Why Companies Fall into the Management Lawsuit Trap



News headlines continue to show there are a myriad of ways managers set themselves up for lawsuits. Small and many big companies are ripe for EEOC complaints.

The majority of lawsuits targeting management usually stem from a half dozen poor practices.

You’ll get into trouble using these six bad practices:

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1. Adherence to policies and procedures

Time and again, businesses are sued because managers fail to comply with company policy manuals.

Principals should always review policy manuals with managers, and get a signed receipt indicating that they understand policies.

Yes, any manager who strays from policy should be disciplined.

Only then, the managers should review the handbook with non-exempt staff.

2. Following discrimination and harassment policies

Periodically remind managers to be diligent to prevent discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Their employment status will be affected if they fail to adhere to policies, or if they to act professionally should policy violations occur.

3. Poor management of employee problems

Make certain managers know how to respond – not react in a knee-jerk fashion to employee problems. That means thinking about how to respond in all situations.

Typical worker problems include attendance, alcoholism drug use, and insubordination.

4. Retaliation or the appearance of being retaliatory

For example, courts frown on transfers if they look like a demotion. It looks suspicious if an employee suddenly receives an unsatisfactory performance appraisal or is not treated equally like other workers.

5. Terminations

Courts look to make certain terminations are handled well legally, and with civility and fairness. Typically, there are three key HR questions you must answer to the courts’ satisfaction when you terminate workers.

6. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Typical problems result from FMLA misunderstandings over attendance policy, eligibility, notice requirements and worker reinstatement.

From the Coach’s Corner, for more strategies, here are related articles:

How to avoid EEOC Discrimination Suits — If you’re an out-of-work attorney, the good news is that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is on a hiring binge. The EEOC’s Web site also indicates the agency is recruiting for investigators to handle employment discrimination complaints. Of course, mediators, administrative support, managers, and IT personnel are also in demand. That means federal employment discrimination complaints are sky-high — a sad commentary for businesses and public agencies that are large enough for a human resources department.

21 Quick Tips to Avoid the Dark Side of Management — It’s true that not all complaints are valid. Many aren’t. Some originate from mere office politics. Managing employees is difficult. So the purpose here is not to indict the managers who are professional assiduous, empathetic, good motivators and make sure their workplace stays out of legal trouble. Here’s how to avoid HR troubles.

Human Resources: 12 Errors to Avoid in Evaluations — How should you properly evaluate employees? Make sure you are careful to avoid errors in evaluations. Naturally, you want to praise good performance and discourage bad. Commonly, there are 12 errors that managers make in performance evaluations.

Management — 4 Mindsets for Leadership in Performance Reviews — Are you nervous at the thought of giving employee-performance reviews? You’re not alone. Your employees aren’t exactly thrilled, either. Typically, employees aren’t convinced they can get valid feedback. If they’ve experienced poor managers, they likely dread the performance-review process or are skeptical of the outcome.

3 Often Asked Questions – Hiring and Laying Off Workers — Employers often ponder hiring and firing in this uncertain economy. So if you’re like many employers, coping with a tepid economic environment, you might need to re-think your approach to human resources, too. As you analyze your situation, wisdom and courage are your best friends in addressing three typical questions about guidelines in this uncertain economy.

Cutting Costs — 9 Best Practices to Avoid Making Reactionary Decisions — In chaotic times, it’s common for businesspeople to be fearful and reactionary when they feel they must cut expenses. But entrepreneurs need to be unemotional so that they make decisions that will bolster their objectives. They can take the emotion out of their decision-making — by eliminating stress factors – if their priorities are clearly defined with values. This is facilitated by documenting goals and priorities.

“Good management consists in showing average people how to do the work of superior people.”
-John D. Rockefeller

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Unemployment Stems Partly from Inadequate Education, Skills


One in six Americans lives in poverty, according to the Census Bureau in 2011. The economy has been difficult for them and others. However, in this knowledge-technology era, millions of American workers would be employed, if they kept in mind two adages. They’re apropos for veteran and entry-level workers.

More on the adages later. First, let’s consider the startling results of a Brookings Institution study: “Education, Demand and Unemployment in Metropolitan America.” Job hunters, in many cases, are simply under-educated.

“This report provides evidence that there is an education gap in most metropolitan areas, and that this gap is responsible for higher unemployment,” wrote study co-author Jonathan Rothwell.

morguefile9851245784970One has to wonder if parents encourage their children to study in school.

There are more jobs than educated workers, according to the study’s results covering 2005 to 2009. It appears to be a worsening trend.

Even with a nationwide unemployment rate, a check of help wanted ads shows countless available jobs. Why?

The study includes a chart with a caption:

“In 2009, the average U.S. job required 13.54 years of education, but the average U.S. adult over the age of 25 had attained just 13.48 years of schooling. This gap between the supply and demand for educated workers has significant consequences – metro areas with large education gaps had consistently higher unemployment rates than other metro areas from 2005 to 2011.”

If you are educated but are unemployed or under-employed, please know that I am empathetic. Yes, I know, the economy is a bummer. And yes, a lot of jobs have been outsourced overseas. But in my experience, the study is accurate for good reason.

It’s important to accept challenges, and to consider solutions.

So, here are profound mottos for success from two unlikely sources:

  1. The 1946 graduating class of Watts High School in Watts, Oklahoma.
  2. Michelangelo.

Watts High School motto

Families in 1940’s Watts were very poor. Starting in the 1930s, the only available jobs were the result of President Franklin Roosevelt’s WPA – Works Progress Administration. Watts had been a vibrant railroad town with a roundhouse to repair locomotives. As I understand it, The Kansas City Southern Railway Company laid off all the workers as management changed strategies.

One such family produced six siblings, which included my dear mother.

As a youngster, my mother felt fortunate to get a job working 8 hours waiting tables for $1 at her uncle’s cafe. Later, she was senior-class salutatorian and named to the state’s high school honor society – one B and the rest were A’s.

She’s now in her eighties, and has no trouble recalling her class motto: “Find a way or make one.”

Many of today’s American workers — at all skill levels — could profit by such a philosophy.

Like many others from the Great Depression, she knew to avoid debt. She worked hard, took the bus to work and saved money. Upon being divorced when I was three years old, she raised my brother and me without any assistance – welfare, food stamps or alimony. In Tulsa, when I was in elementary school, she bought a house.

When I was nine, she faced a layoff as a result of the sale of her oil-company employer. Fortunately, with her work ethic, she was offered a job in Palm Springs and soon bought a two-year-old Pontiac and a new house a half block from Bob Hope and James Stewart.

After I turned 13, she married a wise man, who told me: “It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you bring home.”

Both are now handicapped and walk rather gingerly. But my mom has the same approach to life as she did in 1946 – “Find a way or make one.”

Michelangelo’s motto

As for Michelangelo, his favorite tenet: “I am still learning.” It’s certainly apropos in this digital-age economy.

What were once considered basic job skills are no longer basic. About 30 years ago, literate workers could find employment if they were mindful of a company’s mission, and if they knew simple math.

A review of unfilled jobs – even entry level jobs – reveals that companies now require more: How to type on a computer keyboard, know how to use software, conduct research on the Internet, and have soft skills – empathy, teamwork and collaboration. To get a foothold in a company, workers often must be flexible in work hours and adapt to changing marketplace needs.

Another tip I used to my advantage when I was in the workforce long before becoming a business-performance consultant, which I still use today: Find needs of companies and provide them with solutions.

So, organizational and entrepreneurial skills are important. In addition, development of a professional presence in social media and foreign language skills in a 24/7 global economy are advantageous.

The moral: Get tougher mentally, have fun, continue to learn, be resourceful, and grow with an entrepreneurial spirit. You’ll make it, and you’ll have fun stories to tell.

Here’s a related resource link: Is Higher Education Doing the Job to Prepare Grads for the Workforce?

Here are  job-hunting strategies:

From the Coach’s Corner, here’s a personal case study in overcoming unemployment:

Long before becoming a business-performance consultant, I knew the pain of unemployment after being corporately downsized. That was the case even though I already done some post-grad study at UCLA with experience in radio-TV news management, and had interviewed major newsmakers including two U.S. presidents and the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. As a freelance contributor to networks, my news reports had aired nationwide.

If I needed a job, sometimes I had to get sales jobs in other industries and worked my way back into management.

In 1984, a radio station laid me off one bitter-cold winter in Salt Lake City. I had to swallow my pride and take a temp job at $4.25 an hour as a manual laborer. During lunchtime breaks, the construction workers guffawed at my unprofessional construction work-clothes. I explained I was just trying to make my car payment as an out-of-work broadcast broadcaster. Their reaction – they thought I had delusions of grandeur.

Actually, I enjoyed construction work. However, soon I accidentally dropped some heavy lumber on my foot while standing in frigid water wearing tennis shoes.

In 24 hours with the aid of crutches, I began cold-calling broadcast companies in-person. That included a nationwide-media company, where I inadvertently annoyed the human-resources manager. She barked at me: “How dare you come here without an appointment?!” To no avail, I explained that my visit was to make an appointment for an interview.

As she threw me out, I thought: “I’ll show her.” I hobbled to the second floor to cold-call the company’s local radio-station news director. Soon, he created a job for me, saying: “You’ve got a job for two weeks, and if Walter Cronkite doesn’t apply and you prove yourself, the job is yours.”

The reporter/weekend anchor shift at the 50,000-watt station was an unpalatable Wednesday to Sunday night from 2 to 11 p.m. But I worked hard while trying to be nonchalant as I watched applicants, one-by-one, walk by my work station to the boss’s office for interviews.

Suddenly, the boss left for California, and I worried because he wasn’t around to evaluate my work. Candidly, my bio rhythms were askew. I had been accustomed to a normal schedule – and running the show. When he returned, the news director summoned me to his office. I was shaking as began to tell me he had heard all about me while he was gone.

Then, he stunned me: “Your attitude is contagious,” he said. The job was mine.

When my boss escorted me down to the HR office to fill out paper work, the HR manager scowled at me. When I explained to the news director why she was unfriendly, he chortled, “Yeah, she’s a pain.” He then said he was thrilled by my gumption to bypass her.

In the ensuing three years, I won three awards and was promoted to afternoon/evening news editor and anchor where my shift earned market-leading double-digit ARB ratings. As a powerful radio station, its signal could be heard in nine western states. My parents often listened to my newscasts sitting by their wood stove.

One of those skeptical construction workers spotted me on a downtown street corner. He stared in astonishment, saying: “I heard you on the news.”

Little did he know, I enjoyed driving friends to the scene of my proud accomplishment – the medical-office building I helped to build. Even though they regularly heard me on the radio, they thought it was hysterically funny that I was proud of my manual-labor job.

Good luck! Enjoy your footwork.

“Do whatever it takes, whenever it needs to be done, regardless of whether you feel like doing it or not.”

-Greg Hickman

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 

Job Hunters: Why The Mirroring Thing Won’t Work



With one out of six men aged 25-54 unable to find jobs and countless others under-employed, the average American workweek is on 34.5 hours. So many job seekers are panicking to find ways to get a job.

That includes using a technique to mirror the demeanor of interviewers.

However, psychological research confirms the people-pleasing tactic of  mimicking interviewers – in posture or gestures – is a bad idea. Don’t copycat the interviewer. Your reputation will suffer.

Shocked At The Man In The Mirror (http://www.public-domain.zorger.com)

Mirroring is an unproductive strategy, especially in front of two or more interviewers. That’s the advice from a 2011 University of California, San Diego study.

“Mimicry is a crucial part of social intelligence,” says the study’s co-author, psychological scientist Piotr Winkielman in a press statement. “But it is not enough to simply know how to mimic. It’s also important to know when and when not to.”

His research colleagues included psychological scientist Liam Kavanagh, and philosophers Chris Suhler and Patricia Churchland.

They conducted videotaped experiments of interviews. As a result, observers concluded the interviewees were incompetent, untrustworthy and unlikable.

Professor Winkielman acknowledges mimicry is considered acceptable in certain social settings. But not in the workplace.

Professor Winkielman acknowledges mimicry is considered acceptable in certain social settings. But not in the workplace.

“…it’s good to have the capacity to mimic, but an important part of social intelligence is knowing how to deploy this capacity in a selective, intelligent, context-dependent manner,” he explains. “Sometimes the socially intelligent thing to do is not to imitate.”

For job hunters, here are seven key traits:

  • Research your prospective employer
  • Be transparent in your answers
  • Demonstrate value, and in some situations remember employers want critical thinkers
  • Show your soft skills, and flexibility
  • Act with confidence, including strong eye contact
  • Dress professionally
  • Smile

From the Coach’s Corner, here are five job-hunting resource links: 

Discouraged in Job Hunting? Powerful Tips for the Best Job — Whether unemployed or under-employed, a person needs two things: A sense of hope and the right tools to negotiate a job. Here are both.

Job Hunting? Tips to Land Your Dream Job with Style, Substance — Yes, the competition for jobs is ferocious. Unless you’re in accounting, healthcare, mechanical-repair or proficient in sales, good jobs are hard to find. Hopefully, you’ve honed your networking skills and are getting interviews. But there are tips to considers.

Study: Best Way to Get a Job Isn’t by Networking — Job experience counts more than whom you know, according to a nationwide survey of job hunters by Beyond.com. Networking with contacts was cited as most-important by fewer than 20 percent of the respondents.

Career Advice — An Alternative to Applying for Jobs Online — As a job-hunter you know that a significant number of companies, nonprofits and public-sector agencies use an online tracking system to accept applications and screen out applicants. It cuts down on their paper work and saves them time. If you must apply for jobs online, you can take steps to stand out from the competing applicants to sail through human-resources filtering systems.

Multiple Job Offers? Ask the Right Questions to Win in Your Career — The words every job seeker wants to hear: “We want you.” You’re no exception. You’ve been on a nerve-racking job hunt, and at long last the search is over. Suddenly, you’ve got choices — several companies have said “We want to hire you.” It’s an enviable situation, but now your real work begins.

“Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure.”

Norman Vincent Peale

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.