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April 29, 2009

Swine Flu Resources for Employers

We've compiled a list of swine flu resources that we think might be helpful to employers. We'll post more as we find them.

How Employers Should Respond to the Swine Flu Outbreak - the Workplace Safety Compliance Practice Group of the employment law firm Jackson Lewis suggests 8 steps for employers to take in responding to employee concerns.

PandemicFlu.gov - Workplace Planning - HHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have developed guidelines, including checklists, to assist businesses, industries, and other employers in planning for a pandemic outbreak as well as for other comparable catastrophes.

Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic - a new guide for employers from OSHA

CDC Swine Influenza - news, updates, and resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

WHO Swine Influenza - global updates and news from the World Health Organization.

MedlinePlus: Swine Flu - excellent page with news, articles and links to a variety of resources.

Taking Care of Yourself: What to Do if You Get Sick with Flu - from the CDC
Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home - from the CDC

Swine Flu Meets Workers Comp - Jon Coppelman discusses compensability issues related to work-related illnesses.

Global disease alert map from HealthMap
H1N1 Swine Flu

News feeds
CDC Emergency Twitter feed
What's new on the CDC Swine Flu page
CNN Health News
Y! Health Cold & Flu News

April 24, 2009

Short takes: conflict study, diabetes pilot, productivity tools, social media & more

Unleash the power of conflict - A new study found that groups work better if they are infused with a "socially distinct newcomer" - someone different enough to bump the rest of the team out of their comfort zone. Jared Shelly of Human Resource Executive reports on the study.

The Top Five Innovation Killers - "Innovation has never been more important to companies as it is now. The recession is creating new needs and new forms of value are needed to fulfill them. Yet there remains a yawning gulf between business leaders’ rhetoric on innovation and the reality on the ground. So what holds our companies back, and why is breakthrough innovation so rare?"

Diabetes pilot program yields big cost savings - Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance tells us that the results of the "10 City Challenge" pilot were so promising (average reductions in per-patient health care costs of $1,079 a year, for example) that the program will be extended to employers nationwide.

10 Worst Employees of 2008 - we offered a few suggestions for 2009 earlier in the week - CareerBuilder gives you their list from 2008.

A twitterable Twitter policy - Jay Shepherd of Gruntled Employees offers a sensible Twitter policy in 140 characters or less.

Social Media for HR Professionals Beyond LinkedIn - Jennifer McClure, aka CincyRecruiter offers a great overview of a recent presentation she made on harnessing social media for HR.

BlackBerry Tips From The Top - "Secrets from CEOs for whom the little hunk of hardware is the life breath of work efficiency."

Reinventing the conference call - Seth Godin has a suggestion that might help to improve your next conference call.

Cardiovascular risk calculator - estimate your chance of a cardiac event, dying from heart disease, and your overall chance of dying in the next 10 years. This might be a good tool for your employee wellness program since some portion of the risk can usually be ameliorated by lifestyle changes.

April 19, 2009

"Worst employees of the year" and a tough lesson in online PR

It may be too early in the year to assign this honorific, but it will be surprising if anyone manages to top this workplace "prank" run amuck. Our nomination for the worst employees of the year go to two employees of Domino's Pizza who thought that it would be fun to make videos of a food preparer doing horrifically disgusting things to food and then posting those videos on YouTube.

Apparently, the aggregate online tolerance for the idea of having food tainted with bodily fluids was low, but the disgusting videos spread virally, logging more than a million viewers before a shell-shocked management team at Domino's sprang into action a few days later.

Domino's had a harsh initiation to the world of user-generated content. At first, the management team thought they should just let the incident die down of its own accord. That's an old print tactic for handling PR - don't make a problem bigger than it needs to be through repetition. But the company quickly learned that in the online world, things can be harder to contain. Within a few short days, the videos managed to dominate Google search results and any online conversations about the company. They realized they had to act.

Domino's management team got some unexpected help from the online community. Commenters at consumerist.com used their sleuthing skills to help identify the offending employees, who were quickly fired. The two employees now face a variety of criminal charges for violating board of health standards and delivering tainted food. And the company faced the daunting task of rebuilding confidence in a badly damaged brand.

Domino's quickly posted a YouTube video apology and statement about what the company is doing to respond to this incident (re-examing hiring practices, beefing up auditors, etc.) by company president Patrick Doyle, and assigned staff to respond to viewer comments. (Reader alert: if you've never ventured into the YouTube comment area, be prepared for a bit of a culture shock. Comments are unedited, raw and generally "not safe for work.") They also launched a company Twitter feed to join the online conversation and engage their customers directly.

So far, the management team is getting high marks for its response to the crisis. The incident should serve as virtual seminar for other companies in the importance of being knowledgeable in and poised to manage an organization's online reputation. This incident certainly wasn't something the company could have predicted and management was forced into a crash course in online social media to respond to unfolding events. How ready is your organization should some unexpected and unflattering information hit the viral online circuit? In today's world, online reputation management is an important issue for organizations. It's equally important - if not more so - for individuals. A job-seeker may not have the same resources to deploy if they suddenly find themselves in the public eye.

April 13, 2009

Bully boss or victim?

We've frequently talked about bullying in the workplace - including research on the topic and discussions of how the bully boss takes a toll. Now, a new study by an Australian researcher looks at the topic of bullying from the perspective of the accused, finding that alleged bullies were just as affected by the experience as people she had interviewed for an earlier study on victims of workplace bullying.

Moira Jenkins, a clinical psychologist in Australia, is interviewing managers accused of workplace bullying. Jenkins found performance or behavioral issues with subordinates often appeared to trigger a bullying complaint against managers, sometimes giving rise to something that one accused called "upwards bullying." Jenkins notes:

"Bullying, when it does occur, is a serious problem. But some workers might be too quick to frame conflict as bullying. Human resources takes more notice when the word 'bullying' is used." She defines bullying as repeated, targeted behaviour towards somebody that is likely to humiliate them and undermine their confidence."

Does the term "bullying" get thrown around too lightly? Certainly, as with any other problem employment practice, such as harassment or discrimination, bullying accusations against managers may be unfair or mislabeled. Managers who were interviewed by Jenkins seemed to think that they were just doing their jobs in enforcing company policies. In some of the cited examples, it appeared that there was no suitable internal system of organizational conflict resolution or grievance procedures for the accused to address the charges against them. While some work cultures seem to actively foster bully managers, it may more often be the result of poor management skills or a lack of management training.

April 6, 2009

Some good ways to deliver bad news

The economy is forcing businesses to tighten belts and make tough choices. That means that managers and HR directors are left with the task of delivering bad news while simultaneously trying to keep morale high. The bad news might be layoffs or office closings, or it might be that raises or promotions are frozen, or that hours or benefits are cut. Communicating bad news is a daunting but very important task. If you're one of the people on the firing line, here are a few resources that might help you to prepare:

  • Leadership consultant John Baldoni thinks there is much that we can learn from the way that President Obama communicates. He discusses this in his Harvard Business blog posting How a good leader delivers bad news.
  • It doesn't get much worse than telling someone they have a life-threatening and potentially fatal disease. Dr. Robert Buckman is a cancer specialist who developed protocols for delivering bad news and he teaches doctors and business executives his methodology. He discusses his ideas about good ways to deliver bad news in this interview with Curtis Sittenfeld of Fast Company.
  • Laying someone off can be very stressful for the manager that has to deliver the news. In fact, some research studies demonstrate a relationship between this task and subsequent health problems, such as ulcers, headaches and heart trouble. Health reporter Kyung M. Song of the Seattle Times takes the pulse of managers and how they handle the task and offers some layoff "golden rules."
  • Also, see our prior post on coping with tough times for more resources on crisis communication and helping employees cope with change.
Preparing can help - but don't underestimate how stressful it can be for managers to deliver bad news . Your Employee Assistance Program is not just for employees - it's for managers, too. It's great to know when to refer an employee for help with stress - but don't forget to take care of yourself, too!

April 3, 2009

Watch what you tweet

The perils of modern technology take new but inevitable twists ... there have been numerous examples of bloggers who've been fired for blogging about their jobs so it was just a matter of time until Twittering landed someone in hot water. In this case, it was a job applicant rather than an employee - and while the entire episode may have been blown way out of proportion, it is a cautionary tale about the increasingly transparent world of social networking. While the numerous benefits of the new communication and networking tools are apparent, some of the perils may be less so as employees, applicants, and HR managers navigate these uncharted waters.

The case at hand was a job applicant who Twittered to her friends - and anyone else who happened by - that, "Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work."

Shortly after unleashing this ill-thought tweet, an insider from Cisco replied with, "Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web."


The upshot is that this was not a case of job termination by Twitter, as it has been billed in mainstream media. It's not even clear if Cisco did indeed reject this candidate's job application based on the tweet. But the point remains - 140 characters or less can have repercussions on the job.

And whether or not the prospective employer exacts a toll, the original Tweeter has paid a price. As many before have learned, "the internet" can be harsh and unforgiving in the face of a faux pas. The "fatty paycheck" episode quickly spawned a number of unflattering blog posts and YouTube clips. Online sleuths (bullies?) quickly dug up her identity, her website, her photo, and her resume. After being subject to a few days of intense and scathing Internet infamy, you can read the applicant's side of the story on her blog.

In this case, it's the job applicant who got stung, but it could as likely be the HR manager tomorrow. But there's no sense throwing out the baby with the bathwater, the tool isn't the problem, it's how the tool is used. In 10 Essential Twitter Etiquette Tips, blogger Halfbrown offers some very sensible advice, with a few tips thrown in. One rule of thumb that we think is fundamental: Anonymity is a myth - don't say anything online or in an e-mail that you aren't prepared to live by and defend on or off the job.

George Lenard and guest posters at George's Employment Blawg have frequently posted about the perils of blogging, both from an employee and an employer viewpoint. Many of the same principles are at play with Twitter, which is often referred to as micro-blogging. Here are a few pertinent posts:
Should You Really Write that in a Corporate Blog? Legal Guidelines for Company-Sanctioned Blogs
Ready, Aim, Fired - Blogging Employees in the Spotlight Again

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