’Tis the month before Christmas, and all through the house the employees are scurrying — to please their new boss. Good results are achieved and reported with flair in hopes of big profits — and they’d each have a share. But instead, they each received tiny cheeseboards. And that’s just one of the many reasons I would like to untangle Christmas and the workplace.
Given a choice, I would prefer to work for a moderately capable but honest, hard-working boss than a smart weasel of a boss. And I am not alone in my preference. The top reason people leave a job voluntarily isn’t for pay or a promotion; it’s because of a dishonest or incompetent boss. A few hundred years of literature followed by decades of employee attitude surveys provide the proof.
May I speak honestly?” “To tell you the truth ...” “Well, to be honest ...” All of the above are phrases that make me wonder if the speaker’s preceding statements were nothing but lies. Based on one of those human interests surveys I read recently, probably about half of what we are told each day falls somewhere between misleading or just plain false. Performance evaluation workshop
The day Elvis died, John’s fate was sealed. He made the mistake of singing Elvis hits off and on through the workday. John had a good voice and his co-workers (including me) enjoyed the musical interludes in our day. He sang tunes he knew we liked and stopped the moment we heard footsteps in the office hallway. On the whole he was a fun, helpful and popular employee.
As soon as I became consistent in how I applied rules and expectations my dog Charlie became a good dog. It wasn’t a coincidence. He could finally see a pattern and could predict my reaction to his behavior. Charlie is my first dog and it took me a while to realize that the “trial and error” method to setting expectations for Charlie wasn’t working. I didn’t know what I should expect from him when I brought him home so I stayed flexible and accommodating. I wanted him be happy; he had been living a rough life scavenging and I was ready to pamper him. My approach couldn’t have been more wrong. Charlie’s sense of security comes from a predictable routine; no surprises, no changes. A few clear rules and boundaries and he is a happy dog. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t misbehave; he knows exactly how long he can bark at a cat before he gets the “no barking” command.
Just about everyone sees themselves as a good employee. About a third of us are deluded. I blame parents. My theory is that our parents are the first “boss” most of us experience. They set the expectation that misbehavior has consequences. They make us understand the importance of punctuality, honesty, dependability and cooperation with others. Back in the days when I spent a good chunk of my time training new college grads I could predict who would be a challenge by asking if their parents had rules that came with consequences. If they did, half my work was done.
Some people, probably most of us, are best enjoyed in small doses. And that’s what makes harmony in the workplace a real challenge. Forty hours a week working with a person who annoys you is a pain in the tuchas. About a year ago I began posting the Fair Exchange columns on my website. This past week I did a quick analysis of which columns get the most interest — and it isn’t the ones that I fuss over and rewrite several times. The winner (by a landslide) is “Obnoxious employee? — deal with it before his co-workers do.” I shouldn’t be surprised.
Over the years I have worked with all types of performance evaluation systems. Most were way too complicated. And I have worked with many companies that had no performance evaluation system in place. But that doesn’t mean managers weren’t evaluating the employees; they just weren’t telling the employees what they thought of their performance. Now, if I ask a supervisor to identify the top, average and weak performers in her work unit she can immediately identify the best and worst employees. Everyone else will fall in the middle — the “good enough” employees. If I ask supervisors to explain why Joe or Jane was in the group of “best” employees rather than with the middle bunch, they will talk about the best employees as the reliable, highly skilled problem solvers.
Every creative, risk-taking entrepreneur with big dreams needs a solid, organized, nose-to-the-grindstone person who will build a sturdy framework to make those dreams a reality. That is a good description of my friend, Roger Vitrano. When I met Roger he had just been hired to work in the financial aid office of the university we were attending. In those days students had to walk around campus and stand in long lines at registration. By the time they reached our office, the students were hot, tired and impatient. Roger had to meet with students whose Pell grants had problems. Telling one student after another that they have incomplete paperwork for a grant is a tough job. But with just a little training behind him Roger was an efficient and calming presence in the office. Within days he was known as the go-to guy for students with financial aid problems.
How much does personality affect your chance for success? If the boss likes you, then your quirks are part of your charm and your mistakes are minor flaws. You get the benefit of the doubt. But if you and the boss don’t hit it off; well, then your mistakes are horrible and your personality quirks are annoying.
In a recent New York Times article I learned that the men and women fighting the forest fires that plague us every summer receive varying levels of pay and benefits depending on their employment status. The teams of firefighters include full and part-time employees from the U.S. Forest Service as well as people employed seasonally or by private contractors.
If I could simplify the Fair Labor Standards Act and make it easy to understand, I would die a happy woman.
I can’t help but notice that people for and against a proposed minimum wage increase use the same word to defend their position: Deserve.
When I read Thursday’s article in the U-B on the audit of exempt staff’s work hours in the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office, one question came to mind: Why are nonprofit and public sector organizations so casual in managing their staffs?
It is always difficult to explain why you lost a job you held for 10 years. Melissa Nelson, the former dental assistant to James Knight of Fort Dodge, Iowa, can now show any potential employer a court transcript in which she was described as a stellar employee but was fired because Knight and his wife believed his attraction to Nelson had become a threat to their marriage. Employers do not need a good reason to fire an employee. Most employers include a statement in their written policies or job application material that their employees work at-will. An at-will employee can be fired at any time and for any reason — with exceptions for race, religion and gender, complaining about an illegal activity or for exercising a variety of legal rights. The trouble is that it is very difficult for an employee to prove any of those exceptions. Last week, Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled that Nelson’s termination was legal and her claim of gender discrimination failed because her boss was focused on one person in particular and not all women. The other women in his employ must have sighed with relief when Knight made that clear. This case has been lighting up the Internet because it just seems so very unfair. An employee loses her income, can’t pay her bills and can’t easily explain why she lost her job. Knight might have tried to get her another job with one of his friends, or he could have explained his problem to her and kept her on the payroll a few months while she looked for another position while still employed.
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