The Language of Correcting Behavior


Corrective actions (or whatever your company calls them) have the potential to save or sink an employee. Corrective actions are a formal way to bring an ongoing obstacle to performance to light and give an employee the opportunity to change course, fix the behavior and save their job. Every manager should approach corrective actions like this – but some managers don’t – some use corrective actions as a weapon and focus on the negative aspects thus potentially plunging the employee into further despair. Administering a corrective action should not be viewed as punishing (however often time it is).

The way these documents are worded are so very important (as you probably already know). Nothing frustrates me more than when a manager wants to discipline an employee at a higher level when they have never commented on the behavior before to the employee. Behavior usually doesn’t develop overnight and managers should be vigilant so that they can nip issues in the bud; hopefully before the need for corrective action develops. Ideally, managers should clearly lay out expectations from the onset and prevent any behavioral issues. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?

Sometimes, this prevention is not enough and employee behavior may need to be addressed. This is not time to attack the employee (my grandfather is partial to the phrase “draw and quarter” the employee). Careful use of words to remove emotion is important to maintain dignity and rapport. Using words like “discipline” when administering the corrective action can elude to corporal punishment and aren’t the best way to get an employee to collaborate and change their ways. Taking the time to clearly define the behaviors that need to change and outlining the expected behavior is the way to go. Unfortunately, this often does not happen.

Corrective actions should be all inclusive of behavior that needs to change. Whether it is attendance, punctuality or performance, behavior that needs changing should be addressed – verbally and in writing. Once a manager sees the need for formal corrective action, they should be including everything that is impacting employee performance. That way, the employee knows what needs to happen and where they need to go. Or when behavior perpetuates in a different (or similar) area the behavior can be addressed to the next level. Hopefully the employee fixed the problem or challenge so that the next step is not needed.

As HR pros, we are charged with training managers to properly address behavior and use language that is legally defensible. Managers are busy running their business and sometimes need help penning the right corrective action. Take the time to help managers construct a document that will help correct the behavior. Hopefully the employee will be retained and the behavior will stop. Then all will be right in the world!

As long as there are employees who are not meeting expectations, there will always be a need for HR.

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Honor Thy Commitments

Do what you say you are going to do. And sometimes over commit!

Honor the commitments you make. Period. 

We all have bitten off more than we can chew at one time or another. This can result in either last-minute maneuvering to get something squeezed in, an incomplete final product, or (worse yet) failure to deliver. The stress brought on by this type of situation can be daunting and impact success – sometimes for the good and sometimes not. But the need to strategize about a solution to meet the need and the effort to exceed expectations can help develop better time management and quick thinking skills. What a great opportunity to grow!

Then there are the times that we over commit because no else would volunteer to help, we have good intentions or we feel pressure. These types of commitment should be approached in the same way – honor what you say you are going to do. These types of things can make the difference between excelling in a career or committing professional suicide. If you follow through (fully) you can come out smelling like a rose. If you don’t, some people are undoubtedly going to remember.

If you cannot meet your commitment, decide what you can and cannot do with the committment and ask for help from others. Or have a frank conversation with the leader or the person you committed to and express your inability to meet the expectation. If someone has the ability to over commit they should have the fortitude to step up and say that they are unable to meet the requirements. Just remember how your felt the next time you are asked to do something and don’t get yourself into the same boat again!

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Hate Speak For the World to See

I have to admit that one of my many, many guilty pleasures is reality TV. The trashier the better, it makes for fun conversation fodder and helps me forget about the drama and stress in my day to day life. After all, the dramatics on the Real Housewives of (insert any city anywhere) is quite funny to watch. This season, I have gotten into Big Brother – a new franchise for me. And I have gotten an earful of “scary” remarks from the contestants.

Having lived in different places in the US, I have seen and heard firsthand accounts of racism, homophobia and general bad comments related to gender, ethnicity and race. As an HR professional, I have actively worked to help reduce – and hopefully extinguish – this type of activity in the work place. Well, this year Big Brother has brought these types of comments and feelings front and center for all of America to see. According to some blogs I have read (yes, I have to read about what Perez Hilton and TMZ have to say about it), three of the contestants who were major culprits with using the hate speak have had negative employment actions happen to them as a result of what they said in the Big Brother house.

The Big Brother house is available for your viewing pleasure 24/7 on the network’s website and anyone can sign up to watch the “showmances” and alliances to their heart’s content. I don’t know if the contestants don’t realize that America and the world is watching or if they are so wrapped up in their little world that they let their feelings go. There have been many comments made that are hurtful, stereotypical and sometimes filled with pure hate. Ironically, those contestants who have lost their jobs due to their mouths will not find out about it until they are evicted. Not only do they lose their chance at the grand prize of $500,000, they go home to no job and a community that has heard what they said.

I wish I had the ability to video and record employees speaking with each other so that I could use it in investigations. I am sure employee relations would be easier! Until then, I will continue to watch the antics of Big Brother until the season finale. I hope I get to see those who said these things go home. I will sit on the edge of my seat each week to see if they are voted out.

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There’s a New Sheriff in Town


As HR pros, we have all been there (or will be there one day). We all have a bit of a cringe when we get the knock on our door and the person asks, “Do you have a minute?” And the person standing there is a member of a department that you know all too well – and not in a good way. The person proceeds to tell you that their new manager is “targeting” the employees and is being “mean” and maybe even causing an all-out ruckus. Something needs to be done to stop them! But the feedback you hear is lukewarm at best and seems shaded with a hint of subjectivity. An investigation ensues.

A department or area with a history of problems and/or negative attitudes suddenly (whether serendipitously or by design) has a change in leadership. While we breathe a sigh of relief, go whooping down the hallway or simply say “Thank Goodness”, we need to be ready for the potential backlash of those left behind. Those who were the minions of the prior regime and may not be feeling too happy about the change in their food chain. Their attempts at revenge may be swift.

It is hard when leadership changes but there are a few things that can soften the blow. If a manager or director leaves a bad situation or department, it is prudent to fully assess the area before a new leader is put in place. Take a temperature check of the area or even do some random engagement interviews. The employees might open up and share some juicy stuff which could prompt an employee relations frenzy. Hopefully there is a something to investigate from the findings.

It would be best to figure out some solutions before a new leader is put into the role. Whether someone from the outside or even within the company, not everyone may be aware of the feelings and attitudes in a specific area. Leadership candidates from the same department should be carefully reviewed. While they may be the ideal person to chart a new course for the troubled area, they could also reinforce past behaviors and have lingering resentment against some members of the team. When selecting a new leader for a challenged department, it may be a good idea to share some of the realities of the department with the final candidate(s). Sending them in blind can backfire and cause even more stress. You could be sending this new manager into a den of lions. And always have regular follow up meetings until things improve or fully subside.

What have you done to help fix departments that need fixing?

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What Does EVP Mean to You?

What gets you out of bed in the morning and gets you to work? Your coworkers? The work you perform? Your paycheck? Maybe it is to try to find another job outside your current employer?

EVP, Employee Value Proposition. EVPs delineate a company’s employee expectations and what, in turn, that employee gets for fulfilling that expectation. It is what drives employees to go to work and what keeps them coming back day after day and year after year. The EVP includes total rewards, work environment, leadership stamina and compassion and the employee’s personal connection to the company. A balanced EVP helps retain organizational knowledge, customers, values and, of course, employees. Some of the best companies in the world build total reward strategies that are both sustainable and are uniquely employee-centered, thus tapping in to and maximizing each employee’s discretionary effort to the benefit of the company. A solid and robust EVP is a win-win for the company and employee.

As we all know, the cost of turnover is high and growing every day. In healthcare, the cost of RN turnover can range from $35,000 to almost $50,000 for each bedside nurse who leaves. And with economic recovery and a lowering of unemployment rates, companies are seeing rising turnover costs. A phenomena of sorts that I am seeing where I live is a sharp increase in the value of real estate. While this can be a good thing for sellers in the market, it is creating a bit of a “perfect storm” for my company. Employees who have been trying to sell their homes are finally doing so and they are relocating to less expensive parts of the state – outside of our area. This in turn drives the living expenses higher and higher and thus shutting out certain employee levels from living locally. Coupling this with an unemployment rate hovering around 4%, recruiting can be a challenge with affordable housing supplies very limited and access to public transportation almost non-existent. This makes the case for our hospital to have an even more vigorous EVP in order to attract and retain stellar talent. Fortunately, our employment brand is well known and respected locally and regionally however some other companies I know are not as lucky. Either they will have to raise their stake in employment valuation or find alternatives to staffing predicaments. Either way, the EVP standard will continue to rise and companies with high levels of employee engagement will have to find new ways to attract and retain talent.

What is your company’s EVP?

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The Letters


What do your letters mean to you? Did you get them to get a job? Did you get them to enhance your resume? Or were they achieved for personal satisfaction? Of course, I am talking about your certifications – primarily the PHR, SPHR and GPHR, but any of the other HR certifications are fair game.

On Thursday night, I taught our first PHR/SPHR study group this year. What a huge turnout – about 25 people showed up. The material was from module 1, Strategic Management. What an engaging group we had! I found it interesting that the class was split with about half shooting for the PHR and half for the SPHR. Throughout the class, to break up the monotony of means, modes and medians and income statements, we chatted about the value of certification in the workplace.

“I believe that my letters have helped me,” I told them. There are arguments for and against certification but I believe they hold value for me, professionally and personally. The tests that need to be passed to get these certifications are, in a word, brutal. Four hours of wracking your brain trying to differentiate the miniscule difference between option A and C can literally cause your brain to ooze out your year (well, not literally. Figuratively). Anyone who goes through the self-imposed torture is tops in my book, I told them. And then there is what you learn. For those of us who don’t deal with unions or total rewards, for example, the PHR and SPHR tests force us to learn about them. Who knows – the test could fuel a whole new interest in another area of HR!

My certifications mean a lot to me. I spent time learning the material, connecting it to my day to day work life and then taking a cruel test to prove my knowledge. I proudly show my letters. They remind me about my commitment to my profession, especially after a very tough day. So, what do the letters mean to you?

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The Twitter

Generational viewpoints and issues are not limited to the workplace. The melding of the generations happens everywhere and has no boundaries. In the workplace, the generations can be at odds or in harmony. Out in the world – people are freer to be who they are and want to be. When people are free to be themselves, there can be friction. People can rear their ugly head in the oddest of places or can bring eye opening realization just in time. Have you ever waited in line at the deli counter at the local grocery store? You will see some amazing things. People watching is great, isn’t it?

Here is a good generational story that I experienced. I just got back from a nice weekend in Sarasota, FL and encountered an interesting group of people sitting next to us at dinner. One of the things I like about Sarasota is its casual hodgepodge of generations. It never fails me. So, at dinner the table next to us had 2 ladies and 1 gent, all probably in their 50s. (Yes, Baby Boomers). They were having a spirited conversation about the singer and her band and started talking about the way music used to be. One of them had found that YouTube was a good way to find some of their favorite music. The other two were entranced. Then came the question – one lady asked the other if she used, “The Twitter”. At this point they realized that I had overheard them and the lady who asked shouted to our table, “Hey do you use The Twitter?” To which I replied, “Why yes I do.”

After a good laugh, they shared that they were all pretty tech savvy and used social media regularly. They were merely sharing a story about a conversation with one of their nieces. Obviously, the Millennial niece thought their Baby Boomer aunt was in the stone ages. I wonder if the niece will edit what she writes in her accounts now that she knows her aunt is watching.

I was thrilled to see these 3 people having such a good experience with social media. Sometimes that is not the case but with them, there was nothing to fear about using it. I hope they found the Jefferson Airplane song they were talking about on YouTube. If not, I am sure the niece would guide them. As we were getting ready to leave, the man pulled out his flip phone. And yes, it had an antenna that you had to pull out to get signal. Old school, indeed.

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What’s a Little Pot?!

One thing that drives me crazy about some people is their intermittent inability to face reality and own up to things they have done to plot their own demise. There are times that humans will blame anything and everyone else for their situation and not take ownership. Sometimes there are factors that influence people’s lives that are out of their control. This is not one of those situations.

“What’s a little pot?” was the question I had heard from the employee who “happened” to test positive in a drug screening. It is something that so many of us have heard in our careers and it usually does not end well. This is when either the EAP kicks in and we get help for the employee or we move to terminate. The sad part is that employee’s life at work will likely never be the same again. Regret. Fear. Apathy. We see all sorts of emotions in situations like this.

For many years, the line of what was legal and and not was clear and well known. When the urinalysis results come in, there is little room for grey. Marijuana is illegal and using it for recreational purposes likely would lead to a change in job status. And then there is Washington and Colorado. In 2012, the states of Washington and Colorado legalized forms of marijuana. Is this a flash in the pan or a beginning to a national momentum of cannabis legalization? The new legalization has surely impacted the way companies and businesses operate in these states.

As HR professionals, many of us have been programmed that the use of marijuana is probably the most common substance that shows up in drug screenings. Now companies in Washington and Colorado are faced with not only allowing employees to use cannabis, they might start offering marijuana in vending machines in or near these companies.

Check this out –

Imagine how surreal it would be to have employees smoking pot in the designated smoking areas. It is a culture shift that will prompt HR professionals to utilize our change management skills to modify the status quo. Imagine the generational brouhaha this could create! Thank goodness we are flexible – just be careful not to get too chill….

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Higher Return on Investment

On March 15, I attended the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s HR Insights 2013 at Jungle Island in Miami. It was a nice event – good presenters and 2 valuable panels. A half day of learning that proved worth the commitment.

I found the Legal Update and Executive Suite panels to be filled with pertinent and timely information. The lawyers who presented were very up to date – and passionate – about the legislation that is impacting HR professionals locally and nationally. Topics surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), NLRB, FLSA and social media. I even learned a new term – “textual harassment”. This is when sexual harassment comes in the form of texting and social media. While it is different from sexting, it can have a similar impact in the workplace. Social media continues to be steps ahead of many HR people and companies.

The Executive Suite panel was of particular interest to me. We had 5 well known, senior HR leaders talking and discussing the factors they see as indicators of good talent. The resounding theme was that HR professionals need to know and understand the business to have long term success in our profession. As we all know, transformation and change management are vital tools for all HR people to have. The integration of these with business acumen can lead to a fruitful career in human resources. Thank you to the panelists who shared their jewels of wisdom to help build our next generation of HR talent leaders.

The session closed with the CEO of Florida Blue, Patrick Geraghty, presenting his view on the value of diversity and human capital in the operation of a prosperous operation. His presentation was filled with energy and examples of how diversity participated in the successful transformation of Florida Blue. I would love to hear speak again!

And lastly, Baptist Health South Florida won the award for Outstanding Employee Engagement Strategy – what a great way to end a nice day of learning. Employee engagement can be the cornerstone of customer satisfaction and optimized market share. What is your company doing to improve and sustain high employee engagement?

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“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Last week, we had a Leadership Development Institute (LDI) and the theme was “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” the title on Dr. Seuss’ last book. The book talks about the journey of life and its ups and downs. It is a perennial gift for any graduate; I got one when I graduated with my undergrad. If you haven’t read it, check it out. Like every other Seuss book, it is relatable to almost everyone and can teach valuable lessons. This is part of the reason why we chose this theme – that and the ability to whimsically decorate the room and tables with colorful nonsensical things.

The focus of the learning was communication among the generations in the workplace. Of the 30+ leaders in attendance, the room was almost split evenly between Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. That may sound well proportioned but what about the other generations? We only have 2 Millenials in leadership roles – and as we all know Millenials are part of the future of our workplaces. Their time is coming to move into leadership roles but they are battling the perception that they are listless and unmotivated.

Getting input from Millenials is necessary for success. In Millenials Rising, Howe and Strauss, talk about the image of the Millenials moving from being downtrodden and alienated to upbeat and engaged. They consider Millenials to have “potentially seismic consequences for America.” In reality, the Millenials need to have this impact. They are coming on heels of generations that won wars, built our physical and technological infrastructure and pushed the economy to places unheard of. To get this point, our Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers have to let the Millenials show their true colors. Of course, they will have to stop texting at work, first.

Wow – we have some places to go.

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