Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

Civil rights champion Thomas Perez being nominated for labor secretary

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Laura ClawsonPresident Obama’s nomination of assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez for labor secretary becomes official today after more than a week of increasingly solid rumors. Perez has headed the civil rights division of the Justice Department since 2009; previously, he has been secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, a member of the Montgomery County Council, director of the civil rights office at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under Bill Clinton, and a special counsel to Sen. Ted Kennedy.

If confirmed, Perez will be the only Latino member of Obama’s second-term cabinet. He will also be a notable progressive voice in a cabinet containing or expected to contain several members less than friendly to workers and worker organizing, such as Hyatt Hotels heiress Penny Pritzker, the likely commerce secretary nominee.

Perez has a noteworthy record on both civil rights and labor issues; during his time there, the Justice Department “opened a record number of civil rights investigations into local police departments accused of brutality and/or discrimination,” challenged restrictive voter ID laws, gotten major fair-housing settlements, and more. Both in his time in Maryland and at the Justice Department, Perez has sought to strengthen and enforce worker protections:

Pushed for labor protections for domestic workers: Millions of domestic workers in the United States make low wages because they aren’t protected by labor law, a problem Perez sought to address while serving on Montgomery County’s City Council, where he pushed for contractual labor law protections and a minimum wage for such workers. After three years of debate, and after Perez had left the council, those protections became law in 2008 and gave domestic workers contractual labor rights they still lack in most of the United States.Protected immigrant workers from losing pay: Perez would take over the Dept. of Labor in the middle of Obama’s push for immigration reform, and he has experience dealing with immigration and labor issues. While serving in the Justice Dept., Perez investigated claims that employers were using Alabama’s new immigration law to avoid paying immigrant workers. “We continue to be concerned that certain employers may be using HB56 as an excuse not to pay workers,” he said, adding that he would “throw the book” at employers who weren’t paying workers. “We’re here. We will prosecute you. That is impermissible, period.”

Republicans are already teeing up their series of objections to Perez, from whether he accurately represented the role of political appointees in decisions about the New Black Panther Party case (not whether he politicized decisions, mind you, but whether he unknowingly was inaccurate about things that happened before he arrived in the Justice Department) or a Minnesota fair housing case that has Sen. Chuck Grassley upset. So we can likely expect a lengthy confirmation process, if not another outright filibuster. But if and when he’s confirmed, Perez looks likely to be a real champion of working people.

This article was originally posted on the Daily Kos on March 18, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is an editor at the Daily Kos.

11 Scrooge Approved Employee Motivation Ideas You Should Never Use

Monday, December 24th, 2012

What is the #1 way to increase motivation in the workplace? Well, we have our pet motivational theories and ideas, but we wanted to explore some of the horrible, terrible, Scrooge-approved ideas that are still floating around in the year 2012.

But back to the bad ideas. We gathered some stories from around the internet and our own personal experiences, and compiled a list of 11 Scrooge-Approved Employee Motivation Ideas You Should Never Use.

11. Be thankful you have a job

Love this one, because it’s super motivating and also a veiled threat! One employee who works at a bank relayed this story:

My employer had a manager’s meeting this afternoon. One of the things they went over was trying to get us to be more motivated. They handed out a sheet of paper and one of the bullets/topics they went over was that “We should be thankful that we have jobs and that we work here (bank) due to the economy.”

Alright! Now, anyone who is not extra motivated and working really hard to show how much you deserve this rare and elusive job, please show yourself out the door.

10. Giving orders to the minions

The days of top-down, military style management where the managers bark out orders to the workers is long gone. Or is it? There are still plenty of industries that operate this way, using micromanagement and threats to get employees in line. To these leaders, an intrinsically motivated and highly productive workforce seems idealistic and naive. Here’s a real-life quote from a retail worker:

As someone who works in a giant retail store full of dozens of managers, the managers who cooperate with me see the greatest amount of productivity from me. I’ll work way harder than what is expected of me because I enjoy feeling productive. The managers who want to build up a wall where they don’t have to cooperate with me and simply give orders…I’ll literally trick them into thinking I’ve done a lot of work by manipulating their system and then I take triple cig breaks and just sit around all day…

9. Criticize and abuse

Your employees don’t need encouragement. No one likes to be praised or told they’re good at what they do. Just keep pointing out the mistakes, making people feel bad about their work, and offering no support or constructive feedback. That’ll do the trick!

One employee writes (hilariously):

A truly Machiavellian master can abuse and personally insult people into having something to prove, driving them to work harder. While an increase in workforce intelligence is not guaranteed, your victims will move faster and try to be perfect out of sheer fear. It helps if you maintain the image of omniscience and practice walking up behind people when they’re not looking.

I’ve had bosses like that. I did not know it wasn’t normal until I got a job where the management wasn’t a reincarnation of Vlad the Impaler.

8. Blaming your lazy employees for not being motivated

Maybe you think your employees are useless. You try so hard to motivate them and nothing works – they’re just lazy, lazy employees! Here’s one manager’s response to how he tried to motivate employees:

In the end, [none of my motivation techniques] worked for an extended period of time and I got tired of trying to motivate people. I have always had a great work ethic and an ability to increase my own efficiency pretty drastically, which is how I ended up managing, but I finally gave up, did the work myself, and waited for the rare times on the big jobs where my guys realized what lazy pieces of crap they were for watching me do ten times the work they were doing and stepped up for a day to help out. I have no interest in managing people ever again. If I couldn’t do it with my efficiency-oriented mind and pretty much unlimited freedom to reward in any way I wanted then I know it’s just something I can’t do. I suspect I would have gotten better results with the rod than the carrot. Motivation through fear may not be ideal but I doubt those type of managers are doing the work themselves.

Wow. I think he pretty much nailed it when he said, “I know it’s just something I can’t do.” Blaming your employees for not being motivated or productive, and just doing the work yourself or giving up is not the solution.

7. Financial incentives

Financial motivation can be both a good and a bad employee motivation technique. It all depends on the approach. Since we’re focusing on the bad in this post, let’s see how the wrong approach to compensation incentives can backfire. The pros at Vision Link Advisory Group say this:

Most companies are disappointed in the results they get from their incentive plans because they use them in one or more of the following ways:

“Carrot and Stick” approach to motivation
Means of changing behavior
Getting people to do things they don’t want to do
Motivating people to “do the right thing”
6. The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle is commonly phrased, “Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.” Does your company suffer from this phenomenon? Writer Oliver Thereaux says on his blog post “Why Most Managers Suck”:

Of course…any company with a hierarchy [is prone to the Peter Principle]. The main reason is that “promotion” in our industrial society, generally means “You’re really good and experienced at your job? Now stop doing it and start managing a bunch of people”.

He then shares a quote from an architect at a small tech company who, when asked about the structure of his organization, said “Everybody codes here, except for the accountant and the CEO. The latter used to code, but he was so bad at it, we made him in charge of everything else.”

Promoting employees up the ladder is a well-known employee motivation theory. But, as the poor guy in #4 will testify, not everyone is cut out to be a manager! Managing is hard…but doesn’t have to be if you’re focused on the right things.

5. Overtime

No matter how much overtime you pay your employees, eventually your tired workforce will get burned out and become completely unmotivated. Expecting your employees to work insane hours, not take vacations, and deal with constant stress is a recipe for poor production and high turnover. One young man asks for advice about helping his dad:

My father is working at a company that is requiring him to work overtime almost every day. He gets home and then they call him back. They keep threatening him that if he doesn’t do it then they will find someone who can (meaning firing him). He doesn’t have a problem with getting paid or anything like that and he’s definitely willing to work some overtime but they are just expecting him to work way too many hours.

4. Bad goals and annual reviews

Employees are not motivated by the notion that their hard work will make company owners and executives rich, organizational change consultant Paul Levesque writes on Entrepreneur. Are your employees aligned around an ultimate outcome or goal that makes them feel proud to work at your company? When individual goals, management goals, and company goals are not in alignment, you’ll see groups and individuals working against each other. Couple bad goals with rewarding effort vs. outcomes for a truly demotivating good time.

3. Convoluted mission statements

Example: It is the mission of ABC Car Gadgets to provide personal vehicle owners and enthusiasts with the vehicle related products and knowledge that fulfill their wants and needs at the right price. Our friendly, professional staff will help inspire, educate and problem solve for our customers.

That’s a great statement and, if true, the customer will be happy and the company will make money. However it’s quite a mouthful and not something you can easily repeat or rally around. No one gets up in the morning and says to themselves, “Today I’m going to provide personal vehicle owners and enthusiasts with the vehicle related products and knowledge that fulfills their wants and needs at the right price . . . Hooray!”

2. Flexibility and other gimmicks

Or as we like to say, “Flexibility is the new F word.” No matter which way you slice it, flexible work programs fail. Why is that? Because managers hate “managing flexibility” (oxymoron!) and employees are wary of when, how, and if they should even use flexibility options.

Here’s a recent example of the failure of flexibility programs at Bank of America. We predicted the fall of this program when it began seven years ago. Now, we know there are many factors that play into B of A’s decision to cut flexbility and remote work programs. But our take is quite simple: programs focused on flexibility will always, always fail because they aren’t focused on results.

1. Ignoring intrinsic motivation

All of the above to say this…if you find yourself banging your head against the wall with employee motivation programs, gimmicks, rewards, incentives, perks, benefits, raises, promotions, all without success, then maybe you’re ignoring the basics. Those of you who have read Drive by Daniel Pink are aware of his endorsement of Results-Only Work Environment. In this TED Talk, Pink talks in detail about what actually motivates us and how most businesses don’t act in accordance with what the science tells us about intrinsic motivation.

This post was originally posted on ROWE on December 23, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Jody Thompson is a co-founder of CultureRx and creator of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Her first book, Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, was named “The Year’s Best Book on Work-Life Balance” by Business Week. Cali and Jody (the co-founders of ROWE) have been featured on the covers of BusinessWeek, Workforce Management Magazine, HR Magazine, Hybrid Mom Magazine, as well as in the New York Times, TIME Magazine, USA Today, and on Good Morning America, CNBC and CNN.

Cali & Jody are nationally recognized keynote speakers and have presented to numerous Fortune 500 companies and prominent trade associations. Cali & Jody created ROWE based on the belief that the traditional solution of flexible schedules is not the answer to managing life’s many twists and turns. Bottom line? Work sucks. So they’re on a mission to fix it. Today, Cali & Jody are leading a global movement to forever change the way we work and live.

McDonald’s Urges Franchises to Open on Christmas Day … Without Overtime Pay

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Mark E. Andersen

In November McDonald’s saw a 2.5 percent increase in November sales. This is after the fast food giant saw a decrease in sales of 2.2 percent in October. So why was there increase in sales? Was the pork-like substitute McRib back? Was there a shortage of Ore-Ida french fries in your local grocer’s freezer causing a run on McDonald’s across the country?

Nope, none of the above; the corporate overlords at McDonald’s urged franchisees to be open on Thanksgiving day, a day that most franchise stores are closed. A Nov. 8 memo from McDonald’s USA Chief Operating Officer Jim Johannesen stated,

“Starting with Thanksgiving, ensure your restaurants are open throughout the holidays. Our largest holiday opportunity as a system is Christmas Day. Last year, [company-operated] restaurants that opened on Christmas averaged $5,500 in sales.”

On Dec. 12 Mr. Johannesen doubled down and sent out another memo to franchise owners stating that average sales for company-owned restaurants, which compose about 10 percent of its system, were “more than $6,000″ this Thanksgiving. That adds up to be about $36 million in extra sales.

So with all those extra sales one must ask if employees are reaping any benefits from being open on the holidays. The answer is dependent on the franchise owner; however, in the case of company owned stores the answer is a big fat no. According to McDonald’s spokesperson Heather Oldani, “when our company-owned restaurants are open on the holidays, the staff voluntarily sign up to work. There is no regular overtime pay.”

It is bad enough that McDonald’s pays crap wages but then they turn around and refuse to pay overtime for employees who volunteer to give up their holidays so that McDonald’s can make several million dollars. I am also willing to bet that most staff does not readily volunteer to work on Christmas day. This just gives me one more reason to not eat at the Golden Arches.

This post was originally posted on December 18, 2012 at The Daily Kos. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Mark E. Andersen is a 44 year old veteran, lifelong Progressive Democrat, Rabid Packer fan, Single Dad, Part-time Grad Student, and Full-time IS worker. Find me on facebook my page is “Kodiak54 (Mark Andersen)”

Mob Rule? At Work?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
Image: Bob RosnerOkay, this is yet another article about the current wave of protests in the Middle East and the implications for the rest of us (in the case of this blog, for the workplace).
A strained metaphor? Undoubtedly. Annoying? Hopefully not. Important? Well, what do you think I’m going to say after spending the past two hours working on this blog?
There is one phrase that really struck me over the past few weeks as the tumult seemed to spread from creepy dictator to creepy dictator. “No leaders.” Political parties, yes they existed. But few seemed to gain much traction over the swarm of people protesting throughout Egypt. Opposition leaders? Yes, there were multiple waves of them arriving triumphantly at Tahrir Square. Mostly, according to new reports, to a response that catapulted exactly no one into the exalted title of the opposition leader.
Overthrow an entrenched dictator without a plan? Without violence? Without the Internet? This isn’t politics, it sounds like a fantasy.
Given that most business organizations in the United States don’t believe that they can produce a widget without a strategic plan, four consultants and an executive dining room full of middle managers.
Cynical, a bit. But more true than most of us want to accept.
Which all reminds me of my first real job. It was at a restaurant cooperative in Philadelphia. There were twenty one employees with no boss. There was a boss at the very inception of the restaurant, but Marcus was a true hippie in the best sense of the word. He believed that more minds beat one mind. So his first act as boss was to make everyone the boss.
Sure there were times where consensus decision making made me want to take an ice pick to my eyeballs. But mostly it was a grand experiment in collection action. But rather than a select group of leaders, everyone took a turn at leadership when the situation favored their particular experience or expertise.
When no one is the anointed leader you can get an out-of-control mob, but you can also get a situation where leadership is assumed and exercised and handed off to the next leader.
I wasn’t in Egypt. But I was in the Eatery and I saw first hand that collective action can work.
I’ve also been an adjunct professor to MBA students, so I’ve been around people who preach the importance of short leashes. And for most of the past twenty years I’ve been arguing that leashes should be longer. But reflecting on the past few weeks and my own first job, I’m starting to wonder if leashlessness is indeed the best, and most overlooked option.
About the Author: Rob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected].

Poor Leaders Can Decrease Worker Productivity By Up to 40 Percent

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Mark Harkebe

As Newswise reports, based on employee engagement research by Florida State University business school professor Wayne Hochwarter,

recession-based uncertainty has encouraged many business leaders to pursue self-serving behaviors at the expense of those that are considered mutually beneficial or supportive of organizational goals.

This plays out in behaviors that Hochwarter’s team classified using the biblical Seven Deadly Sins as a framework.  While the percentages attached to each of those “behavioral sins,” based on feedback from more than 700 mid-level workers, is interesting, what appears further down in Newswise’s article caught my attention more from a productive workplace standpoint: FSU found that employees with leaders who committed any of these “sins” said they cut back on their contributions by 40%.  Notably, they were also:

  • 66% less likely to make creative suggestions, and
  • 75% more likely to pursue other job opportunities.

Hochwarter’s findings tell me that workplace qualities that some leaders might consider as soft (or at least far down on the totem pole of what they need to worry about day to day), such as trust, respect, and fairness, are not just “nice to do’s” – they have a real impact on product/service delivery and quality, and company spending on recruiting and retraining.

This is one of the reasons that Winning Workplaces revised our Top Small Company Workplaces award application for 2011 to take a more in-depth look at how things like rewards/recognition and employee leadership development strategies impact business results.  Year after year of our small workplace award program, we see that happier, more highly engaged employees lead to better outcomes, while the opposite lead to a path of lower profitability and competitiveness in the marketplace.

This post is cross-posted on the Winning Workplaces Blog.

About The Author: Mark Harbeke is Director of Content Development for Winning Workplace. He helps write and edit Winning Workplaces’ e-newsletter, IDEAS, and provides graphic design and marketing support. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Drake University.

"We Can't Hire You. You're Overqualified!"

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Don  StraitsOne of my favorite cartoon characters is The Wizard of Id.  A few years ago I read one of the Wizard’s cartoon strips and it made such a profound impression I cut it out and saved it.  Darn!  I have misplaced it over the years.  However, I can remember the script almost word for word verbatim.

After completing an interview for a job, the Wizard is standing in front of the HR manager.  The HR manager says:  “We can’t hire you.  You’re over qualified.” The Wizard, looking very perplexed, responds:  “Just give me the job and I promise to act as stupid as all the rest of you.”

WOW.  The wisdom from the Wizard is awesome.  Let’s dig a little deeper into this issue.  Almost everyone can relate to the story.   After having an interview, time after time, the candidate is told he/she is overqualified.

When you start to think about this carefully, there is absolutely no intelligence behind the decision to only hire “qualified” people.  Why shouldn’t every corporation hire talent that is extraordinarily qualified for a position?  And in fact, the candidate may possess qualifications way beyond what are necessary.

The usual boilerplate excuses are:

  • “They will only work for us for a short period of time until they find something better.”
  • “They will not be satisfied at the compensation level we are willing to pay them.”
  • “We cannot pay them more than we have budgeted.”
  • “They will not work well within our corporate culture, probably making the other employees feel uncomfortable.”
  • “They will be difficult to manage since they will be working at a level far below their capabilities.”
  • “They will not be happy in the job since it will not be challenging for them.”

I have done extensive research on this subject, having conducted thousands of salary negotiations on behalf of my clients over the past 18 years.  I have also interviewed countless HR managers, department supervisors and senior executives on this subject.

I have come to the conclusion that the overwhelming real reason is direct supervisors feel intimidated by having staff that may be superior in their talent then that supervisor.  The supervisors feel threatened by talented, overqualified, staff persons.  They think that the talented persons may make the supervisors look bad, or, may, in fact, cause the supervisors to be fired and take over their jobs.  A frightening thought for the supervisors.

Therefore, corporations have policies that, perhaps unconsciously, weed out exceptional talent, hiring only the “qualified” person.

Progressive organizations, and I might add, the most successful organizations, hire the best talent possible.  They recognize that the “overqualified” person can probably bring motivation, ideas, efficiencies, wisdom, maturity and competence that is priceless.  It is a value proposition that an organization should embrace.

Let’s look at some of the “objections” to hiring overqualified people, as shallow as those objections may be.

  • If a person is overqualified, perhaps, because of the economy, they are willing to work at a lower compensation or job level then they have been accustomed to.  Maybe they will only stay for three to six months.  But in that period of time they will probably bring more value to the company than the qualified person would bring in three to six years.   I would personally take that overqualified person in a heart beat.
  • Or perhaps the overqualified person has had a great career and has reached a decision that they want to “slow down” a little bit.  Maybe they don’t want to travel as much and would welcome the opportunity to have regular hours…even spend evenings and weekends with the kids….or grandkids.
  • Maybe a young college graduate would be perfect for a bank teller job.  In today’s tough economy, they haven’t been able to find another job.  Yep, he/she is overqualified for the bank teller position.  But that person would probably bring an energy, enthusiasm, and intelligence to the job that would be assets to the bank.  And that person could potentially be the future leadership for that bank.
  • Another example might be the senior executive who cannot find another high level opportunity because of the lack of top positions.  So they apply for a job as a regional manager or department head.  Time after time they are turned down because they are overqualified.  In my humble opinion, they should be hired immediately.  The value proposition they could bring to the company in terms of innovation, efficiencies, expertise and maturity might be worth hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars in new revenue, productivity, or cost savings.

Further, I just read a post on a blog by Steven Burningham, a financial services leader.  He presents another outstanding perspective on hiring overqualified people.

So what about that intimidated supervisor?

The answer is simple, but the solution can be somewhat more difficult to achieve.  A visionary organization should implement training programs to teach supervisors how to manage talented and overqualified executives.  They should focus on how to leverage that talent as best as they possibly can.  Even if the talent leaves after several months, the company should do everything possible to benefit from their expertise.  Perhaps the talented people can be transferred to other positions at higher levels as opportunities present themselves.

Part of the training should help the supervisor understand that if they hire exceptionally talented people, then they make themselves look good.   They will be perceived as outstanding supervisors and leaders which will contribute to their own professional growth.  As the old saying goes:  “I don’t have to be smart, I just have to hire smart people.”

So I would like to challenge hiring executives to examine their hiring practices.  Do you want an organization that is filled with “Dilbert” clones, or are you willing to seek out exceptional talent that is probably overqualified, but that can invigorate an organization and drive accelerated growth?  The answer should be simple, but the majority will take the path of least resistance.

Seek out the best and the brightest.  Challenge conventional thinking.  Today’s tough economy requires that you do so.  Don’t let talent end up at the competitor’s doorstep.  Forward thinking, progressive organizations will be the winners.

This article was originally posted on Corporate Warriors.

About The Author: Don Straits founded Corporate Warriors more than 18 years ago, and has dedicated his career to helping people develop strategies to support their careers. If you would like to contact Don for coaching or seminar work, please do so at [email protected] You can also find his website here.

The King Has No Clothes, Lebron’s Lessons For Work

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerThe Lebron-a-thon reminded me of an old Vietnam era joke. One soldier turns to another and asks, “What’s the difference between the Marines and the Boy Scouts?” The second soldier shakes his head saying he doesn’t know. The first smiles and says, “The Boy Scouts have adult leadership.”

The Lebron-a-polooza proved one thing, a group of twenty-somethings can win the battle and lose the war.

If during his special on ESPN Lebron had announced that he was sticking with his hometown Cleveland, he would have turned from a local hero to a national hero. Sure, Miami, Chicago, NY, LA and Brooklyn/NJ would have been disappointed, but the rest of the country would have rallied around him.

I’m not saying that he had to stay in Cleveland. I am saying that as soon as Lebron realized that leaving Cleveland was a possibility, the ESPN Lebron-cast should have been dropped.

As a nation we can only handle so many bad breakups. I’m still smarting over America’s sweetheart, Sandra Bullock, getting jilted. Then Tipper Gore. Now Cleveland? That’s just too much for a nation to bear.

So what is the business lesson here? The importance of adult leadership.

Young people can have talent, money and endless opportunities. But there is a point where wisdom can leverage all of that more than the buddies that you went to school with. I’ve seen Entourage. For every time that your posse points you in the correct direction, there are many more times where you make a glaring mistake.

Heck, I’m 53 years old, and these days I tend to reach out to wiser souls when I have a big decision to make. And I can’t tell you how much it has helped me.

Lebron, do the show and stay. Or leave town quietly.

I didn’t even watch the show and I had to take a shower after I found out what happened. It just felt dirty.

The only thing that made Lebron look good was the very public rant of the owner of the Cavaliers. Dumb. But unfortunately Lebron’s fingerprints are here too. Because after seven years it he should have contacted the owner to let him know before he went on national TV.

Twitter and ESPN work for the masses. But for your partner for seven years, you owe it to come from you directly. Privately.

Sure the Madonna rule could apply to Lebron. You know, there is no such thing as bad publicity. But personally I feel that his brand went from the penthouse to the outhouse, because of his own decision making.

Lebron, try adult leadership. I think you’ll like it.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via [email protected]

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