Let’s get political! Well maybe not at work.

This is it, election day! Just the midterms, but midterms with record turnout. When passions run this high, you can bet that some colleagues get into a heated discussion about their political positions. While it’s great that Americans are more engaged with politics than usual, it’s not so great when it spills over into the break room, leaving workers feeling attacked, abused, or mocked for their beliefs.

It’s virtually impossible for companies to stop all political discussion at the workplace, so instead approach it from the perspective of how to keep it civil and appropriate for the location. Organizations can start by having an at-work conversation policy. Psychology Today offers this template:

“We allow free speech and you have the right to your opinion about political, social, national, or international events. The only exception is hateful language in the workplace that a reasonable person – not an attorney or an HR specialist – would find racist, sexist, humiliating, belittling, gossiping, threatening, violent, or bullying.

We will only intervene in conversations that distract employees from doing their jobs, waste company time, or impact our operations in a negative way. We will ask our managers and supervisors to monitor employee conversations – but not micro-manage their people – to make sure our business interests, compensated time, and human and professional assets are being used appropriately.”

And if you end up in a heated conversation with a colleague about politics? Here are a few tips to de-escalate the situation.

  1. If you’re okay with the conversation continuing, be sure to remain respectful, and be open-minded to the other person’s viewpoint. Just remember that if it starts interfering with work getting done, your managers are going to notice, and they’re not going to like it.
  2. End the conversation, politely. Use the excuse of having a meeting or other work obligation if you don’t want to state that you are uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation. If you aren’t in the conversation any longer, it can’t continue to escalate.
  3. Even in after work casual situations, keep your opinions light. You need to co-exist with your colleagues at work, no matter you, or they, may say outside of work hours in an informal environment. Remain professional, no matter where you are.

If you need a little more guidance check out some of our management tools surrounding this explosive topic:

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Employee handbooks are something everyone loves to hate.

Employee handbooks get outdated, they’re missing detailed information, employees can’t find out the info they’re looking for in them, employers are continually in need of updating them … So just get rid of it, right?

Wrong. While there are schools of thought that argue that employers don’t need an employee handbook, most counsel is in agreement that a well-crafted handbook can not only help your employees, but also protect the organization itself from some lawsuits.

Note the term “well-crafted” in the above paragraph. It’s key. You can’t just put together a handbook in an afternoon, pulled from the internet, and think you’re protected. It’s imperative that your handbook serves multiple purposes, not just helping your employees understand your organization’s rules.

“A handbook is a collection of policies, an ever-living document that can be changed at any time by an employer with or without notice,” said Mary Kennedy, partner with Bulkley Richardson in Springfield. “The purpose of a handbook is to give information to employees about expectations at work.”

In fact, while your employees are definitely receiving and (hopefully) reading your handbook, your other reader is actually a judge and jury. Should you face employment litigation, your handbook will undoubtedly be one of the documents produced during the dispute. There are five key documents that arise most frequently in cases involving an alleged adverse employment action:

  1. Job description
  2. Employee handbook
  3. Performance evaluations
  4. Disciplinary documents
  5. Responses to administrative charges

These five documents are included in the “Pilot Project Regarding Initial Discovery Protocols For Employment Cases Alleging Adverse Action,” which some Federal courts require. So, since you are pretty sure that your handbook will be making a star cameo in any employment litigation, you should craft it with the intent to shine in this situation.

First off, don’t give away employees’ at-will status with a poorly written handbook! Yes, that’s possible. Employee handbooks can create implied contracts, and that means that your employees are no longer at-will. While not allowed in all states, those that do recognize implied contract claims have seen them arise from language around progressive discipline, assurances of job security, and probationary periods.

Next, grammar matters! Don’t know your semi-colon from your apostrophe? Brush up. A recent class-action lawsuit about overtime pay for truck drivers hinged entirely on the Oxford, or serial, comma – or the lack thereof. This wasn’t in a handbook, but rather state law, but it did end up costing Oakhurst Dairy an estimated $10 million. So, to be safe, check your grammar and make sure that your handbook says what it means, and means what it says.

Finally, good policy only goes so far. You know what you have to do to be an exemplary employer? Apply it consistently. That’s good on all sides – employees know what to expect, and a court can see that you’re treating everyone fairly.

Unsure about what to include, what to update, and what to avoid? Find out here…

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Is Your Organization Sensitive to Trans Applicants?

There is a wealth of research to suggest that LGBT-supportive workplaces reap tangible rewards like higher job satisfaction and increased competitiveness in talent recruitment. But this means that companies that want the benefits of transgender talent need to be sensitive to the obstacles they face during the application and hiring process.

Human resources has a crucial role to play in protecting transgender applicants from unnecessary outing. Names and aliases can be different genders – does your firm share this with hiring managers, or keep this information confidential with HR?

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4 Top Tips for 2017

Performance reviews. Think of it like “plastics” in The Graduate.  http://bit.ly/2iIYT9v  It’s one piece of advice Workforce.com is offering HR as we launch into 2017. Here’s their short list of trends HR should follow for 2017.

Adopt a start-up mentality to fuel growth in HR. What does this mean? Do fewer things, but do them very well.

Treat employees as individuals, not as Gen X, Y or Z. Got it. See the patterns of behavior the individual displays, and act on those – not the fact that the employee is a boomer.

Resurrect the performance review (instead of letting it die). The death of the performance review has been around for some time. But guess what? Without performance data, there’s no performance management.

Choose best-of-breed solutions over core HR systems. Big doesn’t mean better. Get what you need, and integrate them together in a way that enables comprehensive reporting and big-picture analytics. (I know, easier said than done!)

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Golden State of Employment Laws in 2017

HR professionals who advise businesses based in California or operating there need to keep pace with changes. http://bit.ly/2j5vyCm Changes include higher minimum wages and legalized recreational marijuana. Review regs with SHRM‘s piece on new 2017 laws.

Some highlights:

Minimum Wage

Starting Jan. 1, 2017, minimum hourly pay will rise from $10 to $10.50 for businesses with more than 25 employees. Employ less than 25? No state mandated wage in 2017.

But, because it’s never easy in California, some municipalities have made their own regulations: San Diego’s minimum wage will jump to $11.50 per hour, effective Jan. 1. On Oct. 1, Berkeley’s rate became $12.53 per hour and will rise to $13.75 an hour on Oct. 1, 2017. Los Angeles set a minimum hourly rate of $10.50 last July 1. It will become $12 per hour on July 1, 2017.

Marijuana Legalization

Proposition 64, which legalizes the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana, was approved in November. What does HR need to know? Review your handbooks and policies to ensure marijuana use is addressed. You can issue a “statement of reaffirmation,” reminding workers that although California has legalized marijuana possession and use, neither is permitted on the job or on company property.

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New Year, New Regs: recap of employment law changes for January 1

Even with the Obama administration going out, there are regs that are going into place Jan 1. From federal regs overseeing federal contractors and EEOC wellness rules, to state legislation banning the box, raising the minimum wage and addressing pay equity, there are a host of issues you should be aware of. Corporate Counsel put together a list for you.

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How to Stop Time Management from Taking Over Your Life

As you lie on the sofa, idly playing with the new gadget you received as a gift, what better to do than to read about time management and productivity? And before you start thinking you have to actually get off the sofa and start doing something useful, relax. This piece takes a look at how time management makes fools of us all, leading to less creativity, and that work follows Parkinson’s law – that it will just fill to the time available.

And time management’s credo of maximum productivity is even extending to our leisure time. Are you truly making the most of your time lying on the sofa? Couldn’t you – shouldn’t you – be learning a language? Fixing the roof? Writing a novel? Exercising? When the idea of maximizing your time takes over, your time ceases to be yours to enjoy.

Stop worrying about inbox zero, charting your time used throughout the day, managing your top 4 priorities… All of that is useful, to a degree. Personally I find Hamper Zero more compelling – and more elusive – I can delete emails but how do I get rid of the never ending cycle of laundry produced? The fact is, life – and work – has elements of chaos, where we are not in control. Trying to impose structure on your time is just a way to try to control this chaos. Embrace it instead, allow some slack in your day, and you just may find yourself working (and relaxing) better.

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