Posts Tagged ‘Human Resources’

Are you Prepared for the New Overtime Rule?

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

On December 1, 2016, the new US DOL Overtime Rule will officially go in effect. This new rule determines which employees are exempt from overtime. Employers will not have to pay overtime to exempt employees. If an employee is non-exempt, employers need to pay overtime for actual hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a single work week. The FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) defines which jobs may be exempt from the overtime penalty depending on minimum salary and duties performed. Exemption categories include both a minimum salary threshold, and a duties test. Jobs will have to meet both standards to qualify for exemption.

Feeling overwhelmed? We don’t blame you. Where do you begin? How do you prepare?

Organization and communication are a major factor in businesses making the shift to compliance as painless as possible.

Below are 3 key steps in preparing for the upcoming deadline.

  1. Conduct an internal audit to identify positions and employees potentially affected.
    In recent research conducted by Paychex found that one out of five employers were not aware of the final rule, and 55% did not think the new rule applied to them.
  2. Educate your employees on time keeping and tracking overtime.
    Some employees might still receive a salary but are now required to log their worked hours. Set up training on proper time recording practices.
  3. Develop a communication plan.
    Talk to your employees, explain the new law and guidelines. Make them aware of benefit changes, if any, due to the necessary change in FLSA status from exempt to non-exempt. Misclassifications can cause challenges and serious financial consequences.

2016_telu_header_2In our upcoming 2016 Triad Employment Law Update Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina, lead attorneys from Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP and CAI’s HR experts will provide registrants with key information about current and proposed changes in state and federal employment law. Building the proper infrastructure to protect your business and effectively navigate the Department of Labor’s new overtime rules and related regulations is critical to every company’s success. One of the concurrent breakout sessions at the 2016 Triad Employment Law Update Conference will focus on protecting your business and cover the shrinking white collar exemptions, interns, joint employers, postliminary duties and the DOL’s approach to enforcing these new standards.

Want to learn more about the conference and who should attend visit

Every workplace has questions that need to be answered, and the sooner the better. Contact CAI’s Advice & Resolution team today!

Immigration Compliance and Form I-9

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Pursuant to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) employers are prohibited from hiring or continuing to employ foreign nationals who lack authorization to work in the United States. That law requires employers to verify the identity and work authorization of all new hires, and it establishes civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance. IRCA establishes a system of employment eligibility verification procedures that all employers must follow when filling a job. Employers are obliged to be an integral part of the government’s efforts to reduce illegal immigration.formi-9

IRCA makes it unlawful for any employer in the United States to knowingly “hire or to recruit or refer for a fee” or to knowingly “continue to employ” an individual who lacks authorization to be employed in the United States. The law applies to any employee hired after November 6, 1986. Employees hired prior to November 7, 1986, are “grandfathered,” and their status need not be verified.

To comply with the law, employers must verify the identity and employment authorization of each person they hire, complete and retain a Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, for each employee, and refrain from discriminating against individuals on the basis of national origin or citizenship.

Employers must require all newly-hired employees to confirm their identity and eligibility to work in the United States.  Employers must complete Form I-9 for each person hired to perform labor or services in the United States in return for wages or other remuneration. Remuneration is anything of value given in exchange for labor or services. I-9 forms must be retained for specified periods of time including even after the employment relationship has ended, and it must be made available in the event of an audit or inspection. These compliance requirements apply to every new employee regardless of citizenship or alienage, even if there is no doubt as to the individual’s identity and employment authorization.

To confirm identity and employment eligibility, every new hire must produce an original document or a combination of documents that are designated by the federal government to satisfy that requirement.  A list of the acceptable documents is found on the last page of the Form I-9. The employer must accept whatever document or combination of documents from the List that the employee offers, so long as the document is original, unexpired, relates to the employee and shows no signs of tampering or counterfeiting.

The employer must ensure that the employee completes Section 1 of Form I-9 at the time of hire. “Hire” means when employment begins in exchange for wages or other remuneration begins. The time of hire is noted on the form as the first day of employment. Employees may complete Section 1 of Form I-9 before the time of hire, but no earlier than acceptance of the job offer. Review the employee’s document(s) and fully complete Section 2 of Form I-9 within three business days of the hire.

As you perhaps know the current I-9 form technically expired this past March 31.  However, until further notice employers should continue using this version until the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approves and issues an updated I-9 form. The public was able to provide comments on the proposed I-9 changes until April 27, 2016.  For a detailed summary of the proposed changes, see USCIS Seeks Comments on Proposed Changes to From I-9 webpage.

If you need help thinking through an Immigration issue or want to dive deeper into this topic please reach out to our Advice & Resolution team.



CAI Advice & Resolution team member Renee Watkins is a seasoned HR professional with a diverse background in Human Resource. Renee provides CAI members with practical advice in a wide-range of human resource functions including conflict resolution, compliance and regulatory issues, and employee relations.

Learning the Best Practices for Total Rewards in 2017

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Nearly 250 North Carolina HR professionals and executives attended CAI’s 2016 Compensation & Benefits Conference on September 15 and 16. Conference participants were eager to interact with one another and hear the latest on engaging and retaining top talent in this challenging economy.

Our three keynote speakers: Kerry Chou, of WorldatWork, Michael Patrick, of Willis Towers Watson’s Atlanta Talent & Rewards Practice, and CAI’s very own Molly Hegeman broke down ways to evaluate existing total rewards strategies using current trend information and insight from survey data. img_0076Employee engagement and success rate were a common trend shared by all speakers.

In Performance Management 101, Kerry Chou discussed the three questions an employer needs to ask themselves about an employee for the employee to be successful:

  • Is the employee CAPABLE of doing the job?
  • Does the employee have the TOOLS to do the job?
  • Does the employee PERFORM?

Michael Patrick stated only four in ten employees globally are highly engaged. In order to optimize employee engagement, employees need to be capable, have the tools and resources readily available to them and have the performance rate their employers want. “Know your Market Position,” Molly Hegeman, VP of HR Services at CAI stated, what is your philosophy? Are you going to be a market leader, match the market or lag behind? Molly suggests determining your market position by looking at the external and internal values.

In addition to the keynote sessions, conference participants chose from 9 breakout sessions from creating salary structures, managing costs related to the ACA, transforming performance management and using culture as a competitive advantage. Jay Burchfield from Teamphoria shared that companies with engaged employees outperform their competition by 202%, yet one negative employee with a bad attitude can affect four or more employees around them. Employers need to strive to make their employees feel excited about their work. Rebecca Bottorff, Bandwidth, stated, “We should be rewarding people more often.” Reward your employees with what matters to them – and that will vary from person to person. Companies should be conducting quarterly reviews, and providing employees with on-going feedback from their managers. This will help both the employee and the manager keep the lines of communication open.

As expected, our interactive panel session featuring CAI’s experts fielded many questions on the hot topic of implementing the new overtime rule. The experts cautioned employers to not wait until December, to take this time to understand those potentially impacted positions. For example, if a position is currently below the threshold of $47,476, and that employee works very little overtime, then raising them to the exempt level may cost you more in the long run. There are many different situations depending on the employer, number, and type of employees. You’ll want to choose the option that works best for your employees and your company.

Trying to plan for implementation of the new rule can get overwhelming quickly. Learn more about how CAI can help you with implementing the Overtime Rule.

Form 5500 Revisions Impact Both Small And Large Employers

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

The post below is a guest blog from Rob Krieg who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

hcw5500revisionsblogThe Department of Labor (DOL), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) recently proposed significant changes to the form 5500 which has implications for both large employers and small employers. Targeting an effective date of 2019 plan year filings, the recent DOL Factsheet explains that many changes are on the horizon in an attempt to modernize and improve the Form 5500 annual return/report filed by employee benefit plans.  They identify the driving forces behind the changes include a desire to 1) modernize financial reporting, 2) provide greater information regarding group health plans, 3) enhance data mine-ability, 4 ) improve service provider fee information, and 5) enhance compliance with ERISA and the code.

The most notable proposed changes include:

  • Removing the small group exemption where previously many employers with less than 100 enrolled participants were exempt from filing;
  • Adding a new comprehensive schedule J (Group Health Plan Information) requirement;
  • New Schedule C requirement for each service provider;
  • And an expanded schedule H for funded plans.

Regardless of a group’s size, benefit plans should pay special attention to the new Schedule J requirements. Plans will now be asked to complete information on the types of benefits offered and the funding methods, including if benefits are HDHP, health FSA or HRA.  There will also be questions on participant contributions and employer contributions as well as enrollment information, including participants and dependents.  There appears to be requirements for claims data (including claims submitted, denied, appealed, paid, and where claims are paid from – insurer, trust or employer general assets.  And last but not least, there will be a focus on plan compliance with questions around COBRA, grandfathered status, MLR rebates, HIPAA, GINA, MHP SBC requirements, and SPD requirements.

As traditionally occurs, the DOL has asked for comments to the proposed regulations and these comments are due by October 4, 2016.  It is clear that the agencies are working together to significantly increase Form 5500 reporting obligations for many employers with group health plans. As explained in the fact sheet, the agencies are looking to update the filing requirement to gather data sufficient to support their enforcement efforts. Therefore, employers should take note and make sure to tighten up their benefit plan compliance over the next year.  The silver lining is that the agencies have provided plenty of lead time for employer’s to get into compliance.

If you have questions about these new regulations, or about your health benefit plan’s compliance with some of the regulations mentioned in the proposed regulations, contact your HCW consultant.

When An Employee Has A Serious Complaint

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News & Observer column, The View from HR.

It happens in every workplace. The same serious and unlawful misbehavior we see in our communities sometimes find its way to the job.  People are the greatest asset of an employer but can be the “crabgrass in the lawn of business,” as my friend says.workplaceissues

What should happen when harassment, discrimination, abusive treatment and other serious misbehaviors rear their ugly heads?

Managers, please view a complaint as an opportunity to make a situation better AND the long-term relationship with the victim stronger. Psychologists in workplace studies say that an emotional crisis is a key point where your response can make the employee’s attitude much better OR much worse.  Some even say that the best predictor of whether a problem will end in a lawsuit is how fairly you process the problem, not the problem itself.

Good managers do several things. They embrace the complaint, rather than avoid it, and focus on finding the right solution.  Neither of you caused the problem, so let the chips fall where they may and avoid prejudgment.  You will create a much better investigation and solution if you remain neutral on the outcome.  If you cannot be objective, ask for help.

Follow through with good listening, appropriate pushback to the victim for the whole story, and appropriate speed and discretion. Take any quick steps needed to prevent repeat behavior while you work.  Ideally, keep the victim informed of your progress.  Get help from HR or a mentor.  Follow your company’s complaint process, at a minimum.  Precedent can be important to consider, but avoid a foolish consistency as the saying goes.

Employees making complaints have an equally important role. Follow the complaint policy if there is one, but skip to another manager you trust if needed.  Your manager wants to hear how you feel, but must have facts to investigate.  Focus on the facts.  Who can help support your story?  Bring the problem to a trusted manager sooner rather than later.

Be honest about any part you may have played in the problem or steps you have already taken, good and bad. Have some discretion and give this time to work.  What is your manager going to hear when he or she investigates?  For example, be prepared to hear some things about your performance you may not like (but need to hear) if work quality is an issue.

An important question that employees and managers often fail to ask is: “What is the ideal outcome here?”  I am often surprised at how reasonable employees can be even in serious situations.  They know employers cannot guarantee perfect behavior by all.  But they have the right to expect help when they seek it.

Solutions to early-stage problems handled properly by all can be simple and effective, preserving relationships and protecting careers. Problems that are buried like a bone in the backyard will only get worse with age.

Bruce Clarke c

Bruce Clarke serves as CAI’S President and CEO, and has been with CAI since 2001. Bruce practiced labor and employment law with the national labor law firm of Ogletree Deakins for 18 years. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as one of North Carolina’s Legal Elite by Business North Carolina Magazine. Bruce is 100% committed to helping companies maximize employee engagement and minimize workplace liabilities.

“Go Ahead, Make My Day”

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

You may have thought of the look in Clint Eastwood’s eyes when he delivered his famous line as Harry Callahan in “Sudden Impact.” Interesting he was getting ready to have a morning cup of coffee when he discovers a robbery in the diner. When harm is threatened to one of the employees, instead of backing off, Harry steps up and confronts the situation. Through clenched teeth with a rough grumble he delivers the now infamous line “Go ahead, make my day.” Harry is trying to clean things up, make the bad better and help those who need him.goahead

Though Harry was able to make a huge impact alone, we know it takes contributing efforts from everyone to result in success. So what does this stroll down cinematic lane have to do with your organization?  Employees often feel out of control of situations at work and want to have someone step up and make their day, with lasting positive impact.  The leaders of the organization can make their day or break their day.  Managers and supervisors have an immeasurable impact on employee motivation and morale. Words, body language and facial expressions as the manager or leader, telegraph their opinion of the employees’ value to the organization.

If employees feel valued – they like their work – their morale goes up – productivity increases – the business becomes more successful – the employer can offer competitive pay and opportunities for growth – employees engage and motivation becomes catching – thus they feel valued and the cycle gains momentum and flourishes.

Building employee motivation and morale is challenging and yet can be simple.  Focusing on the needs of employees and understanding a leader’s impact on life at work can not only make their day, but it can make yours!  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start the Day Right .  Smile. Walk with confidence.  Greet employees in their work areas.  Share information over a cup of coffee.  Listen to ideas and concerns.  Let employees know it is going to be a good day.  You set the tone.
  • Show Appreciation with Powerful but Simple Words.  Please. Thank You. You are doing a great job. I appreciate your working over the weekend.  Thanks for always being on time. Success begins with how you approach people. Motivational words leave people feeling valued.  Spend positive interaction time with employees.
  • Set Expectations and Provide Feedback.  Communicate your expectations.  Let employees know how they are performing.  Timely feedback is critical.  Acknowledge positive outcomes.  Work with employees to understand what expectations were not met and how they can produce a positive outcome the next time.  Use encouragement and reassurance when appropriate.  Follow up.
  • Reward the Behavior.  Reward and recognize positive contributions, both publicly and privately.  Treat employees fairly.  When performance goals are not met, administer progressive discipline. Address problems.  Highly motivated and top-contributing employee morale counts on management’s consistency.
  • End the Day Right.  Be visible. Tell them to have a good evening.  If you ask how the day progressed, be prepared to listen and take action if needed.  Check with the supervisor.  What actions could help make his/her shift better.  Go home with reflection.  Return positive.

When organizations ask their employees about what they need and want from work they are often surprised to find out how inexpensive it can be to fulfill those needs and wants, and to create an environment of committed employees working toward a common goal. If you have any questions about motivating employees, contact CAI’s Advice and Resolution team to help you solve real-life workplace problems.



CAI Advice & Resolution team member Renee Watkins is a seasoned HR professional with a diverse background in Human Resource. Renee provides CAI members with practical advice in a wide-range of human resource functions including conflict resolution, compliance and regulatory issues, and employee relations.


The Employee Incentive That Works Like No Other

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

The one reward that most employees crave, but few get, doesn’t cost anything to provide.

When employers brainstorm ways to reward employees, it’s logical to put compensation, incentives, and bonuses at the top of the list. After all, few people are able to work for free.

But is there a “best” reward—a reward that every employee craves but few receive? Many management teams are in search of just such a reward. CAI is frequently asked to provide managers and HR professionals with low cost, or no cost, ways to reward employees. The blogosphere also is full of lists of ways to reward employees. In fact, past CAI HR Management Conference speaker Dr. Bob Nelson has a book called 1,501 Ways to Reward Employees.  Photo of business partners hands applauding at meeting

These resources suggest everything from pizza parties to extra time off to premium parking spaces. There is nothing wrong with any of these ideas, and the more creative you can be the better. However, there is still a much higher reward that won’t cost you anything and will produce positive employee motivation. Have I piqued your interest?

OK, here it is: The one reward that most employees crave—but few get—and that is almost guaranteed to motivate employees to do good work is quite simply … praise. Praise is a very powerful idea that managers often forget about. Bosses usually are good about recognizing and pointing out bad behavior, but they often forget to recognize good behavior.

Think this sounds like a bunch of “touchy feely” HR stuff? Don’t be so quick to judge. As it turns out, receiving praise actually stimulates a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine, something we all need. Shortages of dopamine can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety, and difficulty in learning, all traits we definitely don’t want in employees. But receiving more of the chemical boosts feelings of pleasure and pride, according to a report from Gallup. Once you get that rush, the brain wants more of it, needs it regularly, and instinctively figures out what behaviors result in more praise and thus more dopamine.

So we have a relatively simple concept that produces quick increases in employee motivation that doesn’t cost anything. The workplace must be awash with employee praise, right? In fact, research conducted several years ago by Gallup found that less than one-third of American workers strongly agreed that they had received any praise from a supervisor in the last week. That’s a sad statement about the quality of supervision that many employees receive each day. Employees who think that nobody cares about their work will be less motivated. Some leave the company. Others remain on the payroll but essentially quit working.

There are many reasons for this lack of praise. Some managers don’t regularly praise because they are too busy and just forget about it. Others don’t praise because they don’t receive any praise from their boss either. Some managers worry that recognizing one employee and not another will make it look as if the manager is playing favorites.

To compensate for these problems, some companies institute regular events to recognize employees: “Per company policy, employees will be praised on the second Friday of each month in the cafeteria.” While there’s nothing wrong with company events, they shouldn’t be the only source of praise that employees receive.

How can employers do a better job? First, it’s important to differentiate between appreciation and recognition. Appreciation is the act of expressing gratitude to employees for their positive actions. It is best accomplished through simple expressions or statements: a simple thank you, a card, a pat on the back. Recognition means acknowledging workers in front of their peers for specific accomplishments, actions, or behaviors. It’s important to tailor both of these strategies to each employee’s personality. Some people just don’t like to be called out in public.

Where managers really miss the mark is with frequency. To be most effective, employees need the dopamine rush at least once a week. Noted leadership author Mark Murphy found in a study of more than 500,000 employees that 72% said they were not giving 100% at work. No doubt many were suffering from a lack of dopamine. So make it a goal to show appreciation for each of your employees at least twice each week. And for those employees you feel don’t deserve appreciation? That’s a subject for a future article.

If you just don’t have time to recognize or appreciate your employees on a regular basis, you should take stock of your daily activities to make the time. Remember, genuine praise produces quick increases in employee motivation, and it doesn’t cost you anything. Before you start handing out gift cards, make appreciation and recognition a priority—then watch how morale, motivation, and productivity improve.

Let CAI’s Advice & Resolution team talk you through ways you can build a positive culture.

dougDoug Blizzard brings a wealth of knowledge to CAI, serving as Vice President of Membership. During his first 15 years at CAI he led the firm’s consulting and training divisions and counseled hundreds of clients on HR and Employee Relations issues. If he isn’t speaking at North Carolina conferences, teaching classes on Human Resources or consulting clients on EEO and Affirmative Action, Doug is leading the company’s membership services.

Managers…Don’t Avoid Conflict

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Of all the skills required to be a successful manager, the art of embracing, sometimes encouraging and then managing conflict is up near the top.  As a manager a good part of your job involves getting people to do things they may not want to do, or work with people they don’t agree with or even like, or discuss ideas that make them mad or go against their beliefs, and on and on. Conflict!  The ability to recognize conflict, understand what’s causing it, and then work through it swiftly will serve you well as a manager. Not dealing with conflict will bring you misery and health problems, and may ultimately lead to your demise.busbox

Conflict is a natural disagreement resulting from individuals or groups that differ in attitudes, beliefs, values or needs.  Some of the main causes include poor communication, differing values, differing interests, scarce resources, personality clashes, poor processes, or poor performance.  While we tend to think of conflict as a negative thing, it can be healthy when managed and can lead to growth, innovation, and new ways of thinking.

Determine Root Cause. Step one in managing conflict is to determine its main cause.  You cannot effectively deal with conflict until you know why it’s occurring.  I realize that statement sounds obvious, who wouldn’t know that right?  Well, as humans we are fast to blame the people involved for the conflict, when many times the situation we’ve placed them in would cause conflict for any two people.  If the situation is at fault, enlist the two people to help redefine the process, or adjust roles, or reallocate resources, or improve the technology, or whatever steps are necessary to move us forward.  Conflict caused by situations can be easier to fix, however you need to fix it.  Ignoring conflict caused by the circumstances of work can grow to a real conflict between people that can be very destructive.

Opposites attract, then attack. For any manager, one of the most difficult situations to deal with is when two very skilled employees just don’t mesh.  They are constantly at each other throats, or perhaps even worse they engage in passive aggressive behavior.  They are constantly talking to other staff members about the other person.  Before you know the entire office is embroiled in this clash, people are taking sides, other arguments start…work productivity suffers.  I’ve seen these situations get so bad that some employees leave because the workplace has become so toxic.  If you don’t think you have any personality conflicts on your team then you are simply not paying attention.  It’s inevitable when you combine so many different people together that you will have conflicts.  Here are some ideas to help you resolve the out-of-control conflict like I described above.

Recognize the conflict. Don’t ignore it and hope it will go away.  First, talk to both employees individually.  There are two sides to every story so get to understand both viewpoints.  Your job is to just ask questions and listen.  Don’t judge or argue.  You may get lucky and find that a misunderstanding is causing the conflict.  Or you may find that in fact one of the individuals is just plain wrong and if so you can address that situation.  More than likely, however, they are both right and both wrong and resolving this conflict will require give and take from both of them.

Set Expectations. Make it clear to both individuals that the conflict and resulting behaviors must stop immediately.  Ask for each person’s agreement to work to resolve the conflict. But one if one of them thinks they are so “right” they refuse to change?  In that case, you’ll need to face the reality that they may just need to go work somewhere else.  You can’t progress through the conflict if both individuals aren’t committed to resolving it.

Meeting of the minds. After talking to both employees individually and getting their agreement to resolve the conflict, it’s time to get them together with you as the facilitator.  Ultimately, you can’t force two people to get along, it’s up to them to either choose to work together or not.  Share your observations.  Tell them clearly what is expected of them in terms of how they need to behave towards one another.  If you have a conduct policy, remind them of that.  You have to be crystal clear on the behavior(s) you will not tolerate going forward, how they are affecting their own performance and that of the team.   You always want to avoid attacking personalities.  Focus on the behaviors.  Sometimes the realization that their livelihood is at stake will shock people back to reality.  Most importantly, make the two employees accountable for sorting out their differences. Get their suggestions on what they can do to resolve the conflict and improve working relationships.   Help them uncover ways to work together differently. Help them see unproductive and unhealthy behaviors.  If this meeting is going nowhere, you may want to enlists the help of another party like your Human Resources Professional or perhaps even an EAP if you have either.  Or you may be able to transfer one of the employees to another department if you’re larger, though that tactic is usually only a short term fix.  Ultimately, if the conflict can’t be resolved you may end up losing both employees, and you know that’s OK.  If they can’t resolve, the emotional toll this conflict is having on them, their families, and the rest of your team isn’t worth it.  Everyone will thank you for it.

One last word. Many times conflict in your workplace is caused by you not doing your job.  Avoiding problems, tolerating poor performers, not providing enough tools and resources for your people, creating confusing processes, not communicating and the like all lead to negative outcomes.  The best single thing you can do to have a healthy environment with lower amounts of negative conflict is to talk to your employees on a regular basis. Get to know them.  Show them you care.  Believe me it will make your life and theirs’ a lot better, and when problems do come up, they can be resolved faster and more effectively since you’ve already opened up the communication channels.  Don’t be one of those managers that’s too busy to manage.  Think about it!

If you need help working through a conflict, call our Advice & Resolution team.  They can facilitate a solution to your conflict issue.  Also, sometimes an outside perspective can help break a log jam.


Doug Blizzard brings a wealth of knowledge to CAI, serving as Vice President of Membership. During his first 15 years at CAI he led the firm’s consulting and training divisions and counseled hundreds of clients on HR and Employee Relations issues. If he isn’t speaking at North Carolina conferences, teaching classes on Human Resources or consulting clients on EEO and Affirmative Action, Doug is leading the company’s membership services.

Avoid Workplace Drama and Spend More Time on Ideas

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News & Observer column, The View from HR.

“Management by walking around” is a time-tested method to stay connected with the real work of an organization. When you listen, learn and create unstructured conversations, everyone is better informed.  Sometimes problems are solved or confusion clarified on the spot.Workplace Communication and Gossip

There is another free-form type of conversation between managers and employees which is not productive: management by gossiping around.

Workplace gossip is generally rumor or exaggeration about others, especially about their behaviors. It can relieve stress, and deflect or assign blame.  It might just be a way to make the gossipers feel better about themselves.

I wish it was uncommon, but we see evidence that managers gossip with employees too often. Whether a misguided attempt to create a relationship, or just blowing off steam, gossip is harmful.

When managers gossip with employees, about employees, or about other managers, several bad things happen.

Loss of Respect

The gossiping manager loses every time. Employees hold managers to a higher standard of behavior than their own peers.  A manager who gossips cannot be trusted with personal details and private information.  A manager who gossips will gossip about you!  What does the manager know about you that could be embarrassing or misunderstood?

Loss of Influence

Managers get things done through a combination of formal authority and informal influence. Sometimes unilateral decisions must be made, but real advances and engagement happen in the influence zone.  Gossiping managers lose the high ground that provides a foundation for influence.  Managers who gossip trade a momentary rush for long-term loss of effectiveness.

Loss of Focus

Gossip is idle conversation, not problem solving or relationship-building. Gossiping managers would rather talk about an employee who may be part of a problem than resolve that problem.  Gossip is easier than real work and it prevents true progress.

Loss of Opportunity

Employees with real work problems will not come to gossiping managers for help. Why reach out to a manager who gossips about members of the team?  Managers trying to be “one of the peeps” by joining these high calorie/low nutrition conversations hurt their own chances to learn about real issues.

Future Limits

Finally, gossiping managers put a lid on their own careers. The only thing worse than a loose-lipped manager is a senior leader who talks trash.  A fish rots from the head down and senior leadership sets the tone.  Good leadership will not ask bad leadership to join its team.

Employees living with a gossiping manager have choices to make. Start by avoiding gossip.  Silence is a good response to inappropriate comments.  Even better is a question:  “If that is true, what can you and I do to make the situation better?”

Employees suffering with gossiping teammates might be even more proactive: “Gossip will not make anything better.  What positive steps can we take?”

An old proverb applies: “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people”. Spend more time on ideas and events.

CAI can help your organization grow and succeed by developing your most important asset…your people.  We offer an abundance of learning options and specialize in management development, HR and professional development.

Bruce Clarke c
Bruce Clarke serves as CAI’S President and CEO, and has been with CAI since 2001. Bruce practiced labor and employment law with the national labor law firm of Ogletree Deakins for 18 years. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as one of North Carolina’s Legal Elite by Business North Carolina Magazine. Bruce is 100% committed to helping companies maximize employee engagement and minimize workplace liabilities.

The Important Messages of Body Language and Leadership Style

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

When leading a team, body language as simple as eye contact or the crossing of the arms can convey a significant positive — or negative — message to employees.  There are two sets of signals a business leader can communicate using just their body language.  The first type of signal translates the leader’s status and authority.  The second type of signal can convey warmth and empathy to the team members. body_language_gesture

Status and authority can be seen in how a leader carries themselves.  For example, a person’s posture when entering a room or sitting at a meeting can give off a signal of power and authority. Open hand signals, nodding one’s head, and making eye contact can promote feelings of warmth within a leader to the rest of the team.  Stand or sitting up straight, making expansive gestures, and hold your shoulders back exudes a confidence in your leadership skills and what you are saying. When feeling less confident or uncertain people tend to shrink, minimize the space they take up.  Legs and arms crossed, pulled in tight or slouching is a way to send a message of lack of confidence or even discomfort in the situation or discussion.

For the most part these gestures are unconscious.  Recognizing and being aware, paying attention to what your body is saying is important if you want to be seen as a leader. Awareness of your body language, projecting a positive and even powerful body language can actually transform how you see yourself.

There is no good or bad body signal per se, but these signals can be used to either unknowingly or deliberately support or sabotage a message when relating to the team as a leader.  As an experiment, a very gifted speaker delivered an incredible speech and concluded by asking if there were any questions and then crossing his arms. Not a single question was asked. The audience, without realizing it, saw this gesture as a complete contradiction to his request for questions.

Similarly, if a leader or speaker is less than 100% confident and certain of the message they are delivering to their audience, it will show in their speech, their body language, and even in their choice of words.  In order to appear confident, leaders have to believe in what they are saying and assure their non-verbal is congruent.

Signals of warmth and empathy are equally important qualities of a good leader. Communication during one-on-one time with an employee, or when delivering a difficult message to a group of employees is crucial to gaining support and trust.  Showing emotion through eye contact and facial expressions will tend to level the field of authority with your employees, and give them the confidence and feeling of trust they need to be honest and open with their leaders. You want to be a trusted leader with your employees and by projecting true empathy and approachability, your team responds accordingly.

If you have any questions regarding communications as a leader, please contact CAI’s Advice and Resolution team. We know that providing excellent direction in effective leadership is the very core of effective management.



CAI Advice & Resolution team member Renee Watkins is a seasoned HR professional with a diverse background in Human Resource. Renee provides CAI member with practical advice in a wide-range of human resource functions including conflict resolution, compliance and regulatory issues, and employee relations.