Tag Archives: management

The Impact of Domestic Violence at Your Workplace & How You Can Help

By Penny Lauer

Penny Lauer

Don’t assume that the co-worker or employee who is frequently late, absent, emotional with co-workers, tired, depressed or frequently calling in ill – and is frustrating you to no end- is lazy, lying or uninterested in his or her job or company. Chances are that there is another very deep-rooted reason for that employee’s poor job performance, a reason that affects one out of every four women and one out of every fourteen men in the United States: Domestic Violence, a national social problem that impacts each and every one of us from our relationships to our safety and to our personal and business wallets.

Here are the national statistics:

  • 21% of full-time employed adults suffer from domestic violence
  • 75% of abusers of working women use workplace resources to express remorse or anger toward their victims, to check up on them, or to pressure and threaten them to quit their jobs
  • 24% of American employers, both large and small, have reported incidents of violence in the workplace by an abusive partner of an employee. That figure reflects only those employers who understand DV and allowed the issue to be raised by their employees.
  • Overall, experts indicate that DV costs U.S. businesses an estimated $3-$5 B annually in lost time and productivity, and yet only 4% of all working establishments train employees on DV and its impact

Another disturbing fact is that domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness in this country, especially among women and children. When a woman needs her job the most – when she is trying to leave her partner – the abuse gets worse and so does her job performance. It’s at that point that she is often fired. With no source of income and no support system, she can end up on the streets.

Unbelievable as it may seem, an abuser generally doesn’t want his partner to work – not because he can’t use the income, but because her success, interaction with others and time from him is seen by him as diminishing his power. The economic self-sufficiency of his victim challenges his control and he will do anything to keep that from happening, including these behaviors that sabotage his partner’s ability to work:

  • Keeping her awake at night so that she will perform badly during the day and lose respect –poor performance
  • Hiding her car keys or inventing issues to keep her in the house so that she will be late to work -tardiness
  • Destroying her work clothes – absenteeism, loss of respect
  • Degrading her verbally and emotionally so that she actually feels that she is not qualified to do her work and has no respect among her co-workers – anxiety and depression
  • Physically abusing her before or after work for taking time from him or not fulfilling his needs at home – fear, stress, absenteeism due to injury
  • Stalking her at work and frightening her through phone calls or coming to her place of work if he sees her interacting with fellow employees – fear and embarrassment to her and co-workers
  • Threatening to harm her co-workers out of jealousy, which often results in her staying away from work or quitting all together

Often, those women who are trying hard to become self-sufficient and leave their abusers in order to make better lives for themselves and their children lose their jobs and return to their abusers, go on welfare or become homeless. It doesn’t have to be that way, and there are steps that can be taken by employers to ensure that women don’t become even more victimized, while, at the same time, help ensure productivity and reduce company expenses.

Workplace support can significantly help victims when they’re attempting to free themselves from violent situations at home, but historically, particularly among small to medium-sized businesses, employers simply don’t understand domestic violence and its consequences and don’t provide opportunities for their workers to discuss the reasons behind their poor performance. And often their genuine desire to respect their employee’s privacy interferes with their objectivity. In fact, only four percent of all working establishments train their employees on domestic violence and its impact in the workplace. That’s easy to correct. Here are some suggestions:

  • Employers must be sensitive and not assume anything when it comes to poor job performance and must remember that when they hire someone, they’re hiring the whole package, not just job skills.
  • Supervisory personnel must approach the problems introduced by an emotional, stressed and physically incapacitated employee through discussing objective job performance measures to begin focusing on the underlying personal problems.
  • Be pro-active. Familiarize yourselves with community resources available to victims and make lists that are readily available to them. Encourage the employee to seek professional counseling and assistance before job loss becomes a possibility. Additionally, if appropriate, put her in touch with an attorney to assist her in securing a Protection Order.
  • Once informed about past or ongoing abuse, alert security and address legal issues with the employee.
  • Provide security in the workplace. Help screen calls, walk the victim to her car, and call the police if the abuser enters the workplace and refuses to leave.
  •  Show compassion. Your empathy could be the only signs of respect and caring the victim has received in a lifetime.

Never doubt for one moment that by becoming smarter about this issue you will not only be improving your workplace, but you could also be saving someone’s life. At the very least, you could be someone’s hero and make your company more successful. Do some research. Find out the names of those corporations that understand the issue of domestic violence and have programs in place through their HR departments to help employees who are victims, and then develop your own safeguards. Domestic violence is a huge social ill in this country that affects one-fourth of all working men and women and their children and costs our federal, state and local governments and our businesses billions of dollars each year. Don’t be caught off guard when the issue becomes a part of your own business. Develop a plan now. Become a part of the solution.

Penny Lauer is an author, motivational speaker, and writing consultant for memoirs. She spent several years working with abused women. Her latest novel, Skipping Stones, tackles the subject of domestic violence in an upscale community. Contact Penny at penlauer@hotmail.com for further information.

Your Team-Building Exercises May Not Be Creating a Team

By Kevin E. O’ConnorKevin E O'Connor

Team leaders have a perennial dilemma: how can we educate, engage and develop our group in a substantial way that helps the team become better? “Team-building” is often seen as the fun add-on to a meeting devoted to science, sales figures and quarterly goals. These can include a ropes course, golf outing, a trip to the desert, horseback riding, softball, a cooking school and the like. Were these experiences useful toward the goal? If the goal is fun, distraction or an open afternoon, then these experiences create shared memories and are often a welcome opportunity.

But, the goal is rarely just to have a fun afternoon. Leaders want teams to trust better, to understand at a deeper level, and certainly to communicate with one another in useful ways beyond one afternoon.

Building a team requires three basic elements, and they are the same perpetual needs that all team leaders have: engagement, education, and development…all with a twist.

Engagement…with a twist: Sometimes it’s simple—like a handshake—and other times it’s complex—like securing buy-in for a high-dollar project—but engagement always involves obtaining a “yes” from the other person. This agreement begins a cooperative relationship that seeks to align goals, minimize a judgmental response, and keep the momentum going (even during the naturally-tough times that are bound to come).

The commitment of marriage, for example, is symbolized by an engagement ring. In business, commitment is demonstrated with a signed letter or contract. In both instances, engagement is an agreement that both parties will move forward and seek more specific agreements. When people are engaged (in both the marital and business context), there is an interior feeling of security that assures each person that they will work together.

This agreement cannot be secured in one event. Just as hospitals have a heart monitor on every patient, team leaders must constantly monitor the tell-tale signs of stress, unrest and frustration. This involves listening to what the team says and what they don’t say, and, maybe, what they cannot say.

Here is the twist: listening closely to both the words and the feelings of your team members allows you, as the leader, and those who work for you to feel your engagement. Paraphrasing and empathy are the perennial, highly reliable skills that will help you steer clear of becoming judgmental. When you are in tune with your team members’ unique “heartbeats” of engagement, you will know when somebody becomes an outlier. Only then can you use your other skills to bring them back aboard.

Education…with a twist: Too many meetings are based on lectures. This repetitive structure might have worked for multiplication tables in primary school, but no longer. When teaching adults, presenters actually waste valuable educative time thinking that dumping data, spreadsheets, bullet points and manuals onto people will somehow enlighten them.

The word “education” comes from the Latin word “educare,” which means “to lead out” or “draw forth from.” Socrates knew this when he asked questions in order to “draw forth from” his students. While this might make sense on paper, it is a more significant shift in how we can really envision meetings. We still, by and large, run our meetings with a speaker or presenter who often says, “Is it OK if I take questions later?” These people will then read their PowerPoint aloud, droning on and on, while the audience pre-reads each slide and then waits for the presenter to finish.

Instead of a 60-90 minute lecture, what if…

  • The presenter didn’t see this as “my time,” but saw “our time” as an opportunity for the team to talk with one another about the essence of the issues
  • The team divided into groups of three, brainstormed three or four concerns for the future, and then had the expert facilitator give a 10-12 minute reflection on each of the concerns
  • Simply have a Q&A session
  • The expert asked the audience questions, guiding the team toward answering the question “What do we need to do to prepare for the future we want to make?”

Here is the twist: when we ignore that education is really about drawing forth from our collective experience, we waste incredible resources already present in our teams. Witnessing this collective knowledge is a strong formative element for a team. This is often what scientists experience working on a project during a “think tank” session, or what a Broadway cast feels on opening night.

Development…with a twist: This is the most important, yet most often ignored, element when building a team. In an effort to move forward quickly, many leaders start sharing the “takeaways” from the experience before the team has caught their breath. When team leaders say, “I hope that you realized this horseback riding taught us to better listen to one another just as we did with our horses,” they risk the team saying, “What? I thought we just learned there’s some beautiful scenery here!” Instead, team leaders should consider asking:

  • What did you notice when you tried to steer your horse too hard?
  • What did you learn about your colleagues’ lives during the ride?
  • For those who have never been horseback riding, what skills did you learn?
  • Aren’t those skills some of the same that we need in our office?

Here is the twist: just as we rely on crockpots to slowly heat and mold a meal’s flavors together, we must allow the individuals to apply the lessons for themselves.

Team-building…with a twist: So, it is OK to take the team golfing, horseback riding or out for drinks, but don’t think that activity alone will build the team any more than a reception with fine wine and tasty cheese will foster interesting conversation at dinner.

Reconsider how you educate, and how you think about education, because everyone will learn more when the collective team experience is drawn forth. Finally, understand that the act of looking back on what the team learned and experienced together is a vital part of becoming a team…and building one.

Kevin E. O’Connor, CSP (kevin@kevinoc.com), is a facilitator, medical educator, and author. He focuses on teaching scientific and technical professionals how to influence and lead teams of their former peers. He presents and coaches over 175 times per year around the world to corporations, individuals, associations and non-profits about how to move teams from conflict to consensus. His latest book, “Fearless Facilitation: The Ultimate Field Guide for Engaging (and Involving!) Your Audience,” is available in bookstores now and online at kevinoc.com.

Three Keys to Successful Crisis Management

By Lucien CantonLucien Canton

When the first hijacked plane slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 AM on September 11, 2001, Robert Scott, president and chief operating officer of Morgan Stanley-Dean Whittier, was at 3 World Trade Center addressing 400 members of the National Association of Business Economists. Scott evacuated the building just in time to watch a second aircraft slam into the South Tower which he knew housed his company offices and several thousand employees. By 9:30 he and his senior executives had convened at a backup site that became their command center. The decisions made by Scott and his team that day would make Morgan Stanley a case study in successful crisis management and would enhance Scott’s reputation as a leader.

What is the difference between a Morgan Stanley and less successful companies? Why do some organizations come out of crisis with enhanced reputations while others may not even survive as a business? While the reasons are many and varied, it frequently comes down to three main areas:

  • Failure to consider the human factor
  • Failure to gather adequate information to support decision-making
  • Failure to act quickly and decisively

These failures are so common that they suggest three keys to successful crisis management:

1. Recognize that you are your own worst problem. Too often in preparing for crisis one tends to ignore the human factor. Understanding human nature and how people react to crisis is one of the fundamental keys to crisis management.

  • No matter how much information on risks they are given, people do not believe that a crisis will happen to them. They may understand it intellectually but viscerally they do not believe it will happen. This hampers their willingness to prepare for crisis.
  • When confronted with a crisis, a person’s first reaction is denial – they often do not recognize that a crisis is occurring. This leads to a hesitation to act.
  • There is a tendency to normalize crisis, that is, to see what one expects to see rather than what is actually occurring. It is easy to misinterpret or completely miss indicators that a crisis is imminent or occurring. These indicators may be obvious after the fact but are easily missed during the crisis.

2. Good information is essential to good decision-making. The second phase that people experience when confronted with a crisis is to deliberation – the need to seek corroboration about what has occurred or is occurring and to consider courses of action. There are, however, problems inherent in this process:

  • Most information available in the early stages of crisis is fragmentary, contradictory, and unreliable. There can also be a considerable volume of information available, most of it not really helpful. Sorting through this mess requires an understanding of what information is important and why it is needed by decision-makers.
  • A common failing in crisis is the tendency to seek only information that confirms what the crisis team thinks is happening or expects to see happening. The problem with this is that the team misses the true nature of the crisis and makes decisions that can be counter-productive or flat out wrong.
  • The paradox of information collection is that while the better the information the better the decision-making, there will never be a situation where one has all the information needed. At some point, you will have to make decisions based on incomplete information. Information collection cannot become an end in itself that delays decision-making.

3. Act Decisively. Overcoming denial and moving through deliberation leads to action. In most cases, the quicker you are seen to act and to provide information on the crisis and your actions the more likely you are to mitigate the effects of the crisis. Effective action depends on a number of elements:

  • Isolating the crisis by identifying a crisis management team and dedicating them solely to the crisis. Other parts of your organization can work be devoted to business as usual but your crisis management team must be focused exclusively on the crisis and must have the authority and resources necessary to act.
  • Speed is essential, particularly in crisis communications. Depending on the nature of your organization, you may have only minutes to get your story out. Even if it’s just acknowledging that the crisis has occurred and that you are assessing the situation it is critical that the public, your employees, and your shareholders hear from you.
  • Acting quickly, demonstrating empathy with anyone affected by the crisis, and, above all, being honest can go a long way to countering the negative effects of a crisis.

Surviving a crisis requires that you quickly recognize and accept that a crisis is occurring, gather sufficient information to make decisions regarding the crisis, and move quickly to implement those decisions. Incorporating these three keys into your preparations for crisis may not guarantee success but they will certainly go a long way to preventing failures.

Lucien G. Canton, CEM is a consultant specializing in preparing managers to lead better in crisis by understanding the human factors often overlooked in crisis planning. A popular speaker and lecturer, he is the author of the best-selling “Emergency Management: Concepts and Strategies for Effective Programs.” For more information email Info@luciencanton.com.

Counting Chickens: Lessons in Managing Employees

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In my office is an evocative black and white aerial photo of my grandfather’s chicken farm, circa 1960. Grandpa and Dad ran the farm, along with a revolving assortment of hired help. The farm consisted of five barns, in two interconnected groups. Together they accommodated 15,000 hens.

Four buildings housed “layers,” with eggs being the farm’s principle product. Each building was staged, with the hens’ age being staggered by four months. When egg production for a building would taper off, those hens would be sold, ending up in cans of condensed chicken-noodle soup. (The ratio of cans per chicken intrigues me to this day.) The fifth building was the “pullet” house; think of it as the nursery.

The farm had a predictable seasonal cycle to it. The hens from the oldest building would be sent to market, the vacated coop cleaned, disinfected, and refurbished. Then the maturing hens from the pullet house would move in. Then the pullet house would be similarly prepped. (A window of opportunity existed, between the disinfect and repopulate stage, when I was permitted to roller skate in that building.)

It was exciting for me when the hatchlings were delivered. They would arrive unassumingly, transported in cardboard cartoons, with 100 per, and delivered via station wagon. The shrill cacophony of their combined chirping was surely deafening to the driver; even in the open space of their new abode, their peeping was overwhelming. I took great joy in my small role of liberator, watching their cute, yellow, fluffy bodies scurry in all directions, from the gently upturned box.

The farm also had a daily rhythm. Aside from the feeding, cleaning, and ongoing maintenance, there was the gathering and processing of the eggs. Each hen house was an open space (there were no caged chickens), with condo-like rows of open nests. How most hens knew to lay their eggs in the nests and not on the floor remains a mystery to me.

As a pre-schooler, I would sometimes get to go with Dad to gather eggs; it was great fun – for the first few minutes. I quickly learned to avoid nests with hens in them; they would peck the back of your hand. Even the jersey gloves with cut-off fingers that Dad wore seemed to be inadequate protection. I resorted to gathering eggs from empty nests, in the lower rows that I could reach. Once I needed to rest and sat on a little stool. Only it wasn’t a stool; it was a basket of eggs. I broke half of them before I could extricate myself. I was mortified. Dad patiently cleaned me off; I think Grandpa laughed.

The baskets of eggs were put on carts, which hung from an elevated rail. The rail system snaked through the barns, terminating at the farmhouse, where the eggs were brought to the basement for processing. Once cleaned, the eggs were put in the “candling” machine, where each was individually checked by shining a light through it. The machine sorted the eggs by size. The extra-large, large, medium, and small sizes were sold; the “pee-wee” and “jumbo” eggs made it to the family table. (One morning, I ate three pee-wee eggs; another morning, a jumbo fed three of us.)

Unfortunately, due to health issues for Dad and a sudden desire by Grandpa to retire, the farm was shut down and the hens sold. The next day, as I took my usual shortcut to school though the back of the farm, I spotted a wayward hen who had escaped deportation. My cousin Steve and I tried in vain to catch her. I knew we needed expert help and ran to get Grandpa. Although skeptical of my tale, he immediately went to help; alas, neither chicken nor Steve could be found. Grandpa suggested I get to school and I later learned that Steve had caught the skittish hen and at a loss of what to do, put her in the cab of the Grandpa’s old dump truck.

“Can I keep it?” I plied Mom and Dad. Dad couldn’t say no. My hen garnered me a private supply of eggs, producing one every 27 hours. (The exact laying cycle varies with breed, age, diet, environment, and season.) This was a bit short of my hope for an egg a day, so I considered a second hen. That would be more eggs than I needed, so I would share with my family. Why stop at two, my young mind reasoned. Six hens would produce enough for everyone, with some left over. A dozen hens would mean eggs to sell. How far could it grow? Soon my elementary-school entrepreneurialism envisioned me helping feed and support my family.

I’m not sure if I shared any of this vision with Dad, but when I asked for a second hen, it was soon granted. Dad, picked a strong, robust hen; she was a fine specimen and I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, my two hens didn’t get along, with the new one dominating and attacking the original. Even with a larger pen, the abuse continued, production dropped, and soon my cherished pet was dead, killed by her associate and ostensibly by my desire for more. That day, my dream died, too.

But this isn’t a story about chickens; it’s really about people. It’s not a commentary on greed or rant against capitalism, but rather a call for balance and pragmatism:

Bigger is Not Always Better: Sometimes less is more; enough said.

Increased Scope Produces Increase Challenges: I was a successful farmer of one chicken. I wrongly assumed that if I could raise one, two would not be a problem, after all, it’s a scalable concept. I never dreamed that I would have “labor” issues to deal with – it never came up in a one chicken operation!

All too often, business people expand their operation without considering the ramifications. They forget that with a bigger operation will require more support and add new and unforeseen challenges. This often occurs when a successful, one location business, opens up a second site. Suddenly neither is doing well. It might be they have the wrong management style, maybe the owners became distracted, or perhaps the requisite infrastructure was lacking.

Value What You Have: I took my hen for granted. When a better one came along, I jumped at the opportunity.

I’ve done the same with employees; maybe you have too. You have people whose work may not be stellar, but who have been steady, faithful, and dependable for years. Then a bright-eyed, eager-to-please applicant arrives and the next thing you know, the new employee has chased the proven one away. It’s only then when you realize that the newer model wasn’t the solution you thought; you long for the “good ole” days with your trusty assistant, before things got messed up with a new hire and your longing for something better.

Be Content: We live in a society that is seldom satiated and always lusts for more. It’s not bad to have dreams and set goals; in fact, it’s good to do so and is detrimental to lack aspirations. However, when the push for more becomes the focus, the best parts of life begin to obscure, going unnoticed and unrealized.

The first step is to truly distinguish between needs and wants. So many things that we think we need are in reality not necessary and merely a nice extra. In the big picture, how important is a bigger house, a newer car, a grander vacation, or more “toys?” Will they bring joy and satisfaction or just make you more tired, with added pressures? Ask yourself, “When was the last time that I actually wore out an article of clothing, as opposed to merely getting bored with it or it becoming too tight? This is starting to get at the crux of the issue. Being content with what we have is a good place to strive for; learning to be content with less is even better – and still leaves us ahead of the majority of people on the planet.

Don’t get so busy counting your chickens that you miss out on what you have.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is a published author and commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services.

Steps to Sustainability from Upper Management to the Bottom Line

By Steve RichersonSteve Richerson

Big companies like GE, IBM, Wal-Mart, and many smaller companies like Tenant, Centiva, and Stonyfield Yogurt have recently locked their GPS coordinates on to a really intriguing destinationmarket profitability through ecological sustainability.

These companies have set their company GPS on a target that’s not just a sustainable destination for the company’s longevity, but for reaching that destination while using our planets resources wisely.

Ecological sustainability refers to the way we choose to use the Earth’s natural resources.  If we use resources in a way that doesn’t harm future generations’ ability to use those resources, that use is considered sustainable for generations to come. If we harm future generations’ ability to use those resources, it’s not sustainable. There are really excellent business reasons why these innovative companies have chosen this destination.

Why Destination: Sustainability?

  • Allows companies to cut overhead costs for everything they take, make, and waste. These savings can go directly to the bottom line.

  • Allows companies to build a successful enterprise they can be proud of. This leads to increased employee productivity, retention and attraction, which goes straight to the bottom line.

  • Allows companies to build a reputation for being a good corporate citizen. This results in loyal consumers and possibly loyal fans that can determine questions of zoning, taxes and community support.

So, what are the steps we have to take to get our GPS pointing toward sustainability?

Step 1 – Get “Buy-in” from the top. You’re going to have to make a pitch, presentation or proposal to convince upper management that sustainability is good for the bottom line of your company. Simply making the “feel good” argument that going green is the “right thing to do” won’t cut it. You need to make the business argument for it.  Make the case in dollars and cents.

Step 2 – Engage everyone on the team. Now that you know the front office has your back, it’s time to engage the team. Build a group of mid and senior management from all departments (sales, HR, facilities, retail manufacturing) that will focus on efforts to save the company money through saving resources and preventing pollution.Even members of the team that are “environmentally agnostic” (global warming skeptics, recycling is a waste of time, etc.) can understand that waste equals inefficiency. Inefficiency costs your company money. Wasted money means raises and promotions are less likely for them. They’ll understand this argument. Saving the company money through saving resources is the goal. Try to align your goals with two these two principles of sustainability and you’ll be well on your way:

  • Is it renewable?

  • Does it create pollution?

Step 3 – Get it on the company map. Get an official sustainability statement from your team on the Corporate Strategy Map. This will allow your integrated sustainability to be an aligned priority at every level of your company. You’ll get “buy-in” from everyone because it’s on the map. Employees up and down the corporate ladder want to know that sustainability is important to the company and they’ll be rewarded for spending work time on it.

Step 4 – Take, Make and Waste. Have the team focus on areas of take, make and waste. Create a list of opportunities for each of these areas. Waste is inefficiency. If you can cut down on inefficiency, you grow your bottom line and you help reduce impact on the planet. Here are a few questions that should be asked:

  • Can transportation costs be reduced by getting smaller vehicles or can they be eliminated completely?

  • Can we cut our waste removal costs by recycling?

  • Can we choose an option for shipping that uses less packaging?

  • Is it possible to innovate a completely new product that is within our core competencies but has a lesser impact on resources?

  • Can we source raw materials closer to our factories to cut down of shipping costs?

When everyone gets focused on the TMW (Take, Make and Waste areas), the result is that good ideas for profits and the planet come flowing out.

Step 5 – Measure immediately. Once you’ve found the areas to focus on, begin to measure them. If possible, integrate automated measurements of all inputs and outputs.  Even very competent managers and front line employees can get it wrong. It’s easy to over or underestimate how much energy, how many raw materials used, how much water is wasted or how much trash is being hauled away if there’s no real data on it. Collect the data right away.

Step 6 – Set goals. Now that you have the data, set your goals for sustainability. Make these goals specific, measurable and make sure they are of strategic bottom line value to your company.

Step 7 – Execute. You’ve set your goals. Now go for it.  Remember to make small steps towards this goal every day. Continue to ask yourself, “How can I make this just a tiny bit better?”

Step 8 – Share progress. Be honest with shareholders and stakeholders about the results.  The public will appreciate your honest attempts to be more sustainable (even if you’re not totally successful). Be honest about results and you’ll be better off.  They want to know you’re on the right road and will support you for that.

Step 9 – Conduct an annual review. Have the team review the improvements that were made over the year. Ideas that worked in one area may spur improvements in other areas. Keep going; there’s always room to do a little better.

Many of the world’s smartest companies are locking their GPS destination on sustainability. It’s good for people, planet and most importantly, it’s good for profit.

Steve Richerson is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant. Steve utilizes his distinct presentation style to speak on the importance of sustainability and actionable guidelines to enact eco-friendly practices in business. As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, National Recycling Coalition and the North American Environmental Education Association, Steve is spearheading the campaign to reduce wasteful corporate procedures and promote environmentally sound business methods. To learn more about Steve’s speaking, call 256-710-7216.