Monthly Archive for November, 2006

Pink Slips Are Hard To Hand Out

Sooner or later, most managers must face up to the task of firing someone. Here are some career tips that will help you handle this odious task if you must do it. But it is never easy.

Recognize firing someone is a distasteful and painful experience for everyone concerned. Lives are disrupted; livelihoods are threatened. Egos are devastated. There are costs to employees and employer alike. Therefore, it goes without saying: firings ought to be avoided if at all possible.

A step toward this goal will be accomplished if every manager will conduct regular performance appraisals with each employee he or she directly supervises. If these sessions are open and candid, the boss and the employee will be able to see problems as they begin to emerge and correct them before real damage is done.

Both parties should sit down together. The positives should be identified and praised. Problems should be defined and a plan of action to correct them agreed upon. This is a fair process, which clearly puts both parties on notice that things are not as they should be; they must get better; if they don’t, dismissal is a definite possibility. Surprise, one of the cardinal sins of management will be avoided.

If the employee has not met the agreed-upon goals for improvements, and there are no acceptable reasons for the failure, the manager has to be firm and dismiss the erring man or woman. To do otherwise is to lose credibility as a manager and do damage to the organization.

Common Sense Career Tips

• Deliver the bad news in a face-to-face meeting. There can be no delegation of this responsibility. It may be desirable to have one other person present, especially if the meeting might end in a heated confrontation. But no more than one additional person should be involved in the ordeal, or else it may appear that a kangaroo court is in session.

• The meeting should be conducted in a strict, arms-length business-like manner. Reasons for the action should be spelled out in detail, including a review of the evaluation process. Empathy should be expressed.

However, resist being overly generous in praise for the employee’s contributions. Such expressions may be translated into some unfounded hope that the decision can be reversed. Also, in this litigious age, praise may be taken out of context for legal action by a disgruntled employee.

• Terms of severance – pay and benefits – should be detailed. If the circumstances allow it, an offer may be made to provide help in getting another job.

• Then, the employee should be given an opportunity to have his say. This can be a very tedious time. Because of the high emotions on both sides, an angry shouting match can develop. Or the employee may simply be in a state of shock. The manager should maintain his calmness, avoid arguments.

• Agree on the timing and nature of announcement of the employee’s departure. It is wise to announce the termination as soon as possible because the rumor mill will be grinding within minutes. Other employees are bound to be somewhat apprehensive.

• It may see heartless at the time, but it is better to have an employee leave the premises within a very short time. The clear-out-your-desk and be-gone-by-noon approach is unduly harsh. However, no good is done for anyone if the dismissed employee stays around for any length of time. The water for all will be poisoned by gossip and recriminations.

Believe it or not, while never welcomed, most firings – if they are justified by sound personnel and economic reasons – can have some positive results if both parties work at making the best of a bad situation.

Make The Office Party Work For You

Resolve now to enjoy the annual holiday party at your place of work, but never forget it’s still a work function. So make it work for you.

“It’s critical to remember that the annual holiday party is still a work function, and anything you say or do could affect your standing with your employer,” says John Challenger, the head of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a consulting firm specializing in outplacement.

Here is some career advice from Mr. Challenger about how to make the office party work for you:

• Get there early. The best time to talk with senior executives (okay, smooze) is the beginning when things are still quite.

• Branch out from your usual group of co-workers to meet others from different departments.

• Don’t party too much. Limit your drinking so you won’t be fodder for office gossip or the next former employee. Don’t flirt. You don’t want to be dealing with sexual harassment charges in 2007.

• Don’t talk shop. Save the big idea for office hours. Show interest in your associates’ lives off the job.

And, finally, heed this advice from Common Sense At Work:

Don’t do or say anything that you wouldn’t want to appear in the office blogs or on the bulletin boards the next day.

Here’s to your success.

Ramon Greenwood

Negative Thinking Is A Good Thing

I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of fast-track achievers in my varied career in business and government. All almost all of them were positive thinkers in their own fashion. But without exception they knew that the powerful force of positive thinking must be leavened with a proper dose of negative thinking for Class A performance on the career path.

Plan For Ants At The Company Picnic

Consider this scenario to illustrate the point:

Your boss asks you to plan the company picnic for employees and their families. This is a chance to display your skills in organizing and executing a project.

You pick the location. You line up a caterer to provide a delicious barbeque with all the trimmings. You plan entertainment, including clowns for the kids and games for all ages.

You are ready to submit your plans to the boss, but hold up. You are out on a limb if you don’t have answers for such negative questions as these: What if it rains that day? Have you lined up an alternate site? What will you do about warding off pests such as ants and mosquitoes? Have you planned for first aid kits? Have you designated someone to take your place if you are sick the day of the big event?

They Didn’t Plan On Hitting An Iceberg

Before the Titanic’s maiden voyage a nervous passenger asked the captain, “Is this ship really unsinkable?” In the ultimate burst of positive thinking, the captain replied, “Madam, God himself could not sink this ship.”

Positive thinkers all, the owners had provided lifeboats for less than half of the approximately 2,200 passengers. When the Titanic hit a huge iceberg and sank only 705 people made it into lifeboats and survived the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

Too bad someone hadn’t leavened all that blind confidence with a little negative thinking.

Career Tip: Murphy’s Law Is Real

There are more values than a bit of irony and hearty chuckles to be found in Murphy’s Laws. How do the following laws square with your experience?

• If anything can go wrong, it will.
• Everything takes longer to accomplish than you first imagine.
• Everything is more difficult to accomplish than you anticipate.
• Everything costs more than you expect.

Guidelines On The Path To Career Success

Ask the following six questions to put the positive power of negative thinking to work on your projects, and you’ll have a leg up on the career path.

1. What can go wrong?

2. What must I do to keep my project from jumping the track?

3. If, despite my best efforts, my project does derail what will I do to straighten out the wreckage and minimize the losses?

4. Is the potential reward from the project worth the risk?

5. Can I afford the losses?

6. If I lose, how will it affect my other projects and my career?

Beware! Germs Are On The Warpath

Germs are on the warpath, attacking in full force in your workplace. Hacking coughs and running noses are the order of the day. Aches and pains abound. Absenteeism is high.

And you are not immune.

Here are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of catching a bug:

• Get a flu shot.

• Wash your hands five to six times a day. That’ll reduce your chances of getting sick by 50 percent, says Dr. Chris, chief medical officer for Precept, a provider of health management benefits. Waterless hand sanitizers and antibacterial wipes are good. But don’t use them in excess because that can reduce good bacteria.

• Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Don’t be reluctant to ask others to do the same.

• Wipe off telephones and keyboards before and after use.

• Avoid hot, crowded places.

• Don’t wait until you are sick to begin these practices. Dr. Coulter says that if you are coming down with a cold you start spreading the virus before you have any symptoms.

• Don’t be a martyr. If you are sick, coughing and running a fever, stay at home. You are doing your fellow employees and your employer a disservice if you come to work spewing out germs.

What’s happening in your workplace?

I wish you great success!

Ramon