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The Savvy Office Manager

The Savvy Office Manager

Cal Butera is the editor of Business Management Daily’s Office Manager Today, Manager’s Legal Bulletin, Managing People at Work and Communication Briefings newsletters. He has been with Business Management Daily since 2007 and worked 22 years for midsize daily newspapers as sports writer, news reporter, layout and design editor, copy editor and city editor.

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Seek-An-Employee: Which attribute do you have trouble finding?
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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

“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.

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

Weeding through job candidates is never easy. Not only are you trying to match the person’s skills and experience to the job, you’re also looking for other clues that could give you an indication of what you might be dealing with down the road. Here are six red flags that scream “Don’t hire!”

Are you nothing more than a soothing cup of aromatic tea, all friendly and inviting? You’re a chamomile boss and you need to change that fast. Here’s how.

Perhaps it’s the hardest, but sweetest managerial job on Earth: being a mom. She got the job with no tricky interview questions, her pay for what she does doesn’t jingle in her pocket and the job never ends, even in her sleep. As a boss, you likely have no employee that tests your patience and the tensile strength of your sanity the way a child does to his or her mother.

You don’t have to go through all 96 episodes of this classic sitcom: Here some snippets from which managers and leaders can glean lessons. Like in Shakespearean plays, the fools spew the most poignant wisdom.

There is no shortage of pet peeves. We all have them. And as managers we have a list (or perhaps a staff full) of them. Yes, these are irritating employee types. These are employees who have done nothing egregious enough to get fired. They just make your days seem just a bit longer, and your job just that much harder.

Here’s the formula to determine whether telework works for you: Count the number of days you telecommute in a month, divide that by the number of times you open the refrigerator door when you’re working from home, and subtract from that figure the number of minutes you pace aimlessly around the house. Add to that the number of minutes you really are working and multiply that by ...

A simple note to bosses: Treat employees right. Your workers want honesty and integrity from you. They expect fairness. They want to trust and be trusted by you. They want to respect you, but they want it in return. They also need you to be dependable. Those concepts can build a solid workplace foundation, but as one supervisor learned recently, they’re so fragile.

When it comes to devising a dress code, employees want to be treated like adults. Who would have thought?

As a manager, you usually have the answers to employees’ questions. But who will answer yours? Here are the answers to six questions that might be keeping you up at night.

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