5 Ways to Keep Employees Engaged During the Holidays

Many things change during the holiday season and one of them is the level of engagement at work. It is inevitable that both employees and managers become distracted by the rush of the holiday season. In addition to the pace, holidays raise the emotional stress level of many people, adding to lower performance at work. As a manager or leader, do you know what you can do to engage employees over the next two weeks?

  1. Start with yourself. Take a look at how the holiday season is affecting you. Notice how you are feeling and how the stress is affecting your work.
  2. Try to be empathic. Once you focus on your own situation, it may be easier to empathize with others. Walk around and check in with people. Pay particular attention to those who are alone or who have experienced losses over the year.
  3. Thank people for their service. A thank you from the boss goes a long way. Find a way to say thank you for their hard work and dedication.
  4. Do something for people in need. If you have not already supported a fund drive, food pantry, or toy collection, it isn’t too late. Engage others in a discussion and take the initiative to make it happen.
  5. Make sure there’s healthy food in the kitchen. Sweets can negatively affect mood, but may be difficult to avoid if cookies and candies are arriving as gifts. Avoid alcohol. It can cause depression and/or throw someone off track.

Showing concern for employees will increase engagement during and after the holidays. How will you keep your employees motivated during the holidays?


Are You a Mindful Manager?

What does mindfulness have to do with managing?  Most of us think of meditation when we hear the word mindfulness, but meditation is really just a great way to practice being mindful.  Regular mindfulness practice improves our ability to stay in the moment and focus on what’s important.

Managers experience a barrage of stimuli every day including constant emails and interruptions.  For some managers, texting has also been added to the list of daily interruptions.  Keeping mindful at work means staying in the moment and staying focused on the most important tasks at hand.  Priorities change, but staying calm and avoiding too much multitasking are good habits for the success of any manager.  What else might you do to be a more mindful manager?

  • The first step in being a mindful manager is turning off your “auto pilot.”  With auto-pilot off, you will be able to keep high-level goals in mind, such as taking care of the relationships in your work group.
  • Connect with colleagues in a personal and meaningful way.  Questions such as “How have you been?”,  “How was your weekend?”  or  “What are you doing for the holidays?” may be forgotten when a manager gets too stressed.
  • Limit interpersonal conflict by avoiding sending emails about sensitive matters.  A personal conversation is always better since emails may unintentionally deliver the wrong message or tone.
  • Take control of your email.  Turn off email alerts and read email at reasonable intervals.  When you do check, ask whether something is urgent, important, or both?  If it’s not urgent, don’t elevate it over other high priority items.

Even 5 minutes of mindfulness can change the course of your day.  When you are mindful, you may get a brand new idea or see something from a different perspective.

Can you turn down your “auto-pilot” today?



Five Leadership Tips

In a recent radio interview with Jacqueline Brodnitzki of  “She’s Got it: Women Talk Business,” I was asked to share my 5 top tips for business leaders.

1. Walk the talk – This means different things to different people.  To me, it means putting into practice the things you talk about. Don’t say one thing and then do another. Actions speak louder than words.

2. Be transparent – The more you can share about business goals and results, the more people will feel they are part of the company’s success. Try to connect each person’s job to specific business results. If employees can see how their jobs connect to the bottom line, they will find more meaning and purpose in their work.

3. Inspire through stories – Personal stories can often create lasting meaning for those who hear them. This is particularly true when trying to build culture or when helping employees to understand the true mission or vision of a company.

4. Be a good listener – Nothing turns people off more than when they don’t feel heard or understood. Even if a leader has an opinion or is be able to make a quick decision, it is usually better to ask questions and listen first. You might miss important information by reaching a conclusion too quickly.

5. Promote good communication – Look for opportunities to hold open forums and brainstorming sessions. Ideas often feed on other ideas and these results can be invaluable in business. Whether building a brand, designing a new program, or launching a new product, it’s prudent to keep people talking.

Leadership can be fun, but it’s a lot more fun if you engage others in the process.

What’s your top leadership tip?

Is There an Abuser in Your Work Group?

The Ray Rice incident has once again brought partner violence into the spotlight.  Domestic abuse is on the rise, killing 3 women per day in this country.  It is estimated that every 9 seconds there is an incident of domestic abuse.

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint why this happens in a civilized culture like ours, it seems that many people and organizations in our society tend  to look the other way.  Domestic abuse usually involves control, isolation, and/or jealousy.  Abusers of this type are typically clever and manipulative in keeping the victim in check.

Although many of the recent incidents have involved prominent sports figures, abuse happens everywhere, including in the workplace.  We frequently get referrals from managers who have a possible victim of domestic violence , but rarely do we hear from a manager about a potential abuser.  Is it hard to notice?  As an EAP, we want to help with both abusers and victims.  What is your role as a manager in these situations?

1. Know that a worksite/team cannot be fully productive and engaged if there is an active abuser or victim in the group.

2. Don’t overlook any warning signs. Observe your employees and pay attention to your gut feelings when you observe out of context anger, control, fear or intimidation.  Those are not normal feelings to exhibit at work.

3. If you do suspect that you have an abuser (or victim) in the group, take action immediately.  Consult your EAP about the best approach to take to keep everyone safe and to discuss your concerns.

4.  Discuss the situation with your HR business partner.  Your HR Rep may have additional information or know of prior complaints about an individual that will be helpful in your plans for corrective action.  The organization may also need to take steps to protect victims or employees in the workplace.

Too often, abusive behavior is swept under the rug or ignored completely.  As a manager, you are in a position to change the course of someone’s life for the better.  If you suspect abusive behavior, take a stand and maybe save a life.


Help Robin Williams’ Legacy Save a Life

What a shock to hear about the death of Robin Williams, most likely by suicide.  How can someone who has made us laugh so much fall victim to depression?  Unfortunately, depression and addiction can strike anyone at any point in one’s life.  Depression is an epidemic in our country leading four times as many men to commit suicide than women.  In older adults, 6.5 million Americans suffer from depression.

Are public figures unusually susceptible to depression, substance abuse and suicide or do we just hear about it more?

There are many factors that play a part in suicide prevention, and one central one is a strong support system.  A strong Employee Assistance Program (EAP) may be the best suicide prevention tool for the workplace.  Managers and supervisors are in a great position to notice that an employee is suffering from depression and/or substance abuse  and to do something about it.

What can managers do to help save a life?

  1. Make sure that you feel confident in your EAP and the response that employees receive when they call.
  2. Observe changes in employees with an eye toward depression.  Does the employee sound more down than usual?  Has anything been said to you or others about not wanting to ‘go on’ ?
  3. Call the EAP yourself to talk over the situation.  If you are confident in your EAP, it is the best management tool you have.
  4. Talk to the employee about your concerns and recommend the EAP to the employee.  Remind employees working remotely about the EAP, as well.
  5. Post the URL for KGA’s screening tools at: http://mentalhealthscreening.org/Screening/KGA

Helping someone turn his or her life around may be the most satisfying aspect of a manager’s job.

Is anyone of concern today?

4 Tips to Keep Employees Motivated During the Sunny Days of Summer

As the weather gets nicer and the days get longer, it becomes that much harder to sit in an office all day long. There’s no denying the nice weather outside of your office windows. What can you do to keep your employees focused on the work inside?

Here are 4 easy tips to keep your employees focused through the summer:

  • Focus on the big picture. – Sometimes we lose sight of why we are working on a project or task and it helps to bring the larger goals back into focus.  Make sure that each person knows how his or her assignments fit into the larger goals of the department and the organization.
  • Assign some projects they will enjoy. – The quote, “Time flies when you’re having fun” is known by all for a reason. What do you find most interesting about your work?  Take time out of your day to find out what is most compelling about each person’s job? Assigning employees projects in which they have true interest will provide motivation.
  • Encourage employees to take advantage of their lunch breaks. – So many of us fall prey to staying in the office while eating our lunch simply because it saves us money to pack our own lunch. If it seems your employees are craving the outdoors, emphasize how important it is for them to take a break and breathe fresh air. Hold some meetings outdoors or at an outdoor restaurant.
  • Reward people. – Most people need positive reinforcement to stay motivated. Don’t allow your employees to overwork themselves, exhausting their determination and motivation. Whether it’s free snacks in the kitchen, employee lunches, or even just a “thank you,” make sure your employees feel appreciated for all of the time they are putting in during their summers.

Remember that each person has unique motivators. Do you know what motivates each of your employees?  Your interest will help them get through the lazy days of summer.

When Managers Suggest the EAP

Most employees who call the EAP do so on their own because they know it is time to get help.  In fact, someone may consider calling for help for over a year before they actually make the first call.  That’s why it’s so important to have total confidence that your EAP will handle the call well.

About 5% of the people who call for help are calling because their supervisor or manager suggested it.  Often the referral occurs because there is a performance issue festering.  A referral to the EAP may be the most important thing that a manager can do in his or her role.

Five things managers need to know:

– Employees get back on track sooner when managers take early action on performance issues.  This is true when there is an interfering personal problem as well.

– A supervisory referral may be formal or informal.  In both cases, a referral to the EAP may be the most helpful action to take with a troubled employee.

–  An informal supervisory referral occurs when a manager mentions the availability of the EAP to an employee.   Helpful phrases to practice; “Are you aware that we have an EAP?” or, “Have you thought about calling the EAP to get some help for your situation?”.

–  A formal supervisory referral occurs when there is a documented performance issue and disciplinary action is in process.  The employee must be made aware of this process from the beginning and a company policy should support it.  A formal referral should be discussed with Human Resources as well.

– Avoid mandatory referrals.  Unless there are safety sensitive situations and a strong company policy, a well-delivered referral should be sufficient. In most cases, managers may “strongly suggest” the EAP during progressive discipline, but it is always the employee’s choice as to whether or not he/she avails him/herself of help through the EAP.

Are you using your EAP effectively?

Why Most People Don’t Complain about Bullying

When a victim of bullying comes forward, he or she has usually spent days, weeks, or months trying to decide whether or not to bring the issue to your attention.  More than 90% of victims decide not to make a formal complaint because of the perceived risk involved.

“Things are bad now but will they be worse afterward?”

“I am too embarrassed by what happened to let anyone know about it.”

“What will it do to my career?”

 “Will my boss believe me?”

“What if there is retaliation after I complain?”

When an employee makes the decision to take a risk and bring the complaint forward, the manager’s response is critical.  Out of a variety of options, the victim has chosen you to be the first one to know about the complaint. The pressure is on.

Managers and supervisors may or may not be trained in the proper response to complaints, though they are held to a high standard in these situations.  Whatever the preparation, a complaint is not something to take lightly.

Are you prepared for this type of complaint?  If not, talk to your manager or Human Resources about your company policies and how to gain the skills needed to respond appropriately the first time a complaint comes to you.  Most manager mistakes happen in the first few minutes of those meetings.

Watch for signs of bullying so you can intervene at an early stage.  Prevention is the best overall route to take in these situations.


5 Suggestions for Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are often dreaded by managers and therefore are avoided. “I just haven’t had time”, “He knows how he’s doing”, or “I’ll get to it next quarter” are common excuses.  When feedback is given regularly, performance reviews are no problem at all.  Everyone knows where the employee stands, and expectations are clear.

Here are 5 suggestions for more effective performance reviews.


Keep lots of notes throughout the year of both positive and negative results.  There’s nothing harder than trying to re-construct a year’s worth of results in order to have a productive conversation.

Schedule Diligently.

Performance reviews are incredibly important to employees.  Stick to a scheduled appointment and give it a priority.  Meet in a private place and don’t allow interruptions during the review.

Listen Carefully.

Use your best listening skills and empathy to create an open environment and watch for “coachable moments.”   Get valuable feedback for yourself during a review.

Be specific

Whether giving positive or negative feedback, have meaningful examples at hand.  This will show that you’ve been paying attention and are prepared for the meeting.

Identify Development Activities

Identifying development activities such as coaching, cross training, education, or special project opportunities may be the best online pharmacy reviews.  Special projects, in particular, help both the employee and the manager.

Reviews are very important to employees.  Make a vow that this year you will plan better for performance reviews.   A “no surprise” review is the best kind.


When a Co-Worker Loses a Loved One

As an Employee Assistance Program, we frequently receive calls from employees who don’t know what to say or do when a co-worker’s loved one has died.  We are more than happy to coach each caller through the situation and help them to think through what they would like to say.  Since it often affects a whole work group, managers can also be helpful in this task.

Here are some guiding principles:

– Sometimes the workplace represents a type of family to people so the loss can feel bigger than one might imagine.

– For some people, the death of a co-worker’s spouse or family member may trigger otherwise dormant feelings of sadness from previous losses that someone sustained.

– Most people are uncomfortable knowing the “right” thing to say to someone who has experienced a loss.  The best advice we can provide is to know that there aren’t any right or wrong words, and that simply saying “I’m so sorry for your loss” is safe and will be appreciated.

– Let people know about the arrangements in case they want to attend visiting hours or a service.  Be flexible if those events conflict with work time.

– Communicate several times with information about the situation.  Provide people with the employee’s home address in case they want to send a card.  Inform people of specific charities that have been designated to receive memorial gifts.

– Ask the employee if there are any concerns before he/she returns to work.  Share those in a discreet way.  For example, some people who have suffered a loss are worried that they won’t be productive when they first return to work.  Others prefer to jump right in without having to talk much about their loss.

Work, for most people, can provide the necessary normalcy to get back to every day life.  Help your employees to welcome back their colleague and re-join their important work family.