Check Your Vocabulary for These Toxic Words in the Workplace

Words have power

All words carry weight. And we must carefully choose the words that we use to represent us, particularly in the workplace.

Though it’s standard for professional work environments not to condone certain words – curse words (you know, the ones for which your grandmother would threaten to rinse out your mouth with soap), insulting or demeaning words and language, among others – there are other, seemingly innocent words to watch for in your vocabulary.

Crystal Barnett, senior human resource specialist with human resources consulting company Insperity, offers these seven words (and phrases) to watch out for at work:

  • “Honestly.” The word “honestly” is by no means an offensive word. However, the thoughts that come afterwards should be carefully considered before being spoken. Telling a trusted boss how one truly feels is expected and encouraged at many companies. However, in some organizations, giving an unvarnished assessment can be dangerous if done without careful consideration beforehand. For example, attempts to be honest while criticizing another team member’s work in a public setting can not only damage relationships, but it can also create the impression that a worker is willing to promote his or her own efforts by attacking others.   
  • “That’s not fair.” The concept of fairness is taught to most children. However, in the workplace, as in life, things are not always fair. While raising issues of fairness are acceptable in many work settings, the time, place and audience should be carefully considered beforehand.
  • “I.” While giving credit where credit is due, employees should reinforce teamwork and try not to highlight personal efforts over the work of others.
  • “This is the way we’ve always done it here.” Newer employees proposing alternative approaches for solving workplace problems have likely heard this phrase before. While all new ideas are not good ideas, failing to consider alternative approaches may mean the company is missing out on new opportunities for improvement.
  • “Yeah, but…” This phrase often follows an instruction or request from a supervisor or manager. Asking clarifying questions or proactively identifying issues is not a bad thing. However, doing so in a negative sounding way suggests an unwillingness to follow instruction or worse yet, a challenge to a leader’s authority. Often, simply avoiding “Yeah but…” is a better way to go.
  • “Just.” “Just” can be a loaded word in some contexts. For example, if a manager says to an employee “I just want you to finish those reports before the end of the week,” the comment often sounds highly negative on the receiving end. It can also convey the impression that the listener is being difficult or combative. A better approach might be to say “Be sure to get me those reports by the end of the week.”
  •  “Yes.” In many scenarios, saying yes is a good thing. But not always. Some top performing workers have problems saying no and therefore always say yes when asked to perform additional work.  This may result in a lower quality product, simply because the employee in question is stretched too thin. In addition, the dangers of burnout should be considered. In companies where the hardest working employees are “rewarded” with the greatest amount of work, saying “yes” at all times can have negative impacts and end up hiring the employee in the end.

Recognizing Signs of Domestic Violence at Work

Domestic violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Unless you or someone close to you has experienced domestic violence, you might think of it as something that only impacts people at home. Unfortunately, abuse is often subtle and happening to people of all socio-economic classes, ages, races, genders, etc.

There’s a fine line to employers getting involved in the personal lives of employees. But often domestic abuse doesn’t stay within the confines of a home’s walls. And the sheer number of people impacted by domestic violence are staggering: Nearly one in three women and one in seven men are victims of domestic violence during their lifetime. Even more numbing is that 53% of people know someone who has been a victim of abuse.

Domestic violence harms the health and well-being of your employees. And it can hurt a company’s bottom line through lost productivity and missed work.

Domestic Violence Network statistics show that 74% of women who are abused were harassed by their abuser while on the job. More than half were late for work at least five times per month because of abuse. Nearly 30% had to leave work early at least five days a month. And 54% missed three or more full days of work per month due to abuse.

Abuse is estimated to cost employers over $5.8 billion a year; $4.1 billion of that is directly related to medical expenses.

In a workforce of 50 people, approximately 27 people know someone impacted by domestic violence. If the employee mix is equal (25 female and 25 male), approximately eight females and three males are victims of abuse. And the U.S. Department of Justice statistics estimate that four women and one man per day are killed by abuse from an intimate partner.

Central Indiana statistics are sobering: agencies received 22,758 calls in 2016 related to domestic violence, according to the State of Domestic Violence Report.

Employers should understand that this violence won’t always be obvious. Abused employees will not always come to work with bruises or other injuries; if they do, it’s a safe bet that they’ve been emotionally abused for much longer.

Here are common abuse signs to watch for in employees:

  • Increase in absenteeism and/or tardiness: abusers may start fights prior to work, take vehicles to prevent the abused individual from getting to work, etc. Or the absences may be due to injuries if the abuse has reached the physical stage
  • Increased distraction: someone may suffer from poor concentration, anxiety and isolation. They may always keep a cell phone nearby and answer it quickly and then appear nervous or upset after answering the call or reading the text
  • Changes in social interaction: employees may stop doing things socially with co-workers. They may stop going to lunch with others and may avoid certain people
  • Increased or frequent visits by the abuser: visits alone aren’t enough to indicate something is wrong, but if the individual has negative reactions when the abuser is there or right after, there could be a problem

What are employers able to do for employees they suspect may be in an abusive situation? If you suspect your employee is a victim of abuse, the first thing you can do is offer a safe place for discussion.

If you suspect an employee is being abused, show kindness in your approach. Ask the employee if there is anything that you can help with and avoid telling him or her you think that abuse is occurring. If the employee is showing up with physical evidence of abuse, an employer should ask, “Is someone hurting you?”

If the answer is no, accept it. The employee may not be ready to share the abuse or may not yet see themselves as victims. Let the employee know you care and that you are there to help if you can. Refer them to a local domestic violence network or shelter if necessary.

Hoosiers Need More Zzzzzzzzs (Employers Can Help)

Sleepy worker

Ten years ago, sleep was not one of my top priorities.

I slept whenever I wanted (outside of my work hours). It was glorious.

Now that I’m a parent of two small children and come home to chores and tasks and homework and all the things you have to squeeze in to a 24-hour period (along with any sort of relaxation at the end of the day … Netflix on the couch, anyone?), sleep is the thing that gets squeezed out of my schedule.

I know skimping on sleep is not a healthy habit and that I need to make it more of a priority. But, like other busy people, I have a lot of priorities. What’s the motivation for more sleep?

It turns out I’m not the only Hoosier with this particular challenge. A recent article in the Indianapolis Star reports that more than 38% of Hoosiers say they don’t get the recommended amount of sleep per night (at least seven hours).

The article’s headline claims Indiana is the 8th most tired state. While we beat out Hawaiians (who came in last), the residents of South Dakota are seemingly very well rested.

Why should employers care if their employees aren’t prioritizing their rest?

Obviously, sleepy employees make for less productive employees. That’s not surprising.

What is surprising is how much the unrested employees might cost employers. The National Safety Council this week revealed a cost calculator to show the impact of sleepy employees.

Other concerns for employers include health care-related costs – from paying more over time for employees with sleep disorders who require medicine or machinery to get their required rest to the correlation to Indiana’s obesity rate, which can impact sleep quality. All of this can cost employers in terms of health care expenses and absenteeism issues.

So what is an employer to do? For one, the Wellness Council of Indiana offers employers a road map to implementing wellness programs in the workplace. Whether or not your wellness game plan directly targets the sleep of your employees, you can take steps to encourage your employers to eat, move and sleep better. Here are a number of resources you might find useful, including this article on sleep habits; one on workplace fatigue risk management; and this newsletter focusing on the dangers of insomnia and suggestions for how to deal with the condition.

You can also simply ask your employees if they feel well-rested and if there is any other way you can motivate them to get better rest. Perhaps an internal policy change regarding work hours or flexible scheduling could make a bigger impact than you realize. Even encouraging employees to make sure they take advantage of their vacation time could help ensure rested, rejuvenated employees who are ready to work.

What other ideas do you have for encouraging employees to get more rest (at home)?

Talented Employees Seek Out the Best (Places to Work in Indiana)

Job seekers use many tools for finding employment. And talented employees who know they deserve to work for the best companies around are using the Best Places to Work in Indiana list to enhance their searches.

Using comprehensive employee surveys and employer reports as the determination for inclusion in the list, the Best Places to Work in Indiana program promotes and celebrates the top employers in the state of Indiana.

Our Tom Schuman gives a two-minute look at a few benefits of participating, including how the “Best Places to Work in Indiana” designation can enhance your search for talented employees.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2018 program at www.bestplacestoworkin.com. Don’t wait long; the deadline to apply is Friday, November 17.

Recruiting Outside the Box: Indiana Dual Career Network

Recruiting has become something of a dance. It’s no longer as simple as placing an ad and waiting for candidates to knock on your door. Recruiters must be creative and utilize a multitude of tools to source talent.

The standard avenues for recruitment still exist – word of mouth, employee referrals and job boards. There is one piece, however, that has been a challenge for individuals recruiting for highly specialized fields: What happens to the spouses of the candidates being courted?

Recently, I was invited by a colleague at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) to participate in a group called the Indiana Dual Career Network (IDCN). Laura Farkas, interim president of IDCN, summarizes the goal of the group:

The IDCN is a network of professionals throughout the state who are involved with talent recruitment, with the added focus of paying attention to Dual Career issues, which is another way of saying “Trailing Spouse” challenges. In other words, as Indiana companies and institutions of Higher Ed are trying to recruit talent to their organizations, a pool of talented spouses and partners develops alongside them, who will be wanting to envision compelling work for themselves. Instead of a problem, we want to engage with each other and share information, resources, and networking contacts to make sure we all see “Trailing Spouses” as opportunities.

IDCN started a little under four years ago specifically for the academic world. Department heads at a number of Indiana universities were having difficulty attracting talent and realized that often the reason a candidate rejected a position was the lack of job opportunity for the trailing partner.

Farkas shared a recent IDCN success story: A candidate for a job at Purdue University had received six offers, but chose Purdue because of the additional job search assistance available to their partner.

This is creative networking at its best. Communicating through ListServ, the group can spread the word within the academic world and to surrounding business partners and work to secure employment for those partners of job prospects.

IDCN’s goal is not only filling positions, but also attracting and keeping talent in Indiana. I definitely will continue to reach out to this group for upcoming open positions.

Don’t Forget to R-EAP the Benefits of Employer-Sponsored Plans

While salary, vacation time, insurance payments and creature comforts are the highly-touted employer benefits offered to employees, there’s an extremely valuable resource that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves: the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP).

Though benefits change from plan to plan, an EAP often covers services such as free counseling or therapy sessions, phone or internet-based counseling options, assistance with elder care/child care, financial assistance, stress management, help with legal concerns, addiction and recovery assistance, concierge or convenience services and more.

While not all companies offer the plans, over three-quarters of employers named to the 2017 Best Places to Work in Indiana list reported offering an EAP to their employees. And as the top-rated workplaces in the state based on their own employee surveys, they must all be on to something.

I sat down with the Indiana Chamber’s director of human resources, Michelle Kavanaugh, SPHR, to discuss why EAPs are sometimes underutilized and what human resources professionals can do to help boost involvement. She points to the EAP often getting lost in the open enrollment or new hire process.

“The benefits process and open enrollment can be overwhelming to people; they’re just trying to figure out the medical side of insurance and a lot of times the extras get missed,” she offers. “The EAP benefits that people hear about, you just sort of put them away and don’t think you’ll ever need to use it.”

Another issue is the stigma that surrounds mental health.

“There is also a misconception about reaching out for help with mental health issues that prevents people from utilizing it too,” she adds.

Her recommendations for getting the word out include utilizing existing communications methods – highlighting various pieces of the EAP in a company newsletter, for example. And using personal testimonials from employees who have benefitted from the resources can make a big impact.

My personal testimonial is this: I was never aware of the benefits of an EAP myself (I have no idea if any of my previous employers even offered such a service) until the time came that I needed additional help outside of the office, particularly after my first daughter was born and I struggled with post-partum anxiety. My first piece of advice to any friend or family member dealing with myriad issues is, “Does your employer offer an EAP? Go talk to your human resources representative and find out.”

Employers benefit from offering the programs as well. While I don’t have return on investment numbers to share, it’s well documented that emotional and mental well-being are critical to employee performance and productivity. If employees are able to manage their stress – financial, emotional, family and otherwise – outside of the workplace, they’re less likely to have those issues impact their performance on the job.

Help your bottom line by ensuring your employees know they have valuable resources available to them. Or, if you don’t have an EAP, talk to your benefits provider about how to get started. And don’t forget to spread the word to your employees – it only works if they use it!

MDWise, Inc.: Maximizing Chamber Investment Through Employee Training

Lux_LindseyAre great leaders born or made? The answer is simple: Great leaders are “made” – and embracing learning opportunities is a key step.

The Indiana Chamber’s annual Human Resources Conference & Expo provides a variety of tools to boost leadership skills. Lindsey Lux, a regular attendee, enjoys the panel discussions, legal updates and collaboration with fellow HR professionals.

Lux is vice president of operations at MDwise — an Indiana Chamber member since 2007. Headquartered in Indianapolis, the Indiana nonprofit health insurance company is focused on giving uninsured and underserved Hoosiers the compassionate service and care they want and need.

“The legal presenters at the conference have given interesting presentations with real-world applicability,” she comments. “The conference is the best in Indiana to earn strategic recertification credits necessary to maintain my SPHR (senior professional in human resources).”

Lux participated in a focus group with other past attendees regarding ways to enhance the event.

“Most conferences ask you to complete a satisfaction survey once you are finished. This is the first time I’ve been asked to discuss (my input) face-to-face with attendees,” she emphasizes.

Reflecting on an especially memorable experience at the Human Resources Conference, Lux describes a session about leadership development.

“I walked away with a workbook full of information after having clearly identified my values, my company strategy, goals, etc.,” she recalls. “It’s nice to leave a session feeling empowered to improve in areas as an individual and as an organization.”

Chamber Offers Triple Crown of Compliance Books

HThe Kentucky Derby is fast approaching, and it will likely be another great event — especially for all those in the Kentuckiana area who love a good time. But if you’re tired of the horse race of trying to keep up with regulations and the myriad issues employers and human resources departments must keep tabs on, you’re not alone.

The Indiana Chamber is offering three new books this spring that can help you pace the field.

Authored by attorneys at Ogletree Deakins, The Immigration Guide for Indiana Employers – Fifth Edition (formerly known as the Indiana Guide to Hiring and Managing Foreign Employees) is currently at the printer and headed toward the finish line. The book covers what employers need to know when hiring foreign workers. Some of the topics updated in this edition include:

  • temporary work visa sections: H-1B professionals and L-1 intracompany transfers;
  • Form I-9 completion and compliance;
  • information about President Obama’s pending executive order on immigration and what it means for employers;
  • Indiana-specific E-Verify requirements for certain employers; and
  • handling site visits from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services Fraud Detection Unit.

Ogletree has also authored a brand new title: Indiana Guide to Retaliation Claims. This ePub (online publication) features over 40 pages of instruction and case information that will help your company prepare against retaliation and whistleblower claims. Making a small investment in this guide can help prevent your company from becoming the next cautionary tale. This book is scheduled to be released later this month, but you can place your order now.

Additionally, the Performance Appraisal Handbook – Second Edition can help you effectively conduct appraisals on a regular basis. Authored by attorneys from Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, this book is ideal for HR professionals and small business owners who don’t want to take unnecessary chances in evaluating their employees. This book is slated for May publication.

You can order these respective guides via their web pages or by calling (800) 824-6885.

Telecommuting Now a Growing Part of the American Workplace

10061396As companies seek to become more worker-friendly, flexibility becomes more critical in retaining quality employees. The Learning House, on behalf of Grace College’s Department of Online Education, recently published an article on telecommuting and managing off-site employees.

The article includes statistics from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and includes comments from some leading business executives.

According to the SHRM, more companies began offering telecommuting in 2014 than any other benefit. The group also found that from 2005 to 2012, telework grew 79.2 percent. The largest growth year over year came from 2007 to 2008 with 14.1 percent, but the recession began to slow the growth of the practice. However, even as the total workforce declined, telecommuting grew and appears to bouncing back to new heights with the most recent figures.

Teleworkers by Sector
– Federal employees = 3.3%
– Private sector nonprofit employers = 2.9%
– Private sector for-profit employers = 2.6%
– State government workers = 2.4%
– Local government workers = 1.2%

Read the full article online.