Who owns the professional contacts you’ve made once you’ve left a job? Small business expert Susan Solovic discusses what employees and employers need to know. Photo: AP
(KPLR) – You hear it on television, in the movies, even in Congress — profanity is everywhere. Even at work where it could injure others ears and careers. Small Business Expert Susan Solovic explains.
Here’s some Q & A about swearing in the workplace from Susan Solovic:
Q. HOW COULD SWEARING IN THE WORKPLACE EFFECT YOUR CAREER?
A. You’re right. Most everyone lets it slip once in a while. Career Builder survey shows over half of workers admit to letting a cuss word slip once in a while. However, there are those who feel free to use it regularly in conversation whether socially or at work. And it definitely can tarnish your image. Just like bad grammar or using the word “ain’t” our society is pretty lax about it, but professionally people judge you. You don’t look as professional if you mis-use words and you don’t look professional if you cuss. They add nothing to the conversation.
Q. how does it effect your reputation..?
A. Because everyone is different. You don’t know when your co-workers or your customers are going to be offended by your language. So it’s best to clean it up. You could lose business opportunities because people don’t want to be subjected to it. A professional speaker I know insists on using the “F” word in his speeches. What does it add? And I’ve heard a significant number of people just refuse to hire him or to go to his events because it is viewed as unprofessional and bad behavior.
Q. its more common with younger workers — they seem nsitized to it?
A. Actually a recent survey found that it’s more prevalent with the 35-44 year old workers. Maybe it’s because at that age you don’t have young children at home so you aren’t as careful — or maybe you get to a point where you’re more comfortable in your career so you let if fly.
Q. Are there areas where it’s worse than others? And what about if it’s the culture in your workplace?
A. Yes —
And there are some instances where profanity is just a part of the culture. In those cases, it’s not going to do much damage on your career, but consider this — what if you change jobs — is it a habit you can break.
Q. But can it really cost you your job?
A. Probably not your language alone. But in many cases, here are the risk.
* Sexual harassment — the language is offensive and creates a hostile and offensive work environment.
* Bullying — many times people use bad language when they are angry. So being explosive or a bully could result in your being terminated.
As a small business owner and entrepreneur, I’ve had more than my share of great and not-so-great employees and partnerships over the years. Some, I’m very proud and blessed to say, are still with me. Others are not. In so many small businesses, employees are like family. For some, they actually are family (the pros and pitfalls of that particular situation are best saved for another day and another column). These trusted individuals have been with you through thick and thin, poverty and prosperity.
Unfortunately, there may come a time when your small business success depends on terminating an employee. “You’re fired.” No one wants to hear it, and very few (if any) want to have to say it. There are some ways to make this necessary evil a bit less painful for everyone involved, while also staying legally compliant in the process.
Small business owners, first and foremost, are running a business. Period. Regardless of the size or scope of the company, professionalism and planning from the get-go are critical to long term success. Even the smallest company should have a clear and concise process for employee termination. Employment site Monster.com says in the case of a termination for poor performance, it should never be a surprise. If you’ve addressed the issue with your employee in the past and carefully documented the failure to improve, it will be more difficult for the employee to later argue that the termination was unlawful. It’s best to take action the first time you see signs this person is not the right fit for your business.
Of late, many small business owners have been forced to downsize, making it necessary to eliminate an employee’s position and distribute or outsource those duties. If you know it’s time to make some cuts, so do your employees. Prepare your crew the best you can, and make sure you are completely in-the-know about exactly which duties that eliminated position performs. If the employee you’re saying good-bye to is one you hate to see go, make sure he or she knows it, and leave the door open to rehire if the company’s situation improves. Make sure both you and your employees retain your dignity during downsizing.
Regardless of how difficult firing a person may be, it’s critical that you do so properly. In fact, federal and state laws require you to do so. You need to show that the termination was justified, legitimate, and handled within the law. To help you work within legal parameters when firing an employee, the Small Business Administration, SBA, offers specific information you need to know. Topics range from understanding the “employment at will” policy to writing the final paycheck. www.SBA.gov
One final note: if you’re contacted by about a reference for a terminated, downsized, or any former employee, stick to the facts. In all situations, the safest policy is to confirm dates of employment and job titles only.
H.R. Strategist Shares 3 Tips for Firing Up Your Workplace
How many employees roll their eyes during meetings to discuss new initiatives?
How often do they scramble to complete a task not because they love it, but because they’re afraid of the consequences if they don’t?
How many mutter “not in my job description” when asked to assume a new responsibility?
“These are examples of people whose work is providing them with nothing more than a paycheck,” says Trevor Wilson, human resources strategist, CEO of TWI Inc., and author of “The Human Equity Advantage,” (www.twiinc.com).
“And even though that’s ostensibly why we go to work, it’s not what gets us excited and enthusiastic about what we do.”
The solution, he says starts with business leaders and managers. If their work is not fulfilling any higher purpose for them than making money, they’re lacking one of the essential qualities necessary for helping their employees become engaged – and for keeping engaged employees enthusiastic.
“You need to step back and assess your own situation,” Wilson says. “Are you driven more by your fears – of not being able to pay your bills, of losing your job, of failing? Or are you driven by the knowledge that you, like every one of us, have the capacity to do amazing things?”
Business leaders who are striving to create something that will leave the world a better place are not only more engaged themselves, they’re more likely to do the things that help their employees engage, Wilson says.
“Our search for happiness is our search for our purpose, and we achieve both by bringing all of our skills and talents – our human equity – to the job,” he says.
He offers these tips for fostering a culture in which employees are actively engaged:
• Use performance evaluations to learn more about your employees’ strengths, interests and goals. Each employee has strengths and talents that often go unrecognized — and untapped — in the workplace. Helping them to identify these and use them at work contributes to their feeling that their work has purpose and results in more engaged, productive employees. “People want to bring all their talents to what they’re doing – we’re happiest when we’re doing what we’re good at it,” Wilson says. “In order to know what those skills, talents, even personality traits are, managers must get to know their individual employees.”
• Do not treat all employees equally. All employees are not equal and treating them as if they were leaves engaged, enthusiastic employees feeling shortchanged and disengaged employees feeling entitled, Wilson says. “Acknowledge and reward employees who are going the extra mile and point out the ways they’re contributing that may not be quantifiable or part of their ‘job description.’ The successful salesman who routinely coaches less successful colleagues is displaying a strength that won’t show up on his sales sheet but is, nonetheless, a valuable contribution to the company.”
• Recognize and reward employees’ demonstration of strong values. Values are part of the human equity that all of us bring to work in varying degrees. Honesty, integrity, compassion, work ethic – our best employees usually have these and other strong, positive values. Business leaders may unconsciously recognize them, for instance, by giving a very honest employee their trust, but they should make a point of acknowledging them publicly as well. “Our values are the foundation of our purpose and an expression of our true selves,” Wilson says. “Employees who are both able to demonstrate their values at work, and rewarded for doing so, having a greater sense of purpose.”
About Trevor Wilson
Trevor Wilson is the CEO of TWI Inc. and creator of the human equity management model. He is the global diversity, inclusion and human equity strategist who regularly speaks at corporate functions. TWI’s clients include some of the most progressive global employers in the world, including Coca-Cola, Ernst & Young, BNP Paribas and Home Depot. TWI’s trademarked human equity approach was instrumental in catapulting Coca-Cola’s South Africa division to the top performing division worldwide.