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Sexual harassment in the workplace. It happened…now what?

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

The top nine things to know if you’re sexually harassed at work

1. Don’t quit.

Many employees choose to leave their job as soon as an incident of sexual harassment occurs out of embarrassment or fear. Though understandable, quitting allows the perpetrator to continue his or her inappropriate behavior and victimize more of your coworkers. Out of loyalty to your company and respect for yourself, don’t run – report.

2. Look for the policy.

Locate your company’s policy and follow the documented procedures for dealing with sexual harassments. If the person designated to deal with sexual harassment issues is the harasser, find the next person designated.

3. Put it in writing.

Even if your company’s policy does not require a written complaint, put everything in writing. Include detailed descriptions of all incidents and include why the behavior constitutes sexual harassment. Unfortunately, general harassment, bullying and a hostile work environment are not illegal, but sexual harassment is punishable by law.

4. You probably can’t sue for a single incident.

Courts typically rule that sexual harassment has to be severe or pervasive enough as to alter the terms and conditions of employment. An isolated comment or grope may not guarantee a lawsuit, but you should still report the behavior. If the matter is not addressed or appropriate action is not taken, you may then have grounds for a suit.

5. The employer must investigate.

Investigations typically include interviews with coworkers, the harasser and any witnesses delegated by the alleged victim. Though you many lose confidentiality throughout this process, most employees report being relieved once they’ve finally reported the issue. Reporting sooner rather than later also saves you unnecessary discomfort and fear.

6. Keep reporting it.

The employer has a responsibility to provide you with a safe workplace. If you are retaliated against or continue to be harassed following your report of an incident, report it again. If the employer continues to allow retaliation or continued harassment, you will now need to report it to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or involve an attorney.

7. They don’t have to fire the harasser.

The law doesn’t require your employer fire the harasser, but you shouldn’t refuse to go back as a result of that. Instead, you may request a transfer of workspace or take special care to avoid the harasser.

8. You’re not alone.

Sexual harassment is more about power than about sex. A harasser who has gotten away with violations will typically continue the behavior until stopped. Therefore, you are probably not the first victim and unless you bring the issue to light, you will not be the last. As stated before, if an employer chooses to ignore this type of behavior, he or she runs the risk of being held strictly liable for the sexual harassment or even incurring punitive damages.

9. It’s time to quit.

Though it is generally advised you attempt to keep your job, there are a few exceptions to the rule. If the harasser is physically threatening you or causing harmful emotional/psychological damage, it is time to go. The courts will rule the only justification for quitting is if “no reasonable person would tolerate the behavior.” So, if you’re attempting to sue, only quit if your health, welfare or sanity is truly at risk.

-Adapted from © Conflict Resolution Network at www.crnhq.org

Flirting with Danger: What Constitutes Sexual Harassment at Work

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Avoiding Sexual Harassment in the WorkplaceSexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance or conduct on the job that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Any behavior of a sexual nature that makes an employee remotely uncomfortable can be considered sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is gender-neutral and based on sex, not simply sexual orientation; people of the same sex can sexually harass each other. Given this broad definition, you and your employees should be extremely cautious that your company’s deportment does not give the slightest suggestion of licentiousness. Use these strategies to reduce the risk of sexual harassment and prevent claims.

Implement a clear policy

Your company’s employee handbook should have a section devoted exclusively to sexual harassment. This policy should define sexual harassment and dictate a procedure for filing complaints. The policy should also voice your company’s intolerance of sexual harassment in any form. It should clearly state your pledge to investigate all claims and discipline any wrongdoers.

Train employees.

Conduct training sessions at least once a year to instruct your employees on the sexual harassment policy. During these sessions, define sexual harassment, review complaint procedures, and assure employees of their right to a workplace free from sexual harassment. You should also have a special training session for supervisors and managers separate from the general employee session. This session should cover how to deal with complaints and implement punishments.

Monitor your workplace.

It’s important to follow up after your training sessions. Gather feedback from your employees and keep all lines of communication open. Sexual harassment is an awkward topic for discussion, but professionalism requires periodically checking in and letting your employees know you are available and willing to have an uncomfortable conversation to avoid a dangerous complaint.

Take all complaints seriously.

Better safe than sorry. If someone brings an issue to your attention, investigate immediately. If the complaint turns out to be valid, your response should be just as prompt and effect. Document every step of the process beginning with the first incident and including all courses of action and the result.

-Adapted from The Essential Guide to Handling Workplace Harassment & Discrimination, by Deborah C. England  

TGIF move over, Tuesday is Crushing it in Workplace Productivity!

Friday, January 17th, 2014

TGIF, not for workplace productivityAs days of the week go, Tuesday tends to get lost in the shuffle.  Friday’s claim to fame is welcoming the weekend. The joys of Saturday and Sunday are a given, and Wednesday gets the popular  “hump day” moniker.  What many  don’t know is that Tuesday gets bragging rights all its own, and  when it comes to workplace productivity, Tuesday rules.

HR managers were asked to rate workplace productivity and Tuesday came out the big winner, with 39% of HR chiefs ranking it number one, followed by Monday at 24%, Wednesday at 14% and Thursday and Friday tied at just 3% .(17 % didn’t  cast a vote in the survey commissioned by Accountemps).  The takeaway?  Tuesday is a great day to get things done.

If productivity spikes on Tuesday, it’s an opportune time to kick off work on a new project or tackle that stack of tasks that need a final burst of activity to wrap up. Human Resources managers can share the story of the “Tuesday productivity peak”  with executives, team leaders and staff up and down the ladder. Shouldn’t everyone know  that there’s something about Tuesday that brings out the best in many workers?

Put Tuesday to work and be sure that important assignments get the attention they deserve on this day.  The biggest HR challenges are often unanticipated so it stands to reason that when you’re aware of factors that can be anticipated, such as Tuesday being a peak performance day, you can chart a course of work accordingly.

Productivity counseling is one of many human resources services SourcePointe provides our clients. We work with team members from the C-suite to the front lines to craft workplace solutions that increase productivity, streamline HR administration and build the bottom line.

Stressed about Stress?

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

relieving stress in the workplaceDecrease your employees’ stress and subsequently your own.

Stress in the workplace takes its toll on employers and employees alike. While some stress can enhance a person’s ability to manage demanding situations and motivate project completion, too much can result in physical harm or mismanagement of the stress-induced energy.

The stress response itself is neutral; what is stressful for one person may not be stressful for another. It is an individual’s perception and cognitive appraisal that determines what is stressful to him or her, so it is important to remember that each of your employees will be stressed by different stimuli and will respond with various behaviors. Pay attention to special needs for specific employees and adjust your management style to incite the least amount of stress possible.

With this in mind, here are a few organizational techniques for treating stress in the workplace.

Provide sufficient support for change

When enacting new policies, be sure to extend grace and understanding. Employees will adjust to the stress of change better if they can count on management for guidance and console throughout the process.

Provide a sense of control through participation

Stressful situations tend to be those in which individuals feel they lack any sense of control. Ask employees to provide feedback on how to best implement and facilitate a solution for dealing with the stress. This immediately allows your workers to feel they have a handle on things while simultaneously allowing you to appear supportive and sensitive to their needs.

Clearly define employee roles

Confusion instigates stress. Take the time to clearly dictate your specific expectations for employee responsibilities.

Eliminate work overload and work underload

Expecting too much of an employee in too little a time frame obviously generates stress, but expecting too little of an employee can be equally stressful. Workers may feel undervalued and assume management doesn’t believe they can handle additional or more challenging assignments. No matter the specifics, job dissatisfaction is stressful. Your employees should feel busy, not burdened.

Provide opportunities for social support

Open communication is a key eliminator of stress in the workplace. Encourage your workers to come to you with concerns and make them feel they have a voice in the office that will be heard.  It may be helpful to have a psychologist or therapist on staff to deal with employee stress management.

You can also encourage employees to manage their stress on an individual level by exercising, balancing their diet and participating in relaxation training.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Why is employee job satisfaction important to you? How do you ensure your workers love what they do?

Many managers make the mistake of overlooking employee job satisfaction when assessing how to make their company as productive and profitable as possible. The key insight to remember is: satisfied employees are more productive and productive employees are more satisfied.

Keeping your workers satisfied reduces company costs by lowering rates of turnover, absenteeism, tardiness and theft. Satisfied employees enjoy their jobs and this reflects in their interaction with customers. There is a positive correlation between employee satisfaction and both customer satisfaction and loyalty. Dissatisfied workers are more likely to unionize, abuse company resources and withdraw.

Here are a few recommendations for increasing your employee job satisfaction.

Change it up

Focus on the intrinsic parts of your employees’ jobs. You want work to be challenging and interesting. Allow employees to rotate various tasks around the office. Minor alterations to routine keep workers’ interest stimulated and the sharing of responsibility gives an impression of equity that also increases job satisfaction.

Knowledge enlargement

Constantly provide your workers with the opportunity to learn new things on the job. Schedule enjoyable and beneficial seminars, plan exciting staff retreats and have resource materials available for employees looking to acquire new information or skills.

Listen & Engage

Perceived Organizational Support (POS) is the degree to which employees believe the organization values their contribution and cares about their well-being. Involve employees in decision-making, regularly offer support and voice appreciation for noticeable effort.  Allow for employee feedback to eliminate conflict or poor working conditions. Engaged employees are passionate about their work and company because they feel directly responsible for company success and failure. Increasing POS subsequently increases job satisfaction and productivity.

Adapted from a lecture by Karl Kuhnert, professor in psychology and program chair of the Industrial and Organizational Psychology Program at the University of Georgia

 

Avoiding Procrastination in the Workplace

Friday, October 11th, 2013

I’ll Tackle That Problem…Tomorrow

Procrastination tendencies have plagued you since your high school days. SourcePointe offers 5 tips for controlling your procrastination problem. 

“Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin,” wrote famous American entrepreneur Victor Kiam. Procrastination in the workplace robs your company of valuable time, money and resources. Yet, we’ve all been guilty of putting off for tomorrow what could have been done today – or yesterday.  Get your procrastination problem under control with these five suggestions.

1.      Calculate Cost

Attempt to determine exactly what you are risking if you opt to procrastinate on a project. Perhaps you’ll reduce your chance for promotion. Maybe you’ll be forced to work late hours that dip into family time. Taking a few minutes to consider the consequences of your procrastination and how those affect your priorities can be extremely motivational.

2.      Worst In, First Out

Be sure to undertake your most difficult or tedious work first. The sooner you start, the sooner you finish. Additionally, the sense of accomplishment you’ll receive upon completing a particularly daunting task will serve as great inspiration to continue your streak of productivity.

3.      Break it Up

Begin a job by removing mind clutter and eliminating trivial items from your to-do list. Once you are able to fully focus on the task at hand, attempt to compartmentalize various components of your assignment into manageable chunks. Designate personal deadlines for each smaller job that will keep you on track to meet your overall deadline and provide you with an encouraging sense of success throughout the entire process.

4.      Get Someone Else Involved

Make a verbal commitment to someone else in your office. Tell him or her exactly when you will be finished with your endeavor. Saying the time restraint aloud increases its sense of reality and urgency. Involving an additional party will increase your sense of accountability as you will be letting down more than just yourself if you fail to meet your goals.

5.      Stay Busy

Fill your schedule. Don’t allow your business to settle for less than maximum efficiency on account of your laziness and subsequent procrastination. Though you want to avoid workaholic status, staying busy in the workplace provides the stimulation for which you’ve previously been depending on the procrastination.

Tips on How to Conduct a Successful Interview

Friday, June 28th, 2013

A View from the Other Side of the Desk

As an interviewer, what should you be thinking and asking?

Conducting a professional and beneficial interview as an employer is equally as stressful and important as making it through one as an interviewee. Here are a few insights to consider when deciding who makes the cut for your company’s A-Team.

Punctuality & Preparedness

Promptness is an indicator of reliability; both are desirable traits in an employee. Though unforeseen circumstances may arise, potential candidates should exhibit a notable effort in keeping you informed if the agreed-upon meeting time becomes an issue. Following their timely arrival, ask applicants a simple question about the company. Expect them to know who your organization is and what it does, as well as how this fits in with their employment plans.

Objectivity & Responsibility

Remember this is an interview, not a test. Do not purposefully attempt to trip up your contenders with tricky questions and “right or wrong” answers. Instead, plan objective inquiries with structure that invite the interviewees to reveal their thought processes and priorities.  You are not required to evaluate a person’s individual worth, but rather his or her worth and fit for the company.  Also, remember to ask about specific past responsibilities, and more importantly the accomplishments that accompanied those responsibilities. Responsibilities alone do not differentiate you from others; successes do.

Accountability

As the person in charge of hiring, you will be held liable for any rising stars or falling duds. With that in mind, be sure to ask yourself a few questions following each interview.

  • Would I want accountability for this individual’s performance?
  • Would I want to work with this person?
  • Were there any obvious red flags with this person?

Interview Questions

According the U.S law and professional business practice, which of these questions would be considered appropriate or inappropriate for you to ask a candidate during an interview?

  1. Can I call you by your first name?
  2. Could you attach a picture of yourself to your resume?
  3. Are you a citizen of U.S.?
  4. What languages can you speak/write?
  5. What is your reaction to entertaining clients in the evening?
  6. Who is planning on babysitting your kids?
  7. Will you need to have religious holidays off?
  8. What kind of discharge did you receive from service?
  9. Are you married or do you live with someone?
  10. Where do your parents come from?
  11. Have you ever been arrested?

Answers: 1. Appropriate 2. Inappropriate 3. Appropriate 4. Appropriate 5. Appropriate, only if this could be considered a job requirement 6. Inappropriate 7. Appropriate 8. Inappropriate 9. Inappropriate 10. Inappropriate 11. Inappropriate, but you can ask if the candidate has ever been convicted.

 

Adapted from a lecture by Karl Kuhnert, professor in psychology and program chair of the Industrial and Organizational Psychology Program at the University of Georgia

Agreeing on a Problem vs. Agreeing on a Solution

Friday, June 28th, 2013

agree-on-problem-vs-agree-on-solution4 methods of decision-making, their pros & cons and the overall implementation of resolution

If you’ve ever attempted to break up a board meeting around noon, you’ve experienced the subtle, yet staggering difference between agreeing on a problem and agreeing on a solution. All eight members around the table have agreed that they are hungry, but choosing a lunch destination becomes a separate ordeal. So, how can you streamline your decision-making process?

There are four types of decisions – each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

TYPE OF DECISION ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
Minority (as few as one person decides) Quickest Low commitment from non-participants
Majority (more than half of the team decides) Quick Low commitment from “losers”
Unanimous (all agree on the decision) High commitment, fast implementation Can overlook the other options
Consensus (all commit to carry out decision) High creativity, high commitment Takes time, patience, and facilitation skills

 

As the person in charge, you are looking to implement a consensus decision-making process. Whether allocating funds in a business budget, voting on a new company policy or selecting a restaurant for office lunch, being a great leader not only requires you to ensure a decision is made, but that it is carried to fruition. Even if your employees do not share the consensus opinion, their dedication to being active parts of the solution and not the problem will guarantee the verdict is successfully put into practice. In order to reach consensus, encourage each member of the deciding body to enter into the decision-making process with these goals in mind.

  • I will be open to influence.
  • I will contribute, not defend.
  • I will actively listen to others’ views and find out the reasons for their positions.
  • I will not agree solely for the sake of agreement.
  • I will confront differences.

At the conclusion of the meeting, make certain each of your employees can answer these questions with a confident “yes.”

  • Have I honestly listened?
  • Have I been heard and understood?
  • Will I give up “the right to be right”?
  • Will I support the decision and say, “We decided…?”

-Adapted from the book “Leading teams:  Mastering the New Role” by Human Resource expert John Zenger & co.

Delegation & Setting Expectations in Business

Friday, June 28th, 2013

setting-expectiations-in-business3 tips to guarantee you and your employees are on the same page

Delegating tasks is of the utmost importance in ensuring a business runs smoothly and efficiently. However, unless you’re operating a low-budget children’s carnival, it’s unlikely your employees are mind readers.

Here are a few tips to guarantee you are effectively delegating tasks, communicating your expectations, and maintaining the cooperation and respect of your workers.

Be Specific

When assigning or delegating tasks, be sure to give your employees the precise information you were given.  Including any and every detail will make their job easier and mean less revision on your part later on. Don’t be upset that Jane picked up burnt orange napkins for the office birthday party, if you knew but didn’t tell her that Jeff hates the Auburn Tigers.

Set a Deadline

“As soon as possible,” are famous last words. Tell your employees exactly when you need a project completed. If the assignment will span over multiple days or weeks, establish checkpoints and miniature deadlines for various components to be finished. Keep in mind that everyone naturally works at a different rate, and as an employer it is your job to set the company’s pace.

Provide a Source

Always designate an outlet for your workers to approach with questions or concerns. Whether it is you, a client or another employee, someone with additional information on the assignment should be accessible. The ability to address problems as soon as they arise eliminates additional work towards the end of the endeavor. Additionally, offering help upfront assures your employees that you have their personal proficiency as your personal priority.