Cal Butera

You’re human. You’re entitled to say some obnoxious things now and then. But keep in mind your employees absorb and weigh your words, and they’ll give you a pass on those annoying expressions for only so long. Spew these dozen phrases at your peril:

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When you think about it, your employees can be broken down into seven personality types. Which brings to mind Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Look around those cubicles. Though not as cute and cuddly as forest gnomes, each one of your employees embodies a dwarf type.

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Employees need to be recognized if you want them to stay motivated. So an “Employee of the Month” program seems to make sense. You’ll choose monthly heroes, give them a gift card, a designated prime parking spot, and frame their portraits on the lobby wall for all to admire. These are the pistons of your company’s engine. Not so fast. If this thing’s not done right, it can stymie employees’ efforts, drag down morale and incite jealously, suspicion and hard feelings.

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Most managers are keenly aware of what keeps employees engaged and happy: flexible schedules, praise and recognition, a relaxed work atmosphere, etc. But just as there are things that you can do to keep the morale high, there are probably things that you are unwittingly doing that drag it down. Here are five surefire ways to demoralize the troops.

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They snooze, you lose—if you wake them up. Just recently, the City of Los Angeles agreed to cough up $26 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by garbage truck drivers who said they were illegally banned from using their lunch breaks to catch up on some Z’s. Like sheep hurdling a fence, nearly 1,100 of the city’s sanitation workers joined in on the litigation, according to a Los Angeles Times report. And had the city not settled, the damages could have hit an eye-opening $40 million, a councilman said.

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Employees begin new jobs with a bounce in their steps, thankful that you gave them a chance and eager to please. Hey, it’s a fresh start. But somewhere along the line, something made them change. The pilot light went off, and with it, their passion and productivity.

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For most employers, a job candidate sporting a small visible tattoo would not be a deal-breaker. After all, 36% of U.S. adults ages 18-25 have at least one tattoo, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The ink is a bit heavier on the U.S. population ages 26-40, where 40% have at least one tattoo. Tattoos, visible or not, are trendy and aren’t raising the eyebrows the way they once did. Employees who wear them—proudly displayed or deep under clothing—are no less productive, engaged, reliable, friendly, honest or intelligent as those who don’t. However, not all employers are fond of them.

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What good is a company policy if you don’t follow it? Of course, your organization crafts and adopts policies that must be followed by all. These policies aren’t vague; they’re clear and calculated and for good reason: If you don’t have them or don’t enforce them, chaos reigns. Here’s a better question. What good are policies if you do follow them, but by doing so, cause more damage than if you make some exceptions here and there?

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“You see, you can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.” So go the lyrics in Rick Nelson’s 1972 smash hit “Garden Party.” But hold on. You’re a manager. That means your job no longer is just about you, it’s about those you direct. So get off the stage and focus on making things more pleasurable for your employees.

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“There’s no finer bilge pump than a scared man and a bucket,” the old adage goes. What does that mean for managers?

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