Articles Posted in Employee Engagement

The United States Supreme Court will hear argument next month in United States v. Windsor, which addresses the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Nearly 300 private-sector employers joined forces in opposition to the law, filing a joint amici brief.  Among the employers who oppose the law are Citigroup, Google, Facebook, and Starbucks, reports the L.A. Times.goose_thumb

The employers voice a number of objections to the law, all arising from the conflict between state and federal law.  Twelve states and the District of Columbia now recognize same-sex marriages.  But federal law, pursuant to DOMA, prohibits the recognition of same-sex unions.

This contradiction puts employers-particularly those operating in multiple states-in a difficult position as they attempt to reconcile what they must do according to state law, what they must not do according to federal law, and, for many employers, what they want to do according to their own policies of anti-discrimination.

If you’re a die-hard fan of The Who, you may not want to read the rest of this post.  Don’t misunderstand, I, too, am a fan.  Which is why I was all sorts of excited to see them in Atlantic City on Friday night. stick figure businessman in spotlight_thumb

The band did not disappoint.  Overall, I’d say the show was pretty good.  Guitarist Pete Townshend, though, was far better than “good.” Townshend was great; and I mean great.  Well worth the price of admission.

Lead singer, Roger Daltry, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired.  Daltry was, well, a diva. He barely sang at all-or at least not as much as I’d hoped.  Mostly, he sort of stood there, swinging his mic around-sometimes catching it and sometimes not.  As he stood at the edge of the stage, not singing, shirt unbuttoned so to expose way, way, too much skin, it was as if he was saying to the audience, “Yes, it’s me.  I am really here on the stage before you.  Try not to faint from excitement.”

I am writing this post from a train on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional line. The train’s next stop is Bridgeport. But that is not my stop. I am heading all the way to New London, Connecticut. For those of you lucky enough not to have the train schedule memorized, my destination means I’ll have been onboard for about 5 hours by the time I depart.

I really hate riding the train. Yes, I know, “hate” is a strong word and, perhaps, too strong in this context. But I really dislike taking the train. I get lo-grade motion sickness–just enough to drain my energy but not enough that I could justify not taking the train for certain trips.

I don’t like co-passengers who ever-so-slowly eat tuna-salad sandwiches that they brought with them. I don’t like Amtrak’s promises of “Wi-Fi Hot Spot,” which is repeated on stickers plastered all over the interior of the train but which must have been intended as a joke because I have yet to get an Internet connection that lasted for more than 30 seconds. I don’t like mean women in the Quiet Car, who “shhhhhh” and wag their fingers at any passenger who dares to so much as cough.

A post on the Harvard Business Review blog, titled, “Your Body Language Speaks For You In Meetings,” caught my eye immediately. Several years ago, I brought this very issue to the attention of one of our senior paralegals. The paralegal was a critical player on our team–well respected by everyone and for good reason. During meetings, she had a place at the table equal to the most senior partner present. If she doubted a particular strategy, you could bet that we’d go a different direction.

Being the oddball that I am, I was often the one offering an out-of-the-box idea. I held the paralegal in the highest regard, so it really hurt when she was disapproving or skeptical of my ideas. Finally, I decided to deal with the issue head on. Leaving the conference room after a meeting one day, I asked her why she was always so critical of my ideas.

She looked at me, shocked, “Huh?” I looked back, equally shocked. She really had no idea what I was talking about. I took a deep breath and said, “You never like my ideas. You always look so critical when I offer a suggestion.”

Everyone likes a compliment. Believe me when I say that I am no exception. In fact, I’ve been accused on more than one occasion of being a real sucker for a compliment. A guaranteed way to win me over is to compliment this blog. Works like a charm just about every time.

There’s a difference, though, in appreciating when others take notice of your work and working in the hopes that others take notice. I would write the blog, subject to the approval of my employer, of course, regardless of whether anyone ever complimented it. There are so many benefits to blogging that any compliments or recognition that I may get is, truly, a bonus.

If you’re wondering, I write the blog because it’s a tremendous service to my clients; because it keeps me up-to-the-minute current in my practice area; because it’s wonderful to make connections with other e-law bloggers; because it serves as a research repository for me and my colleagues; and because it’s a great creative outlet. These are just some of the many reasons that I devote time every day to read other blogs and to write interesting posts that our readers will find valuable. It is, indeed, a labor of love. And that is why the occasional complimentary word about the fruits of my labor mean so much to me. But, again, the kind word or recognition is not the reason, it’s just one of the results.

Sheldon Sandler took the picture below during a recent trip to Granada. Yes, it’s a real picture of a real sign on the outside of a real factory.

Granada.pngAdmittedly, the picture evokes mixed emotions for me. Part of me cheers, happy for the employer who attempts to set a positive tone for workers about to start their workday.

On the other hand, though, the sign seems to send, well, a bit of a mixed message, doesn’t it? Nothing like beating someone with a baseball bat imprinted with a motivational message as a technique to motivate workers, right?

Today is my daughter’s 7th Birthday. She got out of bed early and excited. She gave extra special attention to the clothes she picked out, and triple-checked her pony-tail was just so. Walking into school with her birthday cupcakes, she bounced with each step. As we approached her first-grade classroom, her teacher exclaimed “the birthday girl is here!” and her classmates shouted out in unison “Happy Birthday Gianna!” and proceeded to embrace her in a group hug. She was grinning from ear to ear the entire time, because she felt special. gift wrapped with pink paper and bow

Watching the morning unfold for my daughter got me thinking about birthdays and feeling special. There are not many opportunities in our adult lives where we feel like a 7-year old on her birthday. A lot of press has been given lately to what is viewed as “excess” in some public employment positions. Indeed, in these tough times, the public does not- and probably shouldn’t – have much tolerance for such perks. One public agency in New Jersey was recently assailed for, among other things, giving employees their birthdays off (or a bonus if they worked on their birthday). The horror! Birthdays off??

WAY back in 2007, in pre-recession time, employers devoted considerable time and energy to how to recruit and retain talented employees. In today’s economy, where most employees are just grateful to have a job, this topic is much more rarely discussed. But it costs money to hire and train new employees in any economy, and when the economy starts to turn, employees who feel under-appreciated will seize the first opportunity to take their talents to another employer who, for whatever reason, holds the promise of a happier place.

Managers often underestimate the power of a simple compliment. A timely, sincere compliment costs nothing to give but can yield terrific returns. Yet, many leaders regularly fail to take advantage of this tool. And some people yearn for compliments more than others. With these employees, recognition of a job well done or praise for a victory is even more powerful. Compliments can be given directly to the individual or they can be communicated to the individual’s peers, colleagues, or supervisors.  

Recently, a former colleague of mine was put up for a promotion. It would have meant a great deal to her–and to her commitment to her employer.

She didn’t receive the promotion. To say she was disappointed would be a gross understatement.

starHer manager felt terrible about the turn of events. When he told her the bad news, he hurried through the explanation, failing to properly explain exactly what had occurred. Perhaps believing that the less he said and the shorter the discussion, the less she’d suffer. Wrong.

A recent spate of highly-publicized stories about employees quitting their jobs have given our attorneys a good laugh-and caused us to think about good employer-employee relationships.

The most popular story so far is that of Steven Slater, a JetBlue flight attendant who quit after he was hit in the head with a piece of luggage while trying to convince an unruly passenger to stay in his seat. It appears that after being hit, Mr. Slater lost his cool, used the airplane’s intercom system to curse at the unruly passenger, grabbed a beer from a beverage cart, and then made a dramatic exit from the grounded plane by deploying the plane’s emergency shoot. CNN reports that during his intercom rant, Mr. Slater stated that “I’ve been in this business 28 years and I’ve had it.”

A similar story involving a woman named Jenny is also making the rounds. Jenny apparently quit her job in a series of pictures circulated to her entire office. Jenny was spurred to action after overhearing her boss call her a HOPA, which she later learned stood for “hot piece of ___.” In response to her boss’s inappropriate remarks, Jenny shot 33 pictures of herself holding a whiteboard. Each picture included different text on the whiteboard, describing the unpleasant treatment that Jenny had suffered as an office assistant. Among the pictures was one revealing that her boss spent 19.7 hours per week playing online games.

Some small businesses have managed to come out on top–despite the difficult economy. In this month’s edition of Inc. Magazine 20 small businesses are celebrated as the Top Small Company Workplaces.  The winners and 20 finalists are selected by Winning Workplaces and are recognized for achieving business success through exemplary people practices and outstanding workplace cultures.image

Winning Workplaces reports some of the highlights of the 2010 award winners:

  • 100% of winners profitable in 2009
  • 90% of finalists profitable in 2009
  • 36% average revenue growth, 2007-09
  • Ability to weather bad times with the good: average of 28 years in business
  • High average employee tenure of 7 years
  • Low average turnover of 8% across 18 diverse industries

More information on the winners and finalists of this award is available at the following links:

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