Articles Posted in Just for Fun

Communication is key to success. The better employees understand the objective and the rules for achieving the objective, the more productive they are and the more likely it is that the objective will be achieved.  But communication isn’t easy.  In fact, I’d venture to guess that most of us have been in a workplace where the communication was kept to an inner circle,  where the message seemed to be ever-changing, or where the higher-ups didn’t seem to understand how important communication really is.

Yet, the quest for better internal communication seems to be never ending.  Sometimes, the way to tackle a difficult problem is to start over.  Taking a fresh look at an old problem can remind us that simpler is better.  Speak a language that people understand.  Corporate-speak is just plain alienating to most humans. 

Delta offers a great example of the idea that speaking the language of your intended audience is the key to successful communications.  As a tribute to Delta’s first safety video, which premiered in the 1980s, Delta released an 80s-themed safety videos.  The video’s description explains the idea behind a truly entertaining safety video-“to reward even the most frequent of frequent flyers for paying attention.”

Take a look at the video and ask yourself how you can rebrand your message so that your intended audience actually pays attention.

Have a terrific weekend and happy August!

I spent the first half of my recent vacation in Vienna, Austria.  It was my first visit to to Vienna and I found the city to be absolutely enchanting with it deep roots in the arts, jaw-dropping architecture, and irresistible sweets.  Being the employment lawyer that I am, though, I can’t resist writing a post about some of the HR lessons one could learn from Vienna.

Vienna State Opera House

1.  Get out and walk around

I spent hours each day walking around the city.  Although I had a list of sites I wanted to visit and things I wanted to do, I found that some of my best experiences occurred more or less by accident.  For example, some of the best pictures I took on this trip were taken during unplanned walks.

The concept of “management by walking around” applies in the same way.  You can’t know what your employees are doing or what the general feeling is unless you get out of your office and see it for yourself.

2.  Don’t forget the date

In Vienna, the year of construction is displayed clearly on most buildings.  When I arrived, my driver pointed out the differences between pre- and post-war construction.  This was made significantly easier to do by virtue of the fact that the year can be seen clearly from the street.

Employers are well advised to follow a similar pattern.  Although employment lawyers love documentation, we really love documentation that includes a date.  Although we’ll make do with an undated witness statement, a statement that includes a date and signature is far, far more useful.

3.  Try a new angle

We all get stuck in our ways.  One of the hardest things to do is to look at a situation in a truly objective way without any predetermined opinions and without jumping too quickly to conclusions.  Although this is a very, very difficult thing to do, it is an incredibly valuable skill to have.

Vienna’s historic buildings are awe-inspiring.  They are also everywhere.  To really get a sense of any one building, I had to look at it from as many angles as possible.  The legendary Opera House looks completely different when seen from the ground as it does from the balcony of the Albertina Museum, which is just across the street.  Every view was gorgeous.  But I found that some of best images I captured were taken at angles other than straight on.

When dealing with a problem, take a step back from it.  Look at it from the left, the right, and then look at it up and down before you decide how to proceed.  Sometimes, the best approach may not be the one you’re used to taking.

Every year, I go away for a few days on January 1st in an effort to refresh following the hectic holiday season. Having had enough of winter by January, I usually head south and spend three or four days with friends and family in Florida. But this year, I took a very different approach. Instead of four days in the Sunshine state, I headed overseas for 8 days. I spent the first four in Vienna, Austria, and the second four in Budapest, Hungary. It was a fantastic trip and I returned refreshed in a different way.Molly DiBianca

Here are three of the lessons I learned during my great escape.

1. Make the Time

I’m sorry to say, this is not a skill I’ve developed very well. The last true vacation I took (meaning more than a long weekend without answering emails and doing legal work) was more than 9 years ago. I cringe at the thought but it’s true. It always seems so hard to get away-there is always so much to do and never enough time. But the idea of work-life balance is that you are supposed to have a life. Vacation (i.e., a time free of work), is part of that balance.

2. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Instead of my standard trip south, I chose, instead, to go somewhere entirely different. To two cities I’ve never seen in two countries I’ve never visited. The perspective gained from stepping out of your comfort zone is well worth the initial anxiety about not speaking the language or knowing your way around. Plus, as the saying goes, “nothing risked, nothing gained.”

Challenge yourself and your employees to try new things if you want to promote growth and development.

3. Embrace Independence

My traveling companion had to back out of the trip at the last minute, letting me know about six days before our scheduled departure. As you may expect, I was not exactly thrilled about the change. It’s easier to travel with a companion and I worried that I wouldn’t be up to the challenge of traveling abroad by myself.

I mentioned the change to a friend, who responded, “So go by yourself-you’re sociable!” And right he is! So I took his advice and went by myself.

And I am so glad that I did. It was great to choose my agenda each day based only on what I wanted to do and to see. Would it have been fun with someone to share the adventure? Definitely. But sometimes it’s important to accomplish something on our own.

Teamwork is important but don’t underestimate the value of the solo experience. Being a “party of one” has its benefits.

Most of the time, HR and employment law are serious topics. But, sometimes, they can be seriously funny. Today, I read something that qualified for the latter description. It strikes me as so funny that I just have to share it with you, dear readers.

Regular readers may recall a post I wrote a while back about the dangers of communicating with email. Recent research seems to confirm what many of us have long suspected–that recipients are more likely to give a negative connotation to email than they would if the same conversation had taken place face-to-face.


Some smart folks had suggested that the use of emoticons in emails would help to communicate the tone of the message and could help to prevent unintended negative inferences. I enthusiastically endorsed the idea and admitted that I use emoticons a lot already–probably a lot more than most people in general and almost certainly more than most lawyers.

Well, a survey I read about today may have me eating my words–or, more accurately, my emoticons. According to an article at the Huffington Post, the survey found that emoticons may be sending more of a message than we thought. Specifically, the survey reported that:

“71 percent of women and 90 percent of men said that receiving a winky face indicates the possibility of romance or a first date”

Yes, you read that correctly–according to the survey, including an emoticon in your email is today’s pick-up line. And, according to the survey, the technique works! The survey also found that about half of office romances started with an emoticon.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s been sending the wrong message unintentionally–the same survey reported that about half of office workers say that they use emoticons regularly in emails sent to coworkers. So, maybe it’s not just me.

But, so as not to risk sending the wrong message with my emoticon usage, maybe I’ll add yet another disclaimer to my email stationery that says:

This email is not intended to convey an intent or desire to engage in any romantic or inappropriate conduct of any kind. Any emoticons used herein should not be interpreted in any manner that infers or implies an intent by the sender to engage in any romantic or otherwise inappropriate conduct.

What do you think–sufficiently confusing, yet effective? Just in case I can’t get approval to add the proposed disclaimer, though, let me just say this: If you receive an email from me and it includes an emoticon–winking, smiling, thumbs up, otherwise–I assure you that it is not a way for me to suggest any kind of indecent proposal.

Just so we’ve got that all cleared up. And, if you found this story to be particularly entertaining, you can thank our friends over at the Alabama Employment Law Blog, whose post alerted me to the story. But chose your email emoticons carefully–you wouldn’t want them to get the wrong idea, after all.

Our Annual Employment Seminar has the topic of presentations on my mind this week. Like many of my employment-law colleagues, I do a lot of public speaking. I recently looked back at my speaking schedule for 2011 and was surprised to see that I averaged almost 1 speaking engagement per week. If it was up to me, I’d likely speak even more often but, again, my day job makes that difficult.

Being a good speaker is not easy–even for those of us who love it. It’s a craft and, like any craft, requires lots of practice and continued improvement. One guaranteed way to improve is to watch yourself–nothing shows flaws like a live video recording. A less traumatic way to improve is to watch other speakers. By paying attention to what they do well and what irks you can be a very effective training tool.

Here are two videos to get you started in your studies. The first is an updated version of Don McMillan’s Life After Death by PowerPoint:

And the second is Every Presentation Ever by Habitudes for Communicators:

Here’s hoping your Friday is as enjoyable as these presentations!

I had the pleasure of attending an event last week at which humorist Dave Barry was the keynote speaker. As you may be able to deduce from my lunatic-like grin, I am a big fan of Mr. Barry’s. I was very excited about hearing him speak and had been looking forward to the event for several months. I wasn’t disappointed. Dave Barry was hilarious. The audience was doubled over in their chairs with laughter for most of his talk.


After the event was over, I reflected on the lessons that could be excavated from his talk. What words of wisdom could be parsed from the humor and held like fragile gems of truth to be used later? If you’ve read Dave Barry’s work, either as a columnist for the Miami Herald or as the author of a few dozen books, you likely know the answer already. None.

That’s right. Dave Barry didn’t impart any words of wisdom or gems of truth. He didn’t lecture about the ways in which we could all work to improve the world. And he didn’t prosthelytize any political position. He just made us laugh. He told funny stories that were funny because they were true. And the stories made us laugh.

So, what does this have to do with employment law, or human resources, or the modern workplace? In some ways, a lot. I don’t know about you, but there are days at work that I wish would be over sooner rather than later. Work can be stressful. And so can life. But the things that raise our blood pressure, usually, are trivial when viewed from the right perspective. The key is in getting the right perspective.

The next time you find yourself grinding your teeth over the day-to-day aggravations of life, try to take a deep breath and relax. Maybe tell yourself (or someone else) a lousy joke that makes you laugh. Or pick up a Dave Barry book and laugh out loud as you read. And remember, things are almost certainly not so bad.

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.


Admittedly, 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?

Either way, the sheer extremity of the sign makes me laugh. And that’s enough of a reason to post it as this Friday’s Funny. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

The job application and screening process is key to finding and retaining valuable employees. As employment attorneys, we talk a lot about the Do’s and Don’ts of job interviews and background checks. So, when we came across Thomas Edison’s job interview quiz, we thought it was worth a look.  What we discovered is that we couldn’t get a job with Thomas Edison. Could you?

You may recall our previous post about a young lawyer who sued his former employer. The lawyer, Gregory Berry, had sent an email to the firm’s partners, in which he stated, “it has become clear that I have as much experience and ability as an associate many years my senior, as much skill writing, and a superior legal mind to most I have met.” Not surprisingly, Mr. Berry’s arrogance was not well received, and he lost his job. He then sued his former employer, seeking over $75 million in damages.

Mr. Berry must have been stunned, then, when his lawsuit was dismissed earlier this week. The court dismissed the suit on the grounds that Mr. Berry had executed a valid release of his claims in exchange for a $27,000 severance payment. Consequently, his claims were barred. The court rejected Mr. Berry’s argument that he signed the “unconscionable” agreement under economic duress.

But this story isn’t over! In keeping with the self-aggrandizing attitude evident in Mr. Berry’s email, he left the Courtroom before the Judge had finished issuing her ruling. She has now ordered the parties to attend a hearing on January 24, for purposes of considering a contempt ruling against Mr. Berry, reports Above the Law.

So what is the lesson to be learned for employers? Well, I suppose there’s the idea that there’s no way to guarantee you won’t get sued. Despite the existence of a valid severance agreement and a substantial cash payent, the law firm still got hit with a lawsuit–and the aggravation and expense that goes with it. If there is a lesson here, it may be that you can never be too selective in your hiring decisions.

In today’s litigious society, it’s always nice to take a step back and appreciate the problems we don’t have–even if that means indulging in a little schadenfreude. In that spirit, I give you the story of Jill McGlone, a civil servant in Norfolk Virginia. calendar and clock

Ms. McGlone has sued her former employer for wrongful termination. Generally an employee’s allegations of wrongful termination don’t raise eyebrows,  but this case presents unique circumstances. Ms. McGlone was terminated in 2010, after a 12-year paid suspension, during which time she allegedly received approximately $320,000 in compensation. It is also alleged that during her suspension, McGlone continued to receive benefits and annual raises.

It’s still unclear how Ms. McGlone’s situation was allowed to continue for 12 years. It appears that after she was suspended in 1998 for alleged workplace misconduct, her supervisor never resolved her employment status. The issue was not reviewed again until 2010, when a new director was appointed to oversee the agency for which Ms. McGlone “worked.” Since Ms. McGlone’s situation came to light, five other individuals have been terminated for allowing her suspension to continue unresolved. Possible civil and criminal charges are still being considered.

The moral of the story: don’t suspend your employees with pay for 12 years, and be glad you’re not being threatened with litigation for correcting the situation!

Contact Information