Friday, October 5, 2012

Talking Politics at Work?

A month away from a national election, is it OK to discuss politics in the workplace?  Generally, the answer is no.  The country as a whole, and people in many cases, are polarized.  Viewpoints have moved further apart, and emotions are running high.  Even when you think you know someone else’s opinion on a candidate or political issue, you might be surprised to find that they are uncomfortable discussing such things in the workplace.

Employers have a special obligation to keep the peace and make sure people are productive, collaborative and work harmoniously.  Many of us might be surprised to learn that private employers CAN restrict free speech.  A private employer can prohibit certain types of communication in the workplace, and in fact you could get fired for getting fired up about a political matter.  Recently a large energy company fired two people for getting into a heated argument about Rep Akin’s comments.  Their lawyer totally backed them up.  The CFO of a medical supply company was fired after posting a You Tube video of himself berating a Chick-Fil-A employee about their anti-gay policies.  Such firings are legal.   You can be fired for an opinion, and certainly for disruptive behavior.

I have strong feelings about current political issues, and very much have to restrain myself from making political commentary a daily event.  Most employers encourage their employees to exercise their political opinions in direct activity – but in non-working hours.

We all have to find a way to be civil, respectful and productive with our employees and co-workers, no matter how strongly we feel about the election and the issues.

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Posted by Mark Bregman at 10:29 AM

Friday, September 21, 2012

Core Strengthening…. for Businesses

Does your business have a backache?  Is the recession such a heavy load that you can barely carry it? What the heck am I getting at here?

What if we saw the human body as a metaphor for a business?  Your legs are like the technical / product development part of the business, and your arms are the sales and marketing department.  Your head is senior leadership.  All of these parts get used a lot when a company is under stress.  Leadership is scrambling to come up with new ideas, cut costs, and manage smarter.  Technology / product development is striving to find the better mousetrap.  Sales and marketing are competing for market share and trying to beat the competition to the next order.  In my “body” metaphor, the core is the rest of the company – quality, production, supply chain, and all the middle management people who really execute what your company puts out the door.  In a crisis, most companies will exercise their legs (better products), arms (more aggressive sales) and not pay enough attention to the core.

Exercise experts have been emphasizing the need to strengthen the core of our bodies for many years.  Our back fundamentally holds up everything else.  A strong back and strong abs are needed for lifting.  The core muscles also make it possible to stand upright and move on two feet. These muscles help control movements, transfer energy, shift body weight and move in any direction. A strong core distributes the stresses of weight-bearing and protects the back.  Beginning to see how this applies to a company?

When companies are in stress, they unfortunately don’t have the resources to strengthen the core.  Virtually every executive search we are doing these days contains an objective like this:  Improve performance of middle managers, develop people, build bench strength, improve quality, improve delivery, etc.  Most executives we interview for new positions also have been describing how such turnarounds and strengthening of the core activities and people in their company has been their recent focus.

I think that if companies did more core exercises – strengthened the middle – they might not be making as many changes at the top.  Don’t just exercise your arms and legs – remember to keep strengthening the core.

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Posted by Mark Bregman at 6:16 PM

Monday, September 10, 2012

Detention vs. Retention

Employers usually try to retain their best executives with perks:  Bonuses, stock options, enhanced benefits, extra TLC, etc.  When these types of compensation and benefit work best, they are known as golden handcuffs because they do cause the executive to stay in order to receive the maximum benefit.  Usually, these are win/win scenarios.  The company benefits by having the executives stay longer, and the executives benefit by earning additional compensation, equity, benefits, etc.

Sometimes though, the handcuffs are just handcuffs, without the gold!  Peter Cappelli (one of my favorite HR experts) wrote last month about The Hypocrisy of Suing Workers Who Leave. Cappelli points out that employers who sue departing executives are usually relying on non-compete or non-disclosure (NDA) agreements.  Non-competes and NDAs are put in place upon hire, to protect fearful employers from an employee jumping ship to a competitor or revealing “trade secrets.”  The “detention” effect is that the executive is unfairly restricted from pursuing their livelihood, and the courts usually side with the employee.

Executives often have spent their entire career in a particular sector.  They are often experts on not only their own company, but on all the competitors, their customers and their products.  This is not based on one employer’s trade secrets, but more on the body of knowledge amassed in a career.  How could an executive be expected not to use all their knowledge in their own career?  The courts usually say that they CAN.

It also turns out that one of the key issues in court cases about trade secrets involves recruiting.  In some of the cases, the employers who have sued their departing executives were also guilty of recruiting from the very companies the executive was headed for!  We all know that mutual poaching is completely common.  Companies that hate it when an executive goes to company “B” are themselves hiring from company “B”!  The courts have said poaching is essentially hypocrisy – if a company wants to prevent their competitor from hiring their own people, they ought not poach from that competitor.  Or at least, they shouldn’t sue the departing person.  Most of these cases are being decided in the employee’s favor.

Gone are the days when companies truly valued and rewarded loyalty for its own sake.  Employers apply golden handcuffs because it is good business to attract and keep the best people.  The positive side of this works, and employers should keep it that way – retention vs. detention.

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Posted by Mark Bregman at 5:24 PM

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How LinkedIn Works – Infographic

We are strong advocates of using LinkedIn in your job search.  Recruiters find candidates on LinkedIn more easily than any other method.  If you are in the job market, optimize your presence on LinkedIn.  See our previous blog for tips on how to do this, and enjoy this infographic with more:

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Posted by Mark Bregman at 3:17 PM

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

10 Habits of Remarkably Charismatic Leaders

I didn’t write this article, but I like it enough to point our readers to it.  Jeff Haden, wrote a great piece last month for Inc. Magazine online, called 10 Habits of Highly Charismatic Leaders.  Please take a look.  It is clear and simple.  A quick summary:

1. They listen way more than they talk.

2. They don’t practice selective hearing.

3. They put their stuff away.

4. They give before they receive–and often they never receive.

5. They don’t act self-important…

6. …Because they realize other people are more important.

7. They shine the spotlight on others.

8. They choose their words.

9. They don’t discuss the failings of others…

10. …But they readily admit their failings.

By all means, read the details in the article to better understand Haden’s POV.  You might quibble with the term “charismatic”, and we could substitute “likable” or simply call this 10 habits of good leaders, but the points are all still valid!

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Posted by Mark Bregman at 12:40 PM