life story and who he is) and has the unique ability to inspire others with his remarkable communication skills.

In the November 11 issue of Business Week, Gallo illustrates 7 techniques Obama uses that you can use as well:

Exude passion.
Have a clear, concise vision.
Sell the benefit.
Paint pictures.
Invite participation.
Radiate optimism.
Encourage potential.

I'll add one more - be realistic with your employees.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Managing Proactively

Many managers make the mistake of letting poor behavior get out of control before stepping in.

One of my maxims on management is: What you allow, you encourage.

When you see inappropriate behavior, address is immediately.

In this Q&A from the Fort Wayne (IN) Journal Gazette, a manager asks if she needs to address issues stemming from a direct report. "Even if she bugs me, do I need to talk to her?"

The answer, from Daneen Skube, is correct of course: "Yes, you do."

A better question, from my perspective, is - "Why did you wait so long to do it?"

Good managers - like good parents - address bad behavior immediately. It may seem easier to avoid a potential confrontation, but once the issue exacerbates, it's must more difficult to correct it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Workplace Investigations Actually Work!

When faced with an employee issue - whether an allegation of harassment, a general complaint, or a potential for trouble - the first thing to do is conduct a workplace investigation - pronto.

An independent investigation can alleviate much of the power of a lawsuit, because it shows that steps were taken to solve the issue in a deliberate and professional manner.

Howard University's hospital was recently the beneficiary of conducting an investigation. An independent review undertaken by the Hospital's senior officials satisfied the U.S. Appeals Court that the Hospital's decision to suspend an employee was free from any influence by her supervisor and the court reversed a jury's determination.

The case - Furline v. Morrison - is summarized very well by Karen Gieselman of Fisher & Phillips.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Best Boss I've Ever Had

I frequently conduct Leadership Development Programs for leaders at businesses throughout the country.

Recently, I was conducting this program for a professional services firm in Nevada. I asked the 6 executives in the room to think of the best boss they ever had. Once they had, I asked what was it that made them a great boss.

Their answers were so insightful I thought I'd share them with you:
  1. Believes In Me/Looks Out For Me
  2. Pushed Me; Has High Expectations for me
  3. Lines of Communication are open; asks my opinion
  4. Does not micromanage, but holds me responsible
  5. Supports and encourages me
  6. Treats me as an equal/respects me
  7. Teaches me about both techinical and management issues
  8. Works With Me
Can you say that about your own management style?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Treating Employees With Fairness

The way you treat an employee often makes more points with juries than legal technicalities.

Jeffrey Wortman, a partner at the Los Angeles office of Seyfarth Shaw, LLP, spoke on ways to treat employees fairly at a recent BLR National Employment Law Update conference in Las Vegas.

His Fairness Tenets:

  1. Adequate notice.
  2. Opportunity to achieve.
  3. Consistency.
  4. Document as you go.
But most the most important concept is that fairness starts with you - the manager.

The entire article, courtesy of the California Employer Advisor, is here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Communication is the Key For Employers in Difficult Times

In every employee survey nationwide, workers frequently complain about the lack of communication they receive from their bosses. Employees want to know what's going on.

And in this dreadful economy, communication is more important than ever. It's my #1 recommendation for clients asking about how to manage through this downturn.

Some more validation for this advice comes from Hanah Cho at the Baltimore Sun, who quotes a study that says

71 percent [of workers] believe that their company's leaders should be communicating more about current economic problems. And 54 percent of workers said they have not heard from management at all on the impact of the financial crisis on their companies.

Employees have a right to know what's going on in their company. Avoiding these discussion leads to higher anxiety, and lower productivity.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Cheaters" Caught Cheating?

According to the Dallas Morning News, the popular television show "Cheaters" has been sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for alleged sexual harassment.

No business is immune from charges of sexual harassment; but I frequently run into businesses that attempt to refute these charges by saying something like, "but that's the way our business is."

Nonsense. No business is immune - whether it's in the pornography industry or a white collar, high-tech office.

Take steps to prevent harassment from occurring and remember, no one is immune.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Brinker Gets A Review

As we suspected, the California Supreme Court has granted review of the California Court of Appeal's decision in Brinker Restaurant Corporation v. Superior Court, which interpreted California's meal and rest break requirements.

A California Court of Appeal held, back in July, that:
  1. Employers need only provide, not ensure, that rest and rest periods are taken;
  2. Employers need only authorize and permit rest periods to be taken for every four hours or major fraction thereof worked;
  3. Employers are not required to provide a meal period for every five consecutive hours worked; and
  4. Employers can only be held liable for employees working off-the-clock if the employer knew or should have known employees were doing so.
The Court may take up to one year to final decision in Brinker. In the meantime, employers are strongly urged to stay the course, or consult your employment attorney or a qualified HR consultant.

With thanks to Ford & Harrison's Jesse Caryl.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

2009 Pay Raises in a Bad Economy

The economy is not good (not a surprise there). But how does a business in the midst of that economy find an equitable way of managing any increases in pay for employees?

First, understand that the most valuable employees are the ones who contribute the most to your bottom line success. Identify them. What are they currently making, and are they in an acceptable range versus your competition? (Compensation studies can be incredibly helpful and well-worth the cost).

Secondly - what is the level of difficulty replacing that employee? If they leave, who is going to replace them? The best employees always have the most options for success outside of your company.

Finally, communicate. Consider a modest employee satisfaction assessment program. Find out what employees' concerns are; what they are looking for from you (or in the job marketplace). Take those general trends and apply them to each individual working for you - and then sit down with them one-on-one. Let them know what's going on in the business.

The short-term economic difficulties are just that - short-term. Make sure to balance your long-term corporate goals against your short-term needs.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Leading Through Difficult Times, Part 2

I recently wrote about my own theories on managing and leading in a down economy. Maureen Moriarty, whom I respect and frequently quote, has her own (similar) theories. In a nutshell:

What can leaders do?
  • Communicate frequently with the 3 C's: clearly, credibly and candidly. During a crisis, communication is more important than ever. Ambiguity and uncertainty equate to stress. If you go silent, people will make up their own stories about what's really going on with you and the company. Rumors often generate negativity and fan the flames of fear and anxiety.
  • Keep connected. Manage by walking around. You can't afford during times like these not to know what's really going on. Be diligent in seeking out information, even the bad news. It's a mistake during a crisis to hide out in your office with the door closed. Nervous followers need comfort and reassurance from their leaders. Be visible and keep checking in with all levels of staff to see how people are doing.
  • Ask yourself, "What kind of emotional wake do I want to leave behind me today?" The emotions of a leader are highly contagious, so work hard to manage your own anxiety. No one will affect the overall workplace mood and morale more than a senior leader. Be mindful that any negative comments or tone will carry impact. If you show up like a cat on a hot tin roof, your anxiety will spread like a wildfire. Manage your own anxiety by developing a "self-soothing strategy" you can rely on. Find someone you can vent to safely, such as a trusted outside adviser or coach who also can offer an objective perspective.
  • Pay attention to task and people; be alert to their emotions. Don't fall into the trap of thinking all is well or that your people will simply need to "deal with it." Develop a proactive plan to recognize, identify and deal with current challenges and emotions in the workplace. Set time aside in team meetings to allow people to vent and talk about their anxieties and challenges. Listen and acknowledge what you hear them saying.
  • Be the anchor in the storm; display calm confidence and optimism. Model what you want from your team. This is your golden opportunity to truly lead by example and live your values.
  • Keep your team focused. Identify the single most important priority goal that everyone needs to commit to in order to weather the storm. Make sure everyone understands it and is clear what their part will be -- their action item(s) in helping the team achieve it. Let them know there will be no tolerance for the "it's not my job" syndrome for this goal! Create a measurable scoreboard for the goal, review it at every team meeting and recognize/celebrate critical milestones.
  • Engage hearts and minds (particularly your top performers') to increase productivity. Facilitate a session to get all hands on deck. Bring the team or company together to brainstorm creative solutions for the game plan. Focus on core strengths and values, company vision and how to keep customer confidence high.
  • Stay the course. Reinforce the plan with follow-up, recognition, redefining expectations and adequate resource support for weathering the storm. Retaining your top talent during slow growth will be challenging -- they get restless. Work to keep them engaged, well supported and rewarded. On that note, everyone's extra effort should be noted and recognized.
You can read the entire article here.

Courtesy Maureen Moriarty and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

How to Silence Workplace Gossips

This month, I'll be conducting a nationwide audio conference on issues and solutions to Gossip in the Workplace on behalf of my friends at

I hope you can join us.

The nationwide audio conference is on Monday, November 17 at 10:30am Pacific. To sign up, click here.

There's also a California specific conference through the Employer Resource Institute on Friday, November 21 at 10:30am Pacific. To join us, click here.

I sincerely hope you can join us!

Sunday, November 02, 2008


On Tuesday, I'll have the privilege of voting in my eighth Presidential election. In half of them, I was equally privileged to have an employer who encouraged my vote (since 2000, I am my own employer).

In most states, employers are required to provide time off to employees in order to vote (for the specific state-by-state run down, click here).

I once had a boss who tried to force us to vote by absentee ballot; we revolted. There's something about going into a voting booth and choosing a President that is indescribably American. It's something I'm proud of.

Regardless of your political persuasion, I encourage you to encourage your employees to take time and vote. An hour or two is worth the privilege of a free country.

Thanks to Fisher & Phillips.