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By: Barbara Bowes

Yes, spring is finally here. Yet, while it’s certainly time for celebration, for some unknown reason, I recently found myself thinking of dandelions and weeds instead of spring and beautiful, colourful flowers. On reflection, it occurred to me I was disturbed about the reported proliferation of gossip in a particular workplace and what advice I could provide to help the employer overcome the mess gossip had created. These days, I’m also encountering more and more concern about employees engaging in gossip activities via the Internet; so, perhaps there’s a need to seriously pay attention to the topic of gossip again.

However, one of the challenges about gossip is there isn’t strong consensus about what exactly constitutes gossip. Ask a group of people and you’ll get a group of different answers. For instance, some people believe a statement is considered gossip only if it contains untruthful remarks. Others believe gossip is any statement that speaks about an individual and/or an employer without their presence. Still others suggest a statement would be considered gossip only if it includes disparaging remarks, criticism, rumours and/or consists of a range of behaviour, right up to a malicious form of attack bordering on workplace violence.

On the other hand, a review of several dictionary definitions identifies a more toned-down view. Gossip in a dictionary is described as idle talk and/or a rumour that reveals personal or sensational facts about the lives of others. In other words, the dictionary definitions appear less onerous than the public view. In fact, some might refer to this definition as simply water cooler “chit chat.” So, it seems that a definition of gossip is simply in the mind’s eye rather than being definitive.

Yet, I would suggest that in my experience, most people find gossip to be more harmful than helpful, especially in the workplace. Whereas ensuring a harmonistic workplace is the job of every manager, how does one go about determining if gossip is indeed harmful? One way to do this is to assess any statements of concern to determine their impact on people. Ask yourself the following questions:

a) Does the statement attack, belittle or criticize someone’s integrity or misfortune without proof?

b) What is the impact of the statement? Is the relationship between groups damaged in any way as a result of the statement?

c) Does the statement create negative emotional energy that will drive down morale, create negativity and cause conflict?

d) Does the statement damage the reputation of the subject person and/or the organization?

If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then the statements are more than likely gossip. And believe me, gossip can be just as hurtful and dangerous as those legendary “sticks and stones.” That’s because gossip can literally destroy interpersonal relationships. It will destroy trust between individuals as well as departments. When trust has been destroyed, people are reluctant to share, to work as a team, to reach out and help each other and to give credit for good work.

In some cases, gossip can result in personal job insecurity and a lack of self-confidence. This, in turn, pushes front-line workers to be constantly coming to managers for answers and direction. Managers will then start second-guessing their own decisions. Finally, managers will soon find they are spending far too much time on human-resource issues instead of time needed to spend on organizational planning, process and productivity.
The question, then, is how does an organization — or an individual for that matter — break through this gossip dilemma? There are two potential solutions. First, most managers could apply a policy solution. In fact, we are seeing many organizations writing policies for more aggressive behaviour such as bullying, cyber-bullying, and harassment. These are usually written to closely parallel legislation that has come into place.

However, one of the dangers of writing a policy to cover gossip, as we noted above, is the definition of gossip does not appear to be definitive or consistently understood. And, as was experienced by one organization that terminated an employee for engaging in gossip, the court decision ruled their policy was far too broad and the employee was reinstated.

At the same time, most of us know it’s human nature to talk, to “chit-chat” and to gossip, and so thinking we can simply legislate this issue away is unrealistic. In my view, a much more effective and longer-term strategy is to approach gossip from an educational point of view involving employees, supervisors, managers and senior leaders.

An educational approach would help participants to define and understand ethics and professionalism in the workplace. It would provide interactive experiences so participants would be able to identify instances of hurtful gossip versus idle chit-chat. Spending time in someone else’s “shoes” is a powerful way to bring about true understanding. At the same time, employees need to be given a review of the human-resource policies, where gossip fits within these policies and the disciplinary penalties that go along with it.

An educational approach, particularly for managers, would include a thorough examination of communication skills, especially since it is well known that only 20 per cent of managerial messages actually reach the front line totally intact with their message. As well, managers are particularly poor communicators when they need to send a negative message. For instance, they throw out a trial balloon to see how many questions might be generated. They overwhelm employees with too much information and leave before being asked for clarifications. Or, they hide behind their desk and send out ominous emails to which no one has the opportunity to ask any questions. As you can well imagine, any and all of these communication strategies cause significant relationship breakdowns. An educational approach, consistently delivered and reinforced over time, would help to overcome this issue.

As I indicated earlier, an organization can create as many policies as it wants, but motivating employees to follow them is another matter. Therefore, any educational program being offered must also help employees understand their role in managing their own careers and making a positive contribution toward the harmony in the workplace. While there are many successful tactics individual employees can implement, the following two tactics have proven to be very effective.

1. Identify the gossips – There is one or two in every group. Know who they are and avoid them at all costs. If you are approached and can’t immediately get away, listen, but avoid providing any feedback that would encourage them to continue. Follow the old adage that says, “Don’t believe everything that you hear.”

2. Turn to the positive – Build your skills on how to reframe a statement into a positive comment that doesn’t require a response from your speaker. This creates a disconnect and stops them in their tracks.
Although spring has been late in coming, thankfully it is finally on its way. However, I sincerely hope our spring air will be filled with positive comments and energy along with beautiful, colourful flowers. Cut off gossip as you would with weeds.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She is also host of the weekly Bowes Knows radio show and is the author of Resume Rescue and Taming the Workplace Tigers. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com. Learn more at www.barbarabowes.com.

 

If you are taking any notice, you’ll quickly agree that the so-called “Millennial” generation (1978 – 1995) will be forming the majority of the workforce by the year 2020. And, with this in mind, it is easy to envision how this millennial generation of employees will influence the way we work and operate in the workplace. Not only that, Millennials are already being perceived as a group that may well be more demanding with respect to rewards and recognition.

As an executive search professional, I certainly recall the demands made by the generation X employees when they came into the workplace. For instance, I recall one engineering student being offered a desk made completely from mini-blocks as his signing bonus. Still others initiated the trend of bringing dogs to work along with the trend of business casual dress and flexible work hours.

But, since every generation brings its own style to the workplace, what is so different about the Millennials? For one thing, Millennials are expected to engage in more “job hopping” than earlier generations. That’s because company loyalty isn’t as important as progressing in their career at a more rapid rate. As a result, they’ll change jobs more quickly in order to achieve their level of satisfaction. So, count on a tenure ranging from eighteen months to three years.

Not only that, studies show that Millennials are already earning more than the previous generation at the same age while they are also carrying more debt. This then suggests that their demand for compensation and benefits will be higher and may well create pressure on the salary offers.

As well, Millennials are the first generation to literally grow up with technology. They are quick to discard what they feel is outdated equipment and to adapt to the latest techniques. In fact, don’t bother offering a laptop as their signing bonus, they have already moved on to the latest gadget. Millennials like being connected 24/7 and prefer texting and Facebook rather than the standard email as their chosen channel for communication.

Millennials also have more of a social conscience than earlier generations and are much more socially liberal and accepting of diversity. They want to make a difference in the world and, in fact, will put this goal first before following in a set career track. They are especially interested in environmental stewardship, they excel at teamwork and finally they are self-confident and savvy.

What does all this mean for the recruitment and retention of Millennial employees?

First of all, Millennials don’t like to be labeled, so while it is important to understand their needs and values, take care to avoid labeling them as such. Since Millennials are heavy technology users, you will have to ensure you have the latest of equipment and stay ahead of the trends. Be prepared to create a variety of assignments so that they are continually challenged while they are learning new skills. Work closely with your Millennials and help them understand that completing “probation” doesn’t mean an automatic promotion and/or a move into your own private office.

One of the key challenges you may face is the ability to reach out to a Millennial and to get them interested in your job in the first place. With Millennials getting most of their news from the internet, advertising is best done through social media with ads that are focused on the benefits to the candidate rather than focusing on your corporate history.

Whereas Millennial’s look for a job where they can make a difference, recognize that candidates would be interested in your corporate social responsibility and environmental stewardship efforts. Be sure to mention these opportunities in your marketing campaigns and help candidates understand where and how they can participate.

Where I find many employers are weak is in the knowledge of the market rates for compensation and benefits in their industry sector. Millennials think nothing of going on the internet and attempting to confirm their potential salaries. In many cases, they are not making good comparisons, yet you must be ready for the questions, requests for verification and counter offers that will surely take place as the Millennial candidate negotiates for his/her job.

OK, you’ve been successful in hiring your Millennials, and now you have to manage them! In my mind, in order to be successful, managers must be open minded, tolerant of the many questions and process improvement challenges that will come your way and be able to provide effective feedback and guidance. Whereas these young people won’t have much work experience, you will also have to tolerant as you teach them that crossed legs folded up on the chair is not professional practice and that looking professional still really does count for something.

There are many challenges in today’s work world, but understanding, training, coaching and mentoring of your new young employees combined with meaningful work will go a long way to building a strong employee team.

 

Sharon L. Lechter, Greg S. Reid

Sterling Publishing with The Napoleon Hill Foundation

Purchase here (http://www.amazon.com/Three-Feet-Gold-Obstacles-Opportunities/dp/1402784791)

Author Greg Reid weaves the personal story of a young man’s struggle for self-esteem and success as an author. As part of this journey, he seeks the help of the Napoleon Hill Foundation and their philosophies. As a result, he documents numerous interviews with successful entrepreneurs gathering wisdom and advice as he goes. The book is an easy read and makes you feel like you are sitting at the knee of a great elder and philosopher. The book consists of simple themes, simple truths and simple messages for every reader. This is a book that should be read again and again.

 

For the last 10 years we have been told that the baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, will be retiring, causing a shortage of workers moving towards 2020.

Has that happened? Not in large numbers thus far, however we are now starting to see this materialize. I have noticed that many senior finance executives are now saying, “Enough is enough; I now want to get out and enjoy life while I am able.”

I was recently surprised to learn that there are 5825 people in Canada aged 100 years old or over. Wow! No wonder people are still working; 70 is the new 50.

We are now beginning to see a shortage in quality candidates at the CFO level in small to medium size companies $20M – $400M.  The companies that have not made contingency plans for succession planning are finding it difficult to promote from within.

As niche executive search practitioners in business since 1985, we are a valuable source for companies of this size. We know it has been extremely important to keep in touch and build relationships with the younger executives that will be the senior executives of the future.

There will always be senior executives that will not want to retire but just tone down and work a little, but at the end of the day we will be seeing a shortage of good quality candidates, creating a candidate driven market!