Category Archives: Employment Law

Payroll, Paychecks, and People: Jessica’s Story

Medical office

Jessica had worked temporarily for Dr. Bean two weeks, and had two more weeks until her work order was completed. The permanent staff was getting paid this Thursday – a day Jessica was not scheduled to work. The following week the office would be closed.

Jessica expected a check in the mail over the weekend from Dr. Bean’s office. When It hadn’t arrived by Monday, she called the office to leave a message – hoping that someone would be checking the messages while the office was closed.

“Hello, this is Jessica. I understand the office is closed this week and that the pay period ended last week. I was just wondering when I might expect my paycheck. Will it be mailed to me?”

The temp agency called Jessica the next day, Tuesday.

“Hi. This is Keri from Temporary Professionals. We received a call from Heidi at Dr. Bean’s office who wanted me to pass along a message to you. Your paycheck is in the mail.”

Cliche’ yet appropriate, Jessica thought. However, as the days passed with no paycheck, the cliche’ seemed to prove true to its reputation of insincerity and dishonesty. There would be no point in leaving another message at the office so late in the week.

By Monday morning – now 10 days after the pay period ended – Jessica was worried about how long it might take to fix the problem or find the lost check. She sought out the office manager and stated her concern.

“Heidi, I never received my paycheck. I heard from the agency that you’d sent it out, but I never got it.”

“I sent it.”

“Do you know what address it was sent to? Perhaps it went to the wrong place,” Jessica inquired.

“Well,” Heidi said. “Kelly sent it out. She does payroll. I’ll have to call her. If it went to the wrong address, then we’ll see if Kelly can put a stop on the check and reissue one for you. I’ll give her a call this morning.”

“Thanks.”

Lunch was several hours later, and Heidi had not mentioned the paycheck issue to Jessica again. Just before going to lunch, Jessica approached Heidi a second time.

“Heidi, did you get a chance to speak with Kelly yet?”

“No. I’ll do that right now.”

Jessica expected to have news from Heidi when she came back from lunch, but Heidi was busy and didn’t report anything. Another hour passed, and Jessica noticed an employee list on the wall near the desk she was working from. Kelly’s name and cell number was on the list.

Doctor-Phone

“Hello, Kelly. This is Jessica, who has been doing some temporary work at Dr.Bean’s office. Heidi said she was going to call you about an issue with my paycheck, have you spoken with her today?”

“No. What’s going on?”

“I didn’t receive my paycheck from the last period. I was told last Monday that it had gone out in the mail, but I haven’t gotten it yet a week later.”

“I left your check in the outgoing mail on Friday, and I told Heidi it was there. I don’t know if she sent it out then or later. If it didn’t go out, then it still might be sitting there. Has the mail gone out today?”

The mail had been taken to the post office that morning. Jessica had minded the desk while Melanie left to get mail from last week.

“Oh, no! Is there a chance that it just went out today???” Jessica was disappointed to think that her paycheck may have slipped from her grasp. Maybe Heidi was not truthful in her statement the check is in the mail one week ago.

Kelly asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“I guess not. If it just went out today, then I won’t get it for a few more days yet. Ugh!”

Kelly offered a solution, “If you don’t get it by today, then we can reissue you another check tomorrow.”

Jessica began to feel as if the paycheck she worked hard to earn and deserved to have, was not sent when she was told it was. Why would she get the check today when it had not come everyday last week?

Why didn’t they call me that Thursday it was processed and give me the option to come pick it up? Jessica thought. She was aware of the law – Dr. Bean legally had 30 days to pay her. That would be fine had she not been told it was on it’s way to her.

As the minutes passed, Jessica was feeling more and more mistreated. And it wasn’t the first time. Just three months earlier this same scenario played out with a different temporary employer. That office had also claimed her check was in the mail, but each day that passed, and with each day it didn’t arrive, she felt more and more betrayed. Finally, when the legal 30 days was up, Jessica walked into the office to ask for her paycheck. Oh, the run around that occurred, and the passing of the buck she witnessed confirmed to her that they had no intention of paying her. Excuse and defensive excuse after another made it easy to see that she was being lied to. Was it happening again????

After a few more minutes of stewing over the situation, Jessica approached Dr. Bean in his office.

“Dr. Bean, may I talk to you about something?”

After his approval, Jessica continued.

“I didn’t get my paycheck.”

“What? Say that again?” Dr. Bean asked.

“I didn’t get my paycheck, and Heidi says it was sent, and she was going to talk with Kelly but she didn’t…”

He interrupted. “I know nothing about payroll. I don’t even know how to do payroll. You’ll have to talk with Kelly about that.”

“I did talk with Kelly, and no one seems to know where it is.”

“Well, I don’t have any solution for you. I don’t know anything about payroll. Do you have a solution? Why are you telling me this?”

“Dr. Bean, the solution I would suggest is to put a stop on the first check since we don’t know where it is and reissue a check for me.”

“I don’t know how to figure out payroll. I never write checks.”

“If I called Kelly and learned the amount the check was written for, would you write a new check? Do you have a checkbook here?” Jessica asked.

“Hold on. Let’s figure out what’s going on here.” He stormed out of the room, and Jessica assumed he’d be heading to Heidi. She was right.

A few minutes later, Heidi approached Jessica at the desk where she’d been working and said, “I need to use your desk so I can call Kelly.”

Mailbox

It was 5:00 now. Jessica used her cell phone to call home. “Please check the mail. Is there a check for me from Dr. Bean?”

“Yes. It’s post marked with Saturday’s date – just last Saturday.”

UGH! There was no way Jessica’s check would take one week to get to her mailbox if it had been mailed out when Heidi said it had been. Jessica felt lied to, and worse – she’d gotten the run-around because no one wanted to confess that they’d not been telling the truth! It appeared to Jessica that paying temporary employees was not a priority at this practice.

“I mailed it on Monday. I don’t know why it would take so long to get to you,” Heidi explained. “I would never lie to you, Jessica. I would not try to deceive you in any way. I didn’t mail it at the post office, though. I put it in an outgoing mailbox at Safeway. I guess I don’t know when their mail is picked up.”

“Heidi, it’s just not possible that it would take that long to get to me and contain a post mark from this past Saturday.” Jessica replied.

Jessica worked two more hours that day, finding it hard to do. She was thankful her check had been found, but she was still feeling upset that no one else associated with Dr. Bean saw reason for her to be upset about not being paid when she was told she would be.

Jessica had creditors who’d been calling her about monies owed them. Getting her paycheck was necessary to pay her overdue bills. She was experiencing a financial crunch, and waiting for her paycheck, then worrying that she may not get it for a few more days was very disheartening.

The next day, Heidi explained that she and Kelly had been offended by Jessica’s actions and attitude. Jessica was surprised to learn that THEY were offended. Didn’t they understand what SHE was feeling?

Heidi confessed that Jessica’s check was likely left in the outgoing mail at the office for the entire week the office was closed until Heidi had come into the office the Friday before, saw a pile of mail to go out, and took it to Safeway.

“I didn’t see your check in the pile of mail, but I can only assume it was in there. It probably went out five days after I told you it had.”

No apology came from Heidi. She simply said, “I would never lie to you. There would be no reason for us to hold your check.”


 

Are there lessons to be learned from Jessica’s story?

How did it make you feel?

Who is in the right?

Who is in the wrong?

What, if anything, should have been done differently?

What if You’re C.) “All of the Above”?

*WARNING: The following post contains a rant. The writer is subject to:

A.) Fly off the handle

B.) Break down in tears

C.) Crawl under a rock

D.) Be prepared for whatever LIES ahead.

I rarely rant (okay, my husband and children would say otherwise) Yet, today I have stewed about a particular situation all last weekend, and it’s time to let it out! WHAAAA!

I am embarrassed to say that I’m looking for a job. I have owned my own business (Emerald City Consulting) for 8 years. It has been profitable at times, and not so profitable at other times. It takes money to advertise in the never ending fragmented ways that exist in today’s ever changing marketplace, and my marketing budget is non-existent. Therefore, since August I have been actively seeking employment.

In the course of my 35 year career, I have accumulated vast and varied skills. Rather than be viewed as well-rounded, I think it’s probably working against me in the hunt for a job. It’s like taking a true/false test, when I have a multiple choice background.

“Yes, I can do all of the above”. Therefore, my search for a job has been vast and varied. I have experience in many areas, rather than 35 years building on just one skill.

For this reason, I don’t remember exactly what the ad on www.Indeed.com said that caused me to apply for a particular job last week. There were likely a multitude of ways I “fit the bill”.  I was happy to receive an email last week from Catherine Smith in HR at Dynamic Concepts, Inc. She was requesting an interview with me. In 10 weeks of submitting over 100 resumes, this would be merely my second actual interview. (Perhaps I should have been suspicious).

Even though I had no memory of placing the application, nor did I remember the job description, I took the opportunity to look at the website for Dynamic Concepts, Inc. Here are a few screen shots from their website.

What would YOU believe Dynamic Concepts, Inc. to be known for?

My interpretation was thus:

They are a company who works with clients to increase the client’s branding and marketing efforts.

It sounded to me as though they had a unique approach to helping their clients manage and market their businesses. I was ALL ABOUT these ideas, and I was excited for an interview. Furthermore, their website touted the following (I’ve bolded the words/phrases that appealed to my skills and abilities):

  1. Success in unprecedented growth for the clients we work with by following a couple of core principles. Targeted outreach programs place branding specialists in front of an ideal buying audience to produce rapid returns. An emphasis on team building allows for the highest standard of service to be duplicated into new markets at an accelerated rate.
  2. The standard of excellence we provide has allowed us the opportunity to partner with nationally recognized name brands. As such, we are committed to maintaining the highest levels of professionalism because we know that we are not only representing ourselves, but the top-notch clients that put their faith in us.
  3. We are continually able to reach new markets and demographics with the help of our global network. Our clients know that we are not alone when marketing their brand. A solid network of marketing executives enables us to become fast and efficient problem-solvers. We can respond immediately should any situation arise.
  4. The most significant factor in our success is the experience of the consumer. We are diligent about following up spectacular campaigns with exceptional support and customer service. Our approach is convenient and cost-effective for the consumer, allowing them more freedom with their time and money without sacrificing on quality.

The Dynamic Concepts, Inc. website was done very well. Large amounts of money had been spent on its engaging and motivating content and layout. I looked forward to my interview in Renton – a few miles from where I live!

A few minutes before my scheduled interview time last Friday, I pulled into an industrial park. Industrial park? The first clue that Dynamic Concepts, Inc. may not meet my expectations.

I found building 10. Amid a sea of doors, I saw one labeled “Dynamic Concepts, Inc.”

Upon entering the door, I came face to face with a young man sitting at a desk. He looked like an adolescent trying to look like an adult. He was wearing a bow tie and a suit jacket that was at least three sizes too big.  It reminded me of this scene in the movie, Beetlejuice:

Okay, he was a nice enough looking young man, but this picture illustrates the thought that came to mind because of his over-sized clothing.

I was feeling uneasy, but took the one-page application form he offered and filled it out. Then, an adolescent-looking girl asked me to follow her into a small, poorly decorated office. She explained that this was a short “get to know you” meeting.

She asked what had drawn me to their ad.

“I actually don’t remember the ad, but I am drawn to some words and phrases on your website – mentoring, management, marketing, and client support”, I replied.

She asked, “What two words describe you?”

“Professionalism and eloquence” I said. (Yeah, corny. Whatever)

She began to describe Dynamic Concepts, Inc. as a company that uses event marketing to support their clients. “Clients”, she said “like Kroger, Costco and gas stations.”

She then showed me a picture of “what our members do”. It was a picture of three young people wearing orange safety jackets standing under a portable pop-up tent behind a table with spray-paint-can-like objects on the table.

“Where are they?” I asked.

“This is at a Kroger store. Right now, we are new to Washington, so we have two products we feature – a car wax and windshield repair. But the company has over 75 products.”

I’m trying to wrap my brain around what I’m hearing. I point to the picture. “Are these Kroger products?”

“No, these are our products, but Kroger, who is our client, partners with us.”

My stomach is getting queasy, and I realize I’ve been duped. This is nothing more than a sales position. A freaking position selling car wax under a tent in the parking lot of major retailers. Retailers who rent their space to Dynamic Concepts, Inc., who call the retailers CLIENTS.

By this definition, my landlord is my client because he lets me use his home to live in. WTH???? (“Honey, did you send a check to our “client” this month to pay our rent?”)

My choice: D.) NONE OF THE ABOVE!

Holy Crap! This company went to a lot of trouble to lie about what they do, so that they could get stupid people to apply for a stupid sales job, who would then be taught how to manage and lie to more stupid people about how to sell stupid products for “clients” who are anything but clients!

On my way home, I began to realize that they saw my resume, and thought I was stupid enough to be taken in by their masquerade. What does that say about me? I’ve struggled with this all weekend, and my ego is bruised badly. I am both angry that there are people out there making money off of lies and dishonest methods, and sad that I was viewed as someone who could be taken in by people making money off of lies and dishonest methods.

My job search has been essentially unproductive, and I’m not sure what to do next. I’ve never considered myself unskilled, but I’m sure beginning to feel that way. Perhaps it’s this way for everyone. I mean, I haven’t looked for a job for more than 10 years. Is this what it’s come to? Lies, dishonesty?

Or, am I simply going about it the wrong way? I have NEVER had trouble finding a job in the previous twenty years of my career. Yet, I am so much more experienced now. I have accomplished amazing feats. I have run a business, and directed a non-profit successfully. But I am under-valued by potential employers.

It seems that when it comes to true/false job searches – false is okay. People make lots of money being false.

It seems that in multiple choice job searches, A or B are appropriate answers, but never apply if your answer is C.) All of the above or D.) None of the above.

Therefore, I have written a 1000 word essay about my job search. Will it help? Will it matter? Heck, I don’t know. I just don’t want to be duped again.

Anyone out there want to hire an “ALL OF THE ABOVE”?

 

 

People Are the WORST!

“I hate people. They are the worst!”

I admit to saying these very words on occasion. I suppose everyone gets frustrated and angry with our fellow humans from time to time. Yesterday was one of those times for me. I’m flabbergasted by the choices people make in business, and try to understand the reasons that people get away with bad customer/employee service.

Before you judge me as a mean, negative person for saying I hate people, let me share my story.

As a consultant, I help business owners and organizations recruit new team members. In order to increase my network, make a few dollars, and get a feel for what businesses deal with on a daily basis, I occasionally accept temp work from an agency I’ve had a relationship with for 25 years. My story begins about a month ago when I accepted one of these temp jobs.

I arrived at a dental office in West Seattle on Monday morning August 31st. I worked an entire day in an administrative/customer service role. The office manager (let’s call her Della) was very unorganized, harried, and generally stressed out. I stayed out of her way as much as possible because we just didn’t gel. None of the other staff members initiated contact with me, nor seemed to appreciate the help I was giving them. The dentist business owner (let’s call him Dr. Tooth) seemed nice, but aloof.

At day’s end I left my completed time card, and was told payday was that Thursday, and I could expect a check in one week.

I didn’t get my check when expected. As I considered calling Della to follow-up, the agency called with a request to temp another day for Dr. Tooth the upcoming Monday – September 14th. I thought to myself, “If my check doesn’t come this weekend, then at least I’ll be able to inquire about its whereabouts when I’m working IN the office”. I took the job.

“I never received my paycheck from the last time I worked here”, I said to Della when I saw her that Monday morning.

“Oh, what do you mean?” she asked.

I replied “According to the agency, Dr. Tooth is to pay me. You told me last time I was here that payday was that week. But I haven’t received a check”

Della began to shuffle papers around her desk. She couldn’t find the time card I had given her a copy of when I left on the 31st. “Oh, I guess I forgot.”

I FORGOT was inexcusable, but I’ve made mistakes myself, so I kept my cool and suggested she add that day to the pay period that will cover today’s hours. Della was happy with that solution. She then told me payday was the coming Thursday (three days from then), and I could expect my check on Monday.

The rest of the details are best understood in the following timeline:

MONDAY: I was delighted to find an envelope in my mailbox with Dr. Tooth’s name in the return address area. However, inside the envelope was a check stub showing the hours for both days I worked and the proper rate of pay….but there was NO CHECK. That’s right, NO PAYCHECK in that envelope. Strange.

TUESDAY: I called Dr. Tooth’s office. No one answered, but I left a voice mail explaining my confusion in getting the check stub but no check.

WEDNESDAY: I received a voicemail from Helen (likely the person I had filled in for) at Dr. Tooth’s office. Her message claimed that she had alerted Della to the problem, and that another check had been issued and that she mailed it out TODAY. She ended her message with, “If you don’t have the check by Monday, please let us know”

THURSDAY: No check

FRIDAY: No check. Dr. Tooth’s office was closed according to their voicemail, and I did not leave a message. What would be the  point if they weren’t in until Monday?

I did call the agency, though. They had empathy for my position, but explained that Dr. Tooth had 30 days from the day I worked to pay me. My only recourse was to wait until the 30th (Wednesday) and then file a report with Labor and Industries if I didn’t get paid by then.

SATURDAY: No check.

MONDAY: UGH! Dr. Tooth’s voicemail again! “This is Jackie Bailey. I did some temp work for you on the 31st of August and the 14th of September. I have not been paid for either day. Helen’s message on Wednesday last week reported that a re-issued check had been mailed to me. I still don’t have it.”

I continued, “Because I know you legally have 30 days to pay me, I will be driving to your office tomorrow to pick up my paycheck. I’m tired of chasing my check, so I will expect it to be ready for me tomorrow.”

TUESDAY (yesterday) morning: Helen called me to say, “I’m sorry you still haven’t received your check. Dr. Tooth says he will re-issue you a new check, and it will be ready for you today. What time will you be coming by?”

I told her I would be there after twelve o’clock noon. She asked me the amount I’m owed. I provided that for her, and she said there would be someone at the desk all day until 5:00.

I walked into Dr. Tooth’s office at 12:30. There was no one at the front desk, nor was Della at her desk. I stood there for about three minutes. Then Dr. Tooth walked out front. He recognized me immediately. “Hi!”, he said. “I don’t know what happened to your check, but we’re going to issue you a new one.”

“Thank you” I said.

Then I watched Dr. Tooth walk into an operatory where a patient was waiting in the dental chair. I was alone again, standing at the front desk.

Soon, Della walked out. “Oh, hello” she said when she saw me. “How are you?” We exchanged pleasantries, and then she asked, “You still didn’t get your paycheck?” (silly question)

“No”.

“I don’t understand because the payroll service does that.”

I took out the pay stub I had received and handed it to her. She looked at it, took it into her office and began digging through drawers and overturning papers on her desk. I watched her make a copy of the pay stub I’d given her.

At that moment, a patient came out of the back office, and another one entered the office from the street. They both stood at the front desk next to me. Della came back to the desk holding the pay stub. She said, “It’s really strange. I don’t know what happened to it. I may have written your address incorrectly.”

I said, “Obviously, the address is correct – I received the pay stub”

“Yes, but I may have written it down wrong when sending the check. I went off of your hand written time card. They probably used your W2, so I don’t know what happened.”

I asked, “This isn’t the first time you’re hearing about this is it?”

“Well, no” she said.

“I called last week,” I said.

She said she needed to take care of the patients standing at the desk, and she’d be with me in a few minutes. I took a seat, frustrated that this was taking longer than I had time for – especially since I was told the check would be ready for me to “pick up” which denotes being ready ahead of my arrival.

A third person entered the office and sat down in a chair near me. The other two patients were checked in/out as the situation called for. Della was gone again. About that time, a younger woman walked in and stood behind the desk. I assumed she was Helen. She greeted the man sitting next to me, then asked me, “Has anyone been helping you?”

“I’m Jackie Bailey, and there are a few people dodging me.” I said. (I know, not real professional, but I feel like I’m being taken for a ride, here.)

Helen laughed uncomfortably and said, “I’ll see what’s going on.” She came back a few minutes later to say, “Dr. Tooth is with a patient, so it will be a few minutes before he can sign it”.

Della came out to where I was sitting and handed me the pay stub. She repeated the same line, “I just don’t know what could have happened.”

I said, “At this point I don’t care what happened to the first check, I just want to get paid”

Della replied tersely, “Well, I care what happened.”

“I understand,” I said. “You can continue to investigate that, but I was told by Helen this morning that my check was ready to be picked up, so I don’t know why we’re going through this now. I called LAST week about this.”

Della stormed off. A few minutes later, Helen handed me a check. “He finally got a moment to sign it.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“Have a great afternoon,” Helen said.

“You, too.”

This whole situation just angers me because there seems to be some deception from one, two, or all three of these people. I’m not convinced that a check was EVER issued for me. Especially since no one mentioned what to do if/when the original check shows up in my mailbox. Could there be some embezzling going on? It’s possible, but certainly Dr. Tooth would not be involved in that.

Della is either dishonest or was incompetent when she “forgot” to pay me the first time, and then somehow “lost” the check the second and third time. It shows compete lack of concern for employees that this situation was not resolved last week when I called about it. If a business DOES NOT care for their employees, then they certainly won’t care about their customers.

Helen said in the first voicemail that Della had been told about the situation and that a check had been sent. Parts of that situation surely must not be true. Was Helen lying? Or was Della dishonest to Helen? Della either didn’t know about the lost check in the first place, or she had no urgent concern regarding it. Either way, it seems fishy.

Dr. Tooth obviously didn’t feel any urgency in getting me a check when he saw me standing at his front desk. He had no intention of taking action when he told me he would. If he’d had the attitude of concern for someone who worked for him, he would have had a check ready for me BEFORE I arrived. But even if he didn’t have time that morning, once he saw me there, he should have made it a priority to take action.

It is all so frustrating, yet sadly not all that unusual. Having worked in dentistry most of my career, I’m qualified to report that the worst leaders/managers I’ve ever known have been in dentistry. That being said, I’m sure integrity and leadership are lacking in many businesses. In fact, I know it does.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though! There are tools that, when used, will ensure a greater chance of having team members and employees who not only CAN do the job (based on skills and experience), but who WILL do the job (based on emotional intelligence and personality traits). The tool I speak of, called Drake P3, can also ensure you secure a team member who will FIT your business culture.

Would you like to be a better, more successful leader?

Would you like to have employees or team members whom you can trust, and whom will treat your customers and clients in a professional, personable way?

What would it be like to go to work and know that your team will be effective, efficient and in harmony with each other?

Would you like a team where each member of the team does his/her job, and where individual strengths are used to lift the success of every team member?

It IS possible!

You don’t have to hate your team! and you don’t have to ever say, “People are the WORST!” when it comes to your team.

Tell me what you’d change about your current team……

The Tricks and Treats of Staff Turnover


Happy Halloween!

Today is the day in America when we have come to expect more treats than tricks.  Tricks are fun sometimes, but treats are much more appreciated!

It is the same in business.  We’d much rather get treats than be tricked.  “Tricks” are the cause of employee turnover.   Staff turnover can be the worst, most expensive “trick” for any business.  Turnover realistically cannot be eliminated, but it can be reduced greatly when you provide staff with more “treats”

By treats, I don’t mean more money.  In a list below of 12 items that contribute to greater satisfaction on the job, adequate compensation is 10 on the list.  There are 9 other items that staff members view more valuable than pay. (Find the complete list at the end of this post) 

“The back office staff does not need training (staff meetings) because they just do what we tell them to do.  It is the front office team that can benefit from consistent conversations and idea sharing”.

The picture above depicts my reaction when I heard a doctor actually say the quote above.  (blood-curdling scream)

This was said by one of two partner doctors who I have discovered think very differently from each other, but who also think very differently than what experience has taught me will bring them the greatest success in business.

These business owners were inadvertantly playing “tricks” on their staff members by non-verbally making three statements:
1. “Your ideas are not necessary, and probably unrealistic”
2. “Your abilities are just not that important to your job”
3. “Your role in our business is to show up and shut up”

I also learned that salary increases were being made arbitrarily.  The senior partner (who handled payroll) would occasionally say to an employee “I’m giving you a raise”.  There was no further conversation.  No reason was given for the increase, and no explanation for the amount of the increase.  Because the senior partner had decided on a “cap” for salaries, this pay increase was very rare.

Besides the arbitrary pay increase, no employee had ever had a performance review at this practice.  There had been no protocol for either praising or disciplining employees.  There was no vision, no mission, no values to align with.

I could imagine a group of 6 people coming together, and an assignment being given “we’re going to build a house”.  Without any instruction, the work would begin.  How do you think the “house” would turn out? 

It had become very clear to me why the staff at this particular practice were not communicating well with each other, nor well with their patients.  I also understood why the competence level seemed so low–there was no set criteria for a level of competence.  Even if there had been, without feedback and performance review, how would you ever know if you were measuring up?

The unspoken rule in this workplace was, “Do your job, get paid, and don’t try to improve anything.”

If this practice would just incorporate 3 “treats” into the character of their employee communication standard, the practice would have greater productivity, increased teamwork, and greater profit.

1. Have a written personnel policy manual stating expectations, protocols and communication standards.
2. Develop a written job description for each team member–highlighting the strengths and abilities needed to perform up to the defined standard.
3. Provide opportunities for training and collaboration to enhance a sense of ownership.

These changes won’t happen overnight–especially when expectations are introduced.  There will be some resistance.  However, those who resist a better work environment, better communication, and accountability are probably not the employees who are loyal anyway.  These are the types of employees who play “tricks” on their employers.   Let them go!

If you are an employer, and identify any of these characteristics in yourself, think about your outcomes.  Are you making the profit you’d like to?  Are you happy with the performance of your employees?  Do you recognize that a change may be the difference between success and failure?

“Oh, Bee-have”! says Jackie the Bee.
When you “bee”have like a leader, you will have greater success in business!


Based on surveys by Bent Eriksen & Associates of hundreds of staff members, here is what employees indicate would contribute to their productivity and sense of satisfaction on the job (“treats”):

1.     Ethically sound business principles and quality services. 
2.     A consistent and fair management style where policies are friendly, frank, fair and firm, consistently applied and clearly explained in writing.
3.     A pleasant and harmonious work environment with minimum stress. 
4.     Adequate facility, instruments, tools, equipment and supplies. 
5.     Competent, supportive and compatible team members. 
6.     Assistance in learning: to become more skilled, develop communication skills, make decisions and take initiative. 
7.     Clearly defined job responsibilities and expectations. 
8.     Recognition as an individual and as a team member. 
9.     Knowledge that their efforts are being appreciated and that inadequate work performance will not be tolerated.
10.  Adequate compensation and benefits. 
11.  Evaluation and feedback by the employer.
12.  Worthwhile staff meetings.

Art Without a Frame

Washington Post Staff Writer, Gene Weingarten shared a story in the Sunday edition on April 8, 2007.


It seems that on the morning of January 12th, 2007, Joshua Bell stepped into the L’Enfant Plaza of the Washington DC Metro station and offered a free concert to commuters there.  Wearing jeans and a baseball cap, he stood against a wall near a trash can and played his violin.   

Most of the commuters in the station that morning were mid-level bureaucrat federal workers with titles like, policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, and/or consultant.   Evidently none of these well-educated, skilled people knew the impressive title of Joshua Bell

Knowing the man playing the violin that morning was an “American Grammy Award-winning violinist“, or “one of the finest classical musicians in the world” may have caused the commuters to pause and listen.  Maybe the fact that Joshua Bell plays a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin would have, at least, aroused curiosity in the people who walked by while he played that day in the station.  And surely, once a musician of such caliber begins to play a piece of music like “Chaconne” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor (which has been called, “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history“), people would take notice, stop and listen, and drink in the magnificent sound.

But that IS NOT what happened.  According to the article, Mr. Weingarten reports that, in the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run — for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.  $32 for a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.

You may read the entire Washington Post story here: Pearls Before Breakfast

Following this experiment, Joshua Bell said, “at a music hall, I’ll get upset if someone coughs or if someone’s cellphone goes off.  But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change.” 

Before he began, Bell hadn’t known what to expect. What he does know is that, for some reason, he was nervous.

It wasn’t exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies,” he says. “I was stressing a little.”

Bell has played before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro?

When you play for ticket-holders,” Bell explains, “you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I’m already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don’t like me? What if they resent my presence . . .

Joshua Bell was, in short, art without a frame.


I was reminded of this story because of an experience I recently heard about – a story that has very similar outcomes to Joshua Bell’s story. 

It seems that a business owner hired “Mack”, a talented consultant, whom the business owner had met before.  The business owner had personally witnessed Mack’s strong work ethic and varied skills.  Mack was hired by the business owner to accomplish a very specific task in the business.

Mack accepted a position as an employee in the business – with the idea that once the specific task was completed successfully, the business owner would see the worth of Mack’s skills.  Mack wanted to be viewed as a consultant to this business owner, and they agreed that after a 90-day period working together, that the business owner would pay Mack closer to his professional rate and their relationship would move more toward a partnership and away from an employer/employee relationship.

Well, just as in the case of Joshua Bell, the business owner in Mack’s story did not understand the worth of Mack’s talent and skill.  Even though the specific project was successfully completed, Mack’s position as an employee was hard to shake.  After 90 days, the business owner did not renegotiate the terms of their relationship with Mack, and instead kept treating Mack as an employee – including wages well below Mack’s worth.

Mack, on the other hand, felt that if he kept providing examples of his talent, and continued to serve the business owner with the tools of his consulting knowledge, that the business owner would see the worth of his position as a consultant, and that Mack would be paid what he was worth.  Mack believed that it would surely work out in the end, and that this business owner would become a client instead of an employer.

But that IS NOT what happened.  Mack reports that, in the 22-months that he’s worked with this business, and has provided the company with “solutions to their greatest challenges, tools, resources and innovative ways to improve essential aspects of the business, and opportunities to have greater security and safety in the business“, Mack has been given a $1 an hour raise.   

Mack, like Joshua Bell is “Art Without A Frame”. 

This business owner, like the commuters in the DC Metro Station, can’t see the pearls before him.  Many of us don’t know the priceless opportunities before us, or the valuable relationships we have been blessed with  We get too busy to stop, listen and drink in the music and the talent around us.

Are you guilty of this? 
Are there people you work with who are pearls in their talents and abilities? 
Are there individuals that add to your life, your business, or your happiness that you have failed to notice or value? 

Are you a pearl? 
Are you someone who, for whatever reason is not being valued? 
If so, what can you do to change the situation? 
What could Joshua Bell have done? 
What could Mack have done?

3 Ways to Put Your Business Where the Sun Does Shine

One of America’s founding fathers, James Madison said, “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence“.

The founding fathers of the United States of America wanted the goal of our Constitution to
allow the sunshine side of human nature to enjoy unlimited freedom,
while setting up appropriate safeguards to prevent the shadow of human
passion, greed, and lust for power from undermining the success of the
nation.

Wouldn’t you like your job or business to have the same goals? Wouldn’t you like to have more sunshine in your business?  Wouldn’t you like to be able to bring out the best in your team, your employees, or your organization?  You can!  It takes pulling back the shades, washing the windows, and welcoming the rays of light into your fishbowl!

Let the sunshine in with these simple steps:

Clarify your communication expectations

Every business MUST have written rules, guidelines, policies and expectations if the team is to understand the definition of success.  Having a personnel policy manual will prevent the shadowy problems that consistently come up in business, and allow YOUR team the freedom to create solutions within your realm of expectations.  It’s a beautiful site to behold, when it happens!

Create an environment of open idea-sharing and accountability

At the start of every business day, there should be time set aside for team members to state their goals, identify foreseeable problems, and discuss possible solutions.  It’s a real “pane” to realize that disaster could have been avoided by simple coordination early on. 

Appreciate the “light” in your human resources

Have you ever thought about the meaning of “human resources”?  Your team members are the greatest resource you’ll ever spend money on.  I believe that the answer to your success lies within your bowl-mates.  Take time to identify the talents, skills and knowledge of each individual, and then let them float to the top as leaders in their specialty.

“Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to
air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses,
and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”


Patrick Lencioni,

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Freedom, creativity, and self-confidence are a few principles that the founding fathers of America built an entire nation on.  Certainly your business can benefit by applying the same principles.  Bring your business and your team out of the shadow and into the light! 

Your future will be so bright, you’re gonna need shades!

Gain by Losing

Drop 7 foods; lose 7 pounds; just 7 days.  That’s what the book cover said.  But actually, I have gone almost 3 months without 7 foods, and I have probably lost far more than 7 pounds.  I know I’ve lost inches.

The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days

It began around the first part of January when my husband mentioned he’d seen a woman on PBS talking about 7 foods that can cause not only weight gain, but joint pain.  Joint pain is my middle name since being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia 26 years ago.  Was there a way to decrease that pain simply by changing my diet?

I listened to the PBS program as well.  J.J. Virgin suggested that the following 7 foods should be dropped from our diets for 21 days:

  • Soy
  • Gluten
  • Corn
  • Peanuts
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Sugar (even artificial sweeteners)

It was Soy that caught my attention the most.   About a year and a half ago I started AND completed P90X.  It was a tough workout, and I worked hard for the prescribed 90 days.  But, I didn’t feel that I’d gotten as ripped as I should have with the hours of workout time I’d put in.  Interestingly enough, I started drinking Soy milk at about the time I started the P90X workout.

Even though I have decreased my workout intensity, I’ve still continued exercising 4-5 days a week, yet I’ve gained belly fat.  Could that belly fat be due to the Soy in my diet?  Ms. Virgin says yes.  She concluded that by dropping Soy and the other 6 foods for 21 days that the immune system could be reset, and that a person would have less pain and actually lose weight.

After just 4 days without these foods in my diet I felt great!  My Fibromyalgia pain decreased immensely.  I was actually coming to grips with the idea that I’d need surgery on my right shoulder because it hurt so badly I thought it must have been injured somehow.  But after about a week without these 7 foods, I had no more shoulder pain, and I was no longer taking Ibuprofen every day for my typical Fibromyalgia pain. 

I was surprised to learn that diet would have such a profound impact on my pain.  I have felt no urgent desire to add these foods back into my diet after 3 months without them!

Of the 7 items on the above list, only 1 (sugar) was something I’d been taught to avoid.  The other foods had always been suggested on the pyramid of food groups.  But somewhere in my past I’d developed an intolerance to these seemingly healthy foods.

Could this lesson be compare to your business?

Are there things in your business that you assume are good, but in fact may be undermining your success? 

What if you dropped behaviors or actions typical in your business that appear to be good, but are actually causing you unnecessary pain?

For instance, do you believe these business best practices?

  • Daily interaction with your team members/employees will help you know how they are feeling
  • Telling your employees what you want from them will give you the results you seek
  • An advertising campaign is necessary to get new customers/patients.

Although these are common aspects of a typical business model, they are not always right for your business, always.  The world changes every day.  We get information from vastly different resources than we did just 15 years ago.  If you’re not changing, then you’re falling behind.

I was experiencing unexpected weight gain and increased pain because I was doing the same things I’d always done, or had been taught to do.  Are you experiencing unwanted pain and consequences because you’re doing what you’ve always done?  Think about what you can drop from your current plan that may cause the successful outcomes you’re looking for.

Think about what you’ve been doing in your business for so long now, that you don’t even consider doing anything else.  Then, consider if it’s really working for you.

What have you been doing in your business consistently for at least 1 year?

Got Horse-Sense? Change Your Track Record!


You have employees. You hired them because you felt they had the right skills, experience and personality for your team.  

What do you think your employees want most from you?   If you think money is #1 you’d be wrong.

On a list of 12 items that employees say they want, compensation is #11.  The first 3 items on the list are:

  1. Ethical Standards 
  2. Fair Management 
  3. Harmonious Environment 

#4 on that list: an adequate facility, instruments, tools, equipment and supplies.  Surprising? 

Watch this video of 8 thoroughbred horses before race #4 at Emerald Downs in Auburn Washington.  Here’s a list of the horses by name:

  1. AGOODLAWYERWILLDO
  2. GO JACKIE GO (My personal favorite for obvious reason)
  3. INNOCENT LOVE
  4. FEMMINA PESANTE
  5. FOREST BUNNY
  6. PEBBLE BEACH BABY
  7. HOT DATE
  8. BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE

Beautiful animals, all! When hiring your staff members I’m sure you wanted thoroughbreds. If you’ve ended up with anything short of that, then perhaps you need to take a close look at what you’re providing your team.  What are you doing to help them be successful in their “race”?

Horsehats.com tells us that confirmation of a racehorse is the blending of various body parts and how well they fit together to create a running machine.  They ask us to compare Michael Jordan to Rosanne Barr when deciding who might excel more athletically.  

Watch these same 8 horses race in the 4th at Emerald Downs…

It may not be as obvious a choice as Jordan or Barr when deciding a horse race or hiring team members, but I suggest that what you provide your team to enhance their performance should be utmost on your mind. 

In the race itself, the horse is influenced in the moment of the race by the surface of the track, how close the horse is to the inside barrier, the jockey, and even the trainer.

What are you providing your staff so they can succeed in the moment? 

  • Do they have adequate hardware and software? 
  • Do they have the right tools in top shape to be able to do their job right?  
  • Are you providing sufficient leadership and training?
  • Do they know that you’ll provide them the tools they need?

One employee I know sat in a dark corner straining to see the computer screen on her desk because the light bulb above her desk had burned out, and the business owner took two weeks to purchase a replacement bulb.  Silly, isn’t it?

What does it take to make a winning race horse?  A paycheck?  Of course not.  The paycheck comes after the performance. Therefore, if you don’t take the time to provide an adequate facility, instruments, tools, equipment and supplies for your employees, you may end up with another type of staff member than a thoroughbred race horse. 

For example, the same day that those 8 beautiful horses graced the track at Emerald Downs, there were 8 other racers on the same track.  HARLEY won that race.

Watch this video of heat #2 featuring 8 other types of racers on the same track….

The choice is yours:  

  • Michael Jordan or Roseanne Barr
  • BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE or HARLEY
  • A thoroughbred race horse or a wiener-dog hound.

You have the means to create winners in your employees.  What will you change about your “track” record to make it happen?

Protect Your Assets from The Liability MONSTER!

When most business owners think about protecting the asset value of their business, thoughts naturally revolve around insurance:

  • Malpractice (in the case of healthcare)

  • General liability

  • Workers’ compensation

Each of these has a specific purpose and, therefore, provides coverage for specific issues, but…. 


Is this enough to protect your retirement?

Today there is a BIG LIABILITY MONSTER that now represents an even greater risk to you.

This MONSTER is the risk and liability associated with lack of employment compliance.  This MONSTER is putting businesses in financial jeopardy, perhaps even more than you may realize.  Malpractice, liability and workers’ compensation insurance will be of no help to you.


You may have a strategy to minimize your risks.  These strategies may include:

• “At-will” prerogative

• Incorporation

• Arbitration

• The very popular “just don’t put anything in writing”

Employers unknowingly undermine “at-will” by creating contracts with their employees that take away the flexibility to discharge “at-will.”  Language such as…

  • Probationary period

  • Permanent employee status

  • Long-term employee

  • Career employee

  • Tenure

….both verbally or in writing, may create a contract and undermine “at-will” prerogatives.

 Incorporating, whether that be PC, LLC, S, or C, is designed to separate you and your personal assets from those of the business entity. Unfortunately, the “line” between you and your corporation is commonly blurred (auto expenses, vacations, supplies), making it easy for an attorney to “pierce the corporate veil” and join you personally with your corporation.


The advent of arbitration for resolving disputes was an attempt to solve problems in a more amicable manner, and without the protracted legal expense involved to fight claims such as wrongful discharge, discrimination, harassment, and the like.  One mistake that employers make regarding arbitration is thinking that it covers all disputes, which it doesn’t.  The Supreme Court has upheld the EEOC’s right to pursue victim-specific judicial relief, even when an employee has agreed to submit discrimination disputes to arbitration.  Thus today it appears that arbitration doesn’t fully protect you anymore.


The “Just Don’t Put Anything in Writing” idea is a huge mistake.  Unwritten policies can often result in inconsistent treatment of employees, which can lead to charges of discrimination. In this situation, employees begin questioning why others received something different, in most cases more beneficial, than they did. When they cannot conclude that the inconsistent treatment was based on legitimate reasons, they conclude it had to be based on discrimination and may think the remedy is to file a claim against the employer.  A court or a government agency will generally expect the employer to have a personnel policy manual in place and will request, among other information and documentation, to review it.

DON’T LET THE LIABILITY MONSTER EAT YOUR PROFITS!  PROTECT YOURSELF BY APPLYING PROPER EMPLOYMENT COMPLIANCE PRINCIPLES INTO YOUR BUSINESS!


Download the entire article referenced in this post by Bent Ericksen & Associates.

Protecting Assets part 1
Protecting Assets part 2
Protecting Assets part 3

HR Thursday: Step 5 to Prevent Harassment Claims

Tim Twigg is the President of Bent Ericksen & Associates, and Rebecca Crane is a human resource compliance consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates.  In March of 2010 these two wrote an article titled “Harassment: avoiding the nightmare“.

The last several Thursday’s on this very blog, I have been giving you snippets of information from this article.  I have whittled down for you the most vital information you need to know to protect the investment you’ve made in your business.

I have worked through each step of prevention with you:
Step 1: Provide written policy and regular communication
Step 2: Provide antiharassment training
Step 3: Investigate complaints
Step 4: Take necessary disciplinary action

Today, Step 5 is: Follow up!

When a complaint has been brought before you, even if each of the preceding steps have been accomplished, you’re still not done.  You must respond to the employee making the complaint regarding the findings and resolutions.  Periodically follow up with the victim to ensure that the harassment has stopped, the remedy was effective, and no retaliation has taken place.

Avoiding harassment charges is primarily addressed through prevention.  Make sure employees are aware of your policy and procedures, and act when necessary to stop inappropriate conduct. 

Tim Twigg and Rebecca Crane will tell you that the benefits of doing all of the above are:

  • A more harmonious work environment
  • Better job performance
  • Less turnover
  • More profit

I’m sure that’s exactly what YOU want!