I was engaged once. It was 1988 and in between a course of sweetbreads and lamb at the Millcroft Inn in Alton, Ontario, the blue-eyed guy across from me popped the question. I looked at the ring, and I looked at him, and I said, “yes”. In other words, I said (on the inside), “I find you very attractive, I have no idea how this story might end, but yes, I think there are good odds here and I’m game to give it a shot”. After all, we were very young, we had no money, but we had high hopes for the future. We set a date.
During engagement, you buy an expensive dress you’ll never wear again, and you fuss over the strange details of a hopefully once-in-a-lifetime ceremony. You drive your friends and family crazy. Then once the engagement is over and you’ve settled in, you find true happiness.
I’ve thought about this as it relates to the workplace.
Do we need engagement? Or do we need that sense of settling in and happiness?
I think it is the latter.
I’m not sure we are at our best during the engagement. There are reasons why there are TV shows about bridezillas. There is frenzied anticipation and many, many details. There are a lot of things to balance, with time always seeming to be at a premium. Our goal is to have a lovely wedding. We fret at not being able to see much beyond that day. It is when the engagement is over that we have a routine and new goals and a longer-term outlook. We fall more deeply in love with our spouse. That’s happiness.
I fully realize that not everyone on the engagement bandwagon agrees with me. They argue that an engaged employee is not necessarily a happy employee and they argue that a happy employee may be happy because their work isn’t challenging, which doesn’t benefit the business. Ok, fair enough. That said, perhaps I’m being overly technical but the definition of engagement does not include the word motivation (in fact, appointment is a synonym for engagement). Ultimately, motivation is another positive side effect of being settled in to a role where you have confidence. Again, during engagement you are not settled in yet.
So how can you achieve a workplace full of happy people? Try these strategies:
- Find ways to include your employees in long-term planning. So often we set short-term goals in our planning without thinking about how this contributes to the big picture. The more employees can see themselves in your organization 3, 5, 7 years down the road, the more likely they will contribute in ways that will ensure the organization is sustainable.
- Love your organization. Love your employees. I’m talking to you HR. Some of the best organizations out there have amazing programs not only for current employees but also alums. Make it a family atmosphere full of positivity and mutual respect by focusing on programs designed to be supportive of the whole employee, at 24 and 64. The workplace should feel safe and a place to find your centre. This can’t happen in a place where there isn’t an environment of mutual trust.
- Lessen the distractions. People focus best when they aren’t surrounded by a myriad of distractions. They’re happy when the details are set. If that means organizing central pick up for dry cleaning, providing access to a concierge service or being more flexible about work arrangements, go for it.
If you think of your employees after the engagement, the onboarding, all that preliminary stuff, and make the workplace feel like an extension of home, you’re well on your way to achieving workplace happiness.
About the author: Bonni Titgemeyer is the Managing Director of The Employers’ Choice Inc. She has been in human resources for 20+ years and works in the international HR arena. She is the recipient of the 2012 Toronto Star HR Professional of the Year Award. You can connect with Bonni on Twitter as @BonniToronto, often at the hashtag #TEPHR.
Success is the primary objective of every business. But what exactly is success and how is it measured? To many it’s determined by financial gain, and behind financial gain there is always one thing that has set the path – happiness.
With so much emphasis on profit it’s all-to-easy to lose sight of your employees, the backbone of your business. Contrary to popular belief, good business isn’t always about investing in products or services, but investing in people. So before you start analysing statistics to look for a magic formula, take a step back and ask yourself, “are my employees happy?”
Improving Employee Engagement
A hefty paycheck, light workload and long holidays won’t always yield positive results. On the other hand, incentive programmes, career advancement opportunities, and making sure good work doesn’t go unnoticed is directly linked to job satisfaction. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, conducted a study entitled, Does Happiness Lead to Success? She states that if you implement a daily dose of positivity, your employees will be more engaged and motivated, which will lead to better job performance, – “happy people frequently experience positive moods and these positive moods prompt them to work actively towards new goals.”
Implementing a “Happiness Strategy”
Whether you run a large scale corporation or small business, implementing a “happiness strategy” should be a crucial part of your business model. Google recognises the importance of balance between working and personal life and allows their employees to dedicate up to 20% of their time to a project of their choosing. This has resulted in innovations such as AdSense and GoogleTalk. While small businesses may not have the finances to make such bold investments, changes can still be implemented.
It’s no secret that healthy living greatly contributes to happiness. Coors Brewing Corporation reported a $6.15 return for every $1 that they invested into their corporate fitness programme. In addition, Currency Index reported a 43% drop on absenteeism during the 12 months following implementation of their employee fitness scheme. Again, while investing in an on-site gym may be out of reach for your business, allowing your employees to take a little time out of their schedule to exercise could significantly increase their productivity.
Make Happiness Your Priority
Happiness is often considered a by-product of success. Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, has a very different philosophy. Achor states, “Your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed.” His studies have concluded that happiness is actually the driving force behind success and has started sharing his theories with businesses throughout the world.
If you’re serious about long-term financial success, take a leaf out of Achor’s book and make happiness your priority. Start today. Before you dismiss your employees for lunch or send them home, take a few minutes out of your schedule to make the rounds and give them some positive encouragement. A compliment will go a long way.
About the Author: Jenna Evans works part-time as an Employee Relations Adviser at Tollers Solicitors. She enjoys eating far too many noodles and travelling. She is also in the early stages of researching for a book related to empowering women in business.
In a competitive business climate, retaining key employees is vital for the health of the company. But when these key employees are women, many corporations and industries continue to be befuddled as to how to retain this valuable cohort.
Indeed, it’s surprising how many supposedly modern institutions are caught in a time-warp. Unfair compensation, gender imbalance in senior management positions, inflexible schedules and even active discouragement of female employees continue to plague companies large and small.
The good news is, a few simple steps can vastly improve conditions for female employees. And the benefits of maintaining a women-friendly environment far outweigh the costs. Retaining employees – male or female – is just good business sense when you consider both the obvious and hidden costs of a high rate of employee turnover.
One of the more obvious steps is fair compensation. It should go without saying that, after years of being treated as second-class employees, women first and foremost want to feel as equally valued as their male counterparts. Fair wages are just a start.
Fair compensation should also include bonuses and benefits. And women don’t want to feel like they will be punished for wanting a work/life balance. The lack of a flexible schedule is cited as the number one reason employees leave for other jobs, so companies should ensure they are able to accommodate their workers’ need to spend time with family or on other projects. Telecommuting, a compressed work week, collaborative scheduling and self-scheduling can all factor into employee happiness and job satisfaction. Maternity benefits, childcare, and maternity leave should be included in employment packages.
Greater gender balance in the workplace, especially in leadership positions, can pave the way for women to feel that they too can succeed. When women see other women rising within a company, they realize that it is possible for them to rise to senior positions as well.
To this end, the smart employer will consider introducing mentorship programs to encourage high-potential female employees to aspire to senior leadership roles. Women’s networks can be critical retention tools as well, particularly for employees at their mid-career level. Retraining and re-entry training for women who have temporarily left the workforce are also valuable tools in your retention box.
Professional development, career coaching, and grooming for bigger projects and promotions, as well as guidance regarding each woman’s career trajectory, are invaluable in retaining female employees.
Executive presence training is one option to consider. A 2012 Forbes article cited a study by the non-profit New York organization Center for Talent Innovation that said being perceived as leadership material is essential to being promoted into leadership positions. The article went on to say that “the 268 senior executives surveyed said ‘executive presence’ counts for 26% of what it takes to get promoted.”
Women who are trained to develop an executive-type persona in terms of gravitas – that is, confidence, poise under pressure and decisiveness – as well as communication and appearance become more confident and are better able to command a room, thereby clearing a path to high-stakes and high-visibility positions.
By utilizing some or all of these ideas, companies can benefit from a healthier and more balanced work environment. It just makes sense.
As VP of Marketing, Bimal Parmar manages the global marketing strategy and execution at Celayix. With over 20 years industry experience, Bimal is responsible for making sure the world learns about the benefits of Celayix’s solutions that include: advanced employee scheduling, time and attendance, employee communication as well as integration modules for payroll and billing. Before joining Celayix, Bimal was Vice President of Marketing at Faronics, a leading provider of IT solutions for the Education vertical where he helped grow revenue over 50% and launched exciting new solutions. Prior to that Bimal held senior marketing and product roles at technology companies such as Business Objects and McAfee Security where he gained significant international experience working with global companies such as Microsoft, Dell, Sony, HP, Orange, Telefonica and Ricoh.
Photo credit iStockphoto
[Editor's Note: Many of our Women of HR writers also maintain their own blogs. Please enjoy this post from Kimberly Patterson, originally posted on Unconventional HR.]
When I hear folks speak about how proud they are to be a loyal employee I want to cringe. Be loyal to yourself, your partner, close friends, family and your pet. Do you think your loyalty will be reciprocated when your company is facing tough times and has to review numbers and headcount for a RIF?
It’s not realistic for employees to be loyal to companies or for companies to be loyal to employees. And it’s not a bad thing — here’s why…
If you’re an employee and believe that your loyalty will be remembered by your employer when it’s time for the tough decisions, my question to you is, “why on earth would you place your career decisions entirely in the hands of someone else?” Not only will working at one place for too long make you stale, you’re giving up the control of managing your own career. What if your manager retires, transfers or gets a new gig outside of the company? So much for all of those years of loyalty. Do you think your manager is going to present a succession plan for you on their way out the door? Avoid being naive and recognize the excess of “dog eat dog” attitudes in Corporate America.
I’ve seen business owners in smaller organizations be loyal to employees by making sure they receive salary increases and bonuses every year — for basically showing up for work. That’s okay, only to a point. Is it because companies don’t want to go through the pain of hiring new talent? Can business owners and leaders honestly say that this employee who has been working for them for the last 15 years is continually growing and that growing is positively impacting their business? Or does having an employee come in on time, day after day, equal loyalty? For many business owners it does. And good for them. Or is it? I believe that business owners are doing themselves, their employees and their company a disservice by not embracing fresh eyes and new talent.
Here’s how employees can be considered loyal:
- Do your job and do it well — that’s being loyal to yourself.
- Take pride in your work.
- Never stop learning and advancing in your field.
- Don’t take risks at work to prove your loyalty to anyone for any reason — it may come back to bite you.
- Never believe someone who says, “I’ll take you with me.” That’s just stupid.
Remember that as quickly as decisions are made in organizations is just as quickly as those decisions can change. You should always have your Plan B tucked away in your back pocket because no one else will.
Here’s how companies and managers can be loyal:
- Don’t stifle employees. Let them grow and encourage them to seek out new opportunities.
- Keeping employees under your thumb is comfortable but puts laziness over progress.
Once you bring fresh eyes and new talent to your business, you’ll wonder how you ever got along doing the same old thing day after day.
Kimberly Patterson is the founder of Unconventional HR. An HR pro turned consultant, she has 25 years of progressive experience as a strategic HR and business leader in a variety of industries. Her hands-on and innovative approach allows her to create and deliver HR solutions to meet business challenges and needs by managing human capital, talent acquisition and technology. Connect with her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kimberly_patt, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have had a really, really, really good year so far as an HR consultant. I have not been able to say that since 2007 and 2003 before that. In my opinion, one of the main reasons I have been so busy is because managers are consistently getting the wrong people on the bus (a Jim Collins term for the organization). I suspect it is because they don’t know what they don’t know and they are not putting the time and effort in the beginning of the process to get it right from the get go.
In order to be successful at interviewing and selection, I think it would benefit all managers if they read the book Good to Great, by Jim Collins. He refers to getting the right “who” (people/employees) on the “bus” (the organization) and making sure the “who” is going the right direction. Going the right direction is the “what” (the specific job) which ultimately means making sure they are doing the right things the right way. He says the first and most important thing is getting the right “who” aboard. You have to do a good job in recruiting and selection, getting the “right” people on the bus first. Then you worry about the what.
One of the main reasons I have been so busy this year is because many companies are just not focusing on the number one thing – they are not doing a good job of recruiting and selecting the right “who.” I don’t think it’s purposeful at all; I think perhaps they just don’t have the right tools in the interviewing toolbox, and in some cases never had them or don’t realize they are missing. Perhaps it’s one of those skills that everyone thinks they can do without any formalized training. Just like everyone thinks they can do HR — everyone thinks they recruit, interview and select.
They are WRONG!
Not everybody understands how to screen, probe, and research the who to make sure they are the right “who” to fit in the job and organization for which they are interviewing. Talent management is really and truly an art to perfect once the basic skills are learned. These skills are not ones that you are born with; you absolutely have to learn the best tips and techniques.
The result of assumimg you “got it when you don’t” is BAD Hires with BAD attitudes!
Here are just a few examples of problems I have been dealing with as a direct result of bad hires (“who’s” that have):
• Become disgruntled employees
• Sabotage the employer
• Do whatever they can to get back at the employer
• Call the attorneys to initiate a lawsuit against the employer and/or coworkers
• Call the federal agencies like the department of labor or EEOC
• Call the state human rights department
The list can go on and all this creates drama and takes a lot of time, energy, and money away from the success of the organization, and quite frankly away from the employees when you consider the bigger picture. The afterthought: “Had the management done a good job in the beginning they might not be in the place they are now – calling consultants, like myself, or an attorney to help bail them out of these kinds of problems.”
Additional skill is required to develop the right behavioral based questions to help more accurately predict the KASO’s needed for the “what.” Are the right questions being asked even once you do have the right who? The “what” interview questions determine prior training for the job and doing the right things the right way. Often interviewers will tend to ask questions around the topic but not specific enough to really determine whether the interviewee knows the job and can perform the job effectively. In some cases the “what” can be taught, and other cases you don’t really have time to train the person. Managers should seek the right training and not assume they have it. The cost of replacement can be up to a year’s worth of salary.
Learning how to effectively find the right ”who” and “what” need a formalized training program. Over the years I have use DDI’s Target Selection Program, which I was trained on early in my career and have used ever since. My training included not only how to use the program as an interviewer, but also how to train others on it. While I have not formally trained anyone using the program, I still feel it is one of the most effective tools available.
There are a number of books by William Byham, Ph.D. that are very good resources for both the interviewer and the interviewee focusing on the targeted selection process. I often recommend The Selection Solution: Solving the Mystery of Matching People to Jobs and Landing the Job You Want: How to Have the Best Job Interview of Your Life. The basis of both is looking at prior experience as a predictor of future success.
I know there are many other techniques available; what I would like to emphasize is there are preventative measures managers can and should take to ensure that they are interviewing the right way. Thus they need to look in the mirror and take responsibility for the bad hires they make instead of blaming the employee.
Get the right “who” and then determine if the right who knows the “what” and/or can be trained. You have to know what the “who” and “what” is in the first place to know how to ask for it in the right way. Turnover will go down, retention will go up, replacement costs will go down, and everybody will be happy, happy, happy!
Photo credit iStockphoto
With social media, what you don’t know can seriously hurt your organization. One 2010 survey found that employees estimate spending roughly four hours every day checking multiple email accounts, with up to two hours spent on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. A 2012 Salary.com survey found that 64 percent of employees visit non-work related websites daily. And don’t think blocking employee access to social media on company networks is the answer; personal smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, and easily fill the gap.
The rub for today’s organizations is that while social media use at work has definite risks, it also is one of the best ways to empower and engage employees. Increasingly, in our connected 24/7 businesses, the line between work and personal time is blurring. This is especially true for Generation Y employees; as long as they meet deadlines and deliver, these employees don’t feel that it’s particularly useful to distinguish between time spent updating Twitter or engaged in team meetings. Organizations may beg to differ, especially when an offensive or inappropriate blog post or tweet can damage their brand, lower employee morale, and even lead to workplace lawsuits.
Yet, most organizations don’t really know how their employees are using social media, either personally or professionally, let alone what impact it’s having on employees’ overall levels of productivity.
That’s why it’s so important, before you set policy, to know how your managers currently handle social media use at work, as well as how its use by employees is effecting their management. Get at these fundamental issues by asking managers five key questions:
- Have your employees’ use of social media ever triggered a workplace lawsuit or regulatory investigation?
- What impact have your employees’ personal use of social media during work hours had, if any, on their productivity?
- How do you use social media, if at all, to help manage your projects and employees?
- Have you reviewed all applicable federal and state laws governing electronic data content, usage, monitoring, privacy, e-discovery, data encryption, business records and other legal issues in all jurisdictions in which you operate, have employees or serve customers?
- Could you comply with a court-ordered “social media audit”, by producing legally compliant business blog posts, email messages, text messages and other electronically stored information (ESI) within 990 days?
Social media can speed innovation and collaboration, but ONLY if your employees know how to both use it as well as steer clear of its many pitfalls. Start by asking managers these simple questions; they often surface extremely important information that, especially in larger organizations, you may not have been aware of. Finally, remember that for reasons of both confidentiality and fear, getting access to this sort of information is not always easy. It’s therefore important that organizations create mechanisms by which examples of social media use (and abuse!) can be regularly shared with the broader employee base.
Photo credit iStockphoto
About the author: Steve Miranda is Managing Director of Cornell University’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS), a leading partnership between industry and academia devoted to the field of global human resource management. He is also a faculty author of the new eCornell certificate program,Social Media in HR: From Policy to Practice. Prior to CAHRS, Miranda was Chief Human Resource and Strategic Planning Officer for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest professional HR association, serving over 260,000 members in over 100 countries.
The other day I happened upon the Fast Company article 12 Trends That Will Rule Products In 2013. The article was focused on consumer goods like phones and washing machines, but you know what? The trends listed made sense in the context of the workplace too and here’s why: your employees are consumers. It’s inevitable that their consumer purchasing behavior will shape their attitudes at work as well.
Here are four trends Fast Company listed that have implications for those of us in the human resources and management functions of our companies. These trends are driving employee expectations; a wise organizational leader pays attention to these inclinations and responds accordingly.
Customer-facing employees are your brain and your backbone. The article states, “The crucial element in any customer experience is still people, no matter how much technology has transformed the landscape.” Do not be seduced by what your company’s latest technology can do. The “gee whiz!” factor gets old fast – for both employees and your organization’s external customers.
Worth is determined by philosophy, not price. Can you say “intense, endless salary negotiations?” The Fast Company authors ask, “How do you determine a product’s intrinsic worth?” They say that rather than focusing on price, focus on alignment in values. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Then why is it that when the “product” is a talented job candidate, we often get mired in “nickel-and-diming” during the negotiation process? Either an employee will bring a talent set and corresponding values alignment, or s/he won’t. Are you willing to pay for that? If not, quit wasting your time and theirs.
Narrative is a delivery vehicle to make information stick. The Heath brothers made this point with Made to Stick many years ago, but it bears repeating, because, some of us still haven’t figured it out. For example, company policies and procedures are D.U.L.L. but they’re important to efficient business operation. Where’s the “story” behind why you must implement the new policy? If there’s no compelling narrative, maybe you don’t need that policy after all.
Human interaction has never been more precious. “Look for places to act more human.” We’re all fatigued with automated everything. Sure, we love the convenience, but sometimes we just crave an interactive experience with a real person. Like the Discover TV ad that features a customer who is surprised when an actual human answers her call, as leaders and HR managers, we must remember to value the power of a conversation.
Everyone is a specialist. The other day a colleague told me that they were consolidating job functions in the sales division; their sales reps would move from selling three lines of very complex business to eight. That’s insanity. The Fast Company article states “trying to be everything to everyone is a losing proposition.” I agree. People love to “show what they know” and that’s pretty tough when they must “know” everything.
Taking a seemingly unrelated topic like consumer behavior and applying it to workplace issues can help offer insights we might otherwise overlook. As leaders in our respective functions we can glean new insights on bringing out the best in our employees with a slight tweak in perspective.
What say you? How do you see consumer behavior outside the office influencing the way employees act in the workplace?
About the author: For 20+ years, Jennifer V. Miller has been helping professionals “master the people equation” to maximize their personal influence. A former HR generalist and training manager, she now advises executives on how to create positive, productive workplace environments. She is the founder and Managing Partner of SkillSource and blogs at The People Equation. You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter as @JenniferVMiller.
Image credit: leolintang / 123RF Stock Photo
“”My relationship with the office bully is strained and unproductive. Whenever we interact I get a knot in my stomach.”
If you have experienced something similar, you’re not alone. In 2013, The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) reported that “35% of the US workforce has experienced workplace bullying” (http://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/being-bullied/).
Bullies yell, spread rumors, roll their eyes or “forget” to invite you to meetings. According to WBI, workplace bullying is “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons, by one or more perpetrators in the form of verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behavior and work interference.”
Rakesh Malhotra, founder of Five Global Values, writes “most bullies portray themselves … as polite and respectful, as they are charming in public …” Gretchen, from the movie, Mean Girls, says: “I'm sorry that people are so jealous of me … but I can't help it that I’m popular.” Bullies often see themselves as the victim and don’t get or care how they make others feel. Says one bully, “The biggest problem I have at work is that I don’t get respect from others.”
When bullies run amok in the workplace, they can cause emotional and psychological turmoil. Dr. Gary Namie, who is leading a campaign to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill, which requires employers to implement policies and procedures to prevent workplace bullying, says victims can have “hypertension, auto-immune disorders, depression, anxiety and … have their work and career disrupted.” One victim reports, “I did not go to the satellite office for months because I did not want to see the bully.”
To learn more about workplace bullying, The Lindenberger Group, a New Jersey-based, award-winning human resources firm, conducted written surveys and interviews in 2012. 121 people participated, from age 20 – 65, from companies with 50 – 5,000 + employees, and from a variety of industries.
Over 80% of respondents believe that bullying is a serious problem but fewer than 25% of companies do anything about it.
Bullying includes swearing, shouting, humiliation, and unwarranted criticism and blame. One victim reports, “I had to make a bank deposit so I left the office and locked the door. When the bully could not get in, she called me, screamed, and threatened to have me fired. The next day another employee showed her the office key on her key chain. She never apologized. Her response was just ‘Oh, silly me.’”
ur study, over 50% witnessed or were victims of bullying in their current workplace (60% at a previous company).
Over 95% of victims report increased stress and 90% report lower job satisfaction. Other effects include health complaints (65.4%) and lower productivity (57.9%).
Men are bullies more often (55%) and women are victims most of the time (77.1%). Most victims (59.3%) and bullies (68.6%) are ages 41 – 60 which leads to an interesting question … will Millennials (born 1977 – 1992), reputed to “play well with others”, be less prone to bully?
Another finding is that most bullies (77.6%) are at a level above the victim. In the movie, The Devil Wears Prada, Andy says about her boss, “She's not happy unless everyone around her is panicked, nauseous or suicidal.”
The majority (78.2%) state that no actions were taken to correct bullying. However, when action is taken, coaching is the preferred strategy (50%) followed by termination (38.9%).
Most believe that bullies have psychological issues (88.1%) while others see bullying as career-driven: to weed out competition (60.3%) or get ahead (52.4%). One victim states, “Our office bully needs to listen and manage her temper. She needs to stop throwing people under the bus.”
80% favor laws to prevent workplace bullying but believe that laws have not been passed because employers worry about lawsuits (63%) or don’t understand differences between bullying and harassment (59.7%). Bullying can be directed at anyone regardless of race, religion, nationality, gender, age, disability or skin color. Harassment is treating someone differently because of those differences.
Over 90% think that discipline is the best course of action, 88.8% favor policies, 86.4% want to know how to report bullying, and 84.8% favor training. Says one executive, “It’s important to take complaints seriously and handle things quickly.”
The course of action for human resource professionals is clear: develop policies, provide training, let employees know how to report bullying, offer coaching, and create exit strategies. The course of action for managers is also clear – take complaints seriously and follow through with disciplinary action. Leaders must create a culture to prevent workplace bullying. And if that doesn’t happen, remember Ralphie from A Christmas Story? His best line in the movie? “Say Uncle. Say it!”
About the authors: By Judy Lindenberger and Travis Johnson. The Lindenberger Group is an award-winning human resources consulting firm located near Princeton, New Jersey with experience in developing policies, conducting training and providing coaching on all types of workplace issues, including bullying. You can learn more about The Lindenberger Group at www.lindenbergergroup.com.
Do women think and behave differently than men when making ethical decisions? Are we really the exemplars of good decisions and good deeds when we occupy leadership positions?
Women aren’t ethical simply because they are female. Carol Gilligan, psychologist, asserts that women do operate with a unique ethical perspective because of cultural conditioning. She states that men are more concerned with issues of rules and justice, while women focus more on caring relationships and are less likely to judge others. Such concern does not in itself lead to ethical (wise) decisions. The practice of ethics takes a lifetime of learning and we are only as good at it as our history indicates. Those striving to be ethical start over every day, hoping to do it right.
Both genders share some common misconceptions about how to activate ethics in the workplace. Whether a decision is ethical or not is not defined by expressed beliefs or a values statement, but by behavior—what is actually said and done—and its impact on others. Women should prepare to maintain an ethical perspective backed by actions once in the midst of corporate demands. Understand that “good people” can do the wrong thing. One slips down an ethical slope one small step at a time. Understanding the laws of behavior make that slip less likely. Here are a few practical steps to help you maintain your balance:
Step 1: Learn about behavior.
Once you begin to see ethical behavior as a function of the consequences that have surrounded that pattern over many years, you see how much you can do to help a person learn new ways to demonstrate values. To increase ethical behavior, don’t look to what people say they do, rather, look at what they do and the impact of their behavior. Learn how to pinpoint, measure, and reinforce the patterns that count.
Step 2: Make open dialogue possible.
As women, we tend to think that we are great listeners and conversationalists. But we, too, may be guilty of closing the door on dialogue when we’re in charge. To sustain ethical patterns of behavior at work, telling the truth is essential for all employees. Therefore, leaders at all levels must understand their role in promoting, not punishing, truth telling. That is where ethical leadership does the most good—you must always be ready to influence the ethical conditions, or lack, in your workplace. The freedom to discuss issues without negative repercussions is a sign of an ethical workplace.
Step 3: Live the example.
The workplace is not a democracy, but a venue in which some are reported to and others report. This hierarchal structure can create situations in which those in charge forgo common courtesies. If it is unacceptable for your employees to slam doors, yell, or make derisive remarks, then don’t do so yourself. When you use negative techniques to get what you want, employees are afraid to tell the truth about things that matter. Such aversive tactics are doubly unethical when you are in a position to control the consequences for another person.
Step 4: Be accountable.
Currently, there are now more discussions of caps for executive compensation—a pay for performance notion. Imposed regulations will escalate if individuals don’t stand up for reason and fairness on this issue. Watch the perks of the office. Be alert to who got you there and take care in how you exercise your ‘rights’. Male or female, we learn to justify inequities that are in our favor one step at a time. If you ask your employees to make sacrifices, make those sacrifices yourself; that may not be the rule, but it is the ethical choice.
Step 5: Reward yourself and others.
Employees need to know what you value. People aren’t all alike and don’t want the same types of recognition. Some people love public hoopla; others hate it and might just appreciate a sincere thank you. Find out the differences and let people know what is important to you as well.
Treat yourself the way you want to be treated. Make decisions seeking a balance between the rights of others, justice, the common good and self-interest.
Gilligan concluded that women are not inferior (or superior) in their moral development, but different, because we focus on connections with others and lean toward exercising an “ethic of care” over an ethic of mere justice. It is this unique difference that we should use and integrate into our workplace interactions.
About the author: As internationally known consultant and president and chief executive officer of Aubrey Daniels International, Darnell Lattal designs and implements behavior-based business strategies to achieve core initiatives. In partnership with her clients, Darnell has expertly contributed to organizational redesign and change management and other core business processes. Darnell has authored several books.
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Company executives often appear to be Jekyll and Hyde to regular employees. What do I mean by that? Take the current trend to include “entrepreneurial mindset” on job descriptions.
By including this item, executives are saying they want people who don’t just “do.” They want people who ask meaningful questions, look across disciplines for better opportunities, identify and manage risk, and work hard, oftentimes with long hours. It’s not uncommon to hear, “create an ownership feeling with the employees.”
The problem with this desire is that most employees don’t have any ownership in the business. Their efforts may be rewarded with a bump in pay or a bonus, but those things are not normally directly related to profit. They’re calculated by many different means, but in the end it often comes down to a subjective measure by management about how well they felt individual employees performed.
So what employees hear is that they should work long, hard hours, question the status quo, and take risks. Questioning and taking risks means there will be failure. This fact is inevitable. When an employee fails, he is not rewarded. In fact, he is often punished. His potential raise or bonus is decreased or eliminated.
To add to the confusion, managers often criticize employees for asking questions or offering alternatives to the task at hand. It takes a very strong manager to create an environment in which employees feel safe asking questions or offering suggestions.
Most companies would benefit if all their employees had an entrepreneurial mindset, and felt safe enough to exercise it. When you find yourself including this item on job descriptions, perhaps you might take a step back and look at the management staff in place. Are they strong enough to allow people to question them?
About the author: April Kunzelman spends her days working with the non-profit organization Chemo Cargo, aimed at assisting first-time chemotherapy patients. Connect with April on Twitter as @akunzel and @chemocargo.