HR Thursday: Leave of Absence policy

What happens when your employee want to exercise their right to take a Leave of Absence? 

Watch this video!

Some Leaves are optional, some are required.  Do you know the difference?  Your requirements to allow these types of leaves are based on State/Federal regulations and on the number of employees you have.  There are very clear protocols and policies when it comes to Leaves of Absence, and it behooves you to know what they are.  It’s even more important that you have them stated clearly in writing in your office policy manual.

Types of Leaves:

  • Bereavement leave

  • Personal Leave

  • Personal Leave due to Illness or Disability

  • Medical Leave for Occupational Disability

  • Leave for School Activities

  • Military

  • Military Family Leave

  • Leave Related to Domestic Violence

  • Pregnancy Leave

Important parts of the written policy:

  • Definition

  • Eligibility

  • How request is made/when

  • Length of Leave

  • Reporting on progress

  • Salary and Benefits

  • Reinstatement to work

  • Termination of employment while on Leave

For more information about creating an up-to-date policy manual for your practice, comment on this blog or send me an email!

Are you a better communicator than a three-year old?

Last weeks post about the scene I witnessed with a little boy and his parents caused quite a stir among my readers.  (click here to read) I appreciate the comments that you all shared.  This week I’d like to review what I feel may be learned from this event. I hope you can relate to one or more of the characters in the story….

The three-year old boy:
Have you ever tried to speak up as part of a team, yet felt that you were not being heard?  Have you been in pain, whether physical or emotional, and your feelings were not validated?  Perhaps you’ve been “pushed around” by those in authority, and therefore you had to basically take it?

On the other hand, have you felt so angry at times that you wanted to “get back” at your boss or other authority figure and treat them as you had been treated?  Have you ever felt that you’d been punished unjustly for doing what you felt you’d been taught to do?

The father:
Have you ever been in a position of leadership and used force or control to get what you wanted?  Is it possible that you’ve ignored requests that were important to others simply because you were determined to have what you wanted?  Have you ever used another person as a pawn to “get back at” or please another person?  How good are you at controlling your anger when others seem to force your hand?

The grandfather:
Have you been guilty of not having or not showing empathy to others?  Is it possible that you have not been listening, or at the very least, not understanding the needs of others?  Do you enjoy feeling stronger, bigger, or having control over other people?

The mother:
Do you sometimes feel repressed or unable to share your wants or your feelings?  Does it seem easier to not make waves with others rather than tell them of your disapproval?  Do you feel empathy for others, but have to be careful siding with them because that may create a greater rift with the other side?  Do you feel that you can’t really say what you want to without causing problems?

Have you been able to identify some commonality in your communication or leadership style with one of these characters?

I recently posted on my blog the personality traits of North, South, East, and West.  I did this for the purpose of helping you to better understand the people you work, live and/or serve with.  By knowing why others do what they do, we can act and react properly.  It is important to understand your team members.  Once you do, the common barriers to communication go away, and your ability to lead increases.

I encourage you to consider your ability to communicate.  Can you see a need to improve?  Do you think that by working on improving your communication and leadership abilities you could have greater success, and get more of what you want?

So, are you a better communicator than a three-year old?

HR Thursday: Reference Checking

Because of some technical difficulties, I’m unable to provide video this week, but welcome to HR Thursday on:
Reference Checking

A Cautionary Note—various local, state, and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, affect a prospective employer’s right to secure and use information during the screening process. Employers undertaking reference checks should:

  1. Become thoroughly familiar with all laws and regulations pretaining to pre-employment inquiries.
  2. Institute and follow procedures to maintain the confidentiality of all information obtained
  3. Take care to protest personal informaiton in employment files.

***Reference checking should be done only by trained management personnel or by an outside investigative agency.

Reference checking guidelines

Have the applicant’s permission in writing
. Many former employers will refuse to supply such information without a signed consent from the former employee. Before initiating a reference check, ask job applicants to sign a release authorizing their former employer to provide employment-related information

Mail or fax a copy of the Reference Request form to former employer(s)
(Ask me for a copy of this form for free)

Treat all reference information obtained in a confidential manner
. Save information received from former employer(s) in Personnel File if hired. If not hired, store with other completed applications — you may have to justify later why a person was not hired.

Ensure that the information received is from an authorized source
. Make sure that any professional or personal reference to be contacted is in a position to provide the kind of job-related information you need such as someone in a management position who has been delegated the responsibility to give out reference information. If applicable, speak to two persons for whom the applicant has worked on each job, the immediate supervisor and his/her superior.

Ask only direct and pointed, job-related questions

If possible, ask the same questions of all references, and use the same format for all reference checks.

the questions you asked, as well as the responses.  Your objective is to clear up discrepancies or fill in gaps in employment information.

Verify factual information
, e.g., beginning and termination dates, reason for leaving, salary and positions held, former supervisor’s evaluation; personal information, such as education and qualifications, job responsibilities, position titles, etc.; ask about the applicant’s job performance, honesty, interpersonal skills, and judgment in fulfilling work related duties.

Do not ask questions that may not legally be asked of the applicant at the pre-job-offer stage
. Avoid questions that are considered improper under state inquiry laws. Avoid discussing or alluding to an applicant’s age, physical or mental disabilities, earlier periods of unemployment, discrimination complaints, marital status, and citizenship or national origin.

Be cautious about any extreme comments you hear, good or bad, unless they are verified from other sources.

If negative business related information is uncovered, consider its source and check its accuracy with other sources.

Ensure that background information is weighed in the same way for all candidates
. What disqualifies one candidate should be the basis for disqualifying any applicant.

Questions To Ask When Checking References

  1. Why did the applicant leave your employment?
  2. What was applicant’s beginning and ending date of employment?
  3. What was applicant’s salary at termination?
  4. What were the applicant’s major job responsibilities? 
  5. How would you rate the applicant’s quality of work?
  6. Results of any performance evaluations?
  7. How was applicant’s punctuality and attendance history? 
  8. Would you rehire the applicant?
  9. How would you characterize the relationship between the applicant and other staff members? How about between the applicant and patients, clients, and/or customers?
  10. What were the applicant’s principal strengths? Outstanding successes? Significant failures?
  11. How would you compare the applicant’s performance with the performance of others with similar responsibilities?
  12. Were you satisfied with the applicant’s management skills? (if applicable)
  13. How would you describe the applicant’s success in training, developing and motivating coworkers? (if applicable.)
  14. What other information do you have that would help develop a more complete work-related picture of the applicant?

For more information, contact Bent Ericksen & Associates

If you’d like a copy of Form #105 Reference Request Form to Former Employer(s), please let me know!

Have a wonderful week!

“Ouch” and “Stop”. Words to be ignored?

I witnessed a scene over the weekend that upset me.  I’d like to share it with you, and welcome your feedback…

A father was playing with his son who was around age three.  The father had taken to spinning the little boy by pushing on his shoulder and forcing him to turn around.  Each time the father pushed the boys shoulder, the little boy would say, “ouch!”  The father ignored the little boy who was starting to cry, and then fell down. 

Once the little boy was on the ground, the father started to tickle him, and the little boy started to laugh through the tears.  For several more minutes the father wrestled and chased the boy.  There was intermittent periods of crying and laughter from the little boy.

Finally, the mother said, “Okay, I think we should stop now.  He’s getting tired, and he’s going to get hurt”.  The father kept playing with the boy, not heeding the mothers request. 

After a few more whimpered cries from the boy, the mother said again, “I think it’s time to stop and settle down now”.

The father, seeming somewhat angry said, “First you say I don’t play with him enough, and then you don’t like it when I play with him.  I can’t please you.”

The mother told the little boy to go “sit on grandpa’s lap”.  The little boy, now fully wound up and very tired, began tickling the grandfather’s face.  The grandfather held onto the little boys arms, preventing him from reaching the face of his grandfather.  Again the little boy proclaimed, “ouch!”.

The grandfather replied, “That doesn’t hurt”. 

The little boy continued to be held back by his tiny wrists by the grandfather.  The little boy would say, “ouch!” and the grandfather would answer, “That doesn’t hurt you!”

After a few minutes the little boy was let go, and went to sit by his mother.  He started to climb onto the back of his  mother, then slide down her legs.  Many times she exclaimed, “Ouch!  Stop, that hurts!” 

After the little boy continued to disobey his mother’s requests to stop.  The father stood up and angrily disciplined the boy with a spanking.  The little boy, now crying was removed from the scene for further discipline out of my site.

I was upset by this because of the hypocrisy I saw in the parents, although mainly the father and the grandfather.  The boy was showing signs that he was being hurt by the father and the grandfather, and they were both ignoring the boy’s objections to the point of minimizing the pain he may have been feeling.

(I recognize, here that at the age of three, the little boy may have been confusing “ouch” with “stop”, and perhaps he was trying to send a different message.  If that is a possible explanation, then I felt that both of these adult men should have helped to clarify for the boy whether he was feeling pain, or whether he meant stop)

On the other hand, I have fibromyalgia and if I had been held my my wrists as this little boy was by his grandfather, I would have been in pain.  The lesson this little boy was being taught (whether or not he was in pain), was that he was not going to be listened to, and that his requests were not valid.

This lesson was evident when that same little boy did not readily listen to his mother when she was also saying “ouch” and “stop”.  This little boy was disciplined for doing the same thing to his mother that the father and grandfather were doing to him. 

I felt so sorry for this little boy because, having raised two children myself, I know how important it is for parents to provide a consistent message to their children.  These parents were not communicating well with this child, nor were they exhibiting proper leadership in their role as parents.

I’m willing to hear what you have to say about this event.  Tell me what you think about my interpretation of this scene.  Am I wrong? 

Have you witnessed similar examples of inconsistent communication and leadership?

HR Thursday: Reference & Background Checks


Watch this video!

Most difficulties after hiring result from an employer not checking references and/or backgrounds

“The single most important indicator of how an employee will perform in the future appears to be how he/she has performed in the past.  Employees with a history of success tend to continue their successful performance.  The others, despite their best intentions, rarely are able to turn over a new leaf.”  Arthur A. Witkin, Chief Psychologist, Personnel Sciences Center, New York, NY

Why Check References and Backgrounds?

  • To screen out unsuitable candidates
  • To weed out potentially dangerous or violent employees
  • To avoid costly hiring mistakes

Some staggering statistics:

  • 45% of resumes contain false or exaggerated information
  • 52% of applicants exaggerate their experience
  • Approximately 10-15 workplace homicides occur every week
  • Approximately 1 million people are attacked at work each year
  • 1 in 3 employees steal

Claims of NEGLIGENT HIRING arises when any of the following occurs:

  • The employer hires an unfit employee who injures or is a risk to others
  • The employer fails to conduct a thorough background check
  • The employer fails to recognize and reject an applicant who may be a potential risk

The difference between a “Background Check” and a “Reference Check”

A key issue for employers is what constitutes a “background check” and what constitutes a “reference check.” This is important because the disclosure requirements differ.

Background checks
involve matters of public record. “Public record” means documentation of a conviction, civil judicial action, tax lien, or outstanding judgment. This category also includes an individual’s credit worthiness, credit standing or capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the individual’s eligibility for employment.

Reference checks
involve the prospective employer verifying an applicant’s employment dates, job title, last salary, and job performance with a previous employer. Results from this type of investigation do not need to be disclosed to a prospective employee.

All this information has been supplied by Bent Ericksen & Associates. To find out how to do legal and proper background and/or reference checks please contact them.

Blueprints for team building: Are you a WEST?


The last several Mondays I’ve shared with you some ways to strategically build a team by understanding the personalities of your current team members, as well as types of personalities to look for when hiring new team members.

You have learned about the NORTH’s, SOUTH’s, and EAST’s.  (If you’ve missed any of these blog posts, please check them out)  Last, but not least is the WEST type of personality.  WEST’s are the logical numbers people.  Every team needs at least one WEST!

West: The Analyst






Uses data to make decisions

Examines needs of others

Finds flaws

Values organization

Emotion is not part of the decision-making process for a WEST, so you have to learn how to logically explain something you’re passionate about to a WEST.

Following are the best ways to work with a West:

Allow plenty of time for decision-making

A WEST would prefer to have time to deliberate on important decisions. This is not to say that WEST’s can’t make snap decisions, however they prefer to look at the important issues from all sides.  Decisions are often calculated, thought out and supported by facts, as opposed to a “gut-feeling”.

Provide data—facts and figures that are credible

Facts and figures, aka “the data”, help a WEST to make a decision.  When trying to convince a WEST to try your suggestion, use facts and figures from a similar project to support your idea, or use data to show why the current plan isn’t working.  

Example, don’t say “we need to change our marketing because our clients aren’t feeling happy.”  Instead, try something like “our latest customer satisfaction survey shows a X% number of negative responses to our newest marketing campaign.  This is a significant increase from our last marketing campaign.” 

Don’t be put off by critical “no” statements

Don’t be discouraged if a WEST says “no”.  Often a WEST will be inclined to say “no” when insufficient facts have been presented to support a comprehensive decision.  If at first you don’t succeed in convincing a WEST to your point of view, go back and get additional supporting material or information (the data) and try again.

Minimize the expression of emotion—use logic

(Think of Mr. Spock from the original Star Trek series.)  WEST’s are very often analytical in nature.   Your stereotypical WEST professions include: engineers, accountants, analysts, etc.  All of these professions place a higher value on “the facts” over “the feelings”.   This isn’t to say that WEST’s are devoid of emotion, however most WEST’s are ruled by their head, not their heart.

Appeal to tradition, history and correct procedures

If you want to change or revamp a process or procedure, be sure to show the WEST how tradition, history or correct processes need to be revised.  If you want to reinforce a viewpoint, show how it is supported by traditions & history.

(This WEST point of view was brought to you courtesy of my WEST friend, Eric.  Thanks Eric!)

How many of you WEST’s want to chime in here with any facts or logical conclusions to todays post?  Are there any WEST’s following this blog?  Or are leadership principles not “logical” enough for your liking?

HR Thursday: Job Descriptions and Protecting your Investment

Watch this Video about JOB DESCRIPTIONS

Employers are required to comply with a long and ever growing list of employment laws and regulations:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act
  • State Worker’s Compensation laws
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act

Not only do these regulations focus on what people do, i.e. the essential job duties, but also on how they do it (physical demands and work environment).

If an employee or a government agency challenges a hiring or employment decision, one of the most important documents you will be expected to provide is a copy of the job description.

A job Description:

  • Can prevent wrongful discharge lawsuits
  • Can prevent charges of discrimination from an applicant that you didn’t hire
  • Serves as a basis for performance reviews

A written job description for every position will also provide guidance when you are advertising for a new employee.  Properly worded and based on the job description, your recruiting activities will be far more successful at weeding out those applicants that are less qualified, which will save you time and money.  And it starts a new employee out with accurate expectations, keeping you from greater (and very expensive) turnover.

I’m happy to send you a job description for 1 or 2 positions in your healthcare practice.  Comment below…

Good luck navigating your fishbowl this week—I’ll see you soon for another Human Resources Thursday!

Blueprints for team building: Are you an EAST?

Building a team for your business or organization is a process that is very much like building a house.  Team members are your human resources—tools, that when used properly will provide foundation and structure to your business blueprint.  Choosing the right team members is as important as using the right materials in a construction project.  

Just as the longevity of your cardboard home will be shorter than a home made with brick; no different will be the longevity of your business built without purpose and values to strengthen its foundation with the right team members.

Using your blueprint, the foundation of your fishbowl is to determine the accountability of those you’re considering for your team.  “Directional Communication” is a method I learned through training in TOASTMASTERS INTERNATIONAL.  It helps us to not only define our own leadership and communication styles; it also helps us gather diverse and varied personalities for our team, so that balance and a variety of skills can be attained.

In the last two weeks I have focused on the NORTH and SOUTH personalities.  Today you will learn about those that are EAST’s.  Perhaps you are an EAST

EAST’s are known as Visionaries because they think big and dream big:

East: The Visionary

  • Innovative
  • Adventurous
  • Unconventional
  • Risk-taker
  • Focuses on future
  • “Big-picture” view
  • Insightful (purpose)
  • Explores options and possibility

When working with an EAST, you must be patient.   With their big ideas, comes the inability to clearly define those ideas in a way that others can understand and buy into.

If you are an EAST, this should sound familiar to you.  If you work with an EAST, then please take note of how you can find ways to have a successful outcome when working with a visionary.  

Show appreciation and enthusiasm for ideas

When an EAST comes to you with an idea, it is something they’ve not just thought of in the spur of the moment.  On the contrary, it’s something they’ve been pondering for awhile.  Even if you don’t fully understand it (and because it’s from an EAST, you probably won’t) you must at least thank them sincerely for taking the time to think through the problem to find a solution. 

Listen and be patient during idea generation

An EAST may go off on tangents when explaining an idea.  They may not be able to clearly articulate their message because they don’t focus on the integration of the plan—they are just excited about the idea.

I have a dear friend who is an EAST, and the method I’ve used to talk with him in my NORTH style is to say, “…give me in 1-2 sentences what is most important about what you have to tell me, then I will ask questions if I need more information”.  I know it’s VERY difficult for my EAST friend to sum up his idea that way.  He’s ready to solve the world hunger crisis by traveling around the globe to dig wells and plant crops that will feed thousands in the next 2 years, and I just want him to tell me how much I can donate right now.

Avoid criticizing or judging ideas

An EAST may get upset if they feel you’re discounting what they’re proposing, or if you interrupt their explanation.  You may have to clarify what they’ve said so that you gain a better understanding of their idea.  It will be helpful to ask, “do you mean….?” as you try to clarify their explanation.  If at all possible, you should try to incorporate at least some of their ideas into the solution of the problem you’re facing.

Allow and support divergent thinking

An EAST may be standing on the top of a mountain, and be thinking about what they will do when they reach the third peak over.  A non-EAST personality will be thinking about how they’re going to get down the next 50 feet of the steep terrain.  You can see that these very different perspectives can cause some tension when planning and implementing events and solutions.  It may be most successful to compliment the EAST on their ability to see long term, and then ask for permission to suggest some steps that will allow for an efficient and safe arrival to the destination.

Provide a variety of tasks

An EAST who has only one job to do will not be happy.  Asking an EAST to focus on one activity will cause contention, and asking an EAST to return and report will make them uneasy.  It’s important to provide them with clear expectations on your desire for reporting procedures and foundations of communication while allowing them to have freedom to create.  If an EAST is responsible to delegate tasks to others, assist them in building a team of those best qualified with varied skills for the tasks at hand.

Provide help and supervision to support detail

An EAST will probably not ask for help, and may begin to feel inadequate if you show any signs of wanting to “take their job” from them.  If you see an EAST floundering at a task, offer to help them facilitate the end result—that’s what they’ll be most interested in.  Since the EAST will generally not be detail-oriented, your support of the details will ensure success.

Provide help for project follow-through

An EAST is so busy and consumed with the “big picture” that they have a hard time seeing the steps that need to be taken to get to their destination.  It’s like being far-sighted—it’s very hard to read the small print.  Help your friends of the EAST to correct their vision by creating an action plan for them to follow with very specific steps to completion.

Thank goodness for the creative communication of the EAST’s!  Nothing would have ever been invented without EAST‘s, nor would we have the beautiful architectural structures or works of art that we have today.  However, can you imagine Leonardo Da Vinci on your team as an administrative assistant?  NOT!

Please give a shout out if you are an EAST!  (And try really hard to simplify your comments)