Who Needs Job Descriptions? Everyone.

Most of us are aware of this HR-related document that identifies what we theoretically are supposed to do in our day-to-day work. However, when was the last time you took a peak at what your Company expects of you or the last time you evaluated what your Company expects your employees to do? This begs the question, what is the real purpose of a job description? A properly drafted job description can be useful for the organization, management, and the employee for reasons such as:

Performance Checkups – Imagine walking into a meeting and being held accountable for something that you had no idea was your responsibility. Unfortunately, this happens more often than it should. With a proper and up-to-date job description, both the manager and employee are on the same page with the standard expectations of the position, easing frequent performance checkups.

Identifying Roles and Value – One of my personal nightmare jobs would be to go to work every day and not understand or realize how I am making a difference. Most employees like to know how their job is important to the Company overall. A well done job description can explain the employee’s role within the organization and how they contribute to its success.

Finding an Employee – An often overlooked step in trying to find an employee for both new and existing positions is a review (or completion) of the job description. If you are limited to basic, generic job descriptions you may find yourself struggling to find the best fit for the job. How do you know what to interview for if you don’t even know the essential functions and expectations of the job you’re trying to fill?

ADA, Leave Protection, and Workers’ Comp – A common concern employers have is what happens if an employee is injured, or if an employee comes back from leave, but needs their job modified? The first place we always start is the job description. A properly done job description not only identifies the duties, but also physical requirements such as sitting versus standing, equipment used, and even how much weight the position is expected to pick up.

Exempt or Non-Exempt – With the recent news regarding the DOL’s attempt at changing the exempt tests (primarily raising the minimum salary threshold), many employers are taking a much-needed look at the FLSA classifications of their employees. Despite the minimum salary increase being on hold indefinitely, employers would be wise to reevaluate the job descriptions of their exempt employees to ensure that they are accurate as far as duties go and that they meet the DOL’s current exempt tests.

The above list is just a sampling of the importance of your job descriptions. HRCentral recommends regular reviews of each job description to not only match what the employee does on a day-to-day basis, but also for compliance with the latest regulations. If in doubt, give us a call and we can assist you in evaluating your job descriptions for completeness and compliance.

Conflicting Goals and Projects

It’s Thursday morning and the COO just sent you an email requesting a detailed analysis of all customers’ accounts.  A project that will take a couple of days and of course she needs it by Friday afternoon.  To make it worse, you have a major employee presentation on the new company products tomorrow morning and you still have to prepare the slideshow and talking points.

While this scenario might not happen often, it demonstrates a conflict of goals where you almost have to choose one over the other.  The COO has a reason for needing the detailed analysis by Friday afternoon even if you don’t know why and you also need to inform the employees on the new product lines in the morning.  How do we manage the conflict?

First things first, determine the urgency of each goal.  Check in with the COO regarding the deadline and possibly the scope of the analysis she needs.  Often the requestor doesn’t realize you have a conflict and can change the deadline which gives you some breathing room.  Additionally, you can also verify the scope of the project to ensure there isn’t any miss-understandings.  The latter might help you cut down on the actual project time if it isn’t as time consuming as you thought.  Additionally, you can review the prior goal (in the scenario demonstrate a new product line) and see if you can delegate most of the preparation work to someone else or if that deadline can be moved.

If you have appropriate staff or coworkers for delegation, now is the time start reviewing who can do with.  Additionally, you should know your resources that can help accomplish both goals.  In the scenario, you might be able to task a lot of the analysis onto another employee with you finalizing the report after the employee presentation.  Or vice-versa you can delegate the task of preparing the other project to an employee with you finalizing the project near the end.

Goals that you have a long ramp time to accomplish, you can start planning your steps to each goal ensuring that they logistics don’t compete with each other.  Unless in the event the accomplishment of one goal decimates the other goal. In the latter event, you need to evaluate the importance of each goal and determine which one is the most important.  With the scenario above you may have to determine which project is more important or ask the COO for her input on which one should be accomplished.

Competing goals can often discourage a good employee and manager, however with careful planning and forward thinking you can start planning accordingly.

The Naughty or Nice List

Let’s face it, we all have favorite employees and coworkers. Once we start recognizing that we are always going to be inclined to like certain individuals more than others, we can start overcoming the biases that come along with it.

Seth Godin recently wrote an excellent blog on biases (We are All Biased). To summarize, he talked about how biases can be useful when we have insufficient information to make a decision. However, a wise leader will understand and recognize the drawbacks of biases.  This concept can also apply to our interactions within our professional relationships.

As managers and leaders, we have to take an honest look at our own biases and how they affect our day-to-day interactions. This reflection should include identifying why we get along with some of our coworkers/employees and not others. Additionally, we should take a hard look as to why we don’t have a natural affinity for certain individuals. Finally, in our self-evaluation we need to take a cold, hard look at those biases and ensure they are not influencing our interactions.

I believe we have all been on the other side of the coin in that we have had less than ideal interactions with those in authority over us and we can’t seem to ever get anything right. Now take those same feelings and compare them to some of your direct reports or coworkers. Is it possible that your biases are causing them to fail or at the very least are limiting their chances for success?

During this holiday season and in the upcoming new year, take the time to self-evaluate and think about what you can do differently to ensure that everyone you interact with has a positive experience. Ensure that you are providing all of your employees with equal treatment and the same opportunities to succeed. To summarize, eliminate your naughty or nice list and focus on true objective evaluations while recognizing your own biases.

We Control the Norm

I rarely, if ever, make comments on our political environment. However, in light of our recent election, I felt that something needed to be said about the divide felt by many in our country. A large portion of individuals who are a fundamental part of our society feel that the tactics used in the recent presidential race encouraged a segment of our society to discriminate and harass others. There is a fundamental feeling that the recently acquired norm of respect and understanding for those that have been historically marginalized is just a facade and it is now open season on those that look, act, or believe differently than what some consider the norm.

I choose to believe that the majority of those who voted for our now president-elect did not vote that way because they thought he was going to bring back hatred into our country (sadly, some did, but those people do not represent the America that I love). Despite the poorly chosen words and sentiments used in the recent presidential race, we don’t have to give him or others the power to change the norm of our society. We the people, as a whole, set the tone of our society.

Ensuring a norm of respect starts with you. Take this time to reflect on how you interact with those around you. Are you are treating and interacting with those around you with respect and understanding? Despite what they believe (politically or otherwise), or even how they behave towards you, you can still treat individuals with respect and dignity.

Practice being impeccable with your words: they have meaning. Banish hate and demeaning language from your vocabulary. I believe that everyone, including myself, needs to be regularly reminded to choose our words and thoughts carefully.

In the workplace and beyond, leaders need to clearly model through their behavior and communication that a lack of civility will not be tolerated. In addition to the well-established legal protections, all individuals deserve to work in a place where they are not bullied or ostracized because of what they believe, who they are, or how they look. As leaders, we can set the tone and the norm for every organization by the way we act and respond. Here is a not-so-subtle hint: we all can be leaders regardless of our position.

I encourage you to help heal the divide in this country one person at a time. Take the time to understand someone else’s viewpoint, even if you don’t agree with it. At the end of the day, the norms of our society belong to us, not to politicians or celebrities. You can change the world’s view-point, one person at the time, starting with yourself.

Political Banter in the Workplace

Fred walks into work in the morning all hyped up over last night’s political debate. Exasperated, he doesn’t understand how anyone could ever support the other candidate when it’s obvious they are a potential criminal, liar, inexperienced and offensive to all. Despite his feelings, he vows to avoid any political talk in the workplace recognizing the time waste and conflict it can bring.

As Fred passes the break room, Sam pops his head out and asks Fred what he thinks of the debate last night. Fred mumbles a non-committal reply and attempts to move on. However, Sam takes his non-committal reply as a sign that Fred is on the fence about the candidates and proceeds starts into a barrage about how horrible one of the candidates is. Unfortunately, this is the candidate that Fred believes is the best choice for President

If you were Fred, how would you handle this?

This political season has been especially controversial and in many ways, has divided traditionally strong groups. Unfortunately, this political environment and difference of opinions has spilled over into the workplace, creating distractions and hurt feelings. These distractions are bound to effect productivity.

As managers and Human Resource professionals, how do you manage political talk in the workplace? Let’s step in as Fred and Sam’s manager and you are walking by the conversation between Fred and Sam. Your options at this point is to move on, join in the conversation, or break up their conversation. Of course, you know the answer, gently break up the conversation and send them back to work.

While a healthy debate about politics is necessary to work through our own beliefs and come up with new concepts for the betterment of all, in the workplace they can lead to a major distraction from work. This distraction can be anything from employees no longer talking to each other to taking time away from actual production.

Whether you are an executive, manager, HR professional, or an employee; you have the ability to be a leader in your workplace. Sometimes that means you either avoid political conversations or defer the conversation to a better time and place (e.g. lunch). This can be difficult when you feel that your strongly held political beliefs are under attack. A true leader should try to encourage others in a positive and productive manner, while remaining genuine. This doesn’t mean you need to dismiss or lie about your beliefs, but rather evading what you know can be unproductive conversation for the workplace.

Individuals in authority (e.g. executives, managers, HR) need to demonstrate leadership by not participating in extreme political talk, ensuring that any political talk in the workplace is not damaging relationships, and that workplace productivity continues.

How have do you handle yourself or your employees when it comes to political talk? Need help? We are here to assist you in managing conflict, even the political kind.

Related blog post from November 2014: Politics of Politics in the Workplace

Not Born to Lead

Very few people are born to lead. Leadership is a skill that is earned through perseverance and practice. Every one of us have the potential to be a leader and part of that life-time journey to leadership includes practicing and refining the characteristics and traits the embody a leader. While there are many characteristics that make each of us up, below are five basic traits you can start practicing today.

Good Leaders are responsible. In our June 16th and June 23rd blog posts, we talked about Stepping up to the Plate taking Ownership.  These are two examples of being a responsible leader. As leaders, we have to continually demonstrate responsibility by caring for those around us, caring for our business or organization, and caring for our community. This means taking the appropriate steps and actions to ensure continued success.

We are often faced with challenges that require us to step back and take a breath. An exceptional leader demonstrates patience every day. Whenever we interact with other people, we are bound to get into situations that are stressful or have conflict. A leader steps up and is patient when working with problems and with those around them.

Along with patience, a good leader needs to be flexible and creative when handling all situations. It is not uncommon to be faced with a project that didn’t go as planned. We have to avoid being rigid with the original plan and be prepared to think creatively and maintain flexibility when approaching problems or hurdles. I often look at my hurdles and my clients as if it is legal and ethical (see our blog post on ethics) and if we can find a way to make it work.

Communicate, communicate, communicate! Communication is a skill that I can’t over emphasize. A good leader knows how, when, and what to communicate. Often we have information to share or need information to complete tasks or goals, but we still drop the ball. Almost all conflicts stem from misunderstandings or different perceptions. A good leader can communicate using necessary channels (e.g. verbal, written, etc.) in a way that not only gathers or disseminates the right information, but also builds up those around them.

Finally, a good leader carries not only a presence but also humility around them. A good leader doesn’t act standoffish but rather makes everyone around them feel accepted and desired. A great approach is to look at everyone you come into contact with as someone who knows more about something than you do.

Practice these traits on a regular basis and when you drop the ball (and you will) take it as a learning opportunity and forgive yourself and those around you.

You can be a leader, but beware this is a life learning skill that is rarely truly mastered and will nearly always take continued practice.