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April 27, 2007

New research sheds light on bullying in the workplace

A recent survey on workplace bullying conducted by scientists at the University of New Mexico found that nearly 3 in 10 U.S. workers are bullied at work, but only about 1 in ten would self-identify as being the victim of a bully. The survey authors listed a set of negative acts and asked how frequently respondents had experienced those acts in the past six months. Bullying was defined as experiencing "at least two negative acts, weekly or more often, for six or more months."

Survey authors attributed the discrepancy to several things:

"Bullying, by definition, is escalatory. This is one of the reasons it's so difficult to prevent it, because it usually starts in really small ways," said study team member Sarah Tracy, director of the Project for Wellness and Work-Life at Arizona State University.

Another factor might be that bullying is a phenomenon just creeping into people's vocabulary as the research and education on the topic burgeons. For instance, Tracy explained, before the term "sexual harassment" was in the American lexicon, people didn't identify the behavior as such.
Until recently, the term "bully" has been used to describe the schoolyard tyrant, which is kid stuff. So identifying yourself as a victim of a playground act can make a person feel weak and childish.

The survey also addressed the matter of witnesses to bullying behavior. Participants were asked if they had witnessed bullying behavior, learning that those who had found the experience to be very stressful:

"Witnesses describe seeing others psychologically terrorized as the equivalent to watching a mugging every day and being unable to stop it," Lutgen-Sandvik told LiveScience. "They feel deep pain for their colleagues. Some get involved and try to help and are either targeted as a result or feel deep disappointment, anger, and shock that little is done to stop the abuse."

Study authors suggest that the best way to fight back against a bully is to learn how to tell a compelling, detailed story about the behavior so that it can be reported to human resources or other managerial staff. LiveScience.com features a detailed article that lists 8 Tactics to Bust the Office Bully. These tactics were developed by Sarah Tracy, director of the Project for Wellness and Work-Life at Arizona State University, after analyzing narratives told by bully victims. Although these tactics are aimed at employees, HR managers might find both the tactics and the research helpful to use as a methodology when investigating worker complaints.

April 24, 2007

Short takes: equal pay, future trends, guns at work, dental health, and a few tools

Today is Equal Pay Day - When it comes to equal pay, the gender pay gap persists, according to research by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. What's more, the research finds that this pay gap begins right at the starting gate and gets worse over time. One year out of college, women working full time already earn only 80 percent of what their male counterparts earn, even after controlling for hours, occupation, parenthood, and other factors known to affect earnings. By ten years, comparable women's pay falls to 69 percent of what men earn.

The AAUW research also shows that this pay gap exists despite the fact that women outperform men in school—earning slightly higher GPAs than men in every college major, including science and mathematics. See state-by-state data on pay equity. (Via The HR Blog).

A look ahead - Anne Freedman sees increased globalization, and more workers who are modular and remote when she looks in her crystal ball. In "The Next 20 Years", which appears in the current issue of Human Resource Executive, she identifies managing across international borders and accommodating cultural diversity as some of the challenges facing HR managers. Here's a brief excerpt:

"Managing people will entail a different can of worms, however, as many may not be working full-time. Many of the experts see significant increases in project-based work, with HR being cast in the role of producer, bringing together the talent necessary to get specific jobs done before each individual takes off for the next project.

A related scenario includes a renaissance in the creation of guilds and unions, where loyalty to a profession, such as a software engineer, for example, replaces loyalty to an employer."

The rewards of being nice - We enjoyed this anecdote about coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, first impressions, and how it pays to be nice - a brief parable from The Group Guy.

Guns at work - Chris MCKinney at The HR Lawyer's Blog revisits the guns in the workplace in the aftermath of Virginia Tech. (See our recent post - Should employers have the right to ban guns at work?)

Dental health - Are dental plans a part of your wellness program? There's a lengthy article in the Los Angeles Times (free registration may be required) that discusses the relationship between gum disease and serious health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and pregnancy complications. Several recent research studies demonstrate a relationship between dental health and overall health. In the light of this research, some large insurers are revising health plans to offer additional services for high-risk individuals. But the bad news is that more than 100 million people have no dental insurance.

Business tools

April 20, 2007

Friday tomfoolery

Looking for some ways to shake up your organizational chart? Maybe changing job titles is the way to go. Does your organization need a "Director of Chaos," a "Director of First Impressions," or an "Upward Mobility Bigshot?" Jacked Up Job Titles from last November's Forbes offers some creative ideas. Be sure to click on the "In Pictures" slide show.

OK, since you work in HR, you should be good at this game: Find Frank a Job.

Ever have one of those days where you feel pulled in few different different directions? Well relax because, yes, it's Friday.

April 18, 2007

Violence prevention in the workplace

The nation mourns for the Virginia Tech students and teachers who have been killed and wounded in another horrifying and senseless act of violence. While we can't add much to the wall-to-wall news coverage, we thought it might be fitting to use today's post to reprint an article on workplace violence prevention that was written by Bill Bowler, our Senior Vice President of Client Services. The article originally appeared in Small-Biz, a publication by the Support Services Alliance, Inc. (SSA).

Bullet proofing your workplace
Taking steps to prevent violence in your business is not only good policy – it’s the law. That’s because the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) general duty clause, which says “an employer is obligated to furnish its employees a workplace free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death and/or serious physical harm,” has been interpreted to include preventable workplace violence.

But isn’t workplace violence unforeseen and random? It may seem that way, but if your workplace is prepared for any eventuality, your valued employees will most likely survive any unforeseen event because they will know how to handle themselves. And it’s up to you, as the business owner, to set the stage for safety.

Consider the following checklist:

  • Draft and enforce a written workplace violence policy that prohibits physical and verbal violence among your employees. Include a statement of consequences “up to and including termination.” Take time to pass it out and explain it to your employees in a dedicated meeting.
  • If your business is retail in nature, be aware that nearly 40% of all workplace homicides occurred last year in that environment. Educate your employees to comply, comply, comply if a robbery occurs. The graveyards are filled with would-be heroes.
  • Train your managers/supervisors to intervene properly if employees are caught fighting. An overly aggressive, “hands-on” approach only escalates the hostility and violence.
  • Consider adding an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) to your benefits mix. Many employees who resort to violence at work are often stressed out by personal, family, financial and legal problems which their EAP can address in a dignified, confidential manner.
  • Although most workplace violence stems from angry current (or former) employees and/or robbery scenarios, be aware of and address potential dangers posed by “outsiders” such as jealous boyfriends or girlfriends, stalkers and angry family members of your employees. Create a secure work area and don’t hesitate to contact the local police to discuss these situations.
  • Teach your employees to be management’s “eyes and ears” and to report threats of violence to you immediately! No one likes to squeal or “rat” on a fellow employee. But, when it comes to reporting statements of this nature, they may be saving lives. Ask them to think of how badly they will feel if the perpetrator takes action that could have been prevented.

Clearly, we live in a time where violent workplace occurrences are common. But you can take charge and take positive steps to bulletproof your business.

April 16, 2007

Short takes: fear of firing, maverick organizations, tough, HR questions and work etiquette

Fear of firing - An article in Business Week uses the recent $11.1 million judgment against General Electric for retaliation in firing an employee as a springboard for a discussion about the reluctance many employers have in terminating under-performing employees. Many employers are immobilized by fear of lawsuits, with the end result being that problem employees are often kept on the payroll. The article notes that suits based on retaliation are on the rise: "Retaliation suits are a hot growth area in employment law. In 2005 and 2006, retaliation claims represented 30% of all charges individuals filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a required first step before most discrimination cases can go to federal court. That's up from about 20% just 10 years ago."
Thanks to Michael Fox at Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer for the pointer.

Great workplaces - Here's a video profile of another fun, creative place to work - Cranium, the game company. In addition to a visit to the company, the clip also includes an interview with Polly LaBarre, co-author of Mavericks at Work, which sounds like a business must-read. In the interview, LaBarre lists several characteristics of "maverick" organizations: they don't just think about making money, they think about making a difference; they don't just think about product, but standing for important ideas; they have distinctive and disruptive sense of purpose; and they have a value system and are passionate about advancing a cause. (Thanks to The Chief Happiness Officer for the pointer - visit his happy links roundup.)

Tough HR questions - Susan Heatherfield of Human Resources at About.com presents the Top 10 Toughest Questions - Asked and Answered based on reader e-mails. The toughest questions also tend to be the ones that are asked about most frequently, such as "how to deal with a negative coworker" and "why employees don't do what you want them to do." Not only is this a great list, but Susan has developed thorough "how-to" guides to answer each question.

Work etiquette

Bad employee of the week - We nominate John Awesome.

April 13, 2007

Facing Up To Procrastination

Procrastination is becoming a chronic problem in America according to research published in the Psychological Bulletin (January, 2007).

Defined as the avoidance or postponing of tasks perceived as unpleasant, fully 26% of the American population now think of themselves as procrastinators compared with just 5% in 1978. While we tend to equate procrastination with laziness, the actual reasons are typically fear of failure or a paralytic indecision on how to tackle a task that seems daunting or complex.

The researchers did, however, cite five strategies that many have found extremely useful in overcoming procrastination:

  • Tackle unpleasant tasks early in the day when you have the most creative energy. Your success will contribute to a sense of exhilaration that will boost your confidence to take on more challenges.
  • Break complex tasks down into smaller "mini tasks" that are easy to complete and will simplify the overall challenge.
  • Invoke the "5 minute rule." Commit to focusing on a threatening task for just five minutes. At the end of five minutes, either commit to another five minutes or take a break.
  • Minimize and unplug all distractions that can reinforce your tendency to procrastinate, including Internet access, cell phones, television or iPods.
  • Honestly examine your true reasons for postponing action. Do you need training or assistance with time management skills? Or might you be a catastrophizer; i.e., someone who chronically and automatically falls into a depression imagining how awful the impending task will be?

Writing in Psychology Today (August, 2003), Hara Estroff Marano observes, "There are many ways to avoid success in life, but the most sure-fire just might be procrastination. Procrastinators sabotage themselves. They put obstacles in their paths. They actually choose paths that hurt their performance."

If procrastination is a problem for you at home or at work, your employee assistance program might be one resource to help you address and overcome this common problem. If you need help in this area, call your EAP today!

April 11, 2007

HRE's Best of the HR Web - we're honored to be included!

Human Resource Executive lists what it considers to be the leading Web sites and blogs for HR professionals today in a compilation by Tom Starner - and we were pleased and honored to discover that HR Web Cafe has made this list - we appreciate being included among such great sites. Check out the list - your bookmarking finger should get some exercise with this list of 10 general sites and 10 blogs - we know our day is shot now since we'll be doing some heavy surfing to check out these good links.

And speaking of good sites, it's time to update our blogroll with some of our recent blog discoveries. Just a reminder - if you haven't noticed our sidebar, we have a growing compilation of blogs, tools, widgets, and general HR resources. We'll no doubt be adding some from HRE's "best of" lists soon, too.

The Cenek Report, which bills itself as "Uncommon Commentary on the World of Work," is authored by Robert Cenek, a 30-year HR pro whose career includes positions at large organizations such as Bristol-Myers and General Mills. A sampling of recent posts that we liked from his thoughtful and stylish blog include:
Workforce at Circuit City Gets Short Circuited Again
More Fiction About Generational Differences
Another View on Web Usage At Work

The Group Guy is an informative blog by by Dan Buckle, health and welfare consultant, billed as "Independent Thought On Employee Benefit Matters For Employers." A sampling of recent posts we liked include:
Rx Plan Design and Diabetes
The Cost of Unhealthy Behavior: Got Wellness?
The Black Hole in Your Benefit Plan

Evil HR Lady is the entertaining and informative blog of an HR professional in a Fortune 500 Company. Her blog title sets the tone. Some recent posts we liked include:
Circuit City's Mistake
Business Decisions, or what to do when you discover you are riding a dead horse.
One Size Fits All - what gas masks and benefit plans often have in common.

April 6, 2007

Should employers have the right to ban guns at work?

Does your organization allow workers to keep guns in locked cars on company premises? Legislation pending in several states would abrogate your right to set such a policy. The National Rifle Association is waging a state-by-state battle to stop employers from making or enforcing such policies at their workplaces.

Michael Fox at Jottings By an Employers Lawyer discusses the issue of guns at the workplace, referencing a recent New York Times editorial about Workers’ Safety and the Gun Lobby. The editorial talks about the contentious battle that is being waged between many of the nation's employers and the formidable gun lobby of the National Rifle Association. The editorial states that "Bills to deny this common-sense right to workplace safety were initially approved in three states. But they failed last year in such gun-friendly states as Florida, Georgia, Indiana and Virginia after business interests rose up in active opposition."

This issue gathered steam in 2002 when Weyerhaeuser fired a number of its workers for having guns in their cars on company property in direct opposition to company policy. In Workplace Right or Workplace Danger, the Christian Science Monitor discusses the aftermath:

Oklahoma's debate over guns at work got its start in 2002, when Weyerhaeuser employees were fired for having left firearms locked in their vehicles outside the plant. The state legislature, in overwhelming support of the workers, banned companies from restricting workers' ability to carry legal firearms in their vehicles.

Almost a dozen companies, including ConocoPhillips, filed a federal lawsuit to block that law. It is still tied up in court, but Mr. LaPierre says three of the companies have backed out after NRA pressure: "I think they realized that they had gotten into a gun crusade that has nothing to do with their bottom line, shareholder value, or the mission of their companies."

Since the Oklahoma law passed, similar legislation has been introduced in several other states, but increasingly, employers have been pushing back and defeating legislation in many states. For more on the issues involved and past legislative battles, see Employers Fire Back at Law Making it a Felony to Ban Guns on Company Premises from the January 30, 2006 issue of WorkForce.

SHRM has consistently maintained the position tht this matter " ... is best left up to the individual employer to decide whether or not to restrict weapons from the workplace. SHRM is tracking this issue closely and is working with its local affiliates on advocacy efforts to oppose any legislation that seeks to impose such mandates." The Brady Center has also been active in monitoring this issue, and its 2005 report Forced Entry: The National Rifle Association's Campaign to Force Businesses to Accept Guns at Work (PDF) was deemed instrumental in the defeat of some legislative initiatives.

Michael Fox's post updates us on legislative bills pending in Texas, and SHRM has a recent update on legislation in Utah. Legislation is also pending in Georgia. To follow current legislative initiatives, bookmark The Brady Center's guide to States with guns in the workplace bills.

April 2, 2007

Health and wellness resources for April observances

Alcohol Awareness Month - sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence since 1987, encourages local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. It began as a way of reaching the American public with information about the disease of alcoholism - that it is a treatable disease, not a moral weakness, and that alcoholics are capable of recovery. Thursday April 5 is National Alcohol Screening Day

Autism Awareness Month - the Autism Society of America (ASA) and its network of nearly 200 local chapters across the nation are preparing to increase autism awareness throughout the month. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and other governmental agencies, autism is growing at a startling rate of 10-17 percent per year. At this rate, ASA estimates that the prevalence of autism could reach 4 million Americans in the next decade.

Cancer Control Month - Better diagnostic tools and treatments mean that there are about 10 million cancer survivors in the U.S. But cancer is still the second leading cause of death, and some cancers, such as breast, prostate, lung, leukemia, and melanoma, continue to be too prevalent. Cancer Control Month seeks to increase public awareness and encourage people to take appropriate steps to protect themselves. The week of April 15-21 is Minority Cancer Awareness Week. This week of heightened awareness was founded because African Americans and other minorities have higher cancer incidence and deaths than white Americans. Many researchers attribute this difference to preventable factors such as less access to prevention and treatment, language and cultural barriers, and lack of insurance.

Child Abuse Prevention Month - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect offers a comprehensive prevention resource packet to support a wide range of service providers who work with parents, other caregivers, and their children with the common goal of promoting healthy families.

Infants Immunization Week - April 21-28, 2007 - an annual observance to promote the benefits of immunizations and to focus on the importance of immunizing infants against vaccine-preventable diseases by age two.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month - worldwide prevalence of IBS is estimated at 9% to 23%. Because many people remain undiagnosed and unaware that their symptoms indicate a medically recognized disorder, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) devotes the month to health messages about IBS diagnosis, treatment, and quality of life issues.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month - each April the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) coordinates national activities to raise awareness about and prevent sexual violence against women. NSVRC offers a toolkit, resources, and links to statewide activities and resources.

Other April observances

  • Counseling Awareness Month
  • Donate Life Month
  • Occupational Therapy Month
  • STD Awareness Month
  • Women's Eye Health and Safety Month
  • Youth Sports Safety Month

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