One thing that many employers overlook in these times is their employees’ morale. Can you as a business owner, or manager even honestly say that your employees are happy? Or can you feel the temperature fall when you walk around? How about this one, can you name four of your employees spouses’ name? If these questions brought out a question in your mind of not being able to confidently answer them, then maybe there is a morale issue at your business.

     Let us get a couple words defined quickly before we go on, first of all, there is a big difference between “Morale”, and “Moral”. One little ‘e’ changes the entire meaning, that is why the English language is one of the most miss-understood languages in the world. For instance the spoken word (phonetically, tŭ) this could mean a number (two), and addition to time (too), and even as a preposition (to). But back to Morale, and Moral, Moral is the personal belief in something right and wrong to where Morale is a general personal feeling of happiness or sadness.

     If you have not watched the news lately, there has been a big story about a certain Flight Attendant who was suffering from poor morale, and just lost it and freaked at work. Is this a perfect example, no, but it is something to keep in the back of the mind while reading this post. When an employee starts feeling as if they are not wanted, or are treated in a way that THEY PERCIEVE as poor, then their morale falls. You as a business owner/manager could take two employees at random and ask them how they like their jobs, both most likely will say “Yes”. Guess what, one of them is most likely fibbing. Why? You are an authoritative figure, and people watch the news about people losing jobs left and right, they may fear saying the truth, therefore they say “Yes”. Ever think of that take on the matter?

      Employee Morale can be a sensitive and cautious subject to deal with, but every employer MUST deal with it. Those out there that cook, or have tried to cook, know that if you are boiling a simple dish like pasta, and leave the heat on too high, and put a lid on the pot know that it will boil over. Is this meant to scare you? No, it is meant to make you visualize through the eyes of your employees. Janet Jackson had a great song in the 80’s whose lyrics included the phrase “What have you done for me lately?” Your employees are seeing increased need for production with less resources (time), this resource is keeping employees from seeing more and more of little Johnny or little Jackie as they grow up, and that is causing sadness and in some cases anger. Time off from work is being cut back, wages are being reduced, work hours increased at times, these are the things that affect employee morale. Notice the word affect, that is another word that has a close cousin, effect, which has a wholly different meaning. Once again the English language working for us.

     We all know that this recessionary period that we are in is tough, and your employees are also well aware of it. You as the business owner/manager are watching your budgets shrink, but one part of your budget that should really never be touched and that is a part that many people do not think of, employee benefits. This does not mean Health Insurance or any other staple, it means what can you do as a business owner/manager to reward your employees for the hard work that they do. Did you know that there are extremely inexpensive ways to reward your employees to raise employee morale? Simple things, as long as there is a consistent pattern of delivery, could not only raise employee morale, but even make it sky-rocket. Here is an example, businesses are partnering with other local businesses through Chamber of Commerces to off their employees discounts on items. One very good example would be partnering with a local massage therapy office, a back massage is a great stress reliever, and an inexpensive ‘treat’ given to employees while off the clock. Ever think of that?

     This is something that People Wise can investigate for you and set up as a EAP (Employee Assistance Program) option for your company. Day one, hour one of any business class at any reputable learning institution, you learn that minimal investment that returns maximum return is the best business decision. That is what we do for you as our clients, and yes you are our client as you read this! Contact us today, and tomorrow you could be seeing more and more true smiles around your workplace, and not the concrete “fear – smiles” that happen so much today in business.


Who Owns What?

July 23, 2010

This is a touchy subject, but an important one. This is not a full list, as it could be a 5000 word posting, but there can be confusion at times, as to who really owns what in a business. Here are some limited examples:

An employee is utilizing work e-mail on a work owned computer to send and receive personal e-mails. This is an example of business owned property. When an employee utilizes the work e-mail address(s) to do anything outside of his/her actual position (i.e. political information, religious information, etc.) that e-mail is actually the property of the company, and therefore can be construed as company property. Anything stated in that e-mail as well as any content to and from that e-mail account is defined as company property.

An employee utilizes a work owned computer or even a personal computer attached to the companys internet connection is the companys property. There is a new side to this, and that is the utilization of a USB Modem (These can be purchased from a myriad of different providers), but the employee that utilizes their own personal lap-top or net-book on the company internet services, the content itself is the property of the company, not the employee.

An employee utilizes a work issued, or paid for cell-phone (The company name is the main payable on the phone), and uses it for non-work phone calls. The company itself has the authority to review calls made on that cell phone, as well as any charges that may be present on the bill. For instance:

Employee A Uses their company-owned cell phone to call friends after hours and talk beyond the minute limit, therefore incurring excess charges (these can range from over the limit minute usage, or even roaming minutes).

Employee B Uses their company paid for cell phone to download ringers or they decide to text a message to one of the pay per text services (i.e. KGB), and incurs excess charges.

In both of these circumstances, the company has the right to review and ask the employee to pay for the charges, start a disciplinary action, or even just confiscate the company-owned phone.

Here are a couple of other touchy situations that come up with the question of Who owns what?

Employee C has a locker on the job-site, with a lock on it. There is a question of some sort of illegal or other justifiable issue that comes up (drugs, theft, material of a questionable nature like pornographic material), the employer has every right to cut the lock or ask the employee to take the lock off to search the locker. As the locker itself is company property, to where the belongings are employee owned. In the event of a questionable illegal material, a law enforcement individual may need to be present.

Employee D drives a company-owned vehicle (the company name is on the title), and is suspected of carriage of materials that are contrary to business purpose (drugs, or materials of a questionable nature, etc.) That vehicle can be searched at any time, without express notice, and anything inside that vehicle can be considered company property.

Employee E drives a company paid-for vehicle (the company provides substantial financial assistance to the vehicle, but the company name is not on the title), the belongings inside this vehicle are NOT considered property of the company, even though the vehicle is subsidized by the company (mileage reimbursement, insurance reimbursement, etc.)

Having a clear and concise policy about what is owned by the company, as well as who owns what, can be a complex situation, something that People Wise can assist you with, contact us for a free consultation!

A review, hated by some, and loathed by others, but this activity is a necessary part of any business. There are ways to do it incorrectly, and there are ways to do it correctly.

Instance A — The Manager, whom has a full calendar of events and meetings schedules a review day for all employees in their department. This manager having very little time since they are heads of multiple projects, takes a cursory glance at the employee file and tries to remember the last time they and the employee have last talked. Remembering that the employee was called into the office to have a discussion about internet miss-use about two months ago. The manager has just 15-20 minutes scheduled for this employee and when they arrive the manager only brings up the topic of the internet miss-use, and sets that as the mood for the review. This manager prattles on about the effect of miss-use of time at work on the internet due to company policy can cause termination. The employee leaves the meeting with a lower morale and feeling of inadequacy, and their productivity the rest of the day suffers because of it.

Instance B — The Manager, whom even though has a full schedule, and multiple projects on their schedule, knows that the following week a day has been set aside for reviews. Once they get the reminder or sees it up-coming, familiarizes themselves with the employee file, and notes that two months have passed from a discussion about internet miss-use. This manager takes two seconds and sends an e-mail to the IT department and asks for a usage report, and states that they need it soon. Also the Manager while attending a conference call, reads over other information in the employee file, such as a recent certification or higher degree attained. Receiving the data from the IT department that the employee has spent significantly less time on the internet, a sheet of notes for discussion is created. On the day of the review, the Manager sets 30-45 minutes for the meeting. Opening the meeting, the manager brings up the new degree/certification, and the correction of the internet miss-use. Once this is done, the manager offers the employee a couple moments to tell them about the new certification/education experience that they worked so hard for. Time is spent talking about goals for the next period of time and the next review. The employee, elated about being able to share their achievements goes back to work with a new energy and passion.

So reading both instances, which is the incorrect, and which is the correct? If you answered A as incorrect, your right. Employees that are treated in the fashion of an assembly line are those that will not be as productive and full of passion of their work than others. It is the managers job to do these reviews, and to do them correctly. Unfortunately in todays economic times, the manager has almost too much on their plate, but when reviews come up, that plate must be juggled and time made in order to give profitable feedback. The word profitable feedback is the type of feedback that satiates the employee, and adds to their underlying need for not only acceptance but also acknowledgement.

In Instance A, the manager does not take the necessary 2-3 minutes to e-mail IT or a front line supervisor about whether the internet miss-use has been corrected or not. Nor does this manager take an additional 2-3 minutes to read through the employee file to see that this individual took the initiative and got that higher degree or certification. In this instance, both the manager has failed the employee, and the employee may fail the company by taking their knowledge asset to another company. Fail Fail

In Instance B, the manager does take the necessary 2-3 minutes for the e-mail, takes the 2-3 minutes and reads the employee file, and the light bulb goes off above their head. Setting the tone of the meeting with a congratulations for the certification/degree and acknowledging that the internet miss-use issue has passed. The manager has done their job, and the employee has been positively reinforced. Win Win

In todays busy business environment, managers have a tendency to just fly into a dreaded review, and not look at it as a way to retain, if not source for a new asset for a project. This is a learned experience, not an inherited one. Effective managers LEARN how to do reviews, and follow-up on errors or why the employee gives a low job satisfaction review in an exit interview for instance. Long gone are the days like in the movie 9 to 5 where a manager is only responsible for a few tasks, they are responsible for a multitude of tasks, of which the most important one is change along with employees. As a manager, stagnation is the killer of profitability, and constant change is the fertilizer for a productive profitable employee.

As always, contacting People Wise is a benefit when these issues come up, and consultation services, being inexpensive, reap the rewards of productive employees!

Assessing your job descriptions and making them compliant with FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) should be done on a regular basis. This will assist a company in not only protecting themselves, but also allowing the employee to know what is expected of their position. For example:

1. Job A Has no FLSA Job Description, and hiring of an employee that you believe can do the job, can cause issues down the line when it is not clearly and legally stated that the job requires certain things, such as lifting, bending, stooping, and the percentage of the time of each of these.

2. Job B Has a FLSA Job Description that is presented to the candidate or current employee so that they know what exactly is required of them. Is this a way to get rid of an employee? No. Would this be a safety mechanism for the employer, Yes.

3. Job C Has no FLSA Job Description, and the company states that pregnant women cannot work in this position due to chemicals that may cause birth defects in unborn children.

In and amongst these three jobs there are dangers, cautions, and positives. They are:

– Dangers FLSA allows for an employer to only write a job description that informs the employee, not restrict the employee (i.e. Cannot work inside of a building, Cannot work in a certain area) Under no circumstances should an employer re-write a job description in order to cause an employee to be either re-assigned or terminated.

– Cautions Perfect example is Job C, as writing in the FLSA that there is a possible danger to Pregnant Women who work around chemicals that cause birth defects. You cannot keep a pregnant woman from working in that position, but even a waiver is loose for protection of the employer in case of litigation. One of the numerous chemicals is Ethylene Glycol Ether, checking your properly written Safety Manual and MSDS will tell you which ones are dangerous to this protected class of worker.

– Positives If the FLSA job description states clearly that there is repetitive lifting of 50 pounds of more, then an applicant that cannot do that, could be by-passed for one that can. For instance, John Doe applies and John has no ability to constantly lift 50 lbs or more, and Jane Doe applies for the same position and she can lift the weight, Jane is the obvious choice.

FLSA Job Descriptions can be confusing and if not done correctly be pages and pages long, to where if done correctly after an audit of these descriptions, simple and clean. There should be no or very little grey area in the description because that grey area is where employers get in trouble.

Call People Wise of Missouri, Inc. to complete this task, it is something that can give you as the employer a safety net, or a benchmark for issues that may arise.

This question is one that several employers ask themselves. To answer this question simply, protection. An effective, correctly written Employee Handbook can assist an employer not only protect them, but also cover themselves in the event of an Employee issue.

The Employee Handbook lists not only what an employer expects of an employee, but also what an employee expects of their employer. This relationship between employer and employee allows for the equal exchange of information, whether the company has 2 employees or 25,000 employees. Some of the many items that are in an effective handbook are:

1. Key Employment Policies

2. Federal Law Commitments

3. Definition of Employment.

4. Harassment Policies

5. Disciplinary Definitions

This Employee Handbook can be done with both At-Will employers, as well as C.B.A. (Collective Bargaining Agreement) employers. The wording within the handbook may be different with the two types, but the meat of the sandwich remains the same. Even if you have multiple locations in a city, state, or national, the verbiage or meat of the sandwich may be applicable to one place, but may need to be changed in another locality.

You do need to ask yourself as an employer, Do I have an effective Employee Handbook? If you cannot truthfully answer it with a resounding Yes, then a Handbook Legal Compliance Audit is in dire need. Writing an effective Employee Handbook in itself is not an easy task for business owners, as they have to run their businesses, not research the ins and outs of the applicable laws.

So take a moment, look around your desk, and find your Employee Handbook, and look at it and see if you are confident in it. If you are not confident, or if there is a single doubt about your Employee Handbook, it is time for an audit. These audits are simple and easy with a turn-around of about a work-week.

Call People Wise to complete this task, it is something that can give you as the employer a safety net, or a benchmark for issues that may arise.

A friend of mine over at Training Time ( published this article and I had to share.  It is funny but way too true to ignore.

There are countless articles and books that promise to tell employers how to boost employee morale. They may or may not be right, but there is something we all can be certain about.  There are easy ways to kill employee morale.  Thoroughly. Some of them are simple; some take time.  But they all work.

So with some levity and a lot of truth, here are 8 great ways to destroy the spirit of even the most dedicated of employees:

8) Start new hires with promises of raises, promotions and other perks, and then “forget.”  One of the best ways to destroy morale from the start is to make promises to your new hires, and then never mention them again.  Truly creative morale-smashers may want to extend this technique to existing employees, so even seasoned workers can share in the disappointment.

7) Make rules that defy logic and then enforce them – harshly.  If your employees don’t come within miles of a customer, ban jeans and make them dress up for work.  Prohibit personal decorations on desks.  Send out a memo limiting the time in the restroom to five minutes.  Whatever it is, make sure the consequences of these performance-related violations are severe – letters of reprimand, docked pay – anything to make them fear for their jobs. 

6) Play favorites. Everyone remembers the teacher’s pet – bring that dynamic into the workplace.  A great way to destroy employee morale is to make it clear that a few people can get away with anything, while the rest must toe the line. Or consider the reverse scenario… selectively enforce the rules with a few employees while letting the rest off the hook.  Morale is certain to take a nose dive.

5) Skimp on necessary tools, equipment or technology. Invite employee discontent by maintaining a tight hold on the purse strings when it comes to the tools employees need to do their jobs well.  Dole out pens, paper and other office supplies like they were the items about to tip the company over the financial edge. Create a make-do attitude, and then hold employees to standards unachievable given the lack of good tools and equipment. 

4) Maintain an atmosphere of fear in the workplace.  This technique can take many forms, but one of the most effective is to keep employees wondering whether their jobs will exist tomorrow.  Dwell on declining sales, especially if you can do so in several contexts.  Ask them casual questions about their spouse’s job security.  Drop small but favored perks such as water bottles, good coffee or the annual company picnic.  Productivity and employee attitude will fall simultaneously.

3) Show employees you don’t trust them.  Make sure employees know they are not at all trusted.  Double and triple check their paperwork, logs and products.  Listen in on conversations.  Hide behind cubicle walls and eavesdrop on employee discussions.  Search them as they leave, even if they have no access to anything of value.  The impact on morale and work quality will be noticeable almost instantly.

2) Make it an us and them atmosphere.  Demand that staff- level employees take cuts in pay, hours or benefits.  Postpone or cancel promotions.  Delay replacement of worn-out but needed equipment and furnishing.  Then give the executive staff new 22” flat panel computers.  Talk about how hot it was on your trip to Italy.  Complain about how your Porsche is always in the shop.  After all, they should be happy to have a job, any job. Right?

1) Wherever possible, reinforce the idea that they are replaceable.  This is the number one way to kill employee morale. For every person employed in your company, there are at least a dozen applicants eager to take their position.  Let your current employees know that, whether through words, deeds or environment, that they could be replaced tomorrow. 

Free Form I-9 Tutorial!

October 13, 2008

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With immigration law heating up, it is imperative that businesses small and large alike understand their responsibilities.  This video tutorial gives an overview of the history, proper completion, storage, and destruction regulations, of the Form I-9. 




I presented to a group a while back and used some scenarios to prompt discussion about best practices in dealing with Sexual Harassment complaints. The result was a very fun and engaging conversation.

Many people from the group asked for a copy of the quiz to use in their trainings. Here is just one of the scenarios with the discussion points.

The “He Said-She Said” Sexual Harassment Scenario

Jane works for Bob. After successfully completing a project, Bob tells Jane he will treat her to lunch. The next day, Jane sends an email to Bob’s supervisor: “Yesterday, Bob asked me to go to lunch with him. I was not sure that was right, but he’s my boss. At lunch, he propositioned me. I want something done about this.”
The supervisor knows Bob to be a dedicated family man. He does not know Jane very well, but has no reason to believe she is a liar. He calls Bob, and tells him what Jane said. Bob is outraged, and denies everything. The supervisor then calls Jane and tells her that Bob denies the accusation. He asks if there were any witnesses. Jane says there weren’t, but swears that what she said is true.

Faced with a “he said-she said situation”, the supervisor puts a memo in their files, and tells them both to act responsibly, and avoid any future situations that might cause problems.

Was Bob’s supervisor correct in conducting the investigation?


The story states that the supervisor knows bob well but does not know Jane very well. It is always best to have someone who is unbiased conduct the investigation. He should have either went to the HR department or (if no HR) hired an outside consultant to investigate.

Did Bob handle the investigation properly by only speaking to Bob and Jane?


Even though the story states that there were no witnesses to this particular incident it is always a good idea to conduct interviews with various people who have contact with the people involved. This may just be a symptom of a chronic problem that needs to be addressed.

Since the case turned out to be a “he said-she said” and no harassment was proven, was the supervisor correct in only documenting the claim and results of the investigation?


Both parties are clearly uncomfortable at this point. In order to avoid retaliation against Jane or further issues, I would try to move Jane under a different supervisor or into a different department….Although, one would have to be very careful that Jane was onboard with the move and would not be losing anything as it could be construed as retaliation if she viewed it as a demotion of any sort.

Remember that these are just the best answers in my opinion and should not be looked at as legal advice as I am not a lawyer. I designed this quiz to create conversation around best practices…not really to be a step-by-step guide. Every situation is different and you should always consult with an HR professional or an attorney on a case-by-case situation.

If you run into this type of situation or want to conduct a preventative training, People Wise can help.

Five Quick Hiring Tips

October 3, 2008

I recently came across an article titled “30 Interview Questions You Can’t Ask and 30 Sneaky, Legal Alternatives to Get the Same Info” on HR World, which caused quite a stir.  Check out the article and the comments at


Why all the outrage in the HR community?  The article, although filled with good information, was presented as a way to use legal questions in order to try to trick the applicant into revealing information that we can only assume would allow the interviewer to make a hiring decision based on discriminatory criteria.


The bottom line is this, the EEOC does not mandate what questions can be asked in an interview.  The interview (and its questions) is not the issue; it is what criteria you use to make the hiring decision that matters.  You should hire the most qualified person for the position using only criteria that makes sound business sense for the position in which you are hiring.


Here are five quick tips to keep your hiring legal and to get the right person for the job.


  1. Take the time to create a detailed job description.  This should include the physical requirements for the job, the hours and travel needs, the required skills, experience, and education needed to perform that job, and the personal attributes that are aligned with the business’s desired value and culture (to ensure organizational fit).
  2. Use the job description to create a structured interview.  A structured interview simply means one in which every applicant is asked the same questions.  This is a best practice because it ensures consistency which can help to keep the interviewer on the right track, and gives you consistent criteria to compare in order to make the best decision in the end.
  3. Take notes.  These notes should be kept for one year.  If you are ever questioned about a hiring decision it is imperative that you are able to look back at the notes from every candidate for that position to show why you made the decision that you made, again, based on business need.  One word of caution – only write notes that have to do with the business criteria.  Do not jot down things that could be construed as discriminatory such as; has three kids, will be ready for retirement in three years, overweight, etc.
  4. Don’t go it alone.  Always have more than one interviewer present during an interview.  This will not only protect you in a he-said/she-said situation but can also negate the affects of stereotyping or hiring from your gut.  The other person will help to balance you out by giving you another perspective.
  5. Don’t stereotype.  Everyone does it to some extent or another but in an employment decision it can get you in trouble and will not yield you the best employee for the job in the end. 


Here’s an example:  you are hiring an account supervisor who needs to be available to travel with very little notice.  You interview Sue who mentions her six kids during idle chit-chat with the receptionist and you overhear.  Next, you interview Bob who is a 20 something bachelor.  You assume that Sue might have a hard time picking up at the drop of a hat where Bob will be available whenever you need him.  However, the reality is that Sue’s husband is a stay-at-home dad and Bob is responsible for his elderly mother and can not travel overnight.


If a job has a particular requirement such as travel, heavy lifting, long hours, physically challenging environments, or whatever.  Make them clear during the interview and ask (every applicant) if they can meet that requirement.  When they answer, take them at face value.


Remember, interviewing is not easy.  Even the most seasoned of HR professionals makes a bad hiring decision from time to time.  However, by taking a systematic approach and using tools such as the job description, structured interview questions, pre-employment tests, and background and reference checks you can increase your chances of a good hire by up to 80%.


People Wise is here to help.  Check out these tools and more on our website at

Top companies realize the affects of employee wellness on their bottom line.  This is evident by the billions of dollars spent on wellness initiatives by larger corporations every year.


Think you can’t start a wellness program for your small business?  Think again.  There are literally hundreds of ways to work on wellness at any budget.  Here are just a few ideas to help you get started.


  • Spark People – SparkPeople’s mission is to SPARK millions of PEOPLE to reach their goals and lead healthier lives. They offer nutrition, health, and fitness tools, support, and resources that are 100% free!  On their site a company can start a “Spark Team” where employees become members.  They earn points by reading articles and meeting the health goals that they define for themselves.  A small business could easily create some excitement about a program such as this by offering a small prize to employees who earn a certain number of points.  Check them out at


  • Purchase health and wellness magazines to leave in the break room.


  • is another great place to start.  They offer numerous resources to get a wellness program started.  My favorite is an eight-page monthly publication that costs as little as .29 per issue.


  • Walk or Build for Charity – This will not only improve your employee’s health but can also be a great team-builder, marketing event, and will boost employee morale.  There are numerous opportunities in every city.  Habitat for Humanity is just one.  Don’t forget to involve your employee’s family and friends for added work/life balance!!!


  • United Way 2-1-1 – I have mentioned this before, but what a great resource!  You can now offer your employees assistance in all sorts of areas for free by using this resource.  In the Kansas City area check out their site at