Are you more introverted or extroverted in your workplace behavior? Personally, when I take the Myers-Briggs, in recent years my score tends to be INTJ. In early years, I more often scored ENTJ, but my preferred style is clearly more introverted than extroverted, so I score on the cusp.
It's important to know yourself so that you can play to your strengths and figure out ways in which to accommodate the average workplace which tends to reward extroverted behavior. On the other hand, workplaces need to learn to appreciate the strengths of their more introverted employees.
As always, no best way exists and the most productive workplaces find ways to allow each employee's strengths to shine. Sherrie Haynie (pictured) is an expert in using a variety of psychological assessments to assist in developing and facilitating organizational development initiatives and team-building interventions.
Sherrie recommends how employees with a more introverted behavioral style preference can work most effectively in a more extroverted workplace.
Image Copyright Sherrie Haynie
Related to Flexible Work Styles and Communication
A bad boss is a topic that gets most people who work riled up.
Sometimes, it may seem as if the world just never runs out of them, both the inadvertent bad boss and those who are just plain bad to the bone - and revel in their badness. Most of us have had a bad boss - reader stories are legion (more comments) - so you do know the difference when you find yourself with a good boss.
Good bosses exist and my readers share their good boss stories frequently. But, whether your boss is bad or good, you bear the brunt of developing an effective work relationship with that person you call boss. You are the person whom an unsuccessful boss relationship most impacts.
First of all, consider treating your boss as if he or she is your most important client. Take responsibility for nurturing the positive aspects of the relationship rather than dwelling on all of the negatives. You will find that if you change your view of your boss and your attitude toward your boss, the relationship will improve.
By changing your outlook about your boss, you affect the actions, subtle and not-so-subtle, that he or she experiences from you daily. If you're a bad boss, it's difficult to remain bad in the face of a persistently positive, upbeat, can-do employee who treats you as if you are important. Here are more thoughts on managing up for a positive boss relationship.
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Employers ask a lot about employee satisfaction, employee engagement, employee motivation, employee involvement, employee empowerment, and employee morale. There are differences between each of these concepts, but many people use them interchangeably. I'm on a mission to define them so that they each have a modicum of usefulness in discussions about what employees need and want at work - and what employers need and want from employees.
I want engaged, empowered employees who have positive morale and who are motivated to perform responsibly, effectively and professionally. I also want them to experience deep satisfaction from their work, their involvement in their workplace, their colleagues, and their company's policies and employee engagement programs.
Are you laughing yet? I am. Even smiling? Please. It's not the words; it's the workplace. Let's make them environments in which employees want to work, environments in which employees thrive. And, I'll continue my definitions on this overcast Monday morning.
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Effective relationships and learning are the mainstays of organizational success today. Organizations that find meaningful ways for their employees to connect are more likely to realize greater productivity, enhanced career growth, freely flowing innovation and overall improvement in employee performance. Mentoring serves both purposes.
One-on-one mentoring, with a mentor who exhibits the mentoring characteristics needed by people who become successful mentors, is one of the key methods you can use to develop employees. Group mentoring is a value-added tool for connecting employees and advancing learning within your organization. Whether singly or in groups, employees benefit from learning and exchanges with more experienced employees.
I've had several mentoring experiences over the years. Dave Schmidt, my first senior HR Director boss, helped me figure out the hierarchy and the way the world worked at General Motors. Ron Carr, the skilled tradesman who took me on weekly plant walks so I could learn the manufacturing environment without ever having worked in it, paved my path to acceptance as their training coordinator by the tool and die guys. (Quite a feat at the time...)
A beloved friend who spent many hours with me when I was starting my business, Leslie Charles is especially memorable because she even took the chance of subcontracting training work to a neophyte consultant. And, we're still friends and confidants twenty some years later. I consider myself blessed and lucky. If you seek, you can find mentoring, too.
Organizations can assist employees by developing a culture that supports mentoring. They can provide mentoring training. They can factor mentoring into job descriptions, performance development planning, and their recognition systems. Every new employee should receive mentoring from a current employee. Company stories that employees tell should reinforce the importance of mentoring.
Managers, senior employees, and talented contributors can provide mentoring to others by committing themselves to mentoring, developing a mentoring relationship, meeting regularly, and sharing knowledge.
Believe me, I haven't spent twenty plus years in a successful consulting and writing career without plenty of mentoring and help from others. It's the same in your workplace. The more your organization supports mentoring, the more mentoring help you have from others to help you learn, grow, and practice, the more successful you and your workplace will be.
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More Mentoring Resources
Know what employees need? I speak often about the fact that employees need to understand the overall goals of the company - so they understand the parameters of the ball park that they are playing in for decision making and achieving goals.
Today, I'll highlight another factor that is critical to company success. You need to build a team work environment in which employees have each made the commitment to play well with others. Employees who like each other, work well together, and support each other, serve customers well and deliver market worthy products.
This is why you never want to allow an employee squabble to get out of hand. Employees need conflict resolution skills and managers and coworkers need to know how to moderate conflicts in ways that preserve relationships.
In one of my client settings, two women work in the same office and haven't spoken to each other for twenty years. Fortunately, they don't have to work together, but can you imagine how uncomfortable that work environment must be for coworkers? And, I'd hazard a guess that neither of them remembers the details about what caused the breach in the first place.
So, solving bad employee conflicts is a priority. At the same time, you want to enable healthy conflict over ideas, product features, and direction. Balancing the two kinds of conflict adds up to a healthy work environment.What's your conflict resolution style?
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If you're like many of my readers, you balance your job and career with family responsibilities. This is challenging because not all work places have adopted flexible work schedules, telecommuting opportunities, and other practices that help working parents balance their work with their lives.
There are ways to better balance all of your responsibilities. Lynn Taylor (pictured), who is a noted national workplace expert in the HR field and the author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job (John Wiley & Sons), offers tips. (Compare prices.)
You'll want to take a look at her work-life balance tips for working parents. They focus on providing time and attention for your children while still getting the job done.
Image Copyright Lynn Taylor
More Related to Work-Life Balance
Delegation can be viewed as dumping by the employee who receives more work to do. A young employee's complaint reminded me. Though she was extremely interested in more responsible work and taking on new challenges, she felt that her manager was just giving her more work to do.
Consequently, some of the delegated work was more challenging; attending meetings during which she helped impact the direction of a developing product was challenging, exciting, and responsible. She believed her manager didn't understand the difference though, so she spent her time doing more work of a mundane, repetitive nature. This workload, that had her working long hours and weekends, interfered with her ability to take on more responsibility.
Admittedly, any job has its share of mundane tasks that have to be completed. I don't like filing and I don't like billing clients. I also don't like doing the wash. But, the manager must carefully balance the delegation of more work with the delegation of work requiring more responsibility, authority, and challenge. Effective delegation is one of the most powerful opportunities organizations have for developing employee capabilities and skills.
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More About Effective Leadership and Delegation
Are you interested in discovering your employees' most serious complaints? Knowing what makes employees unhappy is half the battle when you think about employee work satisfaction, employee morale, positive motivation, and retention.
Listen to employees and provide opportunities for them to communicate with company managers. If employees feel safe, they will tell you what's on their minds. Your work culture must foster trust for successful two-way communication.
You need to provide ways for employees to communicate, air their concerns, and see that their voiced opinions had an impact on your work systems. You need to, not just listen, but be prepared to tell employees what their shared concerns changed about your business.
If an employee's concerns changed nothing, give them that feedback, too. But especially, tell the employee why his or her concern changed nothing. Without this critical feedback, employees feel as if their concern went into a black hole somewhere in space. Despite the fact that you took the time to listen, you need to close the feedback loop for the communication to count.
Readers share their most significant employee complaints. Why not share yours?
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In a client company, a manager had decided that the goal setting components of the performance development planning process were not clearly communicating his goals and expectations to one of his reporting employees.
In the manager's mind, the employee was failing. So, he had decided to write a performance improvement plan (PIP) for him which more clearly documented the expected contribution and dates of expected completion of goals.
As employees use the lingo, the employee was placed on a PIP. (Many employees consider this PIP the death knell of their employment.) In the manager's lingo, the employee needed clearer direction because the normal communication / goal negotiation process was not working. The employee on a PIP, in most cases, has a limited amount of time to demonstrate progress. But, the goal of a correct PIP process is improvement and employee retention. To lose an employee is a failure, in my mind.
The PIP is a powerful communication tool for improvement when employees take it seriously. At the same time, a manager who has multiple employees fail at performing their jobs, is suspect. The vast majority of employees show up for work wanting to contribute and develop their skills.
So, the manager needs to determine whether his management system has failed. And, he needs to answer these questions:
- Is he communicating expectations regularly and reinforcing employees who are doing the right thing?
- Is he fearful of their competency?
- Does he have a documented track record of providing feedback to the employee or does the employee feel blindsided by the PIP?
- Does he develop a supportive relationship with his employees that invites dialog about performance? Or, is he rarely there for them?
- Is he controlling and micromanaging or does he set goals and set the employees free to accomplish them?
In many cases, since employees leave managers, not jobs or companies, I regard a failing employee as the exclusive responsibility of the manager. Yes, employees contribute to their own downfall - frequently and forcefully, but the manager is the most powerful tool in preventing their demise.
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Want to know the cover letter red flags that should capture your attention when you review an applicant's cover letter? The cover letter is an integral component of a job searcher’s job application materials.
Sent with the resume when a job searcher applies for a job, the cover letter enhances the credentials of a qualified applicant - or not. Smart job searchers recognize that the cover letter is an opportunity to point out the connection between their skills and experience and the requirements in your job posting.
How you review a cover letter and what you want to see in an effective cover letter is a topic I've addressed frequently. Cover letters should matter to employers. They are both an opportunity for an applicant to put her professional best foot forward and an elimination tool for the employer.
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More:Staffing Red Flags for Employers | Job Application Review
Employee performance appraisals are a long term popular topic on this website and in HR discussions everywhere. Some people vote to abolish them forever; others find them useful to evaluate employee performance and make pay raise decisions.
I am in the camp that believes organizations need a documented way to keep track of and evaluate employee progress on goals and contributions, but that performance appraisals should not dominate the compensation discussion. I do believe that when managing employees, you get what you request and reward. I also believe that performance appraisals, as they have traditionally been practiced and used, don't work.
Sure, they work for straining relationships and making people angry. They contribute to managers going through the motions when many employees want legitimate, helpful developmental feedback. And, performance appraisals make managers angry and upset when both HR and their reporting employees are harassing them for their performance appraisals because their pay raise depends on their completion.
Sure, I'd like all organizations to move in the direction of performance management and I frequently write about how to do that. But, I also recognize that, for a variety of reasons, some legal and some determined by organizations in their effort to be fair to employees, manage employee performance consistently, and avoid any hint of discrimination, not all organizations agree.
So, I have a newly adopted mission. I'd like to work with those of you who live in an organization that requires performance appraisals. You can make performance appraisals significantly more useful, less destructive to relationships and egos, and turn them into a useful tool for employee development and feedback.
With this in mind, I have begun to create a series of FAQs about performance appraisals that will help you significantly improve their use in your organization. Not all of you have the opportunity to affect the total system for performance appraisals within which you work. But, every manager has the opportunity to take the system you've been dealt and turn the performance appraisal process into a positive, rewarding, beneficial process for both yourself and the employees who report to you. These FAQs will tell you how to maximize success with performance appraisals.
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Performance Appraisal Tips
Martha asks a thoughtful question that I answer and that you may have insights about, too. (In fact, her question prompted so much thought on my part that I have added two new articles to the HR business planning collection on the site.)
Martha's Question: "My boss asked me, 'what is your plan for your HR department?' I'm heading the HR department of a manufacturing plant, with over 500 employees. We have our vision and mission in place, and each department has their own head of department. Other than the commonly established roles of human resources, where can I look for the answer or decide upon an answer to my boss' question?"
My Response: Martha, this is a common question that bosses like to ask HR staff. I find it as difficult to answer as another frequent question I receive which is, "How do I go about starting an HR function or department in my company?"
They're difficult questions because the answer is so company-specific and it depends on your needs analysis of your own workplace. The question you need to ask is, "What does your workplace need from the HR function?"
What are the appropriate goals, organization, and initiatives for a Human Resources department to pursue? Whether your HR function is a department of one or many, basic Human Resources business planning, that includes internal organizational needs assessment and external benchmark comparisons, is needed. This is how you need to approach and accomplish fundamental Human Resources business planning.
Start by asking your boss what he or she wants from you, and then, follow the rest of my recommendations. Then, at last, you can answer your boss's question: What is your business plan for your HR department? But heed this story, too...
Lee Iacocca Business Planning Fable
I'm not sure how true the story is, but it's circulated for years in business seminars. It's as apt today as on the day it supposedly occurred, so I'll share it. It has been said that Lee Iacocca interrupted a business meeting that he was attending when he was Chrysler's President, CEO, and later Chairman, and asked for a particular piece of data. No one in the room, to their embarrassment, could supply the information.
Following the meeting, an employee was assigned to collect the required data from each department. The monthly reports soon filled the shelves of a storage room, but a new employee noticed that no one ever seemed to ask for or use the information that an analyst in each department was now providing monthly.
A brave soul approached Chairman Iacocca and asked when and how he would like the data that the departments had been collecting for several years. As the story goes, Mr. Iacocca looked at his staffer in bewilderment, not remembering that he had ever wanted or asked for the data, and said he was completely perplexed as to why his organization was collecting it.
'Nuff said? Start by asking the boss for more information before you embark on an unnecessary journey...
More Questions and Answers: Ask Susan
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More About HR Business Planning
Because so many people are looking for work right now, cautious resume review and diligent checking of credentials gain significance.
Especially resume review, serious attention to cover letters, and job application review are more important than ever. I don't know about your company, but in mine, we interview with an employee selection team. Consequently, employee time invested in each candidate who comes in for an interview is costly.
Plus, the involved employees spend additional time comparing candidates and providing Human Resources employees with feedback and input. Their input about which candidates to invite back for a second interview, that will involve even more people and staff time, are heeded.
Find out more about an effective selection process: Employee Involvement Is Key to a Successful Employee Selection Process
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More About Your Selection Process
Having a company with many young employees means that an employee or an employee's spouse is almost always pregnant. Indeed, there are usually multiple babies on their way.
We have even hired obviously pregnant applicants, knowing that the new employee would soon take time off for the birth. I think of all of these babies as the next generation talent pool. Occasionally, though, upon completion of the 12 week FMLA leave time, a valued employee decides that work is not a current option and that staying home with the baby is most important.
We support whatever choices our employees make, although we'd like to be in on the decision as soon as possible for planning and work coverage. Lifestyle choices are important to millennial employees (also called Gen Y) in your company. Even many gen-X employees seek flexibility that the Baby Boomer generation never dreamed of demanding.
Here are tips for managing these valued millennial employees and some thoughts about not putting millennial employees in a one-size-fits-all box. Myths abound about millennial employees; don't get sidetracked and miss the best the millennials have to offer in your workplace. It's a lot.
In fact, I ran across a great example of millennial employees successfully contributing to a workplace. Donna Fenn, a respected small business guru, posted on Facebook that the CEO of Tasty Catering in Chicago helped his business grow by handing the reins to millennial employees.
Interesting to me, too, is the company's habit of hiring the best possible employees they can find as interns during high school. Many stay through college and on into their career. Worth your time to hear more, too, about balancing generations in a workplace.
In my company, we hire millennials as interns and offer jobs to the best contributors. It's a real time opportunity to try before you buy, so to say. But, working with Gen Y, as my new article explains, is both a challenge and a joy.
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My husband is the president of our company and lunches fairly regularly with the members of our executive team. When his usual lunch dates are unavailable, he sends out an email looking for "lunch buddies." He has four goals in joining employee groups for lunch:
- seeking out employees who are doing something interesting or exciting to them and learning and sharing about it.
- getting to know our employees better in an informal setting,
- keeping his fingers on the pulse of our organization and nurturing our work culture, and
- lending his support to their efforts.
Recently, he ate with one of our company book clubs. Reading groups or book clubs at work are one of the least expensive, most motivating forms of employee development. For the price of a book, employees learn the concepts in the book to expand their management, team, and coworker skills, out-of-the-box thinking, and pursue personal growth. Book clubs play a central role in your employee development options.
In a book club, employees learn leadership skills by leading book discussion sessions. These sessions are excellent for team building and as an opportunity for employees from different departments to get to know each other. Book clubs are also a way for managers and employees to interact and get to know each other in a relaxed setting.
In company book clubs, employees select books on topics about which they want to learn more. As an example, in a company that sells its products internationally, a group of employees is reading books about globalization. Another group is reading about agile software development. Others are reading management books such as Jim Collins' Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't (compare prices).
Book clubs frequently choose books about teams: interest in building effective teams never seems to wane. But, any topic about which a group of employees share an interest, is fair game and supported for a book club.
Beyond the concepts in the books, people also gain a shared language, a shared terminology for the concepts they are studying. I am a fan of reading groups. Here's information about book clubs and recommended books from two companies that appreciate the contribution of their book clubs to their employee development. Then, try one of these recommended books.
Recommended Book Club Reading
These are mostly older books but still recommended. Classics don't go out of date.
Daniel Pink recommends no carrots to encourage and reward high level performance in higher level cognitive skills and output.
Ideas Worth Spreading is TED's tagline and I find many of their presentations insightful and thought-provoking. In this video, Dan Pink, author and career consultant, looks at what he calls the preponderance of the research on motivation. He concludes that the carrot and the stick approach, that has been used eternally by business to reward performance, only applies when skills rewarded are mechanical, basic skills
He concludes that when a business wants to reward cognitive skills, the higher level thinking and creative skills, rewards may even negatively impact performance. You've heard me say in the past that only when employees have enough money to cover their chosen lifestyle do they move on to motivated behavior via more intrinsic rewards.
Mr. Pink argues that if you give employees enough money, so that money is not an issue, then they will strive for three transcendent purposes: Autonomy (self-direction), Mastery (getting better and better), and Purpose (part of larger, defined issue). He calls these the rewards of the 21st century.
Take a look at the videos, and check out many of the TED speakers who do make me think and sometimes, rethink, what I believe. This one is congruent with my thinking, but the research and examples are worth hearing. So is his story about an Australian company that gives its employees a day periodically to work on anything that they want to work on if they think it will further the company's and customers' best interests.
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More About Motivation and Rewards
Writing recently about developing a code of conduct or code of ethics, as it is sometimes called, I was struck by the importance of an organization having a code to guide employee behavior.
The truth, in cases of an apparent lapse in business ethics by a high level, high profile employee, always lies somewhere between what a company or the individual is willing to publicly disclose and the voraciousness with which the media report the story. And, I am a true believer in an employee's right to privacy when the issue of employee confidentiality is at stake. So, the public rarely knows the whole story - and that is okay with me.
Business Ethics and Managers
The behavior of any individual in a management role, an employee who is trusted to supervise the work of other employees or a function within an organization, must rise above the standard set and expected by a company for all employees. Organizations need to hold managers to a higher standard than is expected from other employees. Managers must model sterling business ethics behavior.
So, business ethics takes center stage this week in my thinking and writing. My article addresses the broad topic of business ethics and provides examples of ways in which business ethics are ignored in workplaces every day.
Some of my examples of lapses in business ethics may surprise you as they range from the catastrophic to the tiny little decisions that employees make when no one is watching and no one will ever know. To spice matters up a bit, I have also supplied an opportunity for you to add your stories and examples business ethics gone awry. Please help expand our set of examples by entering your example here.
More Related to Business Ethics
I have not spent a lot of time developing organizational competencies that specify knowledge, skills, and abilities essential for the fleshing out of each job role and the qualifications of the employee who will best succeed in the role. I have watched some organizations, primarily public sector, spend a fortune in staff time and energy determining competencies for every job.
I am not convinced of the usefulness of this effort and how the results of thousands of hours of effort have been or will be used by the organization. And, that is the key, I believe. How will the organization use the results. I can be convinced that the time and energy are worth it. Convince me. Please.
A reader writes asking for some clarification. I respond. Can you further flesh out the concept and provide more examples? Help appreciated.
Reader Question: I was conducting a job analysis in my organization. During this exercise I was a bit confused in writing skills and abilities for various positions. I wanted your help in clearing my confusion in deciding over the difference between skills and abilities in a KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) assessment. Eagerly waiting for your reply...
My Response: This is how I differentiate. A skill is something the employee can learn or is learning or has learned. An ability is a strength that is innate to the employee. It can be improved but the talent or ability for it exists within the individual to start.
Perhaps a good example is (since my husband was reading a photography book recently) found in taking a photograph. The photographer had the skill to take a photograph that was exposed just perfectly. Another photographer had the ability to find a beautiful scene that she composed in such a way that she turned the scene into a stunning photograph. An employee could develop additional skills and competency in both, but that artistic eye might forever elude the technical expert. I trust this helps.
More Questions and Answers: Ask Susan
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More About Job Requirements
May is Revise Your Work Schedule Month. I imagine that many parents, adult caretakers of parents, and people who just want a bit more leisure time for summer activities, will take note of this celebration.
Flexible work schedules have never been more popular as the current generation, that comprises the younger set in the workplace, values time off from work and work life balance with a passion not pursued, by perhaps, equally interested, older generations. For whatever reasons, and that's a potentially enlightening discussion to hold someday - since that generation of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers raised this generation and their parents, they didn't pursue work life balance options such as flexible work schedules with the passion their children exhibit - and even - demand.
Rules Must Rule in Work Life Balance Policies
I support flexible work schedules and other workplace initiatives to make work a more employee-friendly environment. But, guidelines, policies, employee education, and communication must accompany any relaxing of the traditional 8 to 5 work schedule. Otherwise, you will have a mess on your hands.
Different departments will make their own rules and complaints about what should be a motivational component of your workplace will be rampant. Employees who believe others have more leeway or that their needs were not met, are negative about work. Fairness, inclusiveness, consistency, agreed upon success measurements, and feedback must rule.
Flexible schedule not currently available in your workplace? You can negotiate a flexible work schedule.
What Do You Do for Work Life Balance?
Has your employer done anything out of the ordinary for work life balance for employees? These are work life balance tips and strategies that have been shared by readers. Share your work life balance tips and strategies.
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Anyone who has ever worked in training can identify the trainer's eternal dilemma. How do you help the pumped up, happy trainees, who pass their training session end test with flying colors, apply the new knowledge back on the job?
You can follow my recommendations about what to do before, during, and after the training session to facilitate the transfer of the training to the job. But, even when you do the right things right to foster training transfer, you do not control the environment in which employees must try to apply the new knowledge.
All components of the work environment affect the trainee's application of skills. Work environments are ready to foster change or they are not. Supervisors may resist employees performing in new ways. Employees have varying degrees of motivation to practice new skills. New ways of doing work may require more time. The employee may receive no recognition for applying new skills.
The above training transfer tips develop an environment that supports skill practice. If the trainer can impact the trainee's workplace, training transfer is more likely to occur.
The trainer's dilemma never ends. Your thoughts about training and training transfer? I've become a serious fan of on-the-job training opportunities versus seminars and training classes.
Image Copyright Jacob Wackerhausen
Training Success Tips
At some point in your working career, you will have a difficult boss. It's guaranteed. He or she may not be a nasty or critical boss, but perhaps they don't set clear direction, provide useful feedback, or offer praise and recognition. Difficult bosses come in all shapes and sizes and what's difficult for you may not be difficult for other employees.
Or, the difficult boss may just be unknowing, untrained, and clueless. Each circumstance differs, but one factor remains the same. If you have a difficult boss, you need to know how to most effectively work with the boss. You will benefit from my tips about working successfully with a difficult boss.
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More About Difficult Bosses
The first week of May is Update Your References Week. Since Human Resources job searching is my topic this week, why don't you take a look and make sure that you have your job searching house in order.
Obtaining excellent references is just one of many steps in a professional HR job search. You need to keep your references up-to-date on your plans and activities throughout your HR job search - and after.
Just as you need to approach networking - build your network before you need one - early, the same approach applies to job searching. You never know when you'll be back on the street, but you'll have a much easier time, if you are always prepared. In fact, staying prepared for a job search ranks high on my recommendations about how to prepare for unemployment while employed.
I've created a great new resource for anyone who is looking for an HR job. People who want to transition into an HR career will find lots of transition stories here, too. Even if you're thinking about an HR job in the future, this resource has information for you.Take a look at: Find Jobs in Human Resources - Fast
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On occasion, an employee or a former employee will ask you to write a reference letter to help improve their job searching success. If it's an employee that you valued, you'll want to help him or her out by writing a reference letter.
Here are a couple of tips about writing reference letters. More reference letter writing tips.
- Check with your Human Resources department to see what the company policy is about written references. They may be forbidden and your company policy may require that you send all such requests to HR.
- If reference letters are okay, determine whether you can write an honest, helpful reference letter. For a good employee, it's easy; for a so-so employee, the words become more difficult. If the employee was an underperforming, not-very-successful employee, I'd pass on the opportunity. Tell the individual that you don't feel that you can write a helpful reference letter.
- Because reference letters live forever and develop a life of their own (which is one of the reasons that I don't like them and I'd really rather talk to former supervisors), carefully date them. They will be photocopied for years. I've had applicants give me reference letters that are 20 years old (a practice that I also don't recommend).
- In your reference letter, speak truthfully, give examples, and where possible, provide numeric or verbal descriptions of the employee's achievements.
- Use these sample reference letters as a guide when you write your own. Here's my newest sample reference letter for an employee that you hated to lose. This new reference letter is for a marketing generalist.
More Sample Reference Letters
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Reader's Question: I have been employed (private sector) by the same private employer for many years and I applied for a position at a university (public). The interview was all day and by the entire department (30 or so employees). It was an interrogation!
I understand that the university wanted everyone to feel part of the decision making, (shared blame if candidate doesn't work out, etc.) but why put a person through the gauntlet? Some may not like my skills or personality but I may not like theirs either.
What are the statistics about success in hiring regarding one-to-one interviews or one-to-many interviews?
My Response: Your group job interview does sound a bit like an interrogation. But, the answer may be as simple as the leader determined that everyone in the department needed a voice in determining whether their candidates fit the department's culture. Or, their group job interview process may red flag you that the position and department might not be a good fit for you. Think about it from both perspectives.
The goal of many interviews is to help the department members "own" the candidate and help the person succeed when he or she comes onboard. Approaches to interviewing depend on the organization's culture and what they are trying to accomplish. At my company, private sector, up to twenty people might interview a candidate in a first and second interview, but it depends on the position.
The last time I was interviewed for a university position, fourteen people met with me around a conference room table for hours. This was a stressful group job interview.
The only stats I have seen on an interview's contribution to a successful hire are in this article about selecting and hiring employees, but it depends on what they were trying to accomplish with their interviews. Also, approaches to candidates often evolve over time based on what organizations have found successful in the past. Group job interviews may have produced their most successful employees.
In reality, at the end of the group job interviews, and you can assume in the public sector that all candidates faced a similar grilling, someone was hired. Or, the position was unfilled or any of a number of outcomes occurred. But, you are a more competent interviewee and you have earned bragging rights forever about the day you faced the interview squad of 30.
Please respond in comments if you have additional thoughts for this reader.
Image Copyright Jacob Wackerhausen
More Related to Group Job Interviews
- How to Interview Potential Employees
- Readers' Best Interview Questions: Add Yours
- Interviewing Tips and Interviewing Techniques
- Sample Interview Questions
Ask Susan: More Questions and Answers
Not everyone will end up in the same career when this economic downturn improves. Perhaps your individual job no longer exists - even your field may undergo vast changes as employers struggle to remain competitive.
To compound matters, few employees stick with their current employer for their entire work life. Employees today, are likely to change jobs - and even, careers - many times.
In addition to keeping your resume constantly updated, pay attention to the hints and clues in your workplace that tell you whether your job is safe. While many employees claim that they never saw a layoff coming, these are actions you can take to stay mindful about the status of your employment. Are you in danger of getting fired or laid off?
Dawn Rosenberg McKay, who writes the career planning site for About.com has pulled together a terrific set of resources about adapting your career to a tough economy. No matter what looms on your horizon - even events you plan and are excited about - these resources will help you adapt your career to the new economy. They're worth your time.
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More About Careers and the Tough Economy
Innovation is the goal in many workplaces. In fact, on a personal level, I sometimes think about an innovative book idea late into the wee hours of the morning. (Does the world really need another book about management?)
So, it was with great interest that I read this article about innovation: Debunking the Myths of Innovation: An Interview with Scott Berkun. Scott is the author of The Myths of Innovation (compare prices), a book that's worth your consideration. Did you know that Thomas Edison didn't invent the light bulb?
In innovation, the best idea doesn't always win, but the smartest, most motivated people, who are enabled to take risks, do - win. Bill Gates had several innovative practices to learn from and I share my ten best ideas about fueling your creativity.
Favorite Quotation - More Quotations
"I believe in the honest craft of workmen. Take a look around you. There never were enough bosses to check up on all that work. From Independence Hall to the Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were honest in their bones." Robert A. Heinlein
"Robert A. Heinlein wrote these words in 1952 and delivered them to a national radio audience in a broadcast interview by Edward R. Murrow. His wife, Virginia Heinlein, read them when she accepted on his behalf NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal on October 6, 1988, awarded him posthumously." See the rest of Robert Heinlein's moving statement about humanity and this great nation.
Heinlein and his books are marvels of innovation, if you have not read them, by the way. He was one of the great innovators in the science fiction genre. I love science fiction.
Image Copyright Roberto Adrian
Reader Question: Dear Susan, My company is looking into the pros and cons related to having a designation-less organization.
I have to give my Vice Presidents (as of now) a presentation on this topic. Any help that you can provide would be a starting point for me. For instance, if you have examples of companies that have implemented this (both successfully or unsuccessfully), I would appreciate your help.
Also any literature references that you may have in regards to designation-less organizations are appreciated and welcome. Thank you for any help that you can provide.
My response for the reader: Dear Arlen, I am sorry but I have not researched nor written about the topic of designation-less organizations or organizations without job titles.
In my own company, we have traditional titles. In companies that I have worked with that called every employee "associate," as an example, everyone, including customers, "knew" what the associate "really" did. As an example, the associate was "really" the VP of marketing.
I am afraid that, in my experience, a cultural change of equality (changed values) must occur first, for title-less or designation-less organizations to work or make sense. I am posting this on my blog anonymously to see what readers think. Thank you for the question and for reading my site.
Thoughts for This Reader?
I have little experience of organization that have employees with no titles or the same titles. What have you experienced? Please comment.
Image Copyright Dieter Spears
Performance development planning in most companies should be well under way now. Employees deserve a concise understanding of their expectations for this quarter; in fact, clear expectations are what employees most want from you.
They also like timely feedback about how their work was perceived during the last quarter. That said, the best goals are measurable and employees should "know" how they performed. Still participating in an old-fashioned, traditional performance appraisal system? Your organization needs this information.
Performance appraisals, performance reviews, appraisal forms, whatever you want to call them, let's call them gone. As a stand-alone, annual assault, a performance appraisal is universally disliked and avoided. After all, how many people in your organization want to hear that they were less than perfect last year? How many managers want to face the arguments and diminished morale that can result from the performance appraisal process? Learn about performance management.
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More About Performance Management
Organizations develop dress codes for a number of reasons. Some don't trust employees to dress appropriately for work. Others have a particular standard and look that they believe enhances their business objectives in the eyes of the world.
My own company's dress code is casual and the whole policy is about a paragraph long. For your workplace, consider a brief, simple dress code unless you have business objectives that require a detailed code.
Whatever else you do, please don't adopt a detailed dress code because you have a few employees who don't know how to dress for work. Deal with their business attire on an individual basis.
Casual dress is the standard for this detailed dress code that differentiates between clothing worn in manufacturing and clothing worn in the office. Learn more about casual dress in this dress code.
Use this dress code introduction letter to introduce your dress code. This Policy Receipt Acknowledgement Sample will help you make sure that all employees are informed about and understand the dress code.
Image Copyright Christopher Robbins / Getty Images
I've answered hundreds of questions from readers over the years. But, for the most part, they have been on this blog and in email and are hard to track and see by other readers. I've changed that.
Now, all reader questions and answers will be captured in a feature called, Ask Susan. In this way, all readers will benefit from the questions and answers asked by other readers. And, I will have the opportunity to assist more of you in trying to create effective, successful workplaces.
I haven't captured all of the reader questions that I've answered over the years, but I have saved those with the most reader relevance. Your feedback is most welcome. Thank you.
Image Copyright Susan Heathfield
Questions Answered During the Past Week
Received a note recently that asked whether we should continue training employees during tougher economic times. My immediate visceral reaction was, "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat???????" I know. Hardly mature.
But, when will employers figure out that there will never be a time when you cannot afford to continue to train and develop employees. They are your most significant resource. And, there may lay the rub. Maybe you say they are, but, in reality, you think of your employees - and you treat your employees - as an expense. Bad. Bad.
Okay, I'll give you a break. Maybe you have fewer dollars to invest in sending employees to conferences and seminars. In reality, unless you employ methods to share that training with the rest of your employees when the trainee returns, this is not cost effective, and may not even be productive, training.
The exception I would make is for new skill training such as learning concepts that no one has been exposed to yet or training on machines not yet present in your company.
Non-traditional Training Options
Your employee training can encompass so much more than classes and seminars if you think about training broadly and creatively. There has never been a better time to expand your definition of training.
I started out my private sector career in training and the topic has remained near and dear to me because of its potential to transform lives and business results. My article about training for retention and development is worth reading.
In it, I pinpoint numerous opportunities to train employees beyond the traditional seminars and conferences. Many of the methods cost less, provide employees with concrete, on-the-job training and knowledge, and stretch employee skills through such processes as job enrichment.
I am also a big fan of employee book clubs at work. The company purchases a selected book for a group of volunteer employees who meet weekly to discuss the concepts they are learning.
Additionally, done effectively, the second topic in each discussion session, is how to apply the concepts read about in your company. The book club brings knowledge, new ideas, and team building to the group participating. Try one. These employers did.
Finally, the power of coaching and mentoring by peers and colleagues as a method for training and developing staff is an opportunity whose potential has barely been explored in most organizations. But, they have the potential to revolutionize employee development. See the other best on-the-job training methods and opportunities.
Share Your HR Blog
Please share your HR or management related blog with the readers on my site.
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Talking with managers about employees who are failing in their jobs is part of my consulting practice. No matter what other work I am doing with a company, employee performance - or the need to change or improve employee performance - is always part of the discussion.
Most managers genuinely want to see people succeed at work, but they do reach their understandable limits. My input is always to make sure that managers are treating employees consistently and fairly, but that they are also looking out for their company's best interests. Knowing what employees want from work takes a manager down the path to the intersection of employee motivation and employee performance. Then, he or she can apply these performance improvement strategies.
I am also concerned that the appropriate HR policies are in place so that employees clearly understand the rules and the consequences.
Most frequently, I spend my time helping managers build their skills so they become ever more effective at creating an environment in which employees can and will succeed. These are the steps that I suggest managers follow when they have an employee who is challenged to succeed at work.
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Employee Performance Improvement Ideas
Have you ever had to investigate a charge of sexual harassment against a senior manager? Rather than investigate the charge yourself, the appropriate action might be to hire an external, uninvolved law firm to investigate the charges.
In cases of formal complaints or charges involving the CEO, a president, vice president, or even a lower level manager, in some cases, you risk the appearance of, or have, an actual conflict of interest if an internal employee conducts the investigation. Internal employees may have worked together for many years. Internal employees have an opinion about the integrity of the parties involved, the person making the charges and the person who is charged.
When executive managers are involved, the investigatory climate becomes even more complex. The executive controls or influences the working conditions, promotions, and compensation of internal staff. This intensifies the conflict of interest situation.
When I have investigated charges against a senior manager, I have always retained an outside law firm to conduct the investigation. Even the firm's usual law firms pose a conflict of interest scenario, so I have always retained a recommended attorney who has not worked with the company in the past.
You take these precautions to ensure that the investigation is not tainted by any possibility of favoritism, impropriety or personal gain. Sometimes, even the appearance of any of these influences is enough to set off suspicions about conflict of interest.
Organizations should include policies and guidelines about conflicts of interest in their code of conduct or code of ethics and in their employee handbook. Steps in an investigation should be clearly laid out, too, so employees know what they can expect.
Image Copyright Diego Cervo
Today is Earth Day. In honor of this year's celebration of Earth Day, form a green team at work. While debate exists about recycling and other aspects of environmentalism - try to get an answer to whether paper bags or plastic in the grocery stores are better for the environment, for example - a green team is motivational for employees who want to make a difference in their work environment.
And, the team may even save energy and time, keep trash out of landfills, opt for reuseable dishes, share books in a library, and more. A team is a great way to brainstorm and develop ideas, develop employee leadership and planning skills, and involve employees who might not be engaged by other team topics.
20 Tips: Get Your Work Green Team Started
In honor of Earth Day, here are 20 tips to get a green team started in your workplace. Your green team can use these 20 ideas to get started as they brainstorm and implement their own ideas for a green team and an Earth Day celebration.
Image © Malcolm Romain
Share Your Workplace "Green" Ideas
- How Can You "Green" Your Work Environment? Readers share tips. Share yours.
At About.com, green is a common theme. Lately, I've seen lots of helpful resources.
Teams and Employee Motivation
Just another week in Human Resources...
An employee who was fired claims to have been laid off. Another employee who left with no notice thinks she should get a positive reference. A third at a client company is unhappy because the client's policy about references is to confirm dates of employment but provide little additional information.
In this economic climate, job searchers want love from their former employers. But, often there is a reason why they are a former employer. I've written a lot about providing references this past year. It's a tough topic during a tough time. You can compare your workplace with the workplaces of other readers in my poll.
Recently, a client company received a reference request for a former employee who had not done well in her most recent job. Yet, in earlier roles with the company, she had apparently performed well. This sparked the question about how to respond to a request for a reference. After typing about a five paragraph response, it dawned on me that I needed to make this question into an article since I covered the topic of reference checking nowhere else on my site.
Responding to a reference check request can be tricky. Fear of reprisal and lawsuits keep many employers from responding at all. These reference check recommendations will help you respond reasonably to reference checking requests while protecting the legitimate interests of your company and your current employees.
Am I on target with my recommendations? And, if you don't have a workplace reference checking policy, what do you do when you receive a request? Please respond in "comments."
More Reference Checking Resources