Thursday, February 27, 2014

How Rude!

Incivility, Rudeness and Disrespect at Work

Given the many examples of rude, inconsiderate and downright mean behavior we see all around us in the world, we can sometimes wonder if we really live in a civilized society.

Stressed and angry commuters cut others off in traffic; shoppers barrel their way through the store to get the last popular item on sale; we’d prefer to use the ATM or self-serve check-outs rather than deal with a surly or unhelpful bank teller or sales clerk; political campaigns sound like belligerent children not getting their way.

Is it just a lack of manners, or have we grown into a self-centered, selfish lot who thinks we’re the center of the universe and everyone else is only here to cater to our needs? Many think this is just the millennial, but I think we all know it goes far beyond just that group.

It used to be we could at least expect civil behavior at work. But that doesn’t seem to be the case now, either. What cost does it exact? It can be more psychologically damaging than harassment or even isolated incidents of violence because it’s more insidious and ongoing. 

Researchers Christine Porath, Ph.D., associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and Christine Pearson, Ph.D., professor of global leadership at Thunderbird School of Global Management have conducted research on incivility in the workplace and it’s costs for many years. They also co-authored a book titled, "The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility Is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It." 
Their research points out that the costs of rudeness and incivility eat away at the bottom line. While nearly everyone who experiences such behavior reacts negatively, some will overtly retaliate. Employees are less creative when they are treated disrespectfully, and many end up quitting. Studies showed that about half knowingly and deliberately decrease their effort or lower the quality of their work. Incivility damages customer relationships, both when employees are rude and disrespectful to customers, but when customers see such behavior directed at others; customers don’t want to deal with a company that would tolerate such behavior. Porath and Pearson say that witnessing just a single unpleasant interaction leads customers to generalize about other employees, the organization, and even the brand.

The costs to the organization can be significant. Among workers who’ve been on the receiving end of incivility:

  • 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident
  • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender
  • 66% said that their performance declined
  • 78% said that their commitment to the organization declined
  • 12% said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment
  • 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers
  • Are unhappy with how incivility is handled at their company or organization (3 out of 4 companies)
  • Are afraid to say anything about incivility due to repercussions or they will not be up for promotion if they do (more than 50%)
  • Have reported incivility to their HR department or Employee Relations Manager (9%)

What does incivility and disrespect at work look like? Here are some examples:

  • Using someone else's ideas or initiatives as your own to gain a higher status in the company
  • Not admitting when mistakes are made or blaming others for mistakes
  • Routinely being late for meetings, or "forgetting" about them
  • Being physically "absent" at meetings by not participating or focusing on the agenda, texting or emailing (or otherwise not paying attention)
  • Interrupting to get your idea across and keeping others from having their opportunity
  • Demanding or expecting others do your bidding without the niceties of "thank you" or "please"
  • Not being considerate of others’ time and schedules
  • Keeping crucial and non-crucial information to yourself in order to look better than everyone else, or simply not being considerate enough to pass along needed information
  • Avoiding issues that need to be addressed or letting others face the consequences on their own
  • Not following policies, procedures, workplace rules; with an attitude that they don’t or shouldn’t apply to you
  • Expecting others to pick up or clean up after you
  • Not answering emails or phone calls and leaving folks stranded by not offering support or answering questions
  • Having temper tantrums when under stress or when things do not go as planned
  • Purposely embarrassing folks in front of others and creating an atmosphere of fear and hostility
A certain level of conflict is important in organizations, and yet employees and managers often don’t know how to express conflict in a healthy way. As leaders, we have to realize that conflict is a vital and necessary part of organizational success. Properly managed, disagreements can lead to healthy, constructive conversations that result in creativity, innovation and a shared sense of accomplishment.

In order to build and maintain a viable, healthy organization that is capable of reaching its full potential we must be able to manage our interpersonal relationships in a way that promotes positive interactions that are civil and respectful. We can accomplish that in several ways.

  • As a leader insist that your organization will focus on civility in the workplace
  • Create and communicate expectations regarding the topic of civility in the workplace and encourage participation from others to set standards and ground rules
  • Follow up and document through your performance management process
  • Be consistent and address issues immediately to help eliminate stressful and unwarranted incivility in the workplace
  • Expect civility of everyone in the workplace.
The results can be very rewarding and include decreased turnover, better employee morale and engagement, more productivity, creativity and quality. Remember, as a plaque in a co-worker’s office says "Because Nice Matters!"

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Romance in the Workplace

Oh, what a tangled web they weave….

Okay, I should have posted this last week but I already had a post written and I was busy dealing with two feet of snow. *sigh* But, this is a timeless topic, right? Much to the headache of many an HR pro, yes it is.

CareerBuilder timely and topical as ever, released their annual Valentine’s Day survey on office romances, with some rather interesting responses. They surveyed over 3,000 full-time private sector workers and found that 38% of them have dated someone who works for the same company (16% have done so more than once). Thirty-one percent of those ended up marrying their workplace sweetheart. That’s a lot of hookin’ up going on! Scarier is that 20% said one of the people in the relationship was already married (to someone else) at the time. That makes for a fun time around the water cooler.

Against all career advice to the contrary, 24% of respondents have dated someone higher up in the organization, including the boss. It’s not surprising to find that only 3% of them stated that doing so helped them progress in their career.

We spend a lot of our time at work; some of us spend a lot of time with co-workers outside of normal business hours, too. It’s not too hard to understand how romantic connections are made with people from work, but is it smart? And how does management and HR deal with these romances – the ones that "work" and the ones that don’t?

First, I think it’s important to accept the fact that not only is it probably not a great idea to ban all workplace romances, dating, etc., but that it would really be impossible to prevent them. And really, do you want to be the love police? I think not.

However, there are situations where an employer is either smart, or compelled to intervene.

Late last year, SHRM conducted a survey of their own about workplace romance policies. Author Dana Wilkie tells us many more companies have implemented policies, wanting to protect themselves from claims of sexual harassment and prevent favoritism, or the perception of favoritism, that can damage morale and productivity. The number of companies with policies has doubled in the last 8 years.

Survey respondents said they worried office romances would lead to public displays of affection, sharing of confidential information, gossip among co-workers and even a negative image of the company because the relationship may be seen as unprofessional.

If implementing a workplace romance policy, an option is to ban all dating entirely. Again, I think this is unreasonable and unenforceable, but an option nonetheless. Most policies prohibit supervisors from dating a direct report, appropriately I think. Others prohibit romances between employees with different ranks, regardless of the reporting relationship or department in which they work. I sincerely believe this is the smart way to go. The imbalance of power that exists in such a relationship is risky on many fronts – from the clear legal risk of sexual harassment claims to the risk of the perceived favoritism that will cause productivity and morale/fairness issues.

Another option is what’s commonly called a "love contract" or a consensual relationship agreement. These are gaining some popularity, but carry their own risks. Such agreements are designed to allow employees to disclose relationships while protecting the employer from liability in the event the relationship goes sour. They often include language addressing the voluntary nature of the couple’s relationship, the necessity to comply with the company’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, workplace behavior and the possible change of reporting relationships.

While some companies may see the benefit in such agreements, it’s important to realize that no agreement can totally protect against legal claims of harassment or discrimination. It’s too easy for the least powerful of the couple to claim that signing the agreement was coerced!

What should we do with workplace romances? The answer is a bit different depending on the players.

Supervisor/subordinate: I’ll include people of differing ranks here, not just direct supervisor and report. I would strongly advise that any policy, whether written or unwritten, prohibit such relationships. Again, the imbalance of power is too great a risk. The perception and the consequences of that perception, of that relationship are way too destructive to tolerate. Should such a relationship happen, your options are fairly limited: a) terminate the supervisor; b) transfer one of them if possible (preferably the supervisor) and live with the ongoing risk. Neither option is ideal, but then again having a supervisor make such an irresponsible decision isn’t ideal, either.

Co-worker/co-worker: I think the best you can expect is to manage what happens in the workplace. Punishing employees who are on an equal footing for their personal relationship isn’t going to win you any awards and will garner accusations of unreasonably interfering with people’s personal lives. However, you can control what goes on during work time. If having the two people working in the same department or working close to one another is problematic, separate them. They then won’t be able to allow their relationship to interfere with their work. At any rate, sit down with them and be clear about what you expect from them in terms of behavior on the job and your expectation that their relationship will not interfere with either their performance, or the performance of others. You should include mention of what may happen if the relationship ends badly. Are you prepared to deal with the fallout at work?

Office romances can be very tricky and may sometimes drift into the realm of the truly uncomfortable or dangerous. They can be handled, but carefully. Personally, I think that being involved in a sexual relationship with anyone at work is especially stupid and will most likely end badly, one way or another. Having said that, I also know several couples who met at work and are now married and live quite happily with no problems displayed at work. It can happen! Just make sure you’re aware of the pitfalls and manage the risk.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Transition from Employee to Management

We often move employees into supervisory or management positions because they’re good at what they do, not because they’re good at managing people. Proper training in people and management skills can remedy this. However, there are times when the issue is that the employee never makes the transition from employee to management. They don’t understand their new role is quite a bit different from their old role. That mental shift into the role of manager or supervisor is vitally important to their success, and the success of their function within the organization. Failing to make this transition can lead to dysfunctional teams at best and legal problems at worst.

Whether we’re talking about new managers, or those who have been in that role for years, there are several "mistakes" that are common. What are they and what can be done to avoid them?

Recognizing they’re no longer one of that group, but accepting they’re part of a new team. Friends gossip, go out together, and complain about work and the boss. There is no room for their manager in these kinds of relationships. Understanding the everyday responsibilities of a new position is the easy part; the finer points of this new role are often harder to gauge. For example, is it appropriate for you to go out with the team after work? Can you joke around with co-workers like you did before? There are no easy answers, except to say one thing is clear: they’ll need to set new boundaries as a supervisor.

For instance, previously, they may have confided in co-workers when frustrated with management decisions. But now as a member of the management team, they must set the example. This means using discretion, and offering support and guidance, not complaints, however harmless they may seem.

Learning to delegate. Before becoming a manager, most people were used to just doing their own job. They could concentrate on doing it well, and were most likely good at that job. But now, a good part of the job is getting things done, not necessarily to do it themselves. Managers need to rely on, and utilize their team to get the work done. If they don't delegate, they'll have too much to do, other people won't have enough and they'll get frustrated. 

Being responsible for others’ performance. Managers are responsible for getting results by helping other people to perform as well as they can. They’re not just responsible for their own results any more, they’ll be judged by how well the team, the group, the department performs.

They now need to think about how to get the best out of others. All that "management" stuff, like delegation, giving feedback, and training, coaching, motivating and developing other people becomes important and essential to getting the job done. Correcting, redirecting and sometimes disciplining also become essential. This is probably the most difficult thing for (new) managers or supervisors to do. This is where the transition breaks down. They cannot see themselves being in a management role having to correct or discipline a "co-worker". Sometimes the light bulb goes off when they are faced with being unable to do their job, to complete a project or other task, because one of their staff has not delivered as expected.

Becoming a role model. As managers we’re seen as role models. Whether we present a positive role model or a negative one is up to us, and we have to realize that we are in fact being watched by our employees. Before becoming managers didn’t we look at the person who was our manager and make judgments about the way he or she behaved? Did you never think, "Well, if I was a manager, I wouldn't do that."? Or, "Wow, this person's great. If I ever become a manager, I want to be just like that." People will look at us now and, based on our behavior, will make adjustments to the way they behave themselves. They'll look to us to set the standard for what's acceptable and what's expected. If you set the bar low, don't expect them to raise it.

Managers have to model the work performance, attendance, and conduct they expect from others. They need to show people what it means to have integrity, a strong work ethic, and a strong commitment to the organization’s mission and values. Practice what you preach … walk the talk.

Practice discretion. Often, as a manager, you have access to all kinds of confidential information. Being discreet can be difficult, especially with people you’ve known for a while. Managers should be open and honest, but need to remember there are boundaries. You simply can’t be discussing everything with your buddies.

A different way of contributing. Before becoming a manager or supervisor, their value to the organization was measured by what they, as individuals, could contribute. That contribution came via the quality and quantity of the work they were hired to do. As managers, their value to the organization is assessed differently. It’s no longer about how successful they are in what they do alone. Now it’s about how successful their team is because of what they do. They now have a different purpose of getting results through others. That can be scary. It means you have to rely on others to contribute to your success, and figure out how to cultivate the atmosphere that will result in their employees’ success.

A need for consistency and accountability. Rules and guidelines are only meaningful when they are followed and enforced. While employees must be told (and, really, want to be told) what the expectations will be, that’s only half the battle. Managers must then actually deliver on what they tell employees. They have to hold all the people accountable for following all the rules (boundaries) all the time. It’s critically important to address each policy, procedure, or behavioral conduct violation. The resulting consequences may vary somewhat depending on the circumstances, but what cannot vary is the practice of confronting issues. Allowing some things or some employees to slide is dangerous. You risk:

  • Creating an atmosphere where employees decide which rules are important and which ones can be "stretched" or ignored;
  • Exposing yourself, and therefore your company, to charges of favoritism or discrimination;
  • Losing the respect of the members of your team;
  • Possible legal issues resulting from failing to address problems or follow the law.

Talking about the expectations and boundaries is not enough; they must be consistently enforced as well. As an HR professional, I hit hard on these issues and always will. This is the stuff of which lawsuits and other legal penalties are made.

Whether new to the management/supervision role or not, understanding their new role and aligning themselves with their new peer group (management) is critical. A common mistake is thinking the relationships they had before with their co-workers are still the same. They must now remember they are responsible for directing their work and evaluating their performance. They may still be their equal, but they are no longer peers.

A new manager or supervisor should be taught how to respond to inappropriate or awkward requests that may come from former coworkers. They need to be taught how to evaluate performance and be aware of rater errors in the performance appraisal process so they don’t get caught in making biased evaluations. In short, new managers need training, too, so they can get busy training and developing their staff to accomplish their goals.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Non-Verbal Communication in Interviewing and Hiring:

What you see is what you get – believe it

First impressions are powerful. Whether in our personal lives, or professional lives, we often make decisions based on those first few minutes, or even seconds, of contact. Interviewing is no different. As HR folk and hiring managers, we are continually reminded to be very careful of making decisions on what could be either erroneous or biased information. However, non-verbal cues displayed in an interview can be chock full of useful information and we should be paying attention.

Some studies have found that nonverbal communication accounts for more than two-thirds of our impressions; others say more than 90% of our communication in non-verbal in nature. And, as described by Malcolm Gladwell our split-second judgments based on these impressions are usually very accurate. Becoming more aware of the nonverbal signals you are receiving, as well as those you may be sending, can be a big help when it comes to interviewing job candidates.

It’s often said that the interview begins before the candidate even makes it into your office. It begins in the lobby, or even before. It’s always a good idea to observe how a candidate behaves while waiting for the interview to begin. What is his demeanor? How does she treat the receptionist? As the CEO Henry Albrecht of Limeade recently stated "We don’t hire jerks None. Ever". I seriously doubt any of us intend to hire jerks, but picking up on potential jerk-like behavior at the start is just good practice.

Here are some other non-verbal cues you may see and what they may convey about your applicant and her potential for success in your organization.

The Greeting. How does the applicant greet you? Does she give you a solid firm handshake or a weak and limp one? This can give you an idea of your candidate’s self-esteem. The handshake should be firm, but not overpowering. Someone who squeezes too hard could be signaling an overbearing personality, aggressiveness or even over-compensation for low self-esteem. A weak handshake may also signal low self-confidence or simple timidness, potentially negative points for your work place.

Clothing (and accessories). Regardless of the level of position for which you’re hiring, a professional and appropriate appearance is vital. Even lower-paid and lower-skilled applicants should be dressing neatly, cleanly, and appropriate for the environment. It may be that clean, intact jeans and a button down shirt are appropriate, but shorts and flip-flops are never appropriate. Dirty fingernails or scuffed shoes tell you the person is careless, too hurried, or unaware of the impression they have on others. Showing for an interview dressed in such a careless, thoughtless way can convey a careless and thoughtless applicant. Or at the very least, one that is clueless to what is acceptable in the workplace. This type of attitude often continues on and shows up in the person’s performance and conduct on the job.

Posture. The best candidates will be sitting upright with good posture, but still at ease. Slouching can be a sign of sloppiness, laziness or even arrogance. This will surely spill over into their work if hired. Good posture conveys attentiveness and confidence.

Eye contact. Pay attention to the candidate’s eye contact. Is his gaze direct and at ease, or does he glance furtively at you, around the room, or at the floor? Maintaining eye contact longer indicates more self-confidence. Beware though, constant eye contact, with no breaks at all, can also be a danger signal: rigidity, aggressiveness or the attempt to fake sincerity.

Tone and manner of speech. The candidate should speak in an even tone and clearly without mumbling. If you hire someone who mumbles or whispers in an interview, this may be a meek employee who won’t take much initiative in the workplace or lacks the confidence to do so. It can also be a sign the candidate is being less than truthful. Someone who is too loud during the interview may also be aggressive; consider how this type of trait will fit in with your other employees.

This is also a good time to pay attention to any discrepancies between what the applicant is saying and what non-verbal cues are being displayed. Something as simple as answering "no" to a question, but displaying a subtle nod of the head bears your attention and should prompt further questioning. Jiggling of the feet or legs while answering may just be nerves, but can also be a sign of a less than straightforward answer. The best approach is to ask a lot of questions. If someone is not being entirely truthful, it will be harder to maintain a lie under more detailed questioning.

You should pay attention to your intuition about a candidate. Use that information, along with the objective information about skills and experience you collect during the interview to make your decision.

The Santa Rosa, California-based offers more information. Communication during an interview takes place on several levels: 7 percent verbal, 38 percent tone of voice and 55 percent body language. While the job applicant may say one thing, the subconscious often reveals the truth through nonverbal behavior. By observing and correctly interpreting these communication skills, even if rehearsed, you can greatly improve your hiring decisions.