Category Archives: Human Resources

Have You Ever Dealt With a”Ghost”?

By Jeff Bowman

Have you ever made a routine scheduled follow-up call to a company, left a message and never heard back?  Or sent an e-mail and got no response to it.  I’m not just talking about a client dodging you, or forgetting to respond, I’m talking about when the person has left the company (or has been escorted out) and you don’t find out about it for another several days until you call back and inquire with the receptionist if the client is away or not taking calls.

Quite often, you are made to feel like a complete dolt when informed that the person is no longer with the company, and hasn’t been for weeks or months.

I make outbound follow-up calls for one of our clients, and I can tell you that it happens quite often with medium-sized companies. Small companies don’t have this problem because often they are one or two-person operations. Larger corporations have procedures in place to immediately remove former employees from all directories and lists.

The medium-sized companies are the ones I normally experience this “ghost” phenomenon with.  Forgetting to change your voicemail message daily is one thing, forgetting to remove an ex-employee’s voice mailbox for several weeks is certainly another. It also holds true for e-mail accounts.  I worked with a company who had just “outsourced” a salesperson, and I was called in to work with the new salesperson to bring them up to speed.  The new salesperson was hired 3 weeks into the territory vacancy. When I sat down with the new person at the sales desk, I noticed the phone light was flashing.

I listened, and there were 14 messages, 2 of which were orders, now severely delayed in delivery. We then checked the computer, where there was more than 100 e-mail messages, luckily most were spam. The first hour of the day was spent returning messages and explaining that there was a new rep.  How can this happen in any organization? It happens because there is no procedure in place that sets the wheels of change in motion when someone leaves.

A simple step, overlooked can potentially lead to lost orders, broken client supplier-relationships, privacy vulnerability and ill feeling towards the company for not informing the clients of change. A procedure should include some or all of the following;

  • Identify the person responsible to make changes
  • Redirection of e-mail to an assistant
  • E-mail message back to the sender informing them that the address is no longer valid
  • Deletion of directory listing on the phone
  • Deletion of telephone extension/redirection to another person
  • Change of contact information on company website
  • Change of contact information to any associations or membership organizations where the employee was the first contact
  • Identify a person responsible for all incoming messages, faxes and mail for the outgoing employee, especially for a salesperson.

A simple form can be produced to ensure all of these changes take place.  There is nothing worse for an organization that unreturned calls, lost orders or being seen as ignoring your client. I bet many of you have had the experience of dealing with a “ghost”.

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Filed under B2B, Customer Service, Human Resources, Jeff Bowman, Sales

Progress and workplace stress

By Jeff Bowman

While in Scotland, I had the opportunity to visit a little place named New Lanark, made historically significant by Robert Owen in the very early 1800’s. Owen is considered to be a pioneer in social reform and the treatment of workers during the later part of the industrial revolution in Scotland. He owned a cotton mill, and introduced certain rules and regulations for employees including mandatory education for children under 10 years old, hours of work, performance indicators and fair wages. In essence, he was an early Human Resources Specialist who had a deep understanding of human capital investment.

Changes to working conditions and labour laws have  changed dramatically since his day.  Today we have minimum wage, mandatory retirement, occupation health and safety programs, and the list goes on.

Despite the fact that we have more laws governing the workplace than ever before, it still remains a source of high stress for employees. Stress which leads to illness, and in extreme cases high blood pressure, heart attacks and death. The Japanese even have a term for it, Karoshi – death from overwork. Here are some statistics below from 2004, but I would bet the numbers are constant or even worse in 2010 after the recession.

62% of Americans say work has a significant impact on stress levels. (APA Survey 2004)
45% of workers list job insecurity has a significant impact on work stress levels. (APA Survey 2004)
61% of workers list heavy workloads as a significant impact on work stress levels. (APA Survey 2004)
One in four workers have taken a mental health day off from work to cope with stress. (APA Survey 2004)

73% of Americans name money as the number one factor that affects their stress level. (APA Survey 2004)

9% of employees have reported stress resulting in violence in their workplace.

50% of American workers have reported “desk rage” – yelling and verbal abuse – at their jobs.

Where did things go wrong? Is this really progress?

We are all concerned about our jobs. Will our work be moved offshore or will we be replaced by robots or even someone younger? The stress is never-ending.  Add to the mix, a manager who is only interested in productivity and/or a Board of Directors who want increased profits, and you have the same basic conditions that led to social workplace changes in the beginning.

Have we really advanced that far?  Certainly the intolerable and unsafe working conditions do not exist here in North America anymore, however the stressors are increasing leading to increased sick leave and workplace violence.

I was sent an e-mail yesterday with a quote from the ex-CEO of Coca Cola Bryon Dyson.

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the Air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four Balls – Family, Health, Friends and Spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these; they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it.”

Every manager should take this to heart.  I have had the distinct displeasure of working with such a President in the past, and it was actually a key consideration in my opening my own company. As a business owner, I know that I should relax a little more, however I find it unacceptable to drive others as I would drive myself.

The stress cycle has to end somewhere.  Stats indicate that the workplace is still the highest area of stress.  Perhaps we need to take another hard look at how businesses are run and the value of investing a higher degree of respect in our human capital. Fair and proper treatment of employees really does begin at the top and has to be ingrained in the corporate identity.  A little compassion goes a long way.

What are your stressors at work?

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Filed under Human Resources, Jeff Bowman, Managing, Manufacturing

Bad bosses are bad for business

By Jeff Bowman

Cleaning up my old files, as I do every 10 to 12 years, I came across a file folder, thick with dog-eared pages, charts, graphs and post-it notes,which have long since lost their ability to stick. As I browsed the pages the memories came flooding back to me.  The long days, the countless hours, the wasted paper, highlighters and pens. How did I ever survive as long as I did at this job where I absolutely hated the boss? He was an absolute control freak, who micro managed every detail and had to put his mark on everything I ever wrote like a dog marking his territory.

Most of us have encountered this type of boss in our working lives.  At times I look back with absolute derision at the man who caused so much stress in my life, and other times I smile knowing that I outlasted him. I read an article tonight written by Barry Lenson, an Executive Editor at Trump University, on How to Escape from a Terrible Boss and it really rang true. Lenson talks about the 4 steps to escaping a terrible boss.

Stick to the higher ground, be patient, increase your exposure and plan your escape. Truer words have never been written.  If there is one step that I could add, it would be to control your emotions throughout the process.  Getting stressed out could possibly lead to a snap decision or an action you might regret if you are working for a great company.

There is no question the negative effects that bad bosses have on organizations from poor morale, absenteeism, poor work quality, up to and including stealing from the company.  The overall impact on the economy from the bad boss effect is huge in terms of lost hours and productivity. Companies need to keep in mind that employees are the primary source of productivity increases, product improvement and innovation. By capping the potential for employee growth and development because of poor leadership, companies are writing their own prescription for failure.

The solution could be employee performance evaluations.  They need to be of the 360 degree variety.  One way evaluations are a thing of the past, and upper management needs to have employee input when it comes to middle managers.  One bad apple can spoil the bunch, and employees deserve to be heard on issues that affect their productivity, and the overall success of the company.

A person in the position of leading others needs to be able to communicate, and provide an environment for employees to reach their full potential. Bosses, especially in middle management fear employees taking over their position.  Instead, they should welcome it so that they can also move and grow within an organization themselves, and be seen as a developer of people, rather than a small-minded, egotistical control freak.  Oh sorry was I thinking out loud. Next blog I’ll tell you about some great bosses I’ve had.

Have you ever worked for a bad boss?  What made them so bad?

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Filed under Human Resources, Jeff Bowman, Managing