Apr 14

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Give your bored employee a challenging new task

bored_employeeAs a supervisor, it’s your job to notice your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. And sometimes what you perceive as a weakness is really a sign of boredom.

If you have a team member who seems apathetic and doesn’t participate in group discussions, maybe he’s just bored and needs a new challenge.

Of course, this now becomes your new challenge: Find him something to do that will get him involved with the project. This is your opportunity to really shine as a manager. Consider the following suggestions to get employees involved, no matter what their personality:

Is he organized and detail-oriented? Perhaps have him take notes at the next meeting, then make copies and distribute them with a follow-up email.

Is he a wiggle worm who can’t sit still? Choose him to go pick up the bagels and coffee before the meeting. That should help expel any pent-up energy he may have before the meeting begins. (Until he drinks the coffee anyway.)

Is he quiet and reserved? Have him do some online research to aid the project and summarize his findings in a brief memo. Giving him a specific task to accomplish, even a minor one, may help him feel more involved in the assignment. Once he takes ownership of specific tasks, you may be surprised at how much he now cares about the project.

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Apr 07

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Pay attention to your micromessages

micromessagesYou could be devaluing and discouraging your employees’ performance at work without even knowing it, experts warn. If you skim your e-mail while an employee is trying to talk to you or if you always forget an employee’s name, you could be sending your subordinates negative “micromessages,” states Stephen Young in his book, Micromessaging.

These subtle and usually subconscious negative micromessages (also called MicroInequities) can hurt employees’ self-esteem and impair their performance in the workplace, says Young, a diversity and leadership expert. But positive micromessages, (also called MicroAdvantages) can have an equally powerful impact, he notes in his book.

“While most of us are unaware of the 2,000 to 4,000 micromessages we send each day, they are the cornerstone that determines short- and long-term performance, employee loyalty, and organizational culture,” Young explains. “The intrigue is how senders are mostly unaware of receiving them, yet mysteriously they are sent, received, and most importantly, acted on, blindly altering workplace performance and collegial relationships.”

Doing something as simple as looking at your watch when an employee is speaking can send a negative micromessage to him, Young warns.

The first step to eliminating negative micromessages that could harm your workplace environment is to be more aware of what kinds of micromessages you’re sending to employees.

  • Don’t turn away, shuffle papers or look at something on your computer screen when an employee is talking to you. This sends the micromessage that what he has to say is not important to you.
  • Do give the employee your full attention to send a positive micromessage. Make and hold eye contact with him while he’s speaking, and lean forward to show that you’re interested in what he’s telling you.
  • Don’t chit-chat with one employee or lavish special attention on one worker in particular. Doing so tells other employees that they aren’t as important.
  • Do give equal time and attention to all your employees. If you say “Good Morning” to a few of your employees, be sure to say it to all of them.
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Mar 24

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Know your rights when it comes to monitoring employee emails

monitor-employee-emailsMore than 75 percent of employers monitor employee internet use, while 67 percent block access to certain websites, the American Management Association found in a survey.

There are several reasons why companies monitor their employees’ email, phone and internet use. Excess time spent on personal projects decreases productivity and customer service quality. Also, employees could leak confidential information that puts the company at risk. As a manager, you should ask yourself, “Is this monitoring legal?”

Here’s the deal: According to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), you are authorized to monitor information that passes over company property like servers, networks and phone lines as long as it pertains to business use. To ensure that your monitoring practices are legal, follow these steps:

  1. Notify Employees. Be transparent about monitoring. You can circulate a memo or email, include it in handbooks or put a sticker on employee computers. Some 80 percent of employers already do this, the AMA found. If you haven’t notified your employees, do so immediately.
  2. Provide Documentation. Post the ECPA rules so employees know you’re following them. Find the policy at cpsr.org/issues/privacy/ecpa86 and look for new bills at http://thomas.loc.gov.
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Jan 20

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: 5 ways to say ‘no’

5-ways-to-say-noAn employee asks you to cover for her while she’s taking a long lunch. Another wants you to donate to her favorite charity. A third asks you to extend his deadline on a time-critical project. Sometimes “no” is one of the most difficult things you can say to an employee.

“But when you say ‘yes’ when you really don’t want to or really shouldn’t, you end up feeling taken advantage of,” says communications training consultant Lin Walker. “Not saying no when you should can undermine your self-confidence, as well as your ability to deal with similar situations in the future.”

Walker says it is easier to say “no” when you are equipped with the responses that won’t upset your employees or make you look uncaring and selfish. Here are five easy ways to say “no”:

1. The ‘No, but…’ response

Use this when: You’re willing to negotiate. Example: An employee asks for your help on a project she’s falling behind on.

You say: “No, but we may be able to work something out if you’d be willing to help me get that big mailing out at the beginning of next week.”

Why it works: “You’re saying no to the initial request, but you’re also showing that you’re willing to change your mind if the other person can meet your requirements,” says Stephen Schoonover, president of Schoonover Associates, a consulting firm in Falmouth, MA.

2. The no sandwich

Use this when: You’d like to help but you can’t. Example: An employee asks for a report you aren’t prepared to release.

You say: “I can understand why an early copy of my report could be useful to you in tomorrow’s decision. However, I can’t release the sales numbers until the close of business today. I do hope the meeting goes well because that decision will have a big impact on both your division and ours.”

Why it works: Begin your “no” with a positive or neutral statement about what the other person has asked you to do. “That shows the person you have listened well. Make the second statement the ‘no’ part of your message. Ending with a neutral or positive statement about the request or situation shows that you have no hard feelings because you were asked and that you feel no guilt about saying no,” explains Dianna Booher, author of Communicate with Confidence!

3. The ‘It’s for your own good’ no

Use this when: Saying no will actually benefit the requestor. Example: A friend in another department is desperately looking for a new position and hears that your department is hiring. You really don’t think he’d be the right person for the position. He asks, “Would you mind putting in a good word for me?”

You say: “I’m not sure you’ll find your niche here. You’re great at coming up with creative ideas, but we need number crunchers.”

Why it works: Your friend needs honest feedback. “If he isn’t a match for the department, then you’re saving him from wasting [his] time,” says clinical psychologist Harriet B. Braiker in her book Who’s Pulling Your Strings?

4. The butt-out no

Use this when: Someone asks you a nosy question. Example: A colleague is asking for a raise. She asks you, “What are they paying you?”

You say: “I really hope you get the raise, because you deserve it. But I don’t discuss my salary.”

Why it works: “It’s often easier to say no if you first empathize. The other person is usually less likely to argue with your answers,” says Greg Markway, coauthor of Painfully Shy: How to Overcome Social Anxiety and Reclaim Your Life.

5. The rain-check no

Use this when: You must say no this time, but don’t necessarily want to discourage further requests. Example: An employee wants you to join her on a site visit to one of the company’s production plants.

You say: “What an opportunity for on-the-job training! If it were any other week, I’d love to accompany you on the tour. Please put my name at the top of the list the next time you have an opening.”

Why it works: There are times when you regret turning down the request. “Requesting a rain check shows that you’re receptive to a similar request down the line,” Booher says.

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