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HR News Roundup: Top employer mistakes; EEOC & harassment; Pay for performance and more news of note

In our HR News Roundup, we offer links to workplace management, leadership and compliance stories from around the web that we found noteworthy.

The top 10 mistakes employers keep repeating
Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer’s Law Blog

“Today is Groundhog Day, which, because of the eponymous Bill Murray movie, has become synonymous with repeating the same mistakes over, and over, and over…
In that spirit, I thought we’d take a look at the 10 biggest mistakes that employers keep making.”

Want to Hire a Team Player? Ask About Volunteer Work
Anne Fisher, Fortune

“The biggest benefit of pro bono work, though, is that it usually hones people’s “soft” skills, including empathy, negotiating, conflict resolution, and figuring out creative solutions to problems.”

EEOC task force identifies 6 tactics to curb harassment
Christian Schappel, HR Morning

For nearly a year now, a task force created by the EEOC has been charged with finding the best ways to stymie harassment of all types in the workplace — and its efforts are starting to bear fruit.
At its second public meeting, the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace named these tactics as some of the best ways to stop/prevent workplace harassment.

Related: Is Workplace Harassment Getting Easier to Prove?

Pay for Performance is Given a Poor Grade
Dave Shadovitz, HRE Daily

Employers have long embraced the notion of paying for performance. But are these programs really making a difference? Are they really leading to better employee performance?
If we’re to believe the latest survey of 150 companies coming out of Willis Towers Watson, the impact these efforts are having on organizations leaves something to be desired.

Late for work? Don’t blame your lizard
Aimee Picchi, MoneyWatch

The most typical excuses for showing up late are related to traffic, oversleeping, bad weather, lack of sleep, and needing to get children to daycare or preschool, according to the survey, which was conducted by Harris Poll. About 2,600 hiring and human resource managers participated in the survey late last year.

Why This Fast-Food Chain Has a Lower Employee Turnover Than Your Company
Will Takowicz,

How can a 33-year-old fast-food chain have an annual turnover rate of 1.4 percent? Find out what Pal’s Sudden Service does to ensure employee loyalty.

Working and Living in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Megan Purdy, Blogging4Jobs

The theme for this year’s World Economic Forum gathering in Davos was the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The idea goes that we are in midst of, or depending on who you ask, on the cusp of another revolution in industrial production and design, this one driven by ever-deeper levels of automation, machine learning, new materials and 3D printing and related technologies. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is poised to disrupt and potentially de-center manufacturing, transportation and even service, and therefore eliminate or transform millions of jobs. Estimates vary but as many as 47% of American jobs could be affected.

If Pain, Yes Gain — Part XVI: Winter 2016 Brings Flurry of Paid Sick Leave Activity
William Perkins, Joshua Seidman, JDSupra Business Advisor

One area of employment law that certainly isn’t hibernating this winter is mandatory paid sick leave. Since the start of 2016, mandatory paid sick leave developments have occurred from coast to coast and include: (1) an amendment of one of the country’s first sick leave laws; (2) three additional municipal laws going into effect; (3) a city’s court battle to unfreeze its sick leave law; and (4) a vote that has paved the road for Vermont to become just the fifth state in the country to mandate statewide paid sick leavel.
This alert explains and summarizes the key aspects of these developments as employers continue to work their way through America’s sick leave storm.

The angry man vs. the angry woman: A double standard of influence?
Jessica M Salerno, Minding the Workplace

Do angry women have less influence in group settings than angry men?
In a research article titled “One Angry Woman: Anger Expression Increases Influence for Men, but Decreases Influence for Women, During Group Deliberation” (Law and Human Behavior, 2015), Jessica M. Salerno (Arizona St. U.) and Liana C. Peter-Hagene (Illinois-Chicago) offer some insights on that question. Their experiment set up a mock jury deliberation that allowed them to compare the influence of male jurors vs. the influence of female jurors. They found that when male jurors expressed anger, they gained greater influence over the group. However, when female jurors expressed anger, they lost influence over the group.

How High Performing Companies Manage Change
Sharlyn Lauby, HR Bartender

It’s important for us to remember that the process of change doesn’t mean going from a state where something is bad or wrong to a state where something is good. Change can involve going from a state of good to better. I think that’s some of the reason that individuals are reluctant to change – because there’s this assumption that change means what we’re currently doing is wrong. And that’s simply not the case. I also think that’s why becoming a high performing organization is so difficult. Change is hard.

Related: Why Most Change Efforts Fail and 7 Guidelines to Ensure Your Team Succeeds

Quick takes


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Characterizing High Performance Teams [Infographic]

For decades, one of the pinnacles of good management has been developing high performance teams (HPTs) – but for many companies, this goal is elusive. What’s the secret sauce? Just what makes a high performance team? Ott Jõgi of Weekdone reviewed research and case studies, distilling them into 9 traits that separate the high-performers from low-performers – he offers these tips in a colorful infographic: 9 Unique Traits of High-Performance Teams (below). In addition to the article, click the link to read his excellent commentary on these traits.

And for further reading on the topic:




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Fired employee leaving office carrying a box

Knowing when and how to fire someone

Fired employee leaving office carrying a box

Firing an employee is arguably a manager’s least favorite work responsibility. In addition to being an unpleasant human interaction, it can also be a legal minefield. Often, it’s clear that an employee must go — a serious infraction of policies or inability to do the job; but sometimes, it can be a decision that managers equivocate about for far too long, a scenario that can be damaging to the organization and the employee alike.

In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, Allison Rimm and Celia Brown discuss
Knowing When to Fire Someone. They offer an  Employee Cost/Benefit Calculation Worksheet (PDF) – a tool to help quantify the factors in a termination decision can and valuate the costs and benefits:

“Because terminating someone is such an important and complicated strategic decision, it helps to have an objective way to measure the impact of a difficult employee, including a dispassionate evaluation of the disruption caused by turnover. Using the worksheet to quantify the factors in a termination decision can help you evaluate the costs and benefits of individuals’ performance, their impact on team dynamics, and bottom-line results. You can list such factors as the employee’s likelihood of improvement, the drain on your energy, and the cost of replacement. The tipping point comes when the cost of keeping an employee is greater than the disruption of letting him or her go.”

In evaluating whether or not to fire an employee, one step we’d encourage is evaluating whether or not your EAP can play a role.  A performance issue, particularly one that seems sudden or uncharacteristic, may be masking an underlying life problem that could be resolved. In a progressive discipline situation, counseling may help the employee to better understand the dynamics and improve their performance.

If it becomes necessary to fire the employee, the next step is doing so in the least damaging way for all involved. In another article in Harvard Business Review, Anese Cavanaugh says that:

“Being let go can be one of the most painful, humiliating, and devastating experiences of one’s life — but it doesn’t have to be the worst. How a manager handles the process will have a huge impact on how a former employee moves forward and how he or she will look back on this life-altering moment in the future.”

In How to Fire Someone Without Destroying Them, she compares two hypothetical termination scenarios – one in which the managers approaches the task as something “that just needs to get done” and the second, a planned, strategic approach handled with dignity and caring. She suggests steps to take to achieve the latter, from before the meeting, during the conversation and after you break the news.

Diane K. Adams makes the case that the way you let someone go is just as important as how you hire, because it sends a clear message at a time when everyone is watching. In an article for Fortune, How to fire people with dignity, she relates one extraordinary case she observed:

At one point Cisco Systems (where I was once the VP of human resources) determined that layoffs were prudent and necessary to survive changes in the industry and the economy. The idea of layoffs was especially tough because of the company’s strong culture that emphasized teamwork, collaboration, and social responsibility.
The Culture and Talent team there came up with a unique and positive spin on what could have been a much less palatable situation. The company provided a generous severance package that included cash as well as job-placement assistance. The best aspect of the package was that all 2,000 employees to be laid off were given an additional option. Instead of taking the severance package, they could work one year at a nonprofit organization of their choice and receive 50 percent of their salary—plus the severance bonuses, insurance coverage, and so on—while doing so.

She notes that few companies can afford to offer such generous severance packages, but that every organization can treat departing employees with respect, honesty, integrity, and dignity.

The following articles offer some best and worst ways to fire someone

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Tools for February Health & Wellness Observances

National Cancer Prevention Month

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) estimates that approximately one-third of cases of the most common cancers in the U.S. could be prevented – that’s an estimated 374,000 cases of cancer that would never happen. AICR offers three Guidelines for Cancer Prevention:

  • Choose mostly plant foods, limit red meat and avoid processed meat.
  • Be physically active every day in any way for 30 minutes or more.
  • Aim to be a healthy weight throughout life.

Visit AICR to learn more about cancer and cancer prevention. February 4 is World Cancer Day. Don’t miss the terrific and well-designed tools & resources that you can download, including fact sheets, posters, social media ideas, toolkits and more.
American Heart Month

This year for American Heart Month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Million Hearts®–a national effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States by 2017–are encouraging Americans to know their blood pressure, and if it’s high, to make control their goal.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. In fact, more than 67 million Americans have high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure are 4 times more likely to die from a stroke and 3 times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those with normal blood pressure. Learn more at the link above.

Related, February is also Go Red for Women Month. Of this, the American Heart Association says:

“Cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year, yet women were not paying attention. In fact, many even dismissed it as an older man’s disease. To dispel the myths and raise awareness of heart disease & stroke as the number one killer of women, the American Heart Association created Go Red For Women, a passionate, emotional, social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health.

In 2010, the AHA set a strategic goal of reducing death and disability from cardiovascular disease and strokes by 20 percent while improving the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent by the year 2020.

Friday, February 5 is National Wear Red Day

Why Go Red? Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds — but that could change because 80% of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action. Wear red on National Wear Red Day® and Donate to Go Red For Woman  to support educational programs to increase women’s awareness and critical research. And, women, don’t forget to schedule your Well-Woman Visit, a prevention check-up to review a woman’s overall health so her doctor can measure blood pressure, check cholesterol and look for signs of heart disease, stroke and other illnesses. Use socail media to encourage other women to do the same. #GoRedWearRed and #WellWomenVisit. Also see the National Wear Red Day Toolkit

National Donor Day

February 14 National Donor Day. Here are the facts: 121,552 people are waiting for an organ now; 22 people die each day waiting for an organ; a single organ donor can save up to 8 lives – learn more in this short video. Also see Donate Life

Other February Health Observances

AFB Low Vision Awareness Month

National Children’s Dental Health Month

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

February 7 – National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD)

1-7 – African Heritage & Health Week

1-7 – Burn awareness week

7-14 = Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week

21-27 – National Eating Disorder Screening Program

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From the recruitment trenches: Job interview oddities

What’s your funniest or worst war story of a job interview gone awry? Have you ever had a job candidate put lotion on her feet during the interview? No? How about a candidate who brings a pet bird to the interview – tucked in in her shirt, no less. Tim Gould of HR Morning reports on Career Builder’s Harris Poll about job interview oddities, or the strangest things job candidates have done during the interview process: ‘Oh, that’s just my pet bird’: The most outrageous things candidates did in interviews.

As per usual, there are some very funny and rather incredible stories … as well as some more serious observations about job candidate behavior – such as the five most common “instant deal breakers”:

  • Candidate is caught lying about something: 69%
  • Candidate answers a cell phone or text during the interview: 68%
  • Candidate appears arrogant or entitled: 60%
  • Candidate dresses inappropriately: 50%
  • Candidate swears: 50%.

While these are pretty funny, I would guess that most of us can identify with awkward or nervous candidates? Who among us has never said something we wish we could get a do-over for at a job interview? And turnabout is fair play, employers can say some pretty clueless things, too.

Nevertheless, these interview run amuck stories are a little bit like potato chips – it’s hard to stop at one. Here are a few more compilations of amusing interview blunders:

Humor aside, hiring people is one of the riskiest things that an employer does. ESI EAP offers discounted background checks and pre-employment screening to member employers. For more information, call 800-535-4841.

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Accommodating transgender employees in the workplace

Recently, the workplace experiences of transgender employees were profiled by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz in the Chicago Tribune, along with ways that their respective companies did or didn’t support their transition: How companies accommodate transgender employees — and their colleagues. The article notes:

Corporate America has recently made progress toward transgender-inclusive workplaces. Three-quarters of Fortune 500 companies have gender identity protections, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s latest Corporate Equality Index, released in November, compared with just 3 percent when it started the report in 2002. Forty percent of employers have at least one plan that covers hormone replacement therapy; in 2002, it was zero.

But it’s one thing to have policies. It’s another to have a plan to address the nuances of a delicate journey many people struggle to understand.

If you haven’t dealt with transgender employees at your workplace, it’s a question of time. Is your workplace positioned to help a transgender employee in their transition? Are your policies and training programs in place? Are you familiar with issues that could potentially surface in your workforce as you accommodate a transgender worker? As the above article notes, it is better to have plans and policies in place in advance. We’ve gathered a library of materials that might help.

Employer resources for supporting transgender employees

Employment & Labor Insider: Transgender roadmap: 10 steps the EEOC thinks employers should take
Robin Shea offers ten sensible guidelines, first and foremost of which is including gender identity in your non-discrimination and no-harassment policies. As an employer, you need to make it clear that harassment will not be tolerated, whether the behavior comes from “employees, customers, agents, contractors, sub-contractors, clients,” or anyone else. She also stresses the importance of training all employees, particularly managers and HR staff.

Department of Labor: Policies on Gender Identity: Rights and Responsibilities

Human Rights Campaign: Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace: Recommended Policies and Practices

Transgender Law Center: Model Transgender Employment Policy (PDF)

SHRM: Supporting Transgender Employees Guidance Regarding the Employment of Transgender Individuals in the Federal Workplace

HR Web Cafe: OSHA issues guidance on restroom access for transgender workers

HR Web Cafe: Transgender in the Workplace

HR Web Cafe: Transgender discrimination


Resources for colleagues working with transgender people

Transgender Law Center: Tips for Working with Transgender Coworkers (PDF)

Offers key terms and several tips:

  • Demonstrate respect
  • Recognize the difference between your personal values and the community values of you workplace
  • Respect your coworker’s confidentiality and privacy
  • Don’t assume that your transgender coworkers know everything about all transgender issues
  • Help coworkers who have having trouble with another employee;s transition

Harvard Business Review: What to Do When Your Colleague Comes Out as Transgender

UCLA’s Williams Institute estimates that there are 700,000 transgender Americans – a significant number, but much smaller than the 8 million gays, lesbians, and bisexuals living in the U.S., according to surveys.

  • Unless you’re already good friends, keep your reactions to a minimum
  • Take your cues from your colleague
  • Be mindful of the pronouns
  • Relax about the bathroom
  • Do research on your own

Do’s & Don’ts for those working with transgender colleagues

Glossary of Transgender Terms


Schools: Transgender students

Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools (PDF)

The Gay Lesbian & Straight Educational Network (GLSEN) offers numerous resources here:
Educators! Support Trans and GNC Students!

Campus Pride Trans Policy Clearinghouse

Sylvia Rivera Law Project: Fact Sheet: Transgender & Gender Nonconforming Youth In School

The National Center for Transgender Equality has a “Schools” section of “Know Your Rights

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