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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Managing Political Speech in the Office

As the US gets closer to the November 4, 2008 Presidential election, the race has proven polarizing and contentious. Undoubtedly, many people have strong opinions about both candidates, as well as the issues that differentiate them

So how does a manager handle this type of excitement and the possible confrontation?

The first thing to remember is that most companies have policies that outline what is conduct is appropriate during business hours. This includes any personalization of workspace, the posting of informational materials, as well as the types of conversations that are appropriate. Find $100K+ Jobs

In short, the workplace is about work and not about personal political preferences. Employees are required to live by corporate policies and codes of conduct. However, an astute manager must have a relief valve for the pent up excitement and emotion. Here are a few strategies to deal with them. 
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1. If allowed by corporate policy, allow workspace personalization to include political buttons, stickers, etc. This gives the employee a non-verbal means of expression.
2. If allowed by corporate policy, allow the posting of materials in a designated break area, insuring equal space to differing points of view.
3. Remind employees that political discussion should be limited to break times and off-hours.
4. If so desired, consider a series of lunch discussion on the issues.

Political participation is a civic duty, however, it shouldn't consume work hours. Allowing employees to express their political view point, within reason and policy, promotes political participation and is a healthy release of emotion around election season.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Disagree with Jack Welch

Jack and Suzy Welch wrote an interesting response to the question of "What kind of person is a change agent?" in 09 October issue of "Business Week."

While no one can deny Jack's success at GE, or he and Suzy's success since then, I take exception to one of the statements they make. Find $100K+ Jobs

From the article:

"...Most questions we receive about change are from individuals deep within their organizations, .... They hunger to be change agents, but worry they can't be. They're right (emphasis added). Sure, a transformative idea can percolate from below. And yes, gains are being made with employee engagement, ...By and large, however, change is still made by people with some sort of authority."

Wow, talk about a "give up now" moment. What are those who are not in a position of authority supposed to do, just be automatons and hope they get credit for good ideas? While I don't disagree with the points of the article in general, such as change agents must be leaders, I think the Welch's miss the boat for the rest of the working populace. Change agents have to be cultivated and trained, they don't just show up as managers, directors, or CEOs.

If we consider the writings of Stephen Covey, in particular the concept of a "sphere of influence," this is where individual contributors can be change agents. Often, I have been approached by an employee, whether in the Army or in the civilian world, where they have an idea of how to do things better. I may have been able to implement it on a small scale, though it may not happen on a greater scale. Either way, that person made for change and succeeded. Find Premium Finance Jobs on Doostang. Start Now!

Further, some of the greatest change initiatives have started out as minor suggestions or incremental improvements. Change, and its second cousin innovation, take time and are often done in small steps. If you are a manager, you should encourage this among all of your employees. Promote your staff to think critically and challenge the status quo. There may be a better way to do it, but you may never know unless you ask. You may be cultivating that agent of change and not even know it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Helping Employees During Open Enrollment

It's October and that means its time for open enrollment for work place benefits.

Most companies with open enrollment have benefits such as 401(k), health insurance, as well as flexible spending and possibly additional paid time off (PTO).

A good manager encourages their employees to review their current benefits, and consider changes for the new benefit year.

First, despite the current financial mess, encourage employees to contribute to their 401(k) plan. Any corporate contribution is a net positive. As we have seen over the last 70 years, the stock market has averaged about 11% growth. Don't stop saving! Cheap? No. 100% Free. Trade stocks for free on The Free Trading Community.

Second, employees should review their health plans. They may consider more expensive PPO plans if they are planning a family or have specialized needs that these types of plans cover. For younger employees in good general health, they may consider low deductible plans.

Third, flexible spending is a great benefit, especially for families. By tucking away money, tax-free, for medical and day care expenses can be a real boost. Remind employees that the benefits must be consumed by the end of the benefit year or the remaining balance will be forfeited. Compare Annuity Investment Plans!

Finally, if additional paid leave is offered, employees may want to consider it, if they have contributed to a 401(k) first. It may be important for those with community service commitments, or athletic competition to have the time available to take off.

As a manager, your employees' well being is a very serious matter. Although open enrollment is very personal, your guidance and understanding of the benefits offered can be a benefit all to itself. Encourage saving, as well as appropriate health coverage. Also, don't forget the financial benefit that flexible spending accounts and health care reimbursement accounts bring.

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