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Halloween in the workplace

Halloween in the workplace? How to take the fright out of things

Halloween in the workplace

Planning to celebrate Halloween in the workplace? For many HR managers, Halloween can be summed up in 4 scary words: lawsuit in the making. At the Richmond Times Dispatch Labor Law column, Karen Michael talks about just how scary Halloween can get in the workplace – she offers a nightmare list of some of the most offensive costumes available at retailers — and she didn’t even include some of the scary costumes that this contentious election might spawn. She also offers a helpful list of things that should be prohibited.

If you do plan to have any Halloween celebrations in your workplace, Susan M. Heathfield offers tips for making Halloween at work safe and fun. She suggests that employers can prevent problems with advance preparation and communication.

We enjoyed this post that employment law attorney Robin Shea wrote a few years ago in response to a request for guidance: Halloween in the workplace? Bah! Humbug! She’s not a fan of costumes at work because besides frequently being provocative or insensitive, they can also pose safety hazards.

We aren’t fans of celebrating Halloween at work, but we know that there are some work cultures where it is still popular. Over the years, we’ve offered suggestions for keeping things safe and alternative ways to celebrate.

  • Have a family event geared to kids. Let kids and pets come in costumes
  • Organize a “trick or treat” event for a local nursing home or have an event to raise money for a charity. A zombie walk might be fun!
  • Sponsor a pumpkin carving contest
  • Have a Halloween pot-luck lunch with themed food
  • Sponsor a blood drive on Halloween and offer treats for participants. A zombie or vampire theme might be fun.

Here’s more of our Halloween workplace wisdom from years gone by:

How to keep Halloween from getting creepy at your workplace

Don’t let Halloween become a nightmare in your workplace

Does Halloween get scary at your workplace?

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HR News Roundup

HR News Roundup: Mis-hires, Performance Evaluations, Failure & the Lighter Side

HR News Roundup

5 Hidden Costs of Mis-Hires and How to Avoid Them
Magi Graziano, TLNT

You know that a mis-hire carries with it a financial impact that can last for months on end. But there are other more subtle costs associated with mis-hiring that many, even in the HR field, don’t consider or don’t put enough weight into. In fact, these can last for years, long after the financial impact is absorbed.

Let’s Not Kill Performance Evaluations Yet
Lori Goler, Janelle Gale, Adam Grant – Harvard Business Review

At Facebook we analyzed our performance management system a few years ago. We conducted focus groups and a follow-up survey with more than 300 people. The feedback was clear: 87% of people wanted to keep performance ratings.

Yes, performance evaluations have costs—but they have benefits, too. We decided to hang on to them for three reasons: fairness, transparency, and development.

5 Signs It’s Time to Fire Your Employee (And How to Do It with Respect)
Suzanne Lucas, Rework

Every manager and every HR person has to fire someone at some point. It’s generally unpleasant—and rarely similar to the movies, where the employee has done something so spectacularly wrong, you can just yell “You’re fired!” and everyone feels good about the decision.

Instead, the signs of an unfit employee are often more subtle, making it hard to know when to take that final step. If you’re thinking an employee isn’t working out, here are five signs that it’s probably time to let the person go.

In the Wake Of Tragedy
Susannah Levine, Risk & Insurance

The first story in a three-part series on catastrophic care looks at the crucial steps to be taken in the direct aftermath of a severe injury.

How Can I Overcome My Fear of Failure?
Evan Asano, Lifehacker

What is failure? The only true failure is the one you don’t learn from. Facebook has failed repeatedly and publicly with huge initiatives like Beacon and Poke. It’s because they fail that they succeed. A common motto among Silicon Valley startups is ‘Fail fast, fail forward.’ Facebook knows the biggest failure would be not evolving and not pushing boundaries. If Facebook isn’t evolving, building, and taking risks, then they’re slowly dying. In sales, there’s the aphorism, “every ‘no’ is one step closer to a yes.” Failure often isn’t what you think it is. So embrace hearing the no’s and just keep trying during your ‘drills’. The no’s will come, and so will the yes’s, and you’ll move forward incrementally and inexorably.

This Is How To Resist Distraction: 4 Secrets To Remarkable Focus
Barking Up The Wrong Tree blog

Your lazy brain is happy to just react to that relentless bombardment of stimuli coming its way. But when you just react, you don’t usually make the best choices. And while you’re definitely doing something, you’re rarely achieving your goals.

That’s because when you’re reacting, you’re not in control of your life. In fact, reacting is the opposite of control. You see something fun and you chase it. You see something scary and you run away. Either way, your environment is determining your behavior.

Trump’s So-Called “Locker Room Talk”: Would It Count Towards a “Hostile Work Environment”?
Daniel Schwartz, Connecticut Employment Law Blog

I’ve always tried for this blog to be apolitical. That doesn’t mean I don’t have political views — I obviously do — but I don’t think that they should play into how we look at certain legal issues.

But we need to talk about the recorded comments from Donald Trump because I think employers need to understand that a workplace that tolerates or condones those types of comments — particularly on a regular basis — is just allow a foundation for a sexual harassment “hostile work environment” lawsuit to be established.

Free Webinar: FMLA Abuse Got You Down? Best Practices for Using FMLA Medical Certification as a Tool to Deter FMLA Misuse – November 15, noon to 1:15, central time – Jeff Nowak, FMLA Insights

More HR news of note

Diversions from the lighter side

Genius Lands 10 Job Interviews by Delivering His Resume in Boxes of Donuts

13 Coworkers In The Passive Aggressive Hall-of-Fame

A little levity to take the pressure out of the election: Bad Lip Reading of the first 2016 Presidential Debate




Is your organization interested in bolstering its training program?

Learn about ESI’s Peak Performance Benefits, which include state-of-the-art training programs.

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Internal training inspiration from Talks at Google

Many organizations host topical internal training sessions for staff, usually with names like “Brown Bag Sessions,” “Lunch ‘n Learns” or “Bitesized Learning.” They’re generally short, informal sessions on a variety of topics ranging from job skill improvement and wellness to creativity and team building.

For the ultimate in Brown Bag programs, turn to the folks at Google who host the acclaimed Talks at Google. Don’t let the plain name fool you, they offer a rich tapestry of speakers and topics that range from educational and motivational to just plain interesting. They bill them as “The world’s most influential thinkers, creators, makers and doers all in one place. Talks at Google. Where great minds meet.” If you need inspiration for your own internal program — or if you’d just like to feed your own mind with some inspirational talks from fascinating people, you can see them all online at Talks at Google or subscribe to the YoutTube channel. This video offers a preview:

Most talks run from 30 to 60 minutes. You can search or filter them by topic or by author. The topics include:

  • Art & Culture
  • Authors
  • Business & Entrepreneurs
  • Chefs & Food
  • Economics
  • Entertainment
  • Environment
  • Fitness & Sports
  • Health & Wellbeing
  • History
  • Leaders
  • Politics
  • Science
  • Technology

OK, most of us don’t have the budget or the leverage that Google has to attract prominent, national leaders, thinkers, and celebrities, but you can tap into many local resources to put a fun program together. Here are some people you might tap into:

  • Internal topic experts
  • Consultants and vendors your company works with
  • Community leaders
  • Local college professors
  • Local authors
  • Experts in your industry
  • Your insurer or health care providers

Susan M. Heathfield of The Balance (formerly has written quite a few useful articles about various internal training methods, including the Brown Bag lunch variety. Here are a few of her articles:

Here are a few other how-tos that might help:




Is your organization interested in bolstering its training program?

Learn about ESI’s Peak Performance Benefits, which include state-of-the-art training programs.


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health & wellness

October Wellness Focus: Breast cancer, Bullying, Mental Health & More

health & wellness

Here are October’s themes and observances for health and wellness – we’ve provided links and tools that you can use in your employee and social media communications.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Toolkit for National Breast cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point.

In 2015, an estimated 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer were projected, as well as 60,290 additional cases of in situ breast cancer. Approximately 40,290 women and 440 men were expected to die from
breast cancer. Only lung cancer accounts for more cancer deaths in women. More than 3.1 million US women with a history of breast cancer were alive on January 1, 2014. Some of these women were cancer-free, while others still had evidence of cancer and may have been undergoing treatment. (from the most recent 2015–2016 Breast Cancer Facts & Figures PDF)

National Bullying Prevention Month
This year marks the 10 year anniversary of working to fight bullying. National Bullying Prevention Month is a nationwide campaign founded in 2006 by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. The campaign is held during the month of October and unites communities around the world to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention.
Over the past 10 years, this campaign grew from a small week-long event to a worldwide effort with multiple activities throughout October. National Bullying Prevention Month is supported by hundreds of schools, major corporations, and celebrities.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) annually joins with partners, supporters, and allies across the country to recognize Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). NNEDV’s campaign this year will bust prevalent myths about domestic violence. Find ways to get involved.

National Work & Family Month
How is your organization’s work-life effectiveness? Now is a great time to raise the bar to ensure your workplace meets employees’ needs and addresses the challenges they face.
National Work & Family Month, established in 2003 and celebrated every October, focuses on the challenges working families face every day. The month is nationally recognized by businesses, academic institutions, federal agencies, members of Congress, work-life advocacy groups and individuals who want to make it easier for employees to succeed at work and at home. Access resources on Work-Life, Well-Being, Workplace Flexibility, Financial Wellness, Caring for Dependents, Paid & unpadi Time Off, and more.

Health Literacy Month
The theme for Health Literacy Month 2016 is “Be a Health Literacy Hero.” It’s about taking action and finding ways to improve health communication. Health Literacy Heroes are individuals, teams, or organizations who not only identify health literacy problems but also act to solve them. Here are tools and resources.

Designated dates

Oct 2-8: Mental Illness Awareness Week
During the first full week of October, NAMI and participants across the country are raising awareness of mental illness. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care. Each year, the movement grows stronger.

Oct. 3-7: 2016 Drive Safely Work Week
Sponsored by the Network of Employers; for Traffic Safety (NETS). Drowsy driving and other important risky driving behaviors and countermeasures are highlighted in this year’s campaign. Driver behavior contributes to 94% of all traffic crashes, according to NHTSA, meaning nearly all crashes are preventable.

October 6: National Depression Screening Day
Held annually during Mental Illness Awareness Week in October, National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) is comprised of awareness events that include an optional screening component. Take an anonymous screening.

October 10: Put the Brakes on Fatalities – reducing transportation fatalities

Oct. 15: National Latino AIDS Awareness Day

Oct. 9-15: Fire Prevention Week – This year’s theme is “Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years.”

Oct. 22: International Stuttering Awareness Day

Oct. 23-31: Red Ribbon Week – Youth drug awareness & prevention

Additional Observances in October

National Dental Hygiene Month

Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month

National Physical Therapy Month – #ChoosePT!

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winning workplaces

Winning Workplaces 2016

winning workplaces


Interested in learning how to make your company one of the nation’s winning workplaces? You can get some ideas from Fortune’s 100 Best companies to Work For. It’s always fun to read reviews and profiles, which can be great research for picking up workplace trends and ideas. 2016 marks the 19th year that Fortune has been compiling the list. Companies are selected annually based on extensive surveys conducted in partnership with Great Place to Work. This year, Google/Alphabet is the No. 1 place to work for the seventh time in 10 years. Six newcomers include Veterans United at No. 30, Hilton Hotels at No. 56, and Slalom Consulting at No. 100. IKEA’s U.S. division returns to the list, along with GoDaddy and Sheetz.

If you’d like to narrow your focus, the full list offers filters to sort by industry, by size, or by headquarter location. In the plain list version, you can also search by perk, which can be helpful. You can also use the Compare Tool, which  let’s you line up companies side by side to compare ratings, and key data points including benefits.

Great Places to Work has also released compilations of workplaces based on specific demographics or industries.

100 Best Workplaces for Women
100 Best Workplaces for Millennials
30 Best Places to Work in Finance & Insurance
20 Best Workplaces in Healthcare

For a shortcut, both Fortune & Great Places to Work have culled various lessons from the lists and posted these as articles or blog posts. Here are a few

Culture Tips From The Best Places To Work
The article looks at company culture at these three “best” pick — Google, Facebook and Whole Foods — and points to practices that help to create great work cultures. These characteristics include:

  • Communicating well
  • Offering development opportunities
  • Providing flexibility
  • Practicing what they preach
  • Being transparent
  • Giving power to their people

How to Create a Culture that Works for All Ages

“For example, millennials are often portrayed as promiscuous job-hoppers, lacking the loyalty of their elders. But our data suggests that when millennials’ expectations of an excellent company culture are met, they are more than willing to stay. Millennials who feel they’re at a great workplace are an incredible 25X more likely to want to stay with their workplace for a long time.

And overall, we discovered that employees of all ages are looking for similar things in a great workplace: a company they can be proud of, a sense of community with their colleagues, and honest, ethical leaders.”

Here’s the Secret to How the Best Employers Inspire Workers
The best workplaces reinforce cooperation, teamwork, camaraderie and interpersonal bonds in creative ways.

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