January 2011 20
Last week I got the chance to speak with John Wells, writer and director of “The Company Men” for our sister site, TheWorkBuzz.com. The film, which dissects the effects of layoffs on those who experience them, stars Academy Award winners Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones, and hits theaters today.
Though “The Company Men” takes the most in-depth look at the psychological and existential effects that job loss has on workers, it also touches on the legal, ethical and emotional struggles experienced by the executives and human resources staff who make the decisions on “who stays and who goes.” An aspect of the film Wells decided to include after speaking with human resources executives (and one that can be seen in the below clip).
“I sort of feel like my first version of [the script was] more like a creed against corporate America and that that wasn’t very fair and probably not balanced, so I went back and interviewed a lot of CEOs and human resources executives, and people were very willing to talk to me,” Wells told TheWorkBuzz.
Missing out on the opportunity to catch up on the always-entertaining-for-one-reason-or-another The View, 72 percent of workers go to work when they are sick, according to a new survey released today by CareerBuilder. Evidently, "presenteeism" and workplace pressures outweigh the desire to see the ridiculous charming banter between Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Whoopi Goldberg, as more than half of those workers (55 percent) say they feel guilty if they call in sick.
(Side note: I can’t help but notice that this 72 percent overlaps slightly with the 29 percent of workers who admitted they have faked an excuse to call in sick in a previous CareerBuilder survey. I’d love to get a peek inside the minds of those who show no remorse at calling in sick when they aren’t, but just don’t feel right about it when they are.)
While I understand feeling too guilty to take a sick day, is there no shame when it comes to putting your co-workers at risk of getting sick? (Did anyone else not see Outbreak?!) More than half of workers surveyed (53 percent) said they have gotten sick from a co-worker who came to the office sick.
According to Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, it’s important for employees to stay home if they aren’t feeling well - for the sake of their health and everyone else's. It's also in managers' best interest to promote the health of their employees in order to maintain productivity.
Add this to the list of terms that have become nothing more than meaningless business jargon: Workplace attire. After all, when considering the following workplace stories, it’s hard to say what even constitutes appropriate “workplace attire” anymore…
First, there’s Esquire magazine recently naming Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg its ‘Worst Dressed Celebrity.’ While I’m confident the billionaire isn’t losing any sleep over the title, there is a bigger implication here: ‘Dressing for the job you want ’ evidently no longer applies in the business world. After all, if someone can reach Zuckerberg’s scale of success without so much as having to ever step foot into a Brooks Brothers, why bother ever changing out of your pajama jeans? Does Zuckerberg represent the new executive style – and the death of professional attire as we know it?
For those who are alarmed by this notion, rest assured that there are still some employers that will go to any – however uncomfortable – lengths to preserve the good name of businesswear. Consider the following stories...
No Red Undies and No Garlic – After generating ridicule for a 44-page dress code – in which employees are instructed to avoid eating garlic for fresher-smelling breath and wear only nude-colored underwear, among other advice – Swiss bank UBS recently announced that it would revise the existing code. While the new code is said to be less micro-manage-y, UBS maintains that a code is important to uphold “the perfect look” of the staffs at its banks.
Bosses Get the Final Say on Bras – Arguing that “being told to wear a bra and keep fingernails to shorter than half-a-centimetre does not impinge on personal rights,” a German court ruled recently that employers in Cologne have the right to make certain demands on workplace dress – including asking female workers to wear bras and male workers to trim their beards.
Aside from wondering which poor intern would have the unfortunate duty of ensuring employees keep within these standards (“Pull down your pants a bit. I just need to see the color of your skivvies…okay, now let me smell your breath…”), I also can’t help but think…are all of these rules really necessary?
Sure, I understand the need and the expectation for employees in certain roles and industries to look presentable...but if you’ve hired them for that position, shouldn’t you already be able to trust that they can decide what is or isn’t appropriate attire?
What do you think? How much control should employers be able to have over their employees’ personal appearance?
While you were busy realizing you’ve been reading the wrong horoscope all your life, thinking it was about damn time you got some credit for something, or planning your return to the Big Game, here’s what was happening in the world of workforce management this week…
Let’s Leave This One Out of the Guinness Book of World Records 2010 was a record-breaking year in terms of lawsuits filed by private-sector workers on employers on charges of discrimination.
“The way in which we understand great workplaces is based up on relationships in the workplace,” says Michael Burchell, corporate Vice President with The Great Place to Work® Institute . “So a great place to work is one that has a high degree of trust between employees and leaders, a great deal of pride between employees and their work, and a great deal of camaraderie between employees and other employees.”
Burchell would be the person to ask. Not only is The Great Place to Work Institute the company behind the annual Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, but he – along with colleague Jennifer Robin, a Research Fellow at the institute – literally wrote the book on great workplaces.
Their recent collaboration, The Great Workplace: How to Build It, How to Keep It, and Why It Matters, draws on 25 years of case studies and testimonials from employees working at the best workplaces in the U.S. to answer the question, “What is the business value of creating a great workplace?”
And with so many employers today struggling to both find qualified talent to fill open positions and retain their top performers, the timing for this book could hardly be better.
Trust, Pride and Camaraderie: A Winning Formula
Looking at the over two decades worth of research on great workplaces, one thing is glaringly evident: Culture is king. “When we talk about a great workplace, we’re really talking about a culture – a culture of trust, pride and camaraderie,” Robin says. The Great Workplace aims to show leaders how they can create that culture by building relationship with employees based on those three elements – trust, pride and camaraderie.
“Pride and camaraderie are a lot of fun to build, whereas trust is a bit harder. It takes a lot of persistence and it takes a lot of deliberate thought to try to develop relationships with people,” Robin says. And that’s where managers tend to run into trouble. “We often hear [from managers], ‘I’m a working manager. I have my own set of responsibilities, and I don’t have time to add anything to my plate.’”
But what managers need to understand - and what the authors emphasize throughout the book - is that the extra time and effort they put into building those relationships now will have a huge payoff later on. One need only look at the list of companies highlighted in The Great Workplace – Google, General Mills, Microsoft, to name a few – to understand that, business-wise, creating a great place to work simply makes sense.
“The research we’ve done on the business benefits are pretty clear and compelling that great workplaces just do better financially,” Burchell points out.
But there’s more than just the financial impact to consider, too.
A. Give yourself a pep-talk about how you’ve got this one in the bag
B. Check out your reflection in the glass doors to make sure you look as great as you think you do
C. Chug the last of your beer and toss the can in the trash
If you chose C. then you actually wouldn’t be alone (though you might want to re-think your career path). According to the results of CareerBuilder’s annual survey on outrageous and common interview mistakes, one job candidate actually polished off a beer before walking into the reception area on the day of his interview. And a job candidate with a buzz going is only the tip of the interview-blunder iceberg.
Following are actual examples from hiring managers about the strangest job candidates they’ve encountered.
- Candidate provided a detailed listing of how previous employer made them mad.
- Candidate hugged hiring manager at the end of the interview.
- Candidate ate all the candy from the candy bowl while trying to answer questions
Last month, I spoke with Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of the recently released book, SUCCEED: How We Can Reach Our Goals, which takes a unique approach to helping people achieve success: unlike other motivational books that rely on personal experiences and anecdotes to prove a point, SUCCEED draws from years of scientific studies to uncover practical but effective strategies that have been proven to help people from all walks of life achieve even their most hard-to-reach goals.
While SUCCEED is written for all audiences, Halvorson was kind enough to take a moment and offer insight into how managers in particular can apply the lessons in the book to their own careers, especially in regards to engaging and motivating their employees.
Here’s what she had to say about the following management topics:
On motivating your employees…
“People need to feel that their work has impact – that it matters to someone – even if that someone is their immediate supervisor.” Halvorson says she hears a lot of complaints from employees who've put a lot of work into a project that ultimately - for whatever reason - gets tossed by someone up the chain of command, making them feel as if their efforts were worthless. “As the manager, something you need to remember to do – besides just saying, “Bummer” – is to make them feel like their work wasn’t pointless – that even if that project isn’t getting the green light, you as their manager, noticed. You thought their work was excellent. You are impressed with the way they tackled the challenge.” You may not have the power to give every project the green light, but you do have the power to create a feeling of impact among your employees. Use that power. Otherwise, your employees will start to feel like they’re wasting their time, and little else is better at killing engagement.
On giving workers the freedom of choice…
“Realistically, most employers can’t just let employees run around making their own decisions about everything, but there are a lot of studies that show that giving people ‘the feeling of choice’ is just as effective.” Equally as important to workers as feeling like their work matters is a feeling of autonomy. Here again is an instance where you as a manager have more control than you may realize, because you can create that feeling of autonomy by allowing employees as much choice as possible. Even if you can’t give employees total control over their job, you can at least give them certain jurisdiction over certain aspects of their work – no matter how small. "People need that feeling of choice," Halvorson says. That feeling of control – “that feeling like you’re sort of the master of your own destiny,” as she puts it – weighs heavily on engagement.
On what she really thinks about annual performance reviews…